"Waldorf education strives to create
a place in which the [gods]...
can find their home....”
— Anthroposophist Joan Almon,
WHAT IS A WALDORF KINDERGARTEN?
(SteinerBooks, 2007), p. 53.
"[Steiner] suggested specific exercises
and meditations for teachers
to help them work more
consciously on the Earth
on behalf of the spiritual
powers [i.e., the gods]."
— Anthroposophist Roberto Trostli,
RHYTHMS OF LEARNING
(SteinerBooks, 1998), p. 54.
Religion and More
in Waldorf Schools
[Anthroposophic Press, 1986.]
In the lectures published as SOUL ECONOMY AND WALDORF EDUCATION, Rudolf Steiner worked hard to make Waldorf schooling seem sensible. He did not succeed, but who can blame him? The foundation of Waldorf schooling is Anthroposophy, a system of occult, mystical, pagan beliefs. Waldorf schools are no more sensible than Anthroposophy itself.
The book's title, incorporating the term "soul economy," refers to the Anthroposophical doctrine that children, like all humans, are beings of body, spirit, and soul. Waldorf schools are "economical" when they carefully tend to all three levels of human existence. Soul economy, in particular, is the intended husbanding and nurturing of a child's soul within his/her entire being, especially as this is undertaken by the self-appointed, unordained clergy who constitute a true-believiving Waldorf faculty.*
Shown above is a somewhat antiquated edition of the book, interesting for having a design created by Rudolf Steiner himself on the cover, and for using slightly unguarded language. A newer edition, titled simply SOUL ECONOMY (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), is a bit more circumspect. In order to play fair, I will quote exclusively from the newer, toned-down book.
Here, then, are some eye-opening statements made by Steiner in SOUL ECONOMY, 2003 edition. I have appended commentary to each statement.
[Anthroposophic Press, 2003.]
* See, e.g., "Schools as Churches".
[Religion] “[I]n terms of cosmology, philosophy, and religion, anthroposophic goals were never intended to be merely theoretical but to enter social life in a direct and practical way....” [SOUL ECONOMY, p. 3]
Steiner generally insisted that • Anthroposophy is not a religion, and • Waldorf schools do not convey Anthroposophical teachings to the students. Both claims are untrue. Here, to give one slight example, we see Steiner acknowledging that Anthroposophy has religious purposes (along with cosmological and philosophical purposes). Perhaps he didn't think through what he was saying, but in a statement such as this he came closer to the truth than he often did. Anthroposophy tries to bring cosmology, philosophy, and religion into social life in a direct way. One major avenue for this is provided by Waldorf schools.
[Religions, Old and New] “[Y]ou will find that ancient religion was never seen as mere faith — this happened only in later times — but that religions were based on direct experience and insight into spirit worlds.” [p. 38]
Steiner refused to call Anthroposophy a religion for a variety of reasons. He liked to say that Anthroposophy is a science (which it is not), which caused him to say that Anthroposophy is not a religion (which it is). He understood that a "scientific" approach to spiritual matters would set his spiritual system apart and attract followers from many diverse circles.* He especially wanted to differentiate Anthroposophy from modern religions that rely entirely on faith.** He claimed that Anthroposophy allows people to directly explore the spirit realm through the use of clairvoyance. This is what the ancient religions did (providing "direct experience and insight into spirit worlds") and it is what Anthroposophy does now, he claimed. Thus, we come upon one of many contradictions Steiner stumbled into. Despite his denial that Anthroposophy is a religion, the logic of his statement is that Anthroposophy is a religion like the powerful, ancient religions. Once again, Steiner evidently did not think through what he was saying, but his words tell us that Anthroposophy is a religion.
* He adopted the notion of "spiritual science" from Theosophy. Theosophists, like Anthroposophists, call their system "spiritual science."
** And yet he stressed the importance of faith. [See "Faith".]
[Anthroposophical Religious Lessons] “[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. “ [p. 125]
I wonder if Steiner thought through these words, either. He was explaining that he allowed Catholic and Protestant ministers to come into the Waldorf School and provide lessons in religion. But, additionally, "free, nondenominational, religion lessons" were offered in the Waldorf School. Who taught these religion lessons? Anthroposophists, Waldorf teachers — "our own teachers." What did these teachers' efforts produce in this regard? "Anthroposophic religious lessons were introduced in our school.“ How could this be — how could there be such a thing as "Anthroposophic religious lessons"? Because Anthroposophy is a religion, and Waldorf teachers, as practitioners of Anthroposophy, are exponents of the Anthroposophical faith. And, significantly, Anthroposophical religious instruction was introduced into Waldorf schools. It was optional; it as "free;" but it was present. (It was "nondenominational" in the sense that it was not associated with any established religion — except for the religion called Anthroposophy.)
[Conveying Religion Properly] "We must not teach accepted dogmas or fixed formulas as ethical and religious instruction; rather, we must learn to nurture the divine spiritual element that lives in the human soul. Only then shall we guide children correctly, without impinging on their inner freedom to eventually choose their own religious denomination. Only then will students be spared inner uncertainty on discovering that one adult is a member of the High Church while another may be a Puritan. We must succeed in enabling students to grasp the real essence of religion.” [p. 283]
This is a concise statement of the religious goal of Waldorf schooling: "to nurture the divine spiritual element that lives in the human soul" and thereby to help students "grasp the real essence of religion.” In other words, Waldorf schools provide the spiritual guidance children need, exposing them to true religion. In other, other words, Anthroposophy is a religion and Waldorf schools train their students in this religion.* The picture is complicated a bit by Steiner's insistence that students will be free to choose their own religious denominations later in life. (In these lectures, Steiner was addressing non-Anthroposophists; hence, many of his statements are carefully conceived bits of window dressing.) In a sense, of course, it is true that children will be able "eventually to choose" — every child becomes an adult who theoretically can make free choices, at least within the privacy of the soul. But after a child has spent many years in a Waldorf school, being "guided" "correctly" toward the "real essence" of religion, s/he will likely choose to continue embracing the faith that Waldorf teachers revere as the truth: Anthroposophy.**
* At the first Waldorf School, overt Anthroposophical religious lessons were offered only to students who opted for them, or whose parents requested them. However, the religion of Anthroposophy infused virtually all classes and activities for all students are all grade levels, year after year. For the majority of students, training in Anthroposophy was thus covert. Much the same is true at typical Waldorf schools today. [See, e.g., "Sneaking It In".]
** For more on the Waldorf conception of freedom, see "Freedom".
[Non-Theoretical Religious Character] “[I]n keeping with its true spirit, the anthroposophic movement is always prepared to enter every branch of human life. Imagine that a different movement of a more theoretical religious character had decided to build a center....” [pp. 5-6]
We will get off the subject of religion in a moment, but note that here Steiner distinguishes between Anthroposophy and movements that have "a more theoretical religious character." There is nothing theoretical about the religious character of Anthroposophy. Anthroposophy is a definite, real religion that expects concrete actions from its adherents, as in teaching at Waldorf schools or working in other ways to spread Anthroposophy into "every branch of human life."
Concerning a movement's "centers": Every Waldorf school is, in sense, an Anthroposophical center.* So are most other institutions created and manned by Steiner's followers. But Anthroposophy also has an uber-center, its Vatican or Mecca — the Goetheanum, the movement's worldwide headquarters, which is in effect a cathedral.** Located in Dornach, Switzerland, "The Goetheanum was built as the right and proper place for the anthroposophic movement." [p. 5]
* See "Schools as Churches".
** See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"
[Not Merely Religious] “[A]nthroposophy is in its right element only when it can fertilize every aspect of life. It must never be seen merely as a philosophical and religious movement.” [p. 7]
True. Anthroposophy is not merely "a philosophical and religious movement." It is also an educational movement, a cultural movement, an artistic movement, and so forth.* But among its attributes are its "philosophical and religious" elements. It is, among other things, a religious movement.
OK. Enough about religion. On to other things.
* See, e.g., "Threefolding".
[Avoiding the Harmful Intellect] “[I]f children are being educated only in an intellectual way, their inborn capacities and human potential become seriously impaired and wither away. For some, this realization has led to a longing to replace intellectuality with something else. One has appealed to children’s feelings and instincts. To steer clear of the intellect, we have appealed to their moral and religious impulses.” [p. 16]
Educating children "only in an intellectual way" would be a mistake, Steiner says. Other elements of a child's nature also need to be fostered, as Waldorf schools aim to do. But note that Waldorf schools actually go to an extreme of anti-intellectualism. Steiner taught that the intellect is deadly and, indeed, it functions under the mastery of the horrible demon Ahriman. If we emphasize intellect, we may fall under the sway of “the supreme intellectual power: Ahriman.” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 167. The intellect is destructive. “The intellect destroys or hinders.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophical Press, 1995), p. 233. Thus, in Waldorf schools, use of the intellect is carefully hedged, limited, and — wherever possible — avoided. "To steer clear of the intellect, we have....”
[Science: Bad] “[A]n intellectual, natural scientific philosophy reduces the reality of human existence to a mere illusion [because science is not spiritual] ... [E]ven if people today do not recognize the way science affects their attitudes toward life, the negative consequences are nevertheless real. But the majority are not prepared to face reality. Nor do such theories remain the prerogative of an educated minority, because they reach the masses through magazines and popular literature, often in very subtle ways. And, against the background of this negative disposition of soul, we try to educate our children.” [SOUL ECONOMY, p. 21]
Waldorf schools not only distrust intellect (what we might call thinking), they distrust modern science and modern knowledge generally. They have more interest in the "wisdom" of the ancients (which is actually ignorance) than in the knowledge available to us in the modern world.*
It is worth pausing to consider whether an educational system can rationally be based on rejection of intellect and modern knowledge. All sorts of alarm bells should start ringing. But Steiner and his followers would not hear them. Rationality holds little appeal for Anthroposophists or Waldorf faculties. "You will injure children if you educate them rationally.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 61.
