This is a continuation of the essay "Unenlightened."
VII. Compassion and Its Absence
Rudolf Steiner was merely one of the innumerable false prophets humanity has followed down through the ages. Perhaps there are glimmerings of truth to be found amidst all the dross in his doctrines, but the glimmerings are hard to spot. Much of what Steiner taught seems to rank among the most far-fetched, bizarre, and implausible dogmas that humans have convinced themselves to swallow — and we’ve swallowed a lot: Ancestor-worship. Moon-worship. Polytheism. Pantheism. Shamanism. Christian Science. Papal infallibility. Animism. Voodoo. Creeds requiring animal sacrifices. Creeds requiring human sacrifices. Worship of rain gods, war gods, Zeus, wind gods, thunder gods, Vishnu, Anubis, gods of fertility, gods of the hearth, Moloch, Ahura Mazda, gods of the sea, sun gods, muses, Fates, Yahweh... All of which raises a question. Just how sapient have we Homo sapiens shown ourselves to be?
By this stage, I have either convinced you or offended you. My hope is that I’ve rattled you, and my regret is that I did not speak up sooner: “Here’s what happens when we twist our children’s spirits: Here’s the boy I was, Exhibit A.” But I couldn’t speak until I had finished my deprogramming — until then, I had nothing clear-eyed or clear-minded to say. I was delayed by another consideration, also. As I’ve mentioned, my mother was Mr. Gardner’s secretary. Until the moment of her death, she believed he was a great man, and she genuinely believed that she had done the right thing in sending all three of her children to the Waldorf School. I could not have published this essay during her lifetime, I could not have inflicted such a wound. But she is dead now, and I hope she is at peace — and now I can speak truth.
Cicero once said he wondered why two soothsayers chancing on each other in the street didn’t burst out laughing, knowing full well that they are both impostors.  But self-professed mystic savants usually have their act down too well for that. And some, I’m sure, truly believe their own pronouncements. Maybe Steiner believed every word he uttered. If so, all the worse, for if he wasn’t a charlatan, then he was almost certainly a lunatic. We don’t need to split hairs, though. Whether or not he was clinically sane, it is frightening that anyone ever took him seriously, much less founded schools devoted to his doctrines. As I’ve suggested, part of the explanation must surely be that many of Steiner’s followers have read only a small — perhaps expurgated — selection of his works. They don’t know their man. But other, more committed followers surely have studied long and hard, and with a profound motive: They hope to obtain the spiritual rewards Steiner promised. This is, of course, understandable — salvation is a nearly universal human desire. For this reason alone, prophets have rarely lacked audiences. Disciples cluster around oracles — including the ones who want to hasten an apocalypse or two. We are drawn to the professed certainty of those who claim to know God’s will. We value the supposedly empowering answers they offer us — even if we actually are being led astray, step after step, doctrine after doctrine, deeper and deeper into unreality.
If you’ll excuse me, I’ll now deliver a little sermon of my own. We must find another path, one that is firmly situated in reality and human decency, not in messianic preachments. Finding it doesn’t require us to deny the existence of God nor to decry the faith of the truly, humbly devout. We could do with more true reverence in this world, not less. But I suggest that an indispensable requirement for all of us, as we try to find our way, is humility. How much do any of us truly know about anything? Scientists tell us that 96% of the observable universe consists of dark energy and dark matter — but they can’t tell what these things are. Our ignorance of the physical universe is enormous. How much less sure must we be, then, about the mysteries of any spirit realms that may exist? We all stand together near the beginning of humanity’s quest for knowledge — knowledge of ourselves, and of our world, and of such powers as may preside within or beyond the cosmos. We are far, far from any final answers. To claim certain knowledge of the "divine cosmic plan," as Steiner did, is not only deceitful but cruel. How many lives has he damaged by shepherding his followers and students into mystical mazes in which they may become irretrievably lost? Surely what we need most, even beyond humility, is compassion for one another as fellow seekers of the truth. 
Allow me to end by giving an example of the failure of compassion. And once again, I’ll draw from the cult I know best. During a conference with teachers at the first Waldorf school, Steiner analyzed the case of a little girl who had learning disabilities. He explained that the teachers probably couldn’t do much for the child because she wasn’t really a human being. The Earth’s population includes many such pseudo-humans, he said:
“Dr. Steiner: ‘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 in relation to their highest I [a uniquely human nonphysical body]; instead, they are filled with beings that do not belong to the human class. Quite a number of people have been born since the nineties [1890s] without an I, that is, they are not reincarnated, but are human forms filled with a sort of natural demon.... ’
“A teacher: ‘How is that possible?’
