The Waldorf Curriculum:


with an excursion into astrology


Hermann von Baravalle, an associate of Rudolf Steiner, taught at Steiner’s original Waldorf School in Stuttgart, Germany. Later, von Baravalle emigrated to the USA, becoming chairman of the math department at Adelphi College, New York. While there, he helped found the Waldorf Teacher Education Program. 

Von Baravalle’s publications include a series of pamphlets explaining how various academic subjects should be taught at Waldorf schools. The pamphlets are intended to be read by Waldorf teachers, not by the likes of you and me. In examining them, we get a glimpse behind the scenes at Waldorf schools.

What immediately jumps out is that von Baravalle’s approach often empties academic subjects of most of their intellectual content. The pamphlet I will discuss here is ASTRONOMY, An Introduction, outlining a course for sixth graders. [1] Writing about astronomy must have been a great challenge for von Baravalle, given Steiner's astrological, antiscientific, and occult doctrines. As I point out in other essays on this website, Steiner spoke of Moon forces, Sun forces, etc.; he taught that the Earth does not orbit the Sun; he tied various human “temperaments” to signs of the zodiac; he stated that Christ, Jehovah, and other "gods" come from the Sun; he asserted that humans colonized the Moon and various planets long ago; he said that Jehovah rules over Jews from the Moon; he said that Lucifer's true home is Venus; he told of Buddha being transferred to Mars; and so forth. How can astronomy be taught at Waldorf schools without revealing Steiner’s extraordinary statements about the planets and stars?

Von Baravalle’s solution is to make the study of astronomy essentially subjective. He stresses how the lights in the sky will appear to his gazing students, laboriously describing how the night sky looks from earthly perspectives, and urging students to make drawings of star "movements" (i.e., the apparent movements of the lights in the sky caused by the earth’s rotation). At no point does he advise Waldorf teacher to tell students what the stars are, how they produce light, how they came into existence, how many there may be in our galaxy, how many galaxies may exist, what the Big Bang was, how old the universe is, how planets actually move (as opposed to their apparent movements), what the planets are made of, what conditions exist on the planets, or anything of the sort. His astronomy course omits the contents of a true study of astronomy. Indeed, von Baravalle does not distinguish between stars, planets, galaxies, and nebulas. Any light in the sky is, for him, a “star.” He concentrates entirely on appearances and illusory motions; he says nothing about the physics of astronomy.

Every bit of information he provides about the “stars” is trivial, subjective, or incorrect. For instance, he asks “What about the speed of the stars? How fast do they appear to move in their courses?” [2] He concentrates on apparent movement; he never gets around to real movement, nor does he distinguish between the movement of the stars and the movement of the planets. He doesn't ask how fast the galaxy is moving. He doesn't ask whether the universe is expanding/contracting, or how fast it may be doing so. he has virtually nothing to say about actual motions in the sky. Instead, he encourages his students to be self-involved and unreflecting. “The Celestial Equator’s Center is Within Ourselves” he announces. [3] In what is supposed to be a course about the solar system, galaxy, and universe, he makes man the measure of all things. Objectivity is outside his frame of reference; his students dwell upon their subjective view of the "stars."

His chapters on the Sun do not concern themselves with the Sun’s composition, the Sun's distance from the Earth, or other such matters. They are exclusively about the apparent course that the Sun traces through the sky throughout the year. (On the other hand, von Baravalle never explains that Jesus is the Sun God, a key Anthroposophical belief. Perhaps we can give him credit for sidestepping this bit of astronomical lore.)

Von Baravalle's chapter on the Moon is entirely devoted to how the Moon looks at various times during the month, and how the phases of the Moon show which direction the Sun (apparently) lies. “Whenever the moon is visible in the sky, it tells us the position of the sun. With the moon as guide, the observer can follow the course of the sun under the horizon.” [4] In truth, there is no mystery about the position of the Sun: It sits at the center of the Solar System. And, of course, the Sun does not follow a course either above or below the horizon: The Earth rotates on its tilted axis, creating this illusion of solar movement. In effect, von Baravalle encourages Waldorf teachers to mislead their students on such points; he stresses illusions, not truths.

Von Baravalle's chapter on the planets explicitly refers to them as stars. For instance, “The brightest of stars is Venus.” [5] The chapter never discusses the composition of the planets, their distance from the Sun, their orbits, gravities, moons, etc. Again, appearance and illusory movements are stressed. “Mars, too, is seen from time to time for extended nocturnal periods, shining brightly and slightly reddish in the night sky. Its position among the surrounding stars is also seen to shift if repeatedly observed night after night. Its changes are even greater than those of Jupiter.” [6] Why does Mars seem to change more than Jupiter? No explanation is provided (i.e., both planets orbit the Sun; Mars is closer to the Sun — and to Earth — than is Jupiter, hence Mars’s orbit is smaller and faster). Why is Mars red? How many moons does it have? How big is it? How far is it from Earth? What about the canals on Mars (almost everyone believed in Martian canals, until a 1964 space probe disproved their existence — Steiner said there are long, straight lines on Mars resembling canals)? These are things kids would usually be eager to learn about. Von Baravalle is mum on all these points; his astronomy course leaves kids in the dark.

The final chapter is entitled “Observing the Zodiac.” Here, von Baravalle treats the signs of the zodiac as if they were significant phenomena, but again he only discusses appearances, telling how the groupings of stars called constellations appear to an earthbound observer. The truth is that the zodiac is meaningless in astronomy; it has "meaning" only in astrology. Von Baravalle tiptoes past Steiner’s astrological teachings while covertly endorsing the underlying proposition that the zodiac is in some sense real and important.

