(aka Class Books, Block Books...)

Science and Art at Waldorf

by Roger Rawlings




by Grégoire Perra




by Sharon Lombard

At many Waldorf schools, an important activity is the creation, by the students, of "lesson books." In effect, the kids create this own textbooks, usually by scrupulously following their teachers' instructions. Ordinary textbooks are often avoided, since they would not reflect the Waldorf worldview.

I was once asked if I still have any of the lesson books I created as a Waldorf student. I don’t. But the question inspired me to write the following short essay. — R.R.

As I’ve argued elsewhere, Rudolf Steiner was fundamentally an enemy of science, so Waldorf schools typically downplay science as much as they can. Here’s one small illustration. I'll tell you what I remember about my science lesson books. [1]

Physics and chemistry classes at my Waldorf school generally consisted of the teacher standing behind a table and performing some sort of “scientific” operation (pouring contents of beaker A into test tube B, then stirring, then...). Our job as students was to watch carefully and then write a report telling what he had done. We had to follow a strict format: “Objective: To create a cloud of green stink. Procedure: 1) Pour contents of beaker A into test tube B, 2) Stir, 3) Add pinch of...  Conclusion: Pouring A into B, stirring, and adding a pinch of X creates a cloud of green stink.” 

During our freshman year, the teacher would explain what he was doing as he went along. All we had to do, really, was write down his words. By our senior year, he was largely silent, expecting us to figure things out for ourselves. (Yes, he was the same — and sole — teacher handling these subjects. He taught every physics and chemistry course to each class of students throughout my eleven years at Waldorf.)

Importantly, we were required to draw the apparatus used in each “experiment.” Each day's submission was graded. The grades depended on: a) a more or less accurate description of the “experiment” the teacher performed; b) legible handwriting; and c) the drawing. The latter often seemed to have greatest importance, having a major influence on our grades. The teacher was not to be drawn; nor the results of any procedure (a cloud of green stink...). The drawings basically showed the apparatus as arranged by the teacher on his work bench.

We used soft colored pencils for the drawings. A friend and I got into a competition, drawing more and more extreme views: Apparatus seen from far above, or far below — popping off the page, or receding into the far distance. The teacher often commented on our drawings, leaving most other components of our reports unmentioned. (He wrote extremely neat, tiny penciled comments in the margins of the reports. “Great drawing,” “Best I’ve seen,” “Good,” “See me” (uh-oh).)

At the end of the course, we would compile all our reports, in the correct order, and create a class lesson book — our reports and drawings, with perhaps a little additional commentary or transitional material tossed in. Designing the title page for each workbook was crucial. Whether the class was physics or chemistry, I always wrote the title of the course in huge, capital letters (“CHEMISTRY,” in bilious green, let's say,) and then, filling most of the page, I generally drew the orange/red/purple mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion. I don’t recall whether I knew why I chose this motif, except that it always seemed to assure a good grade. Looking back, however, I think I was suggesting my horror of science and all its works. In any event, the teacher almost always picked out my notebook, along with some others, to be put on display as examples of what he wanted. He kept these A+ lesson books lined up on a side table in the science classroom. [2]

I’d like to step far back, now, from the lovely pictures I drew of test tubes, beakers, and nuclear explosions — I want to consider why the creation of pictures of all sorts looms so large in Waldorf education. I’ll let you decide how much, if at all, I’m changing the subject.

Rudolf Steiner often spoke to Waldorf teachers about the extraordinary, almost magical importance of pictures in helping children to grasp reality. (Bear in mind that for him, reality involved reincarnation, weird ideas about human nature and physiology, and occult concepts of the spirit realm.) Steiner especially stressed “living pictures,” by which he meant pictures that are imbued with spiritual force, spiritual truth. [3] When children are shown living pictures, they participate in magic. When children create their own living pictures, they perform magic.

The following quotation comes from a lecture Steiner delivered to Waldorf teachers. (If parts of the quotation seem incomprehensible, don’t worry: It isn’t you, it’s Steiner):

“If you bring children as many living pictures as possible, if you educate them by speaking in pictures, then you sow the seed for a continuous retention of oxygen, for continuous development, because you direct the children toward the future, toward life after death. When we teach, in a certain sense we again take up the activities we experienced before birth. We must see that thinking is a pictorial activity which is based on what we experienced before birth. Spiritual forces acted upon us so that a pictorial activity was sown in us which continues after birth. When we present pictures to children in teaching, we begin to take up this cosmic activity again ... [E]ducation is a continuation of supersensible activity before birth....” [4]

What is this all about? Forget the wackiness about oxygen and its how it helps prepare for life after death. (Breathing is a good idea, of course — but life after death is a more dubious proposition. Bear in mind, Steiner wasn’t talking about going to heaven. He was talking about an extremely long series of future lives, alternating between the physical universe and the spirit realm: reincarnation.)

Steiner tells Waldorf teachers that they and their students carry within themselves information gleaned from their lives before birth. This information comes to them due to the activities they performed during their lives before birth. “Spiritual forces acted upon us so that a pictorial activity was sown in us which continues after birth.”

