Waldorf Education,

by One Who Endured It



"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

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 supplementary materials, below,

beginning with the section "Myths and Peoples".

I attended a Waldorf school long ago, but the story remains relevant.

Things change slowly, if at all, in the Waldorf movement.


From ages seven to eighteen, I attended a strange school that was devoted to a secretive, 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 troubling pronouncements, prophesied a worldwide racial apocalypse. Being a student at that school was a weird experience, yet today there are perhaps 1,200 allied Waldorf schools worldwide, which means large numbers 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 a supporter — the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company 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. Here are a few tantalizing statements Steiner made about Waldorf education; he made these statements chiefly in private, addressing his supporters:

“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 ambience was close and comfortable. As Steiner would have wanted, our school was a religious institution that hid its faith from outsiders. 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 spiritual instruction leading to 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 subtle mystical atmosphere suffused 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 one of the school's former students had started claiming to possess paranormal powers — he could converse with beings in the spirit world, he said. Shockingly, several teachers and staff at the school — including the headmaster, the former headmaster, and the high school principal — accepted his story and began deferring to him as a clairvoyant sage. As a result, they ceded control of the school to the young man and his “spiritual contacts.” The bewitched teachers sought supernatural guidance from the young seer in matters large and small, ranging from curricular issues 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. [For the TIMES article and other reports, see “The Waldorf Scandal”.]

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, the school 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 entered in 1953, second grade, and graduated in 1964, 12th grade). Nor have I carefully kept tabs on developments at the school since the great upheaval in 1979. That’s not my point. I am not writing about the experiences of a single child at a single Waldorf school. My subject is the things that happen at Waldorf schools when those schools stay true to their Anthroposophical roots. I want to help parents understand what to look out for if they consider sending their children to such a school. Some Waldorf schools today may hold Steiner at arm’s length; a large number of others cling to him tightly. In either case, check to be sure that you understand and approve the real, if covert, agenda of the school you are considering.


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 was designed to artfully 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 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. The resulting "educational" system was (and at devout Waldorf schools still is) devoted not to education as such but to occult spiritual training; in a word, indoctrination; or, in another word, brainwashing. 

The Anthroposophical creed is polytheistic, occult, gnostic; it is populated by innumerable spiritual, superhuman, and subhuman beings (gods, masters, demons, gnomes, phantoms), invisible presences working for good and for ill; it is permeated with belief in karma, reincarnation, astrology, magic, initiation, clairvoyance; it is built on an esoteric cosmic narrative entailing spiritual evolution and degeneration, multiple worlds and planes, mighty combats and cataclysms and victories and defeats... Anthroposophy is a religion, although its practitioners call is a "spiritual science;" it is a belief system that must be judged heretical from most orthodox religious perspectives; it is a faith few parents would choose for their children. Yet the ultimate purpose of Waldorf schooling is to shepherd children toward Anthroposophy. True-believing Waldorf schools are an outreach arm of Anthroposophy; they are stalking horses for an occult sect. But hush. “If that connection were made official, people would break the Waldorf School’s neck."

Our school days were pleasant — mellow and tranquil. There was scarcely any unruliness or rude behavior at the school. 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 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, there were classes in math and geography and history: regular subjects, although they were trimmed and modulated in ways we did not understand. We had no textbooks — we copied lessons written on the chalkboards for us by our teachers. The school's library was small — only the Waldorf worldview, and texts that might seem to confirm it, were available to us. Reading was not emphasized or, indeed, taught in the lower grades. We had no “Weekly Reader,” no “Dick and Jane.” Nor were modern teaching aids used, things such as movies; there was something repugnant, even evil, about them, although we were not told what. 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, were stressed — the mythology of Germany and northern Europe. The gods of many mythic traditions accompanied us throughout our Waldorf years. Anthroposophy teaches that virtually all gods, of virtually all mythic traditions, are real beings, immanent presences. [For more on the importance of myths, especially Norse myths, in Waldorf schooling, see "Oh My Word" and "The Gods”. For descriptions of the subtle process of prosetylizing employed in true-blue Waldorf schools, see "Indoctrination" and "Sneaking It In".]