[Technology] "I do not object at all to the use of typewriters ... Nevertheless, I find it is important to realize its implications ... We can clearly see what is happening inside the human body once we have reached the stage of clairvoyant imagination. In objective seeing such as this, every stroke of a typewriter key becomes a flash of lightning. And during the state of imagination, what one sees as the human heart is constantly struck and pierced by those lightning flashes. As you know, typewriter keys are not arranged according to any spiritual principle, but according to frequency of their use, so that we can type more quickly.* Consequently, when the fingers hit various keys, the flashes of lightning become completely chaotic. In other words, when seen with spiritual vision, a terrible thunderstorm rages when one is typing.” [SOUL ECONOMY, pp. 145-146]
Not only do Waldorf schools distrust intellect (what we might call thinking), science, and modern knowledge (what we might call truth), they have a deep aversion of modern technology, such as televisions and computers. Waldorf schools today typically have "media policies" requiring families to limit kids' exposure to such machines. We can see the roots of this attitude in Steiner's very peculiar statement about typing. Using clairvoyance, or "clairvoyant imagination," or "the state of imagination," one can perceive the dreadful lightning that bursts from typewriter keys. (The Waldorf approach is based on the use of clairvoyance — another subject we might pause over.**)
Obviously, technological devices can cause harm if they are misused. Watching too much TV or playing too many computer games is bad for kids. But typing? Just imagine what Steiner would have said about electric typewriters!*** Anthroposophists think the use of electricity poses grave moral risks. “The exploitation of electric forces — for example in information and computing technologies — spreads evil over the Earth in an immense spider’s web.” — Anthroposophist Richard Seddon, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND: From the Work of Rudolf Steiner (Temple Lodge Publishing, 1993), p. 24. In general, Steiner's followers consider computers and other electronic devices to fall within the realm of Ahriman — they are wicked, destructive, and greatly to be feared.**** Steiner himself warned that electricity will develop into a cataclysmic force of destruction. "[E]vil will invade the earth by coming in an immediate way out of the forces of electricity.” — Rudolf Steiner, “The Overcoming of Evil”, ANTHROPOSOPHIC NEWS SHEET No. 7/8 (General Anthroposophic Society, 1948), GA 273.
All of this damaging stuff — intellect, science, technology — is limited as much as possible in Waldorf schools. Instead, the schools seek to honor "clairvoyant imagination" — which is a delusion. The Waldorf emphasis on imagination, which can seem so alluring, is actually a commitment to clairvoyance, and to backward thinking, preferring the "wisdom" to the ancients to the verifiable knowledge acquired in modern times. We'll deal with these matters more in the following sections.
* Actually, the standard typewriter layout — QWERTYUIOP — was designed to slow down typing, not speed it up. Better, faster layouts have been proposed but not adopted. "Despite test results which show that alternative layouts...permit faster typing, the traditional layout persists and now has been carried over into...personal computers." — ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA.
** See "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness".
*** All typewriters in Steiner's day were manual. (Steiner died in 1925.)
**** See "Spiders, Dragons and Foxes".
[Types of Knowledge] “If you want to arrange these levels of higher knowledge in a more or less systematic order, we can say, first of all, that in ordinary life we have knowledge of the material world, which we could call naturalistic knowledge. Then we come to knowledge gained through imagination, which has a kind of artistic nature. The next step is knowledge attained through inspiration, which is, in essence, a moral one. Finally we reach knowledge through intuition, which is like religious experiences, but only in the sense just described [that is, it is goes beyond ordinary religious feeling and provides objective knowledge of spiritual matters].” [p. 74]
Steiner liked lists and hierarchies. He liked to rank things. He ranked types of knowledge from the lowest (natural sciences, ordinary knowledge of the physical world) to progressively higher types: imagination, then inspiration, and higher yet, intuition. What he was actually talking about is clairvoyance. His entire system depends on the existence of clairvoyance. The problem is that clairvoyance does not exist, or at a minimum we have no real evidence that it exists.* Imagination, inspiration, and intuition are — in the Steiner system — stages of clairvoyance. Steiner taught that we can cultivate these now (and such cultivation is a goal in Waldorf schools), but in the future all humans who evolve properly will have these types of clairvoyant consciousness as a natural gift. Specifically (get ready for it), he said we will all possess perfect imagination when we evolve to Future Jupiter, we will all have perfect inspiration when we evolve to Future Venus, and we will all have perfect intuition when we evolve to Future Vulcan. (Yes, Vulcan.)** The question for parents in the here and now is whether you want people who believe such things to "educate" your children.***
* See "Clairvoyance".
** These are not the planets we see in the sky today; they are future incarnations of the entire solar system. After the solar system in its present form ceases to exist, it will reincarnate as Future Jupiter. Later the solar system will return as Future Venus, and later still as Future Vulcan. [See "Future Stages".]
*** For more on these matters, see "Jupiter Consciousness", "Venus Consciousness", and "Vulcan Consciousness" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.
[Clairvoyance] “Lower forms of clairvoyance, such as telepathy, telekinesis and so on — described correctly or wrongly — occur abnormally in human life and are simply the result of this premature aging in the central period of life. When this process of aging occurs at the proper time, people experience it in a healthy way, whereas if it appears in the twenties, a person gains clairvoyance of a low order.” [p. 53]
Here we see Steiner ranking things again. There are low forms of clairvoyance and high forms, he said. Of course, his own form of clairvoyance — "exact" clairvoyance — is highest.* Note, too, the very strange proposition that young people will develop the wrong kind of clairvoyance if they mature too quickly. Waldorf schools aim to retard the maturation process, aiming to keep kids young as long as possible. The idea is that young children still have memories of the spirit realm where they lived before birth on Earth, and these should be preserved. As one Waldorf educator has written, kids have "a dream-like yet intensely real awareness of spiritual worlds. This awareness fades quickly in early childhood, but fragments of it live on in the child for a much longer time than most people imagine ... [I]n a Waldorf school, therefore, one of the tasks of the teachers is to keep the children young."** This raises a question: Should schools retard the growth (mental, spiritual, psychological...) of children? Isn't the goal, rather, to assist children as they mature, bearing in mind that different children mature at greatly different rates, and each child should be assisted to develop her/his capacities to the full? In Waldorf schools, children are intentionally held back.
* See "Exactly."
** See "Thinking Cap".
[Steiner’s Own Clairvoyance] “I will need to use the insights of clairvoyant consciousness to give you a clear description of what happens in young children ... When young children sleep, the soul and spiritual members leave the physical sheaths (just as in any adult) and reenter at the moment of awaking. In children, however, there is still no significant difference between conscious experiences while awake and unconscious experiences during sleep.” [pp. 214-215]
It is very good of Steiner to share with us the fruits of his clairvoyance. (In this case, the fruits include information about two of our nonphysical bodies, the astral body and the “I” — they leave the physical body at night and return in the morning!)* Sadly, Steiner's clairvoyance seemed to misfire an awful lot, as we have already seen.** The underlying issue is whether clairvoyance exists at all. If it doesn't (and it doesn't), then none of Steiner's "clairvoyant" observations has any validity. And if none of these observations has validity, then the Waldorf system — which hinges on Steiner's observations and on the "clairvoyance" exercised by Waldorf faculty members — has no validity. Note that Steiner unashamedly offers us the fruits of his clairvoyance. He thereby, unwittingly, lets us know that we should distrust him and his creations — including Waldorf education.
* See "Incarnation". Steiner said. "We are two people in the night."
** See "Steiner's Blunders".
[Incarnation and Freedom] “Anthroposophy shows us that — apart from what a person may have developed even before birth or conception while still in the spiritual world and apart from what one will meet again after death — the very purpose of earthly incarnation involves enlivening the impulse toward freedom. This impulse depends completely on plunging into an earthly body. This freedom can be realized only during physical incarnation; we can attain freedom only while living on earth, and when we enter other worlds, we can take with us only the degree of freedom we have attained here on earth.” [p. 102]
"Freedom" is a refrain used throughout Anthroposophy and Waldorf schooling. The Steinerian conception of freedom is terribly limited, however. Essentially, it means freedom from limiting circumstances, not freedom for making independent choices among an array of good options. There is only one truly good option, in the Waldorf universe: It is to follow Steiner. Essentially, we can be "free" here on Earth because here we are presented with both good and evil. We can choose the good or we can choose the evil. But choosing evil has dire consequences — you will ultimately destroy yourself, losing your soul. So, really, you have only one positive option, which becomes effectively mandatory: You must "freely" choose the good, which is Anthroposophy. [See "Freedom". While you're at it, you might also look at "Democracy".]
The other main element in this quotation is the concept of reincarnation. Steiner taught that we live many, many lives, returning to Earth over and over as we try to evolve upward spiritually. [See "Reincarnation".] This is a core concept behind Waldorf schooling. Whether there is any truth in it is, perhaps, questionable. Steiner never offered any real evidence to support the concept of reincarnation. Instead, as was his custom, he simply made pronouncements, ex cathedra as it were.
[Incarnation and School] “Incarnating human beings must first penetrate the body before establishing a relationship with the external world. First, the head forces are active. Later, these forces are poured into the muscles, then into the skeletal system, and after sexual maturity is reached, adolescents are able to enter the world. Only then can they stand properly in the world. This gradual process of incarnation needs to be considered if we want to find the right choice and presentation of class material.” [p. 184]
We enter each new life on Earth slowly, Steiner said. The physical body is born, followed seven years later by the etheric body, which in turn is followed after another seven years by the astral body, and so on. [See "Incarnation".] Gradually, gradually, the child emerges as a fully formed human being. Waldorf teachers should bear this process in mind when making "the right choice and presentation of class material.” [See "Curriculum" and "Methods".] Of course, if there are no such things as etheric bodies, astral bodies, reincarnation, and so forth, then Waldorf teachers make their educational decisions on the basis of exactly nothing. But this nothing looms large in Waldorf pedagogy. The entire Waldorf curriculum and the methods of Waldorf education are built around Steiner's occult, clairvoyant account of childhood development — the process of incarnating, once again, to begin a new earthly life.
