“Among the faculty, we must certainly 
carry within us the knowledge that...
we are actually carrying out the intentions 
of the gods....” 
 — Rudolf Steiner


Waldorf's Pipeline


"Doing Anthroposophy"


"Doing Waldorf Right"


Imagine a polytheistic universe.

Now go a step further: Imagine a polytheistic universe in which a vast host of gods is arrayed in ranks, extending from a lowly group just slightly higher than mankind, upward through rank upon rank of deities each more spiritual and powerful than the last.

Now imagine a spiritualistic system consisting of prayers, meditations, and mental/spiritual exercises, a system that enables human beings to gain objective knowledge of the gods, their ranks, and their abodes.

One more step: Imagine that the spiritualistic system enables us not only to know about the gods but also to commune with them and gain the blessings they can bestow.

Any reasonable person would, I submit, consider such a system to be a religion.

Of course, what I have just described is Anthroposophy.

In most of my expositions of Anthroposophy, I’ve relied primarily on quotations from Rudolf Steiner, the father of Anthroposophy. I’ll take a different tack, now — quoting an Anthroposophist who is much closer to us in time than Steiner. This way, we can get a clearer conception of Anthroposophy as it is practiced nowadays.

I’ll put my main reliance on Roy Wilkinson, an Anthroposophist with more than 60 years experience within the Waldorf school system, first as a student, later as a teacher, and finally as a consultant to Waldorf schools worldwide. Wilkinson died in 2007, but he was active in the Waldorf movement until the end; I think we can accept him as fairly representative of Anthroposophy and Waldorf schools as they exist today.

In one of his books [1], Wilkinson describes Anthroposophy in these words: “To complement natural science, to unlock the secrets of existence, another form of knowledge is required, which is only directly attainable by those persons who have developed a special faculty of extended consciousness. This gives access to knowledge of higher worlds, and this knowledge is termed ‘spiritual science’. It has social, ethical and religious implications.” [2]

The “special faculty of extended consciousness” Wilkinson mentions is clairvoyance, although in his book he studiously avoids this word. He apparently does not want to spook a general audience.

A quick aside: Another modern Anthroposophist, even more our contemporary than Wilkinson, is Eugene Schwartz. Early in his book WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century, Schwartz asks “Must teachers be clairvoyant in order to be certain that they are teaching in the proper way?” [3] Most people outside Waldorf schools would consider this an astonishing question, utterly preposterous. But within Waldorf schools it is par for the course.

Schwartz’s answer to his own question is that clairvoyance is indeed needed, although he suggests that Waldorf teachers may start out simply by using common, everyday clairvoyance, of a kind Schwartz claims everyone possesses: “‘clairvoyant’ faculties that we are already using without being aware that we possess them.” [4] Schwartz adds that Waldorf teachers may develop higher levels of clairvoyance later on. This returns us to Wilkinson.

Wilkinson discusses the higher form of clairvoyance Waldorf teachers should cultivate, and he outlines the techniques they can use for this purpose. “Reference has been made throughout this book to what has been variously termed spiritual perception, enhanced consciousness or knowledge of higher worlds. There follows a short summary here on the path which can be taken to attain such experience.” [5]

The “path” Wilkinson mentions is the one Steiner set out in such works as KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (which is also available, in a different translation, under the title HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS). [6] Notice that Wilkinson employs some of Steiner’s terminology, as in his reference to “higher worlds.” The book in which Wilkinson outlines the path is titled THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION, which carries the subtitle “The Waldorf School Approach”. The most pertinent chapter is titled “Esoteric Development and the Teacher”. Please pause and let the significance of these titles sink in.

Wilkinson effectively replies “Yes” to Schwartz’s question. Teachers, specifically Waldorf school teachers, should use clairvoyance in their work, and to do their work really well, they should develop high levels of clairvoyance. “[T]his is the same path that should be followed by every teacher who takes his vocation seriously.” [7] Every teacher.

Wilkinson describes some clairvoyance-building exercises, à la Steiner, but he starts by asserting an important proviso: “A first essential is a study of what has been given by the masters as spiritual knowledge, and this must be undertaken without preconceptions and misapprehensions.” [8] So the first step is to study what the “masters” have revealed. This is indistinguishable from ordinary religious study — poring over holy books and so forth — and it skews everything that follows. Studying previous spiritualistic “knowledge” will steer a seeker’s own “clairvoyant insights” in previously established directions, thereby creating the very preconceptions Wilkinson warns against. Presumably a seeker can later use clairvoyance to confirm or reject the doctrines accepted at the start, but this would obviously be difficult, since her/his own insights have been heavily influenced by the unquestioned authorities.

The entire enterprise is thus called into question. But Steiner lays down the same requirement. To "unseal the lips of an Initiate" [i.e., a spiritual master] seekers must "begin with a fundamental attitude of the soul. In Spiritual Science this fundamental attitude is called the path of veneration." [9] "[A]nd veneration is always due when it flows from the depths of the heart." [10] Seekers must accept the teachings of the “masters” in a reverent, uncritical attitude. "Have you ever paused outside the door of some venerated person, and have you, on this your first visit, felt a religious awe as you pressed on the handle to enter the room which for you is a holy place?" [11] To enter, one must be willing to accept, unquestioningly, the teachings of the master within.

This is faith, religious faith. More, it is blind faith, harboring no “thoughts of criticism or opposition." This certainly is not a scientific attitude, despite the claims Anthroposophists make for their “spiritual science.” No scientist bows in reverence to another — more typically, each scientist would love to overthrow the theories of other scientists in order to establish his/her own theories. The attitude Steiner and Wilkinson prescribe is uncritical belief — or, in Steiner’s words, “religious awe.”

Wilkinson and Steiner both want to send Waldorf teachers down the path toward a religion, a religion that goes by the name “Anthroposophy.”


Having begun by accepting a preexisting body of doctrines, how can Waldorf teachers sharpen their clairvoyant wits? The exercises Wilkinson describes will be familiar to anyone who has received spiritual guidance from within the Waldorf school movement or any other Anthroposophical operation. I was assigned such exercises when, as a Waldorf student, I had annual checkups given by an Anthroposophical doctor. [12]

Wilkinson relays exercises that Steiner prescribed for toning up the imagination, schooling one’s emotions, and ultimately developing elevated psychic abilities. A few quick examples:

Observe “the characteristics of flowers. Why is a red rose the symbol of love? What is the significance behind the name of the dandelion (lion’s tooth). [sic: no question mark] All plants have a gesture, and the search for this increases the imaginative faculty.” [13] We should note that Anthroposophical tenets peek out from behind these questions. Steiner taught that imagination is, or can become, a reliable “faculty.” By using this faculty, one can observe the "etheric bodies" of plants, and/or their auras. Plants truly exhibit "gestures," their colors truly reflect inner (spiritual) qualities. And, indeed, the names of plants have mystic significance.

“[O]bserve human beings and, for instance, deduce their temperament from their gait. A light, springy step reveals the sanguine; a measured plod, the phlegmatic.” [14] Again, Anthroposophical tenets arise here: The classical temperaments (sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, melancholic) are categories into which Waldorf teachers shoehorn their students. Steiner associated the temperaments with astrological signs: “In sanguines (Virgo) ... in melancholics (Leo) ... in phlegmatics (Cancer)....” [15] Even more significant, note that appearances reveal underlying spiritual realities — this is a basic Anthroposophical concept: Everything is infused with spiritual forces that we can detect through heightened consciousness. Physical realities reflect spiritual realities.

The exercises seek to discipline various mental capacities. “The student [i.e., spiritual aspirant] is recommended to practice concentration, to take (for example) a simple everyday object like a pencil and to keep his mind on it. Thought is added to thought about the object without letting the mind wander.” [16] This is the first exercise I was assigned by my Anthroposophical doctor. It is somewhat akin to Buddhist meditation, requiring unswerving concentration, although the Buddhist tries to empty the mind rather than piling conscious thought upon thought. (Steiner also advocated empty-mindedness, in somewhat different circumstances. “The Science of the Spirit teaches us the art of forgetting, which, after all, is only the other side of digesting what one has taken in. This is part of the self-education demanded by spiritual science ... All memorized matter should disappear from the mind to make room for an actively receptive spirit.” [17])

 Wilkinson continues: “An exercise of the will is to perform a small act regularly at a particular time of the day.” [18] I was assigned this exercise, too. The purpose is developing self-discipline, taming unschooled impulses. Monks in monasteries use such practices. (I’m no monk. But as a teenager, back in Waldorf, almost...)

