Steiner Tells What's What,
Rudolf Steiner occasionally gave talks to workmen, laborers. In these talks, he tried to present his doctrines as clearly as possible.
Transcripts of these talks, then, provide a useful introduction to Steiner’s teachings.
On this page, we will take a look at some of the remarkable statements collected in the volume
THE EVOLUTION OF THE EARTH AND MAN AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE STARS (Anthroposophic Press, 1987), GA 354,
which contains fourteen talks Steiner gave to workmen at the construction site of the Anthroposophical headquarters building.
Virtually every one of these statements is, or contains, falsehoods or fallacies — or both.
Note them, piling up, one after another — a litany of sophistry, error, and delusion.
Steiner gave these talks in 1924 — the last full year of his life.
Although he was simplifying for the workmen, he was also expressing his mature thinking,
the ultimate results of his many years of "clairvoyant research."
Few men have ever been more wrong about more subjects — great and small — than Rudolf Steiner.
[Anthroposophic Press, 1987]
Steiner jumps around a lot, and not all of his comments are equally interesting.
To help you browse, I have highlighted key terms so you can find topics that may hold particular interest for you.
1. "Unless the earth as a whole had died there could be no human being. Human beings are parasites, as it were, on the present earth. The whole earth was once alive; it could think as you and I now think. But only when it became a corpse could it produce the human race ... Originally there was a living, thinking, cosmic body — a living, thinking, cosmic body!" — Rudolf Steiner, THE EVOLUTION OF THE EARTH AND MAN AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE STARS, p. 3.
Steiner taught that the Earth was once a giant animal. [See "Neutered Nature".] He also taught, sometimes, that the Earth is alive now. For instance, giving advice on farming, he said "You should not permeate the living Earth with something absolutely lifeless like the mineral [i.e., inorganic fertilizer]." — Rudolf Steiner, AGRICULTURE COURSE (Bio-Dynamic Agricultural Association, 1958), discussion after lecture 6, GA 327. But Steiner contradicted himself on many subjects, great and small.
2. "What then is actually the original element that makes things solid or fluid or gaseous? It is heat! And unless heat is there in the first place, nothing at all can be solid or fluid. So we can say that heat or fire is what is underlying everything in the beginning." — Ibid., p. 5.
Some ancient Greek philosophers said that there are four chemical elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Anthroposophists generally hold to this view today. Here Steiner speaks of heat as if it were a chemical: an "original element." Of course, it is not.
3. "It is not true that the animals were there originally and that man developed out of them. Man was there originally and afterwards the animals evolved out of what could not become man ... Thus the animals are indeed related to man, but they developed only later in the course of world evolution." — Ibid., pp. 7-8.
[THE EVOLUTION OF THE EARTH AND MAN AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE STARS, p. 6; color added.]
Steiner taught that the cosmos was created for man, and man was the first new being to exist in this cosmos. And he taught that animals evolved from man: They are beings who failed to keep evolving, so they branched off from mankind and remained at various lower levels while man continued evolving upward. According to Steiner, the solar system pulses into and out of existence in long stages of "planetary" evolution. The first stage was Old Saturn, when only man (in a preliminary condition) existed. During the next stage of the solar system's evolution, Old Sun, animals precipitated out of man. During Old Moon, plants first came into existence. Now, during Present Earth, all four kingdoms of nature — man, animal, plant, and mineral — exist.
Speaking of a time in the ancient past when, Steiner said, the Moon and Earth were a single body:
4. "The Moon was there, an entirely female being, and confronting it was not a male being, but all that was still outside its cosmic body at that time. Outside it were many other cosmic bodies that exerted an influence ... So this cosmic body was there and around it the other cosmic bodies, exerting their influence in the most varied ways. Seeds came in from outside and fructified the whole Moon-Earth. And if you could have lived at that time and set foot on this primeval cosmic body, you would not have said when you saw all sorts of drops coming in 'It is raining,' as one says today. At that time you would have said, 'Earth is being fructified.' There were seasons when the fructifying seeds came in from all directions, and other seasons when they matured and no more came in. Thus at that time there was a cosmic fructification. But the human being was not born, only fructified; he was only called forth by conception. The human being came out of the entire Earth-body, or Moon-body, as it was then. In the same way fructification came from the whole cosmic surroundings for animal and plant." — Ibid., p. 11.
In this quotation, Steiner is describing conditions during Old Moon. The Earth and Moon were still a single body at that time, he said. [See, e.g., "Matters of Form".] But astronomers tell us that the Moon did not separate from the Earth; instead, it was created by the collision of the Earth with a planet-sized object. As for cosmic fructification...
5. "Since people today on the whole can no longer think properly, they misunderstand what exists on earth as plant, animal, and man. Thus materialistic Darwinism arose, which believed that the animals were there first and that man simply developed out of the animals. It is true that in his external form man is related to the animals, but he existed earlier...." — Ibid., p. 15.
According to Steiner, people used to possess a natural clairvoyance that kept them in touch with the spirit realm, but in modern times we have lost our old clairvoyant powers. During our present phase of evolution, we are estranged from spirit, and our thinking is empty. Modern thinking is dominated by mere intellect, which produces abominations such as Darwinism. We needed to acquire intellect in order to evolve further, but we need to move beyond intellect as soon as we can — we need new, higher forms of clairvoyance, and Steiner claimed to point the way toward developing these. This is the central promise of Anthroposophy, the belief system underlying Waldorf education. [See, e.g., "Thinking" and "Everything".]
Aside from this, here we again see Steiner denying the truth of Darwinian evolution. But there is a vast body of evidence supporting Darwin, while there is essentially no evidence supporting Steiner's claim that animals evolved downward from humans.
[THE EVOLUTION OF THE EARTH AND MAN AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE STARS, p. 21; color added.]
6. "Now you must picture to yourselves that the earth once looked like this [long, long ago] ... If one could have lived then with the present sense organs, one would have seemed to be inside a world-egg beyond which one could see nothing. And you can imagine how different the earth looked at that time, like a kind of giant egg yolk, a thick fluid, and a thick air environment corresponding to the white of the present-day egg ... [B]eings such as we have today could not have lived at that time ... [A]t that time there was neither walking nor swimming but something in between. These creatures therefore had limbs in which there was something of a thorn-like nature, but also something like joints. They were really quite ingenious joints, and in between, the flesh mass was stretched out like an umbrella." — Ibid., pp. 21-23.
The descriptions Steiner gives of ancient conditions are entertaining but wholly fictitious. There is no factual basis for any of his statements on such matters. He is describing what he has seen thanks to his wonderful clairvoyance (which is a delusion — see "Clairvoyance").
7. "Reproduction was at that time [long, long ago] of a very different nature; it went on in the whole earth-body. The upper world fructified the lower, the lower world fructified the upper. The whole earth-body was alive. One could say that the creatures below and the creatures above were like maggots in a body — where the whole body is alive and the maggots in it are alive too. It was one life, and the various beings lived in a completely living body." — Ibid., p. 25.
This is the sort of comment that may have caught the workmen's attention — fructification. The entire world was a living entity that made love to itself, the upper impregnating the lower, and vice versa. It's a pretty concept, I suppose. But the bit about the maggots drains some of the romance from it, IMO.
8. "[T]he moon, which has around it [i.e., on its surface] what we have in the interior of the earth, produced a thickish, horny mass on the outside. This is what we see when we look up. It is not like our mineral kingdom, but it is as if our mineral kingdom had become horn-like and turned into glass. It is extraordinarily hard, harder than anything horn-like that we have on earth, but it is not quite mineral. Hence the peculiar shape of the moon mountains; they actually all look like horns that have been fastened on." — Ibid., p. 27.
Steiner wrote and spoke at a time when no probes or humans had been to the Moon. He evidently did not anticipate that his statements about the Moon would soon be subject to verification or disproof. (Steiner died in 1925. The first lunar probes were launched in 1958. Men first walked on the Moon in 1969.) The surface of the Moon does not consist of a hornlike substance; it consists of ordinary rocks and dust. And the mountains of the Moon are quite ordinary; they bear no resemblance to "horns that have been fastened on." Steiner's statements about other celestial phenomena are similarly false, as we will see. In general, Steiner's descriptions of the natural world are wrong, undercutting his claim that he possessed a reliable, exact form of clairvoyance. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Blunders" and "Exactly".]
9. "[M]an was there [i.e., in existence] first. But he lived in the [element of] warmth purely as soul and spirit; he was indeed already present in all that I have described, but not as a physical being. He was there in a very fine [i.e., nonphysical] body in which he could support himself equally in the air and in the dense fluid. And neither he nor the higher mammals were visible as yet; only the heavy creatures and the bird-like air-creatures were visible. That is what must be distinguished when one says that man was already there. He was first of all, before even the air was there, but he was invisible, and he was still in an invisible state when the earth looked as I have now described. The moon had first to separate from the earth, then man could deposit mineral elements in himself, could form a mineral bony system, could develop such substances as protein, and so forth, in his muscles. At that time such substances did not as yet exist. Nevertheless, man has completely preserved in his present corporeal nature the legacy of those earlier times." — Ibid., p. 31.
Steiner's descriptions of life "on" Saturn, Sun, and Moon (i.e., life during Old Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon) are essentially science fiction, but he expects us to take them seriously. This strains the credulity even of his admirers, such as Gary Lachman:
10. "People today do not think about things as we have done here in the last two lectures ... Modern science goes into [these topics] very little." — Ibid., pp. 34-41.
Steiner claimed that his teaching constitute "spiritual science" — they are the objective, scientific observations he made through the use of clairvoyance. He also claimed, sometimes, that there is no real contradiction between his teachings and the findings of natural science. But, in fact, "spiritual science" is not at all scientific, and it is contradicted by real science at almost every turn. Steiner sometimes acknowledged his disagreements with real science, arguing that scientists in general do not comprehend the deep truths he perceived through his superior consciousness. [See, e.g., "Science".] The reality that he and his followers have failed to acknowledge is that, to the extent that Steiner's teachings can be tested, they fail the test. Real science knocks "spiritual science" for a loop. People today usually "do not think about things as we have done" for a very good reason. The way Steiner and his followers think is, by and large, just plain wrong.
