America, Germany, and Waldorf


A Distinct if Muted 
German Tone

I want to discuss something that at first glance may seem tangential to the main issues dealt with on this website. The two world wars probably presented a dilemma for at least a few of my teachers. Our Waldorf school was heavily staffed by Germans and German-Americans. I do not know that any of these individuals, or their families, contributed to German military efforts in either world war. And I do not know that any of my old teachers felt allegiance to either the Kaiser or to Hitler. I certainly have no interest in charging any of them with insufficient loyalty to the United States. My point is simply that affection for the nation of one’s birth or heritage is a natural human impulse. Surely, for individuals of German extraction — even those who opposed the German wartime governments — seeing Germany brought to devastating ruin would have been painful. This, I suspect, is why at our school references to the wars often seemed to be tinged with a vague sense of embarrassment, as if in speaking of the wars some rule of correct behavior had been breached.

My father flew for the US Army in Europe during World War II. In seventh grade, I wrote an essay about the air campaign against Germany. When I handed the paper to my teacher, Joseph Wetzl, he frowned and dropped it on his desk as if it were offensive to him. I cannot know whether his reaction stemmed from Germanic staunchness or a spiritualistic pacifism. Nonetheless, I felt guilty, afterward, for submitting such a paper to a German-American.

Our school had a distinct if muted German tone. Here is a partial list of faculty, staff, and close associates of the school who may have been of German extraction (bear in mind that the school was small, so the following names represent a large fraction): Baravalle, Bedding, Benner, Berlin, Fruchtman, Karl, Kaufmann, Meissner, Ritscher, Scherer, Wachsman, Wehle, Weschler, Wetzl, and Winkler. In some cases, there were two individuals in the school — usually husband and wife — bearing the same Germanic surname. A large number of students at our school also had German lineage. A fair percentage of these kids were children of faculty or staff, which meant that sometimes there were three or more individuals at the school having the same Germanic surname. [1]

Waldorf education is, in many ways, essentially Germanic. Rudolf Steiner taught that Germans stand at the forefront of human spiritual evolution, and the wisdom humanity needs now can emerge only through the German people. Steiner said,

“Ever since the Atlantean race [i.e., the form of humanity on Atlantis] began slowly to disappear, the great Aryan Race has been the dominant one on earth.” [2]

And among the Aryans, Germans occupy a special place:

“[T]he German is faced by entirely different [i.e., unique] necessities if he wishes to achieve his mission. He must be educated to this mission...[which is] looking at the world from the most varied points of view. This will be the special mission of the German people ... They shall take hold upon world the German people ... [C]ertain things that I shall touch upon today, for example, in the realm of knowledge, can be evolved only through the German people....” [3]

Here we see Steiner endorsing the notion of German exceptionalism. Steiner taught that all nations and people have "missions," but clearly the German mission is august. Germans have the ability to see complex truths. Steiner describes the special gifts of the German people, who will “take hold upon world culture.” And, crucially, "[C]ertain the realm of knowledge, can be evolved only through the German people....” To his faithful followers, Steiner’s words amount to gospel; they are happy to affirm what he affirmed. To at least some other readers, Steiner's words may seem chilling.


Disguising the True Nature 
of Waldorf Education

Despite the number of “German” adults and children at our school, my impression is that most of the students — growing up in the USA, in the 1950-60s — were disposed to see the world in jingoistic, patriotic, All-American terms: good vs. evil, democracy vs. militarism, the American Way vs. barbarism. This is how most American youth felt in those days, no matter where our parents had been born; it was a simplistic time, full of flag waving. We were especially affected by the patriotic fervor stemming from World War II, a fervor that was only heightened during the subsequent Cold War, which was raging at its most intense while we grew up. Today, Americans still tend to look back on WW II as a righteous crusade: civilized nations opposing barbaric hordes. The Holocaust provided more than ample reason for this view, and for condemning Germany. If, during WW II, American officials knew about the death camps, most American civilians and soldiers did not. The revelation of the camps, coming just before or during the years when my schoolmates and I were children, was horrific. I can remember black-and-white TV documentaries about heroic GIs liberating the skeletal inmates of the camps, scenes of bulldozers pushing corpses into mass graves, scenes of gas chambers and charred ovens. The images were like glimpses into Hell.

For most students at our Waldorf school, America was the epitome of heroism (the home of the brave) and virtue (the land of the free). Like other American kids, we thought America had won both wars almost single-handedly — the sacrifices of the Russians, in particular, were ignored by Americans then, since the Reds had become our new foes. We children received this perspective from virtually every authoritative source we encountered: our parents, movies, TV, radio, magazines and newspapers. (As Waldorf students, we weren’t supposed to watch TV, but most of us could not resist.) The kicker: We were also fed these views, indirectly, at school. Unlike many Waldorf schools, ours attempted to be distinctly “American.” There were American flags in the school, we said the Pledge of Allegiance during school assemblies, and our headmaster asserted repeatedly that Waldorf education is entirely consistent with American values. We were raised in a confusing welter of German/American accents, traditions, and inclinations.

The main reason for the American patriotism in our school lay in the efforts of our headmaster — John Fentress Gardner — to disguise the true nature of Waldorf education. While he did not explicitly say so in class (he hinted, but he didn’t announce), in other forums Mr. Gardner specifically contended that the American Transcendentalists were spiritual antecedents of Rudolf Steiner. After resigning due to a scandal reported in THE NEW YORK TIMES [4], Mr. Gardner wrote AMERICAN HERALDS OF THE SPIRIT (Lindisfarne Press, 1992), about the American Transcendentalists Emerson, Whitman, and Melville. The third appendix deals with “Rudolf Steiner’s extensive and immensely fruitful research.” Mr. Gardner’s thesis was that the American Transcendentalists anticipated — in vague form — spiritual doctrines that Steiner would sharpen and perfect, “lending them the clarity of something fully experienced...” [p. 298].

Linking our school with great American thinkers of the past enabled Mr. Gardner to assure our parents that Waldorf was essentially 100% American:

“...I worked to gain understanding for [the school and its methods]. I minimized the difference between a Waldorf school and other [American] schools ... As soon as fundamental questions began to be answered plainly, wild rumors and frightened guesses quieted down.” [5]

Mr. Gardner’s “plain” answers entailed the following patently false proposition:

“There was nothing in Rudolf Steiner that Thoreau and Emerson and Whitman would not have approved wholeheartedly.” [6]

This claim would be defensible only if the great bulk of Steiner’s teachings (planetary stages of evolution, the magical effects of eurythmy, the incarnated human's four bodies, etc.) were kept hidden and the remainder were reduced to something anodyne, like:

“The task of a truly liberal education...must be to revive and train intuitive faculties, in a modern way, to take their place beside the intellectual. This is the simplest statement of the purpose of Waldorf methods....” [7]

Mr. Gardner's statement is indeed simple, but it is also deeply misleading.


Waldorf Schooling: 

Mythic, Germanic Spiritual Training

Our school generally ignored the unhappy wartime antagonism between Germany and America. History classes focused on ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, and later — briefly, in high school — a patriotic account of the founding of America. The 20th century was rarely present in our classes, except for occasional assertions that Communism was uniquely evil. The world wars must have cropped up somewhere in our studies — I remember that, in high school, I wrote a completely unscientific essay about Einstein and the A-bomb (my thesis: It’s a good thing that the good guys got the bomb first). But I have no memory of the social or political currents of the 20th century receiving any sustained review or analysis in our classes. Much of our study of history came in art history classes, which were nice, but didn’t have much geopolitical content. We followed the development of civilization through the progression of artistic achievement — but we did not follow this as far as modern, cubist, or abstract art. Our view of the world was almost Victorian, as if history had been suspended at around the end of the 19th century. We were schooled in a general antipathy to all things modern. Science, technology, TV — everything that smacked of the real, modern world — was (and still is) held in disfavor among Anthroposophists. [8]

Moving this possibly tangential discussion toward its close, let’s hear more from Steiner about the role of the German people in humanity’s development. 