In sum, the pamphlet is an example of the way Waldorf teachers can deprive a subject of its content, sidestepping the real issues involved, while encouraging a thoughtless subjectivity in their students. The result is to move students toward the sorts of doctrines Steiner voiced, even while keeping these doctrines hidden in a mist of uncertainty. Students who do not understand the realities of nature are primed for accepting falsehoods about nature.


Rudolf Steiner’s own statements about astronomy were utterly bizarre. For example, as I indicated earlier, Steiner said that the Earth does not orbit the Sun. And here’s a crucial point for anyone interested in Waldorf schools: Steiner made this statement — twice — when “educating” Waldorf school teachers, preparing them to "educate" Waldorf students.

On Sept. 5, 1919, Steiner told teachers at the first Waldorf school that the movement of the Earth around the Sun is an illusion. We think the Earth goes around the Sun because sometimes we see the Sun from constantly shifting angles. “This creates the illusion that the Earth revolves round the sun. The truth is that the Sun goes ahead, and the Earth creeps continually after it.” [7] 

(Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 168.]

Steiner said that, instead of orbiting the Sun, the planets move in line with the Sun. To illustrate his meaning, he drew a zigzag line showing the Sun at “position one” on the line. Ahead of the Sun he drew three planets, and behind it he drew three others. As the Sun moves through outer space, he said, these six planets move with the Sun along the zigzag line. “[H]ere are Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars, and here are Venus, Mercury, and Earth ... [W]hen the Sun has progressed to the second position we have Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars here, and we have Venus, Mercury, and Earth over there.” [8]

The line Steiner drew was meant to represent a spiral seen from the side. The Sun moves through space in a corkscrew manner, led by three planets and followed by three others. The planetary lineup Steiner specified is interesting. Steiner actually wobbled on it, a bit. On Sept. 5, he placed Venus ahead of Mercury, whereas in a later discussion he put Venus behind Mercury. (In some occult teachings, the identities of these two planets cross.) In either case, the sequence scrambles the real order of the inner planets, displacing the Earth so that, of the three inner planets, it is the most distant from Mars. In reality the Earth and Mars and next-door neighbors. Also, perhaps a minor point, the sequence omits the outermost planets. The true order of the planets, counting from the outskirts inward, and omitting minor planets such as Pluto, is Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Earth, Venus, and Mercury. Bear in mind that this list does not denote a line of travel; it is an account of the distances at which the planets orbit the Sun. Mercury orbits near the Sun, Neptune orbits far away, and all of the other planets orbit at intermediate distances between the orbits of Mercury and Neptune. Steiner's description of the solar system gets most of this wrong.

Steiner's Sept. 5, 1919, statement quite naturally confused his listeners, so on Sept. 25, during a faculty meeting, one teacher asked for a clarification. “[W]e don't really have a clear understanding about the true movements of the planets and the Sun.” [10] In response, Steiner essentially repeated his previous remarks, trying to describe the optical illusion that he claimed causes people to mistakenly think that the planets orbit the Sun. Drawing his zigzag line again, Steiner pointed at it and said, “[W]hen the Earth is here [one position on the line] and this is the Sun [a different position on the line], the Earth follows along. But we look at the Sun from here, and so it appears as though the Earth goes around it, whereas it is actually only following. The Earth follows the Sun.” [11] Please note Steiner’s exact words: The Earth “appears” to go “around” the Sun, but “actually” it is “only following". “Only” is definite and unqualified. The Earth doesn't orbit the Sun, it only follows it.

The diagrams Steiner created on both Sept. 5 and 25 are basically alike, but on the second date he added a looping arrow and a short tangent. [12] 

(Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 168.]

The arrow is supposed to show how, from one point along our journey, we see the Sun on one side of our line of motion, whereas later we will see it on the other side. Hence, we get the false impression that we move from side to side around the Sun. The tangent shows the orientation of the Earth's axis, pointing at the celestial pole. [14] All other things being equal, Steiner said, the spiral motion of the solar system should make the celestial pole seem to describe a lemniscate. But — perhaps to your relief — he said it doesn't. (He said the axis shifts around just enough to cancel out the celestial lemniscate.)

On neither day did Steiner refer to our galaxy, the Milky Way. Still, the corkscrew motion he postulated traces a trail through the Milky Way, or, as Steiner put it, “into cosmic space”. [13] According to Steiner, this trails leads us toward the celestial pole. There’s a problem, though. If we are climbing toward the pole, we are not in a galactic orbit; rather, we are making a serpentine progression that ultimately leads in a single direction. This is not what science has established. The actual movement of the Sun within the galaxy is orbital. Like all the other stars in the Milky Way, our Sun participates in the rotation of the galaxy, within the galactic plane. We orbit the galactic center, we do not move toward the celestial pole.

Steiner's description of planetary/solar motions has the small defect of omitting the actual motions of the planets and Sun. Steiner said that the only real motion is the progression along the corkscrew line. “Everything else is only apparent motion.” [15] “Everything” and “only” are definite and unqualified. But in this, as in so much else, Steiner was wrong. The planets very rarely form a line with the Sun, and they certainly do not adhere to a fixed order along a line of movement. The planets continually shift in their relationship to one another, due to their orbits. Sometimes some planet are on one side of the Sun, sometimes others are. Sometimes some of the planets are more or less in line with one another, but usually they are scattered all around the Sun, at varying distances, at varying points in their orbits. The entire solar system is indeed moving, as a body, through the galaxy, but otherwise Steiner's description does not hold up.