[Backward Evolution] “The constitution of fish...occurred during a later period of earthly evolution than that of the human being, and even then it met different outer conditions.” [p. 168]
Evolution is another key Anthroposophical concept. Good people evolve upward, bad people evolve downward. Also, we did not evolve from animals; animals evolved from us. This is why (contrary to all evidence — what we might call truth) Steiner said that fish came later than humans. There is no evidence to support Steiner on these points. [In fact, the fossil record disproves Steiner's notion that animals evolved from humans, or specifically that humans evolved before fish. In the Waldorf system, however, inconvenient facts are often blocked out, while faith in Steiner and his fabulous inventions (Anthroposophy, biodynamics, Waldorf schooling) is affirmed. [See, e.g., "Evolution, Anyone?"]
[Temperaments and Bodies] “To a certain extent, sanguine children display the opposite characteristics of the melancholic or phlegmatic child. Young melancholics are immersed in bodily nature. Phlegmatic children are drawn outward to the spheres of infinity, because they are so strongly linked to their ether body. The ether body always inclines outward toward infinite totality; it disperses into the cosmos just a few days after death. Sanguine children live in what we call the astral, or soul, body. This member of the human being is different from the physical or ether bodies inasmuch as it is not concerned with anything temporal or spatial. It exists beyond the realm of time and space.” [p. 210]
Waldorf teachers generally abide by Steiner's doctrine that children fall into four categories: sanguine, melancholic, phlegmatic, and choleric. These are actually the ancient "temperaments," based on "humours" (bodily fluids) — a system of classification that science tossed out long ago. It is bunk.* But in Waldorf schools, it is gospel — and students are segregated on the basis of these nonsensical categories. The psychological effect of such segregation can be heavy. [See "Humouresque" and "Temperaments".]
Temperaments, as conceived in Waldorf belief, are about as real the the etheric and astral bodies — two of three invisible bodies that, according to Waldorf belief, incarnate as a child grows. The etheric body incarnates at about age seven, the astral body at about age fourteen, and the ego body or ego (or "I") at about age twenty-one. All of this is fantasy, but it is taken as revealed Truth in the Waldorf movement. [See "Incarnation".]
* "Humour, also spelled Humor, (from Latin 'liquid' or 'fluid'), in early Western physiological theory, one of the four fluids of the body that were thought to determine a person’s temperament and features. In the ancient physiological theory still current in the European Middle Ages and later, the four cardinal humours were blood, phlegm, choler (yellow bile), and melancholy (black bile); the variant mixtures of these humours in different persons determined their 'complexions,' or 'temperaments,' their physical and mental qualities, and their dispositions." — ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA, Sept. 27, 2014. Modern science and medicine have dispensed with this ancient system.
[Temperaments and Teaching] “[A]part from the adopted features that children have unconsciously copied from their environment, they also bear their very own individual characteristics when they enter school. They are less pronounced than similar characteristics found in adults, features that we associate with melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic, or choleric temperaments. Nevertheless, the children’s nature, too, is definitely colored by what could be called their temperamental disposition, so we can speak of children with melancholic, phlegmatic, sanguine, and choleric tendencies. It is essential for teachers to acquire a fine perception of the manifold symptoms and characteristics that arise from children’s temperamental dispositions and to find the right way of dealing with them.” [p. 209]
So, just as Waldorf teachers must make decisions based on the doctrine of reincarnation, they must make decisions on the basis of "temperament." All such decisions are, in reality, baseless. (In making these decisions, Waldorf teachers should use their powers of clairvoyance. But this too is nonsense. Or they may consult horoscopes, but this too is...)* Treating children as individuals is clearly a good idea; noting that they come with "their very own individual characteristics" is correct. But this is undercut by the notion that children fall into four distinct categories. All "phlegmatic" children, for instance, are considered essentially alike, and they are deemed to be quite different from "sanguine" children, for instance. (We find the same problem in the Waldorf notion that all seven-year-old children are essentially alike, and so are all eight-year-old kids, and all other kids of all other ages.) The Waldorf system gives lip service to individuality, but actually it slots kids in large (and arbitrary, and fallacious) categories, blurring individuality and even suppressing it. Note that, in Waldorf education, recognizing the "individual characteristics" of a child entails detecting the child's "temperamental disposition...melancholic, phlegmatic, sanguine, [or] choleric."**
* In part, the decisions are based on children's behavior and body type. Tall, slender kids are usually typed as melancholic; short, stout ones are choleric; broad-shouldered ones are phlegmatic; "normal" ones are sanguine. One of the worst elements of the Waldorf belief in temperaments is that children are stereotyped, at least in part, on the basis of physical appearance.
** As in ancient belief about temperaments, in Waldorf belief children may possess various combinations of the humours and thus different, individual shadings of temperament. However, as we see here, in Waldorf belief kids are usually slotted into the four generalized, stereotypical categories, with individual variations largely overlooked.
[Authority and Teeth] “[The] sense for authority in children between the change of teeth and puberty must be respected and nurtured, because it represents an inborn need at this age. Before one can use freedom appropriately in later life, one must have experienced shy reverence and a feeling for adult authority between the change of teeth and puberty.” [p. 151]
Steiner taught — and therefore Waldorf teachers believe — that children grow up in seven-year stages, ages 0-7, 7-14, and 14-21. Some Waldorf teachers consider this to be Steiner's most important educational contribution. But, sadly, it too is baseless. [See "Most Significant".]
About teeth: Steiner said that baby teeth fall out when the etheric body arrives. There are reasons to be — putting things mildly — skeptical about this notion. [See, e.g., "Coming Undone".]
About authority: Steiner said that Waldorf teachers should be unquestioned authority figures. "The situation is that we need to create a mood, namely, that the teacher has something to say that the children should neither judge nor discuss." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 494. Steiner discouraged discussion and even the asking of questions. "[T]each the children respect. The children should not raise their hands so much." — Ibid., p. 65. Of course, not all Waldorf teachers abide by such precepts. But many do. It is only in the final years of high school — long after they have received, if things have gone according to plan, a thoroughgoing indoctrination — that Waldorf students are generally considered qualified to ask many questions and begin formulating ideas of their own. (If things have gone according to plan, those ideas will be thoroughly colored by the Anthroposophical training the kids have received.)
[Karma] "Since our will is woven into all our actions, we can see everywhere how destiny confronts us in the events of life. One could quote many others who, through observing ordinary life, reached the same conclusion. When we look at life’s external events, we find confirmation of the hidden truths of karma." [p. 103]
Here's another basic Anthroposophical doctrine you may want to mull over: karma. Steiner said it is real and really important. [See "Karma".] But it too is...
[Avoiding Illness through Geometry] "Those who can look more deeply into life know that many people have been saved from neurasthenia, hysteria, and worse afflictions simply by learning how to observe triangles, quadrilaterals, tetrahedra, and other geometrical realities in the right way." [p. 207]
The entry for this quotation in the book's index is "Illness, avoided through proper teaching of geometry." This is another striking indication of how Waldorf teachers think. Really. I'm not making up this stuff. Do you want people who think this way to make decisions about your child? (Does Tommy feel ill? Well, then, he'd better do some geometry.) Steiner, not incidentally, attributed all sorts of important powers to geometry (which happened to be one of his favorite subjects when he was a boy). For instance, “Basic geometric concepts awaken clairvoyant abilities.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOURTH DIMENSION: Sacred Geometry, Alchemy, and Mathematics (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 92. I'm not making up this stuff.
[Dreams] “Adults tend to dismiss [children's] dreams as childish nonsense, but if you can experience their underlying reality, children’s dreams, so different from adult dreams, are in fact very interesting. Of course, children cannot express themselves clearly when speaking about their dreams, but there are ways of discovering what they are trying to say. And then we find that, through images of spirit beings in their dreams, children dimly experience the sublime powers of wisdom that help shape the brain and other physical organs. If we approach children’s dreams with a reverence in tune with their experience, we see a pervading cosmic wisdom at work in them. From this point of view (forgive this somewhat offensive statement), children are much wiser, much smarter than adults. And when teachers enter the classroom, they should be fully aware of this abundance of wisdom in the children. Teachers themselves have outgrown it, and what they have gained instead — knowledge of their own experience — cannot compare with it in the least." [p. 94]
Again, we see Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf faculties rejecting knowledge in favor of fantasies, in this case the dreams of children. What a way to run a school! Keep the kids young, work with their karmas, their temperaments, and their states of reincarnation, and revere their dreams. By the way, Steiner said that Waldorf teachers should also consult their own dreams; he taught that his followers can develop the power to dream accurately and truly, so that the contents of dreams become reliable information. [See "Dreams" and "Thinking Cap".]
Concerning the "ways of discovering what they are trying to say" — the central tool Steiner claimed to use for all investigations was, as we have seen, clairvoyance.
As for "spirit beings" in children's dreams, according to Anthroposophical belief these are generally gods — Anthroposophy recognizes almost numberless gods — but some may also be gnomes, sylphs, fairies, giants, dwarfs, and other beings considered real by Anthroposophists. [See "Polytheism" and "Beings".] In reality, of course, children's dreams are populated by figments of the imagination, just as all dreams are. But, as we have seen, the Waldorf approach is not generally characterized by rational recognition of the truth.