“[I]t is necessary for us to...make ourselves strong to meet those Ahrimanic forces. [Ahriman, according to Steiner, is a powerful demon who opposes human evolution.] It is a matter therefore of finding the way towards understanding the spiritual world with the very same powers we also use to understand the outside world. That, of course, is the way...that is inwardly bound up with the whole mission of the German people.” [9] 

At least some of our teachers were probably quite able to accept Steiner’s statements about the special mission of the German people. 

Where does all of this leave us? In microcosm, my personal experience is that these matters count. During my high school years, I was the confused product of two conflicting delusions. I was a delusional, ill-informed, junior Anthroposophist-in-training; at the same time, I was a delusional, ill-informed, junior American super-patriot. Waldorf education produced a deep estrangement from reality, an estrangement extending to most areas of life.

But that's just my microcosm. Here’s the macrocosm. Steiner said that ancient humans possessed great clairvoyant powers. [10] Becoming clairvoyant again is an important goal for modern humanity, but we must do it in an epoch characterized by materialism and "thinking" that occurs in the material brain. [11] Blonds have the best brains. [12] Generally, Aryans excel at thinking — it is their special field of endeavor. [13] Germans (who are high Aryans) understand the future of human evolution particularly well [14], and Germans’ mission — in service to human evolution — entails comprehending the world from many angles. [15] Steiner founded Anthroposophy, an esoteric system that organizes spiritual wisdom gleaned from around the globe. [16] 

Anthroposophy is designed to fulfill the German national/racial mission: seeing the world from many angles and consolidating the results. In establishing an Anthroposophical educational system in Germany — that is, the first Waldorf School, with Anthroposophy at is base — Steiner intended to educate Germans precisely as he said they should be educated: 

[The German] must be educated to [his] mission....” [17]

If Waldorf education has validity anywhere, it is in Germany. The validity of Waldorf education outside of Germany is extremely doubtful. (And, actually, Waldorf's validity even within Germany is doubtful. Can German kids receive genuine benefits from an “education” steeped in esotericism? But this is a question for Germans to decide for themselves.)

If Waldorf education is to have even a shred of validity outside Germany, it needs to be thoroughly revised in order to reflect the values of the cultures into which it is transplanted. And the revision would have to be genuine, not the adoption of mere disguise, as was done at my old Waldorf. But genuine revision is rarely undertaken in the Waldorf universe. The basic Waldorf curriculum, which includes heavy doses of Germanic/Norse mythology, is followed with few variations in Waldorf schools all around the globe. 

Waldorf schooling is a form of mythic, Germanic spiritual training. It inappropriate in America and elsewhere, all around the globe. Its value even in Germany, today, is extremely doubtful. Steiner's doctrines are largely absurd. Rearing children in accordance with these doctrines — in America, Germany, or anywhere else — is largely absurd. It is, indeed, worse than absurd. It can harm children profoundly. It should not be done. IMO.

— Humbly submitted,

Roger Rawlings


“German brainpower has achieved things in certain areas by applying mechanical powers ... [T]hese mechanistic and demonic powers can be overcome on the basis of our particular spiritual mission. Then, however, a German may easily get himself misunderstood as he comes to see...that it is not his function to stop at the purely mechanical element that is of such great service to him also in the present day, with the challenges presented by the war [i.e., World War I]. He must not stop at what is merely mechanism, for then he would merely create demons. No, he must develop powerful forces within him that can boldly face these demons. This means we have to stand in the spiritual world, not blindly but in a way that arises from, and is guided by, conviction.” — Rudolf Steiner, DESTINIES OF INDIVIDUALS AND OF NATIONS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1987) p. 81.

"[I]t is important to look at Rudolf Steiner's picture of a central mission of the German folk spirit: to explore the human soul, to recognize that it exists above and beyond its reflection in the body, to implement its ability to wake up out of ordinary consciousness, and to realize the 'I's' own free spiritual activity, which is both individualistic and in harmony with that of other people." — William Lindeman, introductory note to Rudolf Steiner's THE RIDDLE OF MAN (Mercury Press, 1990), GA 20.

Anthroposophy stands for "a courageous struggle against the most dangerous enemies of the German spirit, of the German soul, of the German people." — Anthroposophist Erhard Bartsch, “Rudolf Steiner und die Aufgaben des deutschen Volkes”, July 7, 1940. [See Peter Staudenmaier, "Organic Farming in Nazi Germany", ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY 18 (2013), pp. 383-411.]

To understand the following, you should know that Steiner said the "I" is the human spiritual ego, our spark of divinity. Also, he taught that the human soul actually consists of three souls. The highest of these three is the "spiritual soul."

"Dr. Steiner nearly always characterized the development of the human ‘I’ as such — finding its balance between the three soul-members, each and all, as the essential mission of the German people ... [H]e assigns to them especially the Spiritual Soul's development, in its more inward, spiritual aspect." — George Adams Kaufmann, THE SOULS OF NATIONS (Anthroposophic Publishing Co., 1938), lecture 10.

“Anthroposophy as Steiner taught it focused crucially on ideas like ‘the German spirit’ and ‘the German soul’ and ‘the German essence’ and ‘the German mission’ and so forth ... What many anthroposophists sought in the 1920s was a 'spiritual revolution' in Germany for the sake of the whole world. Here is an example from anthroposophist Ernst Boldt’s 1923 book FROM LUTHER TO STEINER: ‘The “mobilizing” of Spirit and intellect that has been going forward in Germany, under Rudolf Steiner, ever since 1900 is now almost complete; at the given moment the “troops” standing in readiness will carry out their appointed parts in the operations and strike a blow for German Idealism, for the German Spirit, and for German Culture, doing so against the pseudo- and un-German barbarism, as exemplified by Russian Bolshevism, Roman Catholicism, and Jesuitry, against Roman Law and against Anglo-American Materialism and Imperialism, all of which have sought to make their homes on our soil.’” — Peter Staudenmaier, , March 25, 2009.

Our current age is marked by the "struggle for power between the Anglo-Saxon and the Germanic cultures for dominance ... Steiner says 'I told you some time ago that in the secret brotherhoods, especially those which grew so powerful from the times of James I onward, it was taught as an obvious truth that the Anglo-Saxon race — as they put it — will have to be given dominance over the world in the fifth post-Atlantean period [i.e., the present, the fifth age since Atlantis sank].'” — Rudolf Steiner, quoted by Christopher Bamford in SPIRITUALISM, MADAME BLAVATSKY, & THEOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), note 2, p. 295.

The Darkest Period

The Nazis took power in Germany in 1933. Soon thereafter, a Nazi official sympathetic to Waldorf schools produced a report saying, in part, 

"The goals of the Waldorf schools coincide in their fundamental principles with what the Führer [i.e., Adolf Hitler] has called for in education...." — Quoted by Peter Staudenmaier in his 2010 dissertation, "Between Occultism and Fascism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race and Nation in Germany and Italy, 1900-1945", p. 336. 

The same report said 

"The educational approach of the Waldorf schools grows out of the German essence ... [T]he basic principles of Waldorf schooling are much closer to the ideas of National Socialism than may appear at first glance." — Ibid., p. 337.

