Behind the Scenes at Waldorf

by Roger Rawlings

Afterword by Debra Snell

Every parent who is thinking of sending a child to a Waldorf school should first spend some time with the book FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at the world of Waldorf education. While leafing through it, ask yourself if you really want your child to be “educated” in the sort of school the book reveals. 

Published by the Anthroposophic Press, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER is dauntingly long, spanning two volumes that run to more than 800 pages. Few people would care to read the whole thing. But this isn’t necessary. Just cruising around inside, reading and contemplating, may tell you all you need to know about Waldorf schools.

As an aid, here are a few of the wonders I have found in FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER.* Not all of the passages are entirely awful. (Which just goes to show how fair-minded I can be.) Unless otherwise identified, all of the following statements were made by Rudolf Steiner, addressing Waldorf school teachers. I will proceed through the book (both volumes) from start to finish. Some of the most startling statements occur near the end, but I won't move them up in the queue. (Which just goes to show how fair-minded I can be.)

Each brief section begins with a quick summary of the main point(s) the section will touch on, followed by a quotation or two from the book. Unless ascribed to someone else, all of the following remarks were made by Steiner. 

* To hold this page to a reasonable length, I am omitting many other startling passages that I have found and that you can easily find, if you care to do so. I urge you to do so.

[Anthroposophic Press, 1998.]


There has been gossip about who has been slapped at the Waldorf School; Steiner says that teachers must maintain “school confidentiality”; treat parents as outsiders.*

“I have been back only a few hours, and I have heard so much gossip about who got a slap and so forth. All of that gossip is going beyond all bounds, and I really found it very disturbing. We do not really need to concern ourselves when things seep out the cracks. We certainly have thick enough skins for that. But on the other hand, we clearly do not need to help it along. We should be quiet about how we handle things in the school, that is, we should maintain a kind of school confidentiality. We should not speak to people outside the school, except for the parents who come to us with questions, and in that case, only about their children, so that gossip has no opportunity to arise.” [p. 10 - also see p. 323 and p. 547, and the section titled "Parents and Teachers", below]

* Perhaps the most revealing statement Steiner made to Waldorf teachers about their role vis-a-vis the role of students'  parents is this: "You will have to take over children for their education and instruction — children who will have received already (as you must remember) the education, or mis-education given them by their parents." — THE STUDY OF MAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 16.

Waldorf teachers must be unbending authority figures, never giving in to the children.

“[I]t will be very good if you can keep the children from losing their feeling for authority. That is what they need most. You can best achieve that by going into things with the children very cautiously, but under no circumstances giving in.” [pp. 14-15 - also see p. 237 and p. 391]

Start each day with a prayer, but don’t call it a prayer.

“We also need to speak about a prayer. I ask only one thing of you. You see, in such things everything depends upon the external appearances. Never call a verse a prayer, call it an opening verse before school. Avoid allowing anyone to hear you, as a faculty member, using the word ‘prayer.’” [p. 20 - also see pp. 38-40]
Denying the religious nature of Waldorf schooling has long been high on the list of Waldorf priorities — especially in the USA, especially when Waldorf schools attempt to receive taxpayer support.

Teach the kids about Atlantis, which really existed — and, as usual, disavow science.

“[W]e should not be afraid to speak about the Atlantean land with the children. We should not skip that. We can also connect all this to history. The only thing is, you will need to disavow normal geology since the Atlantean catastrophe occurred in the seventh or eighth millennium.” [p. 25 - also see p. 50]

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]

Steiner often tossed around scientific language of this sort, and usually he got away with it. In this case, the editor of the German edition spotted several scientific errors — but, presumably because criticizing Steiner would be unthinkable, he attributed them to the stenographer:

“Remarks by the German editor: In the previous paragraphs, there appear to be stenographic errors. The text is in itself contradictory, and it is not consistent with the articles mentioned and the table in Pierer’s Encyclopedia nor with Dr. Steiner’s remarks made in the following faculty meeting (Sept. 26, 1919). The error appears explainable by the fact that Dr. Steiner referred to a table that the stenographer did not have.” [p. 27]

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]

Steiner taught that gravity is a purely local phenomenon on solid planets; it is absent on liquid and gaseous planets.

The planets do not orbit the Sun.

“[I]t is not that the planets move around the Sun, but that these three, Mercury, Venus, and the Earth, follow the Sun, and these three, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, precede it. Thus, [pointing at a drawing] when the Earth is here and this is the Sun, the Earth follows along. But we look at the Sun from here, and so it appears as though the Earth goes around it, whereas it is actually only following. The Earth follows the Sun.”  [pp. 30-32]

I discuss this lunatic idea in “Steiner’s Blunders”.

Einstein’s theory of relativity is bunk.

“Einstein’s principle of relativity arose out of unreal thinking. He asked what would occur if someone began to move away at the speed of light and then returned; this and that would occur. I would ask what would happen to a clock if it were to move away with the speed of light? That is unreal thinking. It has no connection to anything. It considers only spatial relationships, something possible since Galileo. Galileo himself did not distort things so much, but by overemphasizing the theory of relativity, we can now bring up such things.” [p. 33]
Steiner claimed that his teachings were scientific, but actually he denied most real scientific findings. In general, he rejected any "knowledge" except for his own occult pronouncements (many of which were based on superstition and myths, as we will see).

Modern philosophy is “all nonsense.” 

“Anthroposophy has the same relationship to philosophy as the crown of a tree to its roots, and the difference between the root and the crown of a tree is obvious. Someone can come along and say he finds it necessary to state that there is a difference between the root and the crown, and I have nothing to say other than that. These people can’t keep any thoughts straight. Modern philosophy is all nonsense.” [p. 36]

Here are 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.”

Note how this "verse" addresses and praises God. It is a prayer.

Another one: 

“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:

“[I]n anthroposophical religious instruction we can certainly not use the kind of teaching that asks questions such as, Why do we find cork on a tree? with the resulting reply, So that we can make champagne corks. God created cork in order to cork bottles. This sort of idea, that something exists in nature simply because human intent exists, is poison. That is certainly something we may not develop. Therefore, don’t bring any of these silly causal ideas into nature.” [p. 42 - also see p. 45, p. 55, pp. 75-76, pp. 84-86., pp. 303-304, p. 465, and p. 697ff]

Use pictures to teach students about the spiritual beings that lurk behind nature.