“Dr. Steiner: ‘Cosmic error is certainly not impossible ... There are...generations in which individuals have no desire to come into earthly existence ... In such cases, other beings that are not quite suited step in ... [T]hey are actually not human beings, but have only a human form ... It is also possible for something like an automaton could occur ... 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.” 
These comments apparently did not outrage the teachers at the meeting any more than they did the publishers of the two-volume set in which I found them. This is the same set containing Steiner’s notorious remarks about the “terrible brutality” being committed by the French in bringing blacks to Europe. But whereas the publishers felt compelled to apologize for Steiner’s French-bashing and racism, they inserted no apology or explanation concerning Steiner’s description of fake human beings who may be robots or demons in disguise. The clear reason is that discriminating between upwardly evolving humans and lowlier, benighted sorts — some of whom aren’t really human at all — is basic to the Anthroposophical worldview.
Steiner presumably meant what he said about L.K. and other people he deemed subhuman. Still, after adding that “a number of people are going around who...have become something that is not human, but instead are demons in human form”  he caught himself up and cautioned Waldorf teachers not to spread word of this insight. “We do not want to shout that to the world ... We do not want to shout such things....”  Steiner knew that denying the humanity of others (and remember, his comments arose from the discussion of an innocent little girl) is abhorrent. So, for perhaps the only time in his life, he imparted good advice to his followers: Mum’s the word. Don’t reveal what we say or think here — people will be appalled. When you’re out in public, zip your lips.
By and large, his adherents have done just that.
— Roger Rawlings
From our yearbook.
The caption reads, in part:
"The first part of the year has been spent in a reassessment of technology,
as viewed by Friedrich Juenger in his book THE FAILURE OF TECHNOLOGY."
Discussion groups such as the one pictured here were confined to the senior class.
However, all four high school classes met jointly once a week for an assembly,
and full-blown assemblies of the entire school
— kindergarten through high school —
were held on special occasions.
The pictures on the lower part of the page represent the art club.
I've cropped them to preserve the privacy of my schoolmates.
[1964 PINNACLE (Kansas City: Inter-Collegiate Press, 1964).]
The philosophy underlying Waldorf education, Anthroposophy (the word means human wisdom), glorifies humanity.
We are wondrous, upward-evolving spiritual beings, central to all of creation, beloved of the gods.
This is a grand and attractive vision. We can all feel its tug on our hearts and souls.
But can humanity actually fulfill its potential by following Steiner's lead?
He concocted a blend of occultism, myth, gnostic religion, and fantasy.
The path to wisdom cannot run through such a welter of fallacies.
If we are to realize our better nature, fulfilling our best potential, surely we must face reality squarely and build on truth, not illusion.
[R.R. sketch, 2014, based on image on p. 26 of Albert Steffen's GOETHEANUM:
School of Spiritual Science (Philosophical-Anthroposophical Press, 1961).]
This ambiguous image perches atop a statue in the Anthroposophical
headquarters: the Goetheanum, in Dornach, Switzerland.
The statue is sometimes referred to as The Group
and sometimes as The Representative of Humanity.
The chief figure is Christ, the Sun God,
who mediates between the arch-demons Lucifer and Ahriman.
Here are Christ and Ahriman as depicted in the statue:
Christ, in Anthroposophy, is humanity's Prototype:
He came down from the Sun to give us the "Christ Impulse"
enabling us to evolve properly by following his example.
The statue of Christ, Ahriman, and Lucifer
is generally credited to Steiner, and it surely expresses his vision,
but much of the work was done by sculptress Edith Maryon.
The large, standing figure is Christ. Below him is Ahriman, and
behind him (out of sight, around the corner) is Lucifer.
For more on the Anthroposophical vision of Christ,
Lucifer, as depicted in Anthroposophical teachings, is deceptive.
He is our foe, but he also brings humanity benefits.
We have many foes, most of whom help us in some sense.
The key to this puzzle is that the good gods can bring good out of evil.
But there is evil in the universe, and error, and the possible loss of one's soul.
Steiner offered to steer endangered humans through these shoals.
His teachings constitute a complex pagan creed,
offering us — Steiner said — our only hope.