[THE EVOLUTION OF THE EARTH AND MAN AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE STARS, p. 34; color added.]
Steiner speaks to the workers about geology and the strata of the Earth. He says that the strata are jumbled, so reading the history of evolution is difficult, but in general older things lie deeper. This is true enough. Then Steiner says that sometimes, when people dig down, they find pagan temples beneath Christian churches.
11. "If you think back to what I said just now — that below the earth there could be pagan temples and above Christian churches — you will see that the Christian churches are related to the pagan temples just as the upper strata to the lower, only that in one case we have to do with nature, in the other with culture. But one will not understand how the Christian element evolved if one does not observe that it evolved out of paganism as its foundation. In culture too we have to consider these strata. — Ibid., p. 41.
This is remarkable sophistry. Christianity may have evolved from earlier religions, even pagan religions (although this idea would offend most Christians), but the existence of pagan ruins below Christian churches, if they exist, proves nothing of the sort. A spaceport may be built above a graveyard, but this does not mean that space flight evolved from funerals. The accepted history of Christianity is that it developed from Judaism, not paganism.
12. "I am always saying that if people could really travel to a star, they would be amazed to find it different from the modern ideas about it determined by their life on earth. They imagine that it contains a glowing gas. But that is not at all what is found out there. Actually, where the star is, there is empty space, empty space that would immediately suck one up. Suction forces are there. They would suck you up instantly, split you to pieces. If people would work with the same consistent research and the same unprejudiced thinking as we do here, they would also come to see with intricate spectroscopes that there are not gases out there, but negative suctional space." — Ibid., p. 46.
Steiner's descriptions of natural phenomena are almost invariably wrong. His knowledge of stars and planets was as faulty as his knowledge of most other subjects. Here is how the word "star" is defined by the ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA: "star, any massive self-luminous celestial body of gas that shines by radiation derived from its internal energy sources." If Steiner's teachings were somewhat plausible in his own day, they are less and less so today. Believing Steiner requires the rejection of modern knowledge and, thus, it is a retreat from truth.
13. "There was once a large expanse of land [Atlantis] where today there is the Atlantic Ocean ... In that earlier time there was not yet such a solid bony skeleton [i.e., we did not have bony skeletons]. Human beings could have had only soft cartilage, like sharks. Also they could not have breathed through lungs as we do today. At that time they had to have a kind of swimming bladder and a kind of gills, so that the human being who lived then was in his external form half man and half fish. We cannot escape the fact that man then looked quite different — half man and half fish ... The more imperfect of these fish-men became [i.e., evolved to become] kangaroos, those a little more advanced became deer and cattle, and the most perfect became apes or men. You see from this that man did not descend from apes: man was there, and all the mammals really descended from him, from these human forms in which man remained imperfect. So we must say that the ape descended from man, not that man descended from the ape. That is so, and we must be quite clear about it." — Ibid., pp. 54-55.
Steiner taught that during our currently evolutionary stage on the Earth we have passed through various epochs: Polarian, Hyperborean, Lemurian, and Atlantean. We are now in the Post-Atlantean period. [See the Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.] But, in reality, Atlantis never existed. [See "Atlantis and the Aryans".] The other prehistorical periods he posited are equally fictitious, as are the sorts of bodies he says we had (or didn't have) along the way. And, of course, the idea that animals evolved from us, instead of vice versa, is completely baseless.
14. "[Atlantis] was preceded by a thinner [i.e., less densely physical] condition when there was only a culture and civilization that men made in signs that disappeared at once [i.e., the artifacts of this ancient period quickly evaporated; this was when we lived on the continent of Lemuria]. So we must imagine that these men shaped everything once upon a time, but nothing lasted; it was there in very delicate matter ... [W]hen men had their whole culture and civilization in only a sort of dense air, they had joy in making something even if it vanished at once ... [In our studies] we have gone very far back and have found human beings who really consisted only of dense air. Imagine it like this: there is a man [made] of dense air, who has the appearance of a cloud, only not so irregularly formed, for he has what definitely looks like a face, a head, and limbs. But it is something very spiritual; it is almost a ghost! If you met something like it today, you would take it for a ghost, and indeed a very peculiar ghost. It would look somewhat like a fish — and then again somewhat like a man. We were once like that. So now we have already arrived at a stage when [long ago] man was really quite spiritual. And the farther we go back, the more we find that man as spirit dominates matter. We present human beings [i.e., humans today] can do this only with the softest elements of matter. If we take a piece of bread into our mouth, we can bite it and make it liquid — for all food has to become liquid if it is to pass into the human body. Just think! You make bread liquid...." — Ibid., p. 60.
Steiner claimed that before humanity inhabited Atlantis, we lived on another lost continent, Lemuria. There is no evidence that either continent ever existed, but Steiner argued that this is, in part, because earthly conditions had not yet hardened sufficiently. His arguments are often singularly unimpressive (Just think! You make bread liquid!). Steiner claimed that his own knowledge of the ancient Earth — like his knowledge of everything else — came primarily from his clairvoyance, so he was able to tell us about things for which no evidence exists. Of course, postulating that no evidence could possibly exist might be seen as a clever evasion. We can't prove Steiner wrong if looking for evidence would be a fool's errand. On the other hand, the lack of evidence leaves Steiner's statements entirely unfounded. Why in the world would anyone believe him? Which is more foolish, skepticism or blind belief? [For more on such matters, see "Early Earth", "Atlantis and the Aryans", "Lemuria", and "Exactly".]
15. "[T]he Chinese in their old culture did not include anything that can be called religion. The Chinese culture was devoid of religion ... [T]hey did not know the meaning of prayer ... Originally the Chinese had no gods of any kind." — Ibid., pp. 67-69.
Having discussed the early evolution of Earth and mankind, Steiner turns his attention of historical times. But his observations about nations and cultures are generally as wrong as his observations about other matters. Here are two of the references in the ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA to ancient Chinese religion and its gods. (The current Chinese government generally discourages religion, but ancient religious beliefs and practices persist in many Chinese communities.) • “T’u-ti Kung, in Chinese religion, a god whose deification and functions are determined by local residents ... In all cases, a Tudi Gong is subservient to the Cheng Huang, the City God or spiritual magistrate.” • "Sheji, (Chinese: “Soil and Grain”) Wade-Giles romanization She Chi, in ancient Chinese religion, a compound patron deity of the soil and harvests."
Steiner's admirers are impressed that he spoke and wrote about such a wide array of subjects. What they often overlook is that he was very often wrong about the this wide array of subjects.
16. “[T]he idea that the population of the earth increases is just superstition on the part of modern science, which always makes its calculations from data to suit itself. The truth is that even in the most ancient times there was a vast population in China, also in South America and North America. There too in those ancient times the land reached out to the Pacific Ocean. If that is taken into account the population of the earth cannot be said to have grown." — Ibid., p. 68.
Because of his teachings about reincarnation, Steiner claimed that the human population is the same as ever — there are roughly as many incarnated souls now as there were in the past. In this, however, he was blatantly wrong. The human population of the Earth today is far greater than at any time in the past.
17. "[T]he Chinese were unable to think out any legal system." — Ibid., p. 70.
18. "[T]he European sort of invention is impossible for either the Chinese or the Japanese ... [T]he Indians in those very ancient times...had tremendous powers of imagination. The Chinese had none at all ... The Chinese lack imagination whereas the Indians have been full of it from the beginning." — Ibid., pp. 77-79.
19. "[T]he Chinese were a prosaic people interested in the outer world, a people who did not live from within. The Indians were a people who looked entirely inward." — Ibid., p. 82.
For more of Steiner's teachings about various races and nationalities, see, e.g., "Steiner's Racism".
Having spoken of cosmology, geology, prehistory, and cultural anthropology, Steiner turns his attention to medicine.
20. "[I]f — for instance — a child is becoming weak in his head — inattentive, hyperactive — he will usually have a corresponding symptom: worms in his intestines. Worms develop easily in the intestines if the head forces are too weak, because the head does not then work down strongly enough into the rest of the body. Worms find no lodging in a human body if the head forces are working down strongly into the intestines. You can see how magnificently the human body is arranged! — everything is related. And if one's child has worms, one should realize the child has become weak in his head. Also — whoever wants to be a teacher has to know these things — if there are persons who at a later age are weak-minded, one can be sure they have had worms when they were young." — Ibid., p. 90.
Note that Steiner implies that Waldorf teachers should subscribe to his quack medical views ("whoever wants to be a teacher has to know these things"). Chilling. [For more of Steiner's teachings about medical matters and nutrition, see, e.g., "Steiner's Quackery", "What We're Made Of", and "Biodynamics".]
21. "The potato takes little care of lung and heart. It reaches the head, but only, as I said, the lower head, not the upper head. It does go into the lower head, where one thinks and exercises critical faculties. Therefore, you can see, in earlier times there were fewer journalists. There was no printing industry yet. Think of the amount of thought expended daily in this world in our time, just to bring the newspapers out! All that thinking, it is much too much, it is not at all necessary — and we have to thank the potato diet for that! Because a person who eats potatoes is constantly stimulated to think. He can't do anything but think. That's why his lungs and his heart become weak. Tuberculosis, lung tuberculosis, did not become widespread until the potato diet was introduced. And the weakest human beings are those living in regions where almost nothing else is grown but potatoes, where the people live on potatoes." — Ibid., p. 111.
Potatoes have a lot to answer for
(even if Steiner was somewhat inconsistent about the malign effects of this vile vegetable).
"People who eat too many potatoes...tend to be weak in the head ...
It is actually due to the fact that potatoes have come to be widely eaten in recent times that materialism has developed...."
— Rudolf Steiner, FROM ELEPHANTS TO EINSTEIN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 44.
22. "Materialistic science knows nothing about nutrition; it has no idea what is healthy food for humanity. That is precisely the characteristic of materialism, that it thinks and thinks and thinks — and knows nothing." — Ibid., p. 111.