“[I]t is important that we develop imaginative pictures through which we can show the supersensible through nature. For example, I have often mentioned that we should speak to the children about the butterfly’s cocoon and how the butterfly comes out of the cocoon. I have said that we can explain the concept of the immortal soul to the children by saying that, although human beings die, their souls go from them like an invisible butterfly emerging from the cocoon.” [p. 43]

Comments reflecting how students are to be taught portions of Anthroposophical theology are scattered throughout the book.

Teach the kids about fate and destiny: what Steiner usually called karma.

“In the second stage, that is, the four upper grades, we need to discuss the concepts of fate and human destiny with the children. Thus, we need to give the children a picture of destiny so that they truly feel that human beings have a destiny. It is important to teach the child the difference between a simple chance occurrence and destiny. Thus, you will need to go through the concept of destiny with the children ...  If something happens to you because of some other person, that is usually a case of fulfilled karma. Even such things as the fact that we find ourselves together in this faculty at the Waldorf School are fulfilled karma.” [pp. 44-45]
Karma is one of the many concepts that Anthroposophy borrows from other faiths. Although Anthroposophists often claim that Steiner's teachings are Christian, in fact they contain many elements that contradict Christianity.

Any religion connected with a church (or temple, or...) is not actually religious; only Anthroposophy conveys spiritual truths.

“I also want you to understand what is really religious in an anthroposophical sense. In the sense of anthroposophy, what is religious is connected with feeling, with those feelings for the world, for the spirit, and for life that our perspective of the world can give us. The worldview itself is something for the head, but religion always arises out of the entire human being. For that reason, religion connected with a specific church is not actually religious.” [p. 45 - re. religion,  - also see p. 42, p. 55, pp. 75-76, pp. 84-86., pp. 303-304, p. 465, 615-616, and p. 697ff]
All religious persons should reject Anthroposophy unless they agree that their priests, pastors, ministers, imams, rabbis, etc., have not been telling them the truth.

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]

Closely related to karma, reincarnation is another of the concepts Anthroposophy borrows from other faiths.

More about Atlantis; also a previous lost world, Lemuria.

“Then you have the Mesozoic, which generally corresponds to Lemuria. And then the first and second levels of mammals, or the Cenozoic, that is, the Atlantean age. The Atlantean period was no more than about nine thousand years ago.” [p. 50  - also see p. 25]

Human beings were once made of ether.

“In very primitive times, human beings consisted almost entirely of etheric substance. They lived among other things but had as yet no density.” [p. 50]

Human beings were once like centaurs.

“The human being was similar to a centaur, an extremely animal-like lower body and a humanized head.” [p. 51]

Waldorf teachers serve the gods; they have a messianic mission to help fulfill the “divine cosmic plan.”

“Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods, that we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world. We dare not for one moment lose the feeling of the seriousness and dignity of our work.” [p. 55 - re. religion,  - also see p. 42, p. 45, pp. 75-76, pp. 84-86., pp. 303-304, p. 465, and p 697ff]

Note that Steiner speaks of “gods.” Anthroposophy is polytheistic.

Concerning discipline, respect, and the value of class discussions (and the value of students' opinions):

"[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.

A teacher asks about Allah.

“Dr. Steiner:
 ‘It is difficult to describe that supersensible being. Mohammedism is the first manifestation of Ahriman, the first Ahrimanic revelation following the Mystery of Golgotha. Mohammed’s god, Allah, Eloha, is an Ahrimanic imitation or pale reflection of the Elohim, but comprehended monotheistically. Mohammed always refers to them as a unity. The Mohammedan culture is Ahrimanic, but the Islamic attitude is Lucifer.'” [pp. 75-76 - re. religion, - also see p. 42, p. 45, p. 55, pp. 75-76, pp. 84-86., pp. 303-304, p. 465, and p 697ff]

“Elohim” is an alternate name for Jehovah or Jahve. However, Steiner uses the word as a plural noun, referring to Jahve and “his six colleagues....” [Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 99.]

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.

Sunday services:

“A question is asked about who may attend the Sunday services.

“Dr. Steiner: ‘That is certainly a problem. We had never thought that anyone other than the parents would attend. Of course, having begun in one way, it is difficult to set a limit. How should we do that? Why did you admit people who are not parents at the school? If we allow K. in, there is no reason we should send other members away. Where does that begin and where does it end?  ....’”  [p. 84ff - also see pp. 303-304 and p. 465]

Comments about a complaining father:

“It would be a good idea if we could compare what is happening with the boy to what the father is complaining about. The father appears to be a rather useless complainer, always blaming things. I will talk with the boy. It seems to me that the father always complains and picks up small things that bother the boy. Then he expands them into fantasies so that the boy does things the father suggests.” [p. 87]

Other comments about specific parents (often dismissive comments) are scattered throughout the book.

More on the so-called temperaments:

“A teacher: How can we have such differing opinions about the temperament of a child? 

“Dr. Steiner: 
‘We cannot solve that question mathematically. We can certainly not speak in that way. In judging cases that lie near a boundary, it is possible that one person has one view and another view. We do not need to mathematically resolve them. The situation is such that when we see and understand a child in one way or another, we already intend to treat it in a particular way. In the end, the manner of treating something arises from an interaction. Don’t think you should discuss it.’ 

“There is a further question about temperaments. 

“Dr. Steiner:
‘The choleric temperament becomes immediately annoyed by and angry about anything that interrupts its activity. When it is in a rhythmic experience, it becomes vexed and angry, but it will also become angry if it is involved in another experience and is disturbed. That is because rhythm inwardly connects with all of human nature. It is certainly the case that rhythm is more connected with human nature than anything else and that a strong rhythm lies at the base of cholerics, a rhythm that is usually somewhat defective. We can see that Napoleon was a choleric. In his case, the inner rhythm was compressed. With Napoleon you will find, on the one side, something that tended to grow larger than he grew. He remained a half-pint. His etheric body was larger than his physical body, and thus his organs were so compressed that all rhythmical things were shoved together and continuously disturbed one another. Since such a choleric temperament is based upon a continuous shortening of the rhythm, it lives within itself.’ [pp. 90-91 - also see pp. 801-81 and p. 687]

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.]