How we see Lucifer may depend on how much of him we see,
and how much his involvement with Ahriman is revealed.
Here is Lucifer's full form, as depicted in the statue attributed to Steiner.
Below Lucifer lurks his partner/rival, Ahriman.
[Detail, public domain photo.]
This is an attempt to represent the sort of painting
you may see in a Waldorf school:
watercolor, with transparent pastel shades,
an effect of veils, vague organic/spiritual forms,
a suggestion of a passageway leading into the distance,
perhaps some mysterious shapes like runes or occult symbols...
Often the paintings, created by Waldorf teachers, are far more accomplished
than what you see here, giving an impression of many layers and thus great depth.
Not all Waldorf art is like this, of course, but if when visiting a Waldorf school you see
any pictures having such characteristics, you may want to inquire into their significance.
Steiner taught that art connects us directly to the higher spirit worlds.
The forms of art promoted in Waldorf schools are meant to have
particularly potent spiritual effects.
[R.R., 2009, based on a stage set used at the Goetheanum
— see, e.g., GOETHEANUM: School of Spiritual Science
(Philosophical-Anthroposophical Press, 1961), p. 21.
Most Waldorfish art takes its lead from artwork created or specified by Steiner
and now exemplified in works displayed at the Goetheanum.
For more on the Waldorf view of the arts, see "Magical Arts".]
[R.R., ~ 1998.]
Anthroposophy is a religion, and the Goetheanum
is, in effect, a cathedral.
To examine Steiner's view of Christ, whom he
identified as the Sun God, see
This is the end of “Unenlightened.”
You will find addenda and other material after the endnotes.
The other essays included on this site
(all of them mercifully shorter)
are listed in the Table of Contents.
For Steiner's ideas concerning human automatons,
please see "Evil Ones"
The secrecy in and around Waldorf schools is not absolute. Anthroposophists generally withhold their most prized spiritual "knowledge" from the uninitiated. Likewise, Waldorf schools generally disguise their occult purposes and beliefs from outsiders. Nevertheless, starting with Steiner, there has been an effort to disseminate some elements of Anthroposophy through public lectures, the circulation of books and pamphlets, etc. This outreach work is often less than candid, however. Texts are often framed and edited in ways that suppress and mislead. Only rarely can outsiders find clear, explicit statements unless they undertake considerable detective work — and some secrets may well lie beyond such detection.
Most of my own knowledge of Anthroposophy has come from reading publicly available texts. This means that, in all probability, I am not privy to the most esoteric, hidden Anthroposophical lore. Steiner drew a sharp distinction between knowledge available to the “initiated” — that is, insiders who have mastered occult mysteries — and knowledge that can be shared with the general public. “[I]t is a strict law with all Initiates to withhold from no man the knowledge that is due him. But there is an equally strict law which insists that no one shall receive any occult knowledge until he is worthy and well prepared.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE WAY OF INITIATION (Macoy Publishing and Mason Supply Co., 1910), p. 52.
Everyone is capable of initiation, Steiner said. For this and other reasons, knowledge should be spread as widely as possible — but only within the limits of the second law, above. By his own account, Steiner wrote OCCULT SCIENCE — perhaps his most important book — to make much occult wisdom known far and wide. “The hidden knowledge which is gradually taking hold of mankind, and will increasingly be doing so, may in the language of a well-known symbol be called the Knowledge of the Grail. We read of the Holy Grail in old-time narratives and legends, and as we learn to understand its deeper meaning we discover that it most significantly pictures the heart and essence of the new Initiation-knowledge, centering in the Mystery of Christ. The Initiates of the new age may therefore be described as the 'Initiates of the Grail.' ... We are now living at a time when the higher knowledge needs to be far more widely received into the general consciousness of mankind than hitherto; it is with this view in mind that the present work has been written." — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969), p. 305.
But in that same book, Steiner withholds various information. One example: Concerning a future stage of human evolution, the “Vulcan” stage, Steiner is extremely close-mouthed: “The evolved humanity on the other hand, in a form of existence utterly spiritualized, goes forward to the Vulcan evolution, any description of which would be beyond the compass of this book.” — Ibid., p. 310. OCCULT SCIENCE is an “outline” only. Its compass is limited by the ability of ordinary language to frame spiritual mysteries, and by the requirement that people who are unworthy and/or unprepared — that is, the uninitiated — must not be told certain things.
