Old Testament stories (that is, stories from the Hebrew Bible) are told and studied in Waldorf schools, especially in the third grade. Parents usually do not object. These stories are common to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — they are widely accepted. But when the stories are used in Waldorf schools, they are generally given highly unusual meanings. Waldorf versions of Old Testament stories tend to convey the occult doctrines promulgated by Rudolf Steiner.
As always, we need to distinguish between the degree of Anthroposophical commitment among various Waldorf teachers. True-believing Anthroposophists on a Waldorf faculty will know why the Old Testament is used in Waldorf classes — to spread Anthroposophy — and they will act accordingly. But Waldorf teachers who are not well versed in Steiner’s doctrines will be, to one degree or another, unsure of this purpose. On this page, I will speak of the interpretations of Old Testament stories offered by deeply committed Anthroposophists. I will rely primarily on a book written by a longtime Waldorf teacher, Roy Wilkinson: COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT STORIES (Henry Goulden, 1984). The book was reissued by the Rudolf Steiner College Press in 2001.
Do Waldorf teachers explicitly teach their students the occult Anthroposophical interpretation of the stories? It depends. Some Waldorf teachers may openly state the Anthroposophical view. Others will be more circumspect, implying rather than stating. Yet a third group may offer no interpretation, overtly or implicitly, simply telling the stories. The crucial point is that the teachers do not read the stories from the Bible. Rather, they relate the stories in their own words. Thus, the precise wording a teacher chooses for each story is crucial, staying close to the Biblical text or straying far from it.
[Rudolf Steiner College Press, 2001.]
For starters, we should understand that Anthroposophists do not accept any books of the Bible as literally true. The Old Testament stories must be read in the "light" of Rudolf Steiner's teachings:
“[T]he stories are undoubtedly true — in a sense. They are true in the sense that fairy stories and mythologies are true.” — COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT STORIES (Henry Goulden), p. 8.
Steiner taught that ancient tales such as myths or Old Testament stories are reports of spiritual visions attained through clairvoyance. The Bible is “true” for Anthroposophists only to the degree that it embodies clairvoyance. Thus, the meaning of Biblical stories depends on occult interpretation, which proceeds from Steiner's teachings. Look again at Wilkinson's statement. The Old Testament is no more true than fairy tales and myths, he says. But all such tales are "true" when properly interpreted — that is, seen as Steiner indicated they should be seen.
Here is the Anthroposophical take on various Old Testament stories.
"The Biblical story of the creation is couched in magnificent language which everyone can appreciate. To understand what is implied is not so easy. Fortunately, Rudolf Steiner has given an account of evolution from the spiritual scientific aspect and this, though complicated, clarifies the matter considerably. He describes three so-called planetary conditions of the earth. The first is a huge globe of heat, a manifestation of spiritual beings, in which our whole solar system was included as an undifferentiated mass. There was a development from the heat element into a sort of gaseous substance and light. At a third stage there was a condensation to liquid ...
“'In the beginning'
"This refers to the beginning of Earth evolution...an interweaving of the elemental substances of heat, gas and liquid which are really the embodiment or means of expression of spiritual beings.
"The word in the original Hebrew is Elohim.  It is a plural and Elohim are high ranking [sic]  spiritual beings, called in Greek the Exusiai, or by other [i.e., Anthroposophical] designation, Spirits of Form. God as a collective term is justified in so far [sic] as the Elohim work as a group, combining their individual talents with the aim of creating man." — COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT STORIES (Henry Goulden), pp. 10-11.
We can immediately see that the Waldorf meaning of the Creation story is radically unlike anything you are likely to hear in a synagogue, church, or mosque. The most shocking part: “God” is not Jehovah, God Almighty, or Allah. “God” is a committee of “high-ranking spiritual beings.” Anthroposophy is polytheistic, and Anthroposophists see the Old Testament as a set of stories about the activities of various gods.