Knitting develops good teeth.

“The following was also noted.
“Bad teeth, the cause lies in the soul/spirit.
“Connection between eurythmy and the formation of teeth.
“Handwork. Knitting develops good teeth.” [p. 112 - cf. p. 262]

This is one of the weirdest ideas to be found in FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, which is full of weird ideas. But there it is. [1]

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] [2]

a) Waldorf teachers must be uncompromising Anthroposophists. b) Waldorf teachers know they are wrong if 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]

a) Reincarnation is for real; people had lives before this one. b) 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.

“For the seventh, eighth, and ninth grade independent religious instruction we could move into a freer form and give a theoretical explanation about such things as life before birth and after death, and all the consequences of a life before birth. We could give them examples. We could show them how to look at the major cultural connections and about the mission of the human being on Earth. You need only to look at Goethe or Jean Paul to see it. You can show everywhere that their capacities come from a life before birth.” [p. 184 - also see p. 119]

a) The “world of colors”; and b) fairy tales.

“The main thing now is that we awaken an inner feeling for color in the children, an experience of the world of colors, so that the children receive a feeling for the life in the world of colors through experiencing fairy tales.” [p. 200]

Steiner taught that spiritual beings enter the physical realm through colors. He also taught that all fairy tales are fundamentally true. He singled out Puss in Boots as an example. [Rudolf Steiner, ON THE MYSTERY DRAMAS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), p. 93.]

a) Another complaining parent. b) Use irony to interest a child in eurythmy:

“A teacher: ‘The mother complains that I am stressing the child.’
“Dr. Steiner: ‘I don’t think that it would be so easy to work with the mother. She is a kind of society woman....’
“A eurythmy teacher:’ I cannot awaken R.F.’s interest in eurythmy.’
“Dr. Steiner: ‘Be ironic with him. He was in a parochial school.’ [p. 211]

A special class for “weak-minded children”:

“She is intellectually weak. We need a class for weak-minded children so that we can take care of them systematically. These children would gain a great deal if we did not have them learn to read and write, but instead learn things that require a certain kind of thinking. They need basic tasks like putting a number of marbles in a series of nine containers so that every third container has one white and two red marbles.” [p. 227]

a) Strictness. b) Preparing the school to be evaluated:

Dr. Steiner: ‘This is something peculiar. Miss Lang could always keep them quiet, so there is something hidden here.’ 

“A teacher: ‘She was very strict.’ 

“Dr. Steiner: ‘I would like to call your attention to the fact that there is something important for us in this situation. Miss Lang was a credentialed teacher in Württemberg. When we are evaluated, they will tend to [approve of] the strict discipline taught in Württemberg.’” [p. 237 - also see pp. 14-15, p. 279, and p. 391.]

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]

Other comments about specific children are scattered throughout the book.

A medical inspector says Waldorf students have bad teeth:

“Dr. Steiner reads a letter from the medical inspector who, among other things, mentions that the children at the Waldorf School have bad teeth. 
“Dr. Steiner: ‘That is just a bluff. That is something that could be determined only by investigating the situation. That is simply stupid.’” [p. 262 - cf. p. 112]

(Apparently the knitting hasn't helped. But Waldorf students usually do a lot of knitting anyway.)

Preparing students so the school can pass a school inspection:

“Be careful when a school inspector comes that he does not leave with his questions unanswered. He may ask questions in such a way that the children cannot answer them. We should work so that the children can handle even the most surprising questions.” [p. 279 - also see p. 237]

Whether there should be a special Sunday service for teachers only:

“A teacher: ‘The faculty would like a special Sunday Service for teachers only.’

“Dr. Steiner: ‘We already discussed something like that. I would have to know if there is an extensive need for it ... A service is either simply a question of form, in which case you could do it together, or it is a ritual act, and you have to look more seriously at it. In that case, you can have no secret enemies ... A sacrament is esoteric. It is one of the most esoteric things you can imagine. What you said is connected with the fact that you cannot decide upon a ritual democratically.’” [pp. 303-304 - also see pp. 84-86 and p. 465]

Esoteric studies; it is wrong to reveal too much to the public; and cliques may form:

“A question is asked about esoteric studies. 

“Dr. Steiner: ‘That is very difficult to do. Until now, I have always had to avoid them. As you know, I gave a number of such studies years ago [Steiner is referring to books he published early in his occult career], but I had to stop because people misused them. Esotericism was simply taken out into the world and distorted. In that regard, nothing in our esoteric movement has ever been as damaging as that. All other esoteric study, even in less than honorable situations, was held intimately. That was the practice over a long period of time. Cliques have become part of the Anthroposophical Society and they have set themselves above everything else, unfortunately, also above what is esoteric.’” [p. 305]

A mother who is the personification of a lie:

“Now he is growing up with a mother who is the personification of a lie. She is one of those people who falls down with a heart attack, but on the soft carpet, not next to it. She is completely untrue. She is a woman who always wanted to bring Anthroposophy to her husband, a very superficial and trivial person.” [p. 321]

How to slap children:

“The language teacher says something about boxing children’s ears. 

“Dr. Steiner: ‘If you give them a slap, you should do it the way Dr. Schubert does.’ 

“Dr. Schubert: 'Did somebody complain?"

“Dr. Steiner: ‘No, you are always slapping them.’ 

“Dr. Schubert: ‘When did I do that?’ 

“Dr. Steiner: ‘Well, I mean astral slapping. There are physical slaps and astral slaps. It doesn’t matter which one you give, but you cannot slap a child sentimentally.’” [p. 323 - also see p. 10 and p. 547]

An “astral” slap would consist of psychological and/or spiritual punishment. It would not hurt the physical body, but it could do serious damage nonetheless. Consider what it would be like to have a teacher who “always” slaps the students, astrally or otherwise.

Teachers and students worry about the quality of Waldorf education.