The word “activity” is important. Steiner taught that humans gather information best by performing actions — physical actions and spiritual “actions.” The "pictorial activity" sown in us by the gods begins before birth and continues throughout our lives on the physical plane. Waldorf teachers were active in their spiritual lives before their most recent physical births, and this pre-birth activity enabled them to internalize pictures of the spirit realm. Now, here on Earth, they can continue the same activity, producing the pictures they carry within. The same goes for students. Teachers can summon up their internalized spiritual knowledge through the creation of living pictures. The same goes for students. The pretty pictures created by Waldorf students are not primarily works of art: They are intended to be mechanisms for the manifestation of occult “truth.” (The children who attend Waldorf schools are usually not told this. Neither are their parents, usually. For some of Steiner’s own words on the subject, see the book ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY [5].)

Thinking itself is, according to Steiner, a pictorial activity. What he means is that by using the imagination, one can summon up pictures infused with what one experienced in life before birth. Steiner often called these pictures "imaginations." He devalued rational thought [6]  as well as the rational investigation of phenomena. [7] True thinking, for him, is clairvoyance. Children in Waldorf schools are led toward developing clairvoyance by being trained to use their imaginations to “understand” reality. (Most of this occurs covertly; the teachers usually do not explain what they are doing. The children are simply guided into various activities that are meant to have occult value. Questions are discouraged. Explanations are generally not given. Steiner's directive to Waldorf teachers: "[T]each the children respect. The children should not raise their hands so much." [8])

“Education is a continuation of supersensible activity before birth....” That’s Steiner’s intention, boiled down to its basics. “Supersensible” stuff is invisible, inaudible, untouchable...  It is stuff that we cannot confirm using our real senses — it can be apprehended only through clairvoyance. [9] Waldorf education is geared toward such stuff, stuff that almost certainly doesn’t exist, at least not in the weird forms Steiner imagined. And the profoundly antiscientific nature of Waldorf schooling is revealed here. Science deals with things that can be seen, heard, touched — or at least measured, and examined, and subjected to objective tests. In other words, science deals with reality, which is what Waldorf schools generally disdain.

Steiner's system depends on clairvoyance rather than ordinary sight and logical reasoning. But clairvoyance doesn’t exist, which means that — to put this mildly — Steiner’s educational program has limited value. [10]

Still, there is such a thing as being seduced by vague imaginings of a misty, pastel-colored spirit realm. Children led in that direction may become sadly lost. By the same token, time spent preparing for nonexistent future lives is time lost — potentially, it is lives wasted.

The pictures students create for science classes are, presumably, the farthest removed from spiritualistic truth, since science is so wrongheaded. But you might ask yourself whether any pictures could actually fulfill the purpose Steiner assigns to them. If you believe in reincarnation and magic, you might want to send your children to a Waldorf school. If you are a bit skeptical, you might want to hold back.

— Roger Rawlings

These drawings are not work I did as a student — they are reconstructions. Above you see what I remember as a typical lesson book cover I would have created in high school. The image — more recognizable in those days — is supposed to be an above-ground nuclear blast. The difference between chemistry and physics was never made clear to me. (I'm confident this is an accurate reconstruction. I remember the design well — I drew similar covers, complete with bomb blasts, several times. Perhaps my work would have been neater than this, but everything would have been freehand. The shadowed lettering, another element I used often, wowed everyone.)

Below you see a reconstruction of the sort of picture I drew for specific reports submitted in science classes. Such drawings more or less assured me good grades whether or not I learned much science. (I didn't learn much science.) [R.R. drawings, 2009.]

I don't have any of my old lesson books.

But here are samples of drawings created by young 

Waldorf students as part of their class work.

Here is a scene in nature.

Note the roots — the lesson may have been botany:

And here is a Waldorf's student's

exposition of how we arrive on Earth:

Here we see the archangel
Michael supervising the killing of a dragon:

[Drawings courtesy of 

People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]

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

“There are no textbooks in this class; each student writes and illustrates his or her textbook. Music is played during class hours and lessons are taught through movements and expressions. To learn measurement, the class is taken bushwalking through mountains, and to learn the gist of religions, every possible festival is celebrated traditionally. Learning is radically different at schools that follow the ‘Waldorf’ education system, which is an application of ‘anthroposophy’.”  



• ◊ •

RR Response:

Waldorf schools generally use few conventional textbooks. Such books do not conform to the Waldorf approach or worldview. Indeed, they contain information about the real world that Waldorf faculties generally reject, information attained through conventional/scientific modes of thought that Waldorf faculties consider unreliable (i.e., no clairvoyance was employed). 

“I have nothing against using a textbook, but all of them are bad.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 284. 

Despite professing openness, Steiner condemned all textbooks, and he created a system in which students usually have to do without.

The lesson books “created” by Waldorf students usually consist of messages and pictures produced by Waldorf teachers and copied by the students. In some cases, the copies are almost slavishly literal; in other cases, students can — within limits — create their own variant drawings and choose their own slightly original words. Older students are given more leeway in these matters, but at all grade levels the teachers direct the ideas that are expressed in the books prepared by the students. 