Today Waldorf education is promoted by Anthroposophists worldwide, offered to children in many nations, and the claim is often made that the schools equip children for freedom. But in 1934, a Waldorf advocate writing in behalf of the parents at the first Waldorf school said 

"[T]he school is committed to participation in the rebuilding of the Reich [i.e., the German empire] ... Toward this goal, the school is committed to active collaboration, putting itself at the service of the leaders of the school system of the new Reich [i.e., Hitler's Third Reich] ... We declare, on the foundation of the New State, that we recognize the Free Waldorf School as an outstanding and reliable institution in accord with the New State." — Ibid., pp. 338-339. 

Another Waldorf advocate wrote that a goal of Waldorf education was to produce loyal citizens: Waldorf schools aim to 

"place stalwart and duty-conscious people into the nation and the state." [p. 340.] 

We should note that at the time, under the Nazi dictatorship, individual freedom was out of the question in Germany. We should also realize, of course, that Waldorf representatives were striving to placate the Nazis in order to preserve the Waldorf movement. Their statements must be read in this context.

Some Nazis strongly opposed Waldorf schools, and some Waldorf school teachers and officials strongly opposed Nazism. But there was collaboration between some Nazis and some Waldorf personnel. Staudenmaier summarizes the situation thus: 

"Many Waldorf documents from the Nazi period proclaim allegiance to the fatherland, to the nation, to the German essence, and even to National Socialism as the embodiment and vehicle of the long-awaited spiritual renewal of Germany. While much of this rhetoric may have been motivated at least in part by tactical considerations, the underlying national mythology is consistent with the pre-1933 anthroposophical view of the historical and cosmic mission of the German spirit." — Ibid., p. 333.

Racially, Culturally, and Spiritually Ineligible

Steiner's conception of the German national mission

and the primacy of Germany in human spiritual evolution

are reflected in the strange events surrounding 

Steiner's decision to break from Theosophy 

and set up Anthroposophy as an 

independent spiritual movement.

Many Theosophists had come to view a young 

Indian boy named Krishnamurti 

as the reincarnated Christ. 

Steiner vigorously objected.

Here is how historian Peter Staudenmaier 

has told the tale:

Making sense of Steiner's indignant attitude toward the Krishnamurti affair requires taking seriously Steiner's statements about the racial character of Asians, the future direction of racial evolution, the spiritual significance of skin color, the obsolete and inferior nature of Eastern spiritual traditions, and other factors.

While Steiner did hold that no living person could be the reincarnation of Christ, he did not leave the matter at that. He pointedly ridiculed the notion that this "Hindu lad," as Steiner called Krishnamurti, could embody the Christ. According to Steiner, Hindus had long since played out their evolutionary function and were now leftovers of former spiritual grandeur, an anachronism trapped in decline. Krishnamurti was neither white, European, nor Christian, and thus failed Steiner's test of adequacy for cosmic leadership. At the same time, according to reports from his theosophical associates, Steiner may have encouraged his own followers to think of Steiner himself as the new appearance of Christ.

More important still, the Krishnamurti affair was the occasion for Steiner's final break from the mainstream theosophical movement, which was headquartered in India, and this break, the founding moment of the anthroposophical movement as such, did indeed involve racial ideology. In the midst of the acrimonious split, in 1911, a close colleague of Steiner, anthroposophist Günther Wagner, wrote that both Steiner himself and his followers believed that "since we are the most advanced race, we have the most advanced religion" (1911 letter from Wagner quoted in Norbert Klatt, Theosophie und Anthroposophie: Neue Aspekte zu ihrer Geschichte, 102). That is an important part of why it was such an affront to the anthroposophist mindset when the rest of the theosophical movement cast its lot with Krishnamurti, who was neither racially nor religiously suited to the role, in their eyes.

Steiner's general statements on the significance of race can also help illuminate the incident. His basic stance was straightforward enough: "One can only understand history and all of social life, including today's social life, if one pays attention to people's racial characteristics. And one can only understand all that is spiritual in the correct sense if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin." (Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde, 52) This criterion was of particular importance when Steiner addressed the ostensible spiritual-racial contrast between Europeans and Asians.

Steiner claimed that it was the special destiny of the Germanic peoples to fulfill the "mission of white humanity" by integrating the spiritual and the physical, and that this integration of the physical and spiritual is what accounts for white skin. This integration has failed in non-white peoples, Steiner explained, referring specifically to "the Asian peoples." In Asians and other non-whites, according to Steiner, the spirit "takes a demonic character and does not completely permeate the flesh, there white skin does not appear. Atavistic forces are present which do not let the spirit come into complete harmony with the flesh." (Steiner, The Christ-Impulse as Bearer of the Union of the Spiritual and the Bodily, 8)

Steiner was explicit about this fundamental contrast: "How could one fail to be struck by the profound differences in spiritual culture between, let us say, the peoples of Europe and Asia! How indeed could one not be struck by the differences connected with the colour of the skin?" The purportedly different levels of development were central to this contrast: "How can we fail to realise that the Asiatic peoples have retained certain cultural impulses of past earthly epochs, whereas the Euro-American peoples have advanced beyond them?" (ibid., 6)

Steiner further held that it is the task of "the German people" to spread "spiritual life," which "the Oriental" has lost; the Oriental must now receive spiritual guidance from the Germans (Steiner, Gedankenfreiheit und soziale Kräfte, 141). Steiner taught that "the soul life of the Orient" is not fully part of "normal human life," explicitly equating "normal human life" with "our own, in the West"; the spirituality of the East in contrast is "decadent" and "certainly in decline" (126). He faulted English-speaking Theosophists for looking to India for "ancient oriental wisdom" and for "borrowing completely from the oriental Indians," whose springs of wisdom had long since run dry (130).

The problem, in Steiner's eyes, was not merely an Asian lack of originality and creativity; for Steiner, "the Oriental thinker" is not at the same level of development as "European spiritual culture"; it is only in the West that the seeds of the future are to be found. (132) The decadent and declining features of Indian spiritual life, he insisted, are wholly inappropriate for Europeans. (133) "And it is an example of decadence in the West, of abandonment of all the good spirits of European humankind, that there are many people today who seek to shore up their European spiritual life by absorbing the Oriental essence." (137) Steiner attributed "the purest and cleanest form of thinking" to "the Germans," who are indeed the carriers of "the future of humanity" (142); but this future can only be realized by "our own spiritual striving, not by borrowing from the Oriental" (141).

Steiner sharply contrasted "the Eastern school" from his own "western school" of esotericism, presenting the difference in racial terms: "But this oriental form of truth is worthless for us western peoples. It could only obstruct us and hold us back from our goal. Here in the West are the peoples who shall constitute the core of the future races." (Steiner, Aus den Inhalten der esoterischen Schulen, 221) "The dying races of the East still need the Oriental school. The Western school is for the races of the future." (ibid. 227)

In his book Christus und die menschliche Seele, Steiner discusses the role of "racial evolution" at length, particularly the cosmic differentiation of humankind into racial groups representing varying stages of spiritual progress. The book's second chapter, a lecture from May 1912 (in the midst of the heated intra-theosophical dispute over Krishnamurti), includes a three-page disquisition on the relationship between "race development" and "soul development," explaining that more advanced souls incarnate in "higher races," while less developed souls incarnate in "subordinate races." This process of continual racial-spiritual progress eventually results in "the dying out of the worse elements in the population" (93). Steiner then segues into a comparison of Indian and European spiritual traditions, emphasizing the differences in the "physical incarnation" between these two streams; the "Christ impulse," he explains, played the central role in differentiating the European from the Indian orientation (98).