"There had been certain beings in the spiritual world who had failed in their normal progress and they had become self-willed. They are known as the Luciferic beings [i.e., Lucifer and his minions]. Ever since man has been endowed with astrality, i.e., the possibility of having feelings, passions, desires, he was open to Luciferic influence. For their own purposes these beings made man aware of himself earlier than planned by the creators [sic]. They awakened his senses (opened his eyes) and he began to lose consciousness of the divine in favor of the terrestrial. By becoming conscious of himself in the world of the senses [i.e., in the physical world], he acquired the ability to choose freely between good and evil." — Ibid., pp. 17-18.
The Waldorf view takes us far from the Bible; it accepts the main elements of each Biblical story, but it adds other elements, and it gives everything a peculiar gloss. In Anthroposophy, Lucifer is "the devil" but not Satan; another demon, Ahriman, is Satan. Lucifer brings light or knowledge. In a sense, he helps mankind. But both Lucifer and Ahriman are often mankind's dangerous foes. The "fall," in Anthroposophy, is the descent from spirit realms into the physical realm. A fundamental difference between Anthroposophy and the Bible: Steiner taught that human beings are evolving, following a cosmic plan. We began as very nebulous beings on or during "Old Saturn." We now live on Earth, in a fallen state, the physical world. But we will evolve further, proceeding to higher and higher levels of spirituality until we become God. The many gods who help (and sometimes hinder) us during our evolution are intensely interested in our fate. Indeed, the gods worship man.
We should note that Wilkinson’s explanations of Anthroposophical doctrine are sometimes questionable; nonetheless, they represent a view from inside the ranks of Waldorf teachers.
NOAH AND THE FLOOD
"Many people, and also giants, now lived on the earth but men had become wicked ... The story refers to the sinking of the continent of Atlantis ... Noah, or Manu,  as he is known elsewhere [i.e., in other religions and/or mythologies], was the leader of the sun-oracle of Atlantis [i.e., a center of occult knowledge] ... He was the most advanced leader and he was obviously [sic] still in touch with the creators [sic] of the Earth, the Elohim or Spirits of Form ... Noah gathered together people sufficiently mature and, knowing that the catastrophe was coming, emigrated to the center of Asia ... Here he set up a cultural or mystery center from which the early Post-Atlantis civilizations were inspired." — Ibid., pp. 20-21.
Atlantis, Manu, Spirits of Form — these are Anthroposophical concepts, derived from sources other than the Bible. Giants are mentioned in the Bible — think of Goliath — but Anthroposophists generally mean a distinct race, the sorts of giants described in Norse myths. The counterparts of such giants are dwarfs, also a distinct race, also described in Norse myths.
Noah was an occult leader, presumably an initiate. As leader of the "sun-oracle," he had connections to Christ. In Anthroposophy, Christ is the Sun God; the archangel Michael, a spiritual warrior, is archangel of the Sun; Sorat, the Antichrist, is the Sun demon.
Noah was more "advanced" than the other humans around him, and he selected "sufficiently mature" people to accompany him from Atlantis to Asia. These are references to human spiritual evolution, a process that occurs through cultural and other epochs. The mechanism for evolution is reincarnation, which is tied to karma: We evolve through many, many lives, creating our own karmas as we go.
As you can see, very little of this has a basis in the Biblical account of the Flood.
ABRAHAM AND THE RAM
"In the Platonic year [a period of approximately 26,000 regular years] the earth comes under the influence of a particular sign of the Zodiac every 2160 years. This period marks the duration of a cultural epoch ... The new age of Aries, the ram, began in 747 B.C. ... Abraham saw the ram, i.e. he looked forward to the new age; but the ram's horns were caught in a thicket. Horns are symbols for two centers in the head connected with clairvoyance. When the ram is sacrificed, it means that in the new era men will no longer have the faculty of clairvoyance." — Ibid., p. 30.
Astrology weaves through much of Anthroposophy. Here we see astrology being imposed on the Bible: the Zodiac, Platonic years, the sign of the ram...
