“[T]he structure of language has not

been formed by human beings ... 

It is extremely important to learn

how to feel something definite

 in the activity of the spirits of language."

— Rudolf Steiner




OH MY WORD


The Waldorf Curriculum:

English and History

 




I.



We might be tempted to think that Waldorf school teachers could not manipulate English classes for any occult purposes. The students learn vocabulary, spelling, grammar, reading, and writing, and they read some good books. How can a Waldorf school distort any of that? An absorbing pamphlet written by Anthroposophist Roy Wilkinson explains how. Crucially, bear in mind that Wilkinson was not addressing parents of Waldorf students, or people considering Waldorf schools for their children, or critics of Waldorf education. He was giving advice to Waldorf teachers. [1]


Wilkinson starts the Chapter “The Origin of Language” by explaining that his remarks will be based on “indications” given by Rudolf Steiner. [2] He then quotes the Gospel of St. John: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” [3] Passing on to the story of Creation in Genesis, he offers the following: “The Hebrew word translated as ‘God’ is ‘Elohim,’ and this, we understand from the experts, is a plural ... [T]herefore, it should be read ‘Gods.’ These Elohim or Gods are high-ranking spiritual beings ... The process of creation was that from these divine beings there flowed our [sic - probably means ‘out’] a sort of speech-music. this [sic] was of a spiritual nature not perceptible to the ordinary human ear. Different beings created different tones and this outflowing eventually crystallized in matter and became manifest.” [4]


This is a fairly stunning account of the Creation, and it begs a few questions. Aside from Steiner, who are the “experts” Wilkinson refers to? Also, given that human beings had not yet been created (we’ll get to that in a moment), how can Wilkinson know that the “speech-music” of the Gods [sic] was “not perceptible to the ordinary human ear?” Most fundamentally, of course, we are entitled to wonder how the Biblical account of creation got transformed from a description of the work of the one and only God of the Hebrew Bible, into the operations of a plethora of speech-singing minor gods. Wilkinson is clearly bending the Bible to conform with Rudolf Steiner’s doctrines. Steiner often referred to multiple gods, as when he said to Waldorf teachers, “We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods....” [5]


Concerning the creation of man (and presumably the first appearance of the human ear), Wilkinson writes: “The Bible also tells us that God [sic] spoke, and that he breathed into man the living soul ... The human being is the product of the creative word ... The human being can recognize and use speech because...language has been built into his structure.” [6] So the physical universe was spoken into existence, and man was spoken into existence. We can use language because language has been built into us. 


Since all other physical objects, including all the other animals, were also spoken into existence, one might wonder why the use of language is confined to a single species. The answer, actually, is that language isn’t our sole possession — think of the famous gorilla, Koko, who has a working vocabulary (in sign language, of course) of over 1000 words. Still, we do seem to be the best users of language on the planet. We have this facility because we have voice boxes, speech centers in our brains, etc. But Wilkinson shows no interest in these. Instead, he focuses on the magical powers inherent in language, and he is apparently saddened that language became debased as humans became more and more physically incarnated. (This is a common theme in Anthroposophy: The material world is a degrading arena.) Wilkinson writes: “Originally a word was a manifestation or expression of the inner nature of the object. Thus, in speaking, man was intimately connected with the world around. In the course of evolution he has developed into a being with a self-conscious ego and, as such, he stands outside nature and divorced from it. When words are spoken therefore, he no longer experiences the being of things in them but accepts them as labels ... Further descent into physical existence is also the reason for the development of different languages.” [7] “[T]he being of things in them” is fairly opaque; I infer that Wilkinson means the essence of the objects under discussion. (Strangely, considering the subject he has chosen, Wilkinson doesn’t write very well.)


Seen from one perspective, nothing could be more important than the study of language with all its magical properties. On the other hand, if we nowadays are merely pushing around labels, the study of language is a trivial pursuit. Wilkinson glides over this contradiction and proceeds to discuss grammar. “[I]n teaching grammar what was unconscious is brought to consciousness ... When we say ‘bring to consciousness,’ this is not to be equated with intellectual understanding.” [8] Intellectual understanding is never much prized at Waldorf schools. 


To summarize the case Wilkinson makes for the importance of language study: In our time, language has become debased; yet language is built into us; even grammar is innately within our beings — and Wilkinson does not mean that our use of language reflects debasement. Just the opposite: “[L]anguage is a manifestation of the Divine, and ultimately, the study of language leads to an understanding of the Divine and man’s connection with it. In this sense, it is a religious study.” [9] How the study of mere labels can have such a marvelous effect is left unclear.


The important point is that at Waldorf, the study of language — like, in fact, the study of everything else — is intended to draw the students toward religion: specifically, toward Steiner’s religion, Anthroposophy. This is the answer to the question I began with. Waldorf teachers often bend English classes to the service of Rudolf Steiner's occult faith, Anthroposophy. They make the study of English "a religious study."


The religious study Wilkinson outlines entails exposure to various mythic and fabulous tales, the sorts of stories that comprise a significant component of Anthroposophical doctrine. Steiner taught that myths are essentially true. “Actual facts concerning the higher Spiritual Worlds lie at the foundation of all myths.... ” [10] Thus, the centrality of myths in the Waldorf curriculum. Here are some of the recommendations Wilkinson makes for various grade levels, especially the lower grades when the children are most impressionable. The Anthroposophical agenda is unmistakable: 


Grade 1: Little or no reading. “It is a mistake to try to learn to read before learning to write.” [11] Children can play with illustrated books having moving parts. “The themes of these are fairy stories, seasons, nature.” The kids can also be exposed to “such delightful creations as ‘The Song of the Elfin Miller”... and “The Fairies”. [12]


Grade 2: “Fairy stories, legends, fables....” [13]