As you can see, Steiner offered an alternative, unconventional theory of astronomy. He did the same with any number of subjects. The test of such theories is experimental and observational verification. The conventional model of astronomical phenomena is supported by vast quantities of verifiable information. Steiner's theory is not. Does this mean that the conventional model is definitely correct? No. Does it mean that the conventional model will not evolve further? No. Does it mean that all astronomical deductions are firmly established, never to be revised? No. (Calculating the distance to other galaxies, for instance, is a tricky business, and astronomers keep refining their techniques.) Likewise, does the lack of evidence for Steiner's view prove him wrong? No. But we have a great deal of information leading us to accept the conventional view, and we have virtually no information that supports Steiner's view. That's where the scientific method has brought us, and Steiner claimed to be scientific. According to science — that is, according to everything that we know — Steiner was wrong.

This discussion is already too long, but we should linger to make one more point. As we have seen, Steiner sometimes contradicted himself. On some occasions — generally when speaking in public — he referred to orbital motions of various heavenly spheres. At those times he seemed to understand the real motions within the solar system; on those occasions, he said that the planets orbit the Sun. But on two distinct occasions, Sept. 5 and 25, 1919, when speaking in private, “educating” Waldorf school educators, he served up a deeply flawed set of ideas containing obvious errors. On those occasions — when he was revealing his real views to his devout followers — he said that the planets do not orbit the Sun. Importantly, when his first effort to present his model was unsuccessful, he did not correct himself, but instead he repeated the errors, stressing their “truth.” He said, “In reality, it is like this.” [16]

In reality, Steiner was wrong.


Astronomy may seem like a relatively unimportant subject — some schools may not even offer it. But for Steiner’s purposes, astronomy is crucial. He needed to lure students away from a scientific understanding of the heavens because his own views were so fundamentally anti-scientific.

Here is a brief tour of the solar system, Steiner-style. I will start at the Sun and work my way out to the various planets orbiting the Sun, although Steiner said they do not orbit, and he put them in a different order, and he omitted some of them while adding an extra one...

The Sun: [T]he physical sun...is the external expression of the spiritual world that is received at the point where Christ’s physical body is walking around.” [17]

Vulcan (a non-planet that Steiner apparently believed in): “Not much can be publicly communicated about life on this planet ... [O]nly mystery students of the higher order, who may leave their physical body and acquire supersensible knowledge outside it, can learn something about Vulcan.” [18]

Mercury: “If we state that the Negro race was born in cooperation between the normal Spirits of Form [a type of god] and the abnormal Spirits of Form centred in Mercury, then from an occult standpoint we are perfectly correct in describing the Negro race as the 'Mercury race.'” [19]

Venus: “Lucifer himself takes part in Earth evolution with the perpetual longing within himself for his true home, for the star [sic] Venus ... [W]hat Lucifer casts off as a husk...as the physical body is cast off by the human soul at death, shines down from heaven as Venus.” [20]

Earth: You know about the Earth. It’s where we are now, except that Steiner would also say that it is when we are now, because he taught that we are currently living through the Earth stage of our evolution. Previously, we lived through the Saturn, Sun, and Moon stages, and in the future we will proceed to the Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan stages. As to the Earth as a physical planet, our home world consists of many layers. One layer “is sensitive to pain and would cry out if stepped upon” [21]; another layer, perhaps confusingly, consists of “substances comparable to nothing upon the earth.” [22]

The Moon: “[T]he moon today is like a fortress in the universe, in which there lives a population that fulfilled its human destiny over 15,000 years ago, after which it withdrew to the moon together with the spiritual guides of humanity ... This is only one of the ‘cities’ in the universe, one colony, one settlement among many ... As far as what concerns ourselves, as humanity on earth, the other pole, the opposite extreme to the moon is the population of Saturn.” [23]

Mars: “The Buddha wandered away from earthly affairs to the realm of Mars. Until then Mars had been the chosen center of forces designated by the Greeks as fearfully warlike ... The Buddha Mystery on Mars did not take the same course as the Christ Mystery on earth, but Buddha, the Prince of Peace, who, during his last earthly life had spread peace and love wherever he went, was transferred to the belligerent realm of Mars.” [24]

Since Mars figures so prominently in occultism as well as science fiction, let’s stay with it a moment or two longer. “Mars used to radiate different forces. The Mars culture that human beings experience between death and a new birth went through a great crisis in the earth’s fifteenth and sixteenth centuries ... When these conditions came into force on Mars, the natural consequence would have been for Mars to continue sending down to earth human beings who brought Copernican ideas with them, which are really only maya [i.e., illusion]. What we are seeing, then, is the decline of the Mars culture. Previously Mars had sent forth good forces. But now Mars sent forth more and more forces that would have led us deeper and deeper into maya. The achievements inspired by Mars at that time [i.e., Copernican ideas] were ingenious and clever, but they were maya all the same.” [25] You see, the illusion or “maya” created by Copernicus — silly ideas such as that the planets orbit the Sun — is a result of Martian influence.

Jupiter: A tough one, but work your way through the following statement: “Just as the leaders of the Sun’s evolution [spiritual beings who guided evolution during the “Sun” stage] became the higher I [the “I” is the highest human nonphysical body] that worked in the life body [i.e., the etheric body, the lowest nonphysical body] of the descendants of human beings who had remained on Earth, this Jupiter leader became the higher I that spread like a common consciousness through the human beings who had their origins in the interbreeding of Earth offspring with humans who first appeared on Earth during the period of the air element and then moved to Jupiter.” [26] (The "air element" is an “element” that reveals certain spiritual beings, as do the “warmth element,” the “light element,” etc.; they reflect historical/evolutionary stages.) 