“A particular exercise to strengthen the power of the mind is to review the events of the day in backward sequence, even reversing the order of procedure.” [19] I was assigned this, too. One consequence of mentally reversing the order of events is to loosen one's commitment to reality. Don't think of things as they actually happened, think of them as they did not actually happen. Learning to consistently overthrow reality is a fine way to prepare yourself to accept utter unreality — i.e., Anthroposophy. (It is also preparation for a process that, according to Steiner, occurs after we die. We review our lives in reverse order, precisely so that we can loosen our ties to our lives and move upward to the afterlife.)

Various benefits as well as liabilities might flow from such exercises. What benefits, specifically, do Anthroposophists hope to receive? Wilkinson states, “Such exercises as the above develop the organs with which the spiritual world can be perceived.” [20] The “organs” Wilkinson means are nonphysical, invisible, spiritual structures. They are what Steiner called organ of clairvoyance: “[J]ust as natural forces build out of living matter the eyes and ears of the physical body, so will organs of clairvoyance build themselves....” [21] Such organs are not physical, and they cannot be perceived by our ordinary senses. They are immaterial, gossamer, ethereal; they are not of this world. They can be perceived only through the use of themselves (a nice tautology: In order to perceive an organ of clairvoyance, you must use an organ of clairvoyance). But if organs of clairvoyance don't exist...

Organs of clairvoyance, forsooth. One might well conclude that such organs are not merely invisible and immaterial. They are imaginary. They are phantasms.

This is another good spot for us to pause and reflect. These are the kind of things Waldorf teachers believe. Clairvoyance. And organs of clairvoyance.

Wilkinson and Steiner describe a system of religious training. It is certainly not scientific training. Each individual moving along the prescribed Anthroposophical path is looking inward, experiencing subjective states that cannot be shared with, or checked by, anyone else — and such checking is the essential requirement of any true science. [22] To quote Wilkinson: “Inner activity means esoteric development, and esoteric development provides a revitalizing force which permeates the human being and his work.” [23] Inner activity. Esoteric development. Anthroposophists call their belief system a science, but it is anything but.


The results Wilkinson and Steiner promise Waldorf teachers are stupendous. After speaking of “a revitalizing force which permeates the human being and his work,” Wilkinson continues: “Esoteric development will also attract the interest of the Hierarchies [i.e., gods] immediately above man.” [24] In other words, Waldorf teachers will not simply be revitalized, attaining augmented psychic powers. [25] They won’t simply gain new knowledge of the higher worlds. They will actually attract the notice of the gods — specifically the most immediate gods, the ones “immediately above man” — and thus they receive the benefits of the gods’ notice. “In particular it is the Third Hierarchy [the gods closest to us] which has concerned itself with mankind in the past, but to attract its attention again the human being has to work on his own soul content. Then the Hierarchy will be in his thoughts and feelings.” [26]

In these passages, Wilkinson has begun to describe Anthroposophical theology. There are three Hierarchies. [See "Polytheism".] The members of the lowest Hierarchy involve themselves deeply in our affairs, although they have recently begun losing interest in us (their “interest in mankind...is waning” [27]). But we can contact them, reawakening their interest in us. We can do this by working on our "soul content," the spiritual wisdom that will fill our souls if we become clairvoyant like Steiner. The soul content we need is knowledge of the higher worlds and the denizens of those worlds. This knowledge is, in a word, theology, knowledge of the gods. It is the mystical belief system of Anthroposophy, the system underlying Waldorf education.

Let’s inquire more deeply into the invisible beings Wilkinson has in mind. Anthroposophists pray to God or the Godhead, [28], and they are concerned with all gods, high and low. But in these passages, Wilkinson is specifically referring to the divine beings who, in Anthroposophical theology, are called Spirits of Personality, Fire-Spirits, and Sons of Life. These are the gods of the Third Hierarchy. Other names for them are Archai (Spirits of an Age, Zeitgeists), Archangels (Sons of Fire, Solar Pitris), and Angels (Sons of Twilight, Lunar Pitris). The Anthroposophical vision of divine hierarchies comes principally from gnostic teachings. [29] In Anthroposophy, the Second Hierarchy includes Spirits of Form (Powers, Exusiai), Spirits of Movement (Dynamis, Mights), and Spirits of Wisdom (Kyriotetes, Dominions); the First Hierarchy is occupied by Spirits of Will (Thrones), Cherubim, and Seraphim. [30] In all, Anthroposophy recognizes nine ranks of gods divided into three Hierarchies.

Remember that Wilkinson's immediate concern is the esoteric development of Waldorf school teachers. He explains that Waldorf teachers can, for instance, “establish a better connection to the angels [gods one level higher than humans].” [31] Many of us might find this a pleasing thought. But we should realize how unorthodox Anthroposophy is. It tries to meld concepts from numerous Western and Eastern religions, and it winds up being consistent with none of those faiths. So, for instance, while emphasizing the importance of Christ, Anthroposophy also emphasizes the concepts of reincarnation and karma. “Ideas should be turned to pre-birth, to appreciate that this life on earth is a continuation of a previous life in the spiritual world before birth, and a life here on earth before that.” [32] Wilkinson is referring to reincarnation. Christians, Jews, and Muslims will find this an alien tenet. But, at the same time, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus will find Steiner’s emphasis on Christ alien. Anyone who wants to accept the religion found in Waldorf schools is free to do so, but you should understand what that religion professes. It is not what you learned in church, synagogue, or mosque.

According to Wilkinson and Steiner, contacting Angels — and, particularly, one’s own Angel, one’s Guardian Angel — is not very difficult. “At night, in sleep, the human being meets his angel and together they [human and angel] consult on the next day’s plans.” [33] Wilkinson doesn’t mean that Waldorf teachers dream about meeting angels — Steiner taught that the human soul actually travels into the spirit realm every night. [34] Thus, at night, you actually go into the domain of the gods and actually meet your personal Angel there. One implication is that Waldorf teachers who wake in the morning with an idea in their heads will assume it is divinely inspired. Woe betide anyone who crosses a Waldorf teacher whose plans have been approved by celestial powers.

If consulting with your Angel is easy, contacting the Archangels — gods two levels higher than humans — calls for more effort. “To achieve inspirations from the archangels, further meditation is necessary on the human being and on a wide selection of spiritual truths, for instance, destiny, karma, spiritual evolution, and the advent of the Christ.” These are all Anthroposophical tenets. And so is the following: Proper grammar is important when dealing with Archangels: “The archangels have a particular interest in language and are grieved when it is badly used.” [35] Learning about Anthroposophy can inspire giggles — but remember that children at Waldorf schools are put in the hands of people who accept all of this as serious, indeed Revealed, Truth.

Note that Waldorf teachers don’t think they are simply gathering knowledge about the higher worlds: They think they are getting guidance and strength from above, which they can use in their work. In contacting and consulting the gods, they "achieve inspirations." "Such activities draw the Hierarchies closer and then their beneficial influence flows down into human thoughts and feelings." [36] Waldorf teachers gain the “beneficial influence” of the gods, which enables them to perform their teaching duties in the proper, sanctified spirit. 

Here’s how Wilkinson concludes. To understand, you should know that the inner circle of Anthroposophists at a Waldorf school is often called the “college of teachers.”