[Overt vs. Covert] "Please understand that a Waldorf school — or any school that might spring from the anthroposophic movement — would never wish to teach anthroposophy as it exists today. I would consider this the worst thing we could do. Anthroposophy in its present form is a subject for adults and, as you can see from the color of their hair, often quite mature adults. Consequently, spiritual science [i.e., Anthroposophy] is presented through literature and word of mouth in a form appropriate only to adults. I should consider the presentation to students of anything from my books THEOSOPHY or HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS the worst possible use of this material; it simply must not happen. If we taught such material, which is totally unsuitable for schoolchildren (forgive a somewhat trivial expression used in German), we would make them want 'to jump out of their skin.' Naturally, in class lessons they would have to submit to whatever the teacher brings, but inwardly they would experience such an urge. Anthroposophy as such is not to be taught in a Waldorf school. It’s important that spiritual science does not become mere theory or a worldview based on certain ideas; rather, it should become a way of life, involving the entire human being. Thus, when teachers who are anthroposophists enter school, they should have developed themselves so that they are multifaceted and skillful in the art of education. And it is this achievement that is important, not any desire to bring anthroposophy to your students. Waldorf education is meant to be pragmatic. It is meant to be a place where anthroposophic knowledge is applied in a practical way." [pp. 122-123]
So, inevitably, in the end we circle back to the question of the role played by Anthroposophy in Waldorf schools. Steiner and his followers have often denied that Waldorf schools teach the kids Anthroposophical doctrines. In a sense, this is more or less true, depending on the teacher and students in any given Waldorf school. But in a larger sense, it is false. Notice that Steiner says, above, that teaching Anthroposophy "as it exists today" would be wrong, since the material is beyond kids' grasp. But this leaves open a large door. What if a Waldorf teacher found a way to bring Anthroposophy down to the kids' level so they could grasp it? Indeed, Steiner told Waldorf teachers to do this. Thus, chastising a Waldorf teacher, Steiner said the teacher had failed to explain Anthroposophy is a way the kids could grasp — he did not say that the teacher was wrong to bring Anthroposophy into the classroom: “The problem you have is that you have not always followed the directive to bring what you know anthroposophically into a form you can present to little children. You have lectured the children about anthroposophy when you told them about your subject. You did not transform anthroposophy into a child’s level.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, pp. 402-403. And Steiner acknowledged that, despite any denials, Anthroposophy be present in the Waldorf curriculum. "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.” [Ibid., p. 495.]
No, the truth is, Waldorf schools are meant to draw students and their parents toward Anthroposophy. That's why the schools exist, and all the denials are merely smoke blown into the faces of the unwary. Bear in mind that, in the long denial we have just now seen ("Please understand..."), Steiner was talking to outsiders. But in the admissions we have also seen ("transform anthroposophy into a child's level," "anthroposophy will be in the school"), Steiner was talking to Waldorf faculty members.
When Anthroposophists blow smoke, they may or may not know what they are doing. A crucial doctrine of Anthroposophy is that the deepest wisdom is "mystery" wisdom — it is occult, mystical, hidden. Only initiates should be told the "truths" of mystery wisdom; the rest of us are unequipped to handle such marvelous mysteries. [See "Inside Scoop".] Thus, Anthroposophists think they are acting properly when they withhold certain kinds of information from outsiders.
Even when dealing with "truth" that stands at a lower level than "mystery wisdom," Anthroposophists often want to withhold it. Steiner explicitly instructed Waldorf teachers to keep the general public in the dark, as when he said "We should be quiet about how we handle things in the school, we should maintain a kind of school confidentiality. We should not speak to people outside the school, except for the parents who come to us with questions, and in that case, only about their [own] children...." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 10. An even more dramatic — and shocking — example: "Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings [i.e., they are subhuman] ... [W]e do not want to shout that to the world. Our opposition is already large enough ... We do not want to shout such things out into the world.” [Ibid., p. 650. See "Secrets".]
So Waldorf faculties want to keep mum about various matters. We may see the result as dishonesty; Waldorf teachers may see it very differently. They think that they are serving the Truth — that is, Anthroposophy — in all of their actions, and thus they typically think that their actions are virtuous. At some level, they may very well believe the denials and claims that they regularly issue. They may believe that, truly, Anthroposophy is not a religion; and, truly, Waldorf schools do not promote Anthroposophy; and, truly, Waldorf schools foster freedom. They would be mistaken in all of this, but they would be honestly mistaken. Like Steiner, Anthroposophists often have an odd relationship with truth. Indeed, becoming an Anthroposophist requires you to detach yourself from the truth — the real universe — and enter a fantasy realm instead. From within that fantasy realm, perception may be quite blurred. For this reason, the ultimate victims of Anthroposophy's distortion of reality are Anthroposophists themselves — they convince themselves that what is false (Anthroposophy) is true, and what is true (modern science and scholarship) is false. Membership in any cult such as Anthroposophy usually depends on willing self-deception. [See "Fooling (Ourselves)", "Deception", and "Why? (Oh Why? Oh Why?)".]
Anthroposophists may be good, caring, compassionate people who are entirely sincere in what they think and do. But none of this excuses what Waldorf teachers do to youngsters. An informed adult may make a conscious decision to join a cult. But children are in no position to make such a choice, and Waldorf schools do not openly present them with such a choice. Instead, Waldorf schools immerse children in an Anthroposophical atmosphere week after week, month after month, year after year. The ultimate result — whether or not all Waldorf teachers consciously understand this — is to pull children toward Anthroposophical occultism. This is what Waldorf schools are set up to do; this is the outcome Waldorf schools are designed to achieve, whether or not all Waldorf teachers consciously understand this.
— Roger Rawlings
“The spiritual world is always round us, and we can work more consciously if we note the transition as we move from the earthly world to the spiritual world and vice versa. Thus at night we can say as we enter sleep, ‘Now I am entering the spiritual world,’ and in the morning as we awaken, we can say, ‘Now I am entering the earthly world.’” — Helmut von Kügelgen, essay #1 in WORKING WITH THE ANGELS (Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America 2004), p. 3.
Anthroposophists think that when they go to sleep, they are entering the spiritual world, and they tell themselves that the experiences they have then are more significant than the experiences they have when awake. The truth is somewhat different. When people fall asleep, they are asleep, and the experiences they have then — dreams — have little or no real meaning at all. Dreams are jumbles of random images produced while the off-duty brain freewheels.*
Anthroposophists mistake their fantasies and delusions — those that come to them in the night and also those that they cultivate during the day — for clairvoyant wisdom. Anthroposophists think they often enter or at least perceive the spiritual world. They are mistaken, but this error forms the core of their ideology.
(Note, by the way, that WORKING WITH THE ANGELS was published by a Waldorf educational organization. WORKING WITH THE ANGELS is a publication intended for the edification and direction of Waldorf teachers. It provides a window into the world of Waldorf schooling. It affirms both the significance of dreams and the lofty self-approval evinced by so many Waldorf teachers: they work hand-in-hand with Angels.)
* Whether dreams have meaning is, of course, debatable. Various theories and approaches have been forwarded throughout human history. Perhaps all that needs be said here, in the context of a discussion of Waldorf education, is that the Waldorf/Anthroposophical view is almost wholly unsupported by any objective research, and indeed it can be found virtually nowhere except in occult, Waldorf/Anthroposophical circles. For an overview of current scholarship about the dream state, you might consult, for instance, THE ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA. The definition of "dream" given there is "a hallucinatory experience that occurs during sleep." [Sept. 26, 2014.]
On many pages here at Waldorf Watch, important points are reiterated multiple times in multiple ways.
(Often, the pages are compilations of items originally posted elsewhere.)
Moreover, some important page sections appear on more than one page.
Whenever you come upon material that you have already read or absorbed, please just skip ahead.
You should soon reach material that is less familiar to you.
Here are items from the Waldorf Watch "news" page.
I have edited them slightly for use here.
In each instance, I quote from a text of interest,
then I offer a response.
A Home for the Gods
A growing question in Waldorf kindergartens and schools is to what extent is Waldorf education bound to the Christian religion and to what extent is it more universal. The answer points towards the modern mysteries, for Waldorf education is centered around the Christ as a Universal Being who has helped humans in their development from the beginning of time. Rudolf Steiner speaks of the Christ in the present time as dwelling in the etheric world surrounding the Earth through which each incarnating soul passes ... Waldorf education strives to create a place in which the highest beings, including the Christ, can find their home, but it is not connected to one religion or another. — Joan Almon, WHAT IS A WALDORF KINDERGARTEN (SteinerBooks, 2007), p. 53.
• ◊ •
Almon is a Waldorf teacher and co-general secretary of the Anthroposophical Society of America.
Waldorf schools usually deny that they are religious institutions — except when they admit that they are. The schools also usually deny that they are specifically Christian — except when they claim that they are. The truth is that Waldorf schools are very religious, but the religion involved is not Christianity — it is Anthroposophy. Here are some of the Anthroposophical doctrines peeking out from the above quotation. Bear in mind that these arise in a SteinerBooks publication about Waldorf kindergartens:
• “Modern mysteries”: Anthroposophy consists of “occult knowledge” or “mystery knowledge" of the spirit worlds attained through clairvoyance. In this sense, "mysteries" are occult spiritual truths.
• “Christ as a Universal Being”: The Christ in Anthroposophy is not the Son of God as Christians usually conceive Him; rather, Christ is the Sun God, a god centered on the Sun who (according to Anthroposophical belief) has been worshipped by various peoples in various ways throughout history. Christ came to Earth more or less as described in the Bible, Steiner taught, but Christ also acted to influence human evolution at other times and places.
• “Christ...dwelling in the etheric world”: In Anthroposophical doctrine, the Second Coming of Christ has already occurred, but not on the physical Earth; instead, Christ returned to the invisible “etheric” world beyond the Earth.
• “Incarnating souls”: This concept is crucial to Waldorf education; Waldorf teachers are less interested in conveying knowledge to their students than in helping the students to incarnate here on Earth.
• “The highest beings”: These are gods. Anthroposophy is polytheistic, it recognizes a vast number of gods arrayed in a hierarchies that extend from a level just a bit higher than humans to levels vastly higher than humans.
• “Create a place in which the highest beings...can find their home”: Anthroposophy is centered on human beings, not gods. Indeed, Anthroposophy teaches that the gods worship us, and we will one day evolve to be higher than the existing nine ranks of gods. The universe is, or will be, ours, and we make it a fit place for the gods to dwell in. Waldorf schools, as an active extension of Anthroposophy, seek to realize this ideal, to the greatest extent possible, here and now. Waldorf schools are, in this sense, temples or churches — homes of the gods. [See "Schools as Churches".]
• “Not connected to one religion”: Anthroposophy is a religion, but a very odd one. Among its odder doctrines is the belief that it is not a religion, per se, but a “science” — specifically, the “occult science” or “spiritual science” described by Rudolf Steiner in such books as AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE. As indicated previously, this “science” entails the use of clairvoyance to study the higher spirit worlds.
