Piercing the Waldorf Facade

How can you tell what a Waldorf school is up to? There are Waldorfs and Waldorfs. Very few of the schools will openly acknowledge that they are devoted to occultism. This denial may be more or less true at some of the schools; in other cases, it is surely not true. So how can you tell whether unspoken occult beliefs are present in any particular Waldorf?

Here’s a primer, a guide to clues you can look for. I’ve written it with a specific audience in mind: my family and myself as we were years ago. This is the advice I wish someone had given us when my parents were thinking about sending me to a Waldorf school. This is what we needed to consider.


A primer should take nothing for granted, so let’s start with the basics. (If this background material is familiar to you, please skip ahead to the next section: "Overview".)

Rudolf Steiner was a mystic. He invented his own religion, which he called Anthroposophy (pronounced "an-throw-POS-o-fee," the word means human wisdom). He pieced his religion together from bits and pieces of other spiritualistic systems, primarily Theosophy — which is, itself, a syncretic blend of faiths. 

Steiner claimed that Anthroposophy is a science, not a religion, but this is just one of many claims he made that are demonstrably false. Anthroposophy is a belief system that is designed to lead people to spiritual salvation. The path toward salvation as laid out by Steiner involves gaining spiritual insight through the use of clairvoyance. Steiner prescribed special prayers, spiritual exercises, and other spiritually oriented activities to use along the way. Without a doubt, this all adds up to religion. [If you want to investigate this further, see "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?. To consider whether Anthroposophy is a science, see “Steiner’s ‘Science’”.]

Not long after he created his religion, Steiner set up the first Waldorf school — in Germany, during the early part of the 20th century. There was a direct link between Steiner’s religion and his plans for the school. In fact, Steiner wanted to use the school to spread the religion. When he realized that his efforts seemed to be paying off, he said “One of the most important facts about the background of the Waldorf School is that we were in a position to make the anthroposophical movement a relatively large one. The anthroposophical movement has become a large one.” [1] Steiner’s clear meaning is that by setting up the school — which evolved into today’s Waldorf school system — he was able to spread Anthroposophy.

Steiner laid down distinct standards for Waldorf faculty members. He told the teachers at the first Waldorf school, “As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” [2] On another occasion, he explicitly traced the school's spiritual work to the staffing policies of the school: “As far as our school is concerned, the actual spiritual life can be present only because its staff consists of anthroposophists.” [3] For Steiner, the “actual spiritual life” or real spirituality belongs in a Waldorf school, and it can be there only because the staff members embrace his occult doctrines — they are Anthroposophists.

Here’s how Steiner summarized his intentions for 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.” [4] Let that sink in. Waldorf teachers are supposed to carry out the intentions of the “gods.” Steiner taught that there are many gods, not just one; he claimed to know what the gods want, what their “divine cosmic plan” is; and he told Waldorf teachers that their job is to fulfill that plan. The task of the faculty, in other words, is messianic. In spreading Anthroposophy, Waldorf teachers take the gods’ influences and send them out into the world. They do this primarily through their educational work, fostering “the actual spiritual life” in the souls of their students. They are missionaries.

Steiner’s intentions may be acceptable to parents who want their children to be brought up as junior Anthroposophists. But parents who don’t embrace Anthroposophy should think carefully before becoming involved in a Waldorf school. Steiner was, sometimes, reasonably open about the role Anthroposophy should play in a Waldorf school: “Anthroposophy will be in the school.” [5] But on many other occasions, he told Waldorf teachers to hide their beliefs from outsiders, including the students' parents. The teachers should work on their students’ souls, but they should so this quietly, indirectly. Steiner knew that his belief system contained elements that would turn off many people and even incite opposition, so he urged his followers to be cagey. [See "Secrets".]

Steiner told Waldorf teachers to keep quiet about many things, including the prayers he wanted students to recite each morning. “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.’” [6] In a more shocking example, he told Waldorf teachers to conceal a particularly appalling doctrine: “That little girl L.K. in the first grade must have something really very wrong inside. There is not much we can do. 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.” [7] Here in the Waldorf school, we believe that some people are subhuman. But keep quiet, Waldorf teachers. Don't tell outsiders what we believe. Be circumspect as you go about your work, promoting Anthroposophy.

These were Rudolf Steiner’s stated intentions. His intentions have not always been fulfilled. Not all teachers at Waldorf schools today are Anthroposophists. Not all Waldorf schools today promote Anthroposophy vigorously. But many do. The problem for parents is determining which do.

If a Waldorf school today wants to follow Steiner’s intentions, there probably will be little or no open discussion of Anthroposophy within its walls. Instead, the curriculum will probably emphasize myths, and a particular kind of dance, and a special sort of painting, and spirit-affecting music and books and activities... Quietly powerful, subliminal forms of persuasion will probably be used to indirectly convey such doctrines as reincarnation, karma, spiritual evolution, magic, Atlantis, astrology... Academic subjects will probably be downplayed, while class time may be spent on knitting, gardening, woodworking, playing simple woodwind instruments...

Those are some of the clues that can reveal a Waldorf school’s real purposes. Below is a more inclusive list. I’ll give you the list twice, first in a quick overview, then in detail.


Here is a series of questions that should help reveal

whether or not a school is deeply committed to Rudolf Steiner’s occultism.

If you are considering becoming involved with a Waldorf school,

I would encourage you to seek answers to these questions first.*

◊ Does the school call itself

nondenominational or nonsectarian,

but does it contain indications of religious faith?

◊ Do the teachers require or urge students

to recite a morning verse?

Does the “verse” address God? Who wrote it?

◊ Does the school emphasize Christ?

But do you also detect hints of unbiblical beliefs?

◊ Do students at the school study various religions?

◊ Does the curriculum at the school include

extensive study of myths and legends?

◊ Is there a pleasant emphasis on art,

but with a spiritualistic flavor? 

◊ Do the students do wet-on-wet watercolor painting?

◊ Is eurythmy performed at the school?

◊ Are academic subjects given short shrift? 

◊ Are there indications that intellect is downplayed

and that other kinds of thinking

— such as imagination — are deemed better? 

◊ Is there an antiscientific bias at the school? 

◊ Is alternative medicine present

in or around the school?

◊ Are there hints of racism,

perhaps buried deep but still detectable?

◊ Is European culture, especially German culture,

seen as superior to all others?

◊ Can you detect an unusual degree of sexism 

in the school’s policies or practices?

◊ Do the teachers divide the students

according to "temperament”?

◊ Are there any strangely suggestive features 

in the school’s equipment, physical plant, or grounds? 

◊ Are there intimations that evolution is real,

but very different from Darwin’s version?

◊ How are animals discussed or viewed?

◊ Are students led to feel that the physical world is illusory?

Are there indications that nature is deemed holy and yet false?

◊ Are there gnome statuettes or dolls

in any classrooms at the school?

◊ How are other worlds discussed or portrayed?

◊ Are there indications of astrology

or related fallacies in the school?

◊ Are there hints of reincarnation? 

What about karma? 

◊ Are there suggestions that children have

memories of the spirit realm? 

◊ Beyond whatever the previous questions exposed,

do you detect signs of occultism?

◊ Are there hints that the universe may have

more than one god?

If careful investigation convinces you that a particular Waldorf school passes muster on these questions,

then that school may be — as Waldorf schools go — just fine.

But if the questions lead you to worrisome discoveries, 

then you may want to find a different school for your children.

Below are pointers that may help you penetrate to the truth behind these questions.

* The first version of this page appeared on line some years ago. Waldorf schools have had plenty of time to absorb it and similar materials, and to adjust the face they present to the world accordingly. Still, the information and suggestions offered here should remain pertinent for parents making their own inquiries.


Here is the same list of topics, taken more slowly this time. Essentially, all these topics down boil to one large question: To what degree is the school committed to Rudolf Steiner’s occult doctrines?

As I proceed down the list, I will include many quotations from Steiner and others. Some of these are hard to grasp, but the effort is worthwhile. The quotations may be your best tool for investigating a Waldorf school. Take such quotations to the school and ask for explanations. If you are dissatisfied with the answers you receive, you may have learned something essential. A tip: Don’t settle for simple denials — press for full, persuasive answers. Remember that Steiner told his followers to guard their secrets.

For clarity, I will add some explanatory notes to the quotations, and I will chop out some of Steiner’s repetitive or confusing language. This editing will make Steiner’s statements clearer, but I promise I will not distort Steiner’s meaning. You can check me by going to the sources I cite in the endnotes. I will tell you exactly where I found each quotation.


or nonsectarian

Does the school deny being religious, but are there hints of religious belief there nonetheless? I attended a Waldorf school from second through twelfth grade. We did not memorize passages from holy books or study catechisms, yet a muted spiritualism hung about the place, in almost every lesson, in almost every activity. To one degree or another, it got to most of the students, sometimes deeply — but almost always subconsciously.

A subtle atmosphere of spiritualism can be hard to detect. Much of what happens in a Waldorf school may seem to be more or less consistent with the values of the culture at large. The issue is whether a particular Waldorf school crosses the line and becomes sectarian without admitting it. At my school, we were assigned books with religious themes; spiritualistic art was present; we sang religious music such as Handel’s “Messiah”; we recited spiritualistic verses in unison; we were immersed in myths and steered away from science; and so forth. (I’ll discuss these matters more as we proceed.) The high point of our year was the annual Carol Sing. In a candlelit auditorium on a December evening, we sang hymn-like carols about the birth of Jesus and the love of God. Frosty and Rudolf and Santa were absent. Religion was present. Reading this description, you may think it is obvious that I attended a religious school. Yet my school did not describe itself in those terms, nor did many students or parents think of it as such. Spiritual instruction was woven into our school lives so adroitly, it went almost unnoticed at the conscious level while often having a powerful effect deeper down. 

If you find such an atmosphere or such activities at the Waldorf school you are interested in, they may serve as clues that the “nondenominational, nonsectarian” school is actually a religious institution. Perhaps you want a religious education for your children, perhaps you don’t. But in either case, you should know what plans a school has for your children.

Morning verse

Many Waldorf schools begin each day by having the children recite “morning verses” that are actually prayers written by Rudolf Steiner. The “verse” that is often recited in the lower grades includes such phrases as “I reverence, O God,” and “From Thee come light and strength,/To Thee rise love and thanks.” [8] Students who repeat this verse are addressing and honoring God. They are praying.

The “verse” Steiner wrote for older Waldorf students includes the words To Thee, Creator Spirit, I turn myself/To ask that strength and blessing....”[9] Once again, the words address God and they ask for blessing. This verse, too, is clearly a prayer. Steiner’s original words, in German, make this even clearer. Instead of “Creator Spirit” he wrote of “Gottesgeist,” the spirit of God. [For full English translations of these prayers, see "Prayers".]

A school where students recite such prayers aloud, in unison, is almost certainly not nondenominational or nonsectarian. It is a sectarian school, specifically an Anthroposophical school, a school that is committed to the religion called Anthroposophy. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"]

Christ, but unbiblical beliefs

Steiner considered Christ central to human evolution, but his version of Christianity was and is heretical.* Consider the following statement, which contains elements of magic and paganism: “It is...important that the deeds of Christ Jesus are always seen in relation to the physical sun, which is the external expression of the spiritual world that is received at the point where Christ’s physical body is walking around. When Christ Jesus heals, for instance, it is the sun force that heals. However, the sun must be in the right place in the heavens....” [10] Orthodox Christian churches certainly do not teach that the Biblical accounts of Jesus healing the sick are actually demonstrations of the Sun's healing powers. Such thinking laps over into magic (the Sun must be at a certain angle) and even paganism (the Sun heals).

Steiner made many statements revealing how bizarre and unbiblical his teachings are. For instance, he said that Buddha has done for Mars what Christ did for Earth: “The Buddha wandered away from earthly affairs to the realm of Mars. Until then Mars had been the chosen center of forces designated by the Greeks as fearfully warlike. The mission of Mars came to an end in the seventeenth century. Another impulse became necessary and the Buddha accomplished a Buddha crucifixion there.” [11] No orthodox Christian or Buddhist would accept such teachings. But this is what Steiner taught. How are Christ, Buddha, and other religious figures discussed or presented by the teachers at the school you are examining?

The core issue, here, is that Steiner’s “Christian” doctrines are gnostic — that is, they depend on secret or “mystery” knowledge not found in the Bible. Such knowledge is supposed to be shared only with insiders, those who have been initiated. This is another reason Waldorf teachers often try to disguise their spiritual agenda. One scholar has written “Rudolf Steiner...a pivotal figure of twentieth-century esotericism...blended modern Theosophy with a Gnostic form of Christianity, Rosicrucianism, and German Naturphilosophie.” [12] Theosophy is a religion, closely related to Anthroposophy, that draws heavily from Eastern faiths for such concepts as reincarnation and polytheism. [See "Basics".] Gnosticism is the heretical belief that salvation can be gained only through the possession of secret knowledge (gnosis).  [See "Gnosis".] Rosicrucianism is a secretive movement devoted to mysticism and such mystery arts as alchemy. [See "Rosy Cross".] German Naturphilosophie is a semi-pagan pantheistic philosophy. Obviously, these supernatural movements are alien to most Americans and Europeans, yet they lurk in the background of much Waldorf thinking. Tip: There may be a significant difference between what Waldorf teachers say about such matters in public and what they say in private. Having quiet, one-on-one conversations with Waldorf faculty members can sometimes be quite revealing.