“A teacher: ‘The question has arisen as to whether the Waldorf School provides enough factual material. The students in the ninth grade made a comparison and saw that they do not know enough.'' [p. 332]

A teacher: ‘In many of the subjects, the children do not learn enough to enter the eleventh grade. Many ninth graders are still at the very beginning in English.'" [p. 333 - also see pp. 408-409, p. 688, p. 712, and p. 725]

Shakespeare’s characters are alive in the spirit realm.

“When you make Shakespearean characters living in that sense, you can raise them into the supersensible world where they remain living. Of course, they do not do in the higher worlds what they do on the physical plane, but they remain alive, nevertheless, and they act there.“ [p. 336]


Don’t justify or explain yourself to the students:

“Surely you did not justify yourselves to the students? ... The children will be caught in delusions of grandeur ... You cannot justify your views of the students to the students. That is absolutely out of the question.” [p. 391 - also see pp. 14-15 and p. 237]

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 publicly, 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; for other comments concerning students' parents, see, e.g., p. 87, p. 211, p. 249, p. 321, p. 408, p. 535, p. 625, p. 667, p. 668, and p. 712]
Reports would sidestep the question of academic learning, which Waldorf downplays.

How to combat reports that Waldorf provides a poor education:

“Concerning the parent meeting, you could do that [i.e., have one], but without me. They might say things I could not counter, if I hear something I cannot defend. The things I say here, I could not say to the parents. We need to clear the air, and the teachers must take control of the school again. You do not need to talk about the things not going well ... The two places that could be dangerous for us lie in the following. The one is that people could claim he [a student] could do less than is possible with a calculator. To that, we can say that our goal is to develop the concept of numbers differently. We do not think that is possible with such young children. We will have to go into this business with calculators. The other thing that is dangerous for us is his poor dictation. There, we can simply say that dictation is not really a part of the second grade in our school. The situation is quite tempting for someone with a modern pedagogical understanding. That is how we can most easily be attacked.” [pp. 408-409 - also see pp. 332-333, p. 688, p. 712, and p. 725]

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.

“It would be a good idea if the Waldorf teachers would work on creating decent textbooks that reflect our pedagogical principles. I would not like to see the current textbooks in the classroom. It would be somewhat destructive to put such reading books in the classes. There are, of course, collections that are really not too bad. One such collection is by a Mr. Richter. It is a collection of sagas. It is neither trivial nor beyond the children’s grasp. Even in Grimm’s fairy tales, you always have to be selective, as there are some that are not appropriate for [our] school.” [p. 440]

Standard textbooks contain real knowledge about the real world — precisely what Steiner rejected.

a) The little boy R.R.; and b) 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.

A teacher: ‘Should Miss R. and Mr. W. hold the services?’

Dr. Steiner: ‘They should both celebrate the sacraments. That is an obvious condition for the independent religious instruction.

“‘I would like to say something more. Experience has shown that the Independent Religious Instruction consists not only in what we teach during religion class, not only what we teach through feeling, but that a certain relationship needs to develop between the religion teacher and the student. You can develop that through the celebration of a sacrament. If someone else does the service, then, for the student who receives the sacrament from someone else, a large part of the intangibles necessary for teaching religion are missing between the students and the religion teacher. The reverse is also true. If someone gives the sacrament without teaching religion, that person falls into a difficult position that can hardly be justified. It is easier to justify teaching religion without leading a service than it is to justify leading a service without teaching religion. Through the service, we bring religious instruction out of empty theory. It is based upon a relationship between the religion teacher and the students. As I have said in connection with the sacrament, you should decide.’” [p. 465 - also see pp. 84-86 and pp. 303-304]

The human ear contains a metamorphosed intestine, as it were.

“You need to understand the small bones within the ear, the hammer, stirrup, the oval window, the anvil, as small limbs, as arms or legs that touch the eardrum. A sense of touch enters the understanding of tone. The spiral, which is filled with liquid, is a metamorphosed intestine of the ear. A feeling for tone lives in it.” [p. 469]

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 religion will become unnecessary because of his own teachings, which he claimed are scientific. He called his doctrines "spiritual science."

a) Students should accept whatever their teachers say, without judgment or discussion. b) Direct questions can be answered. c) 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.” 

“The older students often mentioned that we emphasize that the Waldorf School is not to be an anthroposophical school. That is one of the questions we need to handle very seriously. You need to make the children aware that they are receiving the objective truth, and if this occasionally appears anthroposophical, it is not anthroposophy that is at fault. Things are that way because anthroposophy has something to say about objective truth. It is the material that causes what is said to be anthroposophical. We certainly may not go to the other extreme, where people would say that anthroposophy may not be brought into the school. Anthroposophy will be in the school when it is objectively justified, that is, when it is called for by the material itself.” [p. 495 - also see p. 118 and 494]

Because of Anthroposophy’s supreme importance, “the material” will almost always justify including Anthroposophy is every class.

Painful committee deliberations:

“If we had only the proposal of the committee, we would need only to agree to or reject that proposal. Now we have two proposals, and we will have to have a debate about them. If there is another proposal, it should also be made. We created this preliminary committee with a great deal of pain. We believe it made its proposal only after mature consideration. Taking our trust in them into account, we now need to either verify or reject the proposal. The question is whether someone has something to say that is germane to the proposal. Is there perhaps a third proposal? Now the question is whether there is something to be added or whether a third proposal will be made.” [p. 517]

There’s no escaping some problems. Waldorf schools may be no more bureaucratic than other schools, but they may be no less so.

Sugar, parents, and art:

“There are parents who overfeed their young children with all kinds of candy and so forth. When such children come to school, from the perspective of the soul and spirit, and thus also physically, they are concerned only with themselves. They sit and brood when they do not feel enough sugar in their organism. They become nervous and irritated when they have not had enough sugar ... If a child shows too little capacity for synthetic imagining, that is, for constructive imagining where the child cannot properly picture things, if he or she is a little barbarian in art, something common in today’s children, that is a symptom that the metabolic-limb system is not in order. You must, therefore, provide assistance in the other direction, in the area of sugar.” [p. 535]

a) Don’t overestimate the value of intellect; b) use material means on children, since everything material is imbued with spirit; c) remember the gods (plural):

“People today have too little respect for material measures, and they overestimate abstract intellectual measures. We can attempt to correct that modern, but incorrect, perspective, by attempting to show that the divine powers have used their spirit for the Earth in order to fulfill everything materially. Godly powers allow it to be warm in summer and cold in winter. Those are spiritual activities accomplished by divine powers through material means. Were the gods to attempt to achieve through human education, through an intellectual or moral instruction, what they can achieve by having human beings sweat in the summer and freeze in the winter, then they would be incorrect. You should never underestimate the effects of material means upon children. You should always keep them in mind. [p. 536]

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.)