“To foster the connection between teachers and the Third Hierarchy Rudolf Steiner gave information which could be considered a kind of prayer or meditation. The actual words are available only to college members [i.e., members of the college of teachers] but the following is the gist of its contents. [paragraph break] He spoke of the teacher’s guardian angel who stands behind him, giving strength and the power of imagination. As a collective body, working together, the college [of teachers] attracts the attention of the next rank, the archangels, who help unite its members and give courage and inspiration. When [the college is] united in common striving, the archai [gods three levels above humanity], in particular the Spirit of the Times (Michael), gives the group the light of wisdom and the creative forces of intuition.” [37]

These sentences are drenched in Anthroposophical doctrine. For instance, Steiner taught that the archangel Michael currently has special responsibility for overseeing human life. Steiner also taught that there is a hierarchy of clairvoyant powers: imagination, inspiration, and intuition, which are enabled by gods of three differing ranks (imagination, Angels; inspiration, Archangels; intuition, Archai).


It is important to understand what all of this means in practice in Waldorf schools. Waldorf teachers think they are in contact with invisible beings. They think they receive guidance from them. They think they have special spiritual awareness. They think their mission is divinely inspired. They use prayer and meditation, as prescribed by Steiner, to inform their work. They are, in other words, religious missionaries, operating within a gnostic theology.

Staffed by such individuals, Waldorf schools are religious institutions. And the people Waldorf teachers work to convert are their students. Here’s how Rudolf Steiner put it, addressing the teachers at the first Waldorf school at the beginning of its very first term: 

“We can accomplish our work only if we do not see it as simply a matter of intellect or feeling, but, in the highest sense, as a moral spiritual task. Therefore, you will understand why, as we begin this work today, we first reflect on the connection we wish to create from the very beginning between our activity and the spiritual worlds ... Thus, we wish to begin our preparation by first reflecting upon how we connect with the spiritual powers in whose service and in whose name each one of us must work. I ask you to understand these introductory remarks as a kind of prayer to those powers who stand behind us with Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition as we take up this work.” [38]

Waldorf teachers have a connection with “the spiritual worlds.” They serve the “spiritual powers.” They work in the “name” of these powers. Steiner’s words on these matters are “a kind of prayer.” In overhearing Steiner talking this way to Waldorf school teachers, we are hearing a religious leader underscoring his school’s religious purpose, fulfilling its “moral spiritual task.” There is no science in Steiner’s words. There is faith. There is messianism. There is religion (an unconventional, unorthodox religion). That’s what Waldorf schools are all about.


In addition to statements that might be “as a kind of prayer”, Steiner cited a specific prayer for teachers:

“For people in general there may be many kinds of prayers. Over and above these is this special prayer for the teacher: [paragraph break] ‘Dear God, bring it about that I — inasmuch as my personal ambitions are concerned — negate myself. And Christ make true in me the Pauline words, ‘Not I, but the Christ in me.’ [paragraph break] This prayer, addressed to God in general and to Christ in particular, continues ‘...[sic] so that the Holy Spirit may hold sway in the teacher.’” [39]

Anthroposophists may argue, over and over, that their ideology is a science, not a religion. And they may claim, over and over, that Waldorf schools are not religious institutions. But the truth is clearly the reverse. Anthroposophists, reverent toward their spiritual master(s), meditate and pray to gain guidance and blessing from the spirit realm. Waldorf teachers “must be true Anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” [40] Waldorf teachers “carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods.” [41] Waldorf teachers “are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” [42] The blessings from above will come down into the teachers, and flow out from them into their students, and thence out into the world. This is the Waldorf agenda. If it were based in reality, it would be marvelous. If it is based in occultism, self-deception, and blind allegiance to a deluded "clairvoyant" leader, it is frightful.

The next time you hear Waldorf school students reciting, in unison, prayers written by Rudolf Steiner [43]; or the next time you visit a charming Waldorf festival that happens to fall on or around a holy day [44]; or the next time you watch Waldorf children performing eurythmy [45] — step back and consider what is really happening there. You will be observing the religion of Anthroposophy enacted by children who are supervised by teachers who think they have an esoteric pipeline to the gods. If you agree that Waldorf teachers probably do have such a pipeline, fine. Go in peace. But if you doubt that Waldorf teachers possess divine, occult wisdom passed down by ranks of gods, you might want to find different kind of school for your children.


"Doing" Anthroposophy

Insisting that Anthroposophy is a science, not a religion, Anthroposophists often speak of "doing" Anthroposophy. What they mean is that, following Steiner's lead more or less diligently, they can function as spiritual scientists — they can make their own clairvoyant, "scientific" observations of the spirit realm and reach their own independent, "scientific" conclusions about it.

This is an extremely worrisome claim. In order to think that they are using clairvoyance (which does not exist), Anthroposophists must delude themselves. [See "Clairvoyance", "Fooling (Ourselves)", and "Why? Oh Why?"] They imagine things, and then they tell themselves that what they imagine is true. This is a concerted rejection of reality. 

We find indications of this throughout Steiner's work. For instance, Steiner taught that his followers should reach a stage of spiritual self-discipline in which they can accept their dreams as truth. 

"[C]hanges...occur in our dream life when we undertake the ascent to higher knowledge. Our dreams lose their meaningless, disorderly, and disconnected character and begin to form an increasingly regular, lawful, and coherent world. As we evolve further, this new dream-born world not only becomes the equal of outer sensory reality with regard to inner truth, but also reveals facts depicting, in the full sense of the word, a higher reality." [46] 

Taking dreams as reality, believing in a "dream-born world," is delusion.

The spiritual requirements and exercises described by Steiner and Wilkinson reveal the process leading to Anthroposophical delusion. A seeker starts by accepting, without question, the "wisdom" imparted by the "masters." In essence, this means the seeker learns what s/he should see when "using" clairvoyance. The seeker then undertakes various mental/spiritual exercises of the kinds we have briefly reviewed, above. The mind, heart, and soul are disciplined so that they will travel down the channels the masters have laid down and/or the channels that the seeker elects. Distractions are eliminated, to the maximum extent possible. The mind will not wander, the heart will not quail — the seeker will begin to "see" (imagine, invent) what s/he is supposed to "see." External distractions, such as the testimony of one's senses (the "outer sensory reality") are suppressed, along with any thoughts that run contrary to the chosen imaginings. Thus — miraculously! — having blocked out reality, one begins to "see" what one has been determined to "see." One sees one's delusions and nothing else; one takes fantasies for truths.

Mistrusting one's senses can be wise, obviously. Our senses often deceive us. But the solution is to analyze the reports of our senses, using our capacity for reasoning and the tools provided to us by science. The solution is not to substitute an imaginary world for the real world.

Anthroposophists speak of "living" thoughts, "experienced" thinking, and the like. They mean that they feel the thoughts or visions that come to them when "doing" Anthroposophy. A rational investigator knows that feelings are utterly unreliable — when you feel that something is true, that is precisely when you need to step back, reconsider, and apply reasoning. But Anthroposophists do just the reverse. They trust their "disciplined" feelings, their intuitions, their hearts.

The occultist approach can feel wonderful. You want to see wonders, and you do see wonders. Magically, they are pretty much the wonders you wanted to see! Oh joy! Here is confirmation — What Steiner said, and what I believe, it is true! I see it! I feel it! The heart is full, the spirit soars... It can feel wonderful. But this is no test of truth. It is, indeed, a clear warning signal that you have gone badly astray, sinking into subjectivity and fantasy.

Schisms are common among Anthroposophists, including Waldorf teachers, because Steiner empowered individuals to believe their own dreams. [47] All Anthroposophists must start out trying to see what Steiner told them to see, but eventually, inevitably, they begin to follow different intuitions and different subjective preferences. Soon enough, different seekers are "seeing" different things — their dreams differ from those of their colleagues. Much turmoil and confusion can arise in a Waldorf school as a result.

Each fantasist ultimately becomes his or her own self-referring authority. What I dream is true, and nothing you can tell me will change my mind. This is one reason Waldorf teachers often do not study Steiner's works as deeply as they might. Once they have begun down the track of fantasization, they can cut themselves loose, at least a little, from the master. Steiner himself encouraged this. He said his followers really shouldn't memorize his doctrines, they should empty their minds to "make room for an actively receptive spirit." What they will receive will be his fantasies modified by their own conscious or unconscious desires. But as true believers they won't know this, so they will drift away into their imagined "higher worlds," leaving the real world behind.