Waldorf teachers have extraordinary influence over their students, and this is one example. During school hours, Waldorf students rarely hear anything except the views of their Waldorf teachers. Few outside voices or views are considered, a situation made possible in part because so few non-Waldorf textbooks are used.

Former Waldorf student and teacher 
Grégoire Perra has become a whistle-blower,
revealing many secrets of the 
inner workings of Waldorf education,
including the efforts to indoctrinate 
students, parents, and even teachers.
Below are a few excerpts 
from a recent posting of Perra's: 



Perra writes primarily 

of Waldorf schools in 

his native France;

however his statements apply to 

Waldorf schools in most other 

parts the world as well.

[I have added captions to the illustrations. 

Any errors in captions

or in the translation are entirely 

my responsibility. — Roger Rawlings]

Often, parents of students enrolled in a Waldorf school do not give sufficient critical attention to the notebooks brought home by their children. Instead, they are delighted to see colorful drawings and transcribed texts that can seem so poetic. Parents may easily overlook the way the books are filled with religious references and with strange esoteric language that will only become clear if you study Anthroposophical doctrines.

However, if you have several children, and can compare a notebook created by one child during one period with a notebook prepared by another child, under another teacher, several years apart, then you will see that the texts often are very close, and the drawings are either very similar or even identical. Upon reflection, we would then realize that Waldorf class work is systematically organized to convey certain ideas to the unconsciousness of the students. Having completed a study of Waldorf student notebooks from 1st to 8th grade, I propose to describe the various processes that I discovered. This work reinforces a report I made previously about the indoctrination of Waldorf students. [See "He Went to Waldorf".]

Before starting, we should recognize the particular difficultly in analyzing notebooks created by Waldorf students before the third grade. These notebooks will contain very little writing; they will consist almost wholly of drawings. It is therefore necessary to decipher the students' drawings, if you want to try to reconstruct what the class teacher has told the students. Each drawing, which in fact takes about two hours to create, summarizes symbolically what the teacher has taught. The student, looking at these drawings later, may well remember the teacher’s words. But outsiders, such as parents or inspectors, who are not familiar with Waldorf pedagogy or the esoteric content of Anthroposophy, will probably only see drawings created by apparently exceptional students. In reality, nothing is left to chance in these drawings, which correspond to specific content [and are often slavishly copied from drawings done by the teachers].... 


[The drawings often depict myths and legends chosen for their spiritual meaning.] The students are not taught real history but a pseudo-legendary history through stories that reinforce childish beliefs and superstitions, along with promoting devotion to personalities that are revered for their supposed magical powers.

For instance, we find belief in "elemental beings" conveyed to the students even in math and botany classes. [“Elemental beings” are discarnate entities that, according to Steiner, pervade the natural world: gnomes, elves, sylphs, and the like.] A parent who opens a child’s math workbook will be intrigued by the drawings of elves everywhere, on pages having to do with mathematical operations and explanations. Sometimes these elves (recognizable by their hats), dominate an entire page, as indicated in the example below:

Drawing by a Waldorf student.

S/he was evidently taught the number 2 by being shown,

and copying, an image of two sets of two elves.

(The same image can be used to teach the number 4 

— there are four elves —

or to teach addition — two elves plus two elves 

equal four elves.) - RR

The other part of the same lesson: 
the number 2 (aka, the number II).
A child taught arithmetic the Waldorf 
way will learn numbers. 
S/he may also, at least subconsciously, 
remember all the elves 
that trooped through class. - RR

The parent will likely be reminded of whimsical doodles s/he created in textbook margins as a student in a public school. The parent may be pleased that Waldorf schools allow students to exercise imagination during math class. But in reality these drawings are illustrations of stories told by the classroom teacher about elves [who are considered real]. This is a systematic, intentional process. An Anthroposophical belief is subtly relayed. Rudolf Steiner associated the thinking process with the activities of elemental beings. He did this explicitly, especially in a conference of 16 December 1922:

"In fact, we are everywhere surrounded by all kinds of spiritual beings, only with ordinary consciousness we cannot see them. They are there, however, to help us in our human activities, including helping us to have thoughts ... For us to have earthly thoughts, there must be beings in the world that create our thoughts ... When we observe the actions of a person who is particularly intelligent and wise, we perceive around her an incorporeal escort. Wherever that person goes, she is never alone, but is accompanied by an escort of fugitive elementary beings...." — Rudolf Steiner, THE REAL AND THE UNREAL IN HUMAN LIFE, AND CREATION FOR THE ORIGIN, Ed Triads-Poche, p. 46-47.

Same lesson, higher stage: 

We see six gnomes walking 

among six-petaled flowers,

under a flower-shaped 

sun and six clouds. - RR

6, aka VI. 

According to Waldorf belief, 

numbers have their real

existence in the spiritual 

or Platonic realm. 

Waldorf math is mystic math. 