Here’s another tidbit about Jupiter: “If you were now to imagine bodies of men forming out of the clouds and flying down to the Earth, that would be a picture of how the new Beings come forth from a kind of cloud-mass on Jupiter ... Just as we on Earth are pervaded by air, so everything on Jupiter is pervaded by wisdom. Wisdom there has substantiality, streams in the atmosphere, discharges itself like rain on Jupiter ... Herein live the Cherubim, who in this realm of existence gather up and give shape to the karma of human beings.” [27]

Saturn: "To the modern materialistic view of the cosmos, Saturn is observed merely as a body moving about in cosmic space; and the same with the other planets. This is not the case; for if we take [i.e., consider] Saturn, the outermost planet of our Universe [sic], we must represent him as the leader of our planetary system in cosmic space. He directs our system in space.” [28]

"The nature of Saturn is such that he receives many diverse impulses from the universe but allows none of them to stream back — at all events not to the Earth ...  Saturn is an entirely self-engrossed heavenly body in our planetary system, raying [i.e., sending] his own being into the universe ... He speaks only of himself, tells us only what he himself is. And what he is reveals itself gradually as a kind of memory of the planetary system.” [29]


Basically, that's the entire solar system as described by Steiner. Steiner occasionally mentioned Uranus and Neptune, but not in a very helpful manner. Indeed, he denied that they were really members of the solar system. You see, the ancients spoke of seven planets, so Steiner wanted to stick with that. In particular, he wanted to stick, more or less, to Theosophy's "Seven Sacred Planets. They are Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun (standing as a substitute for an invisible planet very near the sun, sometimes referred to as Vulcan), Venus, Mercury, and the Moon (also a substitute for an invisible planet)." [30] Or, as Steiner put it: "The Saturn sphere is really the last one that we...enter, since Uranus and Neptune do not enter our picture." [31] So, when he absolutely had to admit the existence of Uranus and Neptune, he refused to extend membership in the solar system to those worlds: "Then come Uranus and Neptune ... [T]hey circle much farther out and their orbits exhibit such irregularities that in reality they cannot be counted among the planets even today." [32] (Here, Steiner acknowledged that the planets travel in orbits. But he was speaking in public.)

Just about the only use Steiner had for Neptune and Uranus came in working out horoscopes: "Now let us turn to the horoscope of the younger child. Again, here are Venus and Uranus and Mars near together ... [W]hen we examine more nearly [i.e., more closely] the position of Mars, we find it is not, as before, in complete opposition to the moon [i.e., Mars and the Moon are not exactly on opposite sides of the sky]. It is however very nearly so. Although the younger child does not come in for a complete opposition, there is an approximation of opposition." [33] Steiner wasn't into astronomy at all, really; he was into astrology.


I realize how strange and even confusing Steiner's statements about stars and planets are. If nothing else, the thing to take away from all this is the recognition that Rudolf Steiner's followers — including many Waldorf school teachers — believe these strange and confusing ideas. Waldorf teachers may not express these ideas openly when teaching astronomy — but then again, they may. Note that the passages I quoted about planets traveling in line with the Sun come from the books DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS and FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, both of which were published in the series Foundations of Waldorf Education. Steiner told Waldorf teachers that the planets do not orbit the Sun. Some of the teachers had trouble with this proposition, but Steiner repeated it, driving it home. Clearly, Waldorf teachers today, studying these books, may accept Steiner's word on astronomical matters as they accept it on almost all other matters. Steiner told them the deep truths about the universe (or so they believe). So, if these ideas are the truth, will the teachers really withhold them from their students? Will they lie to the students, indicating that Copernicus was right and Steiner was wrong? Some may do so. But others surely will not.

Let's clear up one more matter (if possible) before quitting. Sometimes when Steiner spoke of "planets" he meant planets such as we see in the sky today. But sometimes he meant something different: He meant stages in the evolution of the entire solar system. In Steiner's occult cosmology, "Old Saturn" was different from the Saturn that we see today (although sometimes Steiner spoke of "Saturn" when he meant Old Saturn, causing considerable confusion). Old Saturn was the first incarnation of the entire solar system. Prior to that, other states of being existed for the gods, but not for man, and not for anything else that came into existence with the first appearance of our solar system. There was, for us, nothing before the solar system originally burst into being. To put this another way, everything in the solar system originally incarnated in a condition or phase called "Old Saturn." (If you like, you could say that the forces of Saturn were predominant throughout the solar system as it existed at that time.) When that stage ended, the entire solar system blinked out of existence, only to reincarnate later in a phase called Sun (or "Old Sun"). Everything in the solar system came back into existence then, existing in a form different from the previous form and different from any later forms, such as the present form that we see around us now. Following Old Sun, everything in the solar system disappeared again, only to reincarnate in the stage called Old Moon. It ended, everything went away, and then it all reappeared in a new form, i.e., in the present "Earth" stage of evolution. When the Earth stage ends, everything will proceed to the Jupiter stage, then the Venus stage, then the Vulcan stage.