Three key concepts run like a thread through Steiner's theology: the "occult", "mysteries", and "initiation." They all reflect the need for secrecy. The most innocent definition of the term occult is "hidden." Mystery knowledge is necessarily hidden or hard to attain. Initiation is the process of attaining such knowledge.
Steiner's devoted followers undergo initiation, after which they face the difficult task of deciding how much of their "knowledge" to divulge to the uninitiated — that is, to you and me. Various Anthroposophists and Waldorf schools make various decisions about where to draw the line; some are more candid than others; but all presumably recognize the need to withhold at least some of their doctrines from outsiders, including many if not all parents of Waldorf students. This does not, however, prevent Waldorf schools from acting on Anthroposophical doctrines and thus leading children toward occultism. They merely have to be circumspect about it, which means not explaining their actions. As Steiner said, "The ancient teachers of the mysteries used to preserve such secrets as esoteric knowledge because they could not be imparted directly. In a certain sense, all teachers must be in possession of truths that they cannot directly pass on to the world." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD'S CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 84.
For more on the subject of initiation, please see "Inside Scoop". Also see chapter five of OCCULT SCIENCE, which is titled "Knowledge of the Higher Worlds (Concerning Initiation)" [stet]. In a more recent edition, the chapter's title is even clearer: "Knowledge of Higher Worlds: Initiation." — Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 281. Changing "occult" to "esoteric" is just small one instance of the effort to downplay alarming Anthroposophical beliefs. If you read much of Steiner's works, you will find that older editions are generally blunter and more informative than newer, more guarded editions. Moreover, if you compare Steiner's words in the original German with their translations in English-language texts, you will find that some troubling passages and lectures have been omitted from the English texts.
For more on Steiner's instructions to Waldorf teachers telling them to keep mum, see "Secrets".
THE WAY OF INITIATION, which I quoted above, is old and difficult to find. Newer editions include KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944) and HOW TO KNOW THE HIGHER WORLDS (Anthroposophical Press, 1994).
My Waldorf yearbook (which I had not looked at in decades) contains several points of interest:
1) Here is a portion of Mr. Gardner’s message to the departing class of 1964:
“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....
“[Y]ou have not been weakened by intellectualism — heaven knows! — nor soured by cynicism....
“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....
“Those who persevere will undoubtedly be asked in due course to use their good faith and good cheer to help overcome darkness and dreariness in the lives of their fellowmen [sic].”
Mr. Gardner was writing in code, of course, since many non-Anthroposophists (including all the uninitiated but potential Anthroposophists in our class, and the uninitiated among our parents) would see his words. When I first read the message in 1964, it seemed murky (and perhaps a little insulting — what did he mean about our intellects?). But examined now in the context of Steiner’s tenets, the message is clear. Mr. Gardner and Steiner believed in the power of the stars (holding islands in place, for instance, and influencing lives), in destiny (or karma), in overcoming darkness, and in the upward march to a better world occupied by a better people. And they believed — heaven knows! — that a proper education would not lead to intellectualism, since only clairvoyance, not intellect, can produce true knowledge. All of these elements are present in Mr. Gardner’s message. He was beckoning us to the struggle against darkness and, in the long run, to a good-faith commitment to Steiner’s clairvoyant vision.
2) We dedicated the yearbook to Mrs. Gardner, for “the love, guidance and devotion she has shown us in our beginning years.”
3) My photo shows me standing behind a lectern, as I stood during various student council activities. I am not smiling. The words beside the photo, written by a kind classmate: “Roger works hard and achieves what he wants. As student council president and student leader, he offers courageous and highly respected opinions....” My own words: “I view the future with apprehension and hope: apprehension that I may not measure up to stiff competition; hope that I shall.” Today, I read the self-doubt and fear in those words, and I see that back then I had, in truth, little hope.
4) The photo of the school office staff includes my mother, Elaine Rawlings, seated at her desk. She is identified as Mr. Gardner’s secretary. The door through which she often — and I occasionally — entered Mr. Gardner's private office is just out of the frame.
5) The photo of the school’s science teachers includes Mr. Gardner and Hertha Karl. “Biology and earth science are taught by Mrs. Karl and Mr. Gardner. Mr. Gardner also teaches physiology to the 7th and 8th grades.”