Grade 3: “Old Testament stories, legends, stories of the saints, folk tales....” [14]


Grade 4: “Norse stories [i.e., myths], scenes from ancient history ... alliterative poetry....” [15]


Grade 5: “Indian, Persian, and Egyptian myths ... Greek myths ... Irish legends....” [16]


After that, the reading suggestions for higher grades become somewhat more conventional, although “folk legends” are specified for Grade 6 [17], for instance, and recommendations for the 11th grade include “Odysseus [sic] by Homer ... Niebelungenlied [a German epic poem derived, in part, from Norse myths]  ... Sunset and Evening Star (quiet contemplation and no fear of the beyond), [and] The Higher Pantheism (relation to the divine).” [18] 


Students who hear and read all of these tales will have received a broad if somewhat shallow exposure to Anthroposophical beliefs, and they will have done so in an unmistakably religious context. Look again at the reading recommendations for Grade 3, which include stories from the Bible as well as “stories of the saints.” Waldorfs usually claim to be nonsectarian. In how many nonsectarian schools are children asked to read “stories of the saints”?





II.



At the Waldorf school I attended, my classmates and I were led through an English curriculum that generally conformed to Wilkinson/Steiner’s recommendations. (Waldorf schools in all lands tend to march in lockstep, using the same curriculum with only slight modifications.) For example, the class history printed in our 1964 yearbook includes the following: “In the third grade we began our study of the Bible, and put on a play about Joseph’s coat of many colors ... Besides the three R’s, the fourth grade was occupied with the study of Norse myths. The high point of the year was the building of Yggdrasil, the Norse tree of life, out of paper. The fifth grade, where we learned about Greek and Egyptian myths....” [19]


Similarly, we studied THE ODYSSEY right on schedule, in the 11th grade. Our reading matter in high school contained a large dose of the mythical and even the theological. We were assigned THE DIVINE COMEDY (Dante’s description of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven) and PARADISE LOST (Milton’s account of mankind’s Fall in the Garden of Eden). We were assigned spiritualistic essays from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s SELECTED WRITINGS and Thomas Carlyle’s ON HEROES AND HERO-WORSHIP. I still have my copies of these books, in which I carefully underlined the most overtly religious passages — the passages that I recall our teachers emphasizing. In addition, we were encouraged to read disguised Christian parables by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who were members of a coterie now known as the Oxford Christians. [20] I remember Tolkien’s books being sold in our school lobby at Christmastime. That’s where I got my copies — after buying them, I reread THE LORD OF THE RINGS once a year until I graduated.


We also studied literature having no immediately apparent connection to spiritualism. But a closer examination suggests that at least some of these works do contain, in muted form, ideas consistent with Anthroposophy. For example, we were assigned Willa Cather’s MY ANTONIA, which deals with Manifest Destiny as enacted by a pair of Christian families: The forces of destiny want such white people to take possession of the North American continent, and religious faith helps the families overcome their difficulties. Destiny or karma is a central Anthroposophical concept, and Steiner’s elevation of whites above other races is one of his most appalling tenets. [See “Steiner’s Racism”.] The speaker at my class’s eighth grade graduation, Sylvester M. Morey, wrote a pamphlet in which he echoes Steiner’s argument that American “Indians” are less evolved than whites. [21]


I think it was in our freshman or sophomore year in high school that we studied CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, the story of a remorseless, apparently irredeemable murderer. The novel would seem, initially, to be utterly disconnected from the mystical visions Waldorf urged on us. Yet, considered more carefully, the novel can interpreted as fitting the Anthroposophic worldview at least to the extent that it embodies a broad critique of modern life and its soullessness, along with a plea for spiritual redemption. Indeed, the book ends in a passage that is distinctly consonant with Anthroposophy: The murderer clutches a New Testament while the author projects for him “a new story, the story of the gradual rebirth of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his gradual passing from one world to another....” [22] Rebirth, in the form of reincarnation and spiritual evolution, is a basic Anthroposophical doctrine. Steiner said that “people live repeated earthly lives” [23], and one of his followers has correctly written “Evolution is the great theme...of Steiner’s life work. It is, however, an evolution that goes far beyond anything dreamed of today in biology or geology.” [24] It is, in brief, a mystical form of evolution. The central goal of Anthroposophy is to see humanity regenerate itself, evolving ever upward, passing from lowly worlds to higher spirit worlds. [See “Evolution, Anyone?”] Thus, even a book like CRIME AND PUNISHMENT could be used by Waldorf teachers to subtly steer students toward Anthroposophic beliefs (albeit the actual intentions of the author might need to be shunted aside). [25]


I do not mean, of course, that any of the authors we read in our English classes were Anthroposophists — Cather, Dostoyevsky, and the others would have been shocked by such a suggestion. And I certainly do not mean that we students knew enough about Anthroposophy to spot all the potential connections between Steiner's doctrines and the works our teachers selected for us to read. But Waldorf schools have a long history of promoting Anthroposophy by stealth. Steiner cautioned Waldorf teachers not to be too open about their beliefs, yet he also made plain his intention for Waldorf schools to promote Anthroposophy. [26] Waldorf schools usually undertake this mission by indirection, by the quiet planting of seeds in students’ minds. Thus, in the English curriculum, a receptivity to Anthroposophy is subtly fostered through the frequent, repeated use of myths, legends, fables, spiritualistic fiction, devout poetry — and even modern realistic fiction that is open to certain interpretations. Most of the works we read were excellent; they were literary classics — no parent could complain about these assignments. Yet in Waldorf schools virtually all literature is bent to the service of Rudolf Steiner's occult doctrines. The ultimate effect is to create a mental climate in which occultism in general, and Anthroposophy in particular, may flower. In sum, our teachers selected reading matter that was, in varying degrees, congruous with Anthroposophical positions — but because the literature we read was of high quality, and because the teachers did not belabor their Anthroposophical views, no one had definite cause to challenge what was being done.








