Waldorf's Pipeline


"Doing Anthroposophy"


"Doing Waldorf Right"



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

— Rudolf Steiner





Imagine a polytheistic universe. (Yes, I know — easier said than done. But give it a shot.)

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 previous rank.

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 Anthroposophists and devout Waldorf teachers nowadays.

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. Meaning every Waldorf 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. 

"Only within his own soul can a man find the means to unseal the lips of an Initiate [i.e., a spiritual master] ... He 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, he indicated, 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 true-blue, Anthroposophy-affirming 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 that.








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 will 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, three large groupings of gods. [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 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 direct many of their prayers to God or the Godhead, [28], but they are concerned with all gods, high and low. 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), Spirits of Harmony (Cherubim,) and Spirits of Love (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 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 likely assume the idea is divinely inspired. A true-believing Waldorf teacher may wake up with a new plan for that day's lessons, or a new notion about how to deal with certain students, or a new interpretation of a Steiner text s/he has been discussing with colleagues. If the teacher thinks the new idea come from a god, s/he may cling to it with literal religious fervor. Woe betide anyone who crosses a Waldorf teacher whose thoughts carry the imprint and approval of 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.” [35]

These "spiritual truths" are all Anthroposophical tenets. Wilkinson is saying that, if you manage to contact the Archangels, they will deepen your understanding of various Anthroposophical tenets, such a belief in karma and the extraordinary importance of Christ in the spiritual evolution of mankind. But there is also something deeper involved here. True-believing Waldorf teachers who think they can communicate with Archangels don’t think they are simply gathering knowledge: 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. This spirit will directly affect the children taught by true-believing, Anthroposophical Waldorf faculty members.

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.

"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. Wilkinson says that by working together, the key members of a Waldorf faculty can contact the highest gods in the Third Hierarchy, the Archai — and, in particular, the god who is currently the Spirit of the Times: the god known as Saint Michael. All in all, the various gods of the Third Hierarchy will bestow on Waldorf teachers the three forms of psychic power or clairvoyance identified by Steiner: imagination (provided by Angels), inspiration (provided by Archangels), and intuition (provided by Archai). The meetings of the college of teachers must be recognized, in this context, as religious ceremonies in which gods are invoked and special powers are bestowed upon the worshippers.











It is important to understand what all of this means in practice in Waldorf schools. Anthroposophical Waldorf teachers think they are in contact with invisible heavenly 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.

When they are staffed primarily or wholly by such individuals, Waldorf schools become religious institutions. And the people to whom Waldorf teachers work to bring the fruits of their spirituality are their students. Here’s how Rudolf Steiner, addressing teachers at the first Waldorf school, said Waldorf teachers should approach their work

“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]

Devout, Steiner-following Waldorf teachers think they have a connection with “the spiritual worlds.” They serve  the “spiritual powers.” They work in the “name” of these powers. In accordance with the “kind of prayer” offered by Steiner, they seek to inculcate within themselves three distinct types of clairvoyance ("Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition). In overhearing Steiner talking this way to Waldorf school teachers, we are hearing a religious leader underscoring his school’s religious purpose, which is to fulfill 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 true-blue Waldorf schools are all about”










In addition to statements that might be taken “as a kind of prayer,” Steiner also crafted a specific, full-out prayer for Waldorf teachers to use:

“For people in general there may be many kinds of prayers. Over and above these is this special prayer for the teacher: 

"‘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.’

"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.  And Anthroposophical Waldorf teachers do so as well.

"[Waldorf teachers] must be true Anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” [40] 

"[Waldorf teachers] 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.” [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 image created by these words is clearly religious. Blessings from above will come down into the teachers, and they will flow out from the teachers 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 is held on or nearly on a holy day [44]; or the next time you watch Waldorf children performing eurythmy [45] — step back and consider what is really happening there. When these sorts of things occur at real, Steiner-centric Waldorf schools, they reflect the religion of Anthroposophy being enacted under the supervision of 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 on high, you might want to find different kind of school for your children.





As I have said repeatedly on this website, you should remember that some teachers in Waldorf schools are not Anthroposophists, just as you should remember that some Waldorf schools are not dominated by Anthroposophists. But by the same token, you should heed the words of Rudolf Steiner and Roy Wilkinson. They have explained how Waldorf schools should operate: as thoroughly Anthroposophical institutions, bent on the messianic mission of Anthroposophy. 

If you become interested in a particular Waldorf school, perhaps trying to decide whether to send your child there, the safest course is to begin with the premise that the school may operate as Steiner and Wilkinson prescribed. Assume that the school is committed to Anthroposophy. Give up this assumption only if you find powerful — preferably irrefutable — evidence to the contrary. Possibly you have found a Waldorf school that has come to its senses and ditched Anthroposophy. Or possibly you have found a "Waldorf" school that has never really been devoted to Rudolf Steiner and the religion he concocted. But don't reach such a conclusion unless the evidence is extremely powerful.

Remember the words of Steiner and Wilkinson. Remember what these authorities have said Waldorf schools are meant to be.  



















A Waldorf student painting.

[Courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]










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 these things are real. This is a concerted distortion of reality. 

We find indications of such processes throughout Steiner's work. For instance, Steiner said 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 occult approach to life can feel wonderful. You want to see wonders, and you do  see wonders. Magically, the wonders you see are pretty much the wonders you wanted to see! Oh joy! Here is confirmation — What Steiner said, and what I believe, is true! I see it! I feel it!  The heart is full, the spirit soars... It can feel great. 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.

Despite cutting his followers some slack, Steiner expected them to stick pretty close to 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 students. At least some of their teachers are likely to be 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 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 at least some Waldorf teachers tend to 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






Use this link to go to the second part of

"Serving the Gods".






Endnotes for the Above

[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.

[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.

"[V]eneration is always due when it flows from the depths of the heart." 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, without 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 .

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 this: 

"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 used in this fashion 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. In these 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).]


“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."  []

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

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