"The Waldorf school must succeed; much depends on its success. 

Its success will bring a kind of proof of many things in the 

spiritual evolution of humankind that we must represent."

— Rudolf Steiner








I WENT TO WALDORF



Waldorf Education,

by One Who Endured It



by Roger Rawlings


Addenda by Margaret Sachs,

Dan Dugan,

and Peter Staudenmaier





This essay is a greatly abbreviated version of the seven-part report that begins with "Unenlightened". 

If you have read that report, you probably don't need to read this —

please skip ahead to the Afterword, then go on to other pages at this Web site.




I.


From ages seven to eighteen, I attended a strange school that was devoted to a secret, mystical belief system. I’m talking about the Waldorf School in Garden City, New York. The curriculum of the school was based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, a European mystic who, among other astonishing pronouncements, prophesied a worldwide racial apocalypse. Being a student at that school was a weird experience, yet today there are perhaps 1,000 allied Waldorf schools worldwide, which means that many thousands of children are repeating, in one form or another, my schoolboy experiences.


Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) believed in a hierarchy of spirit worlds that are inaccessible to normal human senses but that can be perceived through clairvoyance. Having served for some time as leader of the German Theosophical movement, in 1912 Steiner established his own religious system, which he dubbed Anthroposophy. [1] Like Theosophy, Anthroposophy is an amalgam of spiritualistic beliefs gleaned from around the world. In 1919, Steiner was invited by the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany, to establish a school for the children of the factory’s employees. The institution Steiner created became the prototype for all the Waldorf schools that have followed.


Steiner's intentions for Waldorf schools were definite. Staffed by true believers, the schools should promote Anthroposophy — although the ties between the schools and the religion should be concealed from most outsiders.


◊ “One of the most important facts about the background of the Waldorf School is that we were in a position to make the anthroposophical movement a relatively large one. The anthroposophical movement has become a large one.” [2]
 

◊ “As far as our school is concerned, the actual spiritual life can be present only because its staff consists of anthroposophists.” [3]

◊ “As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” [4]

 “[We] need to make the children aware that they are receiving the objective truth, and...anthroposophy has something to say about objective truth ... Anthroposophy will be in the school.” [5]

◊ "[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." [6]


The Waldorf school I attended was a lovely place, with caring teachers, and pleasant, carefully selected classmates. For the most part, I enjoyed my years there. The school was small: twenty or so students at each grade level. The ambiance was close and comfortable. As Steiner would have wanted, our Waldorf was a religious school, but with a twist: It hid its faith. The school projected the image of a nonsectarian, arts-intensive preparatory academy with a progressive curriculum. This appearance undoubtedly led many parents to enroll their children without realizing what they were letting them in for: covert training in Anthroposophy. Even after enrollment, families found Waldorf’s disguise hard to penetrate. We students memorized no passages from holy books, we sang from no hymnals. Yet a strange aura hung about the school. There was a pervasive but unspoken spiritualistic vibe in almost every lesson, in almost every activity. If it was hard for most parents to detect, we students all felt the vibe to one degree or another. It was in the air we breathed, it defined the tenor and subtext of our days. Ultimately, it shaped and colored our educations more effectively than if priests were delivering sermons to us.


The mystical core of Waldorf was kept well hidden — only rarely did anyone get a clear glimpse of it. But on a single, dramatic occasion, the core was startlingly exposed. This occurred several years after I graduated — and long before I’d fully grasped what had been done to me at the school. In early 1979, THE NEW YORK TIMES ran an article about my alma mater: “‘Psychic' Ex-Student's Influence Shakes Waldorf School.” [7] Coming upon the article in a library, I was galvanized. THE TIMES revealed that a former Waldorf student had started claiming that he had paranormal powers — he could converse with spirits. And, shockingly, several teachers — including the headmaster, the former headmaster, and the high school principal — accepted his story and began deferring to him as a clairvoyant sage. The result was that they ceded control of the school to the young man and his “spiritual contacts,” turning to them for supernatural decisions in matters large and small, ranging from curricular matters to deciding what records could be played at school dances. When word of this remarkable administrative arrangement inevitably leaked, the occult beliefs of the school’s leaders emerged, fleetingly, into plain view.


The scandal nearly ripped the school apart. Scores of parents, appalled to learn what had been going on, yanked their kids out. The school seemed doomed. Nevertheless, after considerable tumult leading to the firings and/or resignations of those who were most deeply implicated in the scandal, our Waldorf survived. It is still in business today, graduating class after class. I don’t know how little or how much the school has changed since my day (I attended from 1953 till 1964). That’s not my point. I want to offer an account, here, of my experiences as a Waldorf student so that parents may understand what to look out for if they consider sending their children to such a school. Some Waldorf schools may hold Steiner at arm’s length; others cling to him tightly. In either case, check to be sure that you understand and approve the agenda of the school you are considering.


II.


Ours was a school of secrets. Our teachers — most of whom I admired — did not spell out their spiritualistic goals for us. Nonetheless, Waldorf’s curriculum persistently, artfully sought to shape us in conformity with Steiner’s mystic beliefs. It is only now, in long retrospect and after considerable research, that I can give a clear account of how and why it was done.


The educational process at Waldorf was circumspect and subtle. Instead of teaching us explicit doctrines, the Anthroposophists on the faculty typically tried to lead us by indirection. They sensitized us to the supernatural, and then they worked, quietly, to nurture in us a feeling of intuitive connection to the spirit realm. Their conception of that realm was largely determined by visions Rudolf Steiner claimed to have attained through clairvoyance.


Our school days were pleasant — mellow and tranquil. There was scarcely any unruliness or rude behavior at Waldorf. Pranks and mild rebelliousness were not completely unknown, but they were rare. (Incorrigible troublemakers were weeded out during the application process or they were expelled.) Arriving at the school each day was like entering a refuge from worldly turmoil. The morning began with a prayer, although no one called it that — we called it a "morning verse." In the lower grades, after reciting the "verse," we had classes about myths and Bible stories (Steiner believed that myths are true clairvoyant reports of the spirit world, whereas the Bible is almost true, needing to be reinterpreted in light of his own teachings). Interspersed with these supernatural lessons we studied math and geography and history: regular subjects. We had no textbooks — we copied lessons written on the chalkboards for us by our teachers. Reading was not emphasized in the lower grades. We had no “Weekly Reader,” no “Dick and Jane.” We laid our heads on our desks and listened as our teachers recited or read to us — often tales of the magical or mystical. Norse myths, in particular — the mythology of Germany and northern Europe. The gods Odin and Thor and Loki were our companions throughout our Waldorf years.  [For more on the use of myths, especially Norse myths, in Waldorf schooling, see "Oh My Word" and "The Gods".]


At other times of the day, we knitted, and crocheted, and played simple woodwind instruments en masse. Sometimes we merely gazed about while our teachers spoke. The teachers urged us to imaginatively identify with whatever we studied or saw — to feel the life-force coursing through a tree, or absorb an eagle’s noble spirit, or experience the meaning of a boulder. In art classes, we were taught to produce misty watercolor paintings with no straight lines or clear definitions. There was something otherworldly about the images we created, bearing no resemblance to ordinary physical reality, yet completely unlike the stick-figure cartoons kids often produce. The teachers didn’t say so, but our paintings were in effect talismanic representations of the spirit realm as described by Steiner.


In dance classes, we performed “eurythmy,” a form of bodily movement that looks a bit like slow-motion modern dance but that was actually intended to teach us the proper stances to manifest spiritual states of being — calling upon influences from our past lives and preparing the basis for our future lives. We did eurythmy while manipulating therapeutic copper rods and holding our pelvises strictly still. We were made to feel that eurythmy had an especially strong spiritual component. Our teachers didn’t need to articulate their beliefs about such matters; their tone of voice and facial expressions conveyed the seriousness of the tasks they set us. The eurythmy instructors made a particularly powerful impression on us. Sometimes we did eurythmy for our parents during school assemblies. These performances were almost invariably solemn, freighted with spiritual significance. In my class’s first public eurythmic performance, coming in about the third or fourth grade, we enacted the creation of the world — the emergence of light, the separation of light from darkness, the separation of dry land from the waters, and so on. We portrayed angels and archangels and the fulfillment of God’s commands. I played the role of God Almighty.


By the time we reached the upper grades, our spiritual conditioning was fairly well advanced and our curriculum became somewhat more conventional. We had a few textbooks now — although sometimes these were simple collections of primary texts: historical documents from US history, for instance, with little editorial commentary. Our teachers told us what to make of the texts. For physics and chemistry, we had books of "experiments" that we followed, in the school's small science lab, like recipes. Grammars and dictionaries became permissible in language classes. In art classes, realism was increasingly permitted, and our dancing now included some ballroom instruction.


But Waldorf’s essential nature remained. Throughout most of each day, throughout most of the curriculum, the spiritualistic vibe persisted. Eurythmy persisted. Misty watercoloring persisted. Norse myths persisted. We sat through lessons on the shortcomings of science and the failings of modern technology. [For more about science instruction at Waldorf schools, see “Steiner’s Science", “Lesson Books”, and “Neutered Nature”.] Our math classes were infused with Platonic idealism: The numbers, operators, and geometric figures we worked with were, we learned, rude shadows of their true, perfect counterparts residing in an ideal, supersensory region. In literature classes, we read carefully selected novels having themes consistent with Anthroposophy [8], interspersed with works of supernatural and even theological content: THE ODYSSEY, THE DIVINE COMEDY, PARADISE LOST — and, naturally, an anthology of myths from around the world, featuring (naturally) Norse myths. Most of the works assigned to us were literary classics, and as such they were perfectly defensible as high school reading matter. Our reading list was, in fact, impressive; most parents would be delighted if their kids were assigned any one of these works, and at Waldorf we read several such. But bear in mind what these works meant to us. From the earliest grades on, we had been fed a steady diet of myths and fabulous supernatural tales. Each new supernatural story built on the others, confirming us more and more in the otherworldly perspective our teachers wanted us to adopt. Gods and giants and fairies and goblins and demons and angels and cyclopses and... They danced attendance on us, and we on them.


