Behind the Scenes at Waldorf
by Roger Rawlings
Afterword by Debra Snell
Addendum by Pete Karaiskos
[Anthroposophic Press, 1998.]
Waldorf teachers must be unbending authority figures, never giving in to the children.
Start each day with a prayer, but don’t call it a prayer.
Teach the kids about Atlantis, which really existed — and, as usual, disavow science.
Fire-breathing dragons really existed.
“A teacher: ‘But there are still the fire breathers.’
“Dr. Steiner: 'Yes, those beasts, they did breathe fire, the Archaeopteryx, for example.'
“A teacher: ‘You mean that animals whose bones we see today in museums still breathed fire?’
“Dr. Steiner: 'Yes, all of the dinosaurs belong to the end of the Tertiary Period. Those found in the Jura [i.e., Jurassic] are actually their descendants. What I am referring to are the dinosaurs from the beginning of the Tertiary Period.'” [p. 26]
Gravity is only a word — there is no universal force of gravity.
“It would be wonderful if you could stop speaking about gravity. You can certainly achieve speaking of it only as a phenomenon. The best would be if you considered gravity only as a word.” [p. 29]
The planets do not orbit the Sun.
Einstein’s theory of relativity is bunk.
Modern philosophy is “all nonsense.”
Prayers written by Steiner for use by the students. Note that the second prayer includes the word “prayer.” (Waldorf schools sometimes alter this wording, to conceal their purpose.)
“The Sun with loving light
Makes bright for me each day;
The soul with spirit power
Gives strength unto my limbs;
In sunlight shining clear
I reverence, O God,
The strength of humankind,
That thou so graciously
Hast planted in my soul,
That I with all my might
May love to work and learn.
From Thee come light and strength,
To Thee rise love and thanks.”
“I look into the world;
In which the Sun shines,
In which the stars sparkle,
In which the stones lie,
The living plants are growing,
The animals are feeling,
In which the soul of man
Gives dwelling for the spirit;
I look into the soul
Which lives within myself.
God’s spirit weaves in light
Of Sun and human soul,
In world of space, without,
In depths of soul, within.
God’s spirit, ‘tis to Thee
I turn myself in prayer [sic!],
That strength and blessing grow
In me, to learn and work.”
[pp. 38-40 - also see p. 20]
Anthroposophical religious instruction.
Use pictures to teach students about the spiritual beings that lurk behind nature.
Teach the kids about fate and destiny: what Steiner usually called karma.
Any religion connected with a church (or temple, or...) is not actually religious; only Anthroposophy conveys spiritual truths.
Teach kids how human beings raise themselves to the divine.
“You should also certainly include the fact that human beings raise themselves to the divine in three stages. Thus, after you have given the children an idea of destiny, you then slowly teach them about heredity and repeated earthly lives through stories. You can then proceed to the three stages of the divine.” [p. 46 - also see pp. 480-481]
More about Atlantis; also a previous lost world, Lemuria.
Human beings were once made of ether.
Human beings were once like centaurs.
Waldorf teachers serve the gods; they have a messianic mission to help fulfill the “divine cosmic plan.”
In re discipline, respect, and the value of discussion:
"[T]each the children respect. The children should not raise their hands so much." [p. 65 - also see p. 118 and p. 494]
How to punish children who steal.
“With children who steal, it is good to have them remember scenes they experienced earlier. You should have them imagine things they experienced years before, for instance, with seven-year-olds, experiences they had when they were five, or with ten-year-olds, experiences they had when they were seven. You should also have them recall experiences from two weeks before.
“Things will then become better quickly. If you do nothing, these problems will become larger and develop into kleptomania.” [pp. 68-69 - also see pp. 109-110]
According to Steiner, Islam is devilish, and Allah is a pale imitation of Elohim.
Steiner taught that there are predominantly just four types of children, embodying the four “temperaments” (sanguine, melancholic, phlegmatic, and choleric).
“A teacher explains how she conveyed the consonants in eurythmy by working with the growth of plants.
“Dr. Steiner: ‘That is very nice. The children do not differ much. You do not have many who are untalented nor many who are gifted. They are average children. Also, you have few choleric or strongly melancholic temperaments. Those children are mostly phlegmatic or sanguine. All that plays a role since you do not have all four temperaments.’” [p. 80 - also see pp. 90-91 and p. 687]
See “Humouresque” and "Temperaments". Basically, the theory of the four temperaments is an ancient misconception, rejected by science long ago. But Steiner affirmed it, and it is used in Waldorf schools today. Steiner advocated segregating children according to temperament, so that the children in each group are treated differently from the children in the other groups.
Comments about a complaining father:
More on the so-called temperaments:
More on punishing students; causing physical pain for rule-breakers.
“We must avoid under all circumstances giving them a punishment we cannot carry out. We may never place ourselves in a situation where we may have to relent in a disciplinary decision. If we say that a child must come earlier, then we must enforce that. We must order the child to come earlier. The girls today were in the seventh or eighth grade. We lose all control the minute we look away. We will find ourselves on a downward path and will continue to slide. With punishment, we cannot relent. It is better to let it go. Under certain circumstances, it can lead to the opposite of what we want, with the children forming a group among themselves and saying, 'Today I come late, tomorrow, you.' I don’t think that would work, because it would make us somewhat laughable. Of course, it’s just laziness. Having the children come earlier is not so good; it would be better if they stayed a quarter of an hour longer. That is something the children do not like.
“Have you tried that to see if it works? If a child comes ten minutes late, having him or her stand for a half hour. If they have to stand three times as long, they will certainly think about every minute. Let them stand there uncomfortably. Your boy rubs the back of his head on the wall and amuses himself with all kinds of things. I think that in such cases, when there is some punishment connected with the misbehavior, you can be particularly effective if you allow them to stand in some uncomfortable place. The older children will then be careful that they do not come too late. We could also buy a number of little sheds*, and then they will not come too late as a group. They may even get some cramps in their legs. We could have the sheds built in the shop class.” [pp. 109-110 - also see pp. 68-69]
*An earlier translation is more brutal: Steiner refers not to sheds but to stocks. "You could buy a number of small stocks ... The stocks could also be made in Woodwork lessons.' [Rudolf Steiner, CONFERENCES WITH THE TEACHERS OF THE WALDORF SCHOOL IN STUTTGART 1919 to 1920, Vol. 1 (Steiner Schools Fellowship Publications, 1986), p. 91.]
Only materialists think with the brain [re. brains, also see p. 249 and pp. 667-668]; the spiritual goals of Anthroposophy are outlined.
“When people are as blinded by materialistic thoughts as they became during the nineteenth century and right into the present, the physical body becomes a copy of the spirit and soul living in materialistic impulses. In that case, it is not incorrect to say that the brain thinks. It is then, in fact, correct. By being firmly enmeshed in materialism, we have people who not only think poorly about the body, soul, and spirit, but people who think materially and feel materially. What that means is that materialism causes the human being to become a thinking automaton, that the human being then becomes something that thinks, feels, and wills physically. The task of Anthroposophy is not simply to replace a false view of the world with a correct one. That is a purely theoretical requirement. The nature of Anthroposophy is to strive not only toward another idea, but toward other deeds, namely, to tear the spirit and soul from the physical body. The task is to raise the spirit-soul into the realm of the spiritual, so that the human being is no longer a thinking and feeling automaton.” The passage continues; it’s worth studying. “Such things as the pedagogy of the Waldorf School can arise from a recognition that humanity must turn toward spiritual activity, and not simply from a change in theory. We should work out of that spirit.” [p. 115 - also see p. 697ff] 
Waldorf teachers must be uncompromising Anthroposophists. Waldorf teachers know they are wrong is anyone outside Anthroposophy approves of what they are doing.