OK? The planets that we see in the sky today are fragments of the various "planetary stages" of evolution, but they are not those stages per se. The planet Saturn, today, is not the ancient Old Saturn stage of evolution. It is the planet Saturn as it exists in the Earth stage of evolution. As such, it is a reincarnated fragment of Old Saturn that has survived (in a new form) in the new, Earth stage of evolution. Here is how Steiner tried to explain such things. "Seen in the light of spiritual science, the present Saturn is a kind of reincarnation of Old Saturn. It came into existence because, before the Sun had separated from the Earth, Beings were there who would not have been able to leave with the Sun. They were so much imbued with Saturnian characteristics that they could not live where Solar properties above all were to be developed. So too the present Jupiter arose because Beings were there with characteristics which cosmic evolution as a whole will be unfolding in the future Jupiter and not till then. Mars on the other hand is a heavenly body inhabited by Beings whose evolution on Old Moon was such that they could not have benefited from any further progress upon Earth. Mars is a reincarnation of Old Moon on a higher level. The present Mercury is a dwelling-place for Beings who are ahead of earthly evolution in that they have developed certain earthly qualities in a higher form than is possible upon the Earth herself. Likewise the present Venus is a prophetic anticipation of the future Venus state." [34]


— Roger Rawlings

[R.R., 2010]

"In earthly substances what we actually see are the products of a collaboration between the starry forces ... 

Saturn sends its influence to certain parts of the earth especially favorably and over long periods of time, 

the effects become visible in the product, which in this case is the coming into being of lead."

— Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 42. 
[R. R. sketch, 2011, based on the one in the book. Steiner's sketch is about as crude as mine.]

Steiner's knowledge of astronomy was extremely limited. His teachings have more to do with astrology than real astronomy.
Saturn — which is not a star and has no "starry forces" — does not send its energies selectively "to certain parts of the earth,"
nor does it have anything to do with the creation of lead. Like all heavy metals, lead is the product of processes within supernovas.

The following two items are adapted from the Waldorf Watch "news' page:

“Christ was always the representative of the sun, namely, the intelligence of the Sun ... The sign of the intelligence of the Sun is [what you see here] ... This is, at the same time, the occult sign of the lamb. The lamb receives the book with the seven seals ... The seven corners of the sign are called 'horns.' But what do the 'eyes' mean?

“In occult schools the signs of the seven planets are written next to the seven eyes. The seven eyes signify nothing other than the seven planets, while the names of the planets designate the spirits incarnated in them as their intelligence. 'Saturn' is the name of the soul of Saturn. The names of the planets come from the spirits of the seven planets found around the earth. These have an influence on human life. The lamb, Christ, contains all seven. Christ is the alpha and the omega; the seven planets are related to him like members to an entire body. The entwining of the lines of the sign portray in a wonderful way the interaction between the seven planets. From Saturn one rises to the Sun, from there down to the Moon, then on to Mars, Mercury, and so forth ... Christ is the regent of all these world spheres; their actions constitute only part of his being; he unites them all. In Rosicrucian schools a lamb is often drawn as a sign for the intelligence of the Sun.” — Rudolf Steiner, READING THE SIGNS OF THE APOCALYPSE (SteinerBooks, 1993), pp. 19-21.

The occult symbol of Christ, according to Steiner.
[R.R. copy, 2010, based on the illustration in the book.]

The occult symbol for Christ shows seven eyes and seven planets. Starting at the top and proceeding clockwise, the seven planets are the Sun (not really a planet), Mercury, Venus, the Moon (not really a planet), Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter. These are the seven classical "planets" of astrology. On other occasions, Steiner spoke of seven planets or planetary stages of human evolution. These are, in order from first to last, Old Saturn, Old Sun, Old Moon, Present Earth, Future Jupiter, Future Venus, and Future Vulcan. Thus, Steiner used two different seven-member lists of the planets in his teachings. For the evolutionary lineup, he took the astrological list, added the Earth and Vulcan (!), and omitted Mercury and Mars. 

Do you notice any other omissions? Neither list includes Uranus or Neptune. Steiner occasionally acknowledged the existence of those distant planets, but he usually denied that they are really part of the solar system. The one lineup of planets Steiner almost never spoke of (since his teachings rarely intersect with reality) is the real one: starting closest to the Sun and moving outward: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. (And maybe poor little Pluto.) The real list, in other words, has eight planets, all of which are really planets. (Or it has nine planets, if we include poor little Pluto.)

But I haven't told you the weird part yet. On several occasions, Steiner taught that the planets travel in line with the Sun rather than orbiting it. He actually made this claim in the presence of Waldorf faculty members, none of whom jumped up shouting "This is insane! Let me out of here!" No, perplexed but polite, they sat quietly as Steiner told them, and I quote, “[I]t is not that the planets move around the Sun, but these three, Mercury, Venus, and the Earth, follow the Sun, and these three, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, precede it.” [FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER 

(Anthroposophic Press, 1998), 

pp. 30-31.] OK? So the planets move along in a sort of conga line with the Sun. According to a drawing on p. 31 of FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, Saturn leads the line, followed by Jupiter, Mars, the Sun itself, Mercury, Venus, and the Earth, bringing up the rear. So, this amounts to Steiner's third seven-planet lineup if we count the Sun as a planet. What's missing? This time around, the Moon is no longer considered a planet, Vulcan is forgotten, and as always Uranus and Neptune (and poor little Pluto) are ignored. If we want to say that in this third seven-member lineup the Sun should not be considered a planet, then Steiner supplemented his two seven-planet lineups with one six-planet lineup.

Again, the one lineup Steiner almost never mentioned is the real one. (Eight planets. Or, if we include poor little...)