* If you are not a Christian (as I am not), then you may not be offended by Steiner's heresies. But you nonetheless may be troubled by the bizarre nature of Steiner's teachings, knowing that Waldorf teachers generally accept those teachings and seek to slip them into Waldorf practices.

Various religions

The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America has issued this statement: “Waldorf schools are non-sectarian and non-denominational ... The pedagogical method is comprehensive, and, as part of its task, seeks to bring about recognition and understanding of all the world cultures and religions. Waldorf schools are not part of any church. They espouse no particular religious doctrine but are based on a belief that there is a spiritual dimension to the human being and to all of life.” [13] Aiming at an “understanding of all...religions” suggests that quite a bit of time will be spent studying religion. Likewise, recognizing a “spiritual dimension to the human being” suggests that Waldorf schooling leans toward spiritualism, not an evenhanded presentation of religion and science. In fact, Anthroposophy draws from religious and spiritualistic traditions from all around the world, so studying many different religions can be good preparation for converting to Anthroposophy.

Notice that the official Waldorf statement says that Waldorf schools are not part of any church. This is misleading. If by “church” we mean religion, the statement is false. If by “church” we mean a religion that holds ceremonies in churches, the statement is technically true but beside the point. Any Waldorf school that is truly devoted to Anthroposophy is part of a religious movement. The movement doesn’t have churches, per se, but it has schools, camps, and other locations where the religion is practiced. [See "Schools as Churches".] The most important Anthroposophical center is the Goetheanum, a large building designed by Steiner. It is, in effect, a cathedral. I’ll have more to say about it later.

When evaluating a Waldorf school, ask for a description of the subjects students will study at each grade level, and probe the amount of time devoted to these subjects and the purpose of including them at specific points in the curriculum. While the religious intention of some studies will be rather obvious (Old Testament stories are often studied in third grade, for instance), in many other instances the religious intent may be hidden. Waldorf schools are usually adept at slipping Anthroposophical doctrines into almost all classes. [See, e.g., "Here's the Answer" and "Sneaking It In".] Studying cultures and faiths from around the world may certainly serve valid educational purposes. But from an Anthroposophical perspective, those cultures and faiths are steppingstones leading inevitably upward to the superior and culminating world vision, which is Anthroposophy.

Myths and legends

Steiner believed that myths, legends, and similar stories such as folk tales convey knowledge about previous stages of human evolution. Brace yourself for the following quotation. In it, Steiner says that a particular legend reveals the evolution of the soul, which proceeds differently than the evolution of the body. He then connects soul evolution with racial evolution (yes, race). Then he connects this with reincarnation (yes, reincarnation), saying that we have all been reincarnated many times, and that at one point we lived on Atlantis (yes, Atlantis): “A wonderful legend describes to us the state of development of the soul. The soul is in a different line of evolution than the body of the human being. The difference between soul and racial development can be seen if we look into the past. Souls were incarnated many times in the Atlantean race [i.e., the people of Atlantis]; all of you were Atlanteans at that time. The souls [of good humans] worked themselves out of that situation and the remaining human bodies belonged to the races that had become decadent and were falling into decline. The [good] souls left the bodies of the [decadent] races and rose up to higher races. Human bodies afflicted with fundamental evil will not have souls within them that are striving to rise above their present state to a higher one.” [14] The “wonderful legend” reeks of racism. 

In evaluating a Waldorf curriculum, you should realize how important myths and legends are in the Waldorf belief system. According to Steiner, such stories are not just entertaining tales from yesteryear. He said that myths and legends are basically true: “Actual facts concerning the higher Spiritual Worlds lie at the foundation of all myths.... ” [15] He explicitly taught that Atlantis really existed, that reincarnation is real, and that racial differences matter. I’ll discuss these subjects in more detail later.

Myths, legends, and similar fare show up frequently in the lower grades at typical Waldorf schools, grades when children’s minds are most impressionable. [See "Sneaking It In".] Here’s an excerpt from the history of my Waldorf class, printed in our yearbook: “Besides the three R’s, the fourth grade was occupied with the study of Norse myths. The high point of the year was the building of Yggdrasil, the Norse tree of life, out of paper. The fifth grade, where we learned about Greek and Egyptian myths, was our last with Mrs. Gardner.” [16] We didn’t know it, but in those two years — as in others — we were being led through a typical Waldorf sequence. Here’s how one Waldorf educator has described the sequence for the first five grades: Grade 1: “fairy stories” and “such delightful creations as ‘The Song of the Elfin Miller'...and 'The Fairies.'” Grade 2: “Fairy stories, legends, fables....” Grade 3: “Old Testament stories, legends, stories of the saints, folk tales....” Grade 4: “Norse stories [i.e., Norse myths]....” Grade 5: “Indian, Persian, and Egyptian myths ... Greek myths ... Irish legends....” [17] 

There’s nothing inherently wrong with fairy tales and the like. But if the curriculum at a Waldorf school follows the pattern described here, the school may very well be serving Steiner’s occult belief system. The sequence for studying myths is intended to lead children through the stages of human spiritual evolution. [See "Oh My Word".]

Emphasis on art

Waldorf schools are usually full of attractive art, much of it created by the students. This is often what strikes visitors most about the schools, and it creates a very favorable impression. There is beauty all around; it seems delightful.

But this impression may be deceptive. For Steiner, art had an occult purpose. He said, “This is what gives art its essential lustre: it transplants us here and now into the spiritual world.” [18] He meant this literally, not metaphorically. He taught that spiritual beings enter the world through colors and musical tones, and that we can use the same vehicles to rise into the spirit realm. “[C]olours and musical notes are windows through which we can ascend spiritually into the spiritual world....” [19] Again, bear in mind that he meant this literally. [See "Magical Arts".]

The study of art in a Waldorf school is only tangentially related to aesthetics. It involves a rejection of the modern world in favor of a “supersensible” universe. “The question I have in mind is...‘What is the actual positive reason for introducing art into our lives?’ It is only during our materialistic age that...we have forgotten the supersensible origin of art.” [20] By “supersensible,” Steiner meant things that cannot be detected by our ordinary senses (eyesight, hearing, and so forth) — clairvoyance is required. The “supersensible world” is the higher realm occupied by spiritual beings. Steiner claimed that he himself could perceive the spirit realm because he was clairvoyant — that is, a psychic. According to Steiner, art of all types comes from the supersensible realm and it leads us back to that realm. The artistic atmosphere in a Waldorf school is thus, really, a spiritualistic, occultist atmosphere.

Art has magical powers, according to Steiner. His description of these powers sometimes became twisted in appalling ways. Here is a deplorable statement he made about novels written by blacks: “[I]f we give these Negro novels to pregnant [white] women to read, then it won’t even be necessary for Negroes to come to Europe in order for mulattos to appear. Simply through the spiritual effects of reading Negro novels, a multitude of children will be born in Europe that are completely gray, that have mulatto hair, that look like mulattos!” [21]

When thinking about student art in a Waldorf school, consider how much of it seems spiritualistic. Also notice how much of it seems to be copied instead of original — quite often, all the members of a class will produce essentially the same painting or drawing, copying from work created or presented by the teacher. You should ask Waldorf teachers why they select certain images for the students.


watercolor painting

A form of painting emphasized in Waldorf schools uses wet brushes to spread watery paint over wet paper. This technique effectively prevents young children from creating recognizable images of the real world. Instead, they tend to create blurred pictures that correspond nicely to Steiner’s description of the spirit realm: rich in color but devoid of clear lines and clear-cut forms: “You see, when the soul arrives on earth in order to enter its body, it has come down from spirit-soul worlds in which there are no spatial forms ...[The spirit realm] has no spatial forms or lines, [but] it does have color intensities, color qualities. Which is to say that the world man inhabits between death and a new a soul-permeated, spirit-permeated world of light, of color, of tone; a world of qualities not quantities....” [22]

Steiner taught that in addition to a physical body, every real human being has three nonphysical bodies, which he called the ether body, astral body, and the “I.” Various forms of art express these bodies, he said. “Painting is the form of art which contains the laws of our astral body, just as sculpture contains the laws of our ether body and architecture those of our physical body.” [23] For our present discussion, we don’t need to comprehend the nonphysical bodies, we just need to recognize how deeply esoteric the pretty art in Waldorf schools really is. Steiner said that the beauty in art is a vehicle for spiritual revelation. “In leaving our pre-earthly existence behind [i.e., leaving the spiritual realm for our current earthly incarnation], we have lost the possibility of being embedded in the essence of truth in the right way [i.e., we have lost contact with spiritual truths] ... Through a true and genuine feeling for beauty we can, as it were, reestablish a link with pre-earthly life during life on Earth.” [24] So beautiful paintings, especially those without clearly defined forms, reconnect us to the spirit realm.

Besides emphasizing wet-on-wet painting, Waldorf schools often try to keep kids from using pencils or crayons that can make sharp lines, and certain “evil” colors such as brown and black are often ruled out. The result is that kids get accustomed to a pastel haziness that is consistent with mystical, spiritualistic thinking. One of my sisters, who attended the same Waldorf school I did, says that she and her classmates always felt they were in a fog while at school. Many other former Waldorf students report the same — it is almost inevitable when a school promotes mysticism, especially if the tenets of that mysticism are never spelled out openly. At Waldorf schools, silences are sometimes as communicative as speech would be. Mystery knowledge is supposed to remain mysterious, but with a little work you should be able to penetrate at least the outer layers of Waldorf's mystical creed.


The best example of Steiner’s spiritualistic take on the arts is eurythmy, a form of dance that Steiner himself originated. Steiner said that doing eurythmy connects people directly with the spiritual realm. “In having people do eurythmy, we link them directly to the supersensible world.” [25] Exactly how eurythmy supposedly creates this connection is complicated, but the point for us is to realize that the gentle “dance” form called eurythmy has spiritualistic meaning. It is the religion of Anthroposophy set in motion.

“Through this art, we want to place something into the spiritual development of humanity.” [26] The “something” is a higher form of consciousness, spiritualistic “insight.” Eurythmy, which is “ensouled movement” [27], is meant to advance human spiritual evolution. Along the way, it is supposed to improve human health, both physically and spiritually: “Eurythmy is something we can certainly consider as an aspect of soul, spirit, and physical hygiene.” [28] Eurythmy stresses the use of the arms and legs, because these parts of our body lay the groundwork for our future karma: “our limbs, which are the part of us where life after death is being shaped in advance....” [29] If some of this sounds bizarre to you, you may be learning something important about Waldorf schools.

At the Waldorf school I attended, we did eurythmy while manipulating “therapeutic” copper rods (especially in the lower grades) and holding our pelvises strictly still (always). Occasionally, we prepared eurythmic performances for school assemblies. In my class’s first such performance (coming in about the third or fourth grade), we enacted the creation of the world — the emergence of light, the separation of light from darkness, the separation of dry land from the waters, and so on. We portrayed angels and archangels and the fulfillment of God’s commands. I played God Almighty.

At many Waldorf schools, eurythmy classes and performances are more solemn than any other school events. They may seem to be religious ceremonies — which, indeed, is what they are. Probably the most august of all eurythmic performances are staged at the Goetheanum, the worldwide headquarters of Anthroposophy. The building is essentially a cathedral — it has colored glass windows, a huge statue of Christ, and a large auditorium equipped with an imposing pipe organ. “[T]he inner spiritual impulse that is intended to flow from the Goetheanum...goes far beyond any theoretical understanding, indeed beyond any understanding altogether.” [30] Photographs of eurythmy as presented at the Goetheanum are highly instructive. You can find examples in the booklet THE GOETHEANUM: School of Spiritual Science [31] and online at 

When examining a Waldorf school, ask to visit a eurythmy class; try to have a conversation with a eurythmist; and attend school assemblies that include eurythmy. Consider the themes you find in the eurythmic performances, the costumes worn, and the movements displayed. Probe their significance. [See "Eurythmy".]