In brief, our teachers were astute in choosing class materials that would support Anthroposophy, if only tangentially, without raising parents’ suspicions. The crucial element was the commentary given to us in class by our teachers. We read no critics, we received no outside views. The only interpretation we received was supplied by our teachers themselves, who gave everything a slow Anthroposophical backspin. The line between literature and history blurred; distinctions between fact and fantasy evaporated. Spirituality of a vague, unorthodox sort hung always in the air as the vibe ran quiet trills along our rows of desks. It is amazing how much can be conveyed in a few choice words by true believers who hold positions of authority. (Try a thought experiment: What if most of the tales and texts presented during your schooling were mystical, spiritualistic, and/or religious? And what if the interpretations of these works given by your teachers conformed to the beliefs of a strange, mystical, spiritualistic cult? Your education would largely amount to indoctrination in that cult's vision of reality.)


Intimations of the great beyond were subtly, recurrently present in most of our studies — and Christ became increasingly central. Our headmaster guided us in reading spiritualistic essays: Ralph Waldo Emerson’s SELECTED WRITINGS, for instance, and Thomas Carlyle’s ON HEROES AND HERO-WORSHIP. I still have my copies of these books, in which I see that I dutifully underlined passages honoring Christ and praising “Christianism.” Our teachers rarely acknowledged their interest in Christ, explicitly, but His overwhelming significance in their beliefs was hard to miss. We were encouraged to read disguised Christian parables by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who were members of a coterie known as the Oxford Christians. We had a chorus comprising the entire high school — during my senior year, our biggest number was Handel’s “Messiah.” The central event of each “nonsectarian” year was the Carol Sing on a December evening. Students, parents, faculty, and alumni filled the candlelit auditorium, which for the evening became a kind of chapel. The Sing was our community bonding experience. It was unmistakably Christian (all the carols were traditional birth-of-Jesus songs — no secular ditties about Santa Clause or reindeer or snowmen), and it always culminated in “Silent Night” — which most of us sang in English but some sang in contrapuntal German. [The "Christianity" at Waldorf schools is distinctly heretical, stressing doctrines that have no basis in the Bible. See "Was He Christian?"]


III.


The effects of Waldorf’s educational program gradually accumulated in our heads and hearts. After I had been at the school only a few years, the notion of trying to see the world clearly had lost almost all meaning for me. Everything seemed to me symbolic rather than concrete — although what the symbols stood for was vague. Everything had its hidden deeps.


A booklet written by our headmaster, John Fentress Gardner, throws light on the worldview that Waldorf encouraged. Mr. Gardner discusses “the art of education developed in Waldorf Schools.” The booklet includes such statements as the following: “Is not the contrast between mountain and sea a cause as well as an image of deep contrasts in the moral experience of mankind? Mountains define, but by the same act they also divide. They teach integrity, but may go further to instill antipathy.” The language is more elevated than any that our teachers would have used with us, but the message is very familiar to me: Nothing is what it is, it is always something else, something higher, or lower. Accordingly, it is foolish to think that a mountain is merely a towering mass of rock and earth — it is a manifestation, a lesson, an image bearing on our moral experience. Mr. Gardner also writes, “Understandably, many teachers today [at conventional secular schools] do not recognize that the world-content has something to give, through completely experienced thought, to every power of the human soul. Their training has not led them to appreciate that within each of its facts the apparent world conceals many levels of truth....” Properly trained teachers at Waldorf schools don’t make that mistake: They always direct attention away from the “apparent world” to the many concealed “levels of truth” in order to empower the human soul. They have their eyes on what lies beyond — real or otherwise. And that is the key: real or otherwise. Peering deeply, seeing beyond superficial appearances is, of course, wise. Indeed, it may be considered the essence of wisdom. But you must see what is really inherent in the phenomena you study — you must not imagine “hidden truths” that are mere figments of your own imagination. Steiner's followers often commit precisely the error of substituting fancies for facts. They “perceive” occult states and events that do not actually exist. They fantasize, and they lure students into their fantasies.


I should stress that not everyone at our Waldorf school was an occultist. Most of the students, lots of the parents, and even a fair number of the teachers seemed to be regular folks. And there were a few apparent fence-sitters, teachers and parents who seemed to sense something spiritually alluring about Waldorf without fully committing themselves to it. But among the faculty, undeniably, there were also the others, the true believers: individuals who always seemed to be trying to peer through the thin tissue separating the physical realm from the spiritual (as they might have put it). They were serious individuals, mainly, who sometimes got faraway looks in their eyes — yet they also had a sort of steel in them, a sense of sureness. They possessed holy secrets, keys to cosmic truth. 


Sometimes some of the secrets were partially revealed. Surprisingly, at least a few of the secrets seemed to involve race. During twelfth grade, my class was taught biology by our headmaster, Mr. Gardner. I don’t know what credentials he had in biology, if any, but because he was headmaster, his authority was unquestioned. I respected him greatly — he was tall, dignified, articulate — just what a dominant male should be. Still, I remember being troubled by a lecture he delivered one morning. Mr. Gardner laid out for us the overarching structure of the family of man. He explained that the various races stood at different levels of moral development — each was forging its own destiny. He said these things sympathetically, with no hint of condescension. Yet the vibe was in the room that morning: The terms he used were more metaphysical than biological. The oriental races, he said, are ancient, wise, but vitiated. The African races are youthful, unformed, childlike, he said. Standing near the center of humanity’s family are the currently most advanced races, the whites, he said. [He was giving us a version of Steiner's own views: See "Steiner's Racism" and "Lecture".]


I also remember a lesson our class received from another of our teachers, Hertha Karl, who taught both German and “earth science.” Her background is, to me, a closed book — but of all the Waldorf faculty, she made the least effort to disguise her devotion to Steiner. She drew figure eights on the chalkboard and lectured us about "lemniscates": the mystic interaction of the "telluric" and "etheric" forces, which is the basic structure of nature, she said. During one day's "main lesson" (the first, longest class of the day), she veered off topic to warn us never to receive blood transfusions from members of other races. All of us were white. Frau Karl taught us that blacks and Orientals have blood types that are physically different from ours, so receiving such inferior blood would diminish our “Aryan” qualities. The moral once again seemed to be that for Anthroposophists, racial identity has great significance.


There is no way for me to prove that Mr. Gardner and Mrs. Karl made the remarks I have attributed to them. All I can do is offer my solemn oath that I have carried clear, consistent memories of those remarks throughout my life. If my memory has grown dim or betrayed me in any particulars, nonetheless I am confident that my account of these two lessons is, in all essentials, accurate. (Years after leaving Waldorf, I learned that the things Mr. Gardner and Mrs. Karl said are largely consistent with Steiner’s doctrines. If I had known this at the time, perhaps my teachers’ remarks would not have startled me enough to burn such lasting memories.)


Because all the students in my class were white, Mr. Gardner and Mrs. Karl presumably felt free to speak openly about race. Today, Waldorf schools seem to be fairly well integrated — and I trust the faculties are free of racial bigotry. But I wonder how those faculties reconcile integration with the racism that infects Steiner’s teachings. I hope that teachers as Waldorf schools no longer engage in open discussions of superior/inferior races, and I assume that the word “Aryan” is not often used now. [For more on Steiner and race, see "Races" and "Forbidden".]


IV.


I had been at Waldorf virtually my entire life, which meant that what I saw and heard there generally seemed normal to me. And I believe my allegiance to the school deepened with each passing year. Still, around the time I became a senior, certain things started to strike me as a bit odd. Certainly, those biology and botany lessons bothered me (the mid-1960s was the civil rights era, after all — weren’t we supposed to know better than to talk about “inferior” races?) And I started paying attention to other, harder-to-pinpoint oddities. Occasionally our teachers would casually refer to angels or other supernatural beings as if they were objective, verifiable phenomena, as real as trees or planets or electrons. What to make of that? Having put in so many years at Waldorf, I was strongly disposed to believe in the supernatural — but how could our teachers sound so sure? And then there was this: From time to time, faculty members would reverently utter the name of Rudolf Steiner — always reverently. I knew that in some undefined way Steiner was the font of wisdom at Waldorf, but beyond that things were indeterminate. Imagine being educated by a group of dedicated Catholics or Communists or Mormons or Fascists — or secretive members of any ideological group: For year after year, you are taught to think and speak and act in accordance with the group's ideology, but you are never told precisely what that ideology is, and you are never shown any of its central texts. That's what going to Waldorf was like.


Actually, information of all kinds was kept from us, not just the ideological sort. Waldorf’s curriculum wasn’t primarily meant to educate us, as that term is usually understood. We did homework, and took tests, and wrote papers. We picked up some knowledge of standard academic subjects. Yet all of that was, in a sense, incidental. No one could have mistaken Waldorf for a hotbed of intellectual excellence. Our teachers had different, overriding concerns. Waldorf’s priority was to quietly condition our souls and hearts to receive spiritual influences. To that end, our teachers subtly encouraged us always to move toward the light and away from the dark (in all its meanings). Those of us who were most susceptible to this understated manipulation were powerfully affected. I won’t violate the privacy of my former schoolmates, so I’ll speak only for myself. To my ultimate regret, I was a dutiful and studious schoolboy, not wholly credulous, but nearly so. For me, Waldorf’s impact was thrilling. I developed esoteric yearnings — I was eager for revelation — I longed for things transcendent, for supernal beauty and grandeur. The expectation of these blessings grew in me for years and sustained me. But then, gradually, a reaction set in. It became increasingly pronounced as I progressed through high school. I was pained that the world, and I, fell so far short — always, it seemed, so far short. Dreams of the transcendent remained just that — vague, alluring dreams, perpetually out of reach. Longing for the unobtainable is a prescription for frustration, or desperation. I continued to long — perhaps more than ever — but I came to feel that my longings were a burden. 


V.