For more on some of these subjects, you might look at "Astrology", "Akasha", "The Planets", "Deception", and "Oh My Stars".

(P.S. In another text, Steiner again describes the planets moving in line with the Sun, and there's a similar drawing. But the lineup there is a bit different from the one given in FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, so I think we might as well skip that one, don't you? No need to get confused. [It's on p. 168 of DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 1997); the sequence there is Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and Earth.])


“What about the speed of the stars? How fast do they appear to move in their courses?” — Waldorf educator Hermann von Baravalle, ASTRONOMY - An Introduction, Waldorf Curriculum Series (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1991, revised 2000 by Norman Davidson), p. 7.

The speed of the stars! Now there’s a fascinating subject, one that good teachers could use to great advantage, stimulating the minds and stretching the imaginations of their students. All the stars in our galaxy orbit the galactic center. How fast are they going? How fast, for instance, is our Sun moving? Do different stars move at different speeds? Why? This is exciting material. And there’s plenty more. Not all of the lights we see in the night sky are stars; some are planets. How fast are the various planets moving as they circle the Sun? In addition to stars and planets, there are still other lights in the sky, especially galaxies — huge pinwheels and platters and globes of stars, far far away. How fast are these moving toward or away from us? Almost every child would love to explore such questions.

Unfortunately, in his teachers’ guide — intended to show Waldorf teachers how to present astronomy to sixth graders — Hermann von Baravalle avoids these questions. Science classes at Waldorf schools often shortchange students by offering minimal information about the real universe, and this astronomy course follows the Waldorf pattern. The stellar speed von Baravalle refers to is the apparent motion of the stars (“How fast do they appear to move?”), which is an illusion caused by the spinning of the Earth. And the “courses” he mentions are illusory paths, also caused by the Earth's motions. Von Baravalle focuses not on the actual universe but on the subjective view students may obtain by gazing upward without knowing what they are seeing. And von Baravalle does not propose to provide kids with much real information that would enable them to know what they are seeing.

Von Baravalle calls every light in the night sky a “star” (e.g., “The brightest of stars is Venus.” — p. 35). Von Baravalle distinguishes only slightly between stars and planets, accepting the ancient view that planets are "wandering stars."* Nor does he provide much information about the size or composition of the things we see in the night sky, their true motions, their distance from the Earth, and so forth. He does, however, provide a chapter on the signs of the zodiac. A student studying astronomy in this, the Waldorf way, will come out of the class with virtually no real knowledge. Are stars bigger than planets? Are stars closer to us than planets or farther away? What are stars made of? What are planets made of? Are there different kinds of the planets? How many stars are there? How many planets do we know about? You can continue this list yourself. Think of any question that a student might ask concerning the real objects in the sky. In all probability, a Waldorf astronomy course will skimp on the answers.

The occult rationale for the course von Baravalle outlines is that sixth graders recapitulate the mental and spiritual condition of ancient Romans, and therefore sixth graders today should know only as much as the ancient Romans knew. (I kid you not.) All grades at Waldorf schools are meant to help kids pass through particular spiritual-evolutionary stages. But the Waldorf view of evolution (beginning on Old Saturn and moving toward Future Vulcan) is a fantasy, unsupported by any objectively verifiable information. The association of various childhood ages with various stage of human evolution is likewise unfounded. And here we see an example of the harm that can result — twenty-first century children are denied twenty-first century information. Instead, they are restricted to ancient ignorance. 

A six grader is certainly capable of comprehending real information about stars and planets. Indeed, a third grader is. But at Waldorf schools, such information is largely withheld in deference to Rudolf Steiner and his fabulous untruths. [For more on this, see “Oh My Stars”. Also relevant are "Curriculum", "Astrology", "Astrosophy", "Star Power", "Planetary Humans", and "Everything".]

* Here is the beginning of chapter 7, "Observing the Planets - Flexibility in the Cosmos:  Five 'stars', different from all the others, appear at times in the night sky. All five shine brightly at night in some months ... These five special stars include the brightest of all stars ... The brightest of stars is Venus." [p. 35.] We might note that there are really eight planets, not five. The brightest real star visible in the sky is Sirius. Moreover, some of the "stars" we see with our naked eyes are really nebulas and galaxies. The closest large galaxy in the sky is Andromeda. Von Baravelle is mum about all this.

For more on Anthroposophical astrology.

see "Star Power",

"Astrology", and

"Waldorf Astrology".

To learn more about the planets and their effects,
and "Planets".

The night sky and heavenly objects are frequently

emphasized in Waldorf schools, as are the

effects of the heavens on the Earth

(although the more occult influences

discussed by Anthroposophists in private

may not be spelled out for the kids).

Below are two typical paintings by a Waldorf student,

courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.

I remember making such paintings —

although I can't claim that mine were as accomplished.

A spiral galaxy, not unlike our own.

There are perhaps a hundred billion galaxies,

each containing a hundred billion stars,

give or take.

Our Sun and its planets orbit the center

of our home galaxy, the Milky Way.


Signs of the Zodiac.

[Lewis Spence, AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF OCCULTISM (Dover, 2003), p. 47.]

The occultism found behind and in Waldorf schools

differs from other forms of occultism is many ways —

it derives directly from Rudolf Steiner’s doctrines.

But there are also many links between Anthroposophy

and occultism at large.

Astrological beliefs are woven through much of the Waldorf worldview. 