Academic subjects

If the main purpose of a school is to promote a spiritualistic agenda, then time must be taken away from regular academic subjects to concentrate on more spiritual pursuits, such as arts. The teachers at the first Waldorf school knew that academic standards there were below par. They worried that they were not preparing their students adequately for standard final examinations in the twelfth grade. Asked what subjects should be dropped to make time for lessons with more academic content, Steiner answered, “Sadly, technology and shop, as well as gymnastics and singing. We cannot drop eurythmy or drawing. Religion will have to be limited to one hour....” [32] Later, Steiner added, “The question of final examinations is purely a question of opportunity. It is a question of whether we dare tell those who come to us that we will not prepare them for the final examination at all, that it is a private decision of the student whether to take the final examination or not.” [33] Weeks after that, when the exam results were in, he said, “We should have no illusions: The results gave a very unfavorable impression of our school to people outside.” [34]

At my Waldorf, like many others, academic dilettantism prevailed. We studied various subjects for no more than three weeks at time: three weeks of history, then three weeks of geography, then art history, then earth science, then... The subjects would roll around again in a few months, but by then they had grown cold. Not all subjects were parceled out like this, but many were. As for the rest of each school day, intellectual challenges were rare. We spent a good deal of time painting, playing recorders (woodwind instruments), doing eurythmy, and pursuing other arts and crafts. Parents were led to accept this because the Waldorf curriculum theoretically educates “the whole child” — head, heart, and hands. Many parents do not realize, however, that at Waldorfs “the whole child” is essentially a spiritualistic concept, encompassing nonphysical bodies, nonphysical organs, twelve different senses, clairvoyant potential, the aftereffects of past lives, astrological signs, and other occult notions. [See, e.g., "What We're Made Of", "Holistic Education", and "Waldorf Astrology".]

The benefits of handcrafts, from an Anthroposophical perspective, are similar to those of the arts, although on a lower level: Activities such as knitting, crocheting, and woodwork are physical evocations of spiritual forces. And, importantly, they do not put heavy demands on the intellect. As I will explain in the next section, Steiner generally disparaged brainwork.

Immersed in a curriculum that was light on academics but long on knitting and the like, my schoolmates and I weren’t required to learn much in order to graduate. I don’t want to embarrass any of my old friends, so I’ll use myself as an example. I “studied” French for several years, and I always passed, but I was never able to speak a single French sentence nor understand French when it was spoken to me. Likewise, I took several years of high school math (three or maybe four — I forget), and I always passed, although simple algebra and most other areas of math remained unsolved mysteries for me. Yet I always passed, usually with moderately good grades. 

Waldorf schools today may do a better job with academics, but this is an area worth exploring. For most people, academic subjects are the core of a real education. Any school that downplays them may be selling its students very short. 

Intellect, imagination, 


We all need to use our imaginations. But at Waldorf schools, the term “imagination” is sometimes used as a code word for clairvoyance. Consider the following remark of Steiner’s: “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....” [35] Notice that Steiner starts by talking about clairvoyance and then shifts to the word “Imagination.” For him, clairvoyance and imagination are nearly the same. Notice, also, how “Imagination” is emphasized and magnified (capital “I”).* Steiner means a serious form of cognition, not fantasizing, not the kind of whimsy we find in Pixar films. He means a real faculty that can lead to real knowledge.

But there is very little evidence that clairvoyance is possible. The Encyclopedia Brittanica considers clairvoyance such a minor topic that it devotes just a handful of words to it, ending with “Research in parapsychology...has yet to provide conclusive support for the existence of clairvoyance.” [36] Many self-proclaimed clairvoyants have been exposed as frauds, while the “insights” of other clairvoyants have often turned out to be so wrong that we are justified in doubting whether so-called clairvoyance ever produces reliable results. [See "Clairvoyance".] Some of Steiner’s "clairvoyant" insights are laughably incorrect. For example, his clairvoyance allowed him to say that the planets don’t orbit the Sun: “[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.” [37]

Still, Steiner insisted that clairvoyance is real, and he made the bizarre claim that we can all gain psychic powers by developing special nonphysical “organs”: “[O]rgans of clairvoyant 'seeing' are formed out of the feelings and thoughts that arise in relation to growing and flourishing....” [38] Steiner taught that thinking with your brain is not real thinking at all: “[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition....” [39] Real cognition, in Anthroposophy, is clairvoyance. Brains and intellect can be useful for some purposes, Steiner said, but they are ultimately irrelevant. [See "Steiner's Specific" and "Thinking".]

Look for hints of this sort of delusion at any Waldorf school you scrutinize. A good education should help students to develop and use their brains, not steer them toward unreliable forms of non-thinking. Be particularly alert for references to imagination. Probe to see, if possible, what Waldorf representatives mean when they use this term.

* In this as in many other cases, we are dealing with an English translation of Steiner's original German. The decision to capitalize "Imagination" was made by Steiner's English translator or editor, not by Steiner himself. (In German, all nouns are capitalized.) But the point is telling, nonetheless. If we aren't learning precisely what Steiner intended, we are learning what Anthroposophists today intend — which is more immediately relevant to us today.

Antiscientific bias

Steiner abhorred modern science and technology, as he made plain over and over. One of his strange teachings, which he repeated many times, is that the heart does not pump blood: “[T]he heart is indeed a sense organ for perceiving the blood’s movement, not a pump as physicists claim....” [40] Some of his other antiscientific statements are even stranger: “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.” [41] I doubt that many Waldorf teachers present such crackpot statements to their students today. But checking into a Waldorf school’s attitude toward science can be enlightening. [See "Science".]

Anthroposophy’s hostility to science and technology runs deep. At my school, we were required to read a book titled THE FAILURE OF TECHNOLOGY [42] and we were urged by one of our science teachers to read the book SCIENCE IS A SACRED COW. [43] There was a general aversion of modern gadgets, especially television. (Personal computers had not yet been invented; they surely would have been reviled.) We were supposed to avoid TV at almost all costs. Many Anthroposophists believe that modern technology is the tool of demonic powers intent on world conquest.

Steiner taught that there are two great devils, Lucifer and Ahriman. The latter is the devil of Zoroastrianism. Steiner associated Ahriman with materialism and technology — and, because he said that Americans are materialistic and masters of technology, he taught that America is under the sway of Ahriman. Along the same lines, he taught that Russia is allied with Lucifer: “Ahriman-America should not have the only voice; Lucifer-Bolshevism [i.e., Russia] should not be allowed to do the only deed. However, as no one knows any different from what the stupefying and spirit-alienating institutions of ‘modern science’ have been teaching people, a real ‘enlightenment service’ is needed above all else. A lot would be gained if a number of people were to admit to themselves that they cannot but commit wrong actions in the world if they apply what they owe to ‘modern thinking’ and were to realize that a new way of thinking had to be adopted.” [44] Reading Steiner can cause headaches. Here's a paraphrase of the foregoing passage: The evils or America and Russia should not prevail. “Modern science” creates a way of thinking that destroys the soul, so we need an “enlightenment service” that will lead us to the Truth. (Steiner means Anthroposophy, of course.) People should admit that they are on the wrong track when they use “modern thinking” instead of mystical/Anthroposophical thinking.

Hostility to science led Steiner to make some extremely nutty remarks: science is “stupefying,” islands float, hearts don’t pump blood, Buddha moved to Mars, planets don’t orbit the Sun, the Sun shows where Christ’s physical body is, we come from Atlantis, real thinking doesn’t occur in the brain, clairvoyance works, “Negro” novels have baleful genetic effects, we can grow organs of clairvoyance, and on and on. This leads us to a pivotal issue. Steiner was unreliable — you can’t take his word for things. So, why do Waldorf teachers accept any of his doctrines? Of course, being wrong about many things doesn’t mean that Steiner was wrong about everything. But when you talk to Waldorf teachers, ask them to tell you which of Steiner’s teachings they do accept, and then — the pivotal part — ask them for convincing arguments that Steiner was right in those instances. If they try to confine the discussion to vague, innocuous platitudes, or if they spin off into clouds of misty rhetoric, press them harder. Get them to describe Steiner doctrines that set Waldorf schools apart from other types of schools, then listen carefully to their explanations of those doctrines. Weigh their words for clarity, evidence, and logic. If they can’t meet the basic requirements of rational discourse, you should be concerned. If Waldorf teachers can’t persuade you that they are reasonable and well informed, how qualified do you think they are to educate your children?

The contradiction between Steiner’s abhorrence of science and his claim that Anthroposophy is a science ("spiritual science") doesn’t bother his followers, but it should give the rest of us pause. [See "Steiner's 'Science'".] Steiner claimed that Anthroposophy is scientific because he wanted his teachings to be taken as undeniably, factually correct. But as we have already seen, his teachings contain huge quantities of nonsense. Only rarely does any statement Steiner made stand up to thoughtful scrutiny. A “science” that leads to an absurd conception of reality needs a basic overhaul, but instead Anthroposophists tend to take Steiner on faith. This, of course, is not a scientific approach at all — it is religious devotion. [See "Faith".]

Science courses at Waldorf schools are often weak. When visiting a Waldorf, try to learn what sorts of instruction that school provides in the sciences. Visit a class, if you can, or read the class books the students create, and look at texts (if any) that the students are required to read. To help you in this preparation, you might look over "Waldorf Schools Teach Odd Science, Odd Evolution" and "Why Waldorf Programs Are Unsuitable for Public Funding".

We will see more of Steiner’s hostility to science in the following section, in which nuttiness leads to the possibility of grave harm.

Alternative medicine

Steiner opposed many practices of conventional medicine. His description of the human body and its organs is extremely unorthodox, as are the treatments he prescribed for illnesses. He advocated use of mistletoe to treat cancer, for example, and he opposed vaccinations in many if not all cases. He was against trying to cure diseases that are part of one’s karma — that is, one’s fate. The idea is that you are born into this life carrying the consequences of your good or bad behavior in your previous lives. [See "Karma".] If you have an illness, it may be the result of your past behavior: You may need to go through the illness to fulfill your karma and prepare yourself for your next life. As for the suffering you will endure in this life: You are fated to suffer, you deserve to suffer.

Here’s what Steiner said about trying to cure smallpox by vaccination. You would think that anybody would want to cure smallpox. But Steiner argued that if we give a patient a shot, s/he will need to compensate somehow in a future life: “[W]e are merely accomplishing something to which the person in question [that is, the patient] will himself have to produce a counterpart in a later incarnation [that is, his/her unfulfilled destiny will have to be played out in a coming lifetime]. If we destroy the susceptibility to smallpox, we are concentrating only on the external side of karmic activity.” [45] You can’t avoid your karma — if you try to sidestep it now, you are only postponing the inevitable. Treating a physical ailment leaves the main, spiritual part of your fate unaddressed. Steiner took the edge off this idea, a little, by saying that vaccinations can be ok sometimes if the patient is also given spiritual (Anthroposophical) training. But surely all patients deserve the best possible medical care, always, with or without kooky spiritual training. Failing to use the best techniques of modern medicine to promptly treat serious diseases is clearly extremely dangerous. [See "Steiner's Quackery".]

A former Waldorf parent has described the “treatment” her children received from a doctor who followed Rudolf Steiner: “The Anthroposophic doctor made a diagnosis: my child had lost the will to live. He announced one of the potential cures ... [W]e were to give our daughter red, yellow, and orange crayons to color with! I looked at my husband in disbelief. When the doctor instructed us to make the sign of a flame out of Aurum cream over my child’s heart at bedtime, I was dumbfounded ... He told us to apply the gold cream from below the heart upwards, towards the sky....” [46] The girl ultimately had to be hospitalized, after which conventional medicine produced a gradual cure. My parents sent me to an Anthroposophical doctor for a few years. He rarely if ever gave me any medicine, aside from some herbs. Mostly he prescribed spiritual exercises, such as visualizing a pencil and imagining how it came to be. Fortunately for me, when I developed real ailments such as a flu, my parents usually sent me to a regular doctor whose office was closer to home.

When examining a Waldorf school, try to learn what sort of medicine (real or quack) is advocated there.


This is a terribly sensitive subject, and I certainly hope that most Waldorf schools today are not racist. But Steiner was a racist. For instance, he said that races should stay put — blacks should stay in Africa, Asians should stay in Asia, and so forth. “On the one side we find the black races, which is earthly at most. If it moves to the West, it becomes [or may become] extinct. We also have the yellow race, which is in the middle between earth and the cosmos [i.e., the heavens]. If it moves to the East, it becomes brown, attaches itself too much to the cosmos, and becomes extinct. The white race is the future, the race that is creating spirit.” [47] Whites, in other words, are leading mankind’s spiritual evolution — they are superior. Whites are more or less free to go where they please, Steiner said, but inferior races should stay where they belong.

Steiner revealed his racism many times, in many ways. Here are more examples. In the first, Steiner says that some races have evolved more than others, and that lowly races come from “abnormal” humans. “[I]t was the normal human beings that were...the most capable of evolving. [Abnormal] peoples whose ego impulse [i.e., sense of individual identity] was developed too strongly gradually wandered to the West [from Atlantis] and became...the Red Indians of America. [Likewise, the abnormal] people whose ego-feeling was too little developed migrated to the East, and became the subsequent Negro population of Africa ... [T]hey deposited too many carbonic constituents in their skin and became black. This is why the Negroes are black. Thus both east of Atlantis in the black population and west of Atlantis in the red population we find survivors of the kind of people who had not developed their ego-feeling in a normal way. The human beings who had developed normally lent themselves best to progress.” [48] By “ego impulse” or “ego feeling,” Steiner meant the sense of personal selfhood, which must be balanced with the sense of one’s membership in the cosmic community. The descendants of the normal humans, the ones who could continue evolving properly, are the white race, according to Steiner.