[See "Mystic Math".] - RR

In Anthroposophy, mental activity such as calculation is dependent on the activity of invisible elemental beings. The Waldorf class teacher therefore considers it a moral necessity to represent this “truth” to students who are learning mathematics, so that they my know what they owe to the invisible entities. But what is the effect of a systematic representation of elves in the imagination of young students? In stressing such ideas, we implant images deeply in their subconsciousness. These actually become a component of their psyche and even their emotional world. Later, this will make it easier for a conscious belief in elemental beings to arise in them, a belief cherished by Anthroposophists.


Children are prepared to believe in elemental beings by the rituals performed at the "nature table." The children are put in a worshipful relationship to various natural objects (leaves, branches, moss, pine nuts, stones, and so forth) at a table having a candle at its center. Each morning, one child will ceremoniously light the candle. [An alternate name for elemental beings is nature spirits — they are the invisible beings that animate nature, according to Anthroposophical doctrine.]

This nature table has no candle, at least for the moment.
But the veils create an otherworldly, spiritualistic impression.
[For images of other Waldorf nature tables, see Oct. 20-31, 2010.
For a brief description of a Waldorf nature table ceremony, 
see "Ex-Teacher 2": "After singing roll, I choose a child, 
perhaps this would be the child of the day (or my little helper) 
to come up and light the candle on the nature table. 
The candle is lit out of reverence, to set a mood, 
much like you would at church or at the dinner table. 
Then the child returns to his place and we say our morning verse 
[i.e., a prayer] which was written by Rudolf Steiner."]

In Waldorf schools, the teachers may even give students esoteric meditation exercises written by Rudolf Steiner! For example, in a grammar notebook...we may find what appears to be a simple exercise related to grammatical tenses, such as the future tense. The text tells the student to put a seed in the ground so that it can germinate later. At first glance, nothing suspicious strikes the untrained eye. But close examination can reveal that the text is almost identical to an occult initiation meditation prescribed by Rudolf Steiner.


Comparison of another text dictated to students for their notebooks shows that it reflects the mantra of the Anthroposophical Foundation Stone [i.e., a mantra written by Steiner for use when construction of the Anthroposophical headquarters began]. The class teacher has not only introduced the Anthroposophical conception of man as a tripartite being, but he has used the very words found in the Foundation Stone Meditation! ...

Human Soul!

You live within the limbs,

Which bear you through the world of space

Into the Spirit-Ocean-Being...

Human Soul!

You live in the heart-lung throbbing,

Which guides you through the time-rhythm

Into the feeling of your own soul's being...

Human Soul!

You live in the reposing head

Which out of eternal springs

Unfolds for you Cosmic thoughts:

Live with Spirit-Vision

In thought's tranquillity...


(St. George Publications, 1980), GA 260, Dornach, Jan. 13, 1924.

Parents who do not know this piece by Rudolf Steiner can nonetheless see that their children have been taught part of a doctrine coming from the founder of Anthroposophy. The children may quickly forget these words. Nonetheless, at this point in their education, certain concepts have been introduced into their activities, possibly embedding themselves in the students' subconsciousness. Then, one day, these Anthroposophical doctrines planted in the children's souls may be reactivated! 

In the same text, the teacher establishes another link, this time with Anthroposophical doctrines concerning human nature, by comparing the head and trunk to the Sun and Moon. This is another element of Anthroposophical belief.

Drawings created by Waldorf teachers 
and copied by Waldorf students
sometimes reflect Rudolf Steiner's own drawings, 
as represented in Anthroposophical 
texts such as the following:

[French edition:
Rudolf Steiner, NATURE HUMANE (Ed., Triads), p. 179.]

[English edition:
(Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 160.]

The globe of the human head has the form of the Sun, Steiner said.
The concave human trunk (so he said) has the form of the Moon.


We can observe the same process of indoctrination at work in science classes. For example, during geology class in 5th grade, the teacher begins by introducing students to the various minerals and metals found within the Earth. Then he draws connections with the different planets, connecting the Sun with gold, Mars with iron, the Moon with silver, Saturn with lead, Jupiter with zinc [and so on]. Until now, you might think this is a traditional teaching, except that it reflects alchemy instead of chemistry. But the class teacher goes further, as revealed by the specifications page that we reproduce here. The teacher has the students draw a kind of multi-branched star whose points are associated with the planets and the center is supposed to be the Earth....

A mystic seven-pointed Waldorf star, 
with the Earth at the center.
Earth is thus connected to seven other planets 
and their seven magic metals.
The pertinent seven astrological signs 
are clearly marked. The lesson is that 
we cannot live without the seven holy planets 
and their magic metals.

The children learn that all of these metals have entered the Earth very subtly [from the other planets] and they participate in our life processes. Plants, animals, and humans cannot live without the assistance of these special influences. 

Typically, a Waldorf class teacher is cautious and avoids making explicit notations for his students, so as to leave no obvious traces of Anthroposophical indoctrination. He almost never would hand out such materials in typed form, as one unwise teacher did. Or he would pick up the papers after the students used them, as should always be done. What we see here, however, is the systematic presentation of very specific ideas coming from Rudolf Steiner. Indeed, Steiner associated the Earth's metals with various cosmic forces. They were first introduced into terrestrial evolution in etheric form, he said, and then they became dense and made their definite appearance as the seven special metals. Steiner described how — In cosmic entities, in the heavenly bodies, and in the kingdoms of nature — gold, for instance, is born from the condensing of a divine substance that should have remained immaterial. Gold has followed man in the Fall from Grace [i.e., Adam and Eve's sin in Eden], undergoing the same corruption as man himself. [In Steiner's theology, everything that exists on the physical Earth has fallen from higher, better realms.]