6) A photo near the end of the yearbook shows the senior class sitting in a circle. Also present are a science teacher, a math teacher, an English teacher, and Mr. Gardner. The caption says, in part: “Each week the seniors and several members of the faculty meet to discuss a topic of interest ... The first part of the year has been spent in a reassessment of technology, as viewed by Friedrich Georg Juenger in his book, THE FAILURE OF TECHNOLOGY.”
7) The last text page in the yearbook includes the question “remember ... lemniscates?”
On the home page here at Waldorf Watch, I spoke a little about a statement written by Marie Steiner and falsely attributed to Rudolf Steiner. Here is the complete paragraph from which the quotation was taken. It makes the religious purpose of Waldorf schooling quite clear. In addition, the "brainwashing" (as I have called it) attempted in Waldorf schools is indicated. Waldorf teachers should start on the kids early, training their feelings and perceptions in a certain way so that later the kids may "freely" choose exactly what they have been prepped to choose. Conventional rules will have no effect on them; nor will conventional religions. They will be junior Anthroposophists. All of this is inherent in a statement that, on its surface, may seem quite agreeable: It seems to be about freedom. Consider what sort of "freedom" is really involved if children are molded early and continuously, given no clear explanations ("mental concepts") but are persistently molded — in their feelings and perceptions — to gravitate toward a particular spiritual worldview.
"A religious deepening of the whole human being is one of the essential tasks of education. Moral and religious qualities inhere in the child's life of feeling when he realizes that the bodily nature is everywhere a manifestation of the spiritual and that the spiritual is ever seeking to enter creatively into the body. Living sympathies and antipathies for good and evil, delight in goodness, abhorrence of evil — these qualities, not precepts or injunctions, make the child a truly moral being. With the development of his sense of freedom and individual power of discrimination at the age of fifteen or sixteen, such feelings will then arise of themselves. He will be immune from outside influence and be able to form his own free judgments. Conventional rules and regulations will be of no avail. We must work, at the right age, on the child's life of feeling and perception — but not by way of dogma and mental concepts. Then no fetters will limit the individual power of judgment that emerges later. If the child has been educated in a wholly human sense, he will learn to feel and know his full manhood. His own free religious and moral sense will have been awakened. Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able, of themselves, to impart purpose and direction to their lives." — Rudolf Steiner, THE NEW ART OF EDUCATION (Philosophical-Anthroposophical Publishing, 1928), pp. 26-27 - introduction by Marie Steiner.
To see Marie Steiner's words in context, it helps to look at a few statements made by her husband. “Freedom is the result of the Luciferian influence.” — Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE (Kessinger Publishing, 1998: 1922 edition), pp. 229-230. "When we grasp the true meaning of human freedom, we can have no wish that a sin should be so forgiven us that we would no longer need to pay it off in our Karma." — Rudolf Steiner, CHRIST AND THE HUMAN SOUL (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 3, GA 155. "Mars, Jupiter and Saturn may also be called the liberating planets; they give man freedom. On the other hand, Venus, Mercury and the Moon may be called the destiny-determining planets.” — Rudolf Steiner, “The Spiritual Individualities of the Planets”, (The Golden Blade, 1988), GA 228.
Steiner advocated freedom. He advocated love. He advocated true religion. These are all noble ideals. But in evaluating Waldorf schooling, we need to be sure that we understand just what he meant when stating these goals. Consider how much "freedom" we have if, in order to evolve properly, we must follow Steiner's directives. Consider the implications for our freedom if we must fulfill ”the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55.
Freedom, love, and true religion are superb ideals. Whether a Waldorf education leads children toward them is the question. We will continue pondering this question in the following pages at Waldorf Watch.
— Roger Rawlings
For more on the subject of freedom,
Of the authors cited in the seven parts of "Unenlightened", I was personally acquainted with John Fentress Gardner, Elizabeth Gardner Lombardi, Sylvester M. Morey, and Franz E. Winkler. The degree of acquaintance varied. Of the individuals named in the NEW YORK TIMES article about the Waldorf School scandal, I did not know the “psychic” ex-student, some of the departing teachers, or the departing headmaster; I knew the former headmaster, the new (interim) headmaster, the departing high school principal, and the librarian; among those not named, I knew the new high school chairman and some other faculty and staff who remained at the school. In addition, I am aware that at least three of my former schoolmates joined the faculties at Waldorf schools — including one childhood acquaintance who eventually became faculty council chair at the Garden City Waldorf.