“As teachers in the Waldorf School, you will need to find your way more deeply into the insight of the spirit and to find a way of putting all compromises aside. It will be impossible for us to avoid all kinds of people from outside the school who want to have a voice in school matters. As long as we do not give up any of the necessary perspective we must have in our feelings, then any concurrence from other pedagogical streams concerning what happens in the Waldorf School will cause us to be sad rather than happy. When those people working in modern pedagogy praise us, we must think there is something wrong with what we are doing. We do not need to immediately throw out anyone who praises us, but we do need to be clear that we should carefully consider that we may not be doing something properly if those working in today’s educational system praise us. That must be our basic conviction.” [p. 118 - also see pp. 494-495]
Reincarnation; people had lives before this one; most other religions foolishly deny what Anthroposophy teaches.
“A living comprehension will lead you to see the pre-existence of the soul, to see what the human being experienced before birth, to see that human life in the physical world is a continuation of previous experiences. Traditional religions strongly oppose preexistence, which can make a human being selfless. They strongly oppose those things that do not strive toward a murky and numbing uncomprehending belief, but toward knowledge and the clear light of comprehension. [p. 119 - also see p. 184]
Note that Steiner here essentially concedes that Anthroposophy is a religion: He contrasts it to "traditional religions."
The Waldorf School Association was created, in part, in hopes of getting money from a cigarette company.
“We formed the Waldorf School Association as a local group, to an extent under the assumption that the stockholders of the Waldorf-Astoria Company would be impressed and would provide some money.” [p. 137]
Steiner addresses the head of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette company about his trust in Anthroposophy.
“What we have here as a question of confidence is your trust in Anthroposophy, and what we have now arose from that.” [p. 167]
Waldorf schools take their name from the cigarette factory.
Teaching older students about reincarnation.
Another complaining parent; use irony to interest a child in eurythmy:
A special class for “weak-minded children”:
Strictness ; preparing the school to be evaluated:
An abnormal boy whose brain is too small.
“B.R. is not quite normal. He should receive particular help in the afternoon. That is difficult with some of your children. His brain is too small. You need only look at him. He is smaller than he should be. We should try to counteract that characteristic. It is not possible for him to completely pay attention. You should call upon him more often and discuss things with him in the corridor or on the street so that he has to think while he listens. His mother is just like him.” [p. 249]
A medical inspector says Waldorf students have bad teeth:
Preparing students so the school can pass a school inspection:
Whether there should be a special Sunday service for teachers only:
Esoteric studies; it is wrong to reveal too much to the public; and cliques may form:
A mother who is the personification of a lie; a father who is superficial and trivial:
How to slap children:
Teachers and students worry about the quality of Waldorf education.
Shakespeare’s characters are real and alive in the spirit realm.
Don’t justify or explain yourself to the students:
Teach little children Anthroposophy by putting it in a form they can grasp.
“The problem you have is that you have not always followed the directive to bring what you know anthroposophically into a form you can present to little children. You have lectured the children about anthroposophy when you told them about your subject. You did not transform anthroposophy into a child’s level.” [pp. 402-403]
Despite often denying it, Steiner wanted Waldorf schools to promote Anthroposophy among the students — including the youngest.
Creating progress reports, as requested by a mother, is “just nonsense”:
“Progress reports? Giving in to someone like Mrs. X. (a mother who had written a letter to the faculty) is just nonsense ... As far as I am concerned, the reports could be phrased so that what the children are like is apparent only from the comments about their deportment, but that would only make things worse.” [p. 408]
How to combat reports that Waldorf provides a poor education:
The nationality or race of a student determines his/her abilities:
“A teacher: 'B.B. is in my seventh grade class. Could you give me some advice?'
“Dr. Steiner: ’He is in a class too high for what he knows. He is lazy? I think it is just his nature, that he is Swedish, and you will have to accept that he cannot quickly comprehend things. They grasp things slowly, but if you return to such things often, it will be all right. They love to have things repeated.’” [p. 412]
Standard textbooks are generally no good; maybe Waldorf teachers can create their own.
Standard textbooks contain real knowledge about the real world — precisely what Steiner rejected.
The little boy R.R.; and E.T.:
“In the first grade, there is a boy in the first row in the corner, R.R. He needs some curative eurythmy exercises. He needs to consciously do the movements he now does for a longer period and at a much slower speed. Have him walk and pay attention to how fast he moves, and then have him do it half as fast. If he takes twenty paces in five seconds, then have him take twenty paces in ten seconds. He needs to consciously hold back. He needs to do some curative eurythmy, then these exercises, then curative eurythmy again.
“You also have that boy in the yellow jacket, E.T. That is a medical problem. He could certainly do the ‘A, E, I exercise.’ Also, he should eat some eggs that are not completely cooked. He needs to develop protein strength. In many cases, it is possible to know what we need to do to heal something. People cannot say something untrue about us if what we say needs to be done cannot be done. We need to take up a collection so the boy can have two eggs a day, at least four times in a week. He would need eight eggs. The Cologne News costs twenty-five marks, but it does not have the same nutritional value.” [p. 456 - also see p. 625]
More on Sunday services; the sacraments.
The human ear contains a metamorphosed intestine.
The study of religion, literature, and history:
“In teaching religion and history, what is important is how you present things. What is important is how things are treated in one case and then in another. In teaching religion, three stages need to be emphasized ... In teaching literature and history, you need to draw the children’s attention to how one stage arises from an earlier one and then continues on to a later stage. You could show how it was proper that common people in the ninth and tenth centuries followed the priests in complete dullness.” [pp. 480-481 - also see p. 46]
Steiner taught that humans are involved in a spiritual evolutionary process, moving through distinct stages. He also taught that religion has been necessary in human evolution — as when people blindly followed priests — but it will become unnecessary because of his own teachings, which he claimed were scientific. He called his doctrines "spiritual science."
Students should accept whatever the teachers say, without judgment or discussion; direct questions can be answered; religion teachers should have special authority.
“It is important that the youth of our Waldorf School talk less about questions of world perspective. The situation is that we need to create a mood, namely, that the teacher has something to say that the children should neither judge nor discuss. That is necessary, otherwise it will become trivial. An actual discussion lowers the content. Things should remain with simply asking questions. The children even in the tenth and eleventh grades should know that they can ask everything and receive an answer. For questions of religion and worldview, we need to maintain that longer. The religion teacher needs to retain a position of authority even after puberty.” [p. 494 - also see p. 65 and p. 118]
Anthroposophy suffuses the curriculum — it is “in the school.”
Painful committee deliberations:
Sugar, parents, and art:
Don’t overestimate the value of intellect; use material means on children, since everything material is imbued with spirit; the gods (plural):
Slapping the students doesn’t really improve discipline.
“There may be teachers in the Waldorf School who slap the children, and so forth. That is something I would like to take care of in private discussions. I have heard it said that the Waldorf teachers hit the children, and we have discussed that often. The fact is, you cannot improve discipline by hitting the children, that only worsens things. That is something you must take into account. Perhaps no one wants to say anything about this, but my question is whether that is simply a story that has been spread like so many other lies, or have children, in fact, been slapped in the Waldorf School? If that has occurred, it could ruin a great deal.” [p. 547 - also see p. 10 and p. 547]
Steiner’s statement, here, contradicts other statements where he acknowledged reports about slapping and even told the teachers how to do it best. And note that Steiner’s chief concern (as was so often the case) is for the school’s reputation.
Teaching the students French won’t damage the German empire. (I'm sure this is a load off all our minds.)
On the other hand, the French are committing the “brutality” of bringing blacks to Europe; the French are decadent and their language corrupts the soul:
Childhood games, including military and warlike games, played artistically:
Hitting people with a sledgehammer, but not negatively:
Islands and continents are not attached to the Earth: They float in the sea:
But shh! Don’t tell such things to students — when the kids go on to college, they will spill the beans:
The Apocrypha — heretical teachings that contradict the Bible — are “more correct than the Gospels”; but the kids aren't ready for the Apocrypha yet.
The Waldorf teachers are confused by the floating islands, so Steiner repeats the truth:
A teacher asks about curative eurythmy. Steiner’s lucid answer:
How to cure tuberculosis in the intestines and pancreas; large heads and small:
“The school doctor: ‘It is difficult to differentiate between large- and small-headed children.’ [?!]