At various times of the day, we knitted, and crocheted, and painted, and played simple woodwind instruments in unison. Sometimes we merely gazed about while our teachers spoke. (We did not take notes, and we were rarely tested. We didn't have to study much.) 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 watercolors having no straight lines or clear definitions. The images we created were otherworldly, 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. [See "Magical Arts" and "wet-on-wet painting" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

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. [See "Eurthymy".] 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 the 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. As in the lower grades, history classes were primarily recitations of exciting tales, with legends and myths intermixed, although for the first time some consideration was given to tracing the causes of historical developments. In language classes, dictionaries and grammars became permissible, and we started, tentatively, to write short essays in our own words rather than simply copying out what the teachers presented. [For more on literature and history instruction at Waldorf, see "Oh My Word". For more on copying — the "curse" of Waldorf education — see "His Education".] In art classes, realism was increasingly permitted, and our dancing now included some ballroom instruction. Math, foreign languages, and a few other subjects became electives: At the fringes of the curriculum, we could choose which courses to take. But the longest, most important classes of each day — called "main lessons" — were still compulsory: All the kids at each grade level took these classes together.

So things changed, a little, as we moved up through the grades, 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. 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 were real to us, or nearly so. They danced attendance on us, and we on them. [9]

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, most of whom imparted a slow Anthroposophical backspin to just about everything. It is amazing how much can be conveyed in a few choice words by true believers who hold positions of authority. We read no critics, we received no outside views. (Imagine. 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. Such was our education.)

Intimations of the great beyond were subtly, recurrently present in most of our high school 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 for them 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. Our high school chorus, which included all the kids in the high school, rehearsed and performed holy music, including (during my senior year) Handel’s “Messiah.” The central event of each “nonsectarian” year at our school 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 reverent (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.

Christ was important at Waldorf, but He was Christ as reinvisioned by Rudolf Steiner. He was not the Son of God worshipped in Christian churches; He was the Sun God, the same god known in other traditions by such names as Ra, Apollo, and Baldr. [21] We not told this, directly. We had to absorb the "truth" from the misty atmosphere of the school — or wait to absorb it later in life, or in a later incarnation. Anthroposophists are patient. Mankind's future evolution, as foreseen by Steiner, runs for millennia. [For more about Christ, see "Sun God" and "Was He Christian?". For more on Waldorf Christmases, see "Christmas". For our future evolution, see "Future Stages".]


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.” [10] 

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 simply what it is, it is always something else, something higher, or lower. Moral and spiritual lessons abound; the actual, physical world has value only to the extent that its points us away from itself. Accordingly, we must not conceive 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. Insisting that all phenomena represent (in ways that must be hermetically divined) esoteric precepts, Anthroposophists cause phenomena to recede into a multi-layered, oracular haze. 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....” [11] 

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 can be, of course, wise. Indeed, it may be considered the essence of wisdom. But you must see what is really present in the phenomena you study — you must not imagine “hidden truths” that are mere figments of your fancy. Steiner's followers often commit precisely the error of substituting fantasies for facts. They “perceive” occult states and events that do not actually exist. They dream, and they lure students into their unconscious fabrications.

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 veil 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. One year in high school, 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 to do almost anything he wished at the school was virtually unquestioned. He commanded respect — he was tall, dignified, articulate — a dominant male whose word was not to be doubted. 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 modified version of Steiner's 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 a strong 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, 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, and receiving such inferior blood would harm us. 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. (Some of my own classmates have told me that their recollections confirm mine.) 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 its essentials, accurate. Years after leaving Waldorf, I learned that the remarks Mr. Gardner and Mrs. Karl delivered were largely consistent with Steiner’s doctrines. If I had known this at the time, perhaps my teachers’ satements would not have startled me enough to burn such lasting impressions.

Because all the students in my class were white, Mr. Gardner and Mrs. Karl (also white) presumably felt free to speak to us about race in invidious terms. 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 teachers at Waldorf schools today no longer engage in open discussions of superior/inferior races, and I doubt that the word “Aryan” (which Steiner used often) is spoken aloud much now. But if Anthroposophists today are more cautious about repeating Steiner's racial teachings, they rarely repudiate those teachings in clear, unequivocal terms. [For more on Steiner and race, see "Races" and "Forbidden".]