“Whether or not our students learned French would make little difference in the cultural status of the German empire.* In contrast, a major cultural deed could occur if people overcame all the things connected with the false valuing of French in Middle Europe....” [p. 556]

* For more on Steiner's views on Germany, and the Germano-centric purpose of Waldorf education, see "Steiner and the Warlord" and "The Good Wars".

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:

“What keeps  the French language going is the furor, the blood, of the French. The language is actually dead, but the corpse continues to be spoken. This is something that is most apparent in French nineteenth-century poetry. The use of the French language quite certainly corrupts the soul. The soul acquires nothing more than the possibility of clichés. Those who enthusiastically speak French transfer that to other languages. 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.”[pp. 558-559]

This is one of the very few statements made by Steiner that some Anthroposophists find shameful. The editors attached an apology/defense: 

This is one of the very few statements made by Steiner that some Anthroposophists find shameful. The editors attached an apology/defense: 

“Any reader who has read thus far in these transcripts will know how direct and spontaneous they are; but even a prepared reader may be surprised by this session. All along we have struggled, as publishers, with the issue of whether to let the record stand intact or whether to edit it, never more so than in the case of the present conference. After much soul searching and discussion, we have felt that we would better serve by letting the document stand exactly as it is published in German ... Interpretation, like communication, is never a simple matter. It is especially difficult when the issues touch deep into the things that are the most important to us. Without openness, faith, and trust, however, neither true communication nor interpretation is possible. For the sake of these — and readers to come — we leave this passage unedited.”

Childhood games, including military and warlike games, played artistically:

‘I certainly do not want to imply that the old games are very good simply because they come from older times. They need to be replaced. Blind Man’s Bluff or such things are the right thing. Or, A-Tisket, A-Tasket....’

“A teacher asks about marching and singing. 

“Dr. Steiner: ‘These military or war-like games can be done in a healthy way if they are done artistically. What was done where I grew up was pure nonsense. [p. 579]

(The image of singing, marching German children, engaged in "military or war-like games," may give some people pause.)

Hitting people with a sledgehammer, but not negatively:

“I would also like to mention that in the future [during conferences or lectures] we must avoid emphasizing the negative and critical aspects too strongly.* The first mention [i.e., the first negative statement] will not have much influence because the people who heard it will soon forget it unless opposition was lying dormant in their souls. That negative aspect existed in even the best lectures [at our recent conference], and is something we must significantly reduce. I am certainly not against hitting people with a sledgehammer, but we should avoid being negative.” [p. 589]

* From the start, Waldorf schools have sought to present a uniformly sunny and upbeat facade to the outsiders. To some degree, this is central to Waldorf public relations efforts. [See, e.g., "The Upside" and "PR".]

Islands and continents are not attached to the Earth: They float in the sea:

“[A]n island like Great Britain swims in the sea and is held fast by the forces of the stars. In actuality, such islands do not sit directly upon a foundation; they swim and are held fast from outside.”  [p. 607  - also see p. 618]

But shh! Don’t tell such things to students — they will spill the beans:

“We cannot tell them to the students because they would then need to tell them to their professors in the examinations, and we would acquire a terrible name. Nevertheless, that is actually what we should achieve in geography.” [p. 608]

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 children are not yet mature enough to go through the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha contains many things that are more correct than what is written in the Gospels.* I have always extended the Gospels by what we can verify from the Apocrypha. Sometimes there are strong conflicts. When they take up the Gospels, the children must grasp them. It is difficult to explain the contradictions, so if they took up the Apocrypha nothing would make sense anymore. I would simply study the Gospels.” [pp. 615-616 - also see p. 45]

* You can find some of Steiner’s “extensions” and “corrections” of the Gospels in the book THE FIFTH GOSPEL (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995). [See "Steiner's Fifth Gospel".]

The Waldorf teachers are confused by the floating islands, so Steiner repeats the truth: 

“The continents swim and do not sit upon anything. They are held in position upon the Earth by the constellations. When the constellations change, the continents change, also. [p. 618]

a) Curative eurythmy. b) Mood swings. c) Parents.

"A teacher asks about curative eurythmy.

“Dr Steiner: 'We should maintain the principle of not hacking off some part of [the] main lesson and tacking it on somewhere else.'

"A teacher asks about a student who has large swings in mood.

"Dr. Steiner: 'He is not enthusiastic. You'll need to separate him from his mother.'" [p. 625]

a) How to cure tuberculosis in the intestines and pancreas; b) large heads and small:

Dr. Steiner: For cases of tuberculosis in the intestines and the pancreas, put the juice from half a lemon in a glass of water and use that in a compress to wrap their abdomen at night. Give them also the tuberculosis remedies one and two [described by Steiner elsewhere]. As far as possible, they should eat only warm things without any animal fat, for instance, warm eggs, warm drinks, particularly warm lemonade, but, if possible, everything should be warm.
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]

Besides laying down some extremely bizarre educational directives, Steiner also lectured on medicine — to be precise, he promoted quack medicine.

* For more on large- and small-headed children, see the entry for "constitutional types" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.

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”:

“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 [the spiritual ego, a human’s spiritual self]; 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 [i.e., 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.” [p. 649]

I discuss this passage, and other remarks made in the same meeting, in “Secrets".

The dawning intellect in teenagers leads to rowdy behavior.

“[S]omething we could expect at this age is present in the boys, namely very strongly developed intellectual forces. These intellectual forces become apparent at puberty. Particularly with boys, this often arises as a certain subconscious desire to exercise their intellectual strength. It is natural that, when left to themselves, boys see rowdy behavior as the only possibility of expressing those intellectual forces.” [p. 652] 

In Steiner’s view, intellect is almost always suspect. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Specific".]

Waldorf teachers shouldn’t make their classes too Anthroposophical, lest visitors catch on.