Steiner didn't expect his followers to diverge far from his own fantasies. He constantly corrected teachers at the first Waldorf school about any and all matters, especially spiritual matters. He employed "exact" clairvoyance, after all, which meant he was right about nearly everything. [See "Exactly".] He instructed his followers to seek the same spiritual precision he claimed to wield: 

"Anthroposophy seeks for what may be called exact clairvoyance, again to borrow a term from scientific usage; that is to say it seeks to develop a knowledge and perception of the spiritual worlds which is no less exact, no less conscientious in the sense of exact science, than is the best tendency and striving of our natural scientific age." [48] 

But there cannot be an exact form of a nonexistent faculty. In placing reliance on clairvoyance and then urging all his followers to develop their own powers of clairvoyance, Steiner opened a Pandora's box of clashing fantasies.

Consider what all this means for Waldorf school students. At least some of their teachers are mystics who think they possess psychic powers. Such teachers have occult visions that they embrace as unquestionable truths. Such teachers wake up many mornings believing that, overnight, they consulted with their Guardian Angels — they will come school armed with ideas that they think the Angels have approved for use with the students. Such teachers may also come to school with memories of dreams they had the night before — dreams that they accept as true visions of transcendent realities. They may wish to implement the essence of these dreams in their class work. Indeed, how could they not? Their dreams are true, and a teacher's job is to convey truth, is it not?

Like all true believers, Anthroposophists may be absolutely unbending in their beliefs, utterly rejecting all opposing arguments. They know the truth, they feel it, they see it (sort of)and that's that. Fine. Such ill-founded certainty is nice for them, and they are welcome to it. But think of unbending Waldorf teachers who not only know unarguable spiritual truths, but who bring these with them to school and impose them in some form on their innocent charges, the students. It is almost too dreadful to contemplate, but indeed this is what Waldorf teachers often do.

And Steiner told Waldorf teachers this is what they should do. Serve the gods, heed the Angels, and never compromise: 

"As teachers in the Waldorf School, you will need to find your way more deeply into the insight of the spirit and to find a way of putting all compromises aside." [49] 

No compromises with anything external, such as reality. No compromises with anything at all. Period.

It is almost too dreadful to contemplate. But, indeed, we need to contemplate it.

— Roger Rawlings

For more on Anthroposophical
spiritual exercises, see 

For an inquiry into the sort of thinking
needed to "do" Anthroposophy,
see "Fooling"

For background on clairvoyance 
and other "psychic phenomena"

For more on the spiritual hierarchies,
see "Polytheism".

For a look at a controversy that has arisen
because of unconventional 
"doing" of Anthroposophy,
see "JvH".



Here is a typical prayer used by Anthroposophists:

O, Powers in the spiritual world,

Let me be outside my body,

Let me be knowing in the world of light,

So that I may observe my own light body.*

And let the power of Ahrimanic forces**

Be not too strong over me.

Let them not make it impossible for me

To behold what passes in my light body.

— Rudolf Steiner, START NOW! 

(SteinerBooks, 2004), p. 179.

While some Anthroposophical prayers address God, many — like this one — are openly polytheistic and contain clear references to Anthroposophical tenets.

* The light body is our true form, revealed after death. [Rudolf Steiner, AT HOME IN THE UNIVERSE (Anthroposophic Press, 2000 ), p. 116.]

** Ahriman is a devil, the supreme intellectual power. (Intellect: bad.)  [Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 167.]

Here is a typical contemplative exercise:

Contemplate: How the point becomes a sphere, yet remains itself.

Once you have grasped how the infinite sphere is still a point, return, 

for then you will see how the infinite can appear in the finite. 

— START NOW!, p. 167.

Steiner credited geometry with making the invisible, ideal universe recognizable to the human mind. Note, however, how this exercise violates geometry. A geometric point has no dimension. It is not a sphere, nor is a sphere (which has dimensions) a point. Perhaps the infinite can appear in the finite (this is often expressed as finding the universe in a grain of sand), but this exercise does not lead the mind to a sensible apprehension of this possibility. Rather, it is an affirmation of contradiction.

Here is a typical meditation:

Light from the depths of spirit,

Like the sun, streams outward,

Becoming force of will for living,

Illuminating senses' dimness

To set free energies,

Which ripen, out of inner drives,

Creative powers in human deeds.

— Rudolf Steiner, 


(Temple House Publishing, 2004), 

meditation 31.

Many Anthroposophical meditations emphasize the inner realm — subjectivity, inner light (clairvoyance), inner energies, inner drives. Despite Anthroposophical denials, this is the rejection of true light — reason, science, objectivity. Our senses are not so very dim; and our minds (intellects: bad) are not so very bad. But full-bore, wishful subjectivity produces darkness, not light.

Here is a "mantram":

Spirits of your souls, guardian guides,

On your wings let there be borne

The prayer of love from our souls

To those whom you guard here on earth.

Thus, united with your might,

A ray of help our prayer shall be

For the souls it seeks out there in love.

— Rudolf Steiner, 


(Rudolf Steiner Press, 1987), p. 66.

Steiner professed a peaceful and loving universal vision, yet he was an ardent German nationalist. This and other "mantrams" were recited at the beginning and end of 

lectures Steiner delivered during World War I. They seek protection for the Kaiser's troops: "Once again, let us first of all direct our thoughts to those who are out there at the front, in the arena of present-day events, where they have to stand for what the times demand of them." — Ibid., p. 66. Well, plenty of people are patriotic. Steiner was. He was a man of his time and place, that's all. In any event, it is interesting to see him incorporating prayers (sorry, "mantrams") in his public events.

For more on Waldorf messianism,

see "Can't We All Just Get Along?"

For more about mantras, 

prayers, and meditations,

see "Power Words"


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

This is one of the mystical triptychs in the Anthroposophical headquarters building,
the Goetheanum — which is, in effect, a cathedral. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"]
Waldorf schools, which base their work on the doctrines of Anthroposophy, are effectively churches
staffed by teachers who think of themselves as priests. [See "Schools as Churches".]
[R. R. copy.]

"What Is Waldorf Education?

“When I started looking into definitions and descriptions of Waldorf education, more than fifteen years ago, I believed it would be easy to find, say, a pithy paragraph in Rudolf Steiner’s work that would begin, 'Waldorf education is…' But such a paragraph doesn’t exist. So I looked at the work of Henry Barnes, Jeffrey Kane, Eugene Schwartz, Steve Talbott, Douglas Sloan, and other very smart writers and thinkers about Waldorf education. All of them had lots of good things to say, but none had a synopsis that could fuel the elevator speech or the dinner table introduction.” 

[10-25-2011 http://ssagarin.blogspot.com/2011/10/elevator-speech-what-is-waldorf.html] \1\ 

• ◊ •


Finding such a definition can indeed be difficult. The main reason is that Waldorf education is based on Anthroposophy, which is a system of occult spiritual "knowledge." The key Anthroposophical text is Rudolf Steiner’s AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE. By “occult,” Steiner meant hidden or secret. So, Waldorf education is based on secret knowledge that you are not supposed to have. This makes things difficult. 

But here are a few pointers, provided by Waldorf teachers and by Steiner himself. You might note that, according to these sources (who presumably are privy to secret, inside knowledge), Waldorf education does not primarily concern itself with conveying real-world information to students. Instead, the purpose is to assist the gods in helping children to incarnate, fulfill their karmas, and blossom as spiritual beings. Waldorf class sessions are, in effect, forms of divine service. 