Wilkinson is correct that language classes constitute "a religious study" in the Waldorf curriculum. Indeed, all classes at Waldorf are essentially religious. The religious content is often kept hidden from parents and others who might object, but it is pervasive and, for the students, unavoidable.


"It is possible to introduce a religious element into every subject ... Anyone who has some knowledge of Waldorf teaching will know that this statement is true ... This fundamental religious current flows through all of education." Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD'S CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 94.]


In Anthroposophic belief, language is especially divine. The gods who made us and assist us are manifest in language. The gods gave us language. “You will surely believe me when I say that the structure of language has not been formed by human beings ... It is extremely important to learn how to feel something definite in the activity of the spirits [i.e., gods] of language." — Rudolf Steiner, PRACTICAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 2000), p. 59.


Speaking creates spiritual realities, Steiner said — the use of language is a divinely creative action. Steiner taught that we will be able to create realities through language: Like the gods, we will establish and shape reality through our utterances. It is for this reason that he made such strange pronouncements as this: "The larynx is the future organ of birth, the future organ of procreation. Now man brings forth the word by means of the larynx, but the larynx is the seed that will in future times develop to bring forth the whole human being...." — Rudolf Steiner, THE WORLD OF THE SENSES AND THE WORLD OF THE SPIRIT (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1947), lecture 2, GA 134. In other words, we will give birth through our voice boxes, not through our wombs.


Waldorf students will rarely be told such doctrines. But they will spend their days in the atmosphere created by teachers who believe such things, and who will find clever ways to at least suggest them. To consider how religious meaning can be slipped into Waldorf classes covertly, see "Sneaking It In". 









III.



The rationale informing English classes and history classes at Waldorf schools is essentially one and the same. Truth is found in myth, not in factual knowledge. The Waldorf vision of human development is tied fundamentally to occult imaginings.


Here is a brief synopsis of the Waldorf history curriculum, provided by Roy Wilkinson in another of his booklets, in this case TEACHING HISTORY:


“From [ages] six to nine there is no [study of] history proper. Single stories can be told with historical background, but there should be no attempt at sequence [because the kids can't follow sequences] ...  At the age of nine or ten, the [study of] history is still interwoven with the period we call ‘study of home surroundings.’ This is a geographical-historical study of the immediate environment ... In the next year the study branches out into definite subjects, of which history is one. It is at this stage (age eleven) that the contents of this booklet become relevant. The child now has an awareness of time, but no logical faculty. Pictures in the mind are still the most potent form of educational material, and since history has its beginnings in mythology, the mythologies provide what is needed. The oriental (not China or Japan) mythologies and civilizations, plus Greece and Rome, will take us through age eleven to the turning point of twelve. The age of twelve brings a marked development of the bony system, and a feeling of independence. The material civilization of the Romans and their insistence on law fit this age of the child. It is worth repeating that, in general, up to the age of twelve, complete pictures or biographies or descriptions of characteristic events will be most effective. As with other subjects, what the child loves in these years, he will understand later... At the ages of thirteen and fourteen comes the beginning of conceptual thinking. The great change marked by the Reformation and the beginnings of modern natural science parallel in history this human development. After fourteen, one can begin to deal with reasons, causes, effects and historical motives of this most important period and proceed up to modern times.” [27]


Several characteristics of Waldorf schooling arise in these paragraphs. I deal with these matters at various essays at this Web site, so for now I’ll simply list a few. If you want to dig into any of this further, please consult the Table of Contents or Index for the site.


• Notice that Wilkinson says that children don’t develop a sense of time or an ability to think sensibly until at least age eleven. In Waldorf schooling, all children of a given age are considered to be essentially alike; they all stand at a certain stage of evolution or incarnation. Kids are considered unable to think until late in their development, and their individual interests are largely ignored. [See "Curriculum" and "Methods".]


• Odd racial/national judgments are passed (no myths from China or Japan, indeed no study of those nations’ civilizations). In Waldorf belief, nations and races have their own "group souls" (essentially, gods that oversee them; spirits that all members of the group share). Differences between nations and races are deeply important. Waldorf teachers are expected to pick and choose wisely from world cultures, guided always by Anthroposophical dogma. [See, e.g., "Races" and "Differences".]


• Strange physiological/psychological tenets crop up (the “bony system” develops a lot around age twelve, feeding a sense of independence). The entire Waldorf approach is rooted in the extremely strange description of human nature given by Rudolf Steiner. If you do not believe, for instance, that humans incarnate invisible bodies, you will find little justification for Waldorf schooling. [See, e.g., "Oh Humanity  - The Key to Waldorf". On such matters as our "bony system", see "What We're Made Of" and "Our Parts".]


• Wilkinson accepts Steiner’s claim that thinking is largely a pictorial process (related to imagination and the production of intuited images in the mind). Conceptual thinking doesn’t even begin until about age thirteen, so “reasons, causes, effects and historical motives” shouldn’t be presented until age fourteen or so. [See, e.g., "Thinking Cap" and "Curriculum". For the Waldorf view of rational thought and the use of the brain, see "Steiner's Specific".]


• Waldorf schools in general try to impede the maturation of their students. “[I]n a Waldorf school, therefore, one of the tasks of the teachers is to keep the children young.” [28] This is most marked in the lower grades, but it persist to some degree throughout the curriculum. The schools especially want to keep children from learning to think for themselves. The English and history curriculums are designed with these goals in mind.