When Waldorf teachers are so indiscreet 
as to hand out pages like this to their students,
they really should gather the sheets up again 
at the end of class.

A rough translation follows
(these are instructions for Waldorf students, 
telling then what to put in their notebooks).



In the granite, we see a multitude of different colors, the sandstone are also brown, pink, yellow, red or purple. Everywhere we can say that it is the iron that creates the colors. Besides iron, there are many metals and just as in music there are seven sounds, so there are seven major metals related to the planets:


All of these metals have entered the Earth so very subtly and they participate in the processes of life. The plant, animal, and man cannot live without these metals.

[Steiner taught that seven is the number of perfection. He built an elaborate cosmology based on such ancient teachings: There are seven sacred planets, seven pure colors, seven true musical notes, seven magic metals, and so forth. Here, Perra gives us a glimpse of Steiner's theology being presented — sometimes obliquely, sometimes explicitly — in Waldorf classrooms. This, Perra argues, is Anthroposophical indoctrination in action. The children may not understand or consciously remember all of the strange concepts they are exposed to, but many of these concepts will sink deeply into them. The children will thus be conditioned so that, later in their lives, they will be likely to incline toward Anthroposophy; their preferences and inclinations will have been guided by their manipulative Waldorf education. - RR]

“Copying is the curse of the Waldorf Schools. There is altogether too much of it, and it is not confined to the elementary school. In high school, where there is much less excuse for it, it still goes on. The way in which many [Waldorf] teachers organize their work implies that they consider that the whole object of the course is the creation of a gorgeous notebook. And the way in which some teachers judge the work of other teachers implies the same thing.”
— Waldorf teacher Keith Francis, 
(iUniverse, 2004), 
p. 132.
[See "His Education".]

The following is excerpted from

"The Delusional World of Rudolf Steiner"

by Ian Hayward Robinson


...If some of [Steiner’s] ideas on education have worthwhile lessons for us – making the arts more central, dealing with the whole person, being concerned with initiation into the culture and not just training in skills – these good things are vitiated by the stubbornness with which Steiner schools and teachers try to shoehorn children into the pattern pre-determined for them by Steiner’s cogitations. While its propaganda claims a central concern for individual differences, in fact what Steiner education does is to try to slot all children into the developmental pigeon-hole designed for them by Rudolf Steiner, within which there is only a small amount of room to move. Human destiny is seen as moving along pre-ordained paths and the Steiner teacher's role is to keep children on the fairly straight and relatively narrow as defined by Steiner. 

Apart from the academic doubts, there are other concerns about having Steiner annexes as part of public schools. It effectively creates two schools with different philosophies and approaches under one administrative framework ... Because the Steiner parents form an organised and focused lobbying group, and often try to gain the collaboration of the school principal, there is an encroachment of Steiner’s anthroposophical ideas and methods into the mainstream state school system.

...There is clearly no evidential or experiential evidence for...[the] gratuitous absurdities that riddle Steiner education, so any resemblance between Steiner education and good educational practice is purely coincidental. That a number of children have survived it, and some even thrived, says more about the resilience of the human spirit than about the efficacy of this empirically groundless theory.

     Whether parents have the right to impose such aberrations as Steiner education on their own children is a moot point, but it is absolutely certain that they have no right to exploit the state system so that other children are exposed to this nonsense.


More Waldorf student work,

courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools:

Waldorf teachers often deny that they convey Anthroposophical doctrines to their students. In many cases, they may be telling the truth — as they understand it. They simply inform the students about the real universe, as they understand it. This "reality" is, however, Anthroposophical — it derives from the mysticism, esotericism, religious conviction, and/or occultism that they find so compelling. The evidence clearly shows that Waldorf schooling is deeply devoted to Rudolf Steiner's doctrines. By the time I graduated from a Waldorf school, I had accepted all of these tenets (among others): The modern world is wicked; most people have no inkling of the Truth; science is wrong; technology is evil; unseen spirits are all around us; beings such as gnomes really exist, albeit in a hard-to-specify way; the various human races stand at different evolutionary levels; Christ (who is different from what one learns in church) is central to human life; one improves spiritually through a process of meditation and prayer; Norse myths have special meaning and power; imagination is better than intellect; ordinary knowledge, such as one finds in encyclopedias, is suspect; powers of special spiritual insight can be attained (we didn't use the word clairvoyance, but this is what was meant); a "natural" lifestyle is greatly superior to the sorts of lives most people lead; nature should be revered but also feared; the physical universe is illusory and empty (unless it manifests the spiritual world beyond); the community in and around a Waldorf school is greatly superior to other communities; and so forth. Not all of these concepts are exclusively the product of Steiner's teachings, but all of them are woven through Waldorf education. Directly or indirectly, my teachers taught me these things, and I believed all of these lessons for many years. (In fact, I still believe a couple of them. Not everything taught in Waldorf schools is wrong.)