I had been at Waldorf virtually my entire life (second grade through twelfth), 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 — surely 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. Indeed, they sometimes spoke of such beings as if they were perceptibly present. 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 but secretive 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. As I have said, Waldorf’s curriculum wasn’t primarily meant to educate us, as that term is usually understood. We did some homework, in high school, and we took occasional tests, and we wrote papers now and then. 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 submissive 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 becoming a burden.



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 to me any of Mr. Gardner's confidences, 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 fatherly advice on a range of subjects, including self-presentation (dress more formally) and premarital sex (don't). 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 from less developed forebears 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. [For these subjects, see the relevant entries in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.] Mr. Gardner sidestepped such things, on this occasion. 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 spirits such as angels with his naked eye — which elicited 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: spiritula seeing, in other words 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 writings 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. Overall, Mr. Gardner ducked our questions, giving us essentially a one-word answer: Wait.


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 mythic/religious visions of Anthroposophy. 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. In high school physics and chemistry classes, we tried to duplicate, step by meaningless step, preprinted "experiments" spelled out as if they were recipes. Science classes seemed designed to be as dull and off-putting as possible. [For more about science instruction at Waldorf schools, see “Steiner’s 'Science'" and “Lesson Books”.] The shortcomings of science were conveyed to us in many ways. 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 (meetings in which teachers spoke a lot and students very little). 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.” Spiritual wisdom, and the ways science and technology block it, were our focus. The meetings reiterated and underscored several lessons that we, as longtime Waldorf students, had already absorbed deeply: We should doubt “facts” (i.e., physical phenomena), mistrust our senses and brains, see through the pretensions of scientists and engineers, and follow our heartfelt intuitions instead. Mr. Gardner himself generally led each meeting.

As you might expect, 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 library had 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 the book ON THE TRACK OF UNKNOWN ANIMALS, by crypto-zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans. The author of that tome argues for the probable existence of  numerous fabulous beasts — including various types of apemen. Heuvelmans chastises scientists for failing to credit anecdotal reports about such creatures. To my young mind — and presumably the minds of other Waldorf students — such books seemed conclusive. Of course  the world is thronged with fabulous, mythical, legendary beings. Of course  science is blind and the mythopoetic imagination sees truly. And thus all the myths we heard and studied in class were confirmed, and we were led further and further 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. Steiner taught that we must regain our ancient powers of clairvoyance, raising them to new, higher levels of spiritual insight. We must open outwards through "imagination," which Steiner taught is form of clairvoyance. 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....” [12] 

We must return to clairvoyance, which is imagination. On this path, intellect and the brain are mere way stations; our true goal is to transcend them, reaching new, higher or "exact" forms of clairvoyance. As Steiner said on another occasion: 

“I have described...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 [i.e., supernatural] world .” [13] 

As for the intellect, we must leave it behind (once we have used it in our quest to become exactly clairvoyant) . 

“The intellect destroys or hinders.” [14] 

As for the brain itself, it has little if any value (except to the extent that it enables our brief visit to intellect on our path to exact clairvoyance). 

"[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition." [15] 

Actual cognition, according to Steiner, is clairvoyance. And the highest clairvoyance is the kind Steiner claimed to possess: "conscious, exact clairvoyance."

Ask yourself, please, whether the Steiner/Waldorf/Anthroposophical vision is what you want for your children: a form of schooling that devalues the brain and its workings; a form of schooling oriented to the fantasy of clairvoyance. [See "Clairvoyance", "Exactly", and "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness".]