THE WALDORF SCHOOL APPROACH TO HISTORY, by Werner Glas, shines additional light on this objective. History is not a process amenable to merely rational consideration, Glas says. It is a mystic process guided by astrological influences. Mankind’s progression from one civilization to the next is inseparable from the unscrolling of the zodiac. The astrological powers of Cancer prevailed from 7227 BC to 5067 BC, then Gemini from 5067 to 2907 BC, Taurus to 747 BC, Aries to 1413 AD...
“As a consequence, while the sun now rises in the beginning of spring in Pisces, at the time of Christ it rose in Aries. Legends and myths point to this super-historical reality. The Egyptians worshipped the Apis Bull [Taurus]. Minos still has [i.e., had] a Bull culture.” [29] So, the culture of ancient Egypt was largely determined by the ascendancy of Taurus the bull; ditto Crete, under King Minos. But then the precession of the equinoxes led to the ascendancy of Aries, so human history shifted. As soon as Aries arose, “Jason is already searching for the Gold Fleece of the Ram [Aries]. Christ is considered as a Lamb....” [30] 

Notice the astonishing mix of myth, astrology, and history in this “Waldorf school approach to history”: Egyptian religion was tied to the sign of the bull. When the zodiac shifted, Jason — son of a king in Thessaly — led his Argonauts to seek the creature embodied in the new ascendant sign, a ram, Aries. Even Christ is considered a “lamb” because he was born under the sign of Aries. This is history and faith turned into astrological superstition. [31] 


Steiner called the periods exemplified by various human civilizations “cultural epochs.” [32] He said that humanity makes spiritual evolutionary progress as it moves from cultural epoch to cultural epoch — that is, from the influence of one sign to the zodiac to the next. Thus, ancient Greeks, living under a new sign, were actually more evolved than ancient Egyptians, for instance. [33] The progress achieved by mankind over the course of history manifests itself primarily in new, higher stages of spiritual consciousness. “One of the most stimulating aspects of history is a study of the qualitative differences of various cultures. This kind of history reveals that man undergoes a development of consciousness ... [H]e unfolds different nuances of his soul in different epochs.” [34]


The pageant of history, as conceived in Waldorf education, is a chronicle not just of astrological influences but also of human reincarnation. People return to Earth over and over, passing through progressive stages of spiritual evolution. Steiner also taught that children recapitulate, in their earthly lives, the spiritual evolution of humanity as a whole. Therefore, at Waldorf schools, teaching kids history means chaperoning them through their own evolution. This is the limited sense in which Waldorf teachers aim to help children to mature. Young children are meant to remain young for as long as possible, but gradually emphasis shifts to a form of spiritual maturation. In the words of a history teacher of mine at the Waldorf School of Adelphi University, “There’s a proper time and method for particular subjects to be taught. The child recapitulates the cultural epochs of humankind.” [35]


At Waldorf schools, the study of history — like the study of virtually all subjects — is not rational or scientific. It is certainly not rooted in objective fact. It is covert spiritual initiation. 



— Roger Rawlings








The Waldorf curriculum is geared to the incarnation of three invisible bodies: the etheric body at age 7, the astral body at age 14, and the ego body at age 21. [See "Incarnation".] This bears directly on the English curriculum in Waldorf schools.


"Fable - story in which animals speak and act as human beings ... Fables and stories of saints form part of the story-telling curriculum of Class Two in Waldorf schools. In fables...every animal [displays] only one determining quality ... In stories of saints, on the other hand...saints are lord and master of their own astral body [sic]. Both types of stories offer the child support as the astral body begins to emancipate itself. This process starts at about age seven and is concluded...at approximately age 14."  — Henk van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Sophia Books, Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011), p. 43.

"Saints' legends — [F]ables and saints' legends form the main story material told throughout the school year in Class Two of Waldorf schools ... In the lives of saints...the stories are of human beings who have overcome imbalance to achieve self-mastery. Saints can be said to have mastered all lower influences of the astral body. That is why, in these legends, saints are often depicted surrounded by loving and obedient animals ... The lives of saints are told to children at about age seven because, at that phase, their own astral body [sic] starts to develop a certain independence. For the first time they will be confronted with all the influences inherent in this 'astrality'." — Ibid., p. 105.






Longtime Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson tells us more about the teaching of history at Waldorf schools in his self-published booklet TEACHING HISTORY III: The Fourth Cultural Epoch (Roy Wilkinson, 1974). The subtitle alone tells us volumes. The historical narrative Wilkinson offers is controlled by the occult fables espoused by Rudolf Steiner. "Cultural epochs" are phases of human evolution connected with such events as the sinking of Atlantis. (Yes, Atlantis.) Steiner said that Atlantis existed, so of course...


The broad outlines of human history, according to Wilkinson (faithful to Steiner) is a record of spiritual evolution. Humans began life on/during Old Saturn, and we gradually segued to Old Sun, Old Moon, and now Earth. Early in our life on Earth, we possessed innate clairvoyance; we have lost that capacity; but thanks to Steiner — and, we should add, the gods — we will have new, improved clairvoyance soon.


During the "fourth cultural epoch" in Europe, humans for the first time became capable of thought. According to Steiner, Asians, Africans, and others who did not make the Aryan journey to Europe were unable to think in any meaningfully rational way. In the future, we will proceed to forms of consciousness transcending rational thought. But let's stick with the past, however briefly. Here is Wilkinson's summary statement:


"Our general theme in teaching history is the development and evolution of the human being. It traces the development of man from the time when he was conscious of a spiritual world but had little self-consciousness, to a time of awareness of the material world only, and a strong consciousness of himself as an individual with growing powers of thinking.


“The Graeco-Roman period shows:


"1. The further conquest of the physical world;

"2. The development of individuality;

"3. The birth or thinking.” [TEACHING HISTORY III, p. 1.]


The study of history at Waldorf schools, in other worlds, is geared to the occult, ahistorical fantasies promoted by Rudolf Steiner.