I was a member of the student council. During my junior year, at my urging, the council asked Mr. Gardner to tell the student body more about Rudolf Steiner and his philosophy. There was a growing suspicion among some of us that our teachers had a clandestine agenda rooted in Steiner’s tenets. Despite being such a square  — I ultimately was student council president and a graduation speaker — I felt the suspicions sharply. You see, I had a couple of private peepholes onto events behind the scenes. My mother was Mr. Gardner’s secretary. Although she never intentionally betrayed any of Mr. Gardner's confidences to me, she inevitably dropped a few tidbits about the man and his beliefs — not very informative, but enough to pique my curiosity. I also had an even more direct source of inside information. Mr. Gardner took a special interest in me. We had several private conversations. Once he gave me what amounted to a fatherly sex talk: Love should always come before sex, he counseled (no surprises there). Once he asked me whether he should fire the school’s Latin teacher, and he quickly added “Don’t think about it with your brain” — I should give an instinctive response, not a considered reply. (Which raises the question, what organ should be used for thinking, if not the brain?) Once he questioned me about evolution and then conducted an extended private colloquy with me on the subject. Taking his cue from Steiner (whom he did not mention), he explained that some contemporary peoples and animals had not evolved upwards but are actually the degenerate remnants of earlier, higher life-forms. Earth’s evolutionary scheme is complex, he informed me, with some species, races, and individuals rising, and others receding. I came away from our discussion feeling reasonably confident that he and I were among the upward-movers.


The student council asked Mr. Gardner to address the high school: to tell us about Steiner and then take our questions. He did so, reluctantly, and most circumspectly. As I now know from reading many of Steiner’s books, Mr. Gardner omitted a great deal: Steiner’s belief in karma and reincarnation, for instance; also his belief in Atlantis, and goblins, and Lemuria, and Ahriman, etc. Mr. Gardner sidestepped such things. Instead, he told the assembled students that Steiner had been a wise teacher, a spiritualist with extraordinary insight. He said Steiner’s insights into the arts helped lay the foundation for our arts curriculum, and that Steiner’s scientific insights had, among other things, led to the development of a particularly productive form of organic gardening. He said Steiner was enormously perceptive and aware. Then somehow he let slip that Steiner could see angels with his naked eye — which caused a few gasps and giggles from the students, but only a few. (I now suspect this “slip” was intentional: Mr. Gardner was hinting at the talent we all should cultivate when sufficiently evolved: clairvoyance: the basis of Steiner’s insights and wisdom.) Beyond that, he told us little. He said Waldorf’s purpose was obvious: to educate and improve us. Steiner’s educational principles were certainly invaluable, he said, but then he added that it would do us no good to delve into Steiner’s doctrines at our age — we were too young to grasp them. The right way to learn about Steiner, he told us, was to form study groups when we were older, and then with like-minded seekers we should read and discuss as many of Steiner’s books as caught our interest. 


VI.


The scandal of the ‘psychic’ ex-student broke in the late 1970s, more than a decade after I graduated. But as I read and reread the TIMES article, I thought of people I had known during my Waldorf years — classmates and teachers. Mr. Gardner was named in the article: He had resigned. Also named were my class advisor/math teacher, my history teacher/soccer coach, and a librarian I remembered. One person tangentially involved in the scandal went unmentioned in the article. My class’s homeroom teacher during the elementary grades was Carol Hemingway Gardner, John Gardner’s wife. She was a tender, motherly woman — I think every kid in the class loved her. I was sorry to think of her following her husband into disgraced retreat. I still remember her fondly, although I now realize that she — in the gentlest manner possible, and I’m sure with pure motives — began my introduction to the supernatural. The class history printed in our 1964 yearbook includes the following: “In the third grade we began our study of the Bible, and put on a play about Joseph’s coat of many colors ... Besides the three R’s, the fourth grade was occupied with the study of Norse myths. The high point of the year was the building of Yggdrasil, the Norse tree of life, out of paper. The fifth grade, where we learned about Greek and Egyptian myths, was our last with Mrs. Gardner.”


Mythology lay much closer to the heart of our curriculum than did science. Our study of science, such as it was, occurred in the context of a pervasive antiscientific bias. The shortcomings of science were conveyed to us in many ways — in discussion groups and even in what were nominally our science classes. Our physics/chemistry teacher recommended the book SCIENCE IS A SACRED COW, which aims to debunk science and the scientific method. I read it and reread it. Our headmaster assigned us the book THE FAILURE OF TECHNOLOGY, which became the subject of our senior discussion meetings for several weeks. The book’s subtitle is “Perfection Without Purpose”; the thesis is that a technologist’s “preoccupation with facts...blocks his approach to that more spiritual wisdom which cannot be reduced to mechanics.” Our discussion reiterated several lessons we had already absorbed deeply: to doubt “facts” (i.e., physical phenomena), to distrust science and its practical applications, and to seek instead “spiritual wisdom.” Our discussions were, of course, heavily dominated by our teachers; many sat in on the sessions, which Mr. Gardner himself lead. We students were often mum, as I recall.


All in all, science meant little to us. “Truth,” for us, tended to be a metaphysical rather than an empirical concept. Thus, the line between verifiable truth and woolly speculation became blurred. Our school’s small library found space in its scanty collection for books on flying saucers, dragons, yetis, and other undocumented phenomena, generally presented as if they were not merely plausible but almost certainly real. One of our science teachers directed me to ON THE TRACK OF UNKNOWN ANIMALS by crypto-zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans. The author argues that numerous fabulous beasts — including various types of apemen — may well roam the Earth. Heuvelmans chastises scientists for failing to credit anecdotal reports about such creatures. To my young mind — and presumably the minds of other students — such books were persuasive. And for at least some of us, they reinforced the effect created by all the myths we heard and studied in class: We were led farther and farther from a rational appreciation of reality.


This brings us to a crucial issue. For Steiner and his followers, the truest thinking is not rational cognition or brainwork, which they deem dry and un-heartfelt. The form of “thinking” Steiner advocated is more akin to emotion than to cool, rational conceptualizing, and it often leads to complication or even mystification rather than to clarity. Ask yourself whether this is what you want for your children. Nothing in the physical world is as it seems. What we see around us isn’t what it is, exactly — there are layers upon layers of hidden deeps. The Anthroposophical solution is to feel one’s way past appearances by opening outwards through imagination or clairvoyance (in Anthroposophy, these terms are sometimes synonymous). According to Steiner: “Essentially, people today have no inkling of how people looked out into the universe in ancient times when human beings still possessed an instinctive clairvoyance ... If we want to be fully human, however, we must struggle to regain a view of the cosmos that moves toward Imagination again....” [9] Or, as he said on another occasion: “I have described in my (PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM) how the intellectual is further developed into conscious, exact clairvoyance ... Through such a higher consciousness — imaginative, inspired and intuitive consciousness — man may reach in self-knowledge beyond his intellect and know himself as part of the supersensible world.” [10]


VII.


Some students at my Waldorf school did not succumb to the covert spiritual Waldorf agenda. Those with thick skins, or high innate levels of skepticism — or who attended for only a few years — came through relatively unscathed. Other students were affected in varying degrees. I’d guess that a small but not insignificant minority were essentially won over: Waldorf gave them what their souls seemed to need, and they entered into a long-term commitment. After graduation, they came back year after year for the reunions and Carol Sings and special events, and they contributed to the annual fund-raising appeals, and they did what they could to further the school’s mission. Some eventually became dedicated, Steiner-studying Anthroposophists. 


I escaped that fate, but it was a near thing. During my eleven years at Waldorf, I stood quite close to the fire, and I was drawn to its warmth — yet I pulled back. My nearest approach to full allegiance came during the excitement and nostalgia of graduation day. On that June morning, I considered myself profoundly religious (although I could not list the Ten Commandments nor quote more than a few short Bible verses). I thrilled to the knowledge that the world is more spirit than physics, more ideal than actual. I was vain, moralistic, priggish, innocent, shy, racially bigoted, and (confusingly, for a head-honcho student) utterly lacking in self-confidence. I was judgmental yet uncertain. I had no patience with science and its shallow half-truths. I prized imagination over intellect, sensibility over sense. I was right about everything, always — don’t even ask. (Please, don’t ask.) I had only superficial knowledge of the US economy and the major political issues in the wide world — and I didn’t care. Everything that I saw outside the school seemed to be beneath me. I was directionless. I had no career ambitions, no academic focus, no marketable skills. I had precious few social skills. I longed for a beauteous, buxom Aryan mate. (Few real girls approximated my fantasy. Marilyn, where are you? I never dated much.) I half-yearned for easeful death, or better yet a crusade, or salvation. I dreamed of writing a book titled GOD that would reconcile all the world’s religions. I dreamed of becoming President of the United States. I dreamed of performing — I wasn’t sure what — something — a titanic, stupendous something. But I had no intention of lifting a finger. I was on hold, waiting... In other words, I had been brainwashed, with a thoroughness and intensity I could not fathom. (Call me the Manchurian Schoolboy.) And, I should add, I was — without quite realizing it — deeply unhappy. Thank God, I was deeply unhappy. As the realization of my dejection slowly dawned on me during the following years, I became motivated to try to comprehend my condition and then to repair it. Even so, only gradually was I able to fight my way down from the fog in which (metaphorically speaking: only a metaphor) I levitated and at long last find my footing in reality. It took me more than twenty years to fully deprogram myself.


I would not want others to undergo that long, wearisome struggle. If you contemplate sending your sons or daughters to a religious school (or to a “nonsectarian” school whose true nature you question), work hard to learn precisely what the school’s curriculum and goals are. How much of the curriculum is pure memorization? Is discussion encouraged? Is dissent allowed? Are prayers mandatory? What sorts of books are in (or banned from) the library? Are science courses taught straight, or with a religious bent?


If the school is a Waldorf, also ask what role myths and legends play in the curriculum. Ask who Rudolf Steiner was. Ask for his views on evolution. Ask about clairvoyance. Pass around copies of Steiner quotations that raise questions for you, then ask those questions. Try to learn how deeply committed the school is to Steiner’s doctrines.  [See "Advice for Parents" and "Clues".] As I indicated earlier, not all Waldorfs are alike. Some may distance themselves from Steiner’s racism, for instance. The problem, however, is that Steiner’s entire system is built on his clairvoyant, mystical “insights” (which include his racist “insights”). A Waldorf school cannot wholly rid itself of mysticism unless it wholly renounces Steiner — in which case it ceases to be a real Waldorf school. Halfway measures may be possible — affirming some of Steiner’s mystical teachings while rejecting others — but mysticism would necessarily remain entrenched in the curriculum, while some of the “truths” that gave that mysticism its justification would be absent. The resulting pedagogy, tacking among an expurgated set of Steiner’s teachings, would inevitably lose much of its coherence and rationale.