“Dr. Steiner: ‘You will need to go more thoroughly into the reality of it. So many things are hidden. It sometimes happens that these things appear later with one child or another.’” [p. 633]
Some people are “not human”; some are “filled with a sort of natural demon”; some Waldorf students are not really human — but “We cannot, however, create a school for demons”:
The dawning intellect in teenagers leads to rowdy behavior.
Waldorf teachers shouldn’t make their classes too Anthroposophical, lest visitors catch on.
How to teach the students about the zodiac.
“In discussing the zodiac, you should begin with the mammals, represented by Leo; then birds, Virgo; reptiles, Libra; amphibians, Scorpio; fish, Sagittarius; articulates, Capricorn; worms, Aquarius. Then continue on the other side, where you have the protists, Cancer; corals, Gemini; echinoderms, Taurus; ascidians, Aries; mollusks, Pisces. You should realize that the zodiac arose at a time when the names and classifications were very different. In the Hebrew language, there is no word for fish, so it is quite reasonable that you would not find fish mentioned in the story of creation. They were seen as birds that lived in water. Thus, the zodiac is divided in this way, into seven and five parts for day and night.”[pp. 659-660]
Steiner included much astrological lore in his doctrines, as well as using horoscopes.
By the way, the Hebrew word for fish (yes, there is such a word in Hebrew) is “dag.” Steiner always felt free to make weird, untrue assertions.
“In the Hebrew story of creation, there is no actual word for fish. It is circumscribed in Genesis 1:20. 'Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life,' whereas, immediately following, the word fowl is used. Also, Leviticus 11:9, 'These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.' In general, the word dag appears for 'fish,' whereas thanninîm, translated as 'whales,' are mythological sea creatures.” [p. 660]
Some animals correspond to the human head, some to the middle part of the human being (and the head), and some to the human limbs (and the head):
Waldorf teachers need not abide by the wishes of students' parents — especially concerning kids with odd brains:
“A teacher asks about B.B. in the eighth grade.
More on the humours and temperaments, and their limitations:
Students in the 12th grade are ill-prepared for graduation; steps the faculty might take:
The Waldorf School should be closely tied to the Anthroposophical Society, but not openly, formally; the ploys that have misled people about the real nature of the Waldorf School should not be tossed away; Anthroposophy is a religion.
"Formally, the Waldorf School is not an anthroposophical institution; rather, it is an independent creation based upon the foundations of anthroposophical pedagogy. In the way it meets the public, as well as the way it meets legal institutions, it is not an anthroposophical institution, but a school based upon anthroposophical pedagogy." [p. 698]
"[I]f the school suddenly became an [openly] anthroposophical school, that would upset both the official authorities and the public." [p. 703]
"[W]e have to remember that an institution like the Independent Waldorf School with its anthroposophical character, has goals that, of course, coincide with anthroposophical desires. At the moment, though, if that connection were made official, people would break the Waldorf School's neck." [p. 705]
"When the school was founded, we placed great value upon creating an institution independent of the Anthroposophical Society. Logically, that corresponds quite well with having the various religious communities and the Anthroposophical Society provide religious instruction, so that the Society provides religious instruction just as other religious groups do." [p. 706]
Notice that the Anthroposophical Society is one of a number of “religious groups.” Anthroposophy is a religion, and despite the formal separation between the “Independent” Waldorf School and the Anthroposophical Society, Anthroposophy is found throughout the school. I discuss these passages in detail in my essay “Secrets”. [Re. religion - also see p. 42, p. 45, p. 55, pp. 75-76, pp. 84-86., pp. 303-304, and p. 465]
Lenin, Woodrow Wilson, and their lord, the demon Ahriman:
The Waldorf School will not prepare students for their final exams; but should we tell the students and parents this?
Waldorf students who took the final exams did badly:
Special problems with the children of Anthroposophists:
Children of Anthroposophists may have very good reasons to rebel against their parents and against the Waldorf schools to which they have been consigned.
Now that we are at the end of the book, let’s have our own little exam. Decide what you think about the following:
— Roger Rawlings
To read an insider's account of life at a Waldorf school
written by a former Waldorf teacher,
go to "Ex-Teacher".
For others, go to "Ex-Teacher 3",
and so on.
For discussions Steiner had with Waldorf teachers,
For "practical" advice Steiner gave to Waldorf teachers,
For one of Steiner's attempts to make Waldorf education seem sensible,
see "Soul School".
For reports by parents who sent their kids to Waldorf schools
This is not informative to ordinary ways of thinking, but it reflects Waldorf thinking. According to Rudolf Steiner, the pentagram represents the human etheric body. (Steiner also said that the pentagram symbolizes the total human being; inverted, it symbolizes black magic.) The head and "love of deed" are at the top point, associated with the astrological sign for the Earth. The green and yellow points, representing the hands, are described as "creating the senses (lower self)", associated with Saturn (green), and "liberating the soul, dissolving", associated with Mercury (yellow). The violet and blue points, the feet, are described as "creating form (rigidifying)", associated with the Moon (violet), and "liberating the 'I' (higher self)", associated with Jupiter (blue). [Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC LESSONS 1904-1909 (Steiner Books, 2007), p. 229, with additional information from p. 137. R.R. sketch, 2009, based on b&w image on p. 229.] To consider the astral body as symbolized by a six-pointed star, see "Foundations".
Waldorf the schools can seem attractive,
and indeed many Waldorf teachers
are attractive people with the best of intentions.
Waldorf students are certainly encouraged
to see the world in pleasing forms and colors.
[Artwork by Waldorf students.]
Attractiveness and good intentions. What can be wrong with that? Perhaps nothing. Or perhaps a lot, if these things overlie occultism. I don't know what the Waldorf students who created these images were told, but here is what Steiner said about butterflies: "The butterfly, since it is a being of light, sends spiritualized earthly matter out into the cosmos throughout its life ... I call this spiritualized earthly matter the butterfly corona ... The earth as it were tempts the human being to reincarnate by sending the rays of the butterfly corona and the rays of the bird corona out into universal space." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 117. As the reference to birds suggests, Steiner saw occult meaning all phenomena. His statements about such things should not be mistaken for mere metaphors or flowery language. Steiner meant his statements literally. And this is the worldview promoted as Truth by Anthroposophical institutions, including Waldorf schools.
Some Waldorf artwork reflects another, more ominous side of Steiner's teachings.
[Drawing by a Waldorf student.]
Most children enjoy fairy tales.
Perhaps no other schools place greater
emphasis on such stories than Waldorf schools do.
Such stories, as told in Waldorf schools, sensitize students to the possible
existence of supernatural beings — good ones and bad.
Steiner insisted that creatures such as goblins really exist,
and they cause considerable human turmoil.
But far worse beings also inhabit the Anthroposophical universe.
See, e.g., "Evil Ones".
For more on the Waldorf use of fairy tales,
see "Fairy Tales".
For more about goblins (also called gnomes),
Waldorf-style wet-on-wet watercolor painting.
All student art courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.
Parents and Teachers
(Parents vs. Teachers?)
Waldorf schools attach great importance to the concept of freedom, but mainly they do this in a highly restrictive sense. They believe that teachers should be free to teach as they see fit, without any outside interference, including interference by the state, boards of directors, or students' parents. Former Waldorf student and teacher Dieter Brüll discusses this touchy issue in his book THE WALDORF SCHOOL AND THE THREEFOLD STRUCTURE (Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, 1997). Here are some excerpts:
"The relationship between parents and the school is a recurring cause of friction ... [P]arents...often wish to follow the way teachers deal with their children. They may be quickly perceived [by the teachers] as uncomfortable nuisances and treated accordingly. On the other side of the coin, teachers often display demands (urgent requests) toward the home, which potentially infuriate parents." [p. 63]
"In dealing with this, we cannot use the procedures of conventional school systems as our approach to this problem. This would only result in a patchwork of misunderstandings, fixed ideas, dogmas, and resentments." [pp. 63-64]
"Spiritual freedom is clearly the most developed area of a Waldorf school. If all is well in this area, every teacher is free to proceed with her or his task of education in his/her own way. This means that neither parents nor colleagues, nor least of all a board of trustees, have a right to give directions." [p. 64]
"It can hardly be avoided that there are teachers who find that their educational work is being spoiled at home, and parents who feel that their child is either wrongly treated or misunderstood at school." [p. 64]
"[J]ust as an artist does not create from higher rules and prescriptions, but from very personal insights, the teacher, too, must act with undisturbed autonomy." [p. 66]
"[No rules apply], not even Rudolf Steiner's, except perhaps the golden rule attributed to him, namely: it is not too bad to make mistakes if one makes them out of conviction." [p. 64]
"The parents are on a collision course with this autonomy of the Waldorf teacher." [p. 67]
"[T]he democratic model...is quite unsuitable for the spiritual life." [p. 67] Note that at Waldorf schools, education is considered part of the spiritual sphere. The three spheres of the "threefold structure" are the spiritual/educational sphere, the economic sphere, and the rights sphere.