I wrote this essay in 2005-6. I’ve subsequently added some material. More recent essays are accessible at this website. If you’d like to read a brief biographical statement, click on the tag “Yours Truly”, tucked inside the sidebar under "Summing Up" and "My Sad, Sad Story".
After I posted the first version of "Unenlightened", I received first- and secondhand responses from a few old schoolmates. They ranged from “I do believe in angels, the supernatural and the constant battles between good and evil... ” to “I loathed the specialness, secretiveness, etc., of the Waldorf Ring ... [W]e kids knew it was a lot of hokum ... [S]till there was a lot of damage.”
Some of my former schoolmates remembered the school much as I did; others had different memories. Some — particularly, it seemed, those whose parents had been involved in the school (as had mine) — defended the school.
One old friend who subsequently received Waldorf teacher training and then taught in a Waldorf school agreed with parts of my essays but challenged others. Another friend, who has subsequently become an evangelical Christian, gently chided me, saying that I must have been paying more attention than he had; but he also praised the school for fostering a sense of what he called spiritual realities.
I received no messages flatly denying the accuracy of what I have reported here about our days together at the Waldorf School.
Some Waldorf schools do not issue report cards.
But some do.
I was a lousy student for many years.
Then, around the time of this report,
I started to change. I will include a few of my
report cards here just because I have them
— and because almost everything else
my parents saved for so long (my lesson
books, paintings, and so forth) has vanished.
But these reports serve to show that indeed
I was there: I went to Waldorf.
(Some of my report cards — both before
and after this one — were less flattering.
On other pages, I've posted some of those.)
"There is no other line for the daily course of life than the lemniscate."
— Rudolf Steiner, MAN: HIEROGLYPH OF THE UNIVERSE
(Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 10, GA 201.
[R.R. sketch, 2010.]
You will find a great deal of additional material further down on this page.
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 2. A FORMER WALDORF STUDENT ◊◊◊
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.
 Marcus Tulles Cicero, ON THE NATURE OF THE GODS, Book I, XXVI, 45 BC.
 I have applied some harsh terms to Steiner: false prophet, charlatan, racist... I chose those words deliberatively — if they aren’t appropriate in Steiner’s case, I don’t know when they ever would be. Still, as an advocate of intellectual humility, I should acknowledge that I cannot be absolutely certain that Steiner was completely wrong about everything. There is a possibility — faint though it seems — that some of his preachments may stand up under scrutiny. But what are the odds? Floating islands held in place by the stars, astral bodies, the Akashic record, natural demons, the inferiority of certain races, Atlantis, goblins, organs of clairvoyance, the intelligence-heightening effects of blond hair and blue eyes, upward and downward karmic evolution, swarming invisible spiritual beings that are more detectable in rooms of a particular color, the magical effects of eurythmy, human beings who are not really human ... Where is the evidence for any of this? There may be order and even method in Steiner’s “spiritual science,” but there is no real application of the scientific method. Scientific thinking is antithetical to Steiner’s system.
Some of Steiner’s books include instructions — sometimes vague, always difficult — on how to attain esoteric knowledge, enter higher states of being, and so on. For example, “The student must first apply himself with care and attention to certain functions of the soul, hitherto exercised by him in a careless and inattentive manner. There are eight such functions....” And so forth. — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 84. Presumably, such directions could be “tested” by interpreting them properly and then following them step by step. But such testing would have little probative value. Any claimed positive results would necessarily be subjective: one or more people claiming supernatural visions, etc. Such claims would not constitute solid evidence — they would be anecdotal evidence or eyewitness testimony, "evidence" of the sort that often results from self-deception or deceit. On the other hand, negative results could be dismissed as mere procedural failures.
Let’s take this a step farther. Is there any way we could get beyond take-it-or-leave-it subjective testimony? Perhaps demonstrations of clairvoyant powers could be arranged. Seances? Mind reading? Fortune telling? Unless the demonstrations went far beyond what is typically seen in Las Vegas magic acts — and were validated by strict scientific controls — they would be unlikely to tell us much. Remember Madame Blavatsky, who "demonstrated" her powers only to be found a fraud.