• “According to Steiner, the human being is composed of various 'members' or 'bodies' ... The first member of the human being is the physical body ... Steiner called the second member of the human being the etheric body. He also named this [invisible] body the life body or body of formative forces ... [T]he third member of the human being is the 'astral' body. This [invisible] body is also called the 'sentient body,' for it allows us to perceive sensations ... [W]e also have [a highest, invisible] body — the I — which...allows us to be conscious of ourselves ... Waldorf education is based upon the recognition that the four bodies of the human being develop and mature at different times.” — Waldorf teacher Roberto Trostli, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING: What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents & Teachers (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 2-5. \2\ 

• "From the spiritual world the human being comes into earthly incarnation with certain tendencies, potentialities and ambitions, acquired as a result of experiences in previous existences \3\ ... [T]he purpose of [Waldorf] education is to help the individual fulfill his karma. The teacher is an intermediary and his task is to guide the incarnating individualities [i.e., children] into the physical world and equip them for earthly existence, bearing in mind what they bring with them from the past and what they are likely to take with them into the future.” — Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 52. \4\ 

• "We [Waldorf teachers] want to be aware that physical existence is a continuation of the spiritual, and that what we have to do in education is a continuation of what higher beings [the gods] have done without our assistance. Our form of educating can have the correct attitude only when we are aware that our work with young people is a continuation of what higher beings have done before birth." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 37. \5\ 

• "[W]e feel direct contact with the spiritual world, which is incarnating and unfolding before our very eyes, right here in the sensory world. Such an experience provides a sense of responsibility toward one’s tasks as a teacher, and with the necessary care, the art of education attains the quality of a religious service. Then, amid all our practical tasks, we feel that the gods themselves have sent the human being into this earthly existence, and they have entrusted the child to us for education. With the incarnating child, the gods have given us enigmas that inspire the most beautiful divine service." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 161. \6\

\1\ Here's one pithy answer: "It's anthroposophical education. Anthroposophy is Rudolf Steiner's esoteric religion."  [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/21851]

\2\ See “Incarnation”. The Waldorf curriculum is geared to the arrival of these bodies. [See "Most Significant".]

\3\ See “Karma”. The doctrine of karma is tied to belief in reincarnation. Waldorf teachers believe that children had many lives before their current incarnations on Earth, and they will have many more lives to come.

\4\ How can Waldorf teachers know what children had in their past lives and what they will carry into their future lives? By using “occult science” or “spiritual science” — i.e., “exact” clairvoyance. [See “Exactly” and “The Waldorf Teacher’s Consciousness”.]

\5\ The Waldorf belief system is polytheistic. [See “Polytheism”.] Waldorf teachers seek to serve the gods. “Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that...we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods....”  — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55.

\6\ Waldorf schools are, in effect, Anthroposophic churches, and the faculty are the priests. "The position of teacher becomes a kind of priestly office....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 23. This is why, for instance, each day at a Waldorf school typically begins with prayers recited in unison by teachers and students. [See “Prayers”.]

The spiral form is taken by many Anthroposophists as a symbol of spiritual evolution: a recursive process of gradual advancement. Concentric forms with precious cores are likewise prized as symbols of inner glory, inner spiritual connection. Such symbols are literal embodiments or manifestations of the spiritual states behind them, according to typical Anthroposophical thinking. [R.R. images, 2010.]

Much artwork done by Waldorf students is talismanic,

reflecting natural forms into which Anthroposophy

reads occult significance.

(The students are usually not told any of this explicitly,

but they are led silently toward the occult.)

[Courtesy of  People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]

"Between the world that is interwoven with the laws of nature and the world in which conscience speaks as it steams into us, there lies the world of dreaming. The world of dreaming protests in its images against the laws of nature."  — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 110. [R. R. sketch, 2009, based on Steiner's. The blue area is the sleep world; yellow, the dream world; red, the waking world.]


(Dover, 1974), detail, cover art.]

Sketches of two windows in the Goetheanum —

the worldwide headquarters of Anthroposophy.

The windows and other art in that building 

reflect Steiner's "clairvoyant" visions.

[R.R., 2009.]

[Blance Cirker, OLD-TIME CUTS AND ORNAMENTS (Dover, 2001), p. 32.]

The mathematics teacher at the Waldorf school I attended said, on several occasions, that if you enter a city from one direction, it will be a different city than if you enter it from another direction. He did not simply mean that you would see the city differently; he meant that the city would literally, truly be different. This concept is consistent with Anthroposophy, which teaches that thoughts exist as real beings in the spirit realm; what we think comes to pass, literally, because we think it. The universe is malleable — our subjective states make the universe different from what it might be if we had different subjective states. Even the import of mathematics would be different if we had a different mental attitude.

This is the radical subjectivity promoted by Waldorf education, and it is clearly wrong. Facts are facts; they do not bend to our preferences. Truth is truth; we do not make something true by thinking it. We find truth by discovering it as it objectively is, apart from any preferences, moods, or wishes of our own. Objectivity is difficult, but it is the goal we should aim for. Waldorf schools, however, follow Steiner in stressing subjectivity.

"[F]acts are simply upon occasion quite different from the concepts we hold of them with our present-day abstract, theoretical grasp of things, so remote from life and reality. There is not even a true grasp of what it might mean to take in the sciences of arithmetic and geometry with quite another soul-constitution than we have to-day, with a mature soul-condition ... The mathematics of the universe, which have become so thoroughly abstract to us, revealed [in the ancient past] something really living, because the revelation found completion in what was brought to understand it." — Rudolf Steiner, "The Two Christimas Annunciations" (ANTHROPOSOPHIC NEWS SHEET, Christmas, Supplement No. 5-6), GA 203. 

Steiner was speaking, here, about the mystical meaning of mathematics and geometry (or what is sometimes called sacred geometry). He found occult meaning in numbers, in geometrical design, and indeed in all orderly phenomena. This is what "a mature soul-condition" may find. But is it truly an apprehension, or merely a subjective desire? Is it found in phenomena, or is it read into them?

Our subjective states are, of course, important. How we feel about things is, of course, important. The spirit in which we act is, of course, important. But recognizing the importance of such things should not muddle us. Our inner states are important, but they are separate from — and do not control — outer, objective reality. Steiner's teachings result in such concepts as the following: 

"If these ideas [i.e., the doctrines of Anthroposophy] are not true, they should be true. What we believe shapes the reality. If we become conscious of these ideas and hold them, they will become true." — Dr. Ronald E. Koetzsch, an Anthroposophist connected with the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America.

What we believe certainly may shape reality if we act on our beliefs — but believing, in and of itself, cannot make false ideas true any more than it can change the laws of mathematics or the objective facts about the universe. A city is what it is, no matter what street we drive along to enter it. Thinking otherwise does not create higher truths; it is self-deception. Training children to "think" in this manner does them a severe disservice.

— Roger Rawlings

Traditional angel images from 


and http://www.fromoldbooks.org/.

Copy of details from a drawing by Assia Turgenieff,
illustrating a passage in one of Rudolf Steiner's mystery plays:
[R.R. copy, 2009.]

Here is a contribution I made to an online discussion in October, 2011.

(I have renumbered the endnotes to fit with the notes of this page.)


Hi, all.

At a surface level, the chief problem with Waldorf schools (IMO) is that they so often lie about their intentions, which boil down to promoting Anthroposophy (the occult religion cobbled together by Rudolf Steiner).

At a deeper level, the chief problem with Waldorf schools (IMO) consists of those very intentions. People who like Waldorf schools often argue that when things go wrong in these schools, it is because Steiner's intentions have been violated. Actually, things most often go wrong in Waldorf schools when Steiner's intentions are honored.

Here is Steiner explaining to Waldorf teachers what their mission is:

“You need to make the children aware that they are receiving the objective truth, and if this occasionally appears anthroposophical, it is not anthroposophy that is at fault. Things are that way because anthroposophy has something to say about objective truth. It is the material that causes what is said to be anthroposophical. We certainly may not go to the other extreme, where people say that anthroposophy may not be brought into the school. Anthroposophy will be in the school when it is objectively justified, that is, when it is called for by the material itself.” [50]

Since Anthroposophists believe that their doctrines are the Truth underlying all other knowledge, they think that the presence of Anthroposophy will be “justified” at virtually every point in every subject studied. They may be circumspect about it, bringing their beliefs into the classroom subtly, covertly, but they bring them.