Being white has many advantages, Steiner said. For example: “Blond hair actually bestows intelligence. 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.” [49] But, according to Steiner, not all white people are equally advanced. Those with dark hair and eyes presumably are less intelligent than their paler neighbors. And consider a particular Semitic people. They are spiritually backward. “The Jews have a great gift for materialism, but little for recognition of the spiritual world.”[50] Still, Steiner said, being white is better than the alternatives. For example, according to Steiner, blacks are inherently immature: “[A] centre of cosmic influence [is] situated in the interior of Africa. At this centre are active all those terrestrial forces emanating from the soil which can influence man especially during his early childhood ... The black or Negro race is substantially determined by these childhood characteristics.” [51]

At my Waldorf school, racism cropped up in the classroom occasionally. One of my teachers spoke to our class about higher and lower races, and another told us (we were all white) to be sure never to get a blood transfusion from a black person. Presumably Waldorf teachers rarely say such things today, and many Waldorf schools today may be free of overt racism. But look carefully. Racism is by no means wholly absent from all schools where Steiner's teachings are still honored. [See, e.g., "Woman Sees Waldorf Racism on First Visit" and the appendix to "Steiner's Racism", written by Maura Kwanten.] Occasionally, distinct echoes of Steiner's specific racist beliefs still crop up in Waldorf classrooms and teaching materials. The strain of racism in Anthroposophy runs deep and is difficult to eradicate. [See, e.g., "Embedded Racism".]


Steiner taught that white Europeans are superior to other peoples. As we have seen, he said that the groups who emigrated from Atlantis developed into various races, some of which were more advanced than others. White Europeans, in particular, were the most "normal" humans and thus they evolved to higher levels. White Europeans are mankind's great hope. "The world needs the light which can spring from western civilization and Central European culture and spirituality.” [52]

Waldorf schools often include instruction in world religions and the cultures of other lands. But beneath these, you will often find Eurocentrism. You might also consider whether a Waldorf school has a special fondness for a particular subset of Europeans, namely northern or “Nordic” Europeans — especially Germans. Steiner found flaws in Northern Europeans, saying they need to evolve further, but nonetheless he praised their heritage and potential. “Nordics” have long been closer to spiritual truth than other peoples have been. “Nordic man perceived the figures of the Gods, the divine Beings working directly on his soul ... This was direct experience to him.” [53] “No other mythology gives a clearer picture of evolution than Northern mythology. Germanic mythology in its pictures is close to anthroposophical conception of future evolution.” [54] For Anthroposophists, saying that a mythology is close to their beliefs in the highest praise.

As for the future, Steiner said that Germans have a special talent for “looking at the world from the most varied points of view. This shall be the special mission of the German people ... They shall take hold upon world culture ... [I]n the realm of knowledge, [certain things] can be evolved only through the German people.” [55] Germans are quite intellectual, Steiner said, and intellect is objectionable. But Germans can handle brainwork better than the rest of us, and soon enough they will evolve to still higher, less-brain-centered levels.

When visiting a Waldorf school, probe for indications of special admiration for Europe, Germany, and whites. 


Rudolf Steiner believed that boys and girls should receive different forms of education because they have different soul qualities. Girls are oriented toward the sky; boys are oriented toward the Earth; girls should be told stories about mythical heroes; boys should be told realistic stories about real people: “[W]e shall...educate the girls correctly by recognizing the fact that they are more inclined to the cosmos and boys more inclined to the earth. Girls incline more to the cosmic, and this means that their ideals are heroes and heroines; we should tell girls about them, about their lives and deeds ... Boys need to hear about character, about complete human beings.” [56] The implication is that girls have their heads in the clouds (in a good way, of course), while boys are realistic and down-to-earth. So boys need to know about “character” — how to be honest, reliable, diligent, and so forth — and they should learn what a “complete” human being is. This is not necessary for girls.

Look for signs of this sort of sexism in a Waldorf school. Because sexist thinking is so widespread throughout the world (it is not confined to Waldorf schools by any means), finding it will not, by itself, prove that the school is uniquely flawed. Still, it could be a clue, and you certainly may want to avoid any school in which sexism is official policy. [For more on this subject, see "Gender".] 


Steiner taught that there are four basic types of individuals within each racial and national grouping. Humans can be categorized by temperament: choleric (critical, angry), sanguine (sunny, optimistic), melancholic (sad, moody), and phlegmatic (listless, uninterested). He took this idea from ancient Greece — the “humours” are the four fluids that the Greeks said we have inside us: yellow bile, blood, black bile, and phlegm. People who have a predominance of one kind of humour supposedly have the temperament controlled by it.

Science long ago rejected the ancient four-slot concept of temperaments, but Steiner not only embraced it, he also mixed it with astrology. “In cholerics, you will generally find an abnormally developed sense of balance (Libra) ... In sanguines (Virgo)...the sense of movement predominates. In the same way, in melancholics (Leo) the sense of life predominates and in phlegmatics (Cancer) the sense of touch predominates....” [57] This is pseudoscience; it is voodoo science.

Yet Steiner said that children should be segregated according to temperament. “[I]t will be good to arrange your groups as follows: if you put the phlegmatics together it is good to have the cholerics on the opposite side, and let the two others, the melancholics and sanguines, sit between them.” [58] Separating children this way, on the basis of a completely obsolete medical theory, raises all sorts of problems. [See, e.g., "Square One - Part 2".]

What seating arrangements exist in the school you are thinking about? What sorts of analyses do the teachers make about their students’ characters and capabilities?

Equipment, physical plant, 


The appearance and trappings of a Waldorf school can sometimes tell you a lot. For instance, are different classrooms painted different colors? This may be attractive, but it also may reflect Steiner’s belief that the color of a room affects the kinds of spiritual beings that are present or at least discernible there. “What spiritual beings become visible in any particular instance depends on the colour to which we devote ourselves. In a red room, other beings become visible than in a blue room....” [59]

What sort of library does the school have? What sorts of books does it contain? The library at my Waldorf school was small, lacking many standard texts that any library ought to include, yet our librarians found room for books about flying saucers, dragons, and other chimerical topics. Kids browsing there were quietly lured toward belief in the mythic and fantastic, which from an Anthroposophical perspective can be a good first step toward adopting Steiner’s strange belief system.

What sorts of art do you find around the school, besides the pictures and sculptures created by the students themselves? Are there drawings or paintings of spiritual or otherworldly scenes? Visionary art by William Blake, for instance, or pious work by Albrecht Dürer, such as “Praying Hands”? Are there watercolors with misty, multilayered washes that seem to open onto strange vistas? Are the pictures "prismatic" — that is, are colors arranged in a prismatic sequence (red to orange to yellow to green to blue to purple...)? Are there chalk drawings suggesting celestial powers interacting with the earth, for instance “lemniscates” (figure eights) linking the Sun and the Earth? Is much of the art semi-abstract, suggesting a reality other than ordinary reality? Any and all of these can be clues. Many Anthroposophists use certain kinds of art as objects of meditation and as talismans. To learn to recognize typical Anthroposophical art, you can refer to such books as ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER [60] and THE ILLUSTRATED CALENDAR OF THE SOUL [61], or take a look at "Anthroposophical Art".

Look for other clues. • Is there a special room set aside of eurythmy? [See "Eurythmy".] Waldorf students are usually required to participate in this form of spiritual dance. What sort of special equipment do the students use (slippers, veils, copper rods...)? • Are there compost piles or organic gardens on the school grounds? Steiner invented a form of agriculture he called “biodynamics,” which is connected to both astrology and magic. [See "Biodynamics".] Waldorf students are often required to work in biodynamic gardens. • Are seasonal/religious festivals celebrated — Michaelmas, Advent, and the like — perhaps with the aid of special equipment and costumes? Colorful festivals are used as recruitment tools; they also serve to provide students with pleasant experiences within the Anthroposophical conception of the annual spiritual cycle. [See "Magical Arts".] • Are there gnome dolls or figurines in any of the classrooms? [See "Gnomes".] What are they there for? (We will return to this matter.)

Keep you eyes open for any such clues.


Steiner’s version of evolution is weird, to say the least. [See "Evolution, Anyone?"] For instance, he taught that humans didn’t evolve from animals. Just the opposite: Animals evolved from us. Here’s a summary of Steiner’s evolutionary vision: Human beings were the first life form on Earth, although we were far less evolved then than we are now. As we developed, we shed various forms of life that turned into various kinds of animals. In general, good humans have continued evolving, but most bad or abnormal humans haven’t, or at least they haven’t evolved properly. In the future, upward-evolving humans will become a good race that will be totally spiritual and, eventually, divine. Lowly humans will form a bad race that will be cast into the “abyss” — a nether realm of backwardness and sin.

Our evolutionary past, according to Steiner: “If the evolution of the Earth did not include human beings, then most animals would not exist ... At a particular stage in their earthly development, human beings, to develop further, needed to rid their nature, which then was much different than it is now, of the higher animals....” [62] Our evolutionary future, according to Steiner: “To the extent that for a large part of mankind...[the] impulse of Christ becomes the innermost impulse of man’s this extent will mankind ascend .... [But] The evil race, with its savage impulses, will dwell in animal form in the abyss.” [63] If you are a Christian, remember that Steiner’s doctrines concerning Christ are heretical. The “impulse of Christ,” for example, is an esoteric spiritual power, tied to secret knowledge, and it is central to an evolutionary scheme that has been laid out by multiple gods. I’ve mentioned Anthroposophy’s polytheism previously, and we will return to it.

Steiner’s description of evolution flies in the face of science and it also runs contrary to the Bible. The headmaster at my Waldorf school openly discussed Steiner-style evolution one Friday in our high school assembly, although he didn’t attribute it to Steiner. After the assembly, he called me into his office to make sure I had understood him. He repeated his statements in greater detail. This was a rare series of events, when an Anthroposophist laid out some of his beliefs in clear terms. Usually, Waldorf faculty may not want to open up about their views on evolution and its connection to spiritual salvation, but you should press them. The prospect that humanity will divide into a good race and an evil race deserves particular scrutiny. 

The natural world

When examining a Waldorf school, try to determine whether the students are led to feel that the real, physical world is illusory, hiding the truth about the universe. This is a basic Anthroposophical tenet, which Steiner sometimes discussed under the heading of “maya,” the Hindu belief that everything in physical life is illusion. “I must emphasize this again and again, that the saying ‘the world is Maya’ is so vitally important.” [64] Many religions have similar beliefs, but in Anthroposophy they are taken to an extreme. Students are led to doubt the testimony of their senses — they are led to confuse the real and the unreal.

At my Waldorf school, nature was often treated as if it doesn’t really exist or as if it is only a cover. The headmaster at the school published a booklet in which he wrote the following about teachers at regular, non-Waldorf schools: “Their training has not led them to appreciate that within each of its facts the apparent world conceals many levels of truth....” [65] His point is that properly trained teachers at Waldorf schools don’t make that mistake. They always direct attention away from the “apparent” or illusory world to the many hidden “levels of truth.”

Of course, appearances can deceive, so looking behind surfaces is necessary to gain deep insight. I don’t deny it — in fact, in this essay, I’m suggesting ways to look behind the surface of Waldorf education. But talking about “maya” and “the apparent world” is dangerous. The world does actually exist, it is not a phantasm. Yet Anthroposophists often deny the reality of reality. Their “truths” are often purely imaginary, yet they take them for objective fact: gnomes, Atlantis, Buddha’s Martian crucifixion, and the like. Children who are led in this direction are being led badly astray.

Anthroposophy’s hostility to nature is not absolute. Anthroposophists revere a fantasized form of nature, imagining the natural world to be, at least in part, the abode of spiritual beings. Waldorf schools generally embrace green values, preferring natural materials as opposed to the malign products of technological civilization. Whatever is organic or natural is, in this sense, esteemed. But love of nature is hollow if it is directed at a fantasized version of reality. From the Waldorf perspective, nature is charming when viewed through a romanticizing lens; otherwise, it is a dire, threatening place. Distrust of the "illusory" natural world is consistent with the gnostic sources Steiner drew from. [See "Gnosis" and "Neutered Nature".] According to gnostic tradition, the material universe was not created by God but by a hostile minor deity, the Demiurge, who opposes spirituality. The material universe created by the Demiurge is run primarily by evil spirits. Anthroposophy does not wholly accept this view, but it leans toward it. Steiner’s “nature spirits” such as gnomes are an extension of gnostic concepts: 

Gnomes, goblins

Are there gnome statuettes or dolls in any classrooms at the Waldorf school you are thinking about? If so, why are they there? One reason almost certainly is that the teachers want to encourage kids to think about the world the way Steiner did. [See, e.g., "Beings".] Steiner taught that gnomes are real: “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, and when the earth is laid open they appear to burst asunder ... Many names have been given to them, such as goblins, gnomes and so forth ... Their nature prompts them to play all sorts of tricks on man....” [66]

Hard as it may be to believe, Steiner was serious about this. He taught that the entire universe consists of hierarchies of creatures and powers, some higher, some lower. He gave everything a rank. If you rank high, that may seem ok. But if you rank low... According to Steiner, “nature spirits” are lowly incorporeal beings that are often annoying. They are tricky and deceptive. And yet Waldorf schools often have representations of them in classrooms used by young children. 