"[T]he human embryo merely rests in the mother's body; it is given form by the sun's forces ...
The moon forces become evident, above all, as the inner influence of the lower, metabolic nature of man ...
With their whole being human beings are placed into the polarity of the sun forces and moon forces."
— Rudolf Steiner, MATERIALISM AND THE TASK OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1987), pp. 240-241.
[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on illustration on p. 241.]

“[A]n island like Great Britain swims in the sea and is held fast by the forces of the stars.” 
— Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 607.

“[T]he continents swim ... All fixed land swims and the stars hold it in position.” 

[R.R. sketch, 2010.]



Waldorf students are exposed to many myths and belief systems

because Steiner's description of the universe embraces many

(although Steiner almost invariably reinterpreted them).

Here is a drawing by a Waldorf student incorporating images and symbols

from ancient Egyptian beliefs, predominately Nut, the sky goddess

who embodies the starry heavens.

Constellations of the northern sky.

[Wien, 1515.]

“Picture a man with the old clairvoyant vision. (I will take the eye as representing the clairvoyant gaze, although this is not exclusively a function of the eye.) He directed his gaze to the starry heavens and beheld the different spiritual impulses streaming from there.

“Then, in the course of the ages this clairvoyance faded away and man's gaze was restricted to the phenomena of earthly existence. Something else had to arise in place of the earlier clairvoyance, something that can be indicated by saying: What formerly came from without must now go out from within. Man had to learn to project outwards what the Heavens had implanted in him in order that he might again find his links with the phenomena of the Heavens.

“The direction that had now to be followed was exactly the opposite of that of the earlier path. It is an actual fact that human nature is at this present point of time involved in a process of re-organisation. It has passed through the point of deepest darkness — one expression of which was what I called the full flood of materialism in the middle of the nineteenth century. But humanity is emerging from this condition. Describing this in terms of occultism, we may say: In earlier times men did not perceive, did not think with the physical body only, but they perceived and thought with the etheric body. What was perceived with the etheric body was experienced consciously in the astral body as Astrology. But in modern Astronomy everything is a matter of calculation.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT MOVEMENT IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), pp. 107-109. [R.R, sketch, 2010, based on the one on p. 108.]

The Anthroposophical emblem of the Sun.

There are similar emblems for the other "sacred planets"

as well as the signs of the zodiac.

You may spot them in Waldorf jewelry,

paintings, window hangings, and so forth.

[R.R. sketch, 2010.]

The "sphere" of a planet (such as the sphere of Saturn)

encompasses the area defined by the orbit of the planet

(bear in mind, however, that Steiner sometimes said that such orbits are illusory).

More properly, in Anthroposophical doctrine, a planet's "sphere" 

is the spiritual region presided over by the god who guides that planet.

[R.R., 2010.]

The ancients thought that the stars are stationary — they are “fixed” in their places in the sky.

Moreover, they thought that all the stars are at the same distance from the Earth: They form a “sphere.”

Both these ideas are wrong. And yet Steiner

— who almost always preferred ancient ignorance to modern knowledge —

clung to them. His outlook was essentially medieval.

“Those people of olden time, you see, were not so stupid with their instinctive science! Now that we are passing [in our discussion] from plants to animals, we come to the ‘animal circle’ — that is, the ‘Zodiac.’ It was not called so in a meaningless way. To attain our end within the plant-world we stop at the planetary system. For the animal world, that is not enough. There we need ideas that reckon with the surrounding sphere of fixed stars, notably the fixed stars of the Zodiac.” — Rudolf Steiner, AGRICULTURE COURSE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1958), p. 113.

”[T]here a correspondence between the several members of the human form and the fixed stars, so that their Signs can be ascribed severally to these various members of man's form. And we have before us — man, complete in his physical form.” — Rudolf Steiner, MAN IN THE LIGHT OF OCCULTISM, THEOSOPHY AND PHILOSOPHY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1964), lecture 9, GA 137.

“When a man has become a Sun-dweller and has taken the Christ Impulse into himself, a multitude of facts, known as the Akasha Chronicle of the Sun, lie open before him. If, on the Earth, he had not found Christ, he cannot read the Akasha Chronicle on the Sun. We can learn to read this great script if, on the Earth, we have accepted the Mystery of Golgotha with warmth of heart — and then, on the Sun, we are able to perceive the Deeds of Christ on the Sun through the millennia. Existence today is such that we are strong enough to become Sun-dwellers. — Later on we enter the sphere of Mars, then the spheres of Jupiter and Saturn and then, finally, the world of the fixed stars. On the path of return to the Earth, the ether-body of man shrinks and shrinks in size — until it is so tiny that he can incarnate again in a new human germ-cell.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF CHRISTIAN ROSENKREUTZ (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1950), lecture 6, GA 130.

[Rudolf Steiner Press, 2009.]

I don't want to enrich Anthroposophical publishers, but I strongly urge you to buy and study several books by Rudolf Steiner. 

It's the best way to determine whether Anthroposophy is right for you and your children.

(Note that Steiner did not write some of the books attributed to him.

These books consist of transcripts of lectures delivered by Steiner.

The transcripts were prepared by his devout followers.)

"From Stanley's THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY. In the Pythagorean concept of the music of the spheres, the interval between the earth and the sphere of the fixed stars was considered to be a diapason ... From the sphere of the earth to the sphere of the moon, one tone; from the sphere of the moon to that of Mercury, one half-tone; from Mercury to Venus, one-half; from Venus to the sun, one and one-half tones...[etc.]." — Manly P. Hall, THE SECRET TEACHINGS OF ALL AGES (H. S. Crocker Co., 1928), "The Pythagorean Theory of Music and Color". Hall quotes various esoteric sources and "authorities," including Rudolf Steiner, and he presents his own interpretations.