[For more on these matters, see, e.g., “Everything”, “Sun God”, “Polytheism”, “Why? Oh Why?”, “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?”, "Was He Christian?", “Incarnation”, etc.]
Destroying by Defining
You ask me to define "anthroposophy." But to do so would be to destroy it. — Waldorf educator John Fentress Gardner, private correspondence.
• ◊ •
Waldorf teachers generally acknowledge that their educational methods arise from Anthroposophy, but they very often try to avoid explaining what Anthroposophy is.
This is — at least sometimes — a conscious ploy, an effort to stave off scrutiny. Waldorf education is built on many occult beliefs, and Waldorf teachers often realize that they must not admit this in public. As Rudolf Steiner said, “[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." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 495. So mum’s the word.
At another level, however, the disinclination to pin down the meaning of “Anthroposophy” is genuine and heartfelt. Anthroposophists believe that their system is a living, evolving spiritual force that transcends ordinary human concepts and categories. Possibly they are right about this. (And possibly they are wrong. One definition of “Anthroposophy” that Anthroposophists usually reject but that is often borne out in practice is this: Anthroposophy is what Rudolf Steiner taught. Whereas Anthroposophists like to think that they are free to attain their own spiritual insights and thus create their own forms of Anthroposophy, to a very large extent what they really do is to devoutly derive their beliefs from Steiner’s lectures and books.)
The practical problem in all of this, if you are interested in Waldorf schools, is that you can hardly form a sensible judgment about the schools if Waldorf faculties refuse to explain their fundamental worldview. So allow me, please, to offer the following. It is by no means complete, but it is sufficiently accurate that many Anthroposophists themselves would likely accept it.
Anthroposophy was conceived by Rudolf Steiner, the author of such books as OCCULT SCIENCE and HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS. The word comes from the Greek and means “human” (anthropos) “wisdom” (sophia). How is this wisdom obtained? Through the use of “spiritual science,” a concept that Steiner adopted from Theosophy and applied to his own teachings. For Anthroposophists today, “Anthroposophy” and “spiritual science” are virtually synonymous. The “science” Steiner described (and that many Waldorf teachers try to practice) is the use of clairvoyance to gain “objective” knowledge of the spirit realm and its residents — including human beings, since we are essentially spirits (we visit the spirit realm every night, and we reside there between our earthly incarnations).
Perhaps you believe in the spirit realm. Perhaps you believe in clairvoyance. Perhaps you think that by sharpening your own clairvoyance you can attain what Steiner called “exact clairvoyance,” which will allow you to make independent, objective investigations of the spirit realm. If so, fine. Then the Waldorf way of thinking is probably acceptable to you.
In any event, you should know what Steiner's followers mean when they speak (or whisper) the word “Anthroposophy” inside a Waldorf school. Don’t passively allow Waldorf teachers to avoid your questions. Most of the activities found in Waldorf schools have their roots in Anthroposophy. Waldorf teachers owe you and your child an honest exposition of this crucial fact.
Outside the Box
From a posting at Waldorf Critics:
Waldorf schools present themselves as aimed at a ‘holistic’, child-centred and age-appropriate education towards freedom. This depiction is misleading, since for anthroposophists, these words have very specific meanings that cannot be easily inferred by an outsider if he has not been initiated into Steiner’s occult teachings. Freedom means freedom for anthroposophy. Child-centred and age-appropriate refer to anthroposophical dogmas on childhood development, depending on mumbo-jumbo conceptions surrounding the number 7. — Peter Bierl, “A Pedagogy for Aryans”
• ◊ •
Kids who graduate from Waldorf schools are sometimes praised for having “interesting minds.” They are “original” thinkers; they "think outside the box.” This sounds fine, and it would seem to support the claim that Waldorf schools prepare students to make original, free choices during their adult lives. But what Waldorf grads typically display is not so much originality as the result of an unconventional form of mental training. Waldorf students are taught to rely on their imaginations and intuitions, to “feel” more than “think.” Ultimately, Anthroposophists believe in clairvoyance, not rational thought, and the effects of this belief can infect the consciousness of students educated by Anthroposophists. [See “Thinking Cap” and “Steiner’s Specific”.]
(Returning to Bierl’s statement, above: He mentions the Waldorf conception of “holistic” schooling and the strange power of the number 7. You can get a taste of Waldorf’s unconventionality by looking into “Holistic Education”, “Magic Numbers”, and “Most Significant”.)
* Anthroposophical thinking allows a slight bit of wriggle room — very slight. You can elect a form of Anthroposophy that is a bit more gnostic, or one that is a bit more Rosicrucian, or a bit more Hindu-ish, or a bit more Buddhist-ish — but these are minor shadings. Anthroposophists believe, for instance, that all “true” forms of spiritual science must recognize the central importance of Christ. (So much for overly Hindu-ish or Buddhist-ish approaches.) And Christ must be recognized as the Sun God. (So much for mainstream Christianity. [See “Sun God”].) Very little variation is permissible. The path suited to modern humans, Steiner said, is the Rosicrucian/Anthroposophical path. Those who take this path are less dependent on a guru than if they were to take other paths, but still the ultimate options available are just two: 1) Anthroposophy, advancement, life or 2) anti-Anthroposophy, doom, death.
Steiner did not hesitate to speak of “the path” — the one and only good choice. “Those who come to me wanting to hear the truths available through esotericism and nevertheless refuse to walk the path are like schoolchildren who want to electrify a glass rod and refuse to rub it. But, without friction, the rod will not be charged with electricity. This is similar to the objection raised against the practice of esotericism.” — Rudolf Steiner, FIRST STEPS IN INNER DEVELOPMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), p. 25. You can’t electrify the glass rod without rubbing it; you can’t hear “the truths” without walking “the path.” Steiner goes on to say “No one tells you to become an esotericist. People come to esotericism of their own volition.” [Ibid.] There, volition: freedom! But what happens to those who don’t walk the path? Their doom is terrible. [See “Sphere 8”.] Only those who want to see mankind destroyed refuse to accept Steiner’s one-true-way: “[O]nly those who are willing to see human beings pass into the Eighth Sphere [i.e., perdition] can have any valid objection to this spiritual-scientific movement.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT MOVEMENT IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), lecture 5, GA 254.
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• ◊ •
Waldorf schools often serve as portals into an alternative world: the world of Anthroposophy. There is much beauty in these portals and in that world. Steiner stressed the need for schools to surround children with beauty, and Waldorf schools often accomplish this. The purpose is occult — ultimately, the purpose is initiation into the occult system Steiner devised, Anthroposophy. But there is no denying that, on the surface at least, Waldorf schools are often very attractive. [See “Magical Arts”.]
In addition to stressing beauty, the Anthroposophical lifestyle contains other appealing elements: emphasis on natural materials,* simple wooden and woolen toys, organic foods, an unhurried daily pace, green values, and the like. The obverse of these attractions, however, is that in Waldorf communities most of the advantages of contemporary life are rejected. Anthroposophical life generally turns its back on the modern world and moves in a retrograde direction, back into the darkness of superstition and mysticism. Steiner, of course, claimed that his thinking was progressive and forward-looking, but really it was largely medieval. [See “Superstition”, “Magic”, "The Ancients", and “Occultism”.]
If you become enamored of a Waldorf school and its Anthroposophically centered community, you may find yourself drawn further and further into an all-encompassing way of life. You can find books on how to raise your children in a proper Waldorf way, how to be a proper Waldorf mother, how to be a proper Waldorf housewife, how to make bread the Waldorf way, how to make Waldorf soups, and so on and so forth. You can confine yourself to Waldorf-style songs, Waldorf-style poems, Waldorf-style prayers. You can outfit your home with Waldorf-inspired furniture and decorate your walls and windows with Waldorf-inspired art. You can ingest Waldorfish vitamins, and use Waldorfish herbal medicines, and anoint yourself with Waldorfish skin-care products. You can let Waldorf take over all parts of your life. [See, e.g., the array of books shown in “Discussions” at the Waldorf Watch Annex.]
The potentially all-inclusive nature of Anthroposophical life is one reason some people call Anthroposophy a cult. The other major reasons are that Anthroposophy consists of peculiar spiritual teachings, and it depends almost wholly on the pronouncements of a single individual: Rudolf Steiner.
Think carefully before entering a Waldorf portal.
* Is it possible that the Nanaimo window hanging is made of plastic? Heaven forfend.
Anthroposophists generally practise what they preach...but only up to a point. We certainly have no difficulty in rejecting most of the world's recognized authorities, along with the orthodoxies of politics, economics, medicine, science, art, agriculture and education that they represent — except when they just happen to fit in with something that we are pushing. As a group we believe that we have access to knowledge that puts us in a superior position, and the tendency to let this feeling of superiority show is one of the most off-putting features of the anthroposophical personality. — Waldorf teacher Keith Francis. [See "His Education".]
• ◊ •
What is "the anthroposophical personality"? To generalize: There is a layer of sweetness. Anthroposophists believe in angels and fairies and living spirits in the heavens and earth. But there is also smugness, a sense of superiority — Anthroposophists think they know more than anyone else about almost everything (and what they don't know isn't worth knowing). There are traces of pseudo-intellectualism: Anthroposophy is a complex system; adherents read brain-jarring tomes by Rudolf Steiner and others, and they develop intricate rationalizations to support what they read. There is inflexibility. Anthroposophy is The Truth, and anyone who assails it is probably demonic, while anyone who leaves the fold is beneath notice, having chosen The False. There is a countercultural inclination, a certain rebelliousness: Authorities are distrusted while the inviolable authority of the Self is affirmed. Overall, the Anthroposophical personality is defined by delusion. Believing that the heart is truer than the brain, Anthroposophists think that what they feel must be true. Believing in clairvoyance or "higher consciousness," Anthroposophists think that what they sense must be true. And thus rationality withers. Believing only what they wish to believe, Anthroposophists cut themselves off more and more from reality, they become more and more remote and more and more defensive (because, despite their determined efforts, a shadow of doubt haunts the Anthroposophical night).