Not all Waldorf teachers are deeply committed, uncompromising Anthroposophists, but Steiner said that they should be: 

“As teachers in the Waldorf School, you will need to find your way more deeply into the insight of the spirit and to find a way of putting all compromises aside ... As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” [51]

Indeed, one of the most important facts about Waldorf schools is that they are meant to spread Anthroposophy: 

“One of the most important facts about the background of the Waldorf School is that we were in a position to make the anthroposophical movement a relatively large one. The anthroposophical movement has become a large one.” [52]

Waldorf education is meant to usher students toward true spiritual life, which is inherently Anthroposophical: 

“As far as our school is concerned, the actual spiritual life can be present only because its staff consists of anthroposophists.” [53]

Waldorf teachers serve as priests in a religion that recognizes many spiritual powers or gods (plural: Anthroposophy is polytheistic). The goal of Waldorf schooling is not so much to educate children as to save humanity by leading it to Anthroposophy. Waldorf teachers consider themselves to be on a holy mission:

• "The position of teacher becomes a kind of priestly office, a ritual performed at the altar of universal human life." [54]

• “We can accomplish our work only if we do not see it as simply a matter of intellect or feeling, but, in the highest sense, as a moral spiritual task. Therefore, you will understand why, as we begin this work today, we first reflect on the connection we wish to create from the very beginning between our activity and the spiritual worlds ... Thus, we wish to begin our preparation by first reflecting upon how we connect with the spiritual powers in whose service and in whose name each one of us must work.” [55]

• “Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods, that we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” [56]

In sum, the goals of Waldorf schooling are inseparable from the goals of Anthroposophy, although Waldorf teachers generally deny this, for fear of a public backlash: 

“[W]e have to remember that an institution like the Independent Waldorf School with its anthroposophical character, has goals that, of course, coincide with anthroposophical desires. At the moment, though, if that connection were made official, people would break the Waldorf School’s neck." [57]

What is Anthroposophy? It is a religion: 

"[T]he Anthroposophical Society...provides religious instruction just as other religious groups do." [58]

And so: 

"It is possible to introduce a religious element into every subject, even into math lessons. Anyone who has some knowledge of Waldorf teaching will know that this statement is true." [59]

Hence Steiner was able to say to Waldorf students: 

“[D]o you know where your teachers get all the strength and ability they need so that they can teach you to grow up to be good and capable people? They get it from the Christ.” [60] 

Take care when Steiner and his followers refer to "Christ." They do not mean the Son of God worshipped in regular Christian churches; they mean the Sun God.

The key point here (IMO) is to recognize Steiner's admission that Waldorf teachers are true believers; they believe they receive their authority from a god. Their work as Waldorf teachers is religious. Even when encouraging their students to love beauty, their purpose is fundamentally religious. 

“We must, in our lessons, see to it that the children experience the beautiful, artistic, and aesthetic conception of the world; and their ideas and mental pictures should be permeated by a religious/moral feeling." [61]

You may like the idea that Waldorf schools are devoted to “a religious/moral feeling,” but you need to recognize what religion Steiner was talking about. Waldorf schools exist to promote a specific, cultish, occult religion: Anthroposophy. Unless you are comfortable with the theology of Anthroposophy, you cannot ultimately be comfortable with Waldorf schooling.

One final point: Anthroposophy and, by extension, Waldorf education hinge on clairvoyance. Virtually all of Steiner's' teachings come out of his claimed clairvoyance, and Waldorf teachers endeavor to develop and use clairvoyance in their own work. The problem in this is that clairvoyance is a delusion — it does not exist. [See "Clairvoyance".] Thus, many of the people who run Waldorf schools are working out of a worrisome delusion, which like all delusions is potentially very damaging. Waldorf students spend their days under the threat of an enormous delusion practiced by well-meaning but misguided teachers. (Not all Waldorf teachers fit this bill. I will reiterate that not all Waldorf teachers are true-blue Anthroposophists. But many are, and Steiner said they all should be.)

“[W]e must work to develop this consciousness, the Waldorf teacher’s consciousness, if I may so express it. This is only possible, however, when in the field of education we come to an actual experience of the spiritual. Such an experience of the spiritual is difficult to attain for modern humanity. We must realize that we really need something quite specific, something that is hardly present anywhere else in the world, if we are to be capable of mastering the task of the Waldorf school ... [We need] what humanity has lost in this respect, has lost just in the last three or four centuries. It is this that we must find again.” [62] 

Steiner taught that modern people do not have the natural clairvoyance possessed by the ancients, and thus we no longer have direct experience of the spirit realm. By following his directions, however, we can attain a new, higher form of clairvoyance — and here he explicitly tells Waldorf teachers that they should do so. They should develop “exact” clairvoyance:

“[E]xact clairvoyance unites what otherwise is taken purely intellectually with a view of what is spiritual or supersensible in human beings ... Now, if we are working as teachers — as artists in education — on human beings, we must enter into relation with their supersensible [i.e., supernatural], creative principle. For it is upon this principle that the teacher and educator works. External works of art can be created by fantasy and imagination. But, as an educator, one can be an artist only if one is able to enter into connection with the supersensible creative element, the supersensible that lives in the human being’s self. The anthroposophical method of research [clairvoyance] makes this possible and so provides the basis for an art of teaching and education.” [63]

Steiner said that if a Waldorf teacher does not develop clairvoyance, s/he should at least follow the guidance of colleagues who are (or who claim to be) clairvoyant. Think of the intellectual and even spiritual blindness that can result. If Steiner’s intentions are honored, a Waldorf faculty will consist of deluded individuals leading others who choose to believe these deluded individuals. 

"Not every Waldorf teacher has the gift of clairvoyance, but every one of them has accepted wholeheartedly and with full understanding the results of spiritual-scientific investigation [i.e., clairvoyant Anthroposophical teachings] concerning the human being. And each Waldorf teacher applies this knowledge with heart and soul ... In educating the child, in the daily lessons, and in the daily social life at school, the teachers find the confirmation for what spiritual science can tell them about practical teaching. Every day they grow into their tasks with increasing inner clarity.” [64] 

So the commitment to Waldorf’s underlying delusion should grow daily.

Clairvoyance is the linchpin of Waldorf education, which means (since clairvoyance is a delusion) that Waldorf education has no linchpin. Kids educated in a delusional system are clearly at great risk.

- Roger Rawlings 


Doing Waldorf Right

The following is an item from 

the Waldorf Watch "news" page.

It begins with a pro-Waldorf statement 

posted in an online discussion.

The statement is followed 

by commentary by yours truly:

“My husband is Swiss, and in Switzerland the gov. subsidizes Waldorf, there's one in every town,* it very prevalent, just one notch below mainstream. (As an aside, this is a country where religion is laughed at and almost extinct, and people don't think of Steiner as religious.) So, my knowledge about Waldorf en masse comes from there. But here in the U.S., even our good, relatively small public school system was a social and emotional disaster for my kids. My son's self-esteem, happiness, empathy, confidence, consideration for others, sense of responsibility, open mindedness has dramatically improved since we moved him. And that's what we hear from other parents at this school, and from our friends in Switzerland. I can't know what you or others have experienced. If it's way different than that, it sounds like the schools or teachers you've had experience with are not really ‘doing Waldorf right’ imo. I'd hate to see our Waldorf take the rap for that.”  

[5-16-2011  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/19051] 

• ◊ •


Is it possible to “do Waldorf right”? This is an intriguing question. To “do Waldorf right” as its founder, Rudolf Steiner, prescribed, all Waldorf teachers would be Anthroposophists, and they would aim to use Waldorf schools as vehicles for spreading Anthroposophy. They would work in the service of the “gods” — they would serve the religion created by Rudolf Steiner: Anthroposophy.

Here are a few indications, from Steiner, on doing Waldorf right: 

• “As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118.

• “Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55.

• "It is possible to introduce a religious element into every subject, even into math lessons. Anyone who has some knowledge of Waldorf teaching will know that this statement is true."  — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD's CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 94.

• “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.

• "[T]he Anthroposophical Society...provides religious instruction [for Waldorf students] just as other religious groups do." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 706.