One former Waldorf parent has written, “Nature spirits are at or near the bottom of a very complex hierarchy, going up through various rankings of angels and archangels to the Christian seraphim, cherubim etc. ... I think gnomes get more systematic emphasis because talk of angels is too blatantly religious, parents will wonder if their child comes home always talking about angels, whereas gnomes can be treated as simply creatures from children's stories or fairy tales, and of course most Waldorf schools deny to parents that the curriculum is religious.” [67]

When visiting a Waldorf school, ask the teachers about nature spirits. Don’t start by using the words “gnome” or “goblin” — just ask about nature spirits. Then ask for specific examples. As the discussion proceeds (if it does), gradually bring up gnomes and goblins, and consider whether you can accept the answers you are offered. If you can’t believe that gnomes and/or goblins exist, Waldorf may be wrong for you.

Other worlds

Steiner often described other worlds, both spiritual and physical. He sometimes called portions of the invisible universe Spirit-land, which he designated as a world: “This world is so unlike the physical that all that is said about it will appear fantastic to him who is willing to trust his physical senses only ... For our speech [i.e., language], which for the most part serves only for the realities of the senses, is not richly blessed with expressions for the ‘Spirit-land’ ... [T]his world is woven out of the material of which human thought consists. But thought, as it lives in man, is only a shadow picture, a phantom of its true being ... The spiritual eye sees in Spirit-land the thought ‘lion’ as really and actually as the corporeal eye sees the physical lion.” [68] Take such talk for what it is worth. The spirit realm seems like fantasy but it is actually quite real, Steiner said. It consists of thoughts, but thoughts that are more real than ordinary thoughts. Thought lions are at least as real as physical lions. As I’ve pointed out, in Anthroposophy the line between the real and the unreal blurs.

Steiner never demonstrated that Spirit-land exists — we simply have to take his word for it, or not. Checking is impossible unless we develop clairvoyance (which, sadly, is almost certainly impossible).  [See "Clairvoyance".] If we can’t really examine the spiritual worlds Steiner discussed, we can at least examine Steiner’s statements about worlds in the physical universe. Try this: “[T]he moon today is like a fortress in the universe, in which there lives a population that fulfilled its human destiny over 15,000 years ago, after which it withdrew to the moon together with the spiritual guides of humanity ... This is only one of the ‘cities’ in the universe, one colony, one settlement among many ... As far as what concerns ourselves, as humanity on earth, the other pole, the opposite extreme to the moon is the population of Saturn.” [69] This is literally fantasy, yet Steiner expected his followers to believe such statements. Maybe a better word than “fantasy” is lunacy. Consider what it could mean to entrust the care of your child to teachers who believe such nonsense.

One interesting question to ask Waldorf teachers is why Steiner made frequent references to Vulcan. “[O]n Vulcan, the spiritual consciousness will prevail....” [70] "Vulcan and Saturn separated from the earth.” [71] Scientists used to think that a planet existed closer to the Sun than Mercury. This was Vulcan. Science rejected the idea eventually, but traces of it live on in Rudolf Steiner's teachings. Sometimes, when referring to "Vulcan," Steiner meant a future stage of evolution [72], but on other occasions he was evidently referring to the planet Vulcan. Steiner seemed to think that the planet Vulcan does exist, in some form. As in so many other things, he was wrong. [See "Vulcan".]  

Usually, when speaking of other worlds, Steiner meant levels of spheres of the spirit realm. One of his most important books is KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT. [See "Knowing the Worlds".] Try to talk with Waldorf teachers about other worlds, both spiritual and physical. If they believe Steiner’s statements about such worlds, ask why. Try to determine whether there is any rational basis for their beliefs. Can they convince you to embrace their beliefs? If not, Waldorf is probably right for you. 

Astrology, etc.

Steiner often talked about the mystical power of the planets and stars. He advocated astrology. Thus, for instance, when seeking to understand a particular child, he consulted the child's horoscope. “Now let us turn to the horoscope of the younger child ... [H]ere are Venus and Uranus and Mars near together ... [W]hen we examine more nearly [i.e., more closely] the position of Mars, we find it is complete opposition to the moon [Mars and the Moon are not exactly on opposite sides of the sky]. It is however very nearly so. Although the younger child does not come in for a complete opposition, there is an approximation of opposition.” [73] Imagine a Waldorf teacher consulting a horoscope to decide how to handle your child. [See "Waldorf Astrology".]

The presence of horoscopes, mystical star charts, and similar paraphernalia in a Waldorf school would be cause for real concern. In all likelihood, of course, such things will not be openly displayed. But with persistence, you still might discover telltale indicators. The headmaster at my Waldorf school made references to astrology in his yearbook messages to my class and the class before mine. Here is part of what he wrote to my class: “For some onlookers, a special star has shone over your class from its beginning many years ago. And there may be a reason for the protection afforded you by this star of destiny: as genius of your class, it may yet have demands to make of you ... My hope and expectation are that, following your star, you will be able to do something to make the world environment pleasanter for those that come after you....” [74] Many people reading these words might think they are metaphorical or harmlessly flowery. But such language, when used at a Waldorf school, is almost surely meant literally. Steiner believed in the power of the stars (remember that stars hold Great Britain in place). Who are Waldorf teachers to doubt him? [See "Star Power" and "Astrology".]

In addition to astrology, Steiner promoted other occult concepts, such as the mystical meaning of numbers — numerology. He claimed to find great spiritual significance in such numbers a 3, 7, and 12, among others. [See "Magic Numbers".] He waxed enthusiastic, for instance, about the “insight” that there are seven colors in the spectrum, seven notes in a musical scale, and seven components in the human constitution. This elicited the contempt of real scientists such as Nobel Prize winning physicist Max von Laue. Discussing Steiner’s book, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE, von Laue quoted Steiner as saying “light appears in seven colours, and sound appears in seven tones, [and] the undivided nature of Man appears in seven limbs.” Von Laue poured ridicule on this remark, writing “What prevarication! From the innumerable colours that can be perceived by the eye, human language has perhaps given especially simple names to a random seven (and these are only approximately defined), and if Steiner is ignorant of the names of any other colours we recommend that he asks any good dressmaker.” [75] Von Laue disposed of the “seven tones” and “seven limbs” with equal dispatch.

Watch for recurring number patterns in designs, arrangements, and discussions at Waldorf schools. Ask about their meaning.

Reincarnation, karma

We’ve already seen that Anthroposophists believe in reincarnation: Remember the quotations about the “wonderful legend” and life “between death and rebirth.” Steiner taught that humans pass through an extremely long series of lives in the physical universe alternating with lives in the spirit realm. [See "Reincarnation".] The gods’ plan is that humans will evolve spiritually as they pass through these lives.

At the first Waldorf school, Steiner told the teachers they should consider discussing reincarnation openly with at least some students. “Following the question of destiny, you will need to discuss the differences between what we inherit from our parents and what we bring into out lives from previous earthly lives. In this second stage of religious instruction, we need to bring in previous earthly lives ... [P]eople live repeated earthly lives” [76] "Destiny" is another word for karma. [See "Karma".] It is one thing to learn about reincarnation and karma as beliefs held in some religions; it is very different to learn about them as if they are true description of human existence. At Waldorf schools, the tendency is to take the second tack.

Also of potential concern to parents: Note how Steiner clearly wanted to minimize the importance of parents. Kids get most of their characteristics from their past lives, not from their parents, he said. And parents, who should not be told much about what is happening inside the school, should play a secondary role to teachers in the guidance of the young. Only the teachers — that is, the Anthroposophical members of the faculty — know what's what. As Steiner once said to 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." [77] Among the many topics about which Waldorf teachers generally consider themselves wiser than parents are the matters of reincarnation and karma.

I think most Waldorf schools in America today probably do not openly endorse the theories of reincarnation and karma. But these are most serious subjects, according to the quietly held beliefs of Steiner's followers. Good humans evolve higher and higher during their successive lives, but evil humans descend toward awful depths as their karmas grow worse and worse. "Souls whose development has been delayed will have accumulated so much error, ugliness, and evil in their karma that they temporarily form a distinct union of evil and aberrant human beings who vehemently oppose the community of good human beings." [78] Thus is humanity divided between the virtuous adherents of Anthroposophy and their twisted opponents. Rescuing the evil from their errors is a task Anthropsophists undertake; their method is to recruit the errant into the ranks of Anthroposophists.

Reincarnation and karma have no basis in science or in the Bible. But belief in them can have a direct effect on the curriculum at a Waldorf school:

 Memories of the spirit realm

Steiner taught that children are born with memories of their prior lives in the spirit realm. Here is what a leading Anthroposophist has written: “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 comes to this life with] a dream-like yet intensely real awareness of spiritual worlds ... In a Waldorf school, therefore, one of the tasks of the teachers is to keep the children young.” [79] Most people think education is a process of helping children to grow up. At Waldorfs, the opposite may be true. It would be important to understand precisely what a particular school intends in this regard.

According to Steiner, the “spirit” is powerfully active throughout early childhood. It teaches children how to move and communicate, and it is involved in a nonphysical organ somewhat akin to the “organ of clairvoyance” I mentioned earlier. “ln his early childhood man learns from the spirit how to walk physically ... From the spirit he learns to speak ... And the life [sic] too which man lives on Earth as an ego-being [i.e., a real human, one who has an “I”] obtains its life-organ through what is formed in the first three years.” [80] You might discuss this quotation with Waldorf teachers. Ask how the spirit teaches walking and talking. Ask what role the spirit plays in guiding young children. Ask how this compares to your role as a parent. Ask what a “life-organ” is. And ask about the entire concept of nonphysical organs, including organs of clairvoyance. (Also, if you notice that some classrooms for young students are kept unusually dim, ask about this. Waldorf schools often use this technique to create a moody, dreamy, mystic atmosphere, especially in kindergarten classrooms. Part if the purpose is to preserve the kids' dreamy connection to their previous lives in the spirit realm.)

Keeping kids young may sound pleasant, but think about what it means in practical terms. Such an education retards growth and maturation. The educational program laid out by Steiner is aimed at other worlds and other lives, past and future. Such a focus can hinder a child in this life, in this world, here and now and, potentially, throughout life. Moreover, if the other worlds and lives Steiner spoke about are mere fantasies — as they almost certainly are — then an education focused on them will largely be a waste of time and effort. The time lost, and the energy wasted, may result in deficits that are nearly impossible to repair. A child has only one chance at childhood. It shouldn’t be wasted.


Much of what I have been discussing involves the occult. Let’s focus more tightly on this subject. Steiner openly advocated occultism. [See "Occultism".] For instance, he associated occultism with service to humanity: “In order for anyone to attain to real occultism, thus serving the whole of humanity, he must outgrow his folk character ... He must not have impulses that serve only a single people if he desires to advance in genuine occultism.” [81] “Genuine occultism” is bunk, but Steiner promoted it. Advancing in genuine occultism is the goal for any true spiritual seeker, he taught. By “folk character,” he meant the shared characteristics of a nation or people. He said that evolution requires transcending such limitations through the development of a universal, occult consciousness. (In re “folk character,” Steiner said that the French, for instance, are decadent. [82] If you detect a contradiction between Steiner’s concern for all of humanity and the negative judgments he made about various races and nations, you have found another key to Steiner’s thinking. To put this charitably, it is doubtful that Steiner lived up to his own standards.)

Occultism, according to Steiner, goes hand-in-hand with clairvoyance: “If the person devoting himself to the color which covers these physically dense walls were one who had made certain occult progress, it would come about that after a period of this complete devotion the walls would disappear from his clairvoyant vision; the consciousness that the walls shut off the outer world would vanish.” [83] The walls would become invisible and one could see beyond, not just into the physical world but into the spiritual realm. This quotation takes us back to Steiner’s assertion that different spiritual beings are clairvoyantly visible in rooms of different colors. The basic concept we find here is profoundly occult, a term that means unorthodox belief in supernatural, magical, and/or mystical beings and practices. Steiner taught that the world swarms with supernatural beings, and he stressed occult practices, especially the use of clairvoyance. The thinking that undegirds Waldorf education, as conceived by Steiner, is occult.

One of Steiner’s most important books is titled OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE. [84] The book outlines Steiner's occult beliefs; it summarizes what we might call his theory of everything. [See "Everything".] Other Steiner books bear titles such as OCCULT HISTORY [85] and AN OCCULT PHYSIOLOGY [86]. You might take copies of such books with you into a Waldorf school. Getting Waldorf teachers to talk openly about their own occultism is usually difficult if not impossible, but searching for relevant clues can be essential to evaluating a Waldorf school. The Waldorf I attended nearly collapsed when the occult beliefs and practices of faculty members became widely known. The resulting scandal was reported in THE NEW YORK TIMES. [See “The Waldorf Scandal”.]