Clairvoyance is extremely important in Anthroposophy. Steiner claimed that ancient people had natural clairvoyance: This is what allowed them to create "true" myths, fairy tales, and Old Testament stories. But later people entered a fallen condition in which most clairvoyant powers have been lost. Fortunately, however, Steiner himself employed "exact clairvoyance" to learn deep spiritual truths, such as the real meaning of the stories in the Bible.
A "cultural epoch" is a period of Earthly evolution. There are also "great epochs" that are much longer. As Wilkinson indicates, the stages of our evolution are closely connected to the astrological powers of the stars. Or so Anthroposophists believe.
The sort of "logic" found in Anthroposophy is reflected here. The Bible includes a story about a ram. There's an astrological sign called the ram. Therefore, the Bible story must be about our evolution through astrologically influenced stages. (For more about the sort of "thinking" encouraged in Waldorf schools, see "Thinking Cap".)
MOSES AND THE EXODUS
"The exodus from Egypt is contemporary with the fall of Troy. The ancient world of divinely led humanity gives way to that of the individual, independent personalities with ego characteristics. The Israelites are experiencing 'homelessness.' It is a step on the path of spiritual development ... The Israelites spent forty years in the wilderness ... [They] had to experience the realities of a harsh world.  Earth forces were still active. Their god [Jehovah] was drawing near to the earth and he was experienced in the earthly elements ... Between the creator gods (the Elohim), Jehovah and Christ there is a close relationship. Christ is a manifestation of the Elohim; Jehovah is his servant. Christ was worshipped under a different name as a being of the sun-sphere by many different peoples. He descended to the earth in stages before incarnating in the body of Jesus. During the Moses era the Christ being was in the earth's atmosphere; hence the Jews experienced him in the elements — as a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire." — Ibid., pp. 43-44.
Many people will be surprised that the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt is really, to a significant extent, a story about Christ. According to Steiner, Christ is the Sun God, while Jehovah is associated with the Moon — Judaism, hence, is the Moon religion.
Note the reference to Troy. Steiner taught that the Bible is "true" in some ways, but he extended equal credence to many other traditions, myths, legends, and religious traditions. Many different peoples have worshipped many different gods — but under Anthroposophy, these gods are rolled up together: They turn out to be the same gods seen differently or at different stages of evolution. Anthroposophy is polytheistic: There are numerous gods, who really exist. The Norse god Thor, for instance, is a real being.
According to Steiner, Jehovah is actually one of the Elohim. He moved to the Moon, and from there he exerted special influence on mankind at one time. He is essentially obsolete today, however, just as Judaism is obsolete, according to Steiner.
"Christ, the spirit of the sun, was approaching ... Jericho was situated in a remnant of fertile ground which had all around been destroyed by volcanic activity ... The city was decadent. The spiritual force of the the Israelites may have saved the day as did the pope when confronted by Attila ... When the Gibeonites  brought stale bread and old wine, they were demonstrating that they recognized that their spiritual resources were outmoded ... Joshua supposedly cried for the sun and moon to stand still ... The call was a supplication to the spiritual being of the sun [i.e., Christ] 'Spirit of the Sun, shine on Gibeon.'" — Ibid., pp. 54-55.
Again, Christ makes an appearance in the Old Testament, according to Anthroposophists. Understand, however, that the Anthroposophical Christ is the Sun God. Anthroposophy strays as far from the New Testament as it does from the Old.
The Pope also appears here. Steiner considered mainstream Christian denominations — certainly including Catholicism — nearly as obsolete as Judaism. The true faith (which Anthroposophists refer to as "spiritual science") is Anthroposophy.
Tangentially: Steiner had many interesting things to say about volcanoes. Humans cause volcanic eruptions through the use and misuse of their willpower and thoughts. Also, if you trace lines between volcanoes on the surface of the Earth, you will discover that the Earth is really a sort of rounded tetrahedron, not a globe — or so Steiner said.
"After Solomon there was disagreement as to the successor and the kingdom was divided. The territory of the ten tribes in the north retained the name of Israel, that of the two tribes in the south, Judah. Henceforward there was no more peace in either country but there was a great stream of spiritual teachers, the prophets ... [T]hey tried to steer the people away from the old cults and prepare for the coming of the Messiah. According to Dr. Steiner they were reincarnated  initiates from older cultures; now they came together with a common purpose. They were concerned with the development of human consciousness." — Ibid., p. 66.