By "materialistic science," Steiner means the natural or physical sciences (chemistry, physics, biology, and so on). Here, again, he reveals his opposition to real science — i.e., real knowledge. He is even opposed to much thinking. "All that thinking, it is much too much, it is not at all necessary." As for knowledge of nutrition, we might hear Steiner further on the subject of potatoes. • "People who eat too many potatoes and have to make a terrible effort in their heads to cope with potato fermentation therefore tend to be weak in the head. It is mainly the middle parts of the brain that grow weak, leaving only the front parts which make little effort to prevent potato fermentation. It is actually due to the fact that potatoes have come to be widely eaten in recent times that materialism has developed...." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM ELEPHANTS TO EINSTEIN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 44. • "Let us take a very ordinary, practical matter: the eating of potatoes ... If in spiritual science (anthroposophy is, after all, only a name) genuine investigation is made into how the potato nourishes the human being, the potato is found to be something that is not completely digested by the digestive organs, but it passes into the head through the lymph glands, through the blood, in such a way that the head itself must also serve as a digestive organ for the potato. When potatoes are eaten in large quantities, the head becomes a kind of stomach and also digests ... This kind of knowledge can never be derived from natural science. When things are genuinely investigated with respect to their spiritual quality, it becomes apparent that in this modern age humanity has been seriously injured by the excessive consumption of potatoes." — Rudolf Steiner, THE EVOLUTION OF THE EARTH AND MAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF THE STARS (Anthroposophic Press, 1987), lecture 8, GA 354.
This would all be quite funny, if Steiner were joking. (Hence, Mr. Potato Head.) But Steiner was serious, and his followers — some of whom run Waldorf schools — take him seriously. Can you? [For more on "materialistic" thinking and science, see "Materialism U."]
23. "No one who is predisposed to arteriosclerosis in his entire body can possibly suffer an attack of hay fever. For hay fever is the exact opposite of arteriosclerosis. Now you suffer from hay fever. That shows that your hay fever — of course it is not pleasant to have hay fever, it's much better to have it cured: but we are talking of the tendency to have it — your hay fever is a kind of safety valve against arteriosclerosis." — Ibid., p. 113.
I swear, I am not making up any of this.
24. "[A] child who jumps up on his chair to sneak a lump of sugar obviously has something the matter with his liver. Just the simple fact that he must sneak a bit of sugar, is a sign that his liver is not in order. Only those children sneak sugar who have something wrong with their livers — it is then actually cured by the sugar. The others are not interested in sugar; they ignore it. Naturally, such a performance can't be allowed to become a habit; but one must have understanding for it ... You see, if a child is watching all the time and thinking, when will Father or Mother not be looking, so that I can take that sugar: then later he will sneak other things. If you satisfy the child, if you give him what he needs, then he doesn't become a thief. It is of great importance from a moral point of view whether one observes such things or not. It is very important, gentlemen." — Ibid., p. 117.
Steiner's knowledge of children was about on a par with his knowledge of other things (which is a sobering thought, considering that Waldorf education is built on Steiner's pronouncements about children)> How many children have you known who are not interested in sugar?
25. "[T]he journalist — or any other person who writes for a profession — loves coffee, quite instinctively. He sits in the coffee shop and drinks one cup after another, and gnaws at his pen so that something will come out that he can write down. Gnawing at his pen doesn't help him, but the coffee does, so that one thought comes out of another, one thought joins on to another. And then look at the diplomats ... With a diplomat one thought must leap over into another. So anyone who is obliged to be a charming conversationalist follows his instinct and drinks lots of tea.
"Tea scatters thoughts; it lets one jump into them. Coffee brings one thought next to another. If you must leap from one thought to another, then you must drink tea. And one even calls them 'diplomat teas'! — while there sits the journalist in the coffee shop, drinking one cup of coffee after another." — Ibid., p. 117.
26. "The savages have developed into what they now are — with their superstitions, their magical practices and their unclean appearance — from states originally more perfect. The only superiority we have over them is that, while starting from the same conditions, we did not degenerate as they did ... Just as the present savages have fallen from the level of the human beings of primeval times, so the apes are beings who have fallen still lower ... [I]f conditions prevailing on earth today continue, conditions in which everything is based on violence and power, and wisdom counts for nothing — well, it could indeed happen that the men who want to found everything on power would gradually take on animal-like bodies again, and that two races would then appear. One race would be those who stand for peace, for the spirit, and for wisdom, while the other would be those who revert to an animal form. It might indeed be said that those who care nothing today for the progress of mankind, for spiritual realities, may be running the risk of degenerating into an ape species." — Ibid., pp. 126-127.
We are evolving upward, Steiner taught. But in our current stage of evolution, we are more densely physical — and thus less spiritual — than we once were and will be again. Thus, in a sense we were more perfect previously and will become more perfect again in the future. "Savages," according to Steiner, are humans who failed to evolve properly and thus degenerated, while apes are humans who degenerated even further. Some humans living today may degenerate to become apes, Steiner taught. Steiner also said that people who fail to accept his teachings may become subhuman or may indeed be subhuman now, and he said that human races represent differing levels of evolution — blacks, for instance, are unevolved and childlike while whites stand at the highest rung yet reached by humanity. [See, e.g., "Races" and "Forbidden".]
27. "During our recent trip to Holland we bought an illustrated paper, and on the last page there was a curious picture: a child, a small child, really a baby — and as its nurse, taking care of it, bringing it up, [was] an ape, an orangutan. There it was, holding the baby quite properly, and it was to be engaged, the paper said — somewhere in America, of course — as a nursemaid ... You will see far-reaching proposals for breeding apes and putting them to work in factories ... Only think: other animals beside apes can be trained to do many things. Dogs, for instance, are very teachable. But the question is whether this will be for the advance or the decline of civilization. Civilization will most definitely decline. It will deteriorate. The children brought up by ape-nurses will quite certainly become ape-like." — Ibid., p. 128.
For some reason, despite Steiner's prophecy, the use of ape-nurses has never caught on here in the USA. Hard to explain. Steiner thought Americans capable of almost anything low and demented. He didn't like us much. [See "America".]
28. "[T]he European with his materialistic civilization knows how to construct a locomotive. The intellectual method by which he constructs his engine could never have been the way the ancient Greeks would have set about it, for the Greeks still lacked intellect. Intellect first came to man in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries." — Ibid., p. 135.
Steiner's views on intellect are complex. He claimed that we need intellect, and indeed one of the main purposes of our current stage of evolution is to acquire intellect. However, he also taught that intellect is destructive, and true knowledge cannot be acquired through the use of intellect. The use of the brain — that material organ — produces "materialistic thinking" or intellectual thought that only applies to the low, physical plane of existence. The intellect is, in a sense, a passing phase; we developed it only recently and will pass beyond it. When we have strengthened and sharpened ourselves by mastering this level of existence, we will leave this level far behind. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Specific" and "Thinking".] As for the notorious lack of intellect among the ancient Greeks: Tell this to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle...
29. "[P]eople are always saying that the World War [i.e., World War I] was unlike anything ever experienced before, and it is indeed a fact that men have never before so viciously torn one another to pieces. But if men refuse to take the course of returning to the spirit and bringing their intellect with them, then still greater wars will come upon us, wars that will become more and more savage. Men will really destroy one another as the two rats did that, shut up together in a cage, gnawed at each other till there was nothing left of them but two tails. That is putting it rather brutally, but in fact mankind is on the way to total extermination. It is very important to know this." — Ibid., p. 137.
Although he was an advocate of peace, Steiner's account of human and cosmic history — which came primarily out of his own imagination — is extremely violent. Before our present era, he taught, we lived on Atlantis, and before that on Lemuria. He said that mankind caused cataclysms that sank both of those continents, and our present epoch will end in the War of All Against All. [See "All v. All".] As for his reference in the above passage to intellect: Steiner said that a central purpose of our present epoch is to develop intellect, a faculty that he said is destructive and limited but necessary. We will retain our intellectual abilities in future epochs, he said, but we will also transcend them, developing high clairvoyant powers. Steiner claimed that his teachings, including his descriptions of the future, resulted from his own clairvoyance. [See "Exactly".] By "returning to the spirit," he meant becoming more spiritual, as he claimed we were in the past and will be again in the future. He taught, however, that if mankind disregards his doctrines and warnings, we will go to our ruin.
30. "[P]hysicists would be immensely astonished if they went up into space expecting to find the sun as they describe it in their science. Their descriptions are nonsense. If by some convenient transport the physicists could reach the sun, they would be amazed to find no gas whatsoever. They would find hollow space, a real vacuum. This vacuum radiates light." — Ibid., pp. 143-144.
Steiner was free to make preposterous statements about the stars and planets because, in his time (1861-1925), astronomy was far less advanced than it is today and humanity had not yet launched any space probes. Today we know that Steiner's preposterous statements were preposterous. Stars are not light-emitting vacuums; they are incandescent balls of gas fueled by nuclear reactions. [See the ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA's description of stars quoted earlier.] Steiner's falsehoods were less apparent to audiences in the early 20th century; today, in the early 21st century, there is little or no excuse for accepting his falsehoods.
31. "[P]lants smell the universe and adapt themselves accordingly ... The violet is really all nose, a very, very delicate nose ... [S]o we can say when we smell a violet: This violet is really all nose — but a delicate nose, inhaling the cosmic scent of Mercury. It holds the scent, as I have indicated, between its solid parts and exhales it; then the scent is dense enough for us to be able to smell it. So when Mercury comes toward us through the violet, we smell Mercury. If with our coarse noses we were to sniff toward Saturn, we would smell nothing. But when the asafetida, which has a keen nose for Saturn, sniffs toward that planet, it smells what comes from it, adapts its gas content accordingly, and has a most foul odor. Suppose you are walking through an avenue of horse chestnuts — you know the scent of horse chestnut, or of linden blossoms? They both have such perfume because their flowers are sensitive noses for everything that streams into the universe from Venus." — Rudolf Steiner, THE EVOLUTION OF THE EARTH AND MAN AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE STARS (Anthroposophic Press, 1987), pp. 146-147.