For more about the study of Bible stories, myths, and
other spiritually meaningful tales in Waldorf classes, see, e.g.,



















Drawing on occult, esoteric, mythic, and religious traditions from around the world, 
Steiner developed a theology characterized by a hierarchy of worlds and their attendant spirits.
When Waldorf schools teach children myths, fables, and religious stories from around the world,
the underlying — generally unspoken — purpose is to lead children toward Steiner's teachings.

The image above represents the hierarchical universe of Greek and Roman mythology.
[Cartari's IMAGINI DEGLI DEI DEGLI ANTICHI.]

















Belief in clairvoyance pervades all parts of the Waldorf curriculum.
This is from the description of a Waldorf teacher's guide, published by the Rudolf Steiner College Press. 
The subject is history. The subtext is clairvoyance.
"The History curriculum for fifth and sixth grades in a Waldorf school follows the thread of development of cultures 
through Ancient India, Persia, Egypt and Chaldea, Greece, and Rome. 
This provides a picture of the changing human consciousness from ancient clairvoyance 
to the loss of spiritual vision and, with it, the awakening of independent ego awareness and materialism. 
The teacher is guided to a deeper understanding of the spiritual significance of mythologies and great epics, 
and shows how the ancient world points the way to the future."
TEACHING HISTORY, Vol. 1 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000).
Students taught history in this way are being fed Anthroposophy, "the way to the future".














Much of the literature studied in Waldorf schools in unobjectionable;
indeed, it usually includes great literary classics.
But other works are included in the curriculum despite their lack of literary merit.
Examples can be found in such volumes as THE WALDORF BOOK OF POETRY 
(Living Arts Books, 2012), edited by David Kennedy.
This anthology includes works by Shakespeare, Robert Frost, William Butler Yeats, and other great poets. 
But it also features works by people who are not poets at all — 
people whose only qualification is that they are Anthroposophists.
Thus., the book includes "poems" by such Anthroposophists as
Dorothy Harrer, Eugene Schwartz, A. C. Harwood, Eileen Hutchins, and (who else?) Rudolf Steiner.
The poems by these authors are generally doggerel having, as you might expect, a distinctly esoteric tilt.
Their overall import is to introduce Waldorf students to Anthroposophical beliefs.

Here are a few excerpts.



"At the Ringing of the Bells"
by Rudolf Steiner

"To wonder at beauty,
Stand guard over truth,
Look up to the noble,
Resolve on the good:
This leadeth man truly
To purpose in living...."
[THE WALDORF BOOK OF POETRY, p. 256.]


◊◊◊


"Five Verses for Michaelmas"*
Unattributed

"Sword of Micha-el brightly gleaming,
Down to earth its light is streaming;—
May we see its shining rays
In winter's darkest days.

St. Micha-el, brave and bright
Who loves to live in the light,
The fierce foe to fight...."
[THE WALDORF BOOK OF POETRY, p. 105.]

*Michaelmas is the mass of St. Michael. In Anthroposophy, Michael is the Archangel of the Sun.
"St Michael and anthroposophy are connected in a special way ... 
Michael inspires all human beings who wish to connect the human spirit with the spirit of the cosmos. 
Anthroposophy is also called the School of Michael. 
Rudolf Steiner sought to establish a new festival of Michaelmas, at the end of September...." 
— Henk van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (East Sussex: Sophia Books, 2011), p. 78.


◊◊◊


"St. George"
by Eugene Schwartz
("For Michaelmas")

"...Oh St. George, Come! Advance!
'Gainst the Dragon to fight...*

St. George battled the beast
Till the rays of the sun
As it rose in the east
Showed our knight to have won!"
[THE WALDORF BOOK OF POETRY, p. 106.]

*In Anthroposophy, Michael is a warrior god fighting on behalf of the Sun God, Christ, to protect and strengthen humanity. 
Michael's chief foe is the great demon Ahriman, symbolized as a dragon. 
St. George, a pious knight and dragon-slayer, is Michael's representative on Earth.


◊◊◊


"The Sun Is in My Heart"
by A. C. Harwood

"The Sun is in my heart,
He warms me with his power,
And wakens, wakens life and love
In bird and beast and flower,
In bird and beast and flower...."
[THE WALDORF BOOK OF POETRY, p. 44.]


◊◊◊


"A Sun Like Thee"
by Eileen Hutchins

"May our eyes shine
With light like thine,
May our hearts know
Thy warming glow,
May our hands give
Such strength to live,
That we may be
A sun like thee."
[THE WALDORF BOOK OF POETRY, p. 45.]


◊◊◊


"Ancient Persia"
by Dorothy Harrer

"In the flaming fire we worship thee,
Master of Wisdom,
Lord of Light,
AHURA-MAZDA...

From the regions of the North.
From the regions of rhe South,
Forth rushed Ahriman the deadly,
And the demons of darkness...." *
[THE WALDORF BOOK OF POETRY, p. 174.]

*Waldorf students study many world religions, which may be laudable, but this study usually stresses Anthroposophical beliefs.
In Anthroposophy, Ahura Mazda is the Sun God, Christ, as perceived by the ancient Persians.
Steiner also taught that Ahriman, the devil in Persian belief, is one of the arch-demons who fight against proper human evolution.


◊◊◊


"Number Rhyme"
by Joan Marcus

"We dance around the fir tree
in every kind of weather,
Twelve little gnomes dancing together.*
We dance around the fir tree
in every kind of weather,
Twelve little gnomes dancing together."
[THE WALDORF BOOK OF POETRY, p. 291.]

*Parents are often charmed by the gnome images and figurines found in Waldorf classrooms.
They should realize that, in Anthroposophical belief, gnomes really exist:
They are "nature spirits" or "elemental beings" who live within the Earth.