"The teacher may very well be autonomous, but this gives him or her no right to put him or herself above the school structure." [p. 68] In other words, the teacher works freely within the Anthroposophical character of the school.
"If one enrolls one's child in the school, a...contract is [agreed to]. This contract covers more than the amount of tuition! It is, in the first place, a declaration of will. The school promises to engage itself for the child in the field of education. The parents promise to engage themselves to facilitate the task of the school ... The child and parents become members of an organization by this contract and have to adapt themselves to the organization ... [S]chool regulations include in the first place the demands the school makes on the behavior of the pupil outside the school: smoking, television, drugs, to name a few ... Neither party is allowed to change [the contract] unilaterally, although the schools often depart from this." [pp. 69-70]
[For more on threefolding,
A mystical Anthroposophical seal, based on a seal of the Apocalypse.
The Anthroposophical caption:
"The Columns of Wisdom and Strength. Mars represents Strength,
or the Water Forces. Mercury, resting upon the land represents
Wisdom. Mars is the representative of the Sun Forces, Mercury
of the Moon Forces. The whole is a personification of future
Man. The 5th and 6th Aryan Civilizations. See Revelations 10:2
and Lecture VIII of the Apocalypse Series."
Or, in Steiner's own words, this seal “represents amongst other things, two pillars; one of which
rises out of the sea, the other out of the land. In these pillars is indicated the mystery
of the part played in human evolution by red, or oxygenated blood and blue or carbonated blood ...
Both when cooperating represent the tree of knowledge and the tree of life, or the two pillars
on which the eon's life and knowledge progress to that degree of perfection when man
will become one with the universal forces of earth ... This latter future state comes
into view on the seal in the half-figure of clouds, and the face
which has acquired the sun's spiritual forces."
— Rudolf Steiner, MYSTIC SEALS AND COLUMNS (Health Research, 1969), pp. 3-4.
[R.R. sketch, 2010, based on the one in the book.
A more attractive version of this seal — surpassing my abilities as a copyist —
is presented on p. 204
of John Fletcher's ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER
(Mercury Arts Publications, 1987.]
Humours have often been associated with the zodiac.
Belief in humours, like belief in astrological powers,
is maintained by many Waldorf teachers.
“Here (left) we have the physical body and the ether body (yellow). It fills the whole of the physical body. And here (right) we have the astral body, which is outside the human being at night (red). At the top it is very small and hugely bulging down below. Then we have the I (violet). This is how we are at night. We are two people in the night." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 102. [R.R. sketch, 2009, based on image in the book.]
Debra Snell has had an inside view of a Waldorf school in action. Here is her report, which I have printed here by her kind permission.
I was new to our Waldorf school when I was asked to be on the board. I'd had plenty of community board experience but not with Waldorf. My first board meeting included a faculty grilling re: sexual preference, directed at a young gay teacher. She was afraid to say she was gay. I was blown away. I kept saying, "This is a violation of her civil rights. We cannot ask these questions." The young teacher kept saying that her partner was just helping her with her kids. I have never figured out why this was important. I still don't know what Steiner thought of gay people but this was the day I learned regular rules do not apply in Waldorf schools. Anthroposophy is more important than individual rights, laws, or common truths.
At the time, I thought the teachers just needed to get out in the world more. Volunteer to be a Big Brother or Sister, etc. The healthy teachers were eventually run out and the ill ones took over hiring. I don't believe ill people have the ability to hire people healthier than they are so the school began to implode. There was deceit everywhere. In the books. The financial statements were literally made up and had nothing to do with the true financial picture of the school. The Administrator was sleeping with the bookkeeper. Unpaid payroll taxes, marked as paid, were seized from our bank account without warning. The board was told we were operating at a low tuition assistance but it turned out to be almost 72%. Contrary to the baloney the board was being fed, the school wasn't making enough money to pay rent, salary, and the electricity bill. One classroom was red-flagged for sewage backing up in the tub, yet the board was unaware this had been an ongoing problem for months.
The school was like a train headed straight for the cliff and the faculty appeared to be worried only about how the table in the dining car was set. I forced my way into the files (I had to threaten a restraining order) and went through every single contract and bank statement. I called a meeting of parents and exposed our real financial situation, along with the apparent cover-up. The entire time, I remained calm and professional while I was being screamed at and subverted by the faculty. The day of that meeting, I earned the trust of the parents. Truth is a powerful tool.
During this crazy time, I used to watch the Waldorf teachers at parent gatherings (festivals).  The teachers would stand on the stage with their arms around each other, singing songs in rounds, while parents beamed. "How lucky we are to have this school," was the mantra. Personally I was amazed by the teachers' performance as they presented a "real" sense of unity between them. Amazed because behind closed doors, they were all backstabbers. Seemingly insecure people competing for the top position on the Anthroposophical dog pile. It was never pretty. There was a lot of acting out, both blatant and passive (aggressive). I thought it was just this school, these teachers at the time. Now I think it comes out of some very deep flaws that Anthroposophy is incapable of dealing with. At least so far.
Board meetings were always exhausting because you could cut the tension between the teachers with a knife. Words were always so carefully chosen but what was being left unsaid screamed way louder than what was actually being said. Two of the teachers had eating disorders, but that seemed like the least of their problems. Affairs seemed commonplace. There was an affair between two married teachers, and another (married) faculty member could not keep his hands off the pretty single moms. One teacher that was hired landed here to avoid the scandal he had created at his old Waldorf school. Seems he had a recent affair with a married woman and the husband was making a scene.
I think it's easier to walk away from Waldorf when Anthroposophy doesn't speak to your spirit, but it still isn't easy. I took 63 families with me to a new school, so we had a pre-made community that Waldorf had built on a false basis. My aim was to make a school like we were told Waldorf was but was not. Sixty-three families were ready to move, so I went back to work.
The new school was a perfect fit for all of us. Health was abundant and the school thrived. Real education. Real credentialed teachers. Real art. Real dance. Real health. It is a school centered around children, not a religion.
Flexibility, honesty, innovation, best practice teaching methods, and direct communication should never be thrown under the bus in a school setting. The new school would be different. There is way more to art than Steiner's prescription for color meditation exercises. No more copying things off the chalk board and every child's work came from within. Oh! Phonics is a very good thing along with early reading.
We (the families) wanted to raise smart kids who were educated — pre-awakened, well-balanced kids who could excel in school and life. Waldorf teachers made promises they had no intention of keeping. I am very proud of the school we built but I must give Waldorf credit where it's due. It gave us some great ideas. We took Waldorf's window dressings and made a school.
— Debra Snell
[For additional commentary by Debra Snell, see http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/11165 - RR]
I have reprinted it with his kind permission.
The writer argues that Waldorf schools read far too much significance
into the students' physical appearances.
This establishes at least the preconditions for racism, he suggests,
and it may lead to full-blown racism.
Whether or not you agree with everything the writer says,
I think you will find that he raises many troubling questions. — R.R.
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This is the third letter I have issued regarding racism at [school's name] Waldorf school. If you are hearing from me for the first time, the first two letters are available for viewing and comment at OpenWaldorf in the [school's name] section and are posted there. OpenWaldorf is as good a place as any for posting this material. Comments are also welcome.