Initiation, reincarnation, cultural stages, evolving human consciousness — these are core Anthroposophical concepts, and Anthroposophists read them into the Old Testament.
Initiates have access to special occult knowledge that is kept hidden from the uninitiated. Ancient mystic cults had much wisdom, Anthroposophists believe, whereas modern scientists (physicists, chemists, biologists, and the like) know almost nothing. The only true "science" is Anthroposophy, "spiritual science." It builds on all the previous forms of occult "knowledge," adding new corrections and extensions.
Initiation is required to become an Anthroposophical insider. Steiner himself claimed to have received two separate initiations — he was an insider's insider. Indeed, the "great stream of spiritual teachers" certainly includes Steiner, or so Anthroposophists believe.
Many Anthroposophists today can hardly wait for Steiner to be reincarnated, so he can continue his good work. Steiner's work centers on the development of human consciousness — the development of clairvoyance to its highest pitch among all upwardly evolving humans. In Waldorf schools, forms of "clairvoyance" are cultivated as imagination, inspiration, and intuition.
COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT STORIES discusses numerous other stories and figures in the Old Testament — sometimes at length, sometimes very briefly. I think we have seen a sufficient sample to reach a clear conclusion: When Waldorf teachers who are committed Anthroposophists lead students in the study of Old Testament stories, they are attempting to lead them toward their faith: Rudolf Steiner's occultism, Anthroposophy.
Wilkinson concludes his book with a note:
"The evolutionary development of man and earth are described in several of Rudolf Steiner's books or lecture courses: OCCULT SCIENCE; AT THE GATES OF SPIRITUAL SCIENCE; ROSICRUCIAN ESOTERICISM; UNIVERSE, MAN AND EARTH; THE GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN. The seven days of creation are dealt with in BIBLICAL SECRETS OF CREATION, or, under its new title, GENESIS. Reference to the great characters of the Old Testament are found in: TURNING POINTS OF SPIRITUAL HISTORY; the lecture cycle on St. Luke's Gospel (lecture 6); ditto on the Gospel of St. Mark (lectures 2, 3). Information concerning the Jews in Babylonian captivity is o be found in the lectures on the Gospel of St. Matthew. To appreciate the connections between the Elohim, Jehovah and Christ, a fuller study of Rudolf Steiner's Christology is necessary." — COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT STORIES, p. 87.
For some of Steiner's statements concerning Judaism, see "RS on Jews".
 "Though Elohim is plural in form, it is understood in the singular sense. Thus, in Genesis the words, 'In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth,' Elohim is monotheistic in connotation, though its grammatical structure seems polytheistic. The Israelites probably borrowed the Canaanite plural noun Elohim and made it singular in meaning in their cultic practices and theological reflections." — ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA.
 For the most part, I have transcribed Wilkinson's words without correction. I have, however, substituted the American spelling for some words.
 The Elohim (if taken as plural) or Exusiai are equivalent to the angelic order called Powers. See, e.g., Rudolf Steiner, EXCURSUS ON THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MARK (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1937), lecture 4, GA 124.
 You might think that slavery in Egypt was harsh enough. Wilkinson says that the journey to the promised land lasted 40 years because the gods thought the Jews needed this time for toughening, and also because the generation had to die off first.
 Manu is the Hindu father of humanity, the first man — not equivalent not to Noah but to Adam. A fish warned Manu of a coming flood, so he built a boat and survived. [See THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA.]
 Gibeon was a town in ancient Palestine.
 Reincarnation is originally a Hindu concept. The "meaning" of Old Testament stories, as interpreted by Anthroposophists, contains traces of Christianity, Hinduism, and other faiths and traditions. Anthroposophy melds such sources, giving them all a unique spin. The Waldorf instruction in Old Testament stories is ultimately intended to convey the Anthroposophical view.
- Compilation and commentary by Roger Rawlings