◊◊◊


"Coming Forth into the Day"
by Dorothy Harrer

"Homage to thee, O Ra, at thy tremendous rising!
Thou risest! Thou shinest! the heavens are rolled aside!
Thou art the King of Gods, thou art the All-comprising,
From thee we come, in thee are deified." *
[THE WALDORF BOOK OF POETRY, p. 175.]

*In Anthroposophy, any prayer to the Sun is a prayer to Christ, the Sun God.
Anthroposophists believe that Ra, the ancient Egyptian god of the Sun, is Christ as recognized by the ancient Egyptians.
We should also be note that Anthroposophy is a polytheistic faith, so phrases like "King of Gods" are meant literally.


◊◊◊


"The Forging of Thor's Hammer"
by S. M. Ryan

"Blow bellows, blow,
Set the sparks aglow!

...Thunderer Thor*
Needs weapons of War!"
[THE WALDORF BOOK OF POETRY, p. 167.]

*Thor is the Norse god of thunder. Norse myths are heavily emphasized in Waldorf education
because Rudolf Steiner said that these myths are true — the Norse gods really exist.
The gods described in other mythologies also generally exist, Steiner said, but Norse myths
give the truest account of humanity's spiritual evolution.
Studying Norse myths, in Waldorf schools, is tantamount to studying Anthroposophy.





Numerous other poems by Anthroposophists, as well as poems that can be interpreted as supporting Anthroposophy,
are spread throughout THE WALDORF BOOK OF POETRY.
Waldorf students who are required to study such stuff are not, 
as a result, automatically flung into a lifelong commitment to Anthroposophy.
But they are undeniably, if subtly, introduced to Anthroposophical perspectives and attitudes.
Far more than most of their parents ever intended, they are led toward the labyrinths
of Rudolf Steiner's occultism.









The cover of THE WALDORF BOOK OF POETRY
shows a lance-wielding Michael flying among seven stars,
slaying a dragon above a peaceful, church-centered earthly community.
To explore some of the Anthroposophical doctrines hidden in this book's poems,
see, e.g., "Michael", "Sun God", "Ahriman", "Astrology", "Polytheism", 
















Artwork created by Waldorf students often depicts scenes from mythology,

fairy tales, folk tales, or plain fantasy — the sorts of narratives

Waldorf schools feed them in great quantities.


Here are two colored-pencil examples.

(Young students at the schools are often allowed to use only

large crayons and wide paintbrushes.

Colored pencils are usually not introduced until later.)










[Images courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]











“In early civilizations the mass of people lived in a child-like state and were guided and directed by personalities who in some respects were more mature, i.e., the priests and kings. These in turn were guides by spiritual beings — gods — and were what is known as ‘initiates,’ by which is meant that they had direct experience of a supersensible world.” — Waldorf educator Roy Wilkinson, TEACHING HISTORY, Vol. 1. (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 2000), p. 4.


This summarizes a portion of humanity’s evolution as described by Rudolf Steiner. Steiner’s account hinges on the concept of occult knowledge — secret knowledge of the spirit realm possessed by only a few “mature” human beings, aka initiates. Many ancient societies were indeed built upon such ideas, which have largely become obsolete in the modern world. But they live on in the Waldorf belief system, which accepts them as objectively revealed Truth. 


• Note that the description is polytheistic — “gods.” The Waldorf belief system recognizes many gods. • “Initiation” is a basic term in occult spiritual traditions. People who rise in the ranks of spiritualists become “initiated” — they are admitted to the inner circle. Steiner described himself as such an initiate, and many Waldorf teachers believe that they, too, have been initiated. • In Waldorf belief, the “direct experience” of initiates is the use of clairvoyance. Steiner taught that people used to have a natural, primeval form of clairvoyance that modern humans have lost. But he said that “initiates” like himself have preserved and perfected clairvoyance. • The “supersensible world” is actually several worlds — spiritual world that we cannot perceived with our senses (they are above senses, they are super-sensible), but we can perceive them through clairvoyance.


When Waldorf teachers convey such “facts” to their students, openly or indirectly, they are teaching the kids Anthroposophy, not history.


“We can, therefore, trace historically the development of humanity from a period when the soul had an instinctive connection with the spiritual, through a time when there were intermediaries in the for of priests, to the present almost wholly materialistic civilization.”  — Roy Wilkinson, TEACHING HISTORY, Vol. 1, p. 5. 


Steiner taught that we happen to live in a period when the things he said are not self-evidently true, but he said that occult truths were obvious to people in the past and they will become obvious to people again in the future. When Waldorf students are given such ideas, they are being taught Anthroposophy. 










Here is a wet-on-wet watercolor painting
by a Waldorf student:





[Image courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]









Also by a Waldorf student, schoolwork:






[Image courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]




 







"[T]he Greeks were the first people in the world to think in the way we now understand the word. There were earlier periods in the course of human evolution when human beings did not experience thought in the way they do today. They experienced pictures or images and the legacy of these pictures is to be found in the mythologies."  — Waldorf educator Roy Wilkinson, TEACHING HISTORY, Vol. 1. (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 2000), pp. 4-5.


This is one of the fundamental doctrines of the Waldorf belief system. Modern rational thought is a new phenomenon. It has value, and we need it in order to keep evolving higher and higher. But it is also an extremely limited tool, one that can tell us about the physical world but not about the higher, spiritual worlds. To know the spirit worlds, we need to use a "higher" form of consciousness, clairvoyance. Rudolf Steiner taught that people used to have a natural kind of clairvoyance that we have now mostly lost. But in the future we will proceed to better, more perfect forms of clairvoyance, Steiner said. And some people have a superior kind of clairvoyance even today: Rudolf Steiner claimed to have it, and many of his followers (including Waldorf school teachers) think they have it. This is delusion, and it is therefore worrisome — people who are deluded hardly qualify as reliable leaders or teachers. 