I received the following report from Board of Trustees president [name deleted]:
"I have inquired on more than one occasion regarding the teachings in the classroom, as well as interviewing teachers myself, as well as examining various classroom materials, and my own daughter's experiences. There is a standing request that I be informed of any materials or activity in the classroom that are found to contain anything racist. So far, I am happy to tell you that I have found no evidence that the school has ever taught anything racist."
So what ARE they teaching our kids? How can it look like racism to some, but not to others? Is [school's name] in denial about what they are teaching and if so, why? Or do they believe people won't notice? I noticed. Now I'm asking you to notice too.
Let's start with something that, on the surface, seems innocuous: the Greek Olympic Games. These happen in the 5th grade. To understand what is happening here and how these "games" set our children up to accept racism, we must start with an understanding of the temperaments. The temperaments are something ALL Waldorf teachers must learn about — it is part of Waldorf teacher training.
Steiner's role of the temperaments in children is described by master Waldorf teacher Rene Querido:
"The temperament is the meeting of the spiritual aspect of oneself, which one refers to as 'I', and the contributions of the father and mother. The temperament is the result of the blending of these two streams, the spirit and heredity." (From "Waldorf Education - A Family Guide" - p. 60 The Role of Temperament in Understanding the Child by Rene Querido)
OK — so right off the bat, we see that heredity makes up half of the temperament in each child. Remember the part about the spiritual aspect of oneself, which one refers to as 'I' — this is part and parcel of why Anthroposophists don't believe Steiner's teachings are racist.
On page 62 of the above reference, there is a chart that puts the temperaments and their associated spiritual connections and characteristics in a nutshell.
Sanguine: Spring, Yellow, Superficial, Nerves, Air, Socially Aware, Caring.
Choleric: Summer, Red, Destructive, Dictator, Blood, Fire, Selfless Leader.
Melancholic: Fall, Mauve, Self-pitying, Bones, Earth, Considerate, Understanding.
Phlegmatic: Winter, Blue, Lazy, Glands, Water, Reliable, Faithful.
Note: I have added Steiner's own depictions of the body SHAPE. I believe it is important to note how both the body shape of the child and the heredity of the child contributes to this separation process.
Each child, according to Waldorf teacher training, fits one of these four categories more than any other. This category may determine where the child is seated in the classroom, or which musical instrument is recommended for the child, or which part in the play a child is given. It certainly reflects what the teacher expects from the child. Here's a good example of what I am talking about:
"If you put on a play, you should cast the characters according to the temperaments of your students. You might, for example, ask your cholerics to play Julius Caesar, and you might cast your sanguines as the messengers, since they would enjoy running in and out with the news. The melancholics love philosophical roles. ... The phlegmatics, on the other hand, like the parts where they can sit and think, removed from the central action of the play." (From "Waldorf Education - A Family Guide" - p. 65-66 The Role of Temperament in Understanding the Child by Rene Querido.)
In the fifth grade, however, the temperaments are brought to full light in the pentathlon or Greek games. This event will usually involve children from neighboring schools competing in several events (it's usually seven events in my area, so pentathlon loses its meaning). The children are not separated by school — but by temperaments. Each temperament represents a different city-state in Greece, e.g. Red=Sparta, etc. So, from a curriculum point of view, Waldorf schools see some benefit in having, for example, all the "superficial" children compete against each other. All the "lazy" children compete together, as do all the "self-pitying" children and the "destructive dictators." They get their own colored uniforms or identifications — each associated with Steiner's colors. Choleric children get red, for example.
The children get to march around all day wearing a uniform that identifies them to their classmates perhaps as "lazy." Remember this is based at least partly on heredity and body shape. If the identification wasn't clear from the start, it is easy to see which children are lumped together at a glance. The obese children are all wearing blue. A child simply has to look at their uniform to see who they have been associated with. Often, classmates or siblings will tease children based on the color of their uniform. This can be distressing for some children. And for what? Why separate children by heredity and body shape in the first place?
That teachers/schools would make such a division of children based on some perceived temperament and then have this decision displayed to all the children is, in my opinion, a cruel thing to do to children. To divide children in games using heredity and body shape as a criteria, especially in the way described above, is hurtful nonsense; it is Anthroposophy at its worst. It divides and harms children in a very ugly and thoughtless way. Frankly, if a teacher or school thinks my child is lazy, or superficial, or dictatorial, or self-pitying, they should pretty much keep it out of my child's consciousness.
I don't think it is too much of a leap to discuss racism when referring to the above exercise. I'm not sure anyone at [school's name] has thought through the implications of this display and how it relates to Steiner's recurring message. Steiner believed humans were divided into races and that each race had its own unique characteristics. Some races were higher on the evolutionary ladder, others were lower, some were advancing, others were declining. For each of the races, just like for each of the temperaments, Steiner had both good and bad things to say. It was clear in Steiner's writings, however, that some races were held in higher regard than others, with the white race being the most advanced and the "race of the future."
"You see, when we really study science and history, we must conclude that if people become increasingly strong, they will also become increasingly stupid. If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense if men do not arrive at a form of intelligence that is independent of blondness. Blond hair actually bestows intelligence. . . .It is indeed true that the more the fair individuals die out the more will the instinctive wisdom of humans vanish." (Steiner, 1922, Health and Illness: Volume I. Trans. Maria St. Goar. Spring Valley: Anthroposophic Press, 1981. p. 86.)
Steiner viewed these types of things as matter-of-fact spiritual observations and saw nothing wrong in verbalizing his spiritual observations to Anthroposophists. I don't think he was intentional about promoting racism as such, but I DO believe, and his quotes here confirm, that he was a bit nervous about how this material would be received by the general public. I think this says a lot. He knew he was saying something people would find offensive, and he felt compelled to say it anyway because he believed from a spiritual point of view that it was true. This from someone who was so concerned about social reform but who had never met a black person. I don't believe it was a matter of Steiner having said something and having been misunderstood or misquoted. I believe it was a matter of Steiner saying something he believed to be true in exactly the way it has been interpreted.
That, of course, is why Anthroposophists have a hard time backing away from such statements. They believe them to be true — from a spiritual point of view — and want to continue believing them, quietly. The problem comes in when these ideas reinforce the unenlightened views of a group of people, Waldorf teachers to be specific, who are already comfortable assigning certain roles or holding certain expectations of certain children based on physical characteristics associated with their alleged temperaments. I suggest it is not too much of a stretch for them to expect intelligence from blond-haired children when Steiner specifically says that's what they should expect.
If it is [school's name]'s intention to create Anthroposophists — and I believe it is — then softening the children up and preparing them to accept Steiner's more difficult ideas takes a lot of time. The Greek Olympics are one way Steiner's ideas are imprinted on the children.
More importantly, Steiner's ideas about the races are imprinted on Waldorf teachers in exactly the same way as his ideas about the temperaments. Reading in the teacher training materials for Waldorf teachers, we find many disturbing references to the races and other wacky stuff. Every Waldorf teacher training institution including [school's name]'s own [name of Waldorf teacher training institute] uses FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER as its "Bible." It is a book that describes Steiner's advice for the first Waldorf teachers, so it's particularly significant in Waldorf teacher training. Let's explore this book a little.
Physical traits meant a LOT to Steiner. For example, below he talks about "large and small-headed children," the differences between them, and what Waldorf teachers should expect from these two different shapes of heads (p. 534):
"It is certainly a major deficiency that many educational systems pay no attention to such things as, for example, the external appearance of the children. You can stand in front of a school and see both large and small-headed children. We should treat those children with larger heads, in general, in the way I just presented. Those with small heads should not be treated that way, but in a way I will shortly describe. In those children with a physically oversized head, you will be able to find what I have just described as deficiencies, namely, lack of attention or a too-strongly developed phlegma."
How FINAL were Steiner's teachings? Below, a teacher confronted Steiner with her own observations that conflicted with Steiner's about a child with "small-headedness" (p542):
"A teacher: 'You spoke of flighty children having large heads. In my class, I have a very flighty child with a small head.'