Then there's Steiner's lecture "The peoples of the earth in the light of spiritual science," published shortly after Steiner's death in the anthroposophical journal Die Drei, vol. 5 no. 9 (December 1925). Here Steiner has quite a bit to say about "the Oriental peoples" and their spiritual practices, which pale in comparison to the spiritual culture brought forth by "the German nation" (651). According to Steiner, the Germans already possess, as part of their "ordinary characteristics," those spiritual achievements that "the Indian strives toward as his ideal of the superhuman." Hence "the European," with his "natural endowment," stands "a stage higher" than "the Oriental" (652).

Taken together, such sources and the numerous others of comparable content carry a consistent message. This lengthy list of assumptions about Indian spiritual traditions, combined with the presumption of European superiority, helps explain anthroposophy's origins in the dispute concerning Krishnamurti and the proper direction of the worldwide theosophical movement. These teachings, which Steiner repeated many times, indicate that aside from his reservations about a physical reincarnation of Christ, he could not conceive of a new "World Teacher" who did not emerge from the German people, heralds of the new age.

In Steiner's view, Krishnamurti was racially, culturally, and spiritually ineligible for the role assigned to him by Besant et al. When it came to discerning the appropriate form for advancing the Christ Impulse, anthroposophical race doctrine was a decisive factor. For further examples of Steiner's negative assessment of Asian spiritual traditions in European contexts, see among others Steiner, Luzifer-Gnosis, 370-71, Steiner, Grundelemente der Esoterik, 108-115, and Steiner, Westliche und östliche Weltgegensätzlichkeit, 226-39.

— Peter Staudenmaier, "Steiner and Krishnamurti"

Anthroposophy, which often seems so sweet, 

is actually tainted with 

violence and traces of militarism.

[See "Violence", "War", and "The Gods".]

Indeed, Rudolf Steiner taught that in our time, 

the god who directly

oversees human evolution is Michael, 

the warrior god, the Archangel of the Sun.

[See "Michael".]

Not coincidentally, Michael is the patron saint 

of the German reich —

Steiner revered Michael much as he did 

most other things German,

seeing in them man's greatest 

spiritual advancement.

In this context, it is significant to 

note that Steiner was close to

Helmuth von Moltke, the chief of the 

German general staff

at the beginning of World War I.

Although von Moltke could justifiably 

be termed a war criminal,

Steiner defended him stoutly.

German victories in all spheres,

even in warfare,

would carry mankind to 

new spiritual heights.

[See "Steiner and the Warlord".]

"Rudolf Steiner’s racial theories have attracted attention in recent years both in public debate and in the academic world. Taking his starting point in the theosophist racial doctrine and in contemporary theories of evolution, especially Ernst Haeckel’s theory of development, Steiner elaborated a comprehensive theory in which various races and cultural epochs were given their places in a hierarchy and were understood within a developmental perspective. In the present era [Steiner taught] the relevance of the races is shrinking and they will indeed disappear at some date in a distant future. But until that happened, the white race would be the leading race. Equally important is his understanding of the cultural epochs and the historical tasks that he meant were given to different ethnic groups. In this regard, he attached a special importance to the Teutonic ethnic groups and, with his German national orientation, Steiner idealized first and foremost the Central European or German culture and national genius." — Jan-Erik Ebbestad Hansen, "The Jews – Teachers of the Nazis?" ( 1/29/2016.


Adapting Waldorf schooling to cultures and nations outside central Europe requires some mental gymnastics. At my old Waldorf school in the USA, this meant — as I have indicated — combing through American literature for ideas that might conceivably seem consistent with Steiner's doctrines. It also meant celebrating the American Indian, contrary to Steiner's teachings. Such revisionism is possible for Anthroposophists because Steiner encouraged his followers to develop their own powers of spiritual perception. He expected faithful Anthroposophists to independently confirm the results of his own "exact clairvoyance," but in fact he opened the door to schisms.

Steiner taught that America is a peculiarly Ahrimanic place — an idea American-born Anthroposophists have some trouble accepting, since it would taint themselves as well as the students in American Waldorf schools. White settlers were motivated largely by greed, Steiner taught, and they produced a materialistic, scientific culture that is demonic. 

“America was discovered under the influence of the greed for gold, under the influence of a purely materialistic culture....” — Rudolf Steiner, SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 67. 

This perverted culture found fertile soil in America. 

“This is the region where, through the prevailing external conditions, above all a relationship is developed with the mephistophelian-ahrimanic nature.” — Ibid., p. 69. 

The original Americans, the aboriginal "Indians," descended from abnormal humans who were unable to evolve properly, or so Steiner taught. 

“[I]t was the normal human beings that were...the most capable of evolving.. [Abnormal] peoples whose ego impulse was developed too strongly...became...the Red Indians of America." — Rudolf Steiner, THE BEING OF MAN AND HIS FUTURE EVOLUTION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981), pp. 118-119.

Thus, the overall picture Steiner painted was bleakly negative: America is the home of abnormal people who cannot evolve properly, and greedy, materialistic newcomers, all operating within the sphere of the terrible demon Ahriman.

Americans understandably bridle at this image. Some elements of the image are accurate — American culture includes wide strains of materialism, certainly — but others are grotesquely biased, even racist. American Anthroposophists therefore try to right the balance. American Anthroposophists tend to credit Native Americans with an affinity to nature that, while reflecting a bygone stage of evolution, nonetheless offers wisdom for white Americans to embrace. 

"It is so interesting that the white man's civilization has been studying nature for hundreds of years, and the more it studies it, the less it learns ... [T]he Indian can show the way. If it is only the brain and not the heart that is listening for nature's message, her deeper teachings will not be learned." — John Fentress Gardner, quoted in RESPECT FOR LIFE (Waldorf Press, 1974), p. 185, edited by Sylvester M. Morey and Olivia L. Gilliam.

J. F. Gardner, a white American Anthroposophist, was able to distance himself slightly from Steiner and praise Native Americans — as long as he found in their culture affirmations of Steiner's fundamental views on science, the heart, and the brain. In effect, he "honored" Native Americans by depicting them as noble savages, attuned to nature through a consciousness that is heartfelt, "natural," intuitive, and not overly reliant on the brain. (For more on these matters, see "Light and Dark" and "Thinking Cap".) [18]

America isn't really so bad, you see. Or so say we Americans.

[For more on America as described by Steiner, see "America".]

 Salvaging German Culture and Civilization

"[I]n January 1933, another Austrian brought forward his view of reform of the whole person for a whole society, and his vision of cultural renewal. His, too, was a program presented as the answer to the crisis born of World War I. His, too, was the promise of deliverance from Versailles [i.e., the onerous 1919 Treaty of Versailles] and restitution of [Germany's] self-confident strength. Like Steiner, Adolf Hitler's vision was one that claimed to overcome the disintegration of Germany and salvage German culture and civilization. In this important respect, the ideological differences between Hitler and Steiner were by no means obvious. Admittedly, the Nazi ideology was clearly opposite to Waldorf. The Steiner movement placed emphasis on what might be termed its libertarian dimensions: individual growth, self-governance of a body of teachers and independence from the state. Yet, Waldorf and National Socialism were at the same time curiously consonant in other essentials: passion for German culture and regard for the virtues of being responsive to a leader."  — Ida Oberman, THE WALDORF MOVEMENT IN EDUCATION FROM EUROPEAN CRADLE TO AMERICAN CRUCIBLE, 1919-2008 (Edwin Mellen Press, 2008), p. 766.]

A 37-page letter was prepared by Waldorf representatives, arguing that Waldorf education recognized the special nature and mission of the German folk soul, a key Nazi tenet. 