The essence of clairvoyance is seeing images. In Waldorf schools, the emphasis on imagination is, in fact, a belief in the truthfulness of the images that come to one through conscious or unconscious clairvoyance. This is bunk, ut it is basic to the Waldorf approach. (A more accurate description of images that enter the mind and that one accepts as truth is — hallucination.)


The myths studied in Waldorf schools are, according to Waldorf belief, true accounts of the spiritual perceptions that ancient peoples received through their clairvoyance. Waldorf teachers think that myths are, at a spiritual level, perfectly true. And this is what they try to convey to their students.


[For more on clairvoyance and Waldorf education, see "Clairvoyance" and "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness".]


















Yggdrasil,
the world tree described in Norse myths.
Norse myths are extremely important in Waldorf schools .—
they are deemed to present a true picture of human spiritual evolution.
[J. C. Cooper, AN ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TRADITIONAL SYMBOLS
(Thames and Hudson, 1978), p. 197.]















The Norse god Thor,
who took a special hand in human evolution,
according to Waldorf belief.
[H. A. Guerber, MYTHS OF THE NORSEMEN (George G. Harrap & Cp., 1909),
sculpture by B. E. Fogelberg..]








For more on Norse myths,

see "The Gods".









For information about the study of math in Waldorf schools,

see "Mystic Math".










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


◊◊◊ 5. THE WALDORF APPROACH ◊◊◊



CURRICULUM

A survey of the standard Waldorf curriculum


METHODS

How they try to do it


TEACHER TRAINING
How they get that way

THINKING CAP
The irrational modes of “thought” fostered at Waldorf schools

OH MY WORD

The central mythology in many Waldorf schools: Norse myths


At Waldorf schools, ignorance is often taken as wisdom


MAGICAL ARTS

The Waldorf curriculum: the arts, and festivals


How they paint and draw


MYSTIC MATH

The Waldorf curriculum: math


STEINER'S “SCIENCE"

The antiscientific nature of Waldorf education


Class journals as created by students at many Waldorf schools

The Anthroposophical take on technology


No [external link]


OH MY STARS

The Waldorf curriculum: astronomy


Steiner on our solar system or "our universe"


FACULTY MEETINGS

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:





THE SEMI-STEINER DICTIONARY

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




THE BRIEF WALDORF / STEINER ENCYCLOPEDIA


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




WALDORF WATCH INDEX


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



WALDORF WATCH TABLE OF CONTENTS








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








ENDNOTES



[1] Roy Wilkinson, TEACHING ENGLISH (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1976, reprinted 1997.)


[2] THE HOLY BIBLE, New Testament, John 1:1.


[3] TEACHING ENGLISH, p. 2.


[4] Ibid., p. 2.


[5] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55.


[6] TEACHING ENGLISH, p. 3.


Steiner taught that man was the first living being on Earth, and that in nonphysical form man existed before the Earth as we know it came into existence. Thus, the creation of man came long before the account we are seeing here. Still, man assumed his physical form — and developed physical ears — only during the present Earth stage of cosmic evolution.


[7] Ibid., pp. 3-4.


[8] Ibid., p. 5.


[9] Ibid., p 6.


[10] Rudolf Steiner, UNIVERSE EARTH AND MAN IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO EGYPTIAN MYTHS AND MODERN CIVILIZATION (Kessinger Publishing, 2003), p. 94.


The word “myth” is often taken to mean falsehood or fantasy. There’s good reason for this. At least some myths are little more than entertainments, dramatic tales of heroes and villains, earthly and celestial. They are not unlike comic book plots. Combing through these, interpreting them in elaborate ways, in a search for factual information about reality is a fool’s errand.


On the other hand, various myths may convey certain forms of truth, as scholars such as Edith Hamilton and Joseph Campbell have shown. But these truths are emotional, moral, psychological — they are reflections of innate human dispositions and capacities, our yearnings, dreams, and subconscious natures. They are not expositions of external cosmological realities — they are not presentations “actual facts” about the universe.


Steiner taught that myths are pictorial representations, created by clairvoyant seers. All mythologies, he said, are true; and all myths told by indigenous people are true: All  of them are true: All mythologies — Greek, Roman, Germanic, and all the myths of indigenous peoples — are only pictorial, symbolic representations of supersensible truths." — Rudolf Steiner, SPIRITUALISM, MADAME BLAVATSKY, AND THEOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 61. This sweeping generalization is breathtaking, but Steiner went event further, arguing that all fairy tales are also true.


“[T]he legends and fairy-tales of the various peoples are expressive of wonderful powers and wonderful events. If from the new standpoint of spiritual investigation we meditate upon the old legends and myths, allowing those grand and powerful pictures which have come down from primeval times to work upon our minds, we shall find, if we have been equipped for our task by the methods of occult science, that these legends and myths are the expressions of a most profound and ancient wisdom.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT SIGNIFICANCE OF BLOOD (Health Research, 1972), pp. 6-7.


[11] TEACHING ENGLISH, p. 20.


In Waldorf belief, children should not learn to read until their etheric bodies incarnate. See "Incarnation".


[12] Ibid., p. 21.


I reported, above, that Steiner claimed that essentially all myths are true, at the spiritual level. Steiner made the same claim for all  fairy tales: "Fairy tales are...the final remains of ancient clairvoyance ... What was seen in a dream was told as a story ... All fairy tales in existence are thus the remnants of the original clairvoyance." — Rudolf Steiner, ON THE MYSTERY DRAMAS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), p. 93.


[13] TEACHING ENGLISH, p. 22.


[14] Ibid., p. 25.


[15] Ibid., p. 29.