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 kudo-swollen 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 our 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. 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 Waldorf school, work hard to learn precisely what the school’s curriculum and goals are. How much of the curriculum entails copying from the chalkboard? Is creation of "lesson books" given too much emphasis? Is discussion encouraged? Is dissent allowed? Are prayers ("morning verses") mandatory? What sorts of books are in (or banned from) the library? What sorts of textbooks, if any, are used in class? Are science courses taught straight, or with a mystical bent? Ask what role myths and legends play in the curriculum. Ask who Rudolf Steiner was. Ask for his views on evolution. Ask about clairvoyance. Bring out lists of Steiner quotations that raise questions for you, then ask those questions. [See, e.g., "Say What?"] Try to learn how deeply committed the school is to Steiner’s doctrines. [See "Advice for Parents" and "Clues".] As I indicated earlier, there is some variation among Waldorf schools. Some Waldorfs today may loudly, overtly 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 rid itself of Steiner's mysticism unless it renounces Steiner altogether — in which case it ceases to be a real Waldorf school. Halfway measures may be attempted — 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: 

“[T]he best thing the Jews could do now would be to merge into humankind generally…so that the Jews as a people would simply disappear … [T]he mission of Judaism is no longer needed in human development.” [16] 

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

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Waldorfish art, by R.R.

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For a report from a former Waldorf student

who went on to become an Anthroposophist 

and a Waldorf teacher,

see "He Went to Waldorf".

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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. The ancients knew these gods as well as we know our neighbors today. 

"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 ancient people deceived themselves, seeing gods who were mere figments of fantasy. 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 racism is not present in Waldorf schools today. But it remains present in Steiner's teachings — and his followers have failed to categorically renounce Steiner's racism. And as I have said, racism became explicit in the Waldorf school I attended.

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Here is an item from the Waldorf Watch News.

I quote from an online posting, 

then I offer a response.

From Yahoo Answers:

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]

R.R. Response:

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".]

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The primary purpose of the Waldorf educational movement is promoting Anthroposophy. Here's how Steiner put it when addressing Waldorf teachers. He spoke to them of the need for their school to succeed. He did not say the Waldorf school must succeed because children deserve an excellent education. He didn't say Waldorf must succeed in order to prove the value of new educational techniques. He said 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." [17]

Spiritual evolution is a central Anthroposophical doctrine. 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.” [18] 

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 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. Anthroposophy entails belief in 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 human beings grow in accordance with two guides: 1) the supernal model and 2) 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 supernal 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.” [19]

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

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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" (1-8).

For a summary of the standard

Waldorf curriculum, see "Waldorf 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

how some smart people

(not many, but a few)

can believe Steiner, 

see "Inside Scoop" and "Why? Oh Why?"

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“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 [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 Press, 2000), p. 150.

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[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

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To read my account

of deprogramming myself

after Waldorf, please see

"My Sad, Sad Story".

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Here am I, in the early 1950's, posing

with my Waldorf 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 remain 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 enrolled at 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 book was published long after I graduated 

and shortly before scandal rocked the school.

Mr. Gardner was an imposing, stern figure 

possessed of a fierce temper that flashed out often, and unpredictably. 

Almost everyone at the school feared him, at least a little — 

the fear was so universal, it generally went unremarked. 

It was simply one of the givens at our school. 

(Perhaps taking their cue from him, various other teachers at the school 

exuded scarcely contained wrath. We students trod cautiously.)

Here am I (on the right) with Mr. Gardner in about 1960.

We are posing for a photo representing instruction in biology.

(Other students were in the shot, but I have cropped them out.

I would crop out my jacket, too, if I could — 

I don't remember owning such a garment, but I guess I did.)

During an actual class, Mr. Gardner would have been standing

more or less where this photo shows him, in front of the blackboard,

but my classmates and I would have been seated at small desks

arranged in rows, facing Mr. Gardner (and with our backs to the camera).

I have reproduced the photo from THE WALDORF MAGAZINE,

a publication of The Waldorf School of Garden City, 2022, p. 24.

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Our teachers generally did not openly profess their Anthroposophical beliefs in class. They hinted and implied, but they usually stopped short of outright, explicit declaration. Undoubtedly, they thought their circumspection was the correct path. In retrospect, however, questions of honesty inevitably arise. 