Anthroposophy is polytheistic — it acknowledges many different gods. As a consequence, Christians, Jews, and Muslims will find Steiner’s teachings heretical. [87] Rationalists will merely find them are absurd. Hindus and other polytheists may feel an initial affinity with Anthroposophy, but closer examination will usually reveal many differences between their beliefs and Steiner’s. [88]

Steiner explicitly told Waldorf teachers that their task is to act as saviors by serving the spirits presiding in this polytheistic universe. They should serve the "gods" or "the spiritual powers in whose name each one of us must work: 

• “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.” [89]

• “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.” [90]

The "moral spiritual task" of Waldorf teachers is messianic. Serving the gods, they should direct humanity toward the Truth — which is, according to Waldorf gospel, Anthroposophy. Indeed, Steiner taught explicitly that the primary purpose of Waldorf schooling is not to educate students, at least not as the word “educate” is usually understood. According to Steiner, the real purpose is to spread Anthroposophy: 

• “One of the most important facts about the background of the Waldorf School is that we were in a position to make the anthroposophical movement a relatively large one. The anthroposophical movement has become a large one.” [91]

Discuss these quotations with Waldorf teachers to see what you can discover.


That’s my list of clues. It is not all-inclusive — there are other clues and signs you can look for — but I hope it is adequate.

If you find occultism in a Waldorf school, deciding what to do about it will hinge on your answer to two more questions: Are you attracted to Steiner’s doctrines or not, and are you already involved with a Waldorf school or not?

If you are already involved with a Waldorf school, and if you come to realize that the place subscribes to mystical doctrines that you cannot accept, you may need to leave. The only other options for you would be to stay and resist quietly, in your own mind and heart, or to try reforming the school from the inside. Others have tried to reform various Waldorfs without success, but you won’t know for sure what is possible in your situation until you’ve tried. (Be prepared, however: The attempt may be harrowing.)

If you are not yet involved with a Waldorf school, and if you realize that a particular Waldorf is committed to doctrines you reject, you almost certainly should give the place a wide berth.

On the other hand, maybe you like Steiner’s doctrines and want their “benefit” for yourself or your children. In that case, you could use my list in very different ways than I intended. You might use the list to find a deeply Anthroposophical Waldorf school, or you might use it to urge a particular Waldorf to embrace Steiner’s occult doctrines more completely than it does now.

For what it’s worth, my opinion is that most people would do best to stay far away from any dyed-in-the-wool Waldorf school — that is, any Waldorf school that is deeply devoted to Steiner and his doctrines. But my opinion doesn’t matter. The choice is up to you and your family. I’d suggest discussing the issue with each other openly and at length. Together, decide what is best for you.

Here is a representation of typical Anthroposophical art, 
such as may be found around a Waldorf school.
This is my copy of the central portion of "And He Was Made Man",
a study by Walther Roggenkamp.
The image includes a mystic rose, incarnating souls, 
a protective spiritual being, the Christ child, and the Virgin Mary.
(Mercury Arts Publications, 1987), p. 219. R.R. sketch, 2010.]

Anthroposophic column and ceiling light.
[Photo by Alicia Hamberg, reproduced by permission of the artist.

Waldorf schools sometimes operate out of conventional buildings 

having more or less conventional fixtures and decor. 

But when they can afford to do so, Waldorf faculties often prefer the more expensive option 

of erecting buildings in accordance with Rudolf Steiner's architectural dicta, 

which emphasize rounded, "organic" forms, and starburst patterns — 

 shapes that imply or even invite spiritual influences.

(This approach is more expensive because almost everything must be handmade by artisans.)

The results can be attractive or bizarre, depending on one's perspective.

In general, right angles are minimized or, if possible, avoided altogether,

as are pointed arches, which are deemed Satanic.

 "In architecture Ahriman [i.e., Satan] worked as the Antichrist when he replaced 

rounded Romanesque arches with horseshoe and pointed arches.” 

— Rudolf Steiner, ARCHITECTURE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 153.

An Anthroposophic portal.
This entryway can be found leading into the arts workshop 
at the Anthroposophical campus in Dornach, Switzerland.
(Its resemblance to a shrieking face is presumably unintended.)
All the forms — arch, windows, door, steps — are rounded.
Demonic shapes are thus avoided.
[R. R. sketch, 2010.]


It is easy for me to say you should look for telltales signs at a Waldorf school. But how can you discover what you are not be supposed to discover? If a Waldorf school follows Steiner’s admonition to keep its occultism hidden, ferreting out the truth may require difficult detective work.

But then again, maybe not. Once you know what to look for, the answers may fall into your lap. Here’s an example. Peter Curran taught history at my Waldorf school. He said Waldorf education is built on four basic principles:

“1) There’s a proper time and method for particular subjects to be taught. The child recapitulates the cultural epochs of humankind.

 2) Reverence and respect for Earth is fostered. 

 3) Qualitative as well as quantitative dimensions in all things should be developed. 

 4) Above all, human beings are spiritual as well as physical beings.” [92]

At first glance, this looks pretty innocuous. But once you become sensitive to the ways Anthroposophists use language, warning bells start to chime. Consider the first principle. “Cultural epochs” is a term that has very specific meaning for Anthroposophists. These epochs or “ages” are long stretches of time in mankind’s spiritual evolution. They are dated from the sinking of Atlantis (yes, Atlantis). According Steiner, we are currently in the fifth cultural epoch since Atlantis went under, and the transition from the fifth cultural epoch to the sixth will be dreadful: “[T]he transition from the fifth cultural epoch to the sixth cultural epoch cannot happen differently than as a violent fight between white mankind and colored mankind....” [93] Steiner dated the coming, sixth cultural epoch or age quite specifically: “The sixth Post-Atlantean cultural age, the so-called Russian age, extends from 3573 [AD] to 5733.” [94] So, seen through the lens of Anthroposophy, Peter Curran’s statement takes on a fearsome, occult significance.

Stay with the first principle. “There’s a proper time and method for particular subjects to be taught” has particular meaning in Waldorf schools. Steiner said that children recapitulate, in their own lives, the stages of human evolution. “[I]individual evolution...tends to recapitulate general human evolution....” [95] This is true enough at the biological level, but remember that Mr. Curran was referring to Steiner’s “cultural epochs.” The idea that our lives recapitulate humanity’s spiritual progress explains why such things as the study of myths usually occur in a strict order at Waldorf schools. The sequence of study we saw under the heading “Myths and Legends”, above, is intended to trace human spiritual evolution as perceived by the “clairvoyant” father of Anthroposophy.

Notice that Mr. Curran said there is a proper way to teach each subject. Despite their often accommodating, "progressive" demeanor, Waldorf schools are actually doctrinaire and strict. There is only one right way to do things, the way Steiner indicated, and teachers and students are expected to toe the line. Individuality and experimentation are not admired in schools that follow Steiner or that operate as Mr. Curran suggested.

The remaining clues in Mr. Curran's four principles are more suggestive than conclusive, but they are still worth examining. Go to Mr. Curran’s second principle. Having respect for the Earth is obviously a good thing. But what about “reverence?” This comes close to worship. Steiner taught that we should revere the Earth because, he said, it is alive. “For the earth is really a living being....” [96] He went so far as to assert that the Earth has emotions: “Just think, children, our Earth feels and experiences everything that happens within it ... [I]t has feelings like you have, and can be angry or happy like you.” [97] As always when reading Steiner, you need to swallow hard and realize that he was serious: “That is the truth. And it is good to tell children these things. This is something that even materialists could not argue with or consider an extravagant flight of fancy.” [98] He’s wrong about that, but the main point for us now is that arguably we can see Anthroposophy peeking out again from behind a Waldorf teacher’s innocent-seeming statement.

Go to the third principle. This apparently expresses an unarguable idea. Qualities (good, bad, true, false) are at least as important as quantities (76, two, long, short). But, once we realize that Mr. Curran’s four principles evidently contain Anthroposophical beliefs, we should ask what the third principle means as an Anthroposophist would understand it. Steiner taught that qualities come from the hidden spiritual realm. In fact, the spirit realm is made up of qualities: Go back to the quotation I gave concerning watercoloring. The spirit realm is “a world of qualities not quantities....” Perhaps this is true; perhaps not. But this is how Anthroposophists see things, and we are probably justified in finding this perspective in Mr. Curran's third principle. Consider the odd wording: qualitative “dimensions” should be “developed” in “all things.” If qualities are spiritual essences, then Waldorf teachers who “develop” these for their students are developing spiritual concepts for them. Take an example. Steiner found special spiritual importance in geometry. [99] What “qualitative dimension” might a triangle have? At my Waldorf, we were taught that equilateral triangles are qualitatively superior to isosceles triangles, which in turn are superior to scalene triangles. We were not offered these views as debatable value judgments; we received them as “truths,” as Platonic spiritual facts. [100] Thus our view of the world was colored and distorted by dubious spiritual affirmations slipped into ordinary academic subjects. This is what “developing qualitative dimensions” can mean in Waldorfworld. [101]

Mr. Curran’s fourth principle is a proposition any religious person would accept. Humans are spiritual beings, not merely physical beings. But pause for a moment. Waldorf schools usually claim to be nonsectarian. If the schools are not religious, why is one of their most basic principles — indeed, the most important principle (“above all”) — the idea that we are spiritual beings? This is a religious concept, not a scientific or secular concept. The religion found in an Anthroposophical institution is, of course, Anthroposophy. So on this most important point, Mr. Curran has again told us more than a casual reader might have guessed. Waldorf schools stand on the spiritualistic foundation provided by Anthroposophy. As Steiner put it, “The anthroposophical movement is the basis of the Waldorf school movement.” [102] In other words, The Waldorf School would be inconceivable without this spiritual movement.” [103] Ultimately, this is what Mr. Curran was saying. 

A final comment. Notice what is not included in the four principles. According to Mr. Curran, the most important goals at Waldorf schools do not include preparing students for successful lives in the real world. They do not include preparing students for college. They do not include educating students to be good citizens. And the core principles do not involve conveying true, up-to-date, scientifically accurate information about the universe. The aim of the schools is spiritualistic. You may like that aim or dislike it. But either way, you should realize this is what Waldorf schools are all about. 

— Roger Rawlings

You may also want to visit the following pages here at Waldorf Watch:

"Advice for Parents"





"Cautionary Tales"

"Our Experience"

"Coming Undone"

"Waldorf Teaching Training"

"Non-Waldorf Waldorfs: Looking for a Good One"

"Waldorf Now"




Concerning visits to a Waldorf school:

Be prepared. See "Visits".

Waldorf schools may make extraordinary efforts to disguise themselves. The Waldorf School in Garden City, New York, and the Kimberton Farm School, in Pennsylvania, look quite ordinary — they avoid the typical forms of Anthroposophical architecture. This helps them deflect suspicions concerning their real purposes. Anthroposophist Keith Francis touches on this in his book THE EDUCATION OF A WALDORF TEACHER (iUniverse, 2004). Francis — a longtime Waldorf teacher who became Faculty Chair at the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City — is surely a credible source. He reports that a strong effort was made at the Garden City school to present a false face to the world. He refers to "the Garden City school, with its...well-oiled financial machinery and its scrupulous attention to appearances" — p. 60. He explains that the Garden City school operated much as the Kimberton school did. The striking thing, he says, is that neither school looked Anthroposophical. "[T]he building at Garden City and the high school at Kimberton had been constructed specifically as Waldorf Schools, so why were they so unremittingly rectangular?" — p. 54. He describes the situation at Kimberton in these words: "Kimberton is on what is known as the Main Line [a rail line from Philadelphia to New York City], and needed to earn its bread and butter by catering to upper middle class clients who would have been repelled by the appearance of anything 'weird'" — p. 54. So Kimberton wore a disguise, and the Garden City school did the same: "[T]he Garden City School was playing the same game as the Kimberton Farms School, but doing it a great deal more subtly and with a much more serious commitment to the anthroposophical foundations of Waldorf education" — p. 55.

(Disclosure Statement: I attended the Waldorf School in Garden City. - RR)

If you visit a Waldorf school, you may see some unusual symbols

in paintings, pieces of sculpture, etchings, colored windows, even jewelry.

(Or not. Such symbols are often kept hidden from visitors.)

If you see any such, ask about them.

Here are three typical Anthroposophical symbols.

In the upper left is the seal of the Guardian of the Threshold —

the spirit one must satisfy in order to gain admittance to spirit realms.

In the upper right is the Portal of Initiation — the door leading to secret occult wisdom.

At the bottom is a talisman representing the Sun (the domain of Christ, the Sun God).

There are many other such symbols, including Steiner's reworkings

of astrological signs, in Anthroposophy. Many emphasize the number seven (7),

since seven is the esoteric number of perfection, according to Steiner.