32. "Originally, different races lived in different regions of the earth. One race developed in one region, another race in another. Why was this? It is quite correct to say that one planet has a particularly strong influence upon one part of the earth, another planet upon another part. In Asia, for instance, the land is strongly affected by what streams to the earth from Venus — Venus, the evening star. What streams from Saturn works with particular strength upon the American soil. And Mars works particularly strongly upon Africa. So we find that each of the planets works particularly strongly upon some specific part of the earth. They radiate their light from the various places where they stand in the heavens. The light of Venus, for instance, works quite differently upon the earth from the light of Mercury. This is connected with the different formations of mountains, of rocks. Thus the different races inhabiting different regions of the earth are dependent upon the fact that one part of the earth is particularly receptive to the influences of Venus, another part to the influences of Saturn, and so on." — Ibid., pp. 147-148.
Steiner taught that various races belong in various places upon the Earth and should not venture beyond their places. People should stay where they belong,he said. Blacks, for instance, should not move to Europe from their proper place in Africa. Steiner complained, for instance, that “The French are committing the terrible brutality of moving black people to Europe." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 558.
More fundamentally, Steiner taught that only one race should exist at any one time. The simultaneous existence of multiple races is the result of demonic interference in human affairs, he said. “While there should have been basically only one form of human being ... Lucifer and Ahriman preserved [earlier human types] ... Thus, forms that should have disappeared remained. Instead of racial diversities developing consecutively, older racial forms remained unchanged and newer ones began to evolve at the same time. Instead of the intended consecutive development of races, there was a coexistence of races. That is how it came about that physically different races inhabited the earth and are still there in our time although evolution should really have proceeded [unimpeded].” — Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), p. 75.
'Chantilly Deep Orange' snapdragon
[Johnny's Selected Seeds].
33. "[W]herever we go in the world of plants, we find the earth covered with noses — the plants. But it never occurs to us that our own strange noses really derive from the plants. As a matter of fact, many blossoms look like a human nose. There are indeed such plants — the snapdragons, also the mints — they look just like a nose. You find them growing everywhere." — Ibid., p. 149.
(Steiner had almost as many bizarre things to say about noses as about potatoes. These rank among his peculiar fixations. Did you know, for instance, that “It would be a mistake to view the lung as less spiritual than the nose”? See Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 205.)
34. "Human beings, having one-sidedly developed only their brain, can think with great subtlety but are terribly clumsy fellows. It is important for the human being that not too much of his brain shall be transformed [into intellectual brain matter]. If too much has been transformed, he may be a good poet but he will certainly not be a good mechanic. He will have no knack for doing things in the outside world.
"This state of things is connected with what I was talking about the other day, namely, that many people, owing to an excessive consumption of potatoes, have transformed a very large part of their brain." — Ibid., p. 151.
Steiner taught that real thinking, or real cognition, does not occur in the brain. [See "Steiner's Specific" and "Thinking".] But he acknowledged that lowly forms of thought, such as intellectual thinking, are seated in the brain. We need to develop our intellects, he said, but we must be very wary of such thinking. Intellect should certainly be minimized or offset in Waldorf schooling, he said. “[I]f children are being educated only in an intellectual way, their inborn capacities and human potential become seriously impaired and wither away ... To steer clear of the intellect, we have appealed to their moral and religious impulses.” — Rudolf Steiner, SOUL ECONOMY AND WALDORF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), p. 16. [See, e.g., "Soul School".]
35. "[E]very planet, including the moon, is constantly coming nearer to the earth, and the planets are undergoing a process that will finally end in all of them uniting again with the earth, forming a single body." — Ibid., p. 155.
The Moon, of course, is not a planet, but Steiner generally included it along with the Sun when discussing the "planets" in our solar system. He gave special importance to seven of these "planets" (Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan) because he taught that our evolution proceeds through seven mega-stages associated with these worlds. (He acknowledge the existence of Mercury and Mars, but he put them in a different category. As for Uranus and Neptune, he generally denied that they are members of the solar system. His teachings about Vulcan are a bit vague, but he seems to have believed that such a planet exists. See "Vulcan".)
According to Steiner, the solar system first came into existence (in a form very different from today) during a period he called "Saturn" or "Old Saturn." He did not mean that we then lived on the planet Saturn, as we know it now, but that the entire solar system existed in a form pervaded by the powers of Saturn. The solar system then disappeared, and after a while it reappeared in another form, "Old Moon." That stage was followed by the "Old Sun" stage, and now we are in the "Earth" stage. Steiner taught that the celestial objects known as Earth, Saturn, Sun, Moon, etc., have evolved through these stages, reincarnating and developing alongside humanity as we ourselves have evolved. [See "The Planets".]
Confusion can arise when Steiner refers to something happening "on Saturn," for instance. Sometimes he means that the event occurred during Old Saturn, and sometimes he means that it happened on the planet Saturn. We have to decipher Steiner's meaning by taking each statement in its context. Things are simpler when Steiner speaks of some other planets. There was no "Old Mars" stage, nor will there be a "Mars" stage in the future, so when Steiner speaks of things happening "on Mars," we know that he means on the planet Mars. The coming stages of evolution, Steiner said, are "Future Jupiter," "Future Venus," and "Future Vulcan." (We will look into these matters further in discussing other quotations.)
By the way, the Moon is moving away from the Earth, not toward it. And there is no evidence that the planets will converge to become a single body. But there I go again — sinking to the level of discussing factual, scientific information.
36. "Mars consists primarily of a more or less fluid mass, not as fluid as our water but, shall we say, more like the consistency of jelly, or something of that kind. There are also dense components, but they are not as densely solid as those of our earth. Their consistency would be more comparable to that of the antlers or horns of our animals, which form out of the general mass and dissolve back into it again. So we must realize that the constitution of Mars is entirely different from that of our earth.
"Now a great deal is said about 'canals' existing on Mars. But why 'canals'? There is nothing to be seen except lines, and these are called canals. In one sense that is correct, but in another, incorrect. As Mars is not solid to the degree that the earth is solid, one cannot, of course, speak of canals as we know them on the earth. But it can be said that on Mars there is something rather similar to our trade winds. You know that the warm air from the Torrid Zone of the earth, from Africa, streams toward the cold North Pole, and the air from the cold North Pole streams back toward the central region of the earth. So that if looked at from outside, such lines would indeed be seen, but they are the lines of the trade winds, of the air currents in the trade winds. There is something rather similar on Mars. Only everything on Mars is much more full of life than on the earth. The earth is a dead planet in a far stronger sense than Mars, on which everything is still more or less living." — Ibid., p. 156.
Here Steiner speaks of conditions on the planet Mars as it exists now, in our sky. Unfortunately for Steiner, what he says about Mars is purely wrong. In reality, Mars is extremely dry and evidently dead, with no forms of life yet confirmed on or in it. The surface of Mars is solid and sandy, not in any sense jelly-like. Moreover, there are no straight-line features on or above the surface of Mars — Steiner is right that there are no canals or Mars, but he is wrong about the existence of straight Martian lines that need explanation. We can discuss Mars with some confidence today because we have put satellites into orbit around Mars and landed probes on the surface of Mars, all of which have sent us back torrents of information about the red planet. Steiner, on the other hand, had to rely on his powers of "clairvoyance" to comprehend Mars — and, as usual, his "clairvoyance" led him far astray. [See "Mars".]
37. "The influence of the sun is quite obvious, that of the moon not obvious to the same extent, and the influence of Mars is hidden. Everything for which intervals of years are needed on the earth — as in the case of grubs and cockchafers — is dependent upon Mars. So there you see a significant effect of Mars ... The sun has the most powerful influence of all. But it exerts its greatest influence upon everything on the earth that is dead, that must be called to new life every year — while the moon influences only what is living. Mars exerts its influence only upon what exists in a more delicate form of life, in the sentient realm. The other planets have their influence upon what is of the nature of soul and spirit." — Ibid., pp. 158-159.
Astrology is a major component in the Steiner belief system. [See, e.g., "Astrology", "Astrosophy", and "Waldorf Astrology".] Here Steiner discusses both the physical and the astrological powers of the Sun, Moon, and planets on the Earth. He is talking about our star, our natural satellite, and the planets existing in our solar system now. This is reassuring, since it is less far-fetched than his discussions of distant evolutionary periods bearing the names of planets. However, as usual, what Steiner says is bunk. Mars exerts virtually no influence on the Earth, or on grubs and cockchafers, or on things "for which intervals of years are needed," or on sentience. The Earth feels a bit of gravitational pull from Mars, but nothing else. Astrology (the mystical/spiritual/karmic "influence" of stars and planets on life here on Earth) is bunk.
38. "Mars is not densely solid in the sense in which today the earth is solid. But I described to you quite recently how the earth too was once in a condition when mineral, solid matter took shape for the first time, how there were then gigantic animals which, however, had as yet no solid bones. Mars today is in a condition similar to that of the earth in that earlier epoch and therefore also has upon it those living beings, those animal beings which the earth had upon it at that time. And 'human beings' on Mars are as they were on the earth at that time — still without bones." — Ibid., p. 160.
No. There are no animals or "human beings" living on Mars. This is all simply dwaddle. As is this: “In the Mars region the human being lives among the ‘population’ of Mars — if I may so express myself. The inhabitants of Mars are discovered to be either discarnate human souls or Beings of the Hierarchies [i.e., gods].” — Rudolf Steiner, SUPERSENSIBLE MAN (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1961), lecture 4, GA 231. Now, if by the "Mars region" we mean — as Steiner did — the portion of the solar system bounded by the orbit of Mars [see "Higher Worlds"], then things gets a bit harder to pin down. We can say with great confidence that there are no animals or "human beings" on the planet Mars, but it is more difficult to know for sure what exists throughout the vast expanse of space enclosed by the orbit of Mars. It gets even harder if the beings Steiner says live in the "Mars region" are invisible ("discarnate human souls or Beings of the Hierarchies"). However, since Steiner based these statements on clairvoyance, which does not exist; and since he often argued that the planets do not really orbit the Sun [see "Deception"], which means there can be no "Mars region"; and since we have little reason to believe in "discarnate human souls" floating around in the solar system — we may be justified in taking a somewhat skeptical stance.