Jewish parents may want to take special precautions. Steiner was arguably not a rabid anti-Semite. But any Jewish parents who are considering a Waldorf school should think carefully about Steiner’s racism and the emphasis he placed on Christ. Evaluate, too, Steiner’s comments about the historical role of Judaism, such as the following: “Judaism as such has long outlived itself and no longer has a legitimate place in the modern life of peoples; the fact that it has nevertheless succeeded in maintaining itself is an aberration in world history the consequences of which had to follow.” [11] You also may want to investigate the debate over possible ties between some Anthroposophists and Nazis. [See "Sympathizers?"]


All parents of all backgrounds who consider Waldorf schools for their children should press persistently for honest answers from the schools about their policies and underlying philosophy. If you mistrust any answers you receive, send your kids elsewhere. Their lives are in your hands.



— Roger Rawlings












For a report from a former Waldorf student

who went on to become an Anthroposophist and a Waldorf teacher,

see "He Went to Waldorf".














Norse myths — the mythology of Northern Europe, including Germany — are emphasized in Waldorf schools because Rudolf Steiner said those myths give a remarkably accurate view of human evolution. “No other mythology gives a clearer picture of evolution than Northern mythology. Germanic mythology in its pictures is close to the anthroposophical conception of future evolution.” — THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), a collection of lectures by Rudolf Steiner, p. 17, synopsis of lecture 7.


Steiner claimed that the gods depicted in myths — Norse myths particularly — are real spiritual beings. "Odin, Freya, and all the other figures in Nordic mythology were not inventions; they were experienced in the spiritual world with as much reality as we experience our fellow human beings around us today.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 198.


Bear in mind that Steiner was not saying that ancient people deceived themselves, seeing gods that were not really there. On the contrary, Steiner taught that ancient people — possessing natural clairvoyance — had a truer view of reality than many modern humans have. Remember a quotation we saw previously: “Essentially, people today have no inkling of how people looked out into the universe in ancient times when human beings still possessed an instinctive clairvoyance ... If we want to be fully human, however, we must struggle to regain a view of the cosmos that moves toward Imagination again....” — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 256.



◊◊◊



The racism in Steiner's doctrines reaches its nadir in the prediction of an impending race war. "[T]he transition from the fifth cultural epoch [i.e., the present] to the sixth cultural epoch cannot happen differently than as a violent fight between white mankind and colored mankind in the most varied areas. And world history will consist of those events that will lead to these battles between white and colored mankind, until the great fight between white and colored mankind has been brought about.” — Rudolf Steiner, DIE GEISTIGEN HINTERGRÜNDE DES ERSTEN WELTKRIEGES - KOSMISCHE UND MENSCHLICHE GESCHICHTE SIEBENTER BAND (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1974), p. 38, translated by Roger Rawlings, 2010.


Steiner taught that the various races of man stand at different levels of spiritual development. The whites, and only the whites, hold the promise of a bright future for humanity. “On one side we find the black race, which is earthly at most. If it moves to the West, it becomes extinct. We also have the yellow race, which is in the middle between earth and the cosmos. If it moves to the East, it becomes brown, attaches itself too much to the cosmos, and becomes extinct. The white race is the future, the race that is creating spirit.” — Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS (Verlag Der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, 1961), p. 52.


I would hope that racism is not present in Waldorf schools today. But it remains present in Steiner's teachings — his followers have failed to categorically renounce Steiner's racism. And as I have said, racism became explicit in the Waldorf school I attended.












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




“I am going into year 12 this year, I have previously attended a Steiner school for my high school years. I love steiner school and I believe in their education system, but they do not offer a high school certificate or an ATAR (Australian version of SAT). I would like to get a design bachelor at university after I finish high school, so I was thinking of going to a local college to get my High School Certificate and an ATAR. This is a big dilemma because I do love the school I'm at but I feel as we are the first year 12 group going through in the state it might limit my opportunities for later on in life. I would love some ideas or other perspective on my situation, thanks.”  [1-20-2011  http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110120185826AA1gEBo]


Waldorf schools are easy to love. They tend to be small and cozy, with caring teachers and lovely surroundings. There is minimal academic pressure, plenty of spare time for play, lots of lovely art, an emphasis on imagination, an embrace of green values extending to nature walks and gardening...  What’s not to like?

The deeper questions, however, are 1) Do the schools provide good educations, and 2) What effects do the schools’ underlying occult beliefs have on the students?


There is a deep moral concern, as well. The schools often pursue their occult objectives without the explicit permission of the students’ parents. Often, indeed, the schools fail to inform the parents about these objectives. [See, e.g., “Our Experience”, “Coming Undone”, "Ex-Teacher 3", “Advice for Parents”, and “Spiritual Agenda”.]

A final point. Waldorf schools often promise to prepare students for college and for productive lives in the working world. Far too often, however, this promise proves to be empty. [See, e.g., "Academics at Waldorf" and "I Went to Waldorf".]












Afterword




The primary purpose of the Waldorf educational movement is promoting Anthroposophy. Here's how Steiner put it when addressing Waldorf teachers. Note that he did not say that the Waldorf school must succeed because children deserve an excellent education. And he didn't say that Waldorf must succeed in order to prove the value of new educational techniques. He said that Waldorf must succeed in order to "prove" Anthroposophical doctrine.

 

"The Waldorf school must succeed; much depends on its success. Its success will bring a kind of proof of many things in the spiritual evolution of humankind that we must represent.


“...Let us especially keep before us the thought, which will truly fill our hearts and minds, that connected with the present-day spiritual movement are also the spiritual powers that guide the cosmos. When we believe in these good spiritual powers they will inspire our lives and we will truly be able to teach." [12]


Spiritual evolution is a central Anthroposophical doctrines. The "spiritual powers" are the many gods recognized by Anthroposophy. The "present-day spiritual movement" is Anthroposophy itself. As devotees of this movement, Waldorf teachers must "believe," and by their faithful actions they must create a "proof" of the doctrines of their faith.


In brief, Waldorf teachers serve the "gods," and in this service they work to promote the "true" religion: Anthroposophy. Remember: “One of the most important facts about the background of the Waldorf School is that we were in a position to make the anthroposophical movement a relatively large one. The anthroposophical movement has become a large one.” — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p.156. Waldorf schools are meant to spread Anthroposophy.


But what are the "things in the spiritual evolution of mankind" that Waldorf schools are meant to "prove"? To the extent that the schools aim to confer benefits on the students, those benefits represent occult doctrines. I discuss many Anthroposophical doctrines in other essays elsewhere here at Waldorf Watch. For the moment, perhaps the following will suffice. It entails reincarnation, and the supernal "model" of human development given to us by our forefathers, and the activities of two demons, Lucifer and Ahriman. Steiner says that human beings grow in accordance with two guides: • the supernal model and • our own spiritual natures. People today, having been weakened by Lucifer and Ahriman, have difficultly forming their physical bodies. Weak humans therefore rely heavily on the model, whereas stronger humans remember their own spiritual natures and develop in accordance with those natures. Waldorf schools should work to strength all students so that they can develop correctly.


"Man, we must say, when he is born, receives something like a model of his human form. He gets this model from his forefathers [living in the spiritual world]; they give him the model to take with him into life. Then, working on the model, he himself develops what he afterwards becomes. What he develops, however, is the outcome of what he himself brings with him from the spiritual world.

"...[M]an in his earthly evolution has not remained as strong as he was pre-disposed [sic] to be before the onset of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influences. Therefore he cannot form his physical body of his own accord when he comes down into the earthly conditions. He is dependent on the model, he needs the model which we see growing in the first seven years of human life. And, as he takes his direction from the model, it is but natural if more or less of the model also remains about him in his later life. If, in his working on himself, he is altogether dependent on the model, then he forgets — if I may put it so — what he himself brought with him. He takes his cue entirely from the model. Another human being, having stronger inner forces as a result of former lives on earth [reincarnation], takes his direction less from the model; and you will see how greatly such a human being changes in the second phase of life, between the change of teeth and puberty.

“This is precisely the task of school. If it is a true school, it should bring to unfoldment in the human being what he has brought with him from spiritual worlds into this physical life on earth.” [13]


This is precisely the task of a "true" school. Waldorf schools are meant to promote Anthroposophy by enacting and "proving" its doctrines.





 









For a quick overview of Anthroposophy and Waldorf schooling,

please use this link:  "Manifestations".



For relatively candid remarks by Rudolf Steiner

on the spiritualistic agenda of Waldorf schools,

see "Spiritual Agenda".



For information on Waldorf schools as they are today,

please see "Waldorf Now" and "Today".



For a summary of the standard

Waldorf curriculum, see "Curriculum".



For a peek at the training Waldorf teachers receive,

see "Teacher Training".



For the form of occultism behind Waldorf schools,

see "Occultism".



To examine what may be Steiner's central educational "insight,"

see "Most Significant".



For more on the unpleasant topic of racism in Steiner's teachings,

see "Steiner's Racism", "Races", "Differences", "'Negro'", and "RS on Jews".



To investigate the perplexing question

why smart some people

(not many, but a few)

believe Steiner, see "Inside Scoop" and "Why?"










Waldorf schools often describe themselves as offering “holistic” education.

They say they educate the “whole child” — head, heart, and hands.

To understand what these fine words mean in a Waldorf context,

see “Holistic Education”.










“A humanity that thinks materialistically will produce frightful beings in the future ... 

We have two streams today, a great [i.e., huge] materialistic one which fills the earth, 

and the small spiritual stream which is restricted to but few human beings [think of Steiner and his adherents] ..

All materialistically thinking souls work on the production of evil race-formations ... 

Just as older conditions which have degenerated to the ape species seem grotesque to us today, 

so do materialistic races remain at the standpoint of evil, and will people the earth as evil races. 

It will lie entirely with humanity as to whether a soul will remain in the bad race or will ascend by spiritual culture to a good race.” 

— Rudolf Steiner, ROSICRUCIAN WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 150.