"Castlecrag's Anna Davis in the labyrinth
she created at the Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School."
[Photo: Elenor Tedenborg; North Shore Times]
From the North Shore Times, Australia:
Anna Davis makes a labyrinth at Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School
Castlecrag’s Anna Davis, who graduated from Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School last year, is a deeper thinker than most.
"I’ve always been interested in the question of the meaning of life and religion," she said. "We did a lot of study on ancient religion and moved to modern systems and beliefs."
...As a practical component of [a research project] she constructed a labyrinth on the school grounds.
"The labyrinth is very relevant as a tool for the search of meaning, and is used all over the world."
The curriculum at most Steiner or Waldorf schools includes extensive exposure to world religions. The underlying reason is that Anthroposophy — the Waldorf religion — is an amalgam of many religions. Thus, teaching students about various religious traditions is a primer for Anthroposophical belief.
• ◊ •
Steiner/Waldorf schools sometimes have labyrinths on their grounds, and often the teachers lead students through spiral walks, tracing the path that a soul is said to travel as it approaches spiritual truth. These constructions and walks have clear religious intent, although the students and parents may not be explicitly informed of this intent. For those who penetrate even slightly below the surface, the spirals serve as muted confessions that Steiner/Waldorf schools are religious institutions. [See, e.g., "Spiritual Agenda" and "Soul School".]
A candlelit Waldorf spiral ceremony.
See News Archive, December, 2010
and October, 2011.
Waldorf students being led on a spiral walk on a beach.
See News Archive, September, 2011.
Disguised religious ceremonies are often enacted in Waldorf schools.
Spiral ceremonies, ceremonies in darkened spaces,
ceremonies involving candles, reverence, worship...
These ceremonies often seem more or less Christian,
and yet threads of paganism run through them.
(See Steiner's statement about spirals at the end of this section.)
"Each Winter the whole school celebrates the Festival of Whitsun, or Pentecost, in a hall beautifully bedecked with flying white doves made for the festival by the Lower School classes. This is the festival of the Holy Spirit, the divine force that became an inner flame, giving inspiration to the Apostles, so that they could carry Christianity into the world each with their own understanding, beyond distinctions of race or culture. Twelve candles representing the twelve disciples are lit from one central candle by a child from each of our twelve classes." — Taikura Rudolf Steiner School
"Our Annual Advent Spiral will take place at Tin Mountain Conservation Center on Sunday, December 5th in the evening. This event, for children four to nine years old, is an opportunity to experience the mood of the season. The children walk through a spiral of evergreen boughs carrying candles in apples. They light their candles from a single candle in the center and as they walk out of the spiral they place their lit candles along the path. The darkened room is gradually illuminated by the shining of the many candles, just as our inner striving brings the light of understanding into the world. Your family is invited to attend and children between the ages of four and nine are welcome to participate. This is a magical evening — please watch your newsletter for more details to come!" — White Mountain Waldorf School
"After singing roll, I choose a child, perhaps this would be the child of the day (or my little helper) to come up and light the candle on the nature table. The candle is lit out of reverence, to set a mood, much like you would at church or at the dinner table. Then the child returns to his place and we say our morning verse which was written by Rudolf Steiner:
'The sun with loving light
makes bright for me each day.
The soul with spirit power
gives strength unto my limbs.
In sunlight shining clear
I do revere, O God,
the strength of humankind,
which thou so graciously
has planted in my soul,
that I with all my might,
may love to work and learn.
From Thee come light and strength.
To Thee rise love and thanks.'
"...[T]he candle is blown out and the class sits down." — Former Waldorf teacher Lani Cox ["Ex-Teacher"]
“One Alamo woman hopes to open a Waldorf school in San Ramon [Texas, USA], bringing this experiental [sic] learning style to the Tri-Valley. Dana Jain, a longtime Waldorf teacher, Luna Loca restaurant owner and resident of Alamo since 2002, is in the early planning stages of opening a Waldorf school in the location previously occupied by Mudd's restaurant. Jain has organized a Wednesday evening candle-lit 'Spiral of Light' ceremony, to help acquaint parents with Waldorf education ... The Spiral of Light activity typically occurs in a Waldorf first grade and appealed to Jain when she discovered the Waldorf method in 1974. Children will walk a short spiral of branches toward a central light. At the center, the children will light a candle, and return outward through the spiral, leaving a candle along the path making the spiral increasingly lit with each child's journey.” — News item, December, 2010
Martinmas is the festival of St. Martin
"The Advent Spiral, a kindergarten and lower grades festival, is one of light, movement, and symbolic change. A spiral of greens or ribbons of cloth is laid out on the floor and decorated with crystals, shells, plants, and carved animals representing the kingdoms of nature. Each child walks to the center, carrying an unlit candle, which is lighted from the tall brightly-burning candle there. Moving outward, the child places the candle somewhere along the spiral pathway, bringing it to light. This passage reflects winter's dark growing to a close and the renewed promise that spring light and life will begin again. The Advent Spiral is also perhaps the most deeply moving community festival of the year. As part of the Adult Education program, opportunity is provided for adults to walk the spiral and experience its beautiful and powerful symbolism. Children are also welcome if they can honor the mood of quiet contemplation." — Austin Waldorf School (Advent is the religious festival preceding Christmas.)
Anthroposophists, having studied Steiner, usually know what various Anthroposophical symbols denote. Many parents and some teachers at Waldorf schools do not know. They should make the effort to learn. Here, for instance, is a statement Steiner made about the spiral as a symbol. Note that he was discussing a religious holiday, Christmas. The Anthroposophical meaning of the spiral symbol in the observance of Christmas (and the period leading to it: Michaelmas and Advent) involves astrology, Atlantis, and the Aryans. This is just one instance of the pagan occultism that lurks within the symbolic ceremonies enacted in Waldorf schools.
"Earthly events are determined by what occurs in spiritual realms. Take the sign of Cancer, for example. Its true significance is not always known, but this sign, which consists of two intertwining spirals, when rightly understood points to the dawn of a new age. Whenever an important event occurs in the world, whenever one stage of evolution is superseded by another thereby bringing something new into the world, two such spiral movements intertwine. One spiral of the sign of Cancer indicates the end of the Atlantean culture; the other, the beginning of the Aryan culture. Our ancestors thus perceived in the heavens the outward sign for the rise of the new Aryan culture. At a later time the sun entered the sign of Gemini, the Twins. This is the sign of good and evil, the sign that governed Persian thinking. Then the sun entered Taurus. Here we have the third post-Atlantean period with its veneration of the Bull in the Egyptian Apis cult, the Babylonian cult of the Bull and its sacrifice, and the Mithraic cult of ancient Persia. Man brought the sacrifice of the Bull down to earth from the heavens where it was inscribed." — Rudolf Steiner, SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL (Anthroposophic Press, 1967), lecture 1, "The Birth of the Light", GA 90f. [For more on this, see "Advent Spiral at Waldorf" at Open Waldorf.]
Having people walk through a spiral, receiving light, means having them enact the spiritual journey toward spiritual enlightenment. This is a deeply religious, mystical, and astrological ceremony. “As the seven planets [of astrology] group themselves within, and pass through the twelve signs [of the Zodiac], so if man is to live into cosmic space he must pass through seven times twelve, or rather seven times eleven stages, to attain spirituality. The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac may be pictured as forming a spiritual periphery in the centre of which is man himself. Now man does not reach the spiritual realm spread around him simply by advancing from a centre outwards; he must expand in spiral form; he must advance, as it were, in seven spiral movements. Each time he completes one spiral turn he has passed through all the twelve signs; he has in this way to pass through seven times twelve points. Man gradually expands in spiral form through the cosmos — this is naturally only an image for what man experiences — and in circling thus, on the seventh journey through the twelve signs, spirituality is reached.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE GOSPEL OF ST. MATTHEW (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co.,1946), lecture 5, GA 123.
Notice how in his readings of Biblical passages, Steiner brings in pagan/astrological concepts that have little or nothing to do with the actual contents of the Bible. Adherents of mainstream faiths should be even more troubled than secularists to learn of pagan Anthroposophical doctrines and their application to Waldorf schooling. [For more on spirals, see "spiral" and "spiral walk" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]
Occasionally Anthroposophists make plain the real nature of Waldorf schooling. They are especially prone to do this when they are addressing each other. But sometimes they let things slip when addressing a general audience, although their statements in that situation may challenge credence. (See the third quotation, below.) Books like the ones shown here are rare, but in today's Internet-connect world, they are easier to find than they once were.
[Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1995]
[Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996]
[Anthroposophic Press, 2004]
“Rudolf Steiner dealt with the Christ Impulse [the spiritual-evolutionary power given us by the Sun God] in pedagogy even before the founding of the first Waldorf school in 1919 ... I have made an attempt to bring many of these indications together and especially to follow the ‘golden thread’ of teaching out of the background of the Father (and Mother) forces in the early grades, of the Son forces in the middle grades, and through the Holy Spirit in the high school.” — René Querido, author, in the preface to THE ESOTERIC BACKGROUND OF WALDORF EDUCATION: The Cosmic Christ Impulse, p. xii.
"To foster the connection between [Waldorf] teachers and the Third Hierarchy [of gods] Rudolf Steiner gave information which could be considered a kind of prayer or meditation. The actual words are available only to the college members [i.e., members of a Waldorf school's inner circle, the "college of teachers"] ... When united in common striving, the archai [gods three levels above man], in particular the Spirit of the Times (Michael), gives to the group the light of wisdom and the creative forces of intuition." — Roy Wilkinson, author, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION — The Waldorf School Approach, pp. 122-123.