39. "[P]eople today still have no conception of what indescribably delicate noses are possessed by the plants. As a matter of fact, the entire plant is a nose; it takes in the scent of the universe, and if its structure is such that it gives back this cosmic aroma in the way that an echo gives back a sound, it becomes a fragrant plant. So we can say: The scents of flowers, of plants in general, and also other scents on the earth, do indeed relate to the planetary system.
"It has been asked whether this also applies to the colors of plants and flowers. As I said, the plant takes shape out of the aroma of the universe and throughout the year it is exposed to the sun. While the form of the plant is shaped by the planets out of the cosmic fragrance, its color is due to the sun and also to some extent to the moon. The scent and the color of plants do not, therefore, come from the same source; the scent comes from the planets, the color from the sun and moon. Things don't always have to come from the same source; just as one has a father and a mother, so the plant has its scent from the planets and its colors from the sun and moon." — Ibid., p. 162.
40. "[M]ountain-plants are more valuable as remedies than those that grow in valleys, particularly than those we plant in our ordinary gardens or in a field. It is a good thing that this is the case, for if the plants growing in the valleys were just like those on the mountains, every foodstuff would at the same time be a medicine, and that would not do at all! The plants that have the greatest therapeutic value are indeed those that grow on the mountains." — Ibid., p. 165.
Steiner concocted a terribly dangerous form of quack medicine, called Anthroposophical medicine, that is often practiced in and around Waldorf schools. [See "Steiner's Quackery".] We have seen some indications of Steiner's medical doctrines (e.g., quote #20, above), and we will see more. Beware. Little of what Steiner said holds up. Do not think, for instance, that you can cure a child's illnesses by feeding her/him plants grow on mountainsides. What a sick child needs is medical care, from qualified medical practitioners who do not subscribe to mystical nonsense.
41. "The so-called homeopaths — they're not right about everything, but they're right about a good many things — these homeopaths take substances and by grinding them finer and finer, obtain medical remedies. If the substance were used in its crude state it would not be a remedy. But you see, the plants themselves are the most precious homeopaths of all, for they absorb tiny, minute particles from all these stones, which otherwise would have to be refined and pulverized when a medicine is being prepared. So because nature does this far better than we could, we can take the plants themselves and use them directly for healing purposes." — Ibid., p. 166.
Anthroposophical medicine includes a broad streak of homeopathy among other fake remedies while often opposing genuine treatments and preventatives, such as vaccination. One consequence is that Waldorf schools have sometimes become centers of contagion, for instance in measles outbreaks. "...California is ground zero for vaccine rejectionism ... For example, at Waldorf schools (or, as I like to call them, pathogen repositories), vaccine exemption rates can be as high as 82% ... Schools with the highest exemption rates tend to be private schools, public charter schools, and traditional public schools in affluent areas. Among schools with 25 or more kindergartners last year, 14 had immunization opt-outs for more than 15 percent of their kindergarten class. The top was the Waldorf School of San Diego in City Heights, at 51 percent ... Waldorf schools, which are widely known for their resistance to vaccines and scientific medicine, have had a number of [disease] outbreaks. For example, just this year there was a measles outbreak in Essen, Germany where the majority of cases were linked to a Waldorf school. In 2008, the East Bay Waldorf School was shut down due to a pertussis outbreak, and a Waldorf School in Salzburg, Austria was hit by a measles outbreak." [8-26-2010 http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/08/vaccine_exemptions_in_california_threate.php?utm_source=networkbanner&utm_medium=link]
42. "The planet Mars, as I said, is not very strongly connected with weather conditions [on Earth]; Mars is more connected with phenomena that belong to the realm of life, such as the appearance and development of the grubs and cockchafers every four years ... If you take two revolutions of Mars — requiring four years and three months — you get the period between the cockchafers and the grubs, and the other way around, between the grubs and the cockchafers ... A good or bad vintage year [for wine] is connected with phenomena such as the sunspots, also with the appearance of comets. Only when they are observed in connection with phenomena in the heavens can happenings on the earth be studied properly." — Rudolf Steiner, THE EVOLUTION OF THE EARTH AND MAN AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE STARS (Anthroposophic Press, 1987), pp. 172-173. — Ibid., pp. 172-173.
This is Steiner affirming astrology ("Only when they are observed in connection with phenomena in the heavens can happenings on the earth be studied properly"). It is antiscientific, anti-intellectual, ancient foolishness. It is, in a word, wrong. Period.
(By the way, Mars takes 687 Earth days to complete one orbit of the Sun. Thus, a Martian year equals 1.9 Earth years. Two Martian years, then, equal 3.8 Earth years, not 4.3 Earth years ("four years and three months"). All of this is a bit irrelevant, since Steiner often said that the planets don't orbit the Sun, but still... As for the life cycle of grubs and cockchafers...)
43. "While it receives no light from this side, Venus is illuminated from the other side by the sun, and it eats up the sun's light, so to say. Then, when you see it on a dark night, it is throwing off the light, it becomes phosphorescent. In days when people had better eyes than they have now, they saw the phosphorescence of Venus. Their eyes were really better in those days; it was in the 16th century that spectacles first began to be used, and they would certainly have come earlier if people had needed them! Inventions and discoveries always come when they are needed by human beings." — Ibid., p. 181.
Rudolf Steiner’s followers are awed by his nearly encyclopedic knowledge of almost all subjects. But they overlook a serious problem: Most of what Steiner "knew" is wrong. (Have I made this point often enough yet?) Thus, for instance, Venus is is generally not visible on dark nights — Venus is always close to the Sun, from the Earth's perspective, and thus it sets soon after the Sun sets. Moreover, if we define phosphorescence strictly (radiation similar to fluorescence but on a longer timescale), Venus is not phosphorescent. It shines by reflecting sunlight, just as all other planets and moons do. As for eyesight and spectacles, we have no evidence that people's eyes were better in the past, and spectacles were invented long before the 16th century. "In 1268 Roger Bacon made the earliest recorded comment on the use of lenses for optical purposes, but magnifying lenses inserted in frames were used for reading both in Europe and China at this time...." — ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, Feb. 5, 2012.
That a system of education — Waldorf or Steiner schools — is based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner almost beggars belief. Few people have ever been more wrong about more subjects than was Steiner. For a sampling of Steiner's multitudinous errors, see “Steiner’s Blunders”.
44. "Modern science holds a strange view of this. It says that it is electricity that causes the lightning to flash out of the clouds. Now you probably know that electricity is explained to children at school by rubbing a glass rod with a piece of cloth smeared with some kind of amalgam; after it has been rubbed for some time, the rod begins to attract little scraps of paper, and after still more rubbing, sparks are emitted, and so on. Such experiments with electricity are made in school, but care has to be taken that everything has been thoroughly wiped beforehand, because the objects that are to become electric must not even be moist, let alone wet; they must be absolutely dry, even warm and dry, for otherwise nothing will be got out of the glass rod or the stick of sealing-wax. From this you can gather that electricity is conducted away by water and fluids. Everyone knows this, and naturally the scientists know it, for it is they who make the experiments. In spite of this, however, they declare that the lightning comes out of the clouds — and clouds are certainly wet!" — Ibid., p. 183.
Although Steiner claimed that a) Anthroposophy is a science, b) Anthroposophy builds on the foundation of natural science, and c) natural science will eventually confirm Anthroposophy, in fact Steiner often disparaged natural science and natural science largely disproves Anthroposophy. (Have I made these points often enough yet?) Steiner's argument about the nature of lightning is little more than absurd. Citing the common demonstration in which static electricity is produced by rubbing a dry rod with a dry cloth, he claims that all electricity must be produced similarly, and thus lightning cannot originate inside wet clouds. Both his grasp of science and his powers of reasoning are shaky. The point needs little elaboration, but here is the definition of "lightning" given by THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA: “lightning, the visible discharge of electricity that occurs when a region of a cloud acquires an excess electrical charge, either positive or negative, that is sufficient to break down the resistance of air. Lightning is usually associated with cumulonimbus clouds (thunderclouds), but it also occurs in stratiform clouds (layered clouds with a large horizontal extent), in snowstorms and dust storms, and sometimes in the dust and gases emitted by erupting volcanoes. During a thunderstorm, lightning can occur within the cloud, between clouds, between the cloud and the air, or between the cloud and the ground.”
Science instruction is often the weakest part of the Waldorf curriculum, even when the teachers refrain from stating Steiner's esoteric views openly. Waldorf teachers generally think Steiner was right about almost everything, and they adjust their instruction accordingly. Egad.
45. "We cannot, of course, expect the following to be verified in autopsies, but if one investigates with the methods of spiritual science, one finds that in the last hundred years human brains have become much stiffer, alarmingly stiffer, than they were formerly. One finds, for example, that the ancient Egyptians thought quite definite things, of which they were just as sure as we ourselves are sure of the things we think about. But today we are less able to understand things in the winter than in the summer. People pay no attention to such matters. If they would adjust themselves to the laws prevailing in the world, they would arrange life differently. In school, for instance, different subjects would be studied in the winter than in the summer. (This is already being done to some extent in the Waldorf School.) It is not simply a matter of taking botany in the summer because the plants bloom then, but some of the subjects that are easier should be transferred to the winter, and some that are more difficult to the spring and autumn, because the power to understand depends upon this. It is because our brains are harder than men's brains were in earlier times. What we can think about in a real sense only in summer, the ancient Egyptians were able to think about all year round." — Ibid., p. 185.
As Steiner indicates here, the curriculum of Waldorf schools is guided by "insights" of this kind. In other words, it is guided by preposterous esoteric imaginings that have no basis in factual information. Parents considering Waldorf schools for their children should think long and hard about such issues. [For a rundown of the Waldorf curriculum, see "Curriculum" and the pages that follow it.]