“The other problem is that you are often too anthroposophical, like Mr. X. Yesterday, I was sitting on pins and needles worrying that the visitors would think the history class was too religious. We should not allow the history class to be too religiously oriented. That is why we have a religion class. The visitors seem to have been very well-meaning people. Nevertheless, had they noticed that, they could easily have categorized the Waldorf School as being too anthroposophical and of bringing that into the classroom.” [p. 655]

Note that Steiner associates Anthroposophy with religion. Note, also, that he does not tell Waldorf teachers to keep Anthroposophy out of the classroom. He just tells them to tone it down a bit.

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. [See, e.g., "Astrology" and "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.

Oh, and by the way: Genesis 1:26: 
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."

The editors try to cover Steiner for these bloopers, but without much success:

“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]

Anthroposophists really should learn to cut their losses, at least occasionally. Genesis 1:20 does not refer to fish, but Genesis 1:26 does.

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):

The first group are the animals related to the head, namely, the protists, sponges, echinoderms, and ascidians. The second group are the rhythmic animals, the mollusks, worms, articulates, and fish — that is, the middle part of the human being and the head. The third group are the animals of the limbs, so you can see how each aspect is added. Thus, we have the limbs, the rhythmic system, and the head. [p. 660]

Steiner taught that there are three main human physiological systems (which here he associates with types of animals): the metabolic-limb system, the nerve-senses system, and the rhythmic-circulatory system. [See the entries for these terms in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

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. 

“Dr. Steiner: ‘Such people exist, and your task is not simply to rid yourself of them, but to really work with them. I do not believe we should try to influence them. What the mother wants to do is another thing ... There are clumps of fat between the various parts of his brain, so that he cannot bring them together.'" [pp. 667-668]

More on the humours and temperaments, and their limitations:

In my lecture today, I mentioned that we need to find our way past the temperaments. The goal of my lecture was to show how to come to an inner understanding that lies beyond people’s temperaments. I would like to hear about how these misunderstandings due to temperaments arose.  [p. 687 - also see pp. 80-81 and pp. 90-91]

Steiner was almost incapable of admitting his own errors. The “misunderstandings” probably arose from Steiner’s own discussions of students’ temperaments. Go back to p. 80, for example, where Steiner refers to “all four temperaments.” [Also see "Humoresque" and "Temperaments".]

Students in the 12th grade are ill-prepared for graduation; steps the faculty might take:

“A teacher: ‘Which subjects should we drop in the twelfth grade so that we can prepare the students for their final examinations?’

“Dr. Steiner: ‘Sadly, technology and shop, as well as gymnastics and singing. We cannot drop eurythmy or drawing. Religion will have to be limited to one hour, but in the morning. The twelfth grade will take religion for one hour with the eleventh grade.’” [p. 688 - also see pp. 332-333, pp. 408-409, 712, and 725]

The efforts to prepare the students didn’t work out well, as we will see. Also, Steiner disavowed any intention to really prepare Waldorf students to such exams.

a) The Waldorf School should be closely tied to the Anthroposophical Society, but not openly, not formally; b) the ploys that have misled people about the real nature of the Waldorf School should not be tossed away; c) 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. [See “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:

“We need to be clear that Ahrimanic forces [i.e., demonic forces associated with Ahriman] are increasingly breaking in upon historical events. Two leading personalities, Wilson and Lenin, died from the same illness, both from paralysis, which means that both offered an opening for Ahrimanic forces.” [p. 700]

Steiner was a German nationalist. He was deeply annoyed with both America and Russia, which had fought against Germany in World War I. [See “Steiner and the Warlord”.] 

The Waldorf School will not prepare students for their final exams; but should we tell the students and their parents?

Dr. Steiner‘...The question of final examinations is purely a question of opportunity. It is a question of whether we dare tell those who come to us that we will not prepare them for the final examination at all, that it is a private decision of the student whether to take the final examination or not....’

“A teacher asks whether it would be better to have the students take a thirteenth school year at another school and take their examinations there. Should a note be sent to the parents with that suggestion? 

Dr. Steiner‘You can do all that, but our students cannot avoid having to take an entrance examination. The question is only whether they will fail the entrance examination or the final examination.’” [p. 712]

The exams in question were administered by educational authorities outside Waldorf. The point of sending Waldorf students to another school for “a thirteenth school year” (in effect, 13th grade) would be to compensate for the deficiencies in Waldorf schooling.

Waldorf students who took the final exams did badly: 

“We should have no illusions: The results gave a very unfavorable impression of our school to people outside. We succeeded in bringing only five of the nine students who took the test through, and they just barely succeeded.” [p. 725 - also see pp. 332-333, pp. 408-409, p. 688, and p. 712]

Special problems with the children of Anthroposophists:

“I have to admit it is, in a certain sense, very strange that it is particularly the children of anthroposophists who develop so poorly in the Waldorf School. The children who were expelled some time ago were also children of anthroposophists." [p. 782]

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 have reached the end of the book, let’s have our own little exam. Decide what you think about the following:

“The Egyptian astral body was well developed and could, under certain circumstances, observe the etheric body well. Egyptians could see the astral areas of the etheric body particularly well, that is, the Sun, Moon, and stars. That is expressed in the Book of the Dead, in the clear view of life following death. The Persians belong to the same group as the Caldeans.” [p. 789]

If you have any misgivings about this quotation, you may want to reconsider sending a child to a school where such statements are honored as truth.

Children who attend Waldorf schools often receive their "educations" in the type of occultist atmosphere we've seen in FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER. Is this what you want for your children?

Among the startling things we've seen is Steiner's rejection of real knowledge — science and scholarship — and his rejection of the Biblical Gospels. Steiner placed his reliance, instead, of his own "clairvoyant" visions and on such things as ancient superstitions, myths, and fairy tales. He stood knowledge on its head and then knocked it over.

Dear parents: FInd another, better school for your children.

— Roger Rawlings

To read an insider's account 
of life at a Waldorf school
written by a former 
Waldorf teacher,
go to 

For accounts by other 
former Waldorf teachers, 
go to 
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,

For reports by parents who sent 
their kids to Waldorf schools
only to regret it, see 
Also see "Cautionary Tales", "Moms", 
and "Pops".