Years after my class graduated, some of our teachers published works in which they openly professed their beliefs and allegiances. Thus, for instance, our headmaster saluted Rudolf Steiner in print as a spiritual savant, a “high master.” — John Fentress Gardner, YOUTH LONGS TO KNOW (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 217. In the same volume, Gardner referred to himself as longtime “worker in the field of anthroposophy” [p. 210], and he affirmed various core Anthroposophical doctrines, such as belief in clairvoyance [p. 37]. 

Likewise, Joseph Wetzl — who was my class’s main-lesson teacher during grades 5-8 — devoted part of his retirement years to translating Anthroposophical texts. In the preface to one translation, he referred to “Spiritual Science, called Anthroposophy which has been arrived at through the genuine supersensible insights [i.e., clairvyoance] of the seer-scientist Rudolf Steiner.” — Jospeh Wetzel, preface to Otto Fränkl-Lunborg’s WHAT IS ANTHROPOSOPHY (St. George Publications, 1977), p. 7.

Gardner, Wetzl, and other true-believing Anthroposophists on the faculty of our school certainly spoke of their beliefs sometimes, in some venues, even in those far-off days when they were central powers within the school. Indeed, early versions of some of their later publications were circulated in those days. But generally they kept their secrets; they worked to promote Anthroposophy and to convey its "benefits" without clearly spelling out their beliefs for the students or for the students' parents. They doubtless thought they were doing the right thing, practicing Anthroposophy without preaching it, as it were. Yet the result was to create an Anthroposophical institution that operated largely by stealth.


Did any students at our school wind up taking an Anthroposophical path through life? Certainly. Here is a very brief indication. (The list could easily be extended.)

Christopher Schaefer (class of 1967) became a pro-Waldorf author and lecturer. He helped found the Waldorf School in Lexington, Massachussetts, and he served on the staff of Sunbridge College, a Waldorf teacher-training institution.

Douglas Gerwin (class of 1968) became executive director of the Center for Anthroposophy & Research Institute for Waldorf Education. He wrote and edited several books, and he returned to our old school as a guest teacher, an advisor, and a trustee.

Rozanne Martindale Murphy (class of 1970) became a Waldorf preschool teacher. She went on to hold a number of leadership positions at our old school, including becoming Faculty Chair.

Stephen Sagarin (class of 1980) became a Waldorf teacher, headmaster, and author. In the introduction to WHAT IS WALDORF EDUCATION? (SteinerBooks, 2003)  — a collection of lectures by Rudolf Steiner — he quoted our old history teacher, Peter Curran (who in turn echoed Steiner):

"I. ... As each child's consciousness matures, it recapitulates the cultural epochs of all Mankind. Waldorf education agrees with Emerson when he says that all children go through a Greek period and a Roman period, etc. There is, then, a proper time and method for particular subjects to be taught.

"II. Since no one destroys what one loves, reverence, awe and respect for the Earth should be fostered. An inkling of the spirituality of the Earth then comes into being.

"III. The qualitative, as well as the quantitative, in all things should be equally developed.

"IV. Above all, Man is known as a spiritual as well as a physical being." — Peter Curran, in the Introduction of WHAT IS WALDORF EDUCATION, p. 21.

Thus has the influence of our old teachers been manifested and extended.

("Cultural epochs," by the way, are — according to Rudolf Steiner — phases of human evolution, especially the phases that have occurred since the sinking of Atlantis. We now live in the post-Atlantean "great epoch," Steiner taught. Within this great epoch, there are seven cultural epochs.)

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As a Waldorf student, I was taught — directly or indirectly — numerous Anthroposophical tenets. Generally, our teachers hinted at these tenets rather than expounding on them forthrightly. We students were often unsure precisely what our teachers meant by various indications and suggestions they offered us. Nonetheless, over the years, much of the essence of Anthroposophy seeped into our minds and hearts. Hence, I came away from Waldorf education believing or inclined to believe most of the following propositions, either as certainties or as strong probabilities. I absorbed some of these tenets as conscious convictions; others inhabited my mind as nebulous but defining biases; and still others were impressions so lightly stamped on my thinking that I was scarcely aware of them — metaphysical vapors, unconscious inclinations, unexamined (and thus unarguable) intuitions... 