In preparing their lesson plans, Waldorf teachers often rely on booklets written by experienced, longtime Waldorf faculty members. Published by small Anthroposophical presses or by the senior faculty members themselves, such booklets lay out Anthroposophical themes and offer suggestions for class work.

Here are just a few of the multitude of booklets written for his colleagues by Roy Wilkinson. (COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT STORIES, THE CURRICULUM OF THE RUDOLF STEINER SCHOOL, THE HOSTS OF HEAVEN - An Elementary Study of the Spiritual Hierarchies, THE INTERPRETATION OF FAIRY TALES, A MAN AND HIS MISSION - Rudolf Steiner and Spiritual Science, THE SHAPING OF DESTINY - Reincarnation and Karma, and THE TEMPERAMENTS IN EDUCATION.)

For more on the ways Waldorf teachers convey Anthroposophy to their students, see, e.g., "Sneaking It In".

Waldorfish art 

(although a bit on the dark side)

by a Waldorf alumnus

[R.R., 2010].

Occultists often go to 

extraordinary lengths attempting

to rationalize their beliefs.

This is true in Anthroposophy 

as it is in other forms of occultism.

"In ridiculing the geocentric system of astronomy expounded by Claudius Ptolemy, modem astronomers have overlooked the philosophic key to the Ptolemaic system. The universe of Ptolemy is a diagrammatic representation of the relationships existing between the various divine and elemental parts of every creature, and is not concerned with astronomy as that science is now comprehended. In the above figure, special attention is called to the three circles of zodiacs surrounding the orbits of the planets. These zodiacs represent the threefold spiritual constitution of the universe. The orbits of the planets are the Governors of the World and the four elemental spheres in the center represent the physical constitution of both man and the universe, Ptolemy's scheme of the universe is simply a cross section of the universal aura, the planets and elements to which he refers having no relation to those recognized by modern astronomers."

— Manly P. Hall, 



(Hall attempts to provide a universal survey 

of occult teachings. He cites Steiner, 

but his views are not identical to Steiner's.)

[Wil Stegenga.]

The real universe is wondrous: 

full of variety, beauty, intricacy.

Some people see the hand of the Creator in it.

But some people find reality insufficient —

they prefer alternate, imagined universes

which they embrace as true.

Waldorf students are lured 

toward such alternative visions.


[RR, 2016.]

Mandalas are meditative tools used in many spiritual traditions. I remember creating numerous mandalas as a Waldorf student. Usually, these were created in math class. I don't remember that the spiritual significance of such images was ever explicitly explained to us, but the unspoken spiritual impact was distinct — it reinforced the spiritual impact of almost all our other classes and activities. The image shown here is a recent production, only approximately like the designs I remember copying 'way back when. Those designs were, of course, simpler — although they seemed intricate enough to a child[For more on Waldorf mandalas, see the section "Mandalas and Pentagrams" in "Mystic Lesson Books".]

Waldorf schools typically claim that they do not teach Anthroposophy to the students. But the fact is that Waldorf schools immerse students in an Anthroposophical atmosphere, and they teach kids to see the world as Anthroposophists see it. Here is an overview provided by a mother, Sharon Lombard, who sent her daughter to a Waldorf school. Lombard presents drawings and paintings created by her daughter for Waldorf lesson books. No single image proves, perhaps, that Waldorf school indoctrinate their students. But the cumulative effect of all the evidence presented is compelling. — R.R. 


by Sharon Lombard

Children in Waldorf schools are subtly led toward internalizing Anthroposophical beliefs, even when these beliefs are not spelled out for them. We can see this, for instance, in the artwork Waldorf students create under the guidance of their teachers.

◊ Gnomes ◊

Steiner taught that gnomes actually exist as life forms and can be found in metal mines. The Waldorf pupil's lesson book below, showing gnomes mining sacks of gold in a mine, reflects Steiner's teachings: 

"I should like to relate quite simply and plainly how such beings show themselves to clairvoyant sight. There are beings that can be seen with clairvoyant vision at many spots in the depths of the earth, especially places little touched by living growths, places, for instance, in a mine which have always been of a mineral nature. If you dig into the metallic or stony ground you find beings which manifest at first in remarkable fashion — it is as if something were to scatter us. They seem able to crouch close together in vast numbers, and when the earth is laid open they appear to burst asunder. The important point is that they do not fly apart into a certain number but that in their own bodily nature they become larger. Even when they reach their greatest size, they are still always small creatures in comparison with human beings. The enlightened man knows nothing of them. People, however, who have preserved a certain nature-sense, i.e. the old clairvoyant forces which everyone once possessed and which had to be lost with the acquisition of objective consciousness, could tell you all sorts of things about such beings. Many names have been given to them, such as goblins, gnomes and so forth...Their nature prompts them to play all sorts of tricks on man, as every miner can tell you who has still preserved something of a healthy nature sense — not so much the miners in coal mines as those in metal mines". — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS. Lectures from 1908-1924 (W. Ulrich Klunker, Comp. & Ed. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 63.