The “right way” to “do Waldorf," according to the founder of Waldorf schooling, is to faithfully adhere to Anthroposophy. But do you want your child to be educated by teachers who believe the bizarre doctrines of Anthroposophy? One quick example: Do you want your child to be educated by people who believe the following? 

"Whereas in the ancient Atlantean times [i.e., while we lived on Atlantis] these human beings descended to earth from Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and the other planets...now a time is beginning when beings who are not human are coming down to earth from cosmic regions beyond ... Just as the Vulcan men were the last to come down to earth [during Atlantean times], so Vulcan beings are now actually entering this earth existence ... And it is thanks to the fact that these beings from beyond the earth are bringing messages down into this earthly existence that it is possible at all to have a comprehensive spiritual science [i.e., Anthroposophy] today.” — Rudolf Steiner, MATERIALISM AND THE TASK OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (SteinerBooks, 1987), p. 261. [For more, see "Steiner's Blunders", "Say What?", "Wise Words", and "Steiner Static". As you read, keep reminding yourself: Anthroposophists — including Waldorf faculty members — believe this wacko nonsense.]

OK. So the primary way to "do Waldorf right" is to faithfully adhere to, and diligently promote, Anthroposophical doctrines. There is, however, a secondary possibility. What if a Waldorf school were run by people who love many of the Waldorf methods (emphasis on arts and crafts, plenty of free time for play, the staging of colorful festivals, and so on) but who do not know much if anything about Anthroposophy? Wouldn’t such a school be fine and dandy? Wouldn't this be a way to "do Waldorf right"?

Possibly. Such a school would not be a real Waldorf school, as defined by Steiner himself, but if it were operated by loving, well-meaning individuals, a certain amount of good might be done there. But. (You knew another “but” was coming, didn’t you?) But pause a moment. Notice that the quotation with which we started (“My husband is Swiss...”) comes from a discussion about the classical “temperaments” ("How important are the Temperaments in Waldorf education?"). Alarm bells should start ringing. Loving, well-meaning teachers who know nothing about Rudolf Steiner but who believe that children can be separated into the four classical “temperaments” (phlegmatic, melancholic, sanguine, and choleric) are out of touch with reality. The four classical temperaments are an ancient concept discarded by science long ago. The concept lives on in very few places, primarily in Waldorf schools. [See "Humouresque" and "Temperaments".]

Waldorf schools, you see, are backward-looking. All their stress on art, crafts, and play is tied to a fundamental, anti-intellectual attitude. Waldorf schools oppose modern technology, modern science, modern knowledge. Good, loving, well-meaning non-Anthroposophists who use a backward-looking system that rejects reality cannot, in the end, truly help children. Whether Waldorf teachers are committed Anthroposophists or wholly innocent non-Anthroposophists, they cannot “do Waldorf right.” There is no way to "do Waldorf right." Why? Because Waldorf is wrong.

Some kids love Waldorf schools. (What’s not to like? Art, crafts, play, well-meaning teachers, minimal academic pressure...) Some families love Waldorf schools. But this is not the same as saying that Waldorf schools provide a good education or that they prepare children for fulfilling lives in the real world. In fact, Waldorf schools turn their backs on the real world. This retreat from reality can be pleasant and comforting, but it is not compatible with real education. [See, e.g., "Academic Standards at Waldorf", "Reality and Fantasy", "Spiritual Agenda", "Methods", "Steiner's Specific", "Serving the Gods", "Here's the Answer", and "Our Experience".]

If a "Waldorf school" were not really a Waldorf school — that is, if all of the backwardness were stripped out — then it might be a pretty good school. [See "Non-Waldorf Waldorfs".] But, to reiterate, such a school would not be a real Waldorf school. It would be a place where, by Waldorf standards, the teachers "do Waldorf wrong." And bear in mind, vigorous efforts are made in Waldorf teacher-training programs to make sure that all so-called "Waldorf schools" are real Waldorf schools — that is, schools that honor Rudolf Steiner's intentions, schools that "do Waldorf" as he wanted Waldorf to be done. [See "Teacher Training".]

* Actually, a recent tabulation shows that there are 35 Waldorf or Steiner schools in Switzerland. [See, e.g., "August, 2011".] The total number of Swiss towns is considerably larger than 35. Standard reference works indicate that, in April, 2011, there were well over 200 towns and cities in Switzerland, 119 of which had populations of 10,000 or more. Clearly, then, the great majority of Swiss towns do not have Waldorf schools.

Another item from the "news" page:

Studying to become a Waldorf teacher is, in many ways, indistinguishable from studying to become an Anthroposophist. Waldorf teacher-training programs usually include extensive exposure to Rudolf Steiner's books and lectures. [See "Teacher Training".] Moreover, after a teacher joins a Waldorf faculty, s/he is usually encouraged or even required to undertake further spiritual/Anthroposophical studies. Essentially, these are religious studies, and the religion is Anthroposophy. True Waldorf schools — that is, schools where Rudolf Steiner's stated intentions are honored — are places of Anthroposophical worship. [See "Schools as Churches".]

Here are a few books that are currently available through such sources as Waldorf Books and the Rudolf Steiner College bookstore. They are intended for Waldorf teachers to use in their efforts at "inner" or spiritual self-development. All these books were published by the Waldorf Early Child Association of North America, as part of "The Little Series".

[Waldorf Early Child Association of North America, 2004]

"Helmut von Kugelgen has gathered together meditations, exercises, thoughts by Rudolf Steiner that are so powerfully alive that the book itself practically vibrates with the excitement of imminent discovery. It would be possible to work with this book for years without exhausting your interest or plumbing its full depths." — Bookstore at Rudolf Steiner College.

[Waldorf Early Child Association of North America, 2010]

"The Little Series is filled with potent 'seed-books,' books whose contents are such that the reading of them places drops of wisdom and love into the human heart. These drops are then shared through our lives with others who may know nothing of them, yet be fed by them nonetheless.

"Such a book is Seeking the Spirit, a compilation of meditations and exercises from Rudolf Steiner that is accompanied by readings and thoughts from the great spiritual works of the world. It is beautiful and glowing with love, a source of strength between two covers." — Waldorf Books.

[Waldorf Early Child Association of North America, 2003]

"Helmut von Kugelgen gathered these excerpts specifically with the work of the Waldorf teacher in mind. He included a personal letter to teachers, mothers, fathers and colleagues in the kindergarten by way of introducing the pedagogical intent of Working with the Dead." — Bookstore at Rudolf Steiner College.

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



Examining the central denial made by Steiner’s followers

A comparison of Steiner's teachings with Christ's

The hidden story

Anthroposophy and hidden knowledge

Anthroposophy and Rosicrucianism

Steiner's strange ideas about the Lord


The Earth Goddess; and the Theory of Everything: Anthropo-Sophia


About those "morning verses"

The religion of Anthroposophy in the classroom

Turning students into disciples

Why choose Anthroposophy when there are so many alternatives?


You may also want to consult a few essays 
posted in the first section of Waldorf Watch:

Waldorf's goals

Waldorf's reality

Teachers as priests

Steiner, trying to make Waldorf education seem sensible

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] Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION, The Waldorf School Approach (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996.)

[2] Ibid., p. 14.

[3] Eugene Schwartz, WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century (Xlibris Corporation, 2000), p. 17.

On one remarkable occasion, Schwartz dropped his guard and admitted that Waldorf schools are religious. See “Waldorf Education — For Our Times Or Against Them?” Transcript of talk by Eugene Schwartz, Sunbridge College: November 13, 1999. Edited by Michael Kopp. www.waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/schwartz.html

[4] Ibid., p. 18.


[6] KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944).  HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS (Anthroposophic Press, 1994).


[8] Ibid., p. 117.


[10] Ibid., p. 10.

But is it? You may venerate an object that merits veneration, or you may mistakenly venerate something that deserves no such reverence. Indeed, you may very easily persuade yourself that the things you want to venerate have objective existence in the real world (when they may not; they may be imaginary) and you may persuade yourself that these things are divine (when they may not be; they may simply be subjective objects of your desire). The heart is important, and its impulses are important. But if we want knowledge, we must use our heads — which Steiner discouraged.