46. "Let us consider again the explanation I gave of how lightning actually comes about. I told you that lightning comes out of the overheated air, the overheated universe, the overheated cosmic gas. I said that there is no question of lightning arising from some sort of friction of the clouds. Clouds, of course, are wet, and if you want to produce miniature lightning with laboratory apparatus, everything must first be wiped absolutely dry. It must not be supposed, therefore, that lightning is a true electrical phenomenon that comes about from the friction of dry elements. It is known that when one rubs glass or sealing wax one produces electricity and so people think that if clouds rub together — well, then there'll be electricity there too. But that is not so. What happens is this: As a consequence of the inner overheating of the cosmic gas, the warmth living in the cosmic gas comes out in the way I have described. Through the fact that the air exerts less pressure toward one side or another, the radiation of the overheated force goes toward that side and lightning flashes." — Ibid., p. 189.
After Steiner said something foolish, his typical practice was not to correct himself but to repeat his original error and, often, add more errors. Here he repeats his faulty description of lightning and adds a bit of foolishness about "cosmic gas." Lightning certainly is an electrical phenomenon, not a consequence of "overheated air." Moreover, there is no "cosmic gas" — i.e., the universal ether that 19th century science postulated and that Steiner accepted as a reality, although as usual he gave the idea a mystical backspin. “The cosmic ether, which is common to all, carries within it the thoughts; there they are within it, those living thoughts of which I have repeatedly spoken in our anthroposophical lectures....” — Rudolf Steiner, CURATIVE EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 2, GA 317. "Living thoughts" are truths we receive from the gods before birth and bring with us into earthly life; they are the form of comprehension that Steiner preferred, as opposed to the use of the brain to create our own, new thoughts. [See, e.g., "Criticism" and "Steiner's Specific — Thinking Without Our Brains".]
47. "You hear it said everywhere, don't you, that the earth is a globe, has formed itself as a globe. Now actually it is not true that the earth is a globe! I will explain to you what the earth really Is. It is only fantasy that the earth is a globe. If we picture the earth's true form as a regular solid, we come to what in science is called a tetrahedron ... The earth actually consists of four pieces flung out of cosmic space and joined together, four pieces which then form a tetrahedron, and along the edges there are still, as it were, places not tightly closed. At these leaky places it is possible for the cosmic heat from the sun to get into the earth more than at other places.
"Now when the sun's power enters into these places beneath the surface of the earth, they become hotter and get soft — as is always the case when things, even metals, are consumed by fire — and they make an outlet for themselves in the direction of those places which are not properly fastened together. Then through the combined cosmic action of the sun and the 'cemented' places of the earth there arise these regular volcanoes, the fire-belching mountains." — Ibid., pp. 192-198.
It is interesting, but perhaps fruitless, to speculate why Steiner made such preposterous statements. He evidently loved to blow his followers' minds. Did he believe what he said? We can't know. But what we can know is that much of what he said is nonsense, unsupported by any factual evidence. We can also know that the many people wish for reality to be different from what it is — they yearn for the magical, the mystical, and supernatural, and Steiner fed this appetite.
Concerning the shape of the Earth, Steiner tells us that it is a rounded tetrahedron, consisting of rounded triangles. The edges of one of these triangles trace lines between a ring of volcanoes at the South Pole, a group of volcanoes in Eastern Europe, and a mighty volcano in Mexico. These are all fun ideas, and some are more defensible than others, but overall the picture Steiner presents bears little relation to reality. The Earth is a globe, not a tetrahedron, and there is no ring of volcanoes at the South Pole. Otherwise...
[THE EVOLUTION OF THE EARTH AND MAN AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE STARS, p. 194.]
48. "Now when one knows how the earth has been created, when one sees that it is really an incompletely fastened tetrahedron, there is then no need to picture it as molten inside and to suppose that at certain times, one wouldn't know why or wherefore, it must suddenly erupt fire — like a moody, hysterical person! If the earth were molten inside, one would have to fancy that it is actually a little crazy — like a man who is insane and at any sudden moment begins to rage; one doesn't know when the moments will occur. But this is not true of the earth. You can always show where the warmth comes from: that it comes from outside, that at this moment such powerful heating occurs, not at all very deep in the earth, that it forces an outlet for itself.
"So the fire when Vesuvius or any other volcano erupts originates only when the cosmic temperature has become fiery. It always takes a little time before the effect is seen. The particular constellation of stars, for instance, must first work upon the earth for a time." — Ibid., pp. 201-202.
No. No, no, no. And, again, no.
49. "Knowledge of the earth is related to knowledge of man. Man imitates the universe in his own form. He copies the universe in his head, and so the head is round up above like the round universe. Below, where the jaws begin there are quite remarkable structures: they come from the triangular earth. In the jaw formation you find triangles everywhere, they come from below, from the triangular earth. With both, men copy the universe: they have more or less rounded heads above, and the earth-forces reach up from below." — Ibid., pp. 206-207.
Like many other mystics, Steiner taught "as above, so below" — that is, man mirrors the cosmos and heavens, man is a microcosm reflecting the properties of the macrocosm. This is an ancient idea that appeals to the human desire to believe that we occupy a special, central position in the great scheme of things. Note that Steiner stretches the idea past the breaking point. Perhaps the universe is "round" (due to the Big Bang — not an idea Anthroposophists embrace), but is the Earth "triangular"? Only if we accept Steiner's antic claim that the Earth is a tetrahedron built out of four triangles. But, in truth, it isn't. [To delve into Steiner's claim that humans are central to the universe, see "The Center — Micro/Macrocosmic Mistakes".] In brief, no.
50. "Anthroposophy has not come for the purpose of opposing natural science: it has come just because natural science is there. But science with its elaborate instruments and remarkably clever experiments has discovered a mass of facts which — in the way it presents them — cannot really be understood. Nor will they ever be understood until it is realized that the spiritual world is behind everything and within everything.
"Let us take a very ordinary, practical matter: the eating of potatoes. Once upon a time there were no potatoes in Europe; they were introduced into Europe from foreign countries ... If in spiritual science (anthroposophy is, after all, only a name) genuine investigation is made into how the potato nourishes the human being, the potato is found to be something that is not completely digested by the digestive organs, but it passes into the head through the lymph glands, through the blood ... There is a very great difference between eating potatoes and, for instance, good, wholesome bread. When wholesome bread is eaten, the material part of the rye or wheat is digested properly and healthily in the digestive tract. And consequently only what is spiritual in the rye or wheat comes into the head, where it belongs.
"This kind of knowledge can never be derived from natural science. When things are genuinely investigated with respect to their spiritual quality, it becomes apparent that in this modern age humanity has been seriously injured by the excessive consumption of potatoes. Spiritual science finds that the eating of potatoes has played a very large part in the general deterioration of health in recent centuries." — Rudolf Steiner, THE EVOLUTION OF THE EARTH AND MAN AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE STARS (Anthroposophic Press, 1987), pp. 210-212.
Steiner often said that "spiritual science" — Anthroposophy — builds upon and extends natural science, although he also very often deplored natural science and rejected it findings. In this, he and his followers essentially reject much of modern knowledge. We have seen many examples, above. We will see more.
Steiner also said that natural science would eventually confirm the truth of spiritual science. This has not happened in the century or so since he made the prediction. Indeed, natural science has disproved an ever-increasing number of Steiner's teachings.
Steiner's specific "scientific" pronouncements tend to indicate his unfamiliarity with real science while exposing the unreliability of his views. Let's accept his example: potatoes. (Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes. Noses, noses, noses.) Ordinary science is perfectly able to determine the nutritional qualities of potatoes and to ascertain whether or not these vegetables are completely digested. Steiner's own statements about potatoes, on the other hand, are unsupported by any real evidence. Remember what we have heard from Steiner previously about potatoes. Potatoes damage our heads because they stimulate us to think too much; they have brought us tuberculosis, materialism, clumsiness, and journalism; and they fail to nourish the "upper head," by which Steiner meant the powers of clairvoyance. If these are the sort of "truths" provided by "spiritual science," the emptiness and pointlessness of that "science" lie open for all to see. And, indeed, these are the sorts of "truths" Steiner offers: E.g., "Spiritual science finds that the eating of potatoes has played a very large part in the general deterioration of health in recent centuries."
51. "[I]t was calculated that a comet — it was the Biela comet — was about to cross the earth's orbit and would pass quite near to the earth ... [I]t had to be expected that the comet would cause great convulsions in the oceans and seas through the force of gravity, and so on ... In 1872, when I was a boy living with my parents at a small railroad station, we were always reading in the papers: 'The world is going to be destroyed!' ... This remarkable comet had already come in 1845/46 and again in 1852 — but it had then split in two! Each half had become more rarefied in consequence of the split. And what was there to be seen in 1872? Something like a gleaming rain of shooting stars, a great number of shooting stars! ... [T]he shooting stars dissolved in the atmosphere.
"Now think of this: If the comet had remained whole, our earth would have suffered badly in the year 1872 ... If that comet had not been merciful, none of us would be sitting here today! ... The comet of which I've been speaking is not the only one that was merciful enough to split up and dissolve in cosmic space at the right time. There is a large number of other comets that have done the same. A great deal of superstition has always been connected with the subject of comets. Anthroposophy approaches the matter in an absolutely scientific way." — Ibid., pp. 214-217.
Steiner's "scientific" approach leaves much to be desired. Although he spoke a lot about stars, planets, and other astronomical phenomena, he knew little about these objects, and what he did know he bent in service to astrological and mystical falsehoods. In this instance, he had the basic facts more or less straight [see "Biela's Comet", ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA], but he exaggerated and anthropomorphized. Europe was indeed disturbed by reports that the Earth would pass through the tail of Biela's comet. No harm would result from such a passage, however. Steiner apparently understood that much of the panic was mere superstition, but despite claiming to be "scientific," he embraced the wildly exaggerated fears of the time: "If that comet had not been merciful, none of us would be sitting here today!" This is, quite simply, nonsense. A comet is a fairly small object, composed principally of ice. The gravitational pull of a comet is miniscule, and even a direct strike by a comet would generally cause only local damage, it would not cause a global catastrophe. (Being hit by a large asteroid would be a different matter. Asteroids are primarily rock, and some are huge.)