Note the sevens evident in two of the symbols shown here.

[R.R., 2009, based on John Fletcher's ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER

(Mercury Arts Publications, 1987), pp. 73 & 197.]

A typical eurythmy class at my old Waldorf;

in this case, a class for high school students.

To preserve privacy, I have blocked faces.

I seem to remember that we no longer used

copper rods at this age; this photo

seems to confirm it.

['63 PINNACLE (Inter-Collegiate Press).] 

Body types associated with the four temperaments,

according to Rudolf Steiner.

[R.R. sketch, 2009.]

See "Temperaments".

Perhaps the best — and most revealing — title

ever given to any book of Steiner's teachings.

[Kessinger Publishing, 2009; an older edition was published

by Putnam & Sons, 1920.]

The "information" Steiner provided about various subjects

generally amounts to little more than fantasy.

It is objectionable for that reason

and for several other reasons as well.

“While it was enclosed within the earth, the moon provided the motherly, female qualities for the earth ... The forces the moon used to provide when it was part of the earth are now in the animals themselves. They bear the moon forces within them ... Nowadays the moon cannot do much more than stimulate the head ... It makes a big difference whether something is inside the earth or outside." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM CRYSTALS TO CROCODILES (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002), pp. 128-130. [R. R. sketch, 2009, based on the sketch on p. 130.]

Spiritual imagery of various sorts

may often be found hanging on Waldorf walls.

I remember a copy of this etching displayed

at the Waldorf school I attended.

Albrecht Dürer, "Praying Hands"


The Steiner School Approach

(Floris Books, 1996), p. 260.]

Many religions are studied, and many myths are told and read,

at Waldorf schools. Anthroposophy is an amalgam of

numerous religions and mythologies.

[Non-Anthroposophical, public domain image: The Door of Life.]

Here is an item from the Waldorf Watch "news" page:

From WaldorfHomeschoolers:


“So what did Steiner have to say about television? Nothing. There were no televisions in his time. But, he said enough about early childhood education that we can surmise what his views on the tube would have been. 

“These reasons center on Steiner’s view of the astral body, imagination and the way a child learns. 

“A cornerstone in Steiner’s educational theorems was the fact that children go through three stages in their lives. First, from age 0-7, the spirit inhabiting the body of the child is still getting used to its surroundings ... During the second stage, from ages 7-14, the child is said to be driven by imagination and fantasy, and during the third stage, starting at age 14, the astral body is said to be driven into the physical body.... 

“Waldorf educators saw a direct link to this astral body and the watching of television. The scenes, the lack of imagination involved, and the topics covered on most channels would obviously bring on the astral stage of the body at an early age. This was one reason that television was banned from Waldorf schools.” [

This is a fairly candid account of the Waldorf attitude toward TV. As with almost everything else in Waldorf belief and practice, Waldorf's take on TV derives from mystical concepts such as the “astral body.” If you don’t believe in astral bodies — or if you don't think it is obvious that watching TV will bring on a kid's astral stage too soon — the Waldorf view will probably strike you are baseless if not totally absurd.

The astral body is the second of the three invisible bodies that, according to Rudolf Steiner, incarnate during childhood. The etheric body — a constellation of formative forces — incarnates around age 7. The astral body — a constellation of soul forces — incarnates around age 14. And the ego body — one’s divine individual identity, also called the ego or the “I” — incarnates around age 21. 

The entire Waldorf curriculum, not just the Waldorf approach to TV, hinges on these concepts. Usually outsiders are not told these things. Now you have been told. [For more on some of these matters, see, e.g., “Incarnation” and “Curriculum”. A deeper reason Waldorf schools oppose TV and other technological products — such as computers — is the belief that they are demonic. See, e.g., “Ahriman”, “Evil Ones”, and “Spiders, Dragons and Foxes”. Usually outsiders are not told these things. Now you have been told.]

The deepest reason Rudolf Steiner's followers oppose TV, computers, and indeed almost all technological devices
is that demonic forces are using electricity to spread evil over the entire face of the Earth.
"[E]vil will invade the earth by coming in an immediate way out of the forces of electricity.” 
— Rudolf Steiner, “The Overcoming of Evil”, ANTHROPOSOPHIC NEWS SHEET No. 7/8 (General Anthroposophic Society, 1948).

Sketch of a green window at the Goetheanum.

"The creatures of Ahriman with the body of snails correspond to the principle of creating forces,

taking innumerable form variations in the animal world, and here especially in the world of molluscs."

— Georg Hartman, THE GOETHEANUM GLASS-WINDOWS (Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag, 1972), p. 31.

The Goetheanum is the worldwide Anthroposophical headquarters.

It is located in Dornach, Switzerland.

The images in the windows are meant seriously —

they depict spiritual beings many Waldorf teachers believe in.

[R.R., 2010. I've added color beyond green.]

Steiner called Anthroposophy "spiritual science,"

but it is akin to astrology and is hostile to real science.

[Traditional astrological image from THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA.]

A traditional horoscope template.


(Dover Publishing, 1950), p. 60.]

"When we look towards the red-yellow, fear streams out;
when we look toward the blue-violet, we have the feeling:
That is where everything like bravery and courage lives."
— Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 141.
[R. R. sketch, 2009, based on Steiner's.
The area on the left represents "Moon existence";
the middle, a rainbow; the right, fear (above) and courage (below).]
What can we make of Steiner's teachings? You decide.

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


For parents considering sending kids to a Waldorf school


Reverence, wonder, and the aftereffects of straining for them

One family's story [external link]


Classroom discipline and...

Some positive elements, but also...

A parent's cry


Court case

A father asks for guidance

Looking at a Parent Handbook

Unjustly assailed

An inquiry into the “success” of Waldorf schooling

The “temperaments” as conceived and acted upon in Waldorf schools

Can a Waldorf school cleanse itself?

Examining a problem that began with the first Waldorf School

An overview and a parent's personal report [external link]


You may also want to consult a few essays 
posted elsewhere at Waldorf Watch:

A guide for students and parents

Reports and advice from parents whose children attended Waldorf schools

A report by a mother who was drawn to a Waldorf school but left disillusioned

Talking it over

Had enough?

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. 


[1] Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 156.

[2] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118.

[3] Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 60.


[5] Ibid., p. 495.

[6] Ibid., p. 20.

Steiner generally opposed letting outsiders know anything about what goes on inside a Waldorf school. “We should be quiet about how we handle things in the school, that is, we should maintain a kind of school confidentiality. We should not speak to people outside the school....” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 10. Steiner took this stance with regard to classes, meetings, religious services, etc., in the school. He had to make exceptions sometimes, but he did so grudgingly.

It is important to realize that Steiner considered parents to be outsiders. “We should not speak to people outside the school, except for parents who come to us with questions, and in that case, only about their children....” — Ibid., p. 10. If parents do not ask questions, tell them nothing. If they do ask questions, talk to them only about their own children.

The secretiveness of Waldorfs is built into their basic belief that they stand upon “mystery knowledge.” Waldorf schools would be problematic if they openly admitted their occultism, but the problem is all the worse because the schools hide their beliefs from “outsiders” such as parents.

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

[8] Rudolf Steiner, PRAYERS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 44-45. The original German versions of the prayers are printed alongside the English versions. You can find more prayers and religious meditations written by Steiner in such books as UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING, LIVING WITH THE DEAD, and START NOW!

[9] Ibid., pp. 46-47.

[10] Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), pp. 65-6.

[11] Rudolf Steiner, LIFE BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH (SteinerBooks, 1985), p. 207.

[12] Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, in RUDOLF STEINER, Western Esoteric Masters Series (North Atlantic Books, 2004, Richard Seddon, editor), p. 7.

[13] , Frequently Asked Questions, Are Waldorf Schools Religious?

[14] Rudolf Steiner, READING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE (SteinerBooks, 1993), pp. 49-50.


The word "myth" is often taken to mean falsehood or fantasy, and with good reason. At least some myths are little more than entertainments, dramatic tales of heroes and villains, earthly and celestial. They are not unlike comic book plots. Combing through these, interpreting them in elaborate ways to seek information about reality, offers little hope of a real reward. The same holds for myths that embody the attempt of ancient peoples — ignorant by today's standards — to explain various phenomena. We don't need such "explanations" anymore, we have science and, if you please, divine texts such as the Bible and the Quran.

On the other hand, some myths may convey certain forms of truth, as scholars such as Edith Hamilton and Joseph Campbell have shown. But these truths are emotional, moral, psychological — they are reflections of subjective human dispositions and capacities, our yearnings, dreams, and subconscious natures. They are not expositions of external cosmological realities — they do not present "actual facts" about the universe.

[16] 1964 PINNACLE, The Waldorf School of Adelphi University (Inter-Collegiate Press, 1964). Mrs. Gardner was our class teacher throughout lower school. Her husband, John Fentress Gardner, was our headmaster. My mother was Mr. Gardner’ secretary. In that position, my mother gained interesting but limited knowledge of the school’s inner workings. She was not an Anthroposophist.

[17] Roy Wilkinson, TEACHING ENGLISH (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1976, reprinted 1997), pp. 21-30.

[18] THE GOETHEANUM: School of Spiritual Science (Philosophical-Anthroposophical Press, 1961), p. 25.

[19] Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SEEN IN THE LIGHT OF MYSTERY WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 111.

[20] Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 238.

[21] Rudolf Steiner quoted by Peter Staudenmaier, “Race and Redemption: Racial and Ethnic Evolution in Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy,” 2004.

[22] Rudolf Steiner, THE ARTS AND THEIR MISSION (Anthroposophic Press, 1964), p. 23. In “between death and a new birth,” Steiner is referring to spiritual life between earthly incarnations.

(It may be a coincidence, but since some Waldorf critics began pointing out the significance of wet-on-wet watercoloring for Waldorf schools, samples of such paintings seem to have become less plentiful on Waldorf websites. Perhaps such paintings will also be less frequently displayed within any Waldorf schools you visit. As with other clues I discuss here, you may need to probe. Bear in mind that Waldorf representatives can read this page and, if they so choose, hide the very clues I am pointing out.)



[25] Ibid., p. 247.

[26] Rudolf Steiner, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING (SteinerBooks, 1998), edited by Michael Howard, p. 299.

[27] Ibid., p. 301.

[28] Ibid., p. 303.

Because my initials are R.R., I’m fond of the following: “In the first grade, there is a boy in the first row in the corner, R.R. He needs some curative eurythmy exercises.” — FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 456. I started at Waldorf many years after Steiner died, so unless he was using clairvoyance to gaze into the future (something he often claimed to do), he didn’t mean me. 


[30] Rudolf Steiner, THE BOOK OF REVELATION And the Work of the Priest (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), pp. 11-12.

[31] THE GOETHEANUM: School of Spiritual Science (Philosophical-Anthroposophical Press, 1961).

I have been to the Goetheanum. Between my junior and senior years, I was part of a group of Waldorf students who visited Germany chaperoned by our German teacher. She led us on a side excursion to Switzerland, to the Goetheanum, where we spent the night among satellite buildings resembling mushrooms and elves’ hats. We thought it was entirely appropriate for a Waldorf teacher to take us to the world headquarters of a cult. As Waldorf students, we ourselves were candidates for admission to the cult, although I think most of us understood this only vaguely.

[32] FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 688. The technology Steiner refers to is decidedly low tech, not the sort of modern technology he vigorously opposed.

[33] Ibid., p. 712.

[34] Ibid., p. 725.

FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER is a fascinating record of Steiner’s discussions with teachers at the first Waldorf school. The text consists of notes taken by teachers during the meetings. At the end of one meeting, the note taker evidently grew tired, because all we have for the final few minutes is a brief outline: “The following was also noted. [break] Bad teeth, the cause lies in the soul/spirit. [break] Connection between eurythmy and the formation of teeth. [break] Handwork. Knitting develops good teeth” — p. 112. When you become sufficiently versed in Anthroposophical doctrines, you’ll be able to find meaning even in such tantalizingly sketchy and bizarre clues. According to Anthroposophy, bad teeth — like all other physical problems — are caused by spiritual factors, particularly karma. The spiritual forces that promote good health, including dental health, can be found in the magical art of eurythmy, which manifests essential life forces. Knitting, like all other physical activities, is a conduit for soul/spirit forces. As for why knitting is especially helpful in developing good teeth — this would be a good question to raise with a Waldorf teacher. See what s/he says. Then compare it to what a dentist says.

A couple of tangents: • Steiner taught that the transition from baby teeth to adult teeth is crucial. As a general rule, children should not be taught to read until the baby teeth are gone, he said. • The arguments made for Waldorf schooling can be bizarre. Here's a justification for crafts as taught at Waldorfs: “Christopher Clouder, CEO of the European Council of Waldorf Schools...says: 'We're finding that the ideas we've espoused for decades, such as...the importance of art and craft activities, are becoming more mainstream.' ... Indeed, the manual skills that crafts such as weaving and blacksmithing offer may become increasingly in demand in the future.” — Nick Kettles, "Robotic Children," ECOLOGIST, Feb. 2, 2009. If you want to prepare your children for 19th century occupations, send them to a Waldorf school.   