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



A survey of the standard Waldorf curriculum


How they try to do it

How they get that way

The irrational modes of “thought” fostered at Waldorf schools


English classes and history classes in a typical Waldorf school

The central mythology in many Waldorf schools: Norse myths

At Waldorf schools, ignorance is often taken as wisdom


The Waldorf curriculum: the arts, and festivals

How they paint and draw


The Waldorf curriculum: math


The antiscientific nature of Waldorf education

Class journals as created by students at many Waldorf schools

The Anthroposophical take on technology

No [external link]


Steiner on our solar system or "our universe"


A behind-the-scenes look at Waldorf education

Exploring the fundamentals of Waldorf schooling

Further explorations

Still further explorations

Talks between Steiner and Waldorf teachers

"Practical" tips Steiner gave to Waldorf faculty

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

you might begin by consulting the following resources:


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


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


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


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


[1] Hermann von Baravalle, ASTRONOMY, An Introduction (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1991, revised 2000 by Norman Davidson).

In Waldorf belief, children repeat in their own development the evolutionary development of humanity as a whole. Sixth grade children are thought to stand at the evolutionary level of the ancient Romans (who were, according to Waldorf belief, far less evolved than we are today). Therefore, sixth graders should be given no information beyond what the ancient Romans possessed. Judged by today's standards, this means that vast swaths of real knowledge should be withheld. This consigns kids to effective ignorance.

[2] Ibid., p. 7.

[3] Ibid., p. 7.

[4] Ibid., p. 29.

[5] Ibid., p. 35.

[6] Ibid., p. 37.

[7] Rudolf Steiner, DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 168.

[8] Ibid., p. 168.

This idea, that the planets and Sun move in a file with each other, bears no relation to the real movements of the Sun and planets.

[9] Steiner sometimes acknowledged the existence of Neptune and Uranus. Read on.

[10] Rudolf Steiner (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 30.

[11] Ibid., p. 30.

[12] Ibid., p. 31.

[13] Ibid., p. 30.

[14] A celestial pole is the theoretically fix point in space directly above either of the Earth's poles. In this instance, Steiner was speaking of the north celestial pole.

The celestial sphere is “the apparent surface of the heavens, on which the stars seem to be fixed ... The Earth’s axis, extended to infinity, touches this sphere at the north and south celestial poles, around which the heavens seem to turn.” — “celestial sphere.” ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 20 Dec. 2008.


[16] Ibid., p. 30.

Finding contradictions in Steiner's works is easy; deciding what to make of them is something else. Anthroposophy is an exceedingly complex body of teachings, describing what Steiner said is an exceedingly complex spiritual reality. Sometimes "contradictions" in all this can be explained away as a necessary result of complexity — there are hidden, deep connections that rectify superficial conflicts. But sometimes this is not the case; sometimes we spot contradictions that seem to have no extenuation. Such instances reinforce the conclusion we may have already drawn from other evidence, that Steiner was perpetrating an exceedingly elaborate spiritual scam, trusting elaborations and obfuscations to shield him from criticism. His followers, in any case, often find justification for their devotion in the sheer, stunning complexity of the vision Steiner presented for their awed acceptance.

[17] Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), pp. 65-6.

This passage refers to the Sun as it was in times past. Christ, the Sun God, left the Sun and came to Earth. 

[18] Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY: Prehistory of Earth and Man (SteinerBooks, 1987), p. 163. 

Steiner referred to many planets, such as Vulcan, as both planets and, more essentially, stages of human evolution. We lived, or will live, "on" planets such as Saturn and Vulcan, but the planets at those times were, or will be, very different from the planets we see in the sky today (or don't see, as in the case of fictitious Vulcan). His reference here is to the Vulcan stage of evolution. Whether Steiner believed that a planet called Vulcan actually exists in the solar system today may not be entirely clear — but it nearly is. He almost certainly did. See "Vulcan".

[19] Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 101.

[20] Rudolf Steiner, WONDERS OF THE WORLD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), p. 77.

[21] Rudolf Steiner, THE INTERIOR OF THE EARTH: An Esoteric Study of the Subterranean Spheres (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007) p. 31.

[22] Ibid., p. 30.

[23] Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER SPEAKS TO THE BRITISH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 93.

[24] Rudolf Steiner, LIFE BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH (SteinerBooks, 1985), p. 207.

[25] Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC CHRISTIANITY AND THE MISSION OF CHRISTIAN ROSENKREUTZ (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 289.

[26] Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 238.

[27] Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS, Vol. II (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1974), p. 48.

[28] Rudolf Steiner, MAN - HIEROGLYPH OF THE UNIVERSE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 9, GA 201.

[29] Rudolf Steiner, “The Spiritual Individualities of the Planets” (THE GOLDEN BLADE, 1988), a lecture, GA 228.

[30] Andrew Rooke, The Solar System: Perspectives from Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science

[http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/sunrise/37-87-8/sc-rooke.htm ]

[31] Rudolf Steiner, AT HOME IN THE UNIVERSE: Exploring Our Suprasensory Nature (SteinerBooks, 2000), p. 74.

[32] Rudolf Steiner, FROM COMETS TO COCAINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), p. 290.

[33] Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR SPECIAL NEEDS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 196.

[34] Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE  (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969), pp. 328-329.

Also see "Everything", "Matters of Form", and "Stages".