Steiner's most characteristic touch in this passage is his attribution of intention to comets. As usual, he leads us away from reality. A comet is an orbiting ice ball; it cannot, of course, be "merciful." But Steiner attributed spiritual consciousness to virtually all phenomena, including comets ("The comet of which I've been speaking is not the only one that was merciful..."). Usually, when people use such language, they are speaking figuratively, but Steiner meant such things literally.* He taught that physical phenomena manifest spirits having will and intention. His spiritual/mystical/occult teachings speak to a deep yearning in the human psyche, a wish to live in a universe that cares about us, a universe that reflects our own inner states. But wishing for such a universe, understandable as this desire may be, gets us nowhere. Steiner converted a factual account (a comet passed near us and later split apart) into a mythic account (the Earth would have been destroyed many times if comets had not shown us mercy). Such myths may be appropriate in nursery schools, but they hardly belong in lessons offered to adults. Remember that the quotations we are reviewing come from lectures delivered to workmen — unsophisticated adults, perhaps, but adults all the same. Did the workers take him seriously? Apparently so. And Steiner's followers today take him seriously — Anthroposophists, including Waldorf teachers, see the universe largely as he described it, as a place occupied by multiple gods and gnomes and merciful comets and dancing fairies and living etheric forces... It is an attractive universe. Unfortunately, it is not the real universe.
* To be sure, Steiner was here speaking a little loosely and a little lightly, as he condescended to the workmen he was addressing. Nonetheless, he was expressing concepts that he stated more seriously and in more elevated language on numerous other occasions. These sorts of ideas were intrinsic to his worldview.
52. "It is obvious that in the process of human evolution man's spiritual faculties are constantly changing. Those who do not believe this simply do not understand the spiritual evolution of mankind. For think of it: All our modern discoveries would have been made long ago if men had possessed the same spiritual faculties that they possess today. In ancient times their spiritual faculties were not less, but they were different ... These faculties of ours do not come to us ready-made; they are developed. And if we continue our present way of living, when between the ages of seven and fourteen we are crammed with scientific knowledge of every kind – there is, of course, a good side to this as well — we'll gradually all suffer from something that was previously quite unknown and that is now so prevalent. We'll all suffer from what you call 'nerves', from nervous illnesses." — Ibid., pp. 216-217.
The evolution of spiritual faculties is the central narrative of Anthroposophy, underlying the Waldorf curriculum. Steiner taught that good humans are evolving to higher and higher spiritual states, while bad humans evolve downward and may cease to be human at all. This is the story Steiner repeatedly told, of our evolution from Old Saturn toward Future Vulcan and beyond. We have evolved from a virtually comatose condition during Old Saturn, and we will eventually rise to an enormously elevated spiritual consciousness. [See, e.g., "Everything" and "Matters of Form".]
Waldorf schools postpone reading and writing until kids turn seven, when their "etheric bodies" incarnate. They postpone most intellectual studies, including most science, until kids turn fourteen, when their "astral bodies" incarnate. [See "Incarnation".] In emphasizing imagination, inspiration, and intuition Waldorf schools seek to foster the clairvoyant powers Steiner said mankind as a whole is evolving toward. Imagination is "Jupiter consciousness," which we will perfect during Future Jupiter. Inspiration is "Venus consciousness," which we will perfect during Future Venus. Intuition is "Vulcan consciousness," which we will perfect during ... Oh, you know. [See the "Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia".]
Waldorf schools try not to "cram" students with scientific knowledge or, indeed, with much real knowledge of any kind. They largely reject modern science, and they mistrust ordinary, factual information. Thus, Waldorf representatives disparage "fact-based education". [See the Waldorf Watch Annex, "June, 2011".] Steiner himself stressed the educational importance of fairy tales, which he greatly preferred to "scientific trash." Criticizing an Austrian physicist and philosopher, Steiner said "Mach was a fanatical enemy of working with children's youthful fantasy. He did not want any fairy tales told to children, or to teach children anything other than scientific trash about external sense-perceptible reality." — Rudolf Steiner, THE RENEWAL OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 94. Teaching children facts about reality would be awful, wouldn't it? Steiner said so. “You will injure children if you educate them rationally....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 61.
53. "And what has the comet done? It gives us the meteors, the fine meteor rain. Instead of colliding with the earth and breaking people's heads it is giving all its substance away, and this substance, every piece of it, is in the earth. Every few years the comet gives something to the earth ... Obviously, what the comet gives us is in the earth, but science takes no notice of it. Where, then, is it to be found? It goes into the air, is passed from the air into the water, from the water into the roots of the plants, from the roots of the plant into the food on our tables. From there it passes into our bodies. We eat what the comet has been giving us for centuries! This, however, has long been spiritualized. Instead of the comet putting an end to the earth in 1933, its substance has long been in the earth as a means of earthly nourishment, and it is a remedy, a cosmic remedy: it alleviates nervous troubles in human beings." — Ibid., pp. 218-219.
This is a pretty picture, but it has little to do with reality (which is why science does not confirm it). Biela's comet, which Steiner was discussing, did apparently produce some meteor showers. The comet broke apart after 1852 and was never seen again. When the Earth passed through the orbital track of the comet in 1872 and 1885, meteor showers were observed. [See "Biela's Comet".] But the notion that the comet provided a "remedy" for "nervous troubles" is balderdash. (People who were nervous because they thought the comet would kill them were relieved when their baseless fear was put to rest. No one else's nerves were affected in the least, then or later. Eating spiritualized comet matter may or may not be a good idea, but it is not a recognized cure for nervousness.)
Unless a comet strikes the Earth or passes very near, it has virtually no effect on the Earth. Comets produce some meteors, but most meteors are not cometary. Comets follow their orbital paths from far out in the solar system to pass close to the Sun and then they sail away to the outer fringes of the solar system again. They usually come nowhere near the Earth and they normally send none of their substance to the Earth. Those comets that do, occasionally, approach the Earth are likely to be far from the Earth on their next go-around. Some comets return to the vicinity of the Sun every few years; others take decades or centuries to do so. [See, e.g., "Comet" and "Meteor and Meteoroid".] Note: The links I've provided will take you to THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA. Anthroposophists usually dismiss such sources; they prefer Steiner's statements to actual information.
54. "Nothing that is contained in our social problems will ever be solved until science becomes spiritual again. This can happen only when science is prepared to look for the spiritual element in every single thing — whether it be a potato or a comet." — Ibid., p. 220.
This is Steiner's basic proposition: Only "spiritual science" — i.e., his own teachings — can yield a correct vision of the cosmos, a universe in which everything physical is a manifestation of incorporeal beings: gods, nature spirits, and demons. This is a fundamental lesson that Waldorf faculties try to convey — usually subtly, often indirectly, almost always with a mystical sensibility – to their students. They believe (falsely) that Anthroposophy is scientific — it is science corrected by spiritual perception.
The goal animating Waldorf education is primarily spiritual, but it is also, in part, political: to solve "our social problems." Anthroposophists want to remake all human institutions in accordance with "spiritual science." Waldorf schools serve as the vanguard for this revolutionary effort. Governments that lend state support to the Waldorf movement — as in the UK today — may be severely distressed if the efforts of that movement take wider effect. In addition to creating a new form of education, Steiner prescribed "reforms" of science, religion, the arts, agriculture, medicine, government — in effect, all spheres of human activity. [See, e.g., "Threefolding".]
55. "At the beginning of their existence on the earth, human beings possessed a knowledge not only of what was on the earth but also of the stars in the heavens. The reason why today this knowledge has degenerated into superstition — I have often spoken of this — is that, as time went on, these things were no longer investigated and hence came to be misunderstood. Originally there was a widespread knowledge of the stars; today the only knowledge of the stars that exists is one that makes calculations about them. But it is unable to penetrate to their spiritual reality." — Ibid., pp. 226-227.
Steiner taught that we are evolving to higher and higher levels. However, he also taught that the ancients tended to understand spiritual reality better than we do today. [See, e.g., "The Ancients".] He said that we happen to live in a time when the truth of his teachings is not universally apparent. In the past, his teachings would have been more readily accepted, and the truth of his teachings will be clearly recognized in the future.
Steiner claimed — and his followers believe — that most spiritual teachings today, including those of the major religions, are largely or wholly wrong, having degenerated to the level of superstition. Likewise, true astrology ("knowledge...of the stars in the heavens") has been supplanted by shallow forms of astrology and, perhaps even worse, unspiritual astronomy ("knowledge of the stars that [merely] makes calculations about them"). The solution, Steiner humbly indicated, is for the world to come to him. And Waldorf schools are meant to smooth the way to Steiner. [See, e.g., "Here's the Answer" and "Spiritual Agenda".]
56. "[S]piritual science, or anthroposophy, shows [that] if a human being not only develops from childhood to the level to which our modern education takes him, but develops further than that, he will in very truth be able to perceive what is spiritual in the stars, just as humanity originally perceived it. And then he will know that the stars have an influence upon the human being, each star a different influence." — Ibid., p. 227.
This is astrology, and it is malarkey. But make no mistake: Steiner insisted on the validity of "true" astrology (i.e., his own astrological teachings).
Steiner's addition or alternative to "modern education" is Waldorf education, which indeed seeks to take children to another level — the spiritual or occult level of Anthroposophy. What further development does Steiner have in mind? What powers do we need to "perceive what is spiritual in the stars"? The form of consciousness he promoted: clairvoyance, or more specifically "exact" clairvoyance, which he equated with "the Waldorf teacher's consciousness." A child sent to a Waldorf school will be taught, at least some of the time, by teachers who believe in astrology and clairvoyance — and who would like the child to believe. too. [See, e.g., "Exactly", "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness", and "Waldorf Astrology".]
57. "In earlier times, when men looked at the moon, they knew that from the moon come the forces for all propagation on the earth. No being would have offspring if the moon did not send to earth the forces of propagation. No being or creature would grow if the forces of growth did not come from the sun. No human being would be able to think if the forces of thinking did not come from Saturn. But all that people know today is the speed at which Saturn moves, the speed at which the moon moves, and whether there are a few extinct volcanoes on the moon. They know nothing more and don't want to know anything more." — Ibid., pp. 227-228.