"Dr. Steiner: 'A small head is connected with brooding and reflecting whereas large-headed children are more flighty. If that is not the case, your judgment is incorrect. A small-headed child who is very flighty has not been evaluated from the proper perspective. You can orient yourself with these things. You first need to look at the nature of the child from the proper perspective. Show me the child some time. It is possible to mistake a child's brooding for superficiality. It is possible that the brooding is hidden behind a kind of superficiality. That is easily possible with children.'"
But did Steiner's ideas have any merit? In FACULTY MEETINGS, we see even the school doctor challenging Steiner about the difficulty in differentiating large- and small-headedness in children. Notice how Steiner skips over the question (p. 633):
"The school doctor: 'It is difficult to differentiate between large- and small-headed children.'
"Dr. Steiner: 'You will need to go more thoroughly into the reality of it. So many things are hidden. It sometimes happens that these things appear later with one child or another.
“’I would now like to hear about the first grade. Are the children taking it up? We need to follow the psychology of this first grade. Every class has its own individuality. These two first grade classes are very interesting groups.’”
OK, let's forget the head. Since we're almost on the right page, how about the hands? Did Steiner give any indications of the child's capacity for learning from the hands? A teacher asks whether the tendency toward left-handedness should be broken (p. 634):
"Dr. Steiner: 'In general, yes. At the younger ages, approximately before the age of nine, you can accustom left-handed children to right-handedness at school. You should not do that only if it would have a damaging effect, which is very seldom the case. Children are not a sum of things, but exponentially complicated. If you attempt to create symmetry between the right and left with the children, and you exercise both hands in balance, that can lead to weak-mindedness later in life. The phenomenon of left-handedness is clearly karmic, and, in connection with karma, it is one of karmic weakness. I will give an example: People who overworked in their previous life, so that they did too much, not just physically or intellectually, but in general spiritually, within their soul or feeling, will enter the succeeding life with an intense weakness. That person will be unable to overcome the karmic weakness in the lower human being. (The part of the human being that results from the life between death and a new birth is particularly concentrated in the lower human being, whereas the part that comes from the previous earthly life is concentrated more in the head.) So, what would otherwise be strongly developed becomes weak, and the left leg and left hand are relied upon as a crutch. The preference for the left hand results in the right side of the brain, instead of the left, being used in speech. If you give in to that too much, then that weakness may perhaps remain for a later, a third, earthly life. If you do not give in, then the weakness is brought into balance.'"
Please remember, this is all REQUIRED READING for Waldorf teachers.
So, Rudolf Steiner had some very interesting things to say about how the physical body reflects our disposition, our demeanor, and even our intelligence.
Here are a couple of disturbing passages from FACULTY MEETINGS that are quickly becoming famous. Notice how, when angry with the French (for deploying black soldiers in Germany), Steiner decided to take a jab at them by claiming the French are a "race" and suggesting it is reverting to a lower race. Remember, Steiner was saying these things to TEACHERS in the context of training them (p558).
"The French are also ruining what maintains their dead language, namely, their blood. The French are committing the terrible brutality of moving black people to Europe, but it works, in an even worse way, back on France. It has an enormous affect on the blood and the race and contributes considerably toward French decadence. The French as a race are reverting."
On page 552 is a proposal to ask parents for permission to stop teaching French. Is anyone surprised that they don't offer instruction in the French language at [school's name]?
Here's another famous quote: it is often shortened when reproduced, but I left the whole thing in for context. The idea of the spirit "I" in Steiner's philosophy allows Steiner to make these types of observations (p. 649):
"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 [eighteen-]nineties 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.
"Cosmic error is certainly not impossible. The relationships of individuals coming into earthly existence have long been 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 beings like nature spirits, which we do not recognize as such because they go around in 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 that 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."
Above, Steiner catches himself talking about things that are not for ears outside of Waldorf faculty. We may think it ridiculous that a Waldorf teacher today might follow Steiner's teachings about demons possessing children, but this is in the teacher training materials. If a teacher believes the notion of Steiner's "I," then such things as possessions of the body must also be believable to Steiner's most devout followers.
It has been my experience that many Waldorf teachers take Steiner's teachings very seriously and very literally. Steiner's teachings about the temperaments are INTENDED to come through in the classroom and come to fruition in the Pentathlon/Greek Olympic games. Steiner's teachings about the "spirit I" and the hierarchy of the races are part of the same body of knowledge that is REQUIRED READING in Waldorf teacher training , right beside the temperaments, in the SAME BOOK.
In Waldorf, the "spirit I" theme starts with the Rainbow Bridge story in Waldorf preschool and runs through to the high school morning prayer, written by Steiner himself. The "spirit I" is the theme that permits the inclusion of racism in Waldorf. As a Waldorf teacher, one would have to suddenly put on the brakes when arriving at Steiner's subtle racism. Unfortunately, it is difficult, if not impossible, for Waldorf teachers to see when to do this.
Remember, when we were kids, we used to play "which one does not belong?" Five out of the six statements are taken directly from FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER.
"It is certainly a major deficiency that many educational systems pay no attention to such things as, for example, the external appearance of the children."
"A small head is connected with brooding and reflecting whereas large-headed children are more flighty."
"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."
"In those children with a physically oversized head, you will be able to find what I have just described as deficiencies, namely, lack of attention or a too-strongly developed phlegma."
"If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense if men do not arrive at a form of intelligence that is independent of blondness. Blond hair actually bestows intelligence."
"The phenomenon of left-handedness is clearly karmic, and, in connection with karma, it is one of karmic weakness."
"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."
If Waldorf teachers are TRAINED to use these types of criteria for their interactions with children, where do they draw the line? Steiner said all these things. All of them are offensive or at least problematic for most educators. They are all part of Anthroposophy, part of the "knowledge" Waldorf teachers are supposed to study. Can we really trust that Waldorf teachers know the difference between what crosses the line to racism? IS there a line at all? They taught my child that blood types of Europeans are more evolved than blood types of Africans and Asians, which any mainstream biologist can tell you is incorrect. Does that cross the line? 
Anthroposophy is in everything Waldorf. It is the substance that binds the curriculum. It isn't taught; it is displayed for the children. Sometimes, those displays are ugly and rather obviously out of place, like the Greek Olympics. While claiming not to be an Anthroposophist, our Board of Trustees president does not see anything wrong with these examples I have given you. In fact, as he reported with confidence, he "found no evidence that the school has ever taught anything racist." If this is the case, then Waldorf teachers are indeed doing their job well. The racism is in Anthroposophy, and Anthroposophy is in Waldorf. It's in our kids now, too, in subtle ways they may not recognize.
— Pete Karaiskos
Steiner placed great importance on bodily shapes.
Here's one almost entertaining example:
"Once I knew a man who had quite an unusual forehead. A Greek forehead is different. In Greek statues we find foreheads that slope backwards. This man actually had a pronounced bulge, and his forebrain was actually pushed out. I am convinced that this man, whose brain was pushed forward so much, possessed a particularly well-formed abdomen and never suffered from diarrhea or constipation ... [H]is powerful, protruding forehead never permitted disorders of the abdomen. You can see from this that a man's forehead is related in a remarkable way to his abdomen." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM COMETS TO COCAINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), pp. 150-151. [R.R. sketch, 2009, based on the one on p. 150.]
Another reason Waldorf schools stage events
such as the Greek Olympics
is that they permit enactment of the polytheism embedded in Anthroposophy.
The following is excerpted from a description
published by a Waldorf school.
"The fifth grade Waldorf curriculum includes the study of early civilizations. Ancient Greece, with its appreciation of balance and harmony, its movement toward modern thought, and its worship of fallible Gods, is a beautiful compliment for the fifth grade youth moving into adolescence.
"...On May 7, 2010, Live Oak Waldorf School celebrated its 25th Pentathlon, welcoming nine other schools to its very own Mount Olympus.
"...The morning began with a grand and reverent opening ceremony, which included one student from each of the ten schools reading an Ode to the Gods.
"'O Zeus, make my feet like your lightening bolt; as you cast it into space all you can hear is a whisper of silence before the fireworks of victory.