“The instruction in religion based on spiritual science [i.e., Anthroposophy] is increasing [in the Waldorf School], and more and more children come to it. Some have even deserted other religious instruction to go to the anthroposophic religious lessons. It is quite understandable, therefore, that people should say that these anthroposophists are rather bad people, since they lead children to abandon their Catholic and Protestant religious lessons for the religious instruction based on spiritual science. We do all we can to discourage them from coming, because it is very difficult for us to find religious teachers in our own area. Nevertheless, despite the fact that we never planned on this instruction except in response to parents’ requests and the unconscious requests of children (to my great distress, I might almost say), the demand for anthroposophic religious instruction constantly increases. And now thanks to this anthroposophic religious instruction the school has a completely Christian [sic] character.” — Rudolf Steiner, lecturer, THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF EDUCATION, p. 115.
Here are some additional quotations from THE ESOTERIC BACKGROUND OF WALDORF EDUCATION. Note that this is a highly authoritative text, published under the imprimatur of the Rudolf Steiner College Press. The author taught at Waldorf schools, helped found Waldorf schools, lectured widely on Anthroposophical subjects, was an educational advisor at numerous Waldorf schools, and served as Director of the Rudolf Steiner College, which has an active Waldorf teacher-training program. René Querido's statements are about as authoritative as any Anthroposophical statements can be, short of those issuing from the mouth or pen of Rudolf Steiner himself.
We will begin with a few quotes that sketch Steiner’s religious teachings, then go on to see how these teaching shape Waldorf schooling.
In the beginning was Christ,
And Christ was with the Gods,
And a God was Christ.
Deep in each human soul
The Being of Christ indwells.
In my soul too He dwells
And He will lead me
To the true meaning of my life.” [pp. 2-3]
Waldorf teachers seek this meaning, this is their meditative path, and this is the path they hope to steer children toward. (Note, by the way, that in Steiner's verse Christ is not the Son of God or a member of the Triune God. Christ is a god, one of many. He "was with the Gods," he was "a God".)
The essential question for any parent considering a Waldorf school is whether you want believers in astrology and occult initiation, among a welter of other occult beliefs, to teach your child. But let's push on, looking more closely:
◊ “The Inner Structure of the Curriculum
The rest of the book continues in much the same vein. Two of the chapter sections in later parts of the book bear the titles "What is the Nature of the Holy Spirit?" and "What Is My relationship to the Cosmic Christ?" In sum, Waldorf education is an occult form of religious education. Here are two final quotations (one being an extension of a previous quote). The first asks what Waldorf teachers do for their students, and it answers in religious terms: Taking each student's soul qualities and past lives into account, Waldorf teachers attempt to continue the work begun by the gods (the "Hierarchies") before the child was born. (Waldorf teachers think they can learn about students' past lives and the intentions of the gods through clairvoyance.) The gods are infused by the spirit of Christ; they work on His behalf; and Waldorf teachers should do the same. Waldorf teachers strive to fill the world with the Christ Impulse — the impetus that the Sun God provided for mankind's further evolution.
To wrap this up, let's return to the first quotation I offered from THE ESOTERIC BACKGROUND OF WALDORF EDUCATION. It specifies the ultimate religious purpose of Waldorf schooling and it tells how this purpose shapes the curriculum. Waldorf teachers should enact the Christ Impulse, receiving guidance from different godly sources when teaching at different grade levels:
The references here to Father and Mother have to do with the various complementary sides of spiritual power and wisdom. [See, e.g., "God" and "Goddess".] When Anthroposophists speak of the Son and Holy Spirit, they are attempting to link their faith with mainstream Christianity. Their views are ultimately incompatible with the mainstream, however. [See, e.g., "Gnosis", "Rosy Cross", and "Was He Christian?"]
When Waldorf teachers walk their meditative path, assisted by prayers written by Rudolf Steiner, they are enacting their creed, the religion known as Anthroposophy. When they lead students toward a meditative path, assisted by prayers written by Rudolf Steiner, they are again enacting their creed. They do these things for the sakes of their souls and the souls of their students. Christ the Sun God gave us the Impulse that can lead to higher and higher spiritual evolution, Steiner taught. In this sense, Christ came to save our souls. If Waldorf teachers were to fall away from their path, they would run the risk of descending into the Eighth Sphere (in essence, hell). Anthroposophy is essentially no different from many other religions: It has a creed, it specifies good actions and condemns evil actions, and it holds out the promise of salvation and the threat of perdition.
As Querido makes plain, the activities of Waldorf teachers are essentially religious, undertaken in service to both Christ and Humanity.
On the surface, much Anthroposophical terminology seems to be conventionally Christian. But Anthroposophical beliefs veer far from Christianity into what can only be called paganism. Here is the "real" or "original" Lord's Prayer as sometimes recited by Rudolf Steiner. Essentially, it is the Biblical prayer recited backwards, with most of the wording altered to express occult or "mystery" wisdom. Much of it may seem unintelligible, but note at least that instead of being addressed to "Our Father," it is addressed to "Ye fathers in the heavens" — that is, multiple gods. Anthroposophy, unlike Christianity, is polytheistic.
"Bearing witness to I-being
"and to selfhood's guilt —
"Incurred through others,
"Experienced in the daily bread
"Wherein the will of heaven
"Does not reign,
"Has separated itself
"From Your Kingdom
"And forgot your names
"Ye Fathers in the heavens."
— START NOW! (SteinerBooks, 2004), p. 221.
To sample the contents of Steiner's
THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF EDUCATION,
see "Spiritual Agenda".
Quotations from Wilkinson's
THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION
and other books
are scattered around Waldorf Watch.
"Common Sense" is a good introduction to Wilkinson's thinking.
[R. R., 2010.]
I posted the following on the "news" page early in 2011.
[Waldorf] education is essentially grounded on the recognition of the child as a spiritual being, with a varying number of incarnations behind him, who is returning at birth into the physical world ... Teachers too will know that it is their task to help the child to make use of his body, to help his soul-spiritual forces to find expression through it, rather than regarding it as their duty to cram him with information.... — Anthroposophist Stewart C. Easton, MAN AND WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1989), pp. 388-389.
• ◊ •
Waldorf schools aim to benefit children in a number of ways, few of which have much to do with education.
• The overall curriculum is designed to help children incarnate on a fixed schedule (etheric body by age seven*, astral body by age fourteen, “I” by age twenty-one**).
• A basic objective is helping students fulfill their karmas so that they can evolve properly. (As Easton indicates, reincarnation is a basic Waldorf belief.)
• An effort is also made to maintain children’s supposed innate connections with the spirit realm.
• Magical forms of thought (imagination, intuition, inspiration) are emphasized — they are meant to lead toward development of clairvoyance.
• A warm, hazy love of the mystical and fabulous is encouraged, in the hope that students will, as adults, become full Anthroposophists.
• Arts are emphasized because Steiner said they provide direct avenues to the spirit realm.
• Science is de-emphasized because Steiner associated it with the dreadful demon Ahriman. [See “Ahriman”.] (When science receives attention in Waldorf schools, it is often reshaped according to "Goethean" precepts. [See "Steiner's 'Science'".] The "science" embraced as true by Steiner's followers 's "spiritual science" — that is, the anti-scientific faith called Anthroposophy.)
• Children are classified by race and “temperament,” and the schools endeavor to help the kids overcome the “drawbacks” of the races and temperaments to which they belong. [See “Races” and “Humouresque”.]
None of this makes a particle of sense except to committed occultists. And very little of it has any connection to what we normally think of as education.*** Certainly, Waldorf teachers do not "cram" their students with information. The less a Waldorf student is exposed to real knowledge of the real world, the better Waldorf teachers will be able to pursue their aims.
* Completion of this stage is signaled by the replacement of baby teeth with adult teeth — a process given extraordinary importance by Anthroposophists.
** Anthroposophists believe that in addition to a physical body, a fully developed human being has an etheric body (essentially a constellation of life forces), an astral body (soul forces), and an "I" (spirit forces that realize divine human individuality). According to Waldorf belief, the latter three bodies are invisible; they can be discerned only through clairvoyance. These bodies incarnate gradually, through a series of seven-year-long phases. [See “Most Significant”.]
*** Indeed, little of it is clearly revealed in standard Waldorf PR mottoes: The schools say they educate “head, heart, and hands,” and they claim to equip students for "freedom." [See "Holistic Education" and "Freedom".] As descriptions of Waldorf methods and objectives, such statements are fundamentally misleading unless they are accompanied by detailed expositions of Anthroposophical doctrines.
In responding to news items, and elsewhere, I often generalize about Waldorf schools. There are fundamental similarities among Waldorf schools; I describe the schools based on the evidence concerning their structure and operations in the past and — more importantly — in the present. But not all Waldorf schools, Waldorf charter schools, and Waldorf-inspired schools are wholly alike. To evaluate an individual school, you should carefully examine its stated purposes, its practices (which may or may not be consistent with its stated purposes), and the composition of its faculty.
Approaching an occult temple.
A painting by one of Steiner's favorite artists,
Steiner taught that such beings
[Public domain image.]
"We must think of this Slavonic soul as being able to see entities in natural phenomena ... [T]he Slavonic soul conceived of a vast number of beings in this strange spiritual world which we can best compare with the world of the Elves of Light." — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), pp. 164-165. In Norse mythology, the elves of light — also called white elves — are the good elves, contrasted to the dark or black elves. Steiner taught that the spiritual beings described in Norse myths really exist. “Myths and sagas are not just ‘folk-tales’; they are the memories of the visions which people perceived in olden times ... Human beings were aware of the spiritual both by day and by night. At night they were really surrounded by that world of Nordic gods of which the legends tell. Odin, Freya, and all the other figures in Nordic mythology were not inventions; they were experienced in the spiritual world with as much reality as we experience our fellow human beings around us today.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 198. Note the title of the second book: Steiner was referring to the sorts of festivals that are observed in Waldorf schools. Essentially, these are muted religious observances. [See "Magical Arts".]
More items from the "news" page:
From The Margaret River Mail:
A Steiner kindergarten may start in Margaret River [Australia] if Yallingup Steiner School can find suitable premises ... Current plans are for a K4 Kindergarten in 2011, to expand to include K5 in 2012. Steiner schools are based on Rudolf Steiner’s educational philosophy, "to address the latent possibilities in human beings of advancing beyond the present-day accepted limits of cognition to an awakening, by self-discipline and exercise, to a knowledge of the spiritual worlds underlying outer existence.”