The letter “contained items intended to demonstrate the ideological integrity and successes of Waldorf, e.g., excerpts from a lecture Steiner had given in 1915 on 'Germanic Soul and Germanic Spirit' ... [Waldorf teacher Ernst] Uehli’s effort to win the National Socialists government’s good will is most apparent in his stress of the ‘German’ character of Waldorf pedagogy. The Waldorf school did concentrate on raising German youth to be spiritually reverential, physically healthy and capable of taking responsibility.” — Ibid., p. 123.

For more on the extremely contentious issue

of ties between Waldorf schools and Nazism,

see "Sympathizers?"

For information about Ahriman and Lucifer,

see "Ahriman" and "Lucifer".

For more on warfare in Steiner's doctrines,

see "Warand "All vs. All".

"The Waldorf schools were born in the same world-historical hour as the National Socialist movement. Rudolf Steiner rooted the schools in German soil, German language and German spirit, as the seedling for the education of the youth, through which Germany and thus the world will be healed." — Anthroposophist Fritz von Bothmer, addressing the parents council at the first Waldorf school in 1936. [See Peter Staudenmaier, BETWEEN OCCULTISM AND NAZISM (Brill, 2014), pp. 190-191.]



Wet-on-wet painting by a Waldorf student

[courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools].

War between America and Germany.

From a chapel window, Mighty 8th Air Force Museum:

US bombers attacking Germany.

My father flew such missions.

"[P]art of the mystery culture of ancient Atlantis made its way, not toward the East, but toward the West, to the lands of America discovered later on by the Europeans. There the more ahrimanic part of the irregular post-Atlantean culture lived itself out. Whereas the luciferic part lived on more in Asia, the ahrimanic part worked more in America." — Rudolf Steiner, INNER IMPULSES OF EVOLUTION (Anthroposophic Press, 1984), lecture 5, GA 171. [R.R. sketch, 2013.]

Ahriman as depicted in a mural intended for the Goetheanum;

see, e.g., 


(SteinerBooks, 2011), p. 147.

[R.R. copy, 2014.]

This is a version of one of Steiner's seven mystic seals 

based on the seals of the Apocalypse. 

For Steiner's followers, the winged being depicted 

is not an angel but purified humanity

shown subduing evil, embodied as a dragon.

Conquering evil, ennobling ourselves, 

moving toward divinity —

these are glorious goals. 

The question in evaluating Steiner's teachings

is whether those teachings are likely to bring us 

closer to attaining such goals

or whether they would divert us into 

dark, deluded dead ends.

[R. R. sketch, 2010, based on one in Rudolf Steiner,


(Health Research, 1969), p. 4.]

Here is a message posted by historian Peter Staudenmaier in August, 2016

Earlier this summer somebody sent me a recent dissertation on Waldorf education:

Sheila Curson, "A Very Moral Minority: An Investigation of the Influence of Rudolf Steiner's Esoteric Weltanschauung (worldview) on the Purpose and Principles of Waldorf Education" (PhD dissertation, Macquarie University, School of Education, 2013) 

The full text can be downloaded here:

The chief point of the dissertation is to show that all aspects of Waldorf education are directly linked to Steiner's esoteric worldview and that Waldorf schooling is driven by what Curson calls Steiner's esoteric Christian mission. In the words of her Abstract:


"The principal objective of education as Steiner perceived it was to prepare the child's bodily 'temple' for possession by the spirit which would lead to a lifetime of moral thought and action in the image of the Christ archetype. As such, Steiner saw education as a 'salvation' and current teachers in Waldorf schools have referred to their task as preparing the child to become a vessel of the Solar Christ. The methodological practices Steiner devised for the Waldorf School were found to be based on the techniques fundamental to the meditative discipline of Anthroposophy and teaching content incorporated esoteric 'truths' via an 'inner' or 'occult' curriculum intended to create a worldview commensurate with Steiner's teachings." (x) 

There are a number of important problems with the dissertation, but what is fascinating is that her approach is sympathetic; Curson is a long-time Waldorf teacher, albeit not an anthroposophist. She presents her findings not as a critical account but as a response to critiques: "A greater transparency in understanding the philosophical and theoretical basis of Waldorf pedagogy would clearly go some way in answering the vocal criticisms Waldorf education has endured in recent times." (7) 

Here is part of her conclusion:


"Steiner was first and foremost the leader of an esoteric society who came to believe that the social ideals arising out of a Rosicrucian Brotherhood would bring stability and coherence to the tumultuous times of post-war Germany. Through educating the children of the working class to be able to realise their spiritually gifted talents and capacities, prepared to love their 'duty', Steiner preached that it would be possible to prepare the citizens and leaders of a new German social order based on anthroposophical principles." (313)

Steiner's mentor was Helena Blavatsky, a founder of Theosophy. Steiner was bowled over by Blavatsky's book, THE SECRET DOCTRINE. Most of Steiner's teachings stem from Blavatsky's, although he increasingly distanced himself from her as he worked to create his own occult movement, Anthroposophy.

Here is an intriguing Q & A:

“What is occult ‘imprisonment’, and why was it inflicted on Madame Blavatsky?”

“There is a certain operation of ceremonial magic by means of which a wall of psychic influences may be built up around an individual who has become dangerous, which has the effect of paralysing the higher activities, and producing what is called the ‘repercussion of effort’, and the result is a kind of spiritual sleep characterised by fantastic visions. It is an operation seldom resorted to even by Brothers of the Left [i.e., evil brotherhoods], and in the case of Madame Blavatsky was disapproved of by almost all European occultists. [sic] On the American brotherhoods alone rests the responsibility for what has since happened.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE TRANSCENDENTAL UNIVERSE - quoted in Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT MOVEMENT IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), p. 102.

Perhaps the point needs amplification.

"H. P. Blavatsky...wanted to play the foremost occult role. She did not want to be just a higher medium; she wanted to direct the thing herself. She entered an American order where they told her many secrets which were only given to those in high grades. Nevertheless, this American order had a very definite intention and in time she received into her consciousness a great deal of knowledge. A whole new situation was now created. Here was a personality who knew much of the occult knowledge which the secret orders had preserved and protected. Here was a situation which had never occurred before ... [She] tried to set up certain conditions to which the American order could not agree, because if they had done so terrible confusion would have come about.

"Therefore, through very dubious means, they put her in what is called occult imprisonment which one achieves through certain ceremonial magic in which the soul which you are imprisoning can have ideas which go to a certain sphere and then are reflected back. Everything that develops in the person can be seen by themselves but it is not possible to share it with the external world. It only works within itself; it is an occult imprisonment. This particular ceremonial magic leading to occult imprisonment was done in order to try to make H. P. Blavatsky harmless. In the year 1879 there was an association of occultists of various lands and it was decided that an occult imprisonment was to be placed over Madam Blavatsky and she then lived for a number of years in real occult imprisonment. It then came about that certain [Asian] Indian occultists freed her from this occult imprisonment...." — Rudolf Steiner, THINGS IN THE PAST AND PRESENT IN THE SPIRIT OF MAN  (transcript, Rudolf Steiner Archive), lecture 3, GA 167.

Steiner taught that Americans can scarcely comprehend true Anthroposophy. In America, he said, false forms of spiritualism thrive. 

War brings death — but, according to Steiner, death is not so bad. According to Steiner, we live over and over, reincarnating many, many times. Here's how it works, depicted schematically in the image below. We are born (upward-pointing arrowheads) and lead an Earthly life; then we die (downward-pointing arrowheads). Following death, we lead a looping life in the spirit realm, under the influence of six gods (Spirits of Form). The process goes on and on, lifetime after lifetime, and death after death. Steiner explained all this in his book OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE:

"If we think about man as he is between birth and death, we can envisage that in regard to his evolution he stands under the workings of the Spirits of Form. This too is set forth in OCCULT SCIENCE. But if we then think of his life from death until the next birth, an essential fact must be taken into consideration, namely, that the spheres of activity of these Spirits of Form fall as it were into seven categories, only one of which is allotted to Jehovah, namely, that concerned primarily with the life between birth and death. The six other categories of the Spirits of Form guide the life between death and a new birth.