[11] Ibid., p. 10.

[12] He was Dr. Franz E. Winkler, a leading German-American Anthroposophist. His publications include OUR OBLIGATION TO RUDOLF STEINER IN THE SPIRIT OF EASTER (Whittier Books, 1955), MAN, THE BRIDGE BETWEEN TWO WORLDS (Harper & Row. 1970), THE INFLUENCE OF PSYCHOLOGY ON EDUCATION (New York: The Myrin Institute, Inc., 1955), and FOR FREEDOM DESTINED: Mysteries of Man’s Evolution in the Mythology of Wagner’s Ring Operas and Parsifal (The Waldorf Press, 1974).

I’m grateful to Wilkinson for awakening in me the memory of various exercises Dr. Winkler prescribed. Previously, I had written only of the “imagine a pencil” exercise, the only one I remembered before Wilkinson’s prodding.

Dr. Winkler surely meant to do me good. He was leading me into Anthroposophy; he was aiming to awaken clairvoyant powers in me. He did this, however, with my parents' permission; and his aims were profoundly flawed, despite his good intentions. He tried to separate me from reality and plunge me into the occultism that he embraced.


[14] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 91.


[16] Ibid., p. 119.

[17] Rudolf Steiner, RENEWAL OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), pp. 14-15.


[19] Ibid., p. 119.

[20] Ibid., p. 120.


[22] See, e.g., Sven Ove Hansson, "Is Anthroposophy Science?" at http://waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/Hansson.html .

You may also want to read my essay “Steiner’s ‘Science’”.


[24] Ibid., pp. 120-121.

[25] Unfortunately, the power Wilkinson and Steiner advocate — and on which their entire scheme depends — does not exist. Or, to phrase this more circumspectly, we have no reason to think it exists. 

• “Research in parapsychology — such as testing a subject’s ability to predict the order of cards in a shuffled deck — has yet to provide conclusive support for the existence of clairvoyance.” — "clairvoyance." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 18 Oct. 2008.  According to the U.S. National Research Council,  “’the best evidence does not support the contention that these phenomena exist.’” — David G. Myers, PSYCHOLOGY (Worth Publishers, 2004), p. 260. 

• “After thousands of experiments, a reproducible ESP phenomenon has never been discovered, nor has any individual convincingly demonstrated a psychic ability. — Ibid., p. 260; emphasis by Myers.


[27] Ibid., p. 121.

[28] See, e.g., Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophical Publishing Company, 1928).

I discuss the Godhead in "All", “God” and, briefly, in “Steiner Static”.

[29] See, e.g., Geoffrey Ahern, SUN AT MIDNIGHT (James Clarke & co., 2009), p. 154.

[30] Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 84.

The hierarchies are approximately consistent with medieval Christian angelology, but with a twist, as the alternate names suggest. Steiner and Theosophists identify the various angels, etc., as gods, and they associate them with deities of non-Christian faiths. The most glaring example is 

"Christ, the Sun God, who was known by earlier peoples under such names as Ahura Mazda, Hu, or Balder, has now united himself with the earth....” — RUDOLF STEINER SPEAKS TO THE BRITISH, pp. 4-5, Introduction by Margaret Jonas. 

Steiner's works contain many references to multiple gods as well as other affirmations of polytheism.

Some of Steiner’s doctrines date from his years as a Theosophist. However, as early as 1902, Steiner referred to his own teachings as Anthroposophy. 


[32] Ibid., p. 121.

[33] Ibid., p. 121.

[34] E.g., 

• “During sleep our astral bodies return to the harmony of the universe again. When we awaken, we bring enough strength with us out of the cosmic harmony into our bodies so that we can go without being in that state for a while.” — Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 68.

• “As you know, when we are asleep we are outside the physical and ether bodies with our astral body and ego. The physical and ether body are lying on the couch; with our astral body and ego we are outside them.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE DESTINIES OF INDIVIDUALS AND OF NATIONS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1986), p. 213.


[36] Ibid., p. 122.

[37] Ibid., p. 122.

[38] Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 33-34.


[39] Rudolf Steiner, THE CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE CHILD (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 142.

"Paul' is the Paul of the gospels; he taught of the Christ within.


Note the religious terminology. Scientists don’t have to remind each other to be scientists “in our innermost feeling.”


[42] Ibid., p. 55.

[43] See, e.g., Rudolf Steiner, PRAYERS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 45 & 47.

Steiner penned one prayer for students in the lower four grades, and another for students in the upper four. The latter prayer is often used all the way through 12th grade — it was at the Waldorf school I attended.

Meditations and prayers used in Anthroposophy can also be found in such books as Rudolf Steiner, VERSES AND MEDITATIONS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), Rudolf Steiner, THE ILLUSTRATED CALENDAR OF THE SOUL (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2004), Rudolf Steiner, START NOW! (SteinerBooks, 2004), and Rudolf Steiner, BREATHING THE SPIRIT: Meditations for Times of Day and Seasons of the Year (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002). Meditations specifically for those who want to establish contact with the dead are listed in, e.g., STAYING CONNECTED: How to Continue Your Relationships with Those Who Have Died (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), pp. 255-263. Prayers and graces by Steiner and others are given in PRAYERS AND GRACES (Floris Books, 1996), compiled by Michael Jones.  

[44] Here, for example, is the beginning of a meditation Steiner wrote concerning the festival of Christmas:

“At turning point of Time,

The Spirit-Light of the World

Entered the stream of Earthly Evolution.”


Few Christians would recognize their own faith in these words. The words convey Anthroposophical doctrines. The “turning point of Time” is the moment when “Earthly Evolution” was altered, infinitely for the better, by the Sun God (Christ, the “Spirit-Light of the World”) who came to Earth. The Sun God’s mission here was not to redeem our sins, as such, but to promote our evolution. Most of this will come as news to Christians.

Waldorf schools generally celebrate many festivals, at least some of which are religious (although they may be disguised: Michaelmas, for instance, may be termed a “fall festival” while Easter may be disguised as a “spring festival”). The meaning of most Waldorf festivals conforms to Anthroposophical doctrines. [See Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998).]

[45] “In having people do eurythmy, we link them directly to the supersensible world.” — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 247.


"Doing" Anthroposophy can also involve other hocus-pocus, such as creating and consulting horoscopes. [See "Horoscopes".]

[47] At least some Anthroposophists cherish the hope that they can go beyond limits Steiner himself may have encountered. For instance, here is part of a message posted at the Rudolf Steiner Archive: 

"After voluminous reading of Steiner, I believe Steiner did not know how to contact the Gods directly. This mystery stream, not yet discovered completely till 1945 by Max Freedom Long, involves direct contact with one's high self."  [http://www.rsarchive.org/Forums/view.php?bn=eliboard&key=1113442653

One's own "high self" is the "god" on whom a person can rely. [For more on Max Freedom Long, see http://www.maxfreedomlong.com/.]

[48] "Knowledge and Initiation - Cognition of the Christ Through Anthroposophy" (Steiner Book Centre, 198?), GA 211.


[50] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 495. 

[51] Ibid., p. 118. 

[52] Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 156. 

[53] Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 60. 

[54] Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 23. 

[55] Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 33. 


[57] Ibid., p. 705. 

[58] Ibid., p. 706.

Elaborating on this point, Steiner said  

“[T]his is how our free, nondenominational, religion lessons came about. These were given by our own teachers, just as the other religious lessons were given by ministers. The teachers were recognized by us as religious teachers in the Waldorf curriculum. Thus, anthroposophic religious lessons were introduced in our school. “ — Rudolf Steiner, SOUL ECONOMY AND WALDORF EDUCATION (SteinerBooks, 2003), p. 125. 

[59] Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD's CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 94. 

[60] Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 29.

[61] Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 77.

[62] Rudolf Steiner, DEEPER INSIGHTS INTO EDUCATION (Anthroposophical Press, 1983), p. 21.

[63] Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), pp. 207.

[64] Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), pp. 224-225.

[R.R., 2017.]