"'O Athena, help me put my best foot forward in words and actions, like you in all your glory.
"'O Poseidon, help me be strong in wrestling like a gigantic wave crashing on a huge rock.
"'O Persephone, may I be kind and welcoming to others in my city-state.'
"The residing [sic] Gods and Goddesses — Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, Artemis and Apollo — blessed the Pentathletes with words of gratitude and encouragement.
“'O mortals of earth and athletes of Greece ! I am Zeus. You honor us greatly with your words! Welcome to Olympia, where your courage will shine, and your skill will be on display for all to see. It has pleased me greatly to watch from Olympus as you have trained for this day. May you bring honor to yourselves, to your families, and to your schools as you compete today. I grant you the power of my thunder and lightning and wish you well.'
"After singing the Olympic Hymn, the Pentathletes followed the Gods and Goddesses onto the games field." ["Live Oak Waldorf School hosted its 25th Pentathlon"]
Bear in mind that Steiner taught that
gods such as Zeus and Athena really exist. 
In having their students address such gods,
Waldorf teachers are having them address
gods whom they think really exist.
The following description will not apply to absolutely every Waldorf school, but it will be accurate for many:
There may be sub-rings within the college, rippling outward from the central leadership with its real or claimed extensive knowledge of Anthroposophy to other devoted followers of Steiner who are farther removed from the absolute center of wisdom and control.
— Roger Rawlings
Sets of concentric rings reminiscent of mandalas occur throughout Steiner’s teachings. On the upper left, for instance, is a set of rings that Steiner used to illustrate seven “world-outlook-moods”: reading from the outer ring inward, they are gnosis, logicism, voluntarism, empiricism, mysticism, transcendentalism, and occultism (the inner ring except for the very center, which in this image is empty). Steiner associated each of the “world-outlook-moods” with one of the seven “sacred planets.” Around the perimeter of the image he also wrote the names of twelve “shades of world-outlooks,” which he linked to the twelve signs of the zodiac. [Rudolf Steiner, HUMAN AND COSMIC THOUGHT (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1991), p. 50.] 
The set of rings at the lower right represents seven planes of existence (this comes from Steiner's Theosophy phase): reading from the outer ring inward, the planes are maha-para-nirvana, para-nirvana, nirvana, buddhi, mental, astral, and physical (the center of this image). Each plane of existence is associated with a “condition of matter”: earth, water, air, warmth ether, light ether, chemical ether, and life ether. [Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 5, GA 93a.] Mastering the details of all this is generally unnecessary, unless you decide to become a deep student of Steiner. Most people will probably feel that they have learned enough simply by glimpsing the recurrent patterns of Steiner’s occultism. Steiner wanted everything to fall into neat hierarchical patterns, preferably radiating from a central core outward to phenomena aligned in concentric circles or spheres. He wanted groupings of three (the occult number symbolizing divinity) or four (the occult number for creation), or seven (3+4, the occult number of perfection), or twelve (3x4, an even dozen, the number of signs of the zodiac). He hammered all phenomena into these patterns, whether or not this makes any sense. (Are there really, for instance, an even dozen philosophical approaches — “world-outlook-moods”? Of course not. There are far more. You can add one yourself, right now. Go through Steiner's list, note what he has missed, and then whip up a new ideology to plug the gap. Steiner's own approach was often no more profound than this. [R.R. sketches, 2010, based on those in the books named. I have chosen arbitrary colors.])
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 5. THE WALDORF APPROACH ◊◊◊
If you'd like more information about any of the topics discussed here,
you might begin by consulting the following resources:
THE SEMI-STEINER DICTIONARY
THE BRIEF WALDORF / STEINER ENCYCLOPEDIA
WALDORF WATCH INDEX
WALDORF WATCH TABLE OF CONTENTS
Some illustrations on each page here at Waldorf Watch
are closely connected to the essay on that page;
others are not — they provide general context.
 Amazingly, Steiner was serious about this. “Go into our needlework classes and handicraft classes at the Waldorf School, and you will find the boys knit and crochet as well as the girls, and that they share these lessons together. Even the older boys are enthusiastic knitters. This is not the result of any fad or whim, but happens deliberately in order to make the fingers skillful and supple, in order to permeate the fingers with the soul. And to drive the soul into the fingers means to promote all the forces that go to build up sound teeth. It is no matter of indifference whether we let an indolent child sit about all day long, or make it move and run about; or whether we let a child be awkward and helpless with its hands, or train it to manual skill. Sins of omission in these matters bear fruit later in the early destruction of the teeth; of course sometimes in more pronounced forms, and sometimes in less, for there is great individual diversity, but they are bound to manifest themselves. In fact, the earlier we begin to train and discipline the child, on the lines indicated, the more we shall tend to slow down and counteract the process of dental decay. Any interference with dental processes is so difficult that we should carefully consider such measures even if they seem to be far-fetched.” — Rudolf Steiner, SPIRITUAL SCIENCE AND MEDICINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1948), lecture 17, GA 312. Far-fetched is right.
 After writing this essay, I returned to the quotation on p. 115 in order to answer a series of questions posed on the waldorf-critics discussion site (the question is at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/11008 and my answer is at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/11010 .) I will repeat my answer here, although it goes over some of the ground we have already covered.
—- In email@example.com, maura kwaten <maurakwaten@...> wrote:
> [W]hy isn't the [Waldorf] curriculum flexible?
Anthroposophists tend to view Steiner as a sort of Moses. Moses came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments chiseled in stone. Anthroposophists think Steiner passed along similarly eternal, unquestionable spiritual guidance. (Steiner left open the possibility that future clairvoyants would see even more deeply into spiritual matters than he did, so Anthroposophists have a little leeway, they can attempt to make their own spiritual "discoveries." But only in this sense do they consider Steiner's teachings at all questionable.)
> Is the driving force to push Anthroposophy rather than educate well?
Bingo. The point of Waldorf schooling is spiritual training, not education per se. Anthroposophy is meant to be the salvation of humanity. Waldorf schools are supposed to share this goal and work out of it — i.e., out of a grounding in Anthroposophy:
“The task of Anthroposophy is not simply to replace a false view of the world with a correct one. That is a purely theoretical requirement. The nature of Anthroposophy is to strive not only toward another idea, but toward other deeds, namely, to tear the spirit and soul from the physical body [i.e., free humanity from mere material existence — ultimately, to make humans entirely spiritual beings]. The task is to raise the spirit-soul into the realm of the spiritual, so that the human being is no longer a thinking and feeling automaton [materialists, such as people who disagree with Steiner, are mere flesh-and-bone robots, automatons] ... [H]uman beings are in danger of losing their spirit-soul. What exists today in the physical [realm] as an impression of the spirit-soul, exists because so many people think that way, because the spirit-soul is asleep [i.e., the impression of the spirit-soul in the wide world today is warped, because it comes from people who think like automatons — people who are spiritually comatose]. The human being is thus in danger of drifting into the Ahrimanic world [the realm ruled by a demonic enemy of human evolution], in which case the spirit-soul will evaporate into the cosmos. We live in a time when people face the danger of losing their souls to materialistic impulses. This is a very serious matter. We now stand confronted with that fact. That fact is actually the secret that will become increasingly apparent, and out of which we [Waldorf teachers] can act fruitfully. Such things as the pedagogy of the Waldorf School can arise from a recognition that humanity must turn toward spiritual activity, and not simply from a change in theory. We should work out of that spirit.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 115.
In sum, Waldorf teachers try to turn the students away from the real world and toward "spiritual activity," which for them means Anthroposophy. Steiner's followers "do" Anthroposophy, and the spiritual activities they "do" are the ones Steiner prescribed. And this is what they want the children to learn to do.
> Is the curriculum that Steiner invented completely linked to Anthroposophy so that by not teaching about ancient India and Egypt in a certain way at a certain time would mean not reaching the child's soul in a specific way ?