[A] former Waldorf instructor [has said]: "I heard in a faculty meeting that there were many important souls waiting to reincarnate in this century and that they would only be able to do so if there were enough Waldorf schools. By the end of the year I taught there I was completely convinced that Waldorf constituted a cultlike religious movement which concealed its true nature from prospective parents." [http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2004/05/26/waldorf]










To read my account
of deprogramming myself
after Waldorf, please see

"My Sad, Sad Story"

















Here am I, in about 1953, posing with my classmates for our annual class photo.

To respect the privacy of my old friends, I will not include their full images on this site.

My Waldorf experiences lie far in the past — but they are relevant today.

Many thousands of children today attend schools that are

guided by the same thinking that guided my teachers:

Rudolf Steiner's mystical educational doctrines.



















When I entered the school, it was associated with Adelphi College.

Our headmaster had convinced Adelphi that interesting new educational methods

would be demonstrated at the school.

When Adelphi became a university, the prestige of attending Waldorf grew —

we could then boast that we attended The Waldorf School of Adelphi University.

But Adelphi cut its ties to the school after the scandal.

The school now has a different name.











Our headmaster,  John Fentress Gardner.

This is taken from the back cover of his book THE EXPERIENCE OF KNOWLEDGE (Waldorf Press, 1975).

The book was published long after I graduated and shortly before scandal rocked the school.























[Anthroposophic Press, 1994.]


While attending Waldorf, I received much of my medical care from an Anthroposophical doctor, Franz Winkler. Dr. Winkler was a frequent daytime presence at the school, and in the evenings he served on the school's board of directors. During my visits with him — ostensibly physical checkups or other normal doctoring appointments — he prescribed for me a set of mental exercises that, as it turns out, are the ones Steiner specifies in HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS and other texts. The purpose of these exercises is to develop clairvoyance or, as the book's subtitle indicates ("A Modern Path of Initiation"), to attain occult initiation. The doctor never told me or my parents the reason for the exercises he prescribed — he said they were a simple form of mental training that would help me in school and in life. If you send your child to a Waldorf school, be prepared for such things. The school will almost certainly try to lure your child toward Anthroposophy, perhaps even aiming to initiate her or him, and quite likely doing so by stealth. Perhaps the best way to be prepared is to buy and study this book or an older edition titled KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944).

(By the way, note the cover art: It is a fairly representative sample of Anthroposophical art. When you see such pictures in a Waldorf school, you should recognize them as signs of the school's allegiance to Anthroposophy.)




















The philosophy underlying Waldorf education, Anthroposophy (the word means human wisdom), glorifies humanity. 
We are wondrous, upward-evolving spiritual beings, central to all of creation, beloved of the gods. 
This is a grand and attractive vision; we can all feel its tug on our hearts and souls. 
But can humanity actually fulfill its potential by following Steiner's lead? 
He concocted a blend of occultism, myth, gnostic religion, and fantasy. 
The path to wisdom cannot run through such a welter of fallacies.
 If we are to realize our better nature, fulfilling our best potential, 
urely we must face reality squarely and build on truth, not illusion.
[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on image on p. 26 of Albert Steffen's GOETHEANUM:
School of Spiritual Science (Philosophical-Anthroposophical Press, 1961).]
















Detail from the statue of Christ, Lucifer, and Ahriman

created by Steiner and located now in the Goetheanum,

the world headquarters of Anthroposophy.

[R.R., 2009.]


















A sketch of the entire statue.

The large figure is Christ, who stands between Ahriman

(bottom) and Lucifer (hidden, behind Christ).

To Christ's right are two smaller images of Ahriman and Lucifer,

and in the top corner above these is a "rock being" —

an elemental being or nature spirit with a detached, bemused perspective.

[R.R., 2009.]


Anthroposophy is a religion,

and the Goetheanum is that religion's cathedral.

For more on this, see "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"




Anthroposophists, including Waldorf teachers, are sometimes surprisingly ill-informed about the doctrines of the faith they embrace. Many say, for instance, that Ahriman is an evil being but Lucifer is good. This flatly contradicts Steiner, something Anthroposophists almost never do intentionally. "The evil astral world is the province of Lucifer, the evil Lower Devachan the province of Ahriman." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ETHERISATION OF THE BLOOD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1971), G130.* Steiner taught that both Ahriman and Lucifer offer us potential gifts, but both may also lure us to our doom. Ahriman tempts us toward excessive materialism; Lucifer tempts us toward false spirituality. Wholly following either Ahriman or Lucifer would be a cataclysmic mistake. Christ must mediate between Ahriman and Lucifer because He wants to secure for us the gifts each demon offers while protecting us from the harm they would do us. According to Steiner, Christ — the Sun God — strikes precisely the right balance between the material and the spiritual, and thus we must follow him, using him as our spiritual prototype. [See "Was He Christian?", "Sun God", and "Prototype".]


* The "astral world" is one of the invisible realms above us; it is the soul world, lower than the spirit world. There are good and evil portions of the astral world. (Steiner sometimes also used the term "astral world" to apply generally to all spiritual realms.) "Devachan" is a Theosophical term for the heavenly sphere. There are higher and lower devachanic planes. [For more on the worlds above us, see "Higher Worlds" and "Knowing the Worlds".]




  


















This is a fairly representative sample of a wet-on-wet

watercolor painting of the sort created by young Waldorf students.

And below is a more controlled watercolor, evidently

created by an older child or a teacher.









[Waldorf art 

courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]



















Steiner sometimes drew sketches to illustrate his lectures.

The pictures can be quite informative (when they are not totally elusive).

Here are two images of the human embryo as depicted by Steiner.

On the left, you can see the signs of the zodiac arranged to show

their importance to various portions of the embryo — i.e., the developing human body.

— Rudolf Steiner, ASTRONOMY AND ASTROLOGY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2009), p. 89.

On the right, you see the influence of the zodiac (red)

and spirit-soul forces (yellow) within an overall constellation of forces

as they affect the developing human body.

— Rudolf Steiner, FROM COMETS TO COCAINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000, p. 23.

[R.R. copies, 2009.]

These sketches are not entirely consistent — something you must

get used to if you study Steiner. 

But the larger point is coherent, and worrisome. Astrological influences

are real and important, according to the Waldorf belief system. 

Indeed, astrology often lurks just below the surface of Waldorf schooling.




For more on Anthroposophical astrology,

see "Star Power", "Astrology", and "Waldorf Astrology".



















Like most forms of occultism, Steiner's is extremely elaborate.
Like the others, his depends heavily on astrology, pseudoscience,
mystical misuse of math, and — generally — esoteric wishfulness.
Above is a Rosicrucian image, not to be confused with Anthroposophical teachings,
(although Steiner advocated Rosicrucianism — after he had reinterpreted it to suit himself).
I include such images here at Waldorf Watch mainly to place Anthroposophy in its occult context .


"In Figure 6 the letter a marks the center of eternity. The motion of the rays toward b, d, and c was the first divine manifestation and is symbolized by the equilateral triangle, b,d, c. The eternal world within the inner circle became manifest in the water (salt), the light (mercury), and the fire (sulphur) of the archetypal world, represented by the three circles (f, e, g) within the triangle of complete equality (h, i, k), which is in turn surrounded by the circle of the high throne. The circle f is named understanding; e, wisdom; g, reason. In circle i is the word Father; in circle h,Son; in circle k, Spirit. The seven outer circles are the seven spirits before the throne ... The outer circles are the angelic world ending in the cognizable world of the Sons of God. Then comes the circle of the visible constellations and fixed stars; within this is the solar system with the sun as the center (l). Ungrund means the Abyss."
— Manly P. Hall, THE SECRET TEACHINGS OF ALL AGES

The implicit proposition underlying all these occult systems is that, if doctrinal teachings are made sufficiently elaborate and inclusive, they will provide a complete, persuasive account of reality. But in fact there is generally little reality or truth in such efforts, including Steiner's. Much in these systems is pure fantasy that cannot be reconciled with reality. Moreover, many concepts in a typical occult system are inconsistent with each other; indeed, they often contradict each other, unless some of them are wrenched severely out of shape. In Anthroposophy, for example, the importance of Christ is stressed alongside the importance of karma and reincarnation. According to the Bible, we have one life on Earth, after which we go to our eternal reward or punishment. Christians believe our fate depends on our acceptance or rejection of Christ. But the doctrines of karma and reincarnation posit many, many lives on Earth, as we move toward spiritual improvement or degradation, depending on our own karmic actions. These concepts — the importance of Christ, the importance of karma and reincarnation — do not in fact fit together, unless we reinterpret them so severely that they lose their meaning. And this is precisely what Steiner did. His Solomonic Nathanic Christ Jesus, the Sun God, is almost wholly different from the Son of God worshipped in Christian churches. [See "Was He Christian?"]











Below is a sketch showing four eurythmy positions and their associated astrological signs:









 [Rudolf Steiner, EURYTHMY AS VISIBLE SPEECH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1955), p. 159. 

R.R. sketch, 2009, based on the sketch on that page.

The astrological signs appear in the book just as you see them here.

Succeeding pages show additional positions and movements:

one for each sign of the zodiac and one for each of the "sacred planets."]


Waldorf students are generally required to perform eurythmy.

Although students and their parents may not be told,

eurythmy is meant to be a spiritualistic, occult activity

aligning participants with astrological and other mystical forces. 

"In having people do eurythmy, we link them directly to the supersensible [i.e., supernatural] world." 

— Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 246-247. [See "Eurythmy".]












Steiner taught that Christ is the most important god

for humanity on Earth now. But he also taught

that many other gods have been important

and that they still exist as real deities.








"The sublime deity who guided and led everything experienced by man in this first post-Atlantean civilization [i.e., after Atlantis sank] was called by a name which survived as a tradition into later times: Brahma, the All-One. This deity had been actually present among men; in the earliest epoch of the evolution of our earth man was a companion of Brahma." — Rudolf Steiner, UNIVERSE, EARTH, AND MAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1987), p. 34. [Image of Brahma from Ernst Lehner, SYMBOLS, SIGNS & SIGNETS (Dover Publishing, 1950), p.35.]