Taken all in all, these were the chief legacy of my Waldorf schooling.

(Please excuse a certain amount of overlap among the items on the list. Because the tenets of Anthroposophy were not clearly and consistently explained to us, the messages we received tended to be jumbled and obscure. I have organized the list, but not rigorously; I've tried to replicate the feel of our school's cloudy mental universe. In many instances, I have sharpened or defined ideas that were left vague among the students — I have brought into focus Anthroposophical meanings that were hazy in our comprehension then. This is a more complete list than the one I have posted on some other pages.) 

Numerous spirit beings (ranks of gods) exist, and some people can perceive them directly 

Spiritual phenomena (archetypes) are more real than physical phenomena 

Spirit worlds exist and can be studied objectively 

Some people develop special powers that give them access to hidden or occult knowledge (many Waldorf teachers possess such knowledge) 

The natural world is a place of illusion (maya); in some sense, the physical world is unreal 

Various forms of "earth spirits" or "nature spirits" exist (gnomes, fairies, undines...) 

Natural and organic things are vastly preferable to anything manufactured (even if nature itself should be viewed askance) 

Mysterious, paranormal, and mystical phenomena (fabulous animals, flying saucers, ghosts...) are probably real 

Myths, legends, and even fairy tales are essentially true; the beings described in them really exist at some level 

The ancients were wiser than modern humans 

Modern science is faulty and unreliable 

Modern technology is faulty and wicked (do not watch TV, avoid computers...) 

Modern culture is depraved; modern art forms are perverse and harmful 

Most people in the modern world are spiritually and even mentally blind; their values and thoughts are generally shallow, empty, and damaging 

The arts have spiritual — even magical — powers 

Intellect and the brain generally do not bring us truth 

Imagination and intuition are preferable to the rational use of the brain 

Truth is chiefly found through emotion (soul life is emotional life) 

ESP or clairvoyance is probably real 

Dreams can be reliable sources of knowledge 

Meditative exercises improve the soul (I was assigned several) 

Spiritual states can be manifested or incarnated through certain bodily disciplines, such as the unique form of movement taught in Waldorf schools (eurythmy) 

The stars and planets have esoteric powers (astrology) 

Humans are evolving, but not in the way Darwin described 

There are deep mental and spiritual differences between races 

Different races have significantly different blood types (do not accept blood transfusions from “lower” races) 

Animals evolved from humans, not vice versa 

We are subject to karma or fate or destiny 

We probably have multiple lives (reincarnation)

It is possible to commune with spiritual beings and with the dead 

Christ is extremely important, but churches generally misrepresent him 

All religions are fundamentally alike — all reflect the same spiritual realities (which are bodied forth in Waldorf schools) 

Church attendance is not generally necessary, but reciting prayers written by Rudolf Steiner is spiritually productive (many of our teachers, while clearly spiritual, belonged to no church; but they led us each morning in reciting Steiner-written prayers) 

True religion is an inner process of personal revelation; nonetheless, guidance by spiritual masters is needed 

Waldorf schools are unique, pure refuges in a nasty, violent world 

If I had tried to put together such a list soon after leaving Waldorf, it would have been much shorter. Only decades later, having studied Anthroposophy in some detail, do I understand that virtually all of my boyhood beliefs — which I thought had arisen from my own heart and soul — came from Anthroposophy. At age eighteen, as a newly fledged Waldorf graduate, I did not recognize how thoroughly my Waldorf teachers had influenced me. I was a junior mystic, an apprentice transcendentalist, and I thought that my opinions and prejudices were beyond argument — they went without saying — they were implicitly and unquestionably True. I came out of Waldorf both insufferably cocksure and woefully misguided. (And benighted and adrift.) I did not realize that my views resulted from a long, systematic, quiet process of indoctrination. Steiner taught that the best thoughts are "living thoughts" (thoughts from the gods, thoughts that are virtually gods in and of themselves). in practice, in reality, the "living thoughts" that I possessed were the thoughts that had been conveyed to me, below the level of conscious awareness, by my Waldorf teachers and their practices.