The following 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, not just certain winged insects. 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 he said 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,
For more about goblins 
(also called gnomes),
see "Gnomes".

Waldorf-style wet-on-wet watercolor painting.

All student art courtesy of 

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,

see "Threefolding".]

Adaptation of a mystical 
Anthroposophical seal, 
reflecting Steiner's interpretation 
of the Book of Revelation. 

"Men will extend their beings, as it were, in the course of times to come, identifying themselves more and more with the world; thus it will become possible to represent them in the form of the cosmos instead of the human form. This you can see in the fourth seal with its rock, sea and columns. What passes as clouds through the world today will offer its matter so that the body of a man may be formed from it, and the forces that today are with the Sun spirits will in future provide men with what will develop their spiritual forces in a much higher way. It is this sun force to which men are striving. Contrary to the plant that sends its head-like roots towards the earth's center, a man turns his head to the sun. He will ultimately unite his head with the sun and receive higher forces. This is to be seen in the fourth seal in the sun's face that rests on the body of clouds, on the rock and columns. In that future time, the human being will have become self-creative."  — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SIGNS AND SYMBOLS (Anthroposophic Press, 1972), pp. 54-55. 

[R.R. sketch, 2010, based on the image 
(Health Research, 1969). 
A more attractive version of this seal 
— surpassing my abilities as a copyist — 
is presented on p. 204 of John Fletcher's 
(Mercury Arts Publications, 1987.]

[Public domain image.]

Humours and their associated temperaments have often been linked to the zodiac. Belief in humours and the four classical temperaments, like belief in astrological powers, is maintained by many Waldorf teachers. [See Humoresque”, "Temperaments", "Astrology", and "Star Power".]

“Here (left) we have the physical body and the ether body [blue]. It fills the whole of the physical body. And here (right) we have the astral body, which is outside the human being at night [green]. At the top it is very small and hugely bulging down below. Then we have the I [yellow]. 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; 
I have altered the colors, indicated within brackets. 
The arrows indicate the return of the astral body 
and I from the spirit realm in the morning.] 


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. — R.R.

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). [3] 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.]

[R.R., 2010.]

The school year at Waldorf schools 

is interspersed with various festivals 

and other special events.

One of these if the "Greek Olympics".
Here is an item from the 
Waldorf Watch "news" page:

[Waldorf School of Lexington.]

Waldorf School Hosts 2011 Olympics”  

• ◊ •

Waldorf Watch Response:

The headline above is perhaps a bit misleading. No, the world’s greatest athletes did not descend on a Waldorf school. Rather, of course, the event described was a small regional affair: kids competing in contests derived from the ancient Greek Olympics — discus, javelin, and so forth.

Waldorf schools often stage such Olympic games. At some Waldorf schools, the games are held annually. Sometimes, the games are confined to students from a single Waldorf school; on other occasions, kids from two or more Waldorf schools come to compete with each other. Typically, the participants are fifth graders, and sometimes things are arranged so that children only compete against other kids who share the same “temperament.”

Why fifth grade? Because, according to Waldorf belief, growing children recapitulate the cultural/racial/historical evolution of humanity, and children in the fifth grade are about at the level of the ancient Greeks.

What are “temperaments”? They are discriminatory and false psychological/physical categories — four classifications of human types. The temperaments are 1) sanguine, 2) phlegmatic, 3) choleric, and 4) melancholic. They are produced by “humours” — fluids in the body: 1) blood, 2) phlegm, 3) yellow bile, and 4) black bile. People who are predominantly influenced by blood are said to have the sanguine temperament (they are upbeat and well-proportioned, but a bit vague and superficial). People swayed mainly by phlegm are phlegmatic (tense, withdrawn, kind of artsy, and often overweight). Yellow bile causes people to be choleric (short-tempered, attentive, bony, stout). Black bile produces the melancholic temperament (slow, low-spirited, questioning, often tall and slender).

The “temperaments” are nonsense. This system of categorizing people became obsolete long, long ago — except that it hangs on in Waldorf schools. The fifth-grade Olympics at Waldorf schools may have some beneficial qualities, but there is no basis for the occult theory of recapitulation, and some critics find worrisome elements in Waldorf Olympics, particularly when students are divided by “temperament.” These critics are troubled by the use of a false system to pigeonhole people, based in part on physical appearance. They fear that children are being taught to judge one another wrongly, and that some children may be psychologically damaged as a result.

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. [4]
In having their students address such gods,
Waldorf teachers are having them address
gods whom they think really exist. 


For more on Waldorf school festivals,

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.]

"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.]



Some Waldorf schools —  especially the smaller ones — have very little formal structure. They often operate as cooperative ventures in which all members of the small staff undertake almost all activities jointly or on a rotating basis. Other, generally larger Waldorf schools have structures that, if depicted on organizational charts, would look fairly conventional: a central administration, perhaps with subsidiary branches, connected by lines of authority or influence to various parts of the school (lower school, middle school, high school, support staff, admissions, athletics...). But such descriptions and charts can be misleading. Often the real structure of a Waldorf school can best be described as a hierarchical set of concentric rings. [5] Members of the inner rings know a good deal more about Rudolf Steiner's doctrines and the Waldorf movement's purposes than do those in the outer rings, and — regardless of any conflicting formal arrangements — usually most of the real decision-making power lies with the members of the inner rings. Members of outer rings have less knowledge and less real power. Teachers and staff in the very outermost rings may have, in a sense, no real connection to the core of a Waldorf school: They do not understand what the school aims to achieve, and they make no real contributions to its work. They are, often, placeholders, people who have been hired to provide a service but whose tenure may be very brief.

The following description will not apply to absolutely every Waldorf school, but it will be accurate for many: 

Floating above the school's power center is Rudolf Steiner (or his doctrines as comprehended by each school's flesh-and-blood leaders). Beneath Steiner is either a single flesh-and-blood (i.e., currently incarnated) leader, or there may be a small, tight band of co-leaders. If a school has a single leader — who may be called the principal, headmaster, or chair; or who may have no official title at all — s/he is the center point of all the circles of the school, exercising great spiritual and administrative authority throughout. If a school has a band of co-leaders, they constitute the innermost ring at a school, the locus of real power within the institution. But authority is somewhat diffused among the co-leaders, and a certain amount of administrative confusion may result.