Yes. Steiner said that children repeat (or "recapitulate") in their own lives the evolution humanity as a whole has gone through. Thus, certain things are taught in each grade because the children at that age are at a certain stage of human evolutionary development. Changing the curriculum of any grade would be wrong because it would mean teaching kids stuff at the wrong age. So the Steiner curriculum is set in stone because human evolution has occurred as Steiner (and, essentially, only Steiner) has described it.
Here's a thumbnail description (from a guy who happened to be one of my teachers, long ago): “There’s a proper time and method for particular subjects to be taught. The child recapitulates the cultural epochs of humankind ... Above all, human beings are spiritual as well as physical beings.” — Peter Curran, TAMARACK TALK, tamarackwaldorf.org. Cultural epochs are the phases of our recent evolution. (This quote seems to have disappeared from the Tamarack site after I began publicizing and analyzing it.)
As you can see, the Waldorf approach to *everything* is rooted in Anthroposophy, and the goals of the teachers are Anthroposophical goals (although the schools need to disguise this fact to save themselves from attack): “[W]e have to remember that an institution like the Independent Waldorf School with its anthroposophical character, has goals that, of course, coincide with anthroposophical desires. At the moment, though, if that connection were made official, people would break the Waldorf School’s neck.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 705.
 Many festivals are celebrated at Waldorf schools. They are attractive events, with students often wearing costumes associated with various historical periods. But there is more to Waldorf festivals than meets the eye. The festivals often have religious/Anthroposophic meaning — see Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998). Generally, these events reflect heretical semi-Christian beliefs, often pagan at root and pointing toward Steiner's conception of future human evolution. Steiner's animistic doctrine — that the Earth and indeed the entire cosmos are living, breathing entities — is also often present. “In the celebration of festivals man and nature can come together in a higher nature, a higher humanity. Individuals can come together, united in a common striving for the truly, the universally human. Through living with the festivals and seasons we can learn to sense the pulse and breath of the cosmos.” — Philip Wharton, "Festivals, Seeds of Renewal," in WALDORF EDUCATION: A Family Guide (Michaelmas Press, 1995), edited by Pamela Johnson Fenner and Karen L. Rivers, p. 144. Some of these ideas may seem superficially attractive, but they run contrary to orthodox religious teachings, and they have no basis in science. They are Anthroposophical doctrines; the festivals are Anthroposophical celebrations.
At some Waldorf schools, festivals are also used as a sort of window dressing — they impress many parents, some of whom may be enlisted to help planning and staging the events; and they may also serve as recruitment tools, attracting new families to the schools. Debra Snell adds this note to her Afterword, above: "Festivals/celebrations are huge events. Parents work very hard, under close supervision of the faculty, of course. No detail is too small and it took many hands to pull off events where cameras or video taping was forbidden. Parents were encouraged to bring other potential families to these events. Even the public-funded Waldorf schools here celebrate festivals with parents and other family members. Michaelmas, Advent Spiral, May Faire, St Martin, etc."
 At least one Waldorf school has set up a "College of Students" for especially "worthy" students, with deeply troubling results: "While not accredited to teach years 11 and 12, the school regularly invites its more promising students - the 'culturally worthy' - to stay on as 'colleagues' ... Called the College of Students, the practice has led to an unusual level of fraternisation between students and teachers. In 2006 a female teacher was dismissed, allegedly for inappropriate contact with two male year 12 students. That same year, a male teacher resigned, reportedly after a physical altercation with a student." — Tim Elliott, "No Class Act", BRISBANE TIMES.COM.AU, July 11, 2009. http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/no-class-act-20090710-dg2v.html?page=-1.
 In Anthroposophical theology, angels are gods. Specifically, they are members of the lowest rank of gods, just one step higher than humans. Steiner taught that "Zeus" is one name humans have used for a particular angel or low-ranking god. "[M]an only perceived Angels through his ancient dim clairvoyance; these were Angels also in the Christian sense, and are those who were referred to by the Greeks as Zeus, and by the Germanic people as Wotan...." — Rudolf Steiner, UNIVERSE, EARTH AND MAN (H. Collison, 1931), lecture 10, GA 105.
 I was taught the same thing. Finding evidence of racism in Waldorf schools may sometimes call for subtle detective work; but sometimes the evidence is extremely clear, as in teaching children nonsense about racial blood types. For more on racism and Waldorf schools, see "Steiner's Racism". Whether or not overt racism is present in any particular Waldorf school, the presence of any of the other problems detailed in this letter should be cause for alarm. — RR
 I am talking about the de facto, actual operating arrangement within the schools, not any organizational charts that may be drawn up. Such charts are likely to show more or less imaginary structures that have little bearing on the way schools really operate. On paper, a board of trustees may seem to hold the ultimate power within a given school, with the administration, faculty, and support staff neatly slotted in boxes below the board. At most Waldorf schools, however, this sort of structure rarely has practical effect.
There is another complication. When a Waldorf school attempts to follow Steiner's overarching guidelines for the organization of society — a vision he called threefolding — the organizational structure of the school can become extremely complex. See "Threefolding".
 If you want to dig into Steiner's twleve- and seven-part divisions of philosophical positions, see "Philosophy". For his occult interpretation of numbers, see "Magic Numbers".
 The maha-para-nirvana plane is the realm where solid objects "live." "It is there that the solid stone has its life." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 5, GA 93a. The para-nirvana plane is the realm of fluid beings. The nirvana plane is where airy or gaseous beings live. The Buddhi plane is where "warmth has its life". — Ibid. The mental plane is the realm of light beings. "When in dream consciousness one experiences the light, one experiences wisdom within it ... In the burning thorn bush, that is to say, in the light, Jehovah appeared to Moses in order to reveal wisdom." — Ibid. The astral plane is the realm of "ether" beings. "On this plane the chemical ether has its life. A somnambulist perceives on the astral plane the qualities of the chemicals, the chemical characteristics, because here the chemical ether actually has its life." — Ibid. The physical plane — well, you know. Or maybe you don't. (I didn't.) "On this plane the chemical ether has its life. A somnambulist perceives on the astral plane the qualities of the chemicals, the chemical characteristics, because here the chemical ether actually has its life." — Ibid.
Going back to the maha-para-nirvana plane, where stones live: This explains why many Waldorf schools require students to recite a prayer that speaks of a place where stones relax. Earlier, I quote a prayer that begins
“I look into the world;
In which the Sun shines,
In which the stars sparkle,
In which the stones lie..."
At many Waldorf schools, the fourth line is
“In which the stones repose..."
This is the wording that was used at my Waldorf school. Stones are alive. They don't move around much, but they repose nicely...
This is a good précis of the problem Steinerism. It is (sort of) pretty to think that stones are alive. There's just one problem. They aren't. They are stone-cold dead. (And, contrary to verbal tricks Steiner use, being "dead" doesn't mean that something was once alive. Dead stones are dead, meaning inanimate. Some portion may have one been animate, but the stones themselves never were.)
Steiner sometimes used different terms for the same subjects. A note at the end of THE FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM identifies the physical plane as the physical world, the world of understanding; the astral plane is the soul world, the imaginative world, the elementary world; the mental plane (also called Devachan) is spirit land, the spiritual world, the world of harmony of the spheres, the world of inspiration (lower devachan or rupa-devachan is the lower spirit world, the heavenly world; upper devachan or arupa-devachan is the higher spirit world, the world of true inspiration); the Buddhi plane (or Shushupti) is the world of "fore seeing" [sic]; the nirvana, para-nirvana, and hama-para-nirvana planes are as described above, but after splitting from Theosophy Steiner generally folded them into a single plane called the nirvana plane.
"Then comes time for the new birth [i.e., reincarnation]. Before the incarnation, the human being presents itself as if possessing a Janus-head ... The spiritual soul of man looks down onto the earth. It brings parents together and their unification will create the physical conditions for the new earth-life. But it also looks back to the experiences of its earlier lives on earth and to their accomplishments, which now become the seed of destiny [karma] for the coming life. Thus, each human being carries with it into birth the earth-plan with its very individual pre-fabricated conditions of destiny."
— Georg Hartmann, THE GOETHEANUM GLASS-WINDOWS (Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag, 1972), p. 55.
[R.R. sketch, 2009.]