"This can be discovered only if we investigate the life between death and a new birth. Just as Jehovah has to do with the Earth and actually made the sacrifice of going to the Moon in order from there to neutralise certain things in Earth-evolution, so have the other Spirits of Form to do with the other planets. But this fact must be cloaked, must be kept secret if it is desired that the conception of repeated Earth-lives shall be withheld from men; and moreover the concealment must be really effective, it must be brought about in such a way that men do not become alive to the secret of which I have just spoken. For if they are diverted from a true vista of the life between death and a new birth, their attention will be rivetted, without this secret, upon the life between birth and death and they will allow mediums to talk them into believing that the life after death is simply a continuation of the life on Earth." — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT MOVEMENT IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), pp. 71-72. [R.R. sketch, 2010, based on the one on p. 71.]

[R.R., 2010.]

Rudolf Steiner was a German nationalist. He found special virtues in the German people, just as he praised German culture, which he said was the highest yet evolved. None of this prevented him from lecturing Germans or pointing out what he said were shortcomings in contemporary Germany — after all, his goal was to convince Germans to mend their ways, accept his guidance, and join the Anthroposophical movement.

Here are some more of Steiner’s statements on such matters. (For definitions and explanations of occult terms Steiner used, see “The Semi-Steiner Dictionary” and “The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia”.)

“The only possible interpretation of the external struggle between German and [opposing forces] is that the German element lies in the middle and serves as an anvil for both East and West ... In the East we are confronted by the luciferic and in the West by the ahrimanic principle. In Central Europe we have been assigned the immensely important task of finding the equilibrium between East and West. Therefore, the plastic group in our building in Dornach [i.e., the monumental sculpture showing Christ, Lucifer, and Ahriman] must represent what we consider the most significant spiritual task of our age, that is, finding the equilibrant relationship between Lucifer and Ahriman. Only then will it be recognized how the Christ impulse was meant to influence evolution on earth, when the Christ is not simply brought to preeminence, but is known in the proper way as exemplary force in balance with Lucifer and Ahriman." — Rudolf Steiner, CHRIST IN RELATION TO LUCIFER AND AHRIMAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1978), a lecture, GA 159. Steiner described Germany as being, in effect, the Christ of nations. Just as Christ stands between Lucifer and Ahriman, balancing them and preventing either of them from gaining control of humanity, so does Germany stand between Luciferic Russian and Ahrimanic America. [See “Steiner and the Warlord”.]

•• ◊◊◊ ••

“[W]hereas in British regions the instinctive basis for the evolution of the consciousness soul is present, the German Middle European must be educated into the consciousness soul if he is to make this active within him in any way. He can achieve this only through education. So, since the epoch of the consciousness soul is at the same time the epoch of intellectuality, the German who is to bring the consciousness soul in any way into activity within himself must become an intellectual person. Thus, the German has sought his relationship to the consciousness soul primarily by way of intellectuality, not by way of the instinctive life. Therefore the tasks of the German people have been attained only by those who have taken in hand in a certain way their own self-education. The persons of mere instinct remain untouched by this inner activating of the consciousness soul and remain behind in a certain sense.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHALLENGE OF THE TIMES (Anthroposophic Press, 1941), lecture 6, GA 186.  Steiner, an intellectual, generally deprecate the intellect, which he said cannot bring us ultimate Truth. [See "Steiner's Specific".] But he taught that intellect is needed in our current stage of evolution, and here he indicates that Germans — by cultivating intellect — are the natural leaders of our current stage of evolution.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

“My purpose [was] to rouse the conscience of the German people, to give expression to that which could be perceived even then, as fundamentally lacking in the spiritual life of the German nation ... [A] persistent turning away from [its proper] spiritual goal implies for the German people the loss of their own Self, a breaking away from the Spirit of the Nation ... The German nation is not characterized by that living sense for immediate reality, or the outward aspect of Nature, which enabled the Greeks to create their wonderful and imperishable works of art. Among the Germans there is instead, an unceasing urge of the spirit toward the cause of things, toward the apparently hidden, deeper origins of the Nature which surrounds us. Just as the Greek spirit found expression in its wonderful world of plastic forms, so the German, more concentrated within himself, less open to Nature but on that account more with his own heart, cherishing intercourse with his own inner world, sought his conquests in the world of pure thought. The way, therefore, in which Fichte and his successors looked upon the world and life was truly German.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE COSMIC NEW YEAR (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., a938), lecture 5, GA 195.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

“[T]he Germans are a non-political people and not in the least endowed for politics ... The British folk character is power. The German folk character is...the shaping of thoughts, that which is not in a certain sense of the solid earth [i.e., German thought is directed to the supernatural]. In the British folk character all is of the solid earth, but just trace the intellectuality of the Germans ... [T]here is nothing more beautiful than what has been formed through Goetheanism, through Novalis, through Schelling [i.e., great German thinkers], through all those spirits who are truly artists in thought. This makes the Germans a non-political people.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHALLENGE OF THE TIMES (Anthroposophic Press, 1941), lecture 6, GA 186.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

“Some years ago I said that the Englishman is something, and that the German can only become something [i.e., the Englishman has fulfilled his mission, the German has yet to fulfill his mission]. This constitutes the great difficulty in German culture. This is the reason why in the culture of Germany and of German Austria only single individualities stand out prominently who have taken themselves in hand, whereas the masses do not will to occupy themselves with thoughts ... It is for this reason that the population of Central Europe fell under the domination of such lust for rulership as that of the Hapsburgs and the Hohenzollerns [German kings] ... [T]he German is faced by entirely different necessities if he wishes to achieve his mission. He must be educated to this mission.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHALLENGE OF THE TIMES (Anthroposophic Press, 1941), lecture 6, GA 186.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

“[A]ncient Germanic legends set forth the destiny of the Aryan tribe ... At the beginning of the Middle Ages an ancient legend found its way into German poetry — the legend of the Nibelungs [i.e., Germanic nature spirits dwelling in the Earth]. This kind of legend contained the deepest feelings of the folk-soul. Only those who really study the folk-soul can conceive what lived at that time within the heart of the German nation. These legends were the expression of deep inner truths, of great truths ... These sagas describe the setting of the Atlantean period [i.e., the time of Atlantis] and the rise of the fifth root-race out of the fourth. This is, at the same time, the development of the intellect. The human intellect, or self-consciousness, did not exist among the Atlanteans. They lived in a kind of clairvoyant condition. We find the first traces of a combining intellect in the fifth sub-race of the Atlanteans, the primordial Semitic race, and this intellect continued to develop within the fifth root-race. Self-consciousness arises in this way. The Atlantean did not say “I” to himself as forcefully as a human being belonging to the Aryan race. After the fall of Atlantis this ancient civilisation was brought over into the new one; the Europeans are a surviving branch of Atlantis. A contrast now arises between the Germanic spiritual civilisation and the initiates who work in an occult way and inspire the intellect in its external form [i.e., true Germans use intellect in a inner, spiritual form, unlike materialists who abuse intellect].” — Rudolf Steiner, RICHARD WAGNER IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (General Anthroposophical Society, 1937), lecture 1, GA 92.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