[16] Ibid., p. 30.


[17] Ibid., p. 35.


[18] Ibid., p. 44.


[19] 1964 PINNACLE, The Waldorf School of Adelphi University (Inter-Collegiate Press, 1964).


[20] See R. J. Reilly, ROMANTIC RELIGION (Lindisfarne Press, 2006). Lewis’s Christianity lies near the surface of his fiction; Tolkien’s is more hidden. For analyses of the Christian message in Tolkien’s books, see Ralph C. Woods, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO TOLKIEN (Westminster John Knox Press, 2003) and Kurt D. Bruner & Jim Ware, FINDING GOD IN THE LORD OF THE RINGS (SaltRiver, 2001). Tolkien’s enthralling Christian mythology, which does not immediately appear to be Christian, would have obvious appeal to a Christian school that wanted to appear nonsectarian. 


For a brief examination of Tolkien’s and Lewis’s trilogies, please see "Light and Dark".


[21] Sylvester M. Morey, AMERICAN INDIANS AND OUR WAY OF LIFE (The Myrin Institute Inc. , 1961). On p. 18, Morey says “The white man has been swept along in the tide of evolution....” The “red man” has not, he says.


[22] Fyodor Dostoyevsky, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (Penguin Books, 1951), p. 559.


[23] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 46.


[24] Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. xii, introduction by Clopper Almon.


[25] Let's look even more deeply. I'll choose a single detail from the novel. In itself, it may not seem important, but as one indicator, it may be revealing.


Look again at the passage I quoted from the novel: “a new story, the story of the gradual rebirth of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his gradual passing from one world to another....” Those final words (“passing from one world to another”) would appeal to any Anthroposophist, bringing particular Anthroposophic teachings to mind. According to Steiner, mankind has evolved through a series of "planetary stages." In this sense, we have passed from world to world; this is the basic paradigm of our spiritual evolution. Steiner taught that we previously existed at evolutionary levels that he called Saturn, Sun, and Moon. We now live on the Earth (i.e., the Earth as it exists today in the current phase of cosmic evolution). In the future, we will pass to additional worlds or stages of spiritual development: Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan. (Yes, Vulcan.) I know it sounds incredible, but Steiner insisted on this outline of humanity’s past and future. To quote another of his supporters: “I wouldn’t be surprised if the last few pages [describing Steiner’s planetary scheme of evolution] have taxed some readers’ capacity for giving Steiner the benefit of the doubt and left them wondering who could possibly believe this science fiction story. Yet this cosmic history is the backbone of Steiner’s work.” — Gary Lachman, RUDOLF STEINER (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2007), p. 147. [For more on these matters, see "Everything" and the essays that follow it.]


The stages of evolution, bearing the names of planets, should not be confused with the planets that we see in the sky today. In Anthroposophical doctrine, "Saturn" (or, more correctly, "Old Saturn") was a period during which the entire solar system manifested in a form very different from the condition of the solar system today. In that stage of cosmic evolution, the forces of Saturn (i.e., the gods of Saturn) were predominant. The Saturn that we see today is a small remnant of that time. Likewise, the other "planetary stages" of evolution should not be confused with the planets that exist during our present stage of evolution. Nonetheless, central to Anthroposophy is a narrative of humans passing from planet (or planetary stage) to planet(ary stage), evolving ever upward. Anthroposophists can easily find at least reflections of such ideas in the words I have quoted from CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. Indeed, having students read such words may be a fine way to subtly urge an openness to such ideas as upward human passage from world to world.


[26] I go into this at some length in other essays on this Web site. At this point, it may be sufficient to offer this quotation: “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.


[27] Roy Wilkinson, TEACHING HISTORY: The Ancient Civilizations; India; Persia; Egypt and Babylonia; The Fourth Cultural Epoch: Greece and Rome (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1992), pp. 5-6.


[28] A.C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1956), pp. 15-16.


[29] Werner Glas, THE WALDORF SCHOOL APPROACH TO HISTORY (Anthroposophic Press, 1963), p. 37.


[30] Ibid., p. 37.


[31] For Christians, this treatment of Christ is virtually sacrilege. Christians should realize how unorthodox Steiner’s view of Christ was — and how unorthodox that view remains today in many Waldorf schools. Steiner said that Christ was a Sun being. See Everything” and "Was He Christian?"]


[32] I discuss this, also, in Everything”.


[33] The cultural differences between peoples reflect different stages of spiritual development, according to Steiner. This doctrine is related to Steiner’s racist teachings. See Steiner’s Racism and Rankings”.  


[34] Werner Glas, THE WALDORF SCHOOL APPROACH TO HISTORY — excerpted in Laurens van der Post, INTUITION, INTELLECT, AND THE RACIAL QUESTION (Myrin Institute, 1964), p. 29.


An aside of minor relevance: Laurens van der Post, author of INTUITION, INTELLECT, AND THE RACIAL QUESTION, is typical of spiritual fellow travelers embraced by Anthroposophists. Van der Post gained fame in the 1960s as an “advocate” of the African Bushmen. His patronizing attitude toward those blacks passed for racial enlightenment. J. D. F. Jones, authorized biographer of van der Post, learned to his shock that van der Post actually knew little of the Bushmen and was, in general, a fraud. [J. D. F. Jones, TELLER OF MANY TALES: The Lives of Laurens van der Post (Carroll & Graf, 2001).] Van der Post was celebrated at the Waldorf school I attended. The Myrin Institute, publisher of INTUITION, INTELLECT, AND THE RACIAL QUESTION, was closely associated with the school. [See Unenlightened.”] Van der Post preyed on the credulity of sincere spiritual seekers, much as Steiner did. 


[35] Peter Curran, quoted in TAMARACK TALK, Nov. 21, 2006.













[R. R., 2010.]