True enough. Some of us don't want to "know" that the moon controls procreation, the Sun controls growth, and Saturn controls thinking. We don't want to "know" these things because they are baloney. (Yes, the Sun sends us light which is essential for most forms of life on Earth. But beyond that, Steiner was merely peddling ancient myth and — although he claimed to oppose it — superstition. [See "Superstition".])
58. "Let us see what will come about through anthroposophy. It is, of course, still only in its beginning, and naturally it appears to be similar in many respects to the other science [i.e., natural science]. But it will develop gradually into a complete knowledge of the human being. In the domain of education, for instance, it has already brought into being the Waldorf School." — Ibid., p. 229.
Waldorf schools generally claim that they do not teach Anthroposophy to the students. There is much deception in this claim, but also some truth. Usually, Waldorf teachers do not spell out Anthroposophical doctrines for their students in so many words. But they imply, and insinuate, and convey many Anthroposophical beliefs without labeling them as such, or fully explaining them, or attributing them to Steiner. [See, e.g., "Spiritual Agenda - We Don't Teach It" and "He Went to Waldorf".]
More fundamentally, it is important to realize that Waldorf education is rooted in Anthroposophy, whether or not the doctrines of that faith are laid out in class. Here we see Steiner openly acknowledging that Waldorf education is a creation of Anthroposophy — which means that Waldorf education is built on the sorts of bizarre falsehoods and delusions we have been reviewing. These are Steiner's teachings, these are the basic tenets of "spiritual science," these are the ideas Waldorf teachers would like their students to accept sooner or later.
Gadzooks. [See, e.g., "Oh Humanity".]
59. "[I]t is absolutely incorrect to say that when a man is thinking, something constructive is going on in his brain. On the contrary, something is always being destroyed, demolished, when he is thinking. Substances in the brain are being broken down, destroyed. Death on a small scale is perpetually taking place there." — Ibid., p. 231.
Here, once again, we get Steiner's view of thinking, use of the brain, intellect. This is the Anthroposophical view. And, as we have just seen, Waldorf education is rooted in Anthroposophy. Consider what it means to send a child to a school built on the belief that thinking is destructive.
60. "We receive our first body from our father and mother; but this body is thrown off entirely, and after seven or eight years we have a new one. We do not get this one from our parents; we ourselves have to build it up. Where does it come from? The body we had during the first years of life came from our parents; we could not have had a body without them. But what builds up the second body comes from the spiritual world. I do not mean the substance, but the active principle, the essential being, that is what comes out of the spiritual world. So we can say: When the human being is born, the body he has for the first seven or eight years of his life comes from his father and mother, but the soul and spiritual entity come from the spiritual world. And every seven or eight years the human being exchanges his body but retains all of himself that is spiritual. After a certain time the body is worn out and what earlier came into it as spirit and soul goes back again into the spiritual world. Man comes from the spiritual world and returns to the spiritual world." — Ibid., pp. 233-234.
Amazing as it may seem, the Waldorf curriculum is geared to this preposterous idea: We are born anew every seven years. At birth, we get a physical body. At age seven, we get an "etheric body." At age 14, we get an "astral body." At age 21, we get an "I" — an individual spiritual identity. At age 28, we get a "sentient soul." At age 35, we get a "mind soul." At age 42... [See "Incarnation" and "What We're Made Of".] I kid you not. The Waldorf curriculum is geared to this belief, which Steiner's followers consider one of his greatest contributions to humanity. [See "Most Significant".] I kid you not. Think about it.
61. "[W]hen we take in nourishment from the cosmos through our breathing, we take in not only substance, but we take in at the same time the element of soul. The substance is in such a fine, rarefied state that the soul is able to live in it everywhere. So we may say: Man takes in bodily substance through his food; through his breathing he takes in, he lives with a soul element. But it is not the case that with every inhalation we take a piece of soul into ourselves and then with every exhalation breathe out a piece of soul again. In that event we would always be discarding the soul. No — it is like this: with our very first breath we take the soul into ourselves, and it is then the soul that brings about the breathing in us. And with our very last breath we set the soul free so that it can go back to the spiritual world." — Ibid., p. 235.
It is interesting to wonder how the workmen reacted when Steiner preached such strange articles of faith to them (we inhale and exhale soul-stuff, forsooth). But it's a minor point.
More important is to realize how teachers at the first Waldorf school reacted to Steiner's words of wisdom. They sat listening quietly, attentively, reverently. They believed. And people who today prepare to become Waldorf teachers similarly accept these sorts of occult tenets. Hard as it may be for the rest of us to believe it, Waldorf faculties today are loaded with people who accept the kinds of ideas Steiner preached. [See "Teacher Training" and, e.g., "Ex-Teacher 7". To listen in as Steiner offered guidance to teachers at the first Waldorf school, see "Faculty Meetings" and "Advice (to Teachers)".]
Think about it.
62. "When we have breathed 25,920 times, we have completed one day. Our soul remains while the breaths change. When we have completed 25,920 days, we have awakened as often as we have slept. In sleep, as we know, we do not think, we do not move, we are inactive. During sleep our spirit and soul have gone off to the spiritual world for a few hours; at waking we get them back again. [See "P.S.", below.] Just as we let the breath go out and come back 18 times a minute, so in a day we let the soul leave once and return. Sleeping and waking, you see, are simply more lengthy breaths. We do short breathing 18 times a minute. The longer breathing is our sleeping and waking. And the longest breathing is our breathing in the soul and spirit when we are born and breathing it out again when we die. But there is still the very longest breathing of all; for we go with the sun as it completes its circuit of 25,920 years; we go into the world of the stars. When we think of the soul, gentlemen, at that very moment we leave the earth and go to the world of the stars." — Ibid., p. 237.
Wanting to show that there are deep designs in the universe, Steiner came up with this generalization: The number of breaths we take each day (25,920) is equal to the number of days we live (25,920) which in turn is equal to the number of years in a "great year" (25,920 — the number of years it takes the Sun to pass through all twelve signs of the zodiac). Stunning, no? Proof positive of something or other, no?
No. At most, Steiner stumbled on a coincidence. But, actually, it is not even a coincidence, since the numbers don't work out. His math was bogus. [See "Mystic Math".]
His followers, however, are impressed by this sort of sophistry. Are you? Steiner practiced sophistry in his discussions of almost all matters, and he read spiritual meaning into almost all the matters he discussed. The latter may be wise; the former certainly is not.
If you like the idea of spirituality permeating your child's education, remember that the spirituality in Waldorf education arises from Anthroposophy — it consists of the sorts of doctrines we have been examining on this page. And realize, too, that Waldorf teachers will endeavor to slip Anthroposophical religious feeling into every subject and activity, albeit they will usually do it subtly, without openly propounding the doctrines of their faith. They will usually be circumspect and cautious. But they will do it. As Steiner himself said, "It is possible to introduce a religious element into every subject, even into math lessons. Anyone who has some knowledge of Waldorf teaching will know that this statement is true." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD's CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 94.
Waldorf teachers, you see, think that they are on a messianic mission to fulfill the will of the gods. “Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods, that we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55. Waldorf teachers think that they are, in effect, priests. [See "Waldorf Priests".] The religion they serve as priests is Anthroposophy. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"]
Educating children — in the sense of teaching them about the real world — is not the chief Waldorf priority; in fact, it is scarcely a priority at all. The priority for Waldorf schools is to service, and ultimately spread, Anthroposophy. "One of the most important facts about the background of the Waldorf School is that we were in a position to make the anthroposophical movement a relatively large one. The anthroposophical movement has become a large one.” — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 156. Hence, “You need to make the children aware that they are receiving the objective truth, and if this occasionally appears anthroposophical, it is not anthroposophy that is at fault. Things are that way because anthroposophy has something to say about objective truth. It is the material that causes what is said to be anthroposophical. We certainly may not go to the other extreme, where people say that anthroposophy may not be brought into the school. Anthroposophy will be in the school when it is objectively justified, that is, when it is called for by the material itself.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 495. When will bringing Anthroposophy into the classroom be "objectively justified"? Given that Anthroposophists think Anthroposophy is the Truth — the great Truth that pervades all human knowledge — it will always be justified.
Before deciding to send your child to a Waldorf school, ask yourself whether you primarily want your child to get a good education, or do you want your child to be led toward the slippery slope leading down to Rudolf Steiner's "spiritual science"?
What did Steiner mean (quote #62, above) when he said
"During sleep our spirit and soul have gone off to the spiritual world for a few hours"?
He did not mean that we drift off into dreams of the spirit realm.
He meant that, quite literally, some parts of us travel into the spirit realm.
As we have seen, Steiner taught that in addition to physical bodies,
we have etheric bodies, astral bodies, and "I"s.
He taught that, quite literally, at night our astral bodies and "I"s leave Earth and penetrate
into the spiritual worlds above. In the morning, they return,
rejoining our physical and etheric bodies, which had remained on Earth.
I kid you not.
“Here (left) we have the physical body and the ether body (yellow). It fills the whole of the physical body. And here (right) we have the astral body, which is outside the human being at night (red). At the top it is very small and hugely bulging down below. Then we have the I (violet). This is how we are at night. We are two people in the night." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 102. [R.R. sketch, 2009, based on image in the book. The arrows show the astral body and "I" rejoining the physical and etheric bodies in the morning.]
[R. R., 2011]
Physical corruption, spiritual ascent;
the horror and the hope.
At their root, Steiner's teachings are religious.
The question is whether the religion Steiner promoted, Anthroposophy,
provides true guidance for yearning humanity.
Steiner gave the original indications for this image, part of a large ceiling mural.
Gerhard Wagner painted numerous versions of the mural.
My copy shows a detail from one of Wagner's paintings —
see THE GOETHEANUM CUPOLA MOTIFS OF RUDOLF STEINER
(Steiner Books, 2011), p. 153.
Wagner's painting is multi-colored;
my sketch is black and white, with a tint added.]
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 12. DANGEROUS DISCONNECTIONS ◊◊◊
If you'd like more information about any of the topics discussed here,
you might begin by consulting the following resources:
THE SEMI-STEINER DICTIONARY
THE BRIEF WALDORF / STEINER ENCYCLOPEDIA
WALDORF WATCH INDEX
WALDORF WATCH TABLE OF CONTENTS