“Myths and sagas are not just ‘folk-tales’; they are the memories of the visions which people perceived in olden times ... Human beings were aware of the spiritual both by day and by night. At night they were really surrounded by that world of Nordic gods of which the legends tell.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 198. [Image of the Norse god Thor: public domain.]









"[T]he great spiritual Beings, the Avatars, descend and incarnate in human bodies from time to time when men are in need of help ... They descend in order to help mankind. Thus when help was needed, the great God Vishnu descended into earthly existence." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 219. [Image of Vishnu from SYMBOLS, SIGNS & SIGNETS, p.35.]


In some cases, Steiner said, multiple gods turn out to be a single god, understood differently at different stages of human evolution. Or a "god" may be a constellation of spiritual forces, apprehended in differing ways as humanity evolves. But generally, Steiner said, the gods have genuine, separate identities. They are as real as the fellow human beings we meet each day.









"I Went to Waldorf" is my (harrumph) greatest hit.

A slightly different version of the memoir can be accessed at 

http://www.quackwatch.org/04ConsumerEducation/waldorf.html   

and an excerpt can be found at

http://skepdic.com/steiner.html  .










The secrecy in and around Waldorf schools is not absolute. Anthroposophists generally withhold their most prized spiritual "knowledge" from the uninitiated. Likewise, Waldorf schools generally disguise their occult purposes and beliefs from outsiders. Nevertheless, starting with Steiner, there has been an effort to disseminate some elements of Anthroposophy through public lectures, the circulation of books and pamphlets, etc. But this outreach work is often less than candid. Texts are often framed and edited in ways that suppress and mislead. Only rarely can outsiders find clear, explicit statements about Anthroposophical intentions unless they undertake considerable detective work — and some secrets may well lie beyond such detection.


Most of my own knowledge of Anthroposophy has come from reading publicly available texts. This means that, in all probability, I am not privy to the most esoteric, hidden Anthroposophical lore. Steiner drew a sharp distinction between knowledge available to the “initiated” — that is, insiders who have mastered occult mysteries — and knowledge that can be shared with the general public. “[I]t is a strict law with all Initiates to withhold from no man the knowledge that is due him. But there is an equally strict law which insists that no one shall receive any occult knowledge until he is worthy and well prepared.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE WAY OF INITIATION (Macoy Publishing and Mason Supply Co., 1910), p. 52.


Everyone is capable of initiation, Steiner said. For this and other reasons, knowledge should be spread as widely as possible — but only within the limits of the second law, above. By his own account, Steiner wrote OCCULT SCIENCE — his most important book — to make much occult wisdom known far and wide. “The hidden knowledge which is gradually taking hold of mankind, and will increasingly be doing so, may in the language of a well-known symbol be called the Knowledge of the Grail. We read of the Holy Grail in old-time narratives and legends, and as we learn to understand its deeper meaning we discover that it most significantly pictures the heart and essence of the new Initiation-knowledge, centering in the Mystery of Christ. The Initiates of the new age may therefore be described as the 'Initiates of the Grail.' ... We are now living at a time when the higher knowledge needs to be far more widely received into the general consciousness of mankind than hitherto; it is with this view in mind that the present work has been written." — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969), p. 305.


But in that same book, Steiner withholds various information. One example: Concerning a future stage of human evolution, the “Vulcan” stage, Steiner is extremely close-mouthed: “The evolved humanity on the other hand, in a form of existence utterly spiritualized, goes forward to the Vulcan evolution, any description of which would be beyond the compass of this book.” — Ibid., p. 310. OCCULT SCIENCE is an “outline” only. Its compass is limited by the ability of ordinary language to frame spiritual mysteries, and by the requirement that people who are unworthy and/or unprepared — that is, the uninitiated — must not be told certain things.


Three key concepts run like threads through Steiner's theology: the "occult", "mysteries", and "initiation." They all reflect the need for secrecy. The most innocent definition of the term occult is "hidden." Mystery knowledge is necessarily hidden or hard to attain. Initiation is the process of attaining mystery knowledge, which is hidden from everyone else. 


Steiner's devoted followers undergo initiation, after which they face the difficult task of deciding how much of their "knowledge" to divulge to the uninitiated — that is, to you and me. Various Anthroposophists and Waldorf schools make various decisions about where to draw the line; some are more candid than others; but all presumably recognize the need to withhold at least some of their doctrines from outsiders, including many if not all parents of Waldorf students. This does not, however, prevent Waldorf schools from acting on Anthroposophical doctrines and thus leading children toward occultism. They merely have to be circumspect about it, which means not explaining their actions. As Steiner said, "The ancient teachers of the mysteries used to preserve such secrets as esoteric knowledge because they could not be imparted directly. In a certain sense, all teachers must be in possession of truths that they cannot directly pass on to the world." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD'S CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 84.


For more on the subject of initiation, please see "Inside Scoop". Also see chapter five of OCCULT SCIENCE, which is titled "Knowledge of the Higher Worlds (Concerning Initiation)" [sic]. In a more recent edition, the chapter's title is even clearer:  "Knowledge of Higher Worlds: Initiation." — AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 281. (Changing "occult" to "esoteric" in the title is just small one instance of the effort to downplay alarming Anthroposophical beliefs. If you read much of Steiner's works, you will find that older editions are generally blunter and more informative than newer, more guarded editions. Moreover, if you compare Steiner's words in the original German with their translations in English-language texts, you will find that some troubling passages and lectures have been omitted from the English texts. See, e.g., "Forbidden".)


For more on Steiner's instructions to Waldorf teachers telling them to keep mum, see "Secrets".





THE WAY OF INITIATION, which I quoted above, is old and difficult to find. Newer editions include KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944) and HOW TO KNOW THE HIGHER WORLDS (Anthroposophical Press, 1994).

















[R.R., 2010.]






“As soon as we speak from the aspect of the higher worlds, there exists an unbroken connection between the different planets and so the moon is connected with the earth just as for instance Berlin and Hamburg are connected by the telephone. Beings that live on the moon can therefore carry out their operations on the earth with the aid of astral forces. One might call them the reverse side of other beings whom we also find in the astral world, beneficent beings who, compared even with the mildest human nature, are yet much, much milder — in their speech too, very mild and gentle. The speech of these beings has not that aridity of human language which a man must ponder over a long time if he is to express himself, and clothe his thoughts and ideas in words. One could say that the thoughts of these beings flow from their lips — not merely the expression of the thoughts in words, but thoughts themselves flow in a gentle language from their lips. These beings are likewise to be found within our astral world; they have their actual scene of action on another planet. As the first-named beings are at home on the moon, these second are at home on Mars, they inhabit Mars and are in fact the main population — as certain human races are the principal population on our earth. If we then mount up higher to the devachanic plane we find certain beings who in their own way are also of a mild, peaceable nature and who in a certain respect are extraordinarily clever. These beings to be found on the devachanic plane have their actual home on the planet Venus, as the other beings on moon and Mars. On Venus too we find yet a second species of beings who — in contrast to the gentle, amiable kind — present a wild and furious vitality, and whose principal occupation consists in mutual fighting and plunder.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE INFLUENCE OF SPIRITUAL BEINGS ON MAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1961), lecture 1, GA 102. [R.R. sketch, 2010 — whereas Steiner’s text is strictly factual, my sketch is somewhat impressionistic.] I have a special fondness for this book — I remember seeing a copy in the home of one of my teachers. I wish I had peeked inside.











ADDENDA



Here is a much more recent Waldorf report than my own memoir:

It comes from a mother who sent her children to a Waldorf school

not so very long ago.




My children attended a Waldorf school in California over a period of 12 years. Waldorf schools are run by Anthroposophists. Like most parents, we were unaware of the teachings of Anthroposophy's guru, Rudolf Steiner, and how they were subtly incorporated into the children's activities at the school. It was only after we left that we learned that Steiner taught that humans evolved from beings who lived in Atlantis, the darker people's skin the less "spiritually evolved" they are, gnomes are real, the heart is not a pump, some children are demons in human form, Earth does not orbit the sun, man will one day give birth from his larynx, and many more bizarre "facts" that Steiner claimed to have learned through clairvoyance.


We discovered that our children had been surreptitiously exposed to Anthroposophy in many different ways such as through rituals, "art," history classes filled with ancient myths, and a boring form of movement called "eurythmy," which supposedly links people directly to Steiner's "supersensible world." Much of it might might seem harmless, but in the long run it affects the development of a child's thinking. One of my children, now an adult, is still angry at having been led to believe things that were not true.


Like so many parents, my husband and I were filled with enthusiasm for Waldorf during the years our children were there, even though we felt that academically it left a lot to be desired. We got caught up in the seemingly innocent and old-fashioned community life and the friendships we developed with other parents. We saw a number of red flags, but we ignored them because we wanted to believe that all was well. Even today, when I look at Web sites advertising different Waldorf schools, I am amazed by how wonderful they sound and how aesthetically appealing all the images are.


Luckily, people have access to the Internet now. Before visiting your local Waldorf school, I strongly recommend you check out http://www.waldorfcritics.org where you can also find links to other sites, both pro and con Waldorf.


— Margaret Sachs 




◊◊◊



Here are excerpts from an article by Dan Dugan appearing in

THE NEW ENCYCLOPEDIA OF UNBELIEF, Tom Flynn editor

(Prometheus Books, 2007), pp. 74-76.

[http://waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/Anthroposophy.html]



ANTHROPOSOPHY. An international religious sect following the teachings of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Also called Spiritual Science. Activities include Waldorf Education, Anthroposophical medicine, pharmaceuticals, Camphill communities for the developmentally disabled, biodynamic agriculture, Eurythmy (a spiritual dance) ... [etc.]


...World-View. Anthroposophy synthesizes a wide range of spiritual traditions, claiming to reveal comprehensive truths that are only present in fragments in other religions. At its foundation are the concepts of REINCARNATION, karma, and polytheism, which derive from Buddhism and Hinduism. Steiner...took the dual gods of light and dark from the ancient Persian religion Zoroastrianism, identifying the light god as Lucifer, and created his own trinity of Lucifer, Ahriman (the dark god), and a Gnostic and Manichean conception of Christ, usually referred to as “The Christ Spirit.” 