◊ Life After Death - Reincarnation ◊

Even an innocuous picture of a butterfly has a deeper meaning when you come across Anthroposophy's explanation for this lesson, a child's first introduction to immortality (which in Anthroposophy means reincarnation).

• "[T]he presentation of living pictures, or as we might say of symbols, to the mind, is important for the period between the change of teeth and puberty. It is important that the secrets of Nature, the laws of life, be taught to the boy or girl, not in dry intellectual concepts, but as far as possible in symbols. Parables of the spiritual connexions of things should be brought before the soul of the child in such a manner that behind the parables he divines and feels, rather than grasps intellectually, the underlying law in all existence ... An example may serve to make this clear. Let us imagine that we want to tell a child of the immortality of the soul, of the coming forth of the soul from the body. The way to do this is to use a comparison, such for example as the comparison of the butterfly coming forth from the chrysalis. As the butterfly soars up from the chrysalis, so after death the soul of man from the house of the body. No man will rightly grasp the fact in intellectual concepts, who has not first received it in such a picture. A child who has experienced this, will approach the subject with an altogether different mood of soul, when later it is taught him in the form of intellectual concepts. It is indeed a very serious matter for any man, if he was not first enabled to approach the problems of existence with his feeling. Thus it is essential that the educator have at his disposal parables for all the laws of Nature and secrets of the world". — M. C. Richards, TOWARD WHOLENESS: RUDOLF STEINER EDUCATION IN AMERICA (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1980), p. 55.

• "Reincarnation — Anthroposophy teaches that the 'I' [a person's divine self] experiences various lives on earth. The immortal 'I' alternately lives in the spiritual world and in the physical world. In both worlds human development continues. When someone is born again, he has a new opportunity to complete tasks left uncompleted in a previous life ... Rudolf Steiner saw it as his task to reintroduce the age-old concept of reincarnation and karma to the western world." — Henk van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z. A Glossary of Terms Relating to Rudolf Steiner's Spiritual Philosophy (East Sussex: Sophia Books, 2011), p. 98.

"The body is the house of the spirit"

In the third grade, a block on "the house" included Anthroposophical-spiritual concepts such as the body is a house we enter and leave — we do not really belong in this house, and we do not really belong in nature. Our "true home" is the spirit realm. Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson has explained how these concepts are included in the Waldorf curriculum, and Rudolf Steiner, when giving advice to Waldorf teachers, explained the underlying dogma:

• "The subject of house building can open paths to many considerations. First there is the comparison of the house with our body. We live in a house as the spirit lives in our body. We even go in and out [e.g., through reincarnation]. Then there is the idea of shelter, of using what nature gives to construct a place to cut oneself off from her. The third is the question of materials. Who provides them? Earth? God?" — Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION. The Waldorf School Approach (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 74.

• "[L]et’s say that I wish to teach a child about the continuation of the soul’s life after death. I would only deceive myself and never make it clear to the child if I taught only theories about it. There is no concept that can teach a child under fourteen about immortality. I could say, however, 'See this chrysalis; it is empty. Once there was a butterfly inside, but it crept away.' I could also demonstrate the process of how metamorphosis happens. It is good to show such things to children. Then I make a comparison: 'Imagine that it is you who are the chrysalis. Your soul is inside you, and later it will emerge just as a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis' ... You [the Waldorf teacher] can talk about this for a long time. However, if you yourself do not believe that the butterfly is an image of the human soul, you cannot accomplish much with children by using this analogy. You should not allow yourself the false notion that this whole idea is merely a contrived comparison, which it is not; it is a fact presented to us by the divine, cosmic order ... Our relationship to reality must be such that, out of our own comprehension, we bring to children’s souls more than an arbitrary picture of the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, for example, and instead present something we ourselves understand and believe in as given by divine cosmic powers." — Rudolf Steiner, PRACTICAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS. Foundation of Waldorf Education II. (Great Barrington: Anthroposophic Press, 2000), p. 16.


◊ Heaven and the Stars ◊

Waldorf classes are full of religious lessons, usually pushing Anthroposophical ideas. So, we come to Earth from Heaven — which is the same as coming from "the stars." Birth on Earth is a descent from the starry realm, which is the home of the gods. Astrology lies behind so many Waldorf practices. 

"Out of heaven
into birth
from the stars
to the Earth
I have flown"

“No one can acquire Astrology through thought or empirical research, as it is called today. If those who were initiated into the ancient Mysteries had been asked whether by means of investigation and thought one can learn Astrology, they would have answered: You can no more learn Astrology through thinking or empirical research than you can learn the secrets of a man by those means if he does not reveal them to you ... [T]hese ancients knew that the Gods alone knew the secrets of the stellar world: the Gods, or as they were called later, the Cosmic Intelligences. The Cosmic Intelligences know the secret of the stellar world, and they alone can tell it. Therefore the student had to follow the path of cognition which leads to an understanding intercourse with the Cosmic Intelligences.

“The real true Astrology depended upon a man's attaining this possibility of understanding the Cosmic Intelligences.” — Rudolf Steiner, MYSTERY CENTRES (Blauvelt: Garber Communications, 1985), lecture 13, GA 232.