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[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 ("A Modern Path of Initiation") indicates, to attain occult initiation. 

Dr. Winkler 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. Teachers, doctors, or other Steiner followers atta 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 illustration shown above: It is a fairly representative sample of Anthroposophical art. When you see such artwork in a Waldorf school, you should recognize them as signs of the school's allegiance to Anthroposophy.)


To acquaint yourself with Anthroposophical mental exercises,

see "Knowing the Worlds".

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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? Steiner concocted a blend of occultism, myth, gnostic religion, and fantasy. The path to wisdom cannot run through such a welter of fallacies. If we are to realize our better nature, fulfilling our best potential, surely we must face reality squarely and build on truth, not illusion.

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 

based on image on p. 26 of 

Albert Steffen's GOETHEANUM: 

School of Spiritual Science 

(Philosophical-Anthroposophical Press, 


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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. Detective work is often required — 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 spread much occult wisdom 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, knowledge that is hidden from everyone outside the charmed circle. 

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 uninitiated parents of Waldorf students. This does not, however, prevent Waldorf schools from acting on Anthroposophical doctrines and thus leading children toward occultism. The schools 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, 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". 

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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. — R.R.

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


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


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...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

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For further information, documentation, etc., 

concerning my schoolboy experiences at Waldorf

and my subsequent analysis of Waldorf education, 

see "Unenlightened".


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 Steiner statements about education,

see "Faculty Meetings",

"Discussions", and "Advice for Techers".

For an examination of Waldorf secrecy, 

see "Secrets".

For the Waldorf/Anthroposophical view of freedom,

see "Freedom" and "Democracy".

For matters to consider if you are considering sending

a child 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".

For reasons to doubt clairvoyance, 

see "Clairvoyance".

For a statement about the identity of individuals 

quoted and paraphrased at Waldorf Watch, 

see "Trolls?"

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[R.S. by R.R., 2015.]



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 also called Steiner schools, and for good reason. Waldorf teacher training generally includes 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.

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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 shortcomings. 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 on my own behalf: 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 nature of Waldorf schools. 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 the truth about Waldorf schools, Anthroposophy, and Rudolf Steiner. I have even — not that it’s important — told the truth about myself. Whether you find value in anything I have written is, of course, up to you.

— Roger Rawlings

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[1] The word, meaning at root knowledge or wisdom of the human being, is pronounced an-throw-POS-oh-fee. For an overview of Anthroposophy's doctrines, see "Anthroposophy" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.

[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. An Anthroposophical interpretation would be that the novel shows members of a higher, more spiritually advanced race displacing a lower, less evolved race.

We also studied CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, the story of a remorseless, apparently irredeemable murderer. 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 endorse 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] I will not presume to speak for my old classmates and friends. I know that some of them were powerfully affected by the Anthroposophical messages woven through our schooling; and I know that some were far less affected. The susceptibility of our souls (to put this as an Anthroposophist might) varied. I turned out to be highly susceptible, although a flicker of saving rationality blinked, intermittently, within me. [See "My Sad, Sad Story".]

[10] John Fentress Gardner, THE EXPERIENCE OF KNOWLEDGE (The Myrin Institute Inc. for Adult Education, 1962), p. 19.

[11] Ibid., p. 26.

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

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

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.

[14] Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995, p. 233.

[15] Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (SteinerBooks, 1996), p. 60.

[16] Rudolf Steiner, “Vom Wesen des Judentums” {On the Nature of the Jews}, DIE GESCHICHTE DER MENSCHHEIT UND DIE WELTANSCHAUUNGEN DER KULTURVOLKER, Dornach, 1968; translation by Roger Rawlings, 2020.

See "RS on Jews".

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

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

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

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A note about Web pages, URL's (Web addresses), and links to them: These may become outdated. Owners of websites may remove pages, change their locations, change their contents, etc. I work to maintain the URL's and links at my own websites, but I cannot control what happens elsewhere. If any URL's or links I present here prove to be outdated, I apologize. They were all current when I produced the various essays at my sites, and perhaps with a little Internet sleuthing you may be able to find materials that otherwise seem to have vanished or been altered.

— R.R.