...To this rich mix Steiner added European occult traditions: Cabbalism, numerology, white magic, alchemy, Rosicrucianism and Masonry, and spiced it with vegetarianism, astrology, herbalism, and homeopathy.


...Racism. Rudolf Steiner lectured extensively on evolution, a popular topic at the beginning of the 20th century, but his theory was explicitly opposed to Charles Darwin’s. He taught that humans have always been present, and that the non-human animals evolved out of humanity.


...Evolution in Anthroposophy also involves personal development as souls reincarnate in successively higher races ... Black skin belongs to survivors of the Lemurian root-race, and yellow skin from Atlanteans who failed to progress. Native Americans are a remnant destined for extinction, and the survival of the Jews is “a mistake of history.”


...Anthroposophy Today. Working in the world doesn’t secularize Anthroposophy; rather Anthroposophy attempts to spiritualize the world. These worldly activities are usually referred to in Anthroposophical jargon as “initiatives,” based on Steiner’s “impulses.” ... Each activity will, of course, have its own local non-profit corporation, but they are all carried out under Anthroposophical direction, ultimately taking guidance from departments in the Dornach headquarters (near Basel, Switzerland).


Waldorf Education. Waldorf schools, also called Steiner Schools and Free Schools, are named after the original school that Steiner founded in Stuttgart, Germany ... The movement calls itself the largest nonsectarian school system in the world, but pervasive Anthroposophical doctrine vitiates the claim of being nonsectarian. Waldorf education is guided by Steiner’s theory of child development, based on reincarnation ... Teachers are trained in a two- or three-year Anthroposophical seminary program in which the first year, called the “foundation year,” consists entirely of the study of Anthroposophy.


Anthroposophical pseudoscience is easy to find in Waldorf schools. “Goethean science” is supposed to be based only on observation, without “dogmatic” theory. Because observations make no sense without a relationship to some hypothesis, students are subtly nudged in the direction of Steiner’s explanations of the world.


...Anthroposophical Medicine. Medicine is one of the more visible activities of Anthroposophy in Europe. Physicians are required to have medical degrees before training in Anthroposophical medicine, but that training denies and contradicts evidence-based medicine ... The Anthroposophical cancer remedy Iscador, prepared in a magical process from mistletoe, is in common use in Europe despite a lack of sufficient evidence for efficacy.


Camphill. Camphill communities are Anthroposophically-inspired residential programs for developmentally-disabled children and adults. Completely contained enclaves, they are worthy of study as models of life in an Anthroposophical world. Since only cooperative inmates are retained, the atmosphere is artificially idyllic, and an ostensible “village” structure conceals strict authoritarianism.


— Dan Dugan 



◊◊◊



The terms "occult" and "esoteric" are important in any discussion

of Waldorf schooling and the underlying doctrines of Anthroposophy.

Here is a note by historian Peter Staudenmaier offering a scholarly overview.




Various scholars of western esotericism have put a lot of effort into clarifying these terms, with little success so far, in my estimation. I'll provide a brief list of secondary works below; they are definitely worth looking at for those trying to figure out the broader contexts within which anthroposophy is located.


Anthroposophists themselves have historically used both 'esoteric' and 'occult', often enough interchangeably. Steiner's works frequently use both terms, and the same is true for many of his followers. In recent years, some anthroposophists have begun to shy away from the word 'occult', but that was not the case within the original anthroposophical movement in the first half of the 20th century.


Among scholars of occultism and western esotericism, there are several contending perspectives. Some of them (including Edward Tiryakian and Antoine Faivre) more or less define ‘occultism’ as a set of practices and ‘esotericism’ as the underlying theory; see Tiryakian, "Towards the Sociology of Esoteric Culture" American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 78 (1972), 491-512; Tiryakian (ed.), On the Margin of the Visible: Sociology, The Esoteric, and the Occult (New York 1974); Faivre, ‘What is Occultism?’ in Lawrence Sullivan (ed.), Hidden Truths: Magic, Alchemy, and the Occult (New York 1989); Marcello Truzzi, ‘Definition and Dimensions of the Occult: Towards a Sociological Perspective’, Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 5 (1971), 635-646.


Wouter Hanegraaff posits modern occultism as a result of a process of the secularization of esotericism in the course of the 19th century. In his analysis, "occultism is characterized by hybrid mixtures of traditional esoteric and modern scientistic-materialist worldviews." See Hanegraaff, "The Study of Western Esotericism: New Approaches to Christian and Secular Culture" in Antes, Geertz, and Warne, eds., New Approaches to the Study of Religion (Berlin 2004), 489-519 (quote on 497).


For those who read German, an admirable, if not entirely convincing, attempt at terminological summary and clarification can be found in Bettina Gruber, "Mystik, Esoterik, Okkultismus: Überlegungen zu einer Begriffsdiskussion" in Moritz Baßler and Hildegard Chatellier (eds), Mystik, Mystizismus und Moderne in Deutschland um 1900 (Strasbourg 1998). 


— Peter Staudenmaier













On the home page here at Waldorf Watch, I spoke a little about a statement written by Marie Steiner and falsely attributed to Rudolf Steiner. Here is the complete paragraph from which the quotation was taken. It makes the religious purpose of Waldorf schooling quite clear. In addition, the "brainwashing" (as I have called it) attempted in Waldorf schools is indicated: Waldorf teachers should start on the kids early, training their feelings and perceptions in a certain way so that later the kids may "freely" choose exactly what they have been conditioned to choose. Conventional rules will have no effect on them; nor will conventional religions. They will be junior Anthroposophists. All of this is inherent in a statement that, on its surface, may seem quite agreeable: It seems to be about freedom. Consider what sort of "freedom" is really involved if children are molded early and continuously, given no clear explanations ("mental concepts"), but persistently pressed to gravitate toward a particular spiritual worldview.


"A religious deepening of the whole human being is one of the essential tasks of education. Moral and religious qualities inhere in the child's life of feeling when he realizes that the bodily nature is everywhere a manifestation of the spiritual and that the spiritual is ever seeking to enter creatively into the body. Living sympathies and antipathies for good and evil, delight in goodness, abhorrence of evil — these qualities, not precepts or injunctions, make the child a truly moral being. With the development of his sense of freedom and individual power of discrimination at the age of fifteen or sixteen, such feelings will then arise of themselves. He will be immune from outside influence and be able to form his own free judgments. Conventional rules and regulations will be of no avail. We must work, at the right age, on the child's life of feeling and perception — but not by way of dogma and mental concepts. Then no fetters will limit the individual power of judgment that emerges later. If the child has been educated in a wholly human sense, he will learn to feel and know his full manhood. His own free religious and moral sense will have been awakened. Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able, of themselves, to impart purpose and direction to their lives." — Rudolf Steiner, THE NEW ART OF EDUCATION (Philosophical-Anthroposophical Publishing, 1928), pp. 26-27 — introduction by Marie Steiner.


To see Marie Steiner's words in context, it helps to look at a few statements made by her husband: 


• “Freedom is the result of the Luciferian influence.” — Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE (Kessinger Publishing, 1998: 1922 edition), pp.  229-230. 


• "When we grasp the true meaning of human freedom, we can have no wish that a sin should be so forgiven us that we would no longer need to pay it off in our Karma." — Rudolf Steiner, CHRIST AND THE HUMAN SOUL (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 3, GA 155.


• "Mars, Jupiter and Saturn may also be called the liberating planets; they give man freedom. On the other hand, Venus, Mercury and the Moon may be called the destiny-determining planets.” —Rudolf Steiner, “The Spiritual Individualities of the Planets” (THE GOLDEN BLADE, 1988), GA 228.


Steiner advocated freedom. He advocated love. He advocated true religion. These are all noble ideals. But in evaluating Waldorf schooling, we need to be sure that we understand precisely what he meant when stating these goals. Consider how much "freedom" we have if we must fulfill our karma. Consider how much freedom we have if, in order to evolve properly, we must follow Steiner's directives. Consider the implications for our freedom if we must fulfill ”the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55.


Freedom, love, and true religion are superb ideals. Whether a Waldorf education leads children toward them is the question. We will continue pondering this question in the following pages at Waldorf Watch.


— Roger Rawlings












For further information, documentation, etc., 

concerning my schoolboy experiences at Waldorf

and my subsequent analysis of Waldorf education, see "Unenlightened".


For more Steiner quotes about education,

see "More on Education""Faculty Meetings",

"Discussions", and "Advice".


For reasons to doubt clairvoyance, see "Clairvoyance".

 

For some summary thoughts, and the entire text

of THE NEW YORK TIMES article,

see "Reality and Fantasy"

and/or "The Waldorf Scandal".


For more on the subject of freedom,

see "Freedom" and "Democracy".


For advice for anyone considering sending

children to a Waldorf school,

see "Advice for Parents" and "Clues".


For an example of Steiner's deceptions

— and a peek at his followers' capacity

for self-deception — see "Deception".











Waldorf faculty often deny that they are guided — even controlled — by the doctrines of Rudolf Steiner. They make such statements as “Rudolf Steiner doesn’t work here” or “Rudolf Steiner is dead. Our Waldorf school is very much alive and charting its own course.”


Such statements overlook or disguise the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Many Waldorf schools are named Steiner schools, and for good reason. Waldorf teacher training largely consists of careful study of Rudolf Steiner’s books and lectures. Becoming a genuine Waldorf teacher means becoming a disciple of Rudolf Steiner. As one trainer of Waldorf teachers has said, "I am a missionary on behalf of Steiner." [See “Teacher Training".]


Rudolf Steiner lives on in the institutions devoted to his doctrines.









Broadly speaking, Waldorf school faculties can be divided into three groups.


The Hard Core. The members of this first group are conscious, devoted occultists. They have studied the works of Rudolf Steiner and they are committed to fulfilling Steiner’s vision. In this endeavor, they consciously lie to outsiders, disavowing any occult agenda. They feel justified in doing so because they consider their goals to be lofty and pure, and because they accept Steiner’s assertion that the uninitiated must be shielded from truths for which the are not ready.