In instances where Steiner’s statements can be openly tested — such as whether the Earth orbits the Sun — Steiner is often flat-out wrong. In instances involving the “supersensible world,” the “Akashic record,” nonphysical bodies, and the like — subjects that cannot be seen or examined using our normal senses, our brains, and scientific equipment — no objectively verifiable test seems possible. Rational people must acknowledge the chance that someday there will be a convincing demonstration of a Steiner claim. But until that day, deep skepticism will remain warranted.
 Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 649-650.
 Ibid., p. 650.
 Ibid., p. 650.
This utterly revealing statement should be carefully reviewed by anyone with an interest in Waldorf education. Here is the complete passage. Among other matters, note Steiner’s contempt for nature and the natural world, which coincides with his condemnation of some people as inhuman or subhuman. (To be “only natural” is to be physical and not truly spiritual. For more about Steiner’s attitude toward nature, see “Neutered Nature” at this website.) Steiner rambles, describing various overlapping ways in which people may be “not really human”: they lack an “I,” they are not reincarnated, subhuman status is predetermined for them (karma), their bodies are possessed by demons, they are spiritually and mentally stunted, they are automata who have no real morality, they are entirely ruthless, and/or they spent insufficient time in the spirit realm between earthly lives. The demonic beings that inhabit some human bodies include our evil “doubles” — see my essay “Double Trouble”. When Steiner speaks of “automating” inhuman “organisms,” he alludes to his belief in dark spiritual conspiracies using scientific methods to subvert human evolution — I discuss this in the same essay. Significantly, Steiner ends his remarks, below, by lapsing into explicit racism. For him, many inhuman or subhuman individuals are members of nonwhite races. Steiner understood how his more inflammatory teachings could incite opposition to Anthroposophy and Waldorf education, so he urged his followers to hide these from the public.
“The school doctor speaks about some medical cases.
Dr. Steiner: ‘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 in relation to their highest I; instead, they are filled with beings that do not belong to the human class. Quite a number of people have been born since the nineties [the 1890s] without an I, that is, they are not reincarnated, but are human forms filled with a sort of natural demon. There are quite a large number of older people going around who are actually not human beings, but are only natural; they are human beings only in regard to their form. We cannot, however, create a school for demons.
“A teacher: ‘How is that possible?’
“‘Dr. Steiner: ‘Cosmic error is certainly not impossible. The relationships of individuals coming into earthly existence have long been [pre]determined. There are also generations in which individuals have no desire to come into earthly existence and be connected with physicality, or immediately leave at the very beginning. In such cases, other beings that are not quite suited step in. This is something that is now quite common, that human beings go around without an I; they are actually not human beings, but have only a human form. They are also quite different from human beings in regard to everything spiritual. They can, for example, never remember such things as sentences; they have a memory only for words, not for sentences.
“‘The riddle of life is not so simple. When such a being dies, it returns to nature from which it came. The corpse decays, but there is no real dissolution of the etheric body, and the natural being returns to nature.
“‘It is also possible for something like an automaton could occur. The entire human organism exists, and it might be possible to automate the brain and develop a kind of pseudomorality.
“‘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. Nevertheless, these are facts. Our culture would not be in such a decline if people felt more strongly that a number of people are going around who, because they are completely ruthless, have become something that is not human, but instead are demons in human form.
“‘Nevertheless, we do not want to shout that to the world. Our opposition is already large enough. Such things are really shocking to people. I caused enough shock when I needed to say that a very famous university professor, after a very short period between death and rebirth, was reincarnated as a black scientist. We do not want to shout such things out into the world.’” [pp. 649-650]
Remember that this appalling diatribe began with a reference to a young girl with learning disabilities. Steiner did not always speak so harshly about the disabled. He worked for several years with developmentally disabled students, and today there are Waldorf schools devoted to helping children with special needs. Nonetheless, Steiner’s words in this instance are deplorable, and they bear on the question of affinities between Anthroposophy and Nazism. See "Sympathizers?"
It is also worth noting that Steiner’s efforts to treat developmental disabilities were essentially flawed. For instance, he used astrology to reveal the condition of children: “Now let us turn to the horoscope of the younger child. Again, here are Venus and Uranus and Mars near together ... [W]hen we examine more nearly the position of Mars, we find it is not, as before, in complete opposition to the moon. It is however very nearly so. Although the younger child does not come in for a complete opposition, there is an approximation of opposition.” — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR SPECIAL NEEDS: The Curative Education Course (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 196. Using astrology to guide the treatment of children with special needs is clearly a recipe for ineffective treatment at best, and disaster at worst.