The leader or co-leaders is/are central to a ring that, in many Waldorf schools, may be termed the "college of teachers" (the collegial Anthroposophists in the school who study Steiner and instruct one another, and perhaps others, about his doctrines). The extent and interior contours of the "college" may be ill-defined. Usually, the college consists of a school's small innermost circle of true believers. However, membership may be extended to other teachers in the school, so that the college may be a larger body, including all of the "initiated" members of the faculty, all or most of the senior and even mid-rank teachers, and various allies of indeterminate rank. (The "initiates" are generally Anthroposophists who consider themselves to possess considerable spiritual wisdom and who are recognized as having such wisdom by their colleagues; not all of them, however, are necessarily leaders within the school. Defining "senior" faculty is difficult, since status or rank within the faculty is often informal and variable; teachers who might seem to hold middle or low rank may actually exercise great influence in the school, while some teachers who appear to have high rank may exercise little real influence.) 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. 

Beyond the college of teachers, there may be several rings of faculty, but for simplicity I'll suggest that there are basically two. The inner of these is a circle of aspiring Anthroposophists (faculty who are in sympathy with Anthroposophy, to one degree or another, and who are either moving toward full commitment or who may take that step eventually). Outside this circle are uncommitted, more-or-less uninformed, and perhaps disaffected teachers (people who took jobs at the school with no real knowledge of, or particular sympathy with, the school's spiritualistic agenda, and/or others who have become alienated and may be looking for the exits).

Outside the circles of teachers may be similar circles of support staff, and outside those there are similar circles of students. Some students (especially ones who started in the school in the earliest grades) may be deeply, emotionally, and even to some degree intellectually committed to the school and its underlying philosophy (even though this philosophy has usually not been spelled out for them in so many words). [6] Then there are kids who might go either way — those who are moving toward acceptance of Waldorfish views, and, outside those, kids who are unlikely to do so. A very slim outer ring of students may consist of rebels (whose removal from the school may be imminent).

Outside the circles of students are similar circles of parents. As a rule, many parents know less about Anthroposophy than the students do (even though the students' "knowledge" may be largely unconscious), simply because the parents have not undergone the conditioning their kids undergo within the school. But here the overall scheme, circles within circles, may break down. Again, I'll have to oversimplify what can be an extremely complex series of relationships. Some parents may be devoted Anthroposophists who sent their kids to Waldorf precisely because they want an Anthroposophical education for them. Some of these may double as faculty members or staff, and some may be enthusiastic volunteers, helping with various school activities. In the ring outside these, other parents may be deeply committed to the school at an emotional level without knowing much about the occult doctrines behind the school — and again some of these may be faculty, staff, or volunteers. In many schools, the largest group of parents may consist of people who like the school just fine but who have neither knowledge of Anthroposophy nor any deep commitment to the school — many of these may have chosen Waldorf not for what it is but for what it is not, e.g., it is not a huge, chaotic public school. Parents in the outer ring(s) may be more or less completely uninformed as to the real objectives of Waldorf education. There is usually no outermost ring of rebellious parents — such parents usually take their kids out of the school ASAP and disappear from view. (Cases where the rebels stick around, however, do sometimes occur, and these cases can become extremely messy. Trying to "fix" a Waldorf school from the inside is generally as hard as trying to fix it from the outside. The school's inner circles will resist mightily. They possess divine wisdom, in their own opinion, and they have arranged things as they wish. Suggestions for reform are generally rejected out of hand.)

— 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. [See Rudolf Steiner, HUMAN AND COSMIC THOUGHT (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1991), p. 50.] [7] 

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. [See Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 5, GA 93a.] [8] 

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, encompassing 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.


A survey of the standard Waldorf curriculum

How they try to do it

Seven of them

How they get that way

The irrational modes of “thought” fostered at Waldorf schools

English classes and history classes in a typical Waldorf school

The central mythology in many Waldorf schools: Norse myths

At Waldorf schools, ignorance is often taken as wisdom

The Waldorf curriculum: the arts, and festivals

How they paint and draw

The Waldorf curriculum: math

The antiscientific nature of Waldorf education

Class journals as created by students at many Waldorf schools

The Anthroposophical take on technology

No [external link]

The Waldorf curriculum: astronomy

Steiner on our solar system or "our universe"


Exploring the fundamentals of Waldorf schooling

Further explorations

Still further explorations

Talks between Steiner and Waldorf teachers

"Practical" tips Steiner gave to Waldorf faculty

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

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

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

— R. R.

A gathering of like minds.
"As Waldorf teachers, 
we must be true anthroposophists 
in the deepest sense of the word 
in our innermost feeling.” 
— Rudolf Steiner, 
(Anthroposophic Press, 1998), 
p. 118.


[1] 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.

[2] 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. (I have edited the following for use here.)

In waldorf-critics@yahoogroups.com, Maura Kwaten (<maurakwaten@...>) asked: [W]hy isn't the [Waldorf] curriculum flexible?

I replied: 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.)

Maura asked: Is the driving force to push Anthroposophy rather than educate well?

I replied: 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. That 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.

Maura asked: 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?

I replied: 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): "I. [E]ach child recapitulates the cultural epochs of all Mankind ... There is, then, a proper time and method for particular subjects to be taught. II. [R]everence, awe and respect for Earth should be fostered. III. The qualitative, as well as quantitative, in all things should be equally developed. IV. Above all, Man is known as a spiritual as well as a physical being." — Waldorf teacher Peter Curran, quoted in WHAT IS WALDORF EDUCATION?, a collection of essays by Steiner, edited by Waldorf teacher Stephen Keith Sagarin (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), p. 21. Cultural epochs are the phases of our recent evolution.

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.

[3] 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."

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.

[5] 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".]

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.

[7] If you want to dig into Steiner's twelve- and seven-part divisions of philosophical positions, see "Philosophy". For his occult interpretation of numbers, see "Magic Numbers".

[8] 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 maha-para-nirvana planes are as described above, but after splitting from Theosophy, Steiner generally folded them into a single plane called the nirvana plane.