Steiner often explicitly affirmed clairvoyance, linking it to imagination, inspiration, and intuition — and asserting its superiority to intellect. For example, “I have described in my (PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM) how the intellectual is further developed into conscious, exact clairvoyance ... Through such a higher consciousness — imaginative, inspired and intuitive consciousness — man may reach in self-knowledge beyond his intellect and know himself as part of the supersensible world.” — Rudolf Steiner, “Self Knowledge and the Christ Experience” (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1988), a lecture, GA 221. The intellect has value, Steiner said, but we need to get beyond it. Indeed, we can use intellect to help us transcend intellect, which we will then leave behind.

[36] “clairvoyance.” ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 18 Oct. 2008.


[38] Rudolf Steiner, HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS (Anthroposophic Press, 1994), p. 41.

These nonphysical "organs" are otherwise known as "inner" or "spiritual" eyes. — Ibid., p. 50 Steiner said they can be developed through meditation on minerals, plants, and animals, especially when one absorbs the feelings of living and dying these produce. Belief in clairvoyance and clairvoyant organs is central to Steiner's philosophy. Becoming clairvoyant allows one to see soul and spirit colors. [Ibid., p. 50] See the indications, elsewhere on this page, about colors.

[39] Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 60.

[40] Rudolf Steiner, AT HOME IN THE UNIVERSE (Steiner Books, 2000), p. 84.


Steiner told Waldorf teachers to be careful about how they handled such bizarre teachings. “We cannot tell them to students...we would acquire a terrible name. Nevertheless, that is actually what we should achieve in geography.” — Ibid., p. 608. Such "guidance" might easily perplex some teachers. 

[42] Friedrich Georg Juenger, THE FAILURE OF TECHNOLOGY (Chicago: Henry Regency Company, 1956).

[43] Anthony Standen, SCIENCE IS A SACRED COW (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1950).

[44] T. H. Meyer, editor, LIGHT FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM: Rudolf Steiner’s association [sic] with Helmuth and Eliza von Moltke: Letters, Documents and After-Death Communications (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), p. 230.

[45] Rudolf Steiner, MANIFESTATIONS OF KARMA (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 165.

[46] Sharon Lombard, “Spotlight on Anthroposophy,”

[47] Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE {On the Life of Human Beings and of the Earth} (Verlag Der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, 1961), p. 62. I translated this from German. Anthroposophists have left some of Steiner’s worst statements untranslated. I am indebted to Peter Staudenmaier for bringing some of these statements to my attention.

[48] Rudolf Steiner, THE BEING OF MAN AND HIS FUTURE EVOLUTION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981), pp. 118-119.

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

[50] Rudolf Steiner, FROM BEETROOT TO BUDDHISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 59. 

[51] Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 75.

[52] Rudolf Steiner, quoted in LIGHT FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM, p. 280. Steiner attributed the statement to a dead German military leaders whose communications he claimed to channel. We may safely infer that Steiner originated the statement.


[54] Ibid., p. 17.

[55] Rudolf Steiner, THE CHALLENGE OF THE TIMES (Anthroposophic Press, 1941), p. 208.

[56] Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 83.



[59] Rudolf Steiner, quoted in ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER (Mercury Arts Publications, 1987), p. 95. See the next citation.

The walls may be painted in a special way intended to be conducive to spirituality. "Rudolf Steiner encouraged artists to paint walls with transparent radiant color. He used the word 'lasur' to describe this new way of coloring walls — where color would feel as though it were in the space and not just on the wall. This provided a pure experience of color — as though one could 'spiritually pass through the walls.' In 1907 and 1908 Steiner spoke of new impulses in the arts and demonstrated these new directions. In a lecture given in 1911 he spoke especially of the importance of transparent color on walls. The early attempts were often unsuccessful because the application of fluid color on vertical surfaces had not been achieved. Rudolf Steiner developed organic paints to be used on the two interlocking domes of the first Goetheanum building: first the white coats, then the medium to carry the pigments. Plant colors were also developed and used for the murals on these domes. Although Steiner's original formulas lay dormant many years, research continued to re-establish organic mediums and plant color production. These were available in the 1970's and further developed in the 80's and 90's and used in the completion of the second Goetheanum." — [Also see]


[61] Rudolf Steiner, THE ILLUSTRATED CALENDAR OF THE SOUL (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2004), paintings by Anne Stockton.


[63] Rudolf Steiner, UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING, edited by Richard Seddon (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993), p. 103.


[65] John Fentress Gardner, THE EXPERIENCE OF KNOWLEDGE (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1962), p. 26.

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

[67] Diana Winters — see Afterword to "Top Ten Jokes".

[68] Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY (Rand, McNally and Co., 1910), pp. 129-130. In his book OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1979), on p. 84 alone, Steiner distinguishes between three regions of Spiritland. On pp. 320-321, he discusses “Higher Regions of the Spiritual World.”

[69] Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER SPEAKS TO THE BRITISH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 93.

[70] Rudolf Steiner, ROSICRUCIAN WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 88.

[71] Rudolf Steiner, ROSICRUCIAN ESOTERICISM  (Anthroposophic Press, 1978), lecture 7, GA 109.  

[72] E.g., Gary Lachman, THE SECRET HISTORY OF CONSCIOUSNESS (Lindisfarne Press, 2003), pp. 288-289. I discuss planets/evolutionary stages in the essay "Everything" and the essays that follow it.

[73] Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR SPECIAL NEEDS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 196.

[74] 1964 PINNACLE.

[75] Max von Laue, “Steiner and Natural Science” (Transition no. 61-62, Collingwood, Vic, Australia, 2000).

[76] FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 46. Also see p. 184.

[77] Rudolf Steiner, THE STUDY OF MAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 16. 

Steiner added, "[I]t 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 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 69.

The proposition is that Waldorf teachers should take control of children, supplanting the kids' parents. 

[78] Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 393. (This is the same book as OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, in a different translation.)

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

[80] UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING, p. 79. Steiner quotes Christ: “Except ye become as little children ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.” This concept is extremely important, but Steiner changes Christ’s meaning from the concept of purity and innocence to a notion of prolonged mental immaturity.


[82] “The French are committing the terrible brutality of moving black people to Europe ... [This] contributes considerably toward French decadence. The French as a race are reverting.” — FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, pp. 558-559.


[84] Rudolf Steiner OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1979).

[85] Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT HISTORY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982).

[86] Rudolf Steiner, AN OCCULT PHYSIOLOGY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983).

[87] I do not give credence to the following, but some fundamentalist Christians argue that occultism like Steiner’s is not only heretical but demonic and a sign of the End Times. By some accountings, occultism figures in the sixth of eight signs of the End Times. “6. Explosion [i.e., explosive growth] of cults and the occult. Counterfeit spirituality is everywhere with cults and false Christs (Matthew 24:24), psychic phenomena, spiritism, Satan worship, witchcraft, nature worship, and the New Age movement (1 Timothy 4:1).” [JesusSoonReturn — see the citation below.] Matthew 24:24 reads “and there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” 1 Timothy 4:1 is “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”

Steiner did not promote Satan worship, nature worship, or witchcraft, but his doctrines entail Lucifer and Ahriman, nature spirits, and witches. (Since I have not previously spoken about witches or black magicians in this essay, let’s look now at an example: “[T]hose whose intentions toward humanity are not good, in other words those who are black of grey magiciansare busily at work “to present certain groups of people with the secret of how to dominate great masses....” — Rudolf Steiner SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 90.

Steiner certainly advocated psychic powers, occultism, and (depending on how one defines it) spiritism. Anthroposophy itself is arguably a New Age cult, an exemplar of counterfeit spirituality. Calling Steiner a false prophet seems warranted; calling him a false Christ is a stretch. Still, there are indications that some Anthroposophists view Steiner as a Christ figure. After Steiner’s death, his wife wrote “His life, consecrated wholly to the sacrificial service of humanity, was requited with unspeakable hostility; his way of knowledge was transformed into a path of thorns. But he walked the whole way, and mastered it for all of humanity.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE STORY OF MY LIFE (Anthroposophic Press, 1928), p. 340; Conclusion by Marie Steiner. I am inclined to consider this the understandable hyperbole of a grieving widow, but others have read these words differently. Certainly there is a messianic streak in Rudolf Steiner’s teachings, as in “we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” Rudolf Steiner characterized his relationship with those who fail to heed him thus: “Those who come to me wanting to hear the truths available through esotericism and nevertheless refuse to walk the path are like schoolchildren who want to electrify a glass rod and refuse to rub it.” — Rudolf Steiner, FIRST STEPS IN INNER DEVELOPMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), p. 25.

For a fundamentalist Christian discussion of cults and occultism, see “What Is a Cult and the Occult?” .

[88] Steiner tended to consider everyone wrong except himself. This includes Hindus and all other non-Anthroposophists. For instance, Steiner said, “The best thing would be for Christians to teach Hinduism to the Hindus and then attempt to take Hinduism a stage further so that the Hindu could gain a point of contact with the general stream of evolution.” — Rudolf Steiner, LIFE BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH, p. 290. Hindus are so mistaken, Steiner said, that they need to be instructed in their own religion by Christians and brought into line with real human evolution. Both Hindus and Christians may bridle at these propositions. 

[89] We have seen this quotation previously: FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 55.


[91] We have seen this quotation previously: RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL, p. 156. 

[92] WHAT IS WALDORF EDUCATION?, a collection of essays by Steiner (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), pp. 21-22.

Peter Curran taught at the Garden City Waldorf school for many years, returning to help preserve the school following the scandal I mentioned previously. See Lawrence Williams, Ed.D., THE OAK MEADOW TRILOGY.

[93] Rudolf Steiner, DIE GEISTIGEN HINTERGRÜNDE DES ERSTEN WELTKRIEGES {The Spiritual Background of the First World War} (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1974), p. 38. This is another quotation I translated from German, having learned of it from Peter Staudenmaier.

[94] Richard Seddon, THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY AND THE EARTH AS FORESEEN BY RUDOLF STEINER (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2002), p. 41.

[95] Rudolf Steiner, THE GENIUS OF LANGUAGE (Steiner Books, 1995), p. 105, Afterword by Adam Makkai.

[96] Rudolf Steiner, AGRICULTURE, An Introductory Reader (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 67.

[97] Rudolf Steiner, DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 132.

[98] Ibid., p. 132.

[99] Steiner credited geometry with opening his eyes to the spirit realm. “To be able to lay hold upon something in the spirit alone brought to me an inner joy. I am sure that I learned first in geometry to experience this joy.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE STORY OF MY LIFE (Kessinger Publishing, 2003), p. 11. Steiner meant, in part, that geometry deals with ideal forms that exist, perfect and complete, only in the universe of thought forms. He also said, Basic geometric concepts awaken clairvoyant abilities.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOURTH DIMENSION: Sacred Geometry, Alchemy, and Mathematics (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 92.

[100] Platonism is the proposition that abstractions such as numbers and geometric forms have an objective existence apart from, and superior to, their reflections in the real world. The revelations Steiner received through geometry smacked of Platonism. “In my relation with geometry I must now perceive the first budding forth of a conception which has since gradually evolved in me ... [T]he reality of the spiritual world was to me as certain as that of the physical.” — Ibid., p. 11. Steiner credited Plato with living on the ideal or spiritual plane. “The mood in which I came to Weimar was tinged by previous thorough-going work in Platonism ... How did Plato live in the ideal world, and how did Goethe?” — Ibid., p. 142. At my Waldorf, math classes were infused with Platonism: The numbers, operators, and geometric figures we worked with were, we learned, rude shadows of their true, perfect counterparts residing in an ideal, supersensory region.

[101] Steiner taught that spiritual or religious feeling should infuse all subjects at Waldorf schools. "It is possible to introduce a religious element into every subject, even into math lessons. Anyone who has some knowledge of Waldorf teaching will know that this statement is true." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD's CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 94. As for triangles, Steiner said "The triangle is the symbol for Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit, Spirit-Man [i.e., the transformed etheric body]." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING, “Signs and Symbols of the Christmas Festival” (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981), p. 39.


[103] Ibid., p. 153.

To create the paintings I have posted here at Waldorf Watch, 
I have followed two approaches. Some of my paintings — clearly labeled —
are copies of paintings by various Anthroposophists.
My other paintings are original compositions.
I surveyed Anthroposophical art and — trying my hand at several large watercolors — 
I attempted to incorporate characteristic Anthroposophical elements.
 I then did numerous small variants, developing elements in my larger paintings. 
Thus, I hope that my paintings and other images suggest the sort of art you may see 
in and around Waldorf/Steiner schools.
[R. R., 2010.]

P.S. I did the best I could, but I do not pretend that my paintings are very good.

To conduct your own survey of Anthroposophical art,
you might begin at the page "Anthroposophical Art".