“[The awakened German] observes primarily how ahrimanic and luciferic powers, the former rushing in from the physical world and the latter rushing in from the spiritual world, are engaged in a conflict with each other. He sees how this struggle must be observed, since it is really a continuously fluctuating struggle and it is never possible to say where the victory will fall. Such a person becomes acquainted in the presence of the Guardian of the Threshold with what constitutes the real basis for doubt, what is present in the world as a continuously inflamed and undecided struggle, what brings one into a state of wavering but at the same time educates one into looking at the world from the most varied points of view. This will be the special mission of the German people in spite of everything possible to the contrary. They shall take hold upon world culture from this side, even as the German people. Through its special character as a people, certain things that I shall touch upon today, for example, in the realm of knowledge, can be evolved only through the German people.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHALLENGE OF THE TIMES (Anthroposophic Press, 1941), lecture 6, GA 186.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

“We can scarcely understand the fundamental character of the Germanic Scandinavian mythology [i.e., Norse myths], unless we touch once more upon the five successive ages of civilization in the post-Atlantean epoch. These five ages of civilization were brought about by the migrations which took place from the West to the East, so that after this migration was finished, the most mature, so to speak, the most advanced human beings passed into Indian territory and there founded the sacred primeval Indian civilization. Later, nearer our own age, the Persian civilization was founded, then the Egyptian-Chaldæan-Babylonian, then the Græco-Latin civilization, after which followed our own [the apex today, the Germanic/Scandinavian civilization] ... The Germanic Scandinavian peoples had to experience, with their fully-developed ‘ I ’, what the inhabitants of ancient India had passed through in a dull state of consciousness, without the ‘ I ’ being present ... [T]he German peoples lived within [i.e., they had an intense inner life], it was their own direct personal concern. Their ‘ I ’ had wakened at the stage of existence when the Folk-spirits and those spiritual Beings who even yet are under the Folk-spirits, were still at work in their souls. Hence these peoples were nearest to that which we know as the events that took place in old Atlantis ... [T]he figures of the gods, which placed themselves before the souls of the Germanic Scandinavian peoples, were the figures of the gods who worked directly upon his [the German/Scandinavian's] soul, and that which he could observe by direct perception, as the development of the human soul out of the cosmos, that was something which he directly experienced. “ — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK-SOULS (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1929), lecture 8, GA 121.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

“The situation in which a thinking person finds himself the moment he must say one thing [i.e., a thesis] is true and the other [i.e., its antithesis] also true — to recognize this situation in its whole fruitful character was really granted to the German peoples alone by reason of their folk character. This is not understood at all anywhere else in the world ... The whole world has been trained to be able to hold firmly to one-sided truths ... Only by seeing the two things together is it possible actually to see reality.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHALLENGE OF THE TIMES (Anthroposophic Press, 1941), lecture 6, GA 186.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

 “The German-speaking people are brought by their politics to something that really does not pertain to them, something whereby they are easily led into a dark channel, into untruthfulness, especially when they surrender themselves to their instincts. This never happens, however, to those persons with the appropriate self-education who are striving toward intellectuality. They actually represent the German people. The others have simply not arrived at what constitutes the real nature of the German people and are living below that level.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHALLENGE OF THE TIMES (Anthroposophic Press, 1941), lecture 6, GA 186.



Anthroposophists have an equivocal attitude toward intellect. Rudolf Steiner deprecated intellect, saying that it cannot bring us ultimate truth. [See “Steiner’s Specific”.] Intellect is cold and unfeeling, he said; it is alien to spirit, which we approach through emotion and apprehend through clairvoyance. 

On the other hand, Steiner taught that today, living in the lowly physical realm, we need to develop our intellectual powers. At our current level of development, we need to master intellect in order to continue our evolutionary advancement in higher, more spiritual future incarnations. White people, he said, are humanity’s intellectual pathfinders — unlike members of other races, whites lead “thinking lives” in which they make extensive use of their “forebrains”. [See “Races”.] Among whites, Steiner singled out Germans, teaching that they possess unusually great intellectual capacities.

Steiner himself was an intellectual, a man of imposing intelligence whose books and lectures are conceptually demanding. When studying his work, his followers must cudgel their brains; comprehending a Steiner text is an intellectual challenge. Analyzing such texts, and forming opinions about them, requires readers to make strenuous mental efforts. Anthroposophists who proceed to write exegeses or original extensions of Steiner’s works become shining intellectual stars in the Anthroposophical firmament.

In general, Steiner’s followers credit themselves with high levels of intellectual apprehension. They congratulate themselves on possessing wisdom that most other people have not yet attained. The word “Anthroposophy” means knowledge or wisdom of the human being. Anthroposophists believe that they, virtually alone in all the world, are endowed with this knowledge and wisdom.

Outsiders, evaluating Anthroposophy from a distance, may see the matter quite differently. Not beguiled by Steiner, and arguably capable of objective judgment, they often express surprise that any apparently sensible person could embrace Steiner’s teachings. [See “Inside Scoop”.] Certainly, much Anthroposophical lore seems patently false; Steiner’s work is marked by a profusion of factual and logical errors. [See “Steiner’s Blunders” and “Steiner’s Illogic”.] 

Viewed in this light, the intellectual efforts of Steiner and his followers lose their claim to serious consideration. They are revealed to be vain exercises in rationalization; clever but futile efforts to erect a vast esoteric superstructure out of parts that prove to be absurdities. [See, e.g., “Say What?” and “Steiner Static”.] Only within a self-enclosed, intellectually isolated community — not to put too fine a point on it, a cult — could the fictions and fallacies of Anthroposophy be mistaken for truths.

Ultimately, Rudolf Steiner was correct when he warned his followers not to think too hard about his teachings. The intellect, he said, can destroy Anthroposophy.

“A man who would receive Anthroposophy with his intellect kills it in the very act.” — Rudolf Steiner, LIFE, NATURE, AND CULTIVATION OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain, 1963), p. 15.

Steiner meant that cold rationality is antithetical to spiritual awareness; it cannot rise to the august heights of esoteric wisdom. But another, plainer interpretation (one that may have eluded Steiner) forces itself on us. Anthroposophy consists of falsehoods. Applying clear-sighted, objective analysis to Anthroposophy exposes these falsehoods and, in the process, causes the entire edifice to collapse.

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



An examination of Steiner’s central text

Steiner’s extraordinary, sci-fi-like narrative of human evolution.
The tale of our ancient past and our distant future, as told by Steiner. It continues in:

Steiner promoted love, sort of

Surprising violence in Steiner's kindly vision

And badder, and baddest


How to, he said


Steiner’s occult conspiracy theories


Back-room maneuvers

Some illustrations on each page here at Waldorf Watch 
are closely connected to the essay on that page; 
others are not — they provide general context. 


[1] The surnames of my classmates indicate that nearly half — and perhaps more — had German ancestry. I do not know why any of my classmates' parents chose Waldorf for their children.

In addition to the names I have listed, the names of many other teachers and students at the school were quite likely derived from German roots. The following may or may not have been of German extraction: Blumenthal (from the German, Blumen or flowers, and Thal or valley), Gardner (perhaps English, from Gardener, or German, from Gartner), Miller (perhaps English, or perhaps from the German, Mueller), Perl (originally Jewish, then German: after places called Perl or Berl, or possibly drawn from Middle High German, Perle), and Rose (English, Scottish, French, or German: from the name of the flower, originally from the Latin, rosa).

A complete list of all the Germanic surnames borne by students in the school would be very long indeed. (My 1964 graduating class had 26 members. German, or near-German, surnames among us included Bertenthal, Bloede, Bull, Drew, Heine, Kaufmann, Lakow, Notis, Oppenheim, Schmitt, Spinrad, and Werner. Even if we discount names having possible Germanic origins — e.g., Smith (Schmitt) and White (Weiss) — we can see that most of the class hailed, at some remove, generations back, from Germany.) 