"Subtle Imprinting Through Art"
continues at The Waldorf Watch Annex.
Click on this link: "Mystic Lesson Books".

[RR, 2016.]

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



A survey of the standard Waldorf curriculum

How they try to do it

How they get that way

The irrational modes of “thought” fostered at Waldorf schools


English classes and history classes in a typical Waldorf school


The central mythology in many Waldorf schools: Norse myths

At Waldorf schools, ignorance is often taken as wisdom


The Waldorf curriculum: the arts, and festivals


How they paint and draw


The Waldorf curriculum: math


The antiscientific nature of Waldorf education


The Anthroposophical take on technology

No [external link]


The Waldorf curriculum: astronomy


Steiner on our solar system or "our universe"


A behind-the-scenes look at Waldorf education


Exploring the fundamentals of Waldorf schooling


Further explorations


Still further explorations

Talks between Steiner and Waldorf teachers

"Practical" tips Steiner gave to Waldorf faculty

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


[1] Waldorf schools generally continue to shun textbooks, having their students create lesson books instead. The following is from a newspaper account published in February, 2009. I will withhold the name of the school and administrator in question:

“At [X] Waldorf School, all forms of the arts are completely integrated with every aspect of the curriculum, in line with Waldorf methodology, which emphasizes arts and the ‘inner life.’

“Art, music, handwork and woodwork are all part of a child's daily school experience at Waldorf.

“For example, students create their own main lesson books in all the academic subjects.

“If the topic is chemistry, they study the subject in a broad way that includes history, literature and biographies of chemists in addition to the laboratory science itself.

“‘Out of that, they create their main lesson book. They hand write and illustrate it, and that is one way that visual arts is worked into chemistry,’ says [Y], school administrator.” [Calgary Herald, Feb. 12, 2009.]

There can be advantages to this approach, but there may also be clear disadvantages. The Waldorf school in question, here, may be excellent — I don’t know anything about the school beyond what the newspaper describes. But there are elements in the report that may cause concern. For Rudolf Steiner, the “inner life” is subjective spiritualism, based on clairvoyance. Steiner emphasized art for occult, not aesthetic, reasons. And he de-emphasized science. Consider how much hard science a student may learn if s/he spends “science” study time reading “history, literature and biographies” and then creating a hand-lettered report, complete with time-consuming illustrations. How much time is spent actually studying science or working in a science lab?

[2] Students taking science classes at a Waldorf school may be diverted in many ways from acquiring real scientific knowledge. At my school, we students spent an inordinate amount of time illustrating procedures performed by the teacher. We never designed our own experiments nor sought to apply the scientific method in pursuit of independent science projects.

Students at other Waldorfs may perform construction projects instead of experiments. For example, physics students may recreate obsolete electrical contraptions. Here’s an excerpt from a recent news story. I will omit the name of the Waldorf school involved: “High school students at [X] Waldorf School took real pleasure in completing physics projects, designing a Wimhurst machine, DC motors and Van de Graaff generators.” [phoenixvillenews.com, Jan. 23, 2009.] Wimhurst machines are generators invented during the 1880s; Van de Graaff generators date from the 1930s. Building such devices may give students some appreciation of electricity, but it would not convey twenty-first century scientific information.

According to a spokesperson, “‘At [X] Waldorf School, students are provided experiences that strengthen and reinforce their own inclination to experiment, explore and question. Students often communicate how science is perceived as fun.’” [Ibid.] Recreating old-fashioned gizmos may well be fun, but it would hardly produce the creativity needed for real science, which is the exploration of the unknown. It is in no way a form of experimentation or scientific research. It is a diversion.

[3] "Living pictures" are, ultimately, images of "living thoughts." [See "Thinking".]

[4] Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 62.

[5] Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998).

[6] See, e.g., “Thinking Cap”.

[7] See, e.g., “Steiner’s ‘Science’”.

[8] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 65.

[9] See "Clairvoyance".

[10] See, e.g., "Foundations".

[R. R. simulation of Anthroposophical art, 2010.]

Most Anthroposophical art is representational — it depicts various spiritual beings, conditions, or "truths." But even images that seem abstract may be considered representational, depicting the spirit realm as described by Steiner: 

"[T]hough the world from which the soul descends [at birth] has no spatial forms or lines, it does have color intensities, color qualities. Which is to say that the world man inhabits between death and a new birth (and which I have frequently and recently described) is a soul-permeated, spirit-permeated world of light, of color, of tone; a world of qualities, not quantities; a world of intensities rather than extensions. Thus in certain primitive, almost-forgotten civilizations, they who descended and dipped into a physical body had the sensation that through it he entered into relation with a physical environment, grew into space. To him the physical body was completely attuned to space, and he said to himself: 'This is foreign to me, it was not so in the spirit-soul world. Here I am under the joke [sic — yoke?] of three dimensions — dimensions which had no meaning before my descent into the physical world. But color, tone harmonies, tone melodies, have very much meaning in the spiritual world.'” 

— Rudolf Steiner, 


(Anthroposophic Press, 1964), 

p. 23.