At many Waldorf schools, the hard-core Anthroposophists constitute a small, inner circle of the faculty. Often this is called the College of Teachers, and it exercises the real power at the school. At other Waldorfs, the hard core is larger, constituting a majority of the faculty — and in some cases it may constitute the entire faculty. Often, most or all teachers at such schools consider themselves initiated Anthroposophists.


The Soft Circle. A second group at many Waldorf schools is made up of teachers who are, to one degree or another, uninformed mystics. They do not realize what Waldorf schools are really intended for, or they have not yet made a full commitment; they have not studied Steiner in depth. They are good, kindly, spiritual romanticists who think they are working in good, kindly, spiritually sweet schools. They generally like the atmosphere of the schools and think that all is generally well within the schools' walls. They are far less inclined to lie to outsiders because they do not fully possess the schools’ secrets. Still, their descriptions of Waldorf schools can be deeply misleading to outsiders precisely for this reason: They do not fully possess the schools’ secrets. 


Some members of this group may join the College of Teachers, as the hard core tries to convert them to full allegiance to Anthroposophy. Over the course of time, then, some of members of the soft circle become recruits to the hard core. But other members of the soft circle remain happily where they are, in a sort of comfortable Waldorf haze, not asking too many questions, and not often grasping why anyone would criticize Waldorf education.


At some Waldorf schools, the soft circle is the largest subgroup in the faculty. Steiner wanted all Waldorf teachers to be deeply committed Anthroposophists, but often this is hard to attain. Thus, Waldorf schools often hire a good number of uninitiated fellow travelers. And sometimes they even hire ordinary teachers with no mystic or occult inclinations, which brings us to the third group.


The Outer Misfits. This group consists of teachers who are essentially outsiders. They do not know what Steiner taught or what Waldorf schools are meant to achieve (although they may pick up clues in their day-to-day work experience). The hard core and perhaps even the soft circle hold them at arms’ length, telling them as little as possible. Some will resign sooner or later, and some will be fired. Waldorf schools tend to hire such teachers only when no Anthroposophists can be found to fill certain slots in the curriculum. But a few of the misfits may gradually adapt to the schools’ spiritual agenda, migrating into the soft circle. A tiny percentage may eventually become full, hard-core initiates.


By and large, the members of this third group are deceived by the inner group, just as parents, outside educational authorities, and all other outsiders are so often deceived — at least until a crisis erupts and the inner group’s agenda is revealed.


The number of outside misfits in a Waldorf faculty tends to be in direct, inverse proportion to the number of hard-core Anthroposophists. As a Waldorf school matures and expands, the number of misfits will shrink and eventually be reduced to zero, if at all possible. Remember, Steiner said "As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling." [3] Failing that, members of the hard core will vastly prefer hiring people suited to the soft circle, keeping the number of misfits — whom they consider materialists and thus potentially Ahrimanic — to an absolute minimum.












On the Fascinating Subject of Myself




Because I have written about myself, I have made myself fair game. And, naturally, people who hate the conclusions I have drawn about Waldorf schools and Anthroposophy — that is, people who embrace what I denounce — now direct verbal fire at me. I’m told that they frequently tell each other, and the world at large, about my real or alleged faults. Fair enough. But there is a limit to the value of talking about me. I am not important. I’m just a guy who has tried to learn and tell the truth. 


Soon after I began publishing my research into Waldorf education and Anthroposophy, I decided to put up no defenses. I do not answer the attacks made against me, and I do not pretend that I am anything but what I am. I press ahead on good days and bad, when the work comes easily and when it is a struggle, when I'm at the top of my form and when I drag along. (One small claim I’ll make in my own defense: When I realize that I have made an error, I circle back ASAP and correct it. All the major sections of Waldorf Watch has been reviewed multiple times by multiple readers. I'm confident you can rely on what you find here.)


You can reach your own conclusions about me. I’d just ask this: Please realize that I am not the issue. My strengths and weaknesses are, at most, peripheral to the real issue that should concern us. That issue is the effect Waldorf schools have on children. That’s what I’ve tried to focus on, and it is what I suggest we all should focus on. 


We all seek the truth, after all — we are all on similar journeys. I have chronicled my own journey, and I have chosen not to contest the judgments others make about me. My work will stand or fall on its own merits, and that's how it should be. To the very best of my ability, I have told you the truth about Waldorf schools, Anthroposophy, and Rudolf Steiner. I have even — not that it’s important — told you the truth about myself. Whether you find value in anything I have written is, of course, up to you.


— Roger Rawlings











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


◊◊◊ 2. A FORMER WALDORF STUDENT ◊◊◊



I WENT TO WALDORF


An overview of Waldorf schooling; a far longer version of "I Went to Waldorf", including:


"Unenlightened - Part 2"


"Unenlightened - Part 3"


"Unenlightened - Part 4"


"Unenlightened - Part 5"


"Unenlightened - Part 6"


(including addenda, etc.)

"Unenlightened - Part 7"









If you'd like more information about any of the topics discussed here, 

you might begin by consulting the following resources:





THE SEMI-STEINER DICTIONARY

[A - D]   [E - I]   [J - O]   [P - R]   [S]   [T - Z]




THE BRIEF WALDORF / STEINER ENCYCLOPEDIA


[A - B]   [C - D]   [E - F]   [G - I]   [J - M]   [N - Q]   [R - S]   [T - Z]




WALDORF WATCH INDEX


[A - E]     [G - M]     [N - S]     [T - Z]



WALDORF WATCH TABLE OF CONTENTS







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






ENDNOTES




[1] The word, meaning knowledge or wisdom of the human being, is pronounced an-throw-POS-oh-fee. 


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


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


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


[5] Ibid., p. 495.


[6] Ibid., p. 705.


[7] "'Psychic' Ex-Student's Influence Shakes Waldorf School", by John T. McQuiston, special to THE NEW YORK TIMES, Feb. 16, 1979. See "Reality and Fantasy".


[8] I shouldn’t pass too quickly over the ordinary novels we were assigned — they help illustrate how our teachers were able to inculcate Anthroposophical values in us without explicitly discussing Steiner or his doctrines. For example, we studied Willa Cather’s MY ANTONIA, which deals with Manifest Destiny as enacted by a pair of Christian families: The forces of destiny want white people like them to take possession of the North American continent, and religious faith helps the families to overcome their difficulties.


We also studied CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, the story of a remorseless, apparently irredeemable murderer. Yet the novel can be taken as depicting the soullessness of modern life and the need for spiritual redemption. Anthroposophists would embrace such themes, as they would the ending of the novel: The murderer clutches a New Testament while the author projects for him “a new story, the story of the gradual rebirth of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his gradual passing from one world to another....” — Fyodor Dostoyevsky, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (Penguin Books, 1951), p. 559.


I do not mean, of course, that Cather and Dostoyevsky were Anthroposophists — those authors would have been shocked by such a suggestion. But our teachers selected reading matter that was, in varying degrees, congruous with Anthroposophical positions. [For more on this, see "Oh My Word".]


[9] Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 256.


[10] Rudolf Steiner, “Self Knowledge and the Christ Experience” (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1988), a lecture, GA 221.


Anthroposophy is deeply anti-intellectual; it holds that truth comes from imagination/inspiration/intuition/clairvoyance, not from careful brainwork or intellect. Steiner acknowledged that rational use of the brain can yield truths about the physical realm, truths that will provide us with some benefits in the short-term, during our present lives on Earth. Secondarily, he taught that we can use the sharpening of mental skills developed through intellect to help sharpen clairvoyance itself, yielding "exact" clairvoyance. [See "Exactly".] But ultimately, he said, we must get past intellect, leaving it behind. To gain real Truth, i.e. deep knowledge of spiritual matters, we need clairvoyance, he said. 


The term "supersensible" — which appears repeatedly in Steiner's books and lectures — refers to things that lie beyond the reach of our senses. To "see" them, we must become clairvoyant, Steiner insisted.


[11] Rudolf Steiner, “Vom Wesen des Judentums” {On the Nature of the Jews}, DIE GESCHICHTE DER MENSCHHEIT UND DIE WELTANSCHAUUNGEN DER KULTURVOLKER, Dornach, 1968; English translation, Council of the Anthroposophical Society in The Netherlands, Zeist/Driebergen, April 1, 2000.


See "RS on Jews".


[12] Rudolf Steiner, PRACTICAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 2000) p. 189.


[13] Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS , Vol. 1 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 5, GA 235.




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A note on sources: I have accessed Anthroposophical texts in various ways. 1) Chiefly, I have acquired books in the old-fashioned way, as physical objects. When I refer to a book I possess, I give the title, publisher, date of publication, and page number for each reference. 2) I have dipped into some books through Google Books [http://books.google.com/advanced_book_search]. I provide the same information for these volumes. 3) I have read various texts at the Rudolf Steiner Archive [http://www.rsarchive.org/Search.php]. Because the Archive does not provide page numbers, for these references I provide titles, names of publishers, dates of publication, and (where applicable) GA numbers. Be advised that Google Books sometimes gives inaccurate page numbers, and the Steiner Archive is full of typos. I have corrected these problems as well as I could, but I may have missed some instances. 

You may have difficulty finding a few of the sources I cite. Anthroposophists tend to conceal various sources, and sometimes — following criticism — they remove or alter sources that they had previously displayed online.
— R. R. 












[R. R. 2010.]

























[Padraic Colum, MYTHS OF THE WORLD
(Grosset & Dunlap, 1959.]

The collection of myths my classmates and I studied in high school.
(A dreadful square, I kept my copy all these years.)

For some reason, my copy falls open to the section on Norse myths 
(the only myths I remember us reading, I'm sure we read others...)


Here is the beginning of the Norse creation myth, as we read it:
"In the beginning was Yawning Gap: to one side was the Place of Fog and Mist;
to the other side was the Place of Fire.
Ginnunga Gap, Niflheim, Muspellsheim — these were in the beginning.
Yawning Gap filled up with chill streams flowing from the Place of Fog and Mist;
the heat from the Place of Fire turned the chill streams into mist; 
out of the mist was formed two beings — Ymir the ancient Giant, and the cow Audhumla."
— MYTHS OF THE WORLD, p. 187.

Rudolf Steiner taught that Norse mythology presents a true picture of human spiritual evolution.
For more, see "The Gods".