[2] Rudolf Steiner, THE TEMPLE LEGEND (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), p. 201.

[3] Rudolf Steiner THE CHALLENGE OF THE TIMES (SteinerBooks, 1979), pp. 207-209. Steiner praised Germans for a form of doublethink: The ability to affirm two or more disparate “truths” simultaneously. 

To put the German mission in context: Steiner also spoke of the “missions” of other peoples. Take one example:

“Among the English-speaking people self-seeking and political goals simply coincide. It leads to the fact that all politics performed in an utterly naive fashion — and this does not justify attaching any blame to a politician of the English-speaking peoples — can be used by the self-seeking person to fulfill thereby the mission of the English-speaking people.” — Ibid., p. 197. 

The tone, here, is condescending and dismissive, the interjected qualification notwithstanding.

[4] See “Unenlightened”.

[5] John Fentress Gardner, “The Founding of Adelphi’s Waldorf School,” ONE MAN’S VISION: IN MEMORIAM, H.A.W. MYRIN (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1970), p. 48.

[6] Ibid., p. 46.

[7] Ibid., p. 48.

[8] See “Steiner’s ‘Science’”.

Televisions and computers are often deplored or even banned at Waldorf schools. Of course, most people would agree that too much time spent in front of a TV or computer is bad for children. But the Waldorf position is rooted in occultism. 

“Eliminating television is not only a practical concern. There are spiritual reasons for eliminating television. Some members of the Waldorf community believe that a being called Ahriman [a demon] is especially present in electronic media such as computers and the Internet. This might help explain why Waldorf is so adamant about eliminating television for children, even when the American Association of Pediatrics says limited TV is OK for kids over 2 years of age.” [Ahriman and Television, .] 

Ahriman is the devil in Zoroastrianism. For Rudolf Steiner and his followers, Ahriman is, in effect, Satan — and he shows up in such devices as TVs and computers. 

• “Whatever the merits of certain inventions, they show the face of Ahriman. Under such headings one could consider all sorts of mechanisms but in particular such appliances as television, radio, cinema and the thousand and one things dependent on electricity.” — Roy Wilkinson, RUDOLF STEINER, Chapter 6, “Forces of Evil”

• "[T]he stored program computer [provides an] incarnation vehicle capable of sustaining the being of Ahriman.” — David B. Black, THE COMPUTER AND THE INCARNATION OF AHRIMAN (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1981), p. 33.

• “Ahriman finds...favourable conditions [for himself] especially in the world of the computer and digital industry.” — Anthroposophist Sergei Prokofieff, “The Being of the Internet,” PACIFICA JOURNAL (Anthroposophical Society in Hawaii), no. 29, 2006.

There are good reasons to restrict TV and computer time for kids; but at Waldorf schools there are also wacky reasons. (I last checked the websites referred to here on March 3, 2009. It is interesting to note, in passing, that Waldorf advocates are willing to use the demonic Internet for their own good purposes.)

[9] Rudolf Steiner, THE DESTINY OF INDIVIDUALS AND OF NATIONS (SteinerBooks, 1986), p. 78. 

Steiner asserted that Germany and its allies had a special mission in World War I: The Central Powers occupied a Christlike position, resisting the evils of two demons, Lucifer and Ahriman. Central Europe, by this accounting, played a messianic role in the war. 

“Steiner sees a parallel between Christ’s central, but equalizing position [between Lucifer and Ahriman] and Central Europe’s mission in World War I. He implies that Germany’s and Austria’s militarism and political intransigence alone did not lead to war against the world powers in the East (Russia) and the West (France, England and, since 1917, the United States). According to Steiner, World War I was the earthly expression of a struggle between luciferic forces in the East and ahrimanic forces in the West, and it was Central Europe’s destiny to mediate between these forces.” — Peter Mollenhauer, introduction to Rudolf Steiner's lecture, “Christ in Relation to Lucifer and Ahriman” (Anthroposophic Press, 1978), GA 159.

[10] E.g., “People, however, who have preserved a certain nature-sense, i.e. the old clairvoyant forces which everyone once possessed....” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 63. [For more about Steiner’s views on cognition, see “Thinking Cap” and “Steiner’s ‘Science’”.]

[11] “[T]he essential characteristic of the fourth post-Atlantean period was that human powers of intellect and feeling were strengthened by being cut off from direct interaction with the world of soul and spirit. The souls who incarnated then and greatly developed those powers then carried the results of their development over into their incarnation during the fifth period.” — Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), pp. 386. The fourth period is the historical stage before our own, the fifth. “Incarnation” reflects Steiner’s borrowed doctrines of karma and reincarnation. We will at attain a higher sort of clairvoyance before too long: “[W]hen the sixth period begins, humanity will have been able to reacquire the non-sensory perception it possessed in a dusklike way in earlier times — but now on a higher level....” — Ibid., p. 389.

[12] “Blond hair actually bestows intelligence. In the case of fair people, less nourishment is driven into the eyes and hair; it remains instead in the brain and endows it with intelligence.” — Rudolf Steiner, HEALTH AND ILLNESS, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1981), pp. 85-86.

[13] “[A]t the present time it is the task of the Aryans to develop the faculty of thought and all that belongs to it.” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (SteinerBooks, 1987), p. 46.

[14] “Germanic mythology, from the way in which it was developed out of the native powers of the Archangel, is in its pictures closely akin to the anthroposophical conception of the world such as it shall grow to be in the course of time for all mankind.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 123.

[15] “... [L]ooking at the world from the most varied points of view ... [C]ertain things...for example, in the realm of knowledge, can be evolved only through the German people.” See again the final paragraph of the first section of this essay

[16] E.g., RUDOLF STEINER (Western Esoteric Masters Series), anthology edited by Richard Seddon (Berkley: North Atlantic Books, 2004, general editor’s preface by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke), p. 7. [Also see Unenlightened”.]

[17] The book ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION consists of the final lectures Steiner delivered at the first Waldorf school. Concluding these lectures, Steiner explicitly tied Waldorf education to "the sun of German spiritual life" and to the needs of "modern civilization," a civilization that he often said had reached its apex in Central Europe — that is, in Germany. Waldorf education thus is intended to fulfill the needs of the children who most embody the spiritual evolutionary forces of the age: German children. 

"We may say that the sun of German spiritual life shining in Schiller and Goethe in the moral sphere should shine down especially in the actions of those teachers and educators of the present who understand the task of this their own age [i.e., Waldorf teachers] ... Based on anthroposophy, this education serves, in the most practical way possible, the deepest needs and conditions of our modern civilization. The people of Central Europe can hope for a future only if their actions and thoughts arise from such impulses." — Rudolf Steiner, ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION, Foundations of Waldorf Education, (Anthroposophic Press, ), pp. 73-78.

[18] Steiner alluded to Rousseau's concept of the noble savage; he found truth in it, while also indicating that it will become obsolete. 

“Now the epoch of the Consciousness Soul recognizes that there are so-called civilized men, and others who are extremely primitive — so primitive that Rousseau was captivated by their primitive condition and elaborated his theory of the ‘noble savage’. In the course of the epoch of the Consciousness soul this differentiation will cease.” — Rudolf Steiner, FROM SYMPTOM TO REALITY IN MODERN HISTORY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1976), p. 74. 

Steiner was discussing the present historical epoch. The consciousness soul is the lowest division of our soul nature, prevalent now.

[R.R., 2017.]