Hear, hear. The quoted description of Steiner’s educational philosophy comes far closer to genuine disclosure than we usually see when Anthroposophists speak or write publicly. According to Anthroposophical beliefs, the “limits of cognition” are supposed to be overcome through the development of clairvoyance, which allows an “awakened” individual to know the higher spirit worlds. That set of esoteric concepts does indeed lie close to the core of Waldorf education. [See “Clairvoyance”, "Higher Worlds", and "Knowing the Worlds".]
• ◊ •
From The Denver Post:
Twenty-five third graders at The Denver Waldorf School begin a language arts lesson with Ecclesiastes and finish with bon appétit. "To every thing there is a season...," they recite, led by student teacher Vernon Dewey. It's a verbal warm-up amid the colorful surroundings that make no secret of the private school's artistic and spiritual elements. While not a religious school, Denver Waldorf touches many traditions. This year, students hear stories from the Torah. The source of the archetypal tales that form the backbone of language arts shifts each year, from fairy tales to mythology to Shakespeare. Yet, it's a classroom without textbooks — only the 'lesson books' students make where classroom work creates a basis for page after page of cursive writing and colorful drawings. The current assignment tackles the story of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac.
• ◊ •
The Denver Waldorf School may be more candid than other Steiner or Waldorf schools about its spiritual agenda, but the description given above is lacking in several respects. Anthroposophists call their belief system "spiritual science" and say it is not a religion, although the system involves prayers, meditations, and religious observances. Anthroposophy is indeed a religion, and Waldorf schools generally attempt to spread it. [See “Spiritual Agenda”.] Children often start each Waldorf day by reciting, in unison, a prayer written by Rudolf Steiner. [See, e.g., "Prayers".] Ordinary textbooks are absent from many Waldorf classrooms because they contain real-world knowledge of the kind generally rejected by Steiner’s followers. [See, e.g., “Steiner’s Blunders”. For information about Waldorf lesson books, see “Lesson Books”.]
From Nursery World:
Representatives from Montessori and Steiner awarding bodies and trainers are due to meet for a second time later this month with CWDC [Children’s Workforce Development Council] and Department for Education officials [UK], in an attempt to resolve the dispute about the validity of their qualifications....
Both Montessori and Steiner awarding bodies are seeking continued recognition for their level 4 qualifications and exemption from the CWDC level 3 Diploma for the Children and Young People's Workforce.
...Janni Nichol, early childhood representative for the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, confirmed that Steiner qualifications had also had their deadline extended.
She said, "We are waiting for the meeting to see if we might even be exempt from requirements to fit within CWDC requirements and have our training accepted as quality training for early years practitioners who wish to follow our specific philosophy and ethos."
• ◊ •
Steiner or Waldorf schools frequently seek exemptions from ordinary educational standards and assessments. Their “specific philosophy and ethos” are quite different from ordinary schools’ and may indeed not include much that would ordinarily be considered parts of a real education. [See, e.g., “Academic Standards at Waldorf”, “Soul School”, and “Spiritual Agenda”.]
Steiner schools and Montessori schools are sometimes mistaken for one another, and they do bear some superficial similarities. Both offer alternatives to conventional educational approaches, but the Steiner approach is rooted in occultism while the Montessori system is not. [See, e.g., “Ex-Teacher 5”.]
THE ESOTERIC BACKGROUND OF WALDORF EDUCATION
[Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1995]
Books such as these help reveal what is often denied, that the roots of Steiner or Waldorf schools extend down into occultism. There really should not be much doubt, however. Rudolf Steiner (for whom Steiner schools are named) often explicitly placed himself and his followers in the sphere of occultism. For example,
THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION
[Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996]
The implications for Steiner or Waldorf schools are profound. Here's one more Steiner quotation:
Note that by "spiritual science," Steiner meant his own form of Theosophy or Anthroposophy. He tells us how "an occultist" looks upon what the gods have done and what human beings must do. Moreover, in discussing these things, Steiner indicates the motivation behind Waldorf schools and other Anthroposophical enterprises. Steiner told his followers that they are "the first" to possess the new spiritual wisdom that humanity must acquire in order to evolve properly. The "spiritual powers," the gods, gave Anthroposophists a holy mission "as a grace and a blessing" — Anthroposophists are "duty bound" to make sure that "humanity’s future evolution" goes as it should. If Anthroposophists do not discharge this mission, humanity will "grow arid and wither away," a truly terrible prospect. This is the ultimate reason that Waldorf schools are generally uninterested in giving students a regular education. Anthroposophists think they are doing something far, far more important. [See "Occultism".]
Here is a mildly edited version of something I posted on the "news" page in 2010.
There are times when plain speaking is necessary.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Our thoughts create spiritual beings
who live, for real, in the spirit realm.
We have evidence of this
in the plays of Shakespeare.
Shakespeare's thoughts created real beings
who live in the spirit realm...."
— Rudolf Steiner,
FACULTY MEETINGS WITH
(Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 336.
Today's quote of the day, seemingly so absurd (OK, really so absurd), deserves some commentary. Steiner truly did teach that thoughts create real spiritual beings. That is why he could say that Shakespeare's characters are alive and walking around now in the spirit realm. Shakespeare had good thoughts, presumably, and thus he created good spiritual realities. But Steiner also said that evil thoughts create evil spiritual realities; for instance, “lying and slander [create beings that] now flit and whirr about in our world and belong to a class that we call ‘phantoms.’" — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 83-84. Phantoms (and ghosts or specters) really exist, because we make them really exist. In the same enlightening vein, one of Steiner's eminent disciples was able to end his exposition of Anthroposophical doctrines with these words: "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, "Anthroposophy 101".
What in the world? Let's back up. Perhaps Rudolf Steiner's key "insight" was this: "I am an I only to myself; to every other being I am a you.” — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1979), p. 49. What he meant was that only I know the felt truth of my inner reality; and to me my inner reality is all that matters. We might call this "radical subjectivity" — I do not need to look out into the world, I only need look inside myself and I will discover the truth. And if, looking inside, I do not find what I want to find, my thoughts will create it — I will create a new reality, like Shakespeare, like fabricators and fantasists, like Koetzsch.
This is perhaps Steiner's key "insight." But what Steiner was actually describing, without realizing it, was insanity. An "inner reality" may be nothing but a bundle of delusions, quite divorced from objective, external reality. Indeed, my "inner reality" probably will consist of nothing but delusions if I only look into myself and consult only my own wishes. Consider Dr. Koetzsch's advice: If what I have told you is wrong, pretend it is true and then it will be true. Dr. K's advice is nonsense. If Dr. K tells us that a spiritual being called Santa Claus really comes down our chimneys and leaves us gifts, we can easily check (set up a remote camera, get Jolly Ol' St. Nick on film — or at least see gifts appearing out of thin air). When we try this experiment, we will learn that Dr. K is wrong. But he says that if we believe hard enough, Santa Claus will really exist. This is lunacy.
And yet this is what Anthroposophy and Waldorf education aim for: radical subjectivity. The attitude they recommend is this: I am extremely intuitive (OK, imaginative; OK, clairvoyant). What's more, my intuitions are true. Sometimes my intuitions discover truths that already exist, and sometimes they create new truths (abracadabra: Santa lives!). You see, I am in tune with the infinite. I am the berries, boy: I am a microcosm of the macrocosm, what I find within myself is exactly what really exists in the wide universe — or if it doesn't exist yet, my intuitions will make it exist. [See "The Center".]
Now, this is a comforting idea, I suppose. But it is wrong. And no amount of thinking it is true will make it true. What we find inside ourselves may sometimes be true; but very often it will be false. • I think I am the reincarnation of Rudolf Steiner. Well, no, I am not — and no amount of believing this fantasy will make it true. • I think Angelina Jolie secretly loves me. Well, no, she does not — and no amount of believing this fantasy will make it true. • I think Rudolf Steiner made a lot of sense. Well, no, he did not — and no amount of believing this fantasy will make it true.*
You see, what Steiner peddled were fairy tales. And even about fairy tales he was mistaken. "Fairy tales are never thought out [i.e., invented]; they are the final remains of ancient clairvoyance, experienced in dreams by human beings who still had the power. What was seen in a dream was told as a story — for instance, 'Puss in Boots' ... All the fairy tales in existence are thus the remnants of the original clairvoyance.” — Rudolf Steiner, ON THE MYSTERY DRAMAS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), p. 93.
Oh, Rudolf. Think before you speak. Fairy tales are invented; they do not give us clairvoyantly accurate reports about anything. [See "Clairvoyance".] Watch: "Once upon a time a sweet little fairy named Roger Rawlings leapt up and smote to the ground a terrible ogre named Rudolf Steiner. The End." OK. There's a fairy tale. And according to Steiner, it is true, since "All the fairy tales in existence are the remnants of the original clairvoyance.” Of course, he didn't mean this. And, of course, I'm not being serious. But still...
Anthroposophy and Waldorf (or Steiner) schools try to lure us toward radical subjectivity. Any adult who wants to be radically subjective is free to do so. But no adult should lure children toward that form of "reality." Why? Because it is insane. I'm sorry if this is blunt. I'm sorry if Anthroposophists take offense. But there are times when plain speaking is necessary. One of those times is when the fate of our children is in the balance.
[For more on the sort of "thinking" promoted in Waldorf schools,
see "Thinking Cap".]
The process by which our thoughts create real spiritual beings — according to Anthroposophical belief — is complex. Steiner's teachings are almost always complex. He created an aura of near-plausibility by parading his extensive knowledge of esoteric texts, and by weaving mind-blowing elaborations. Still, a little calm reflection enables us to see through the flummery.
According to Steiner, people "create" spiritual realities with their thoughts because thoughts and emotions are disembodied and they are thus "spiritual." Spirit interweaves with the merely physical, and actually infuses it everywhere. And the reverse is true, in a limited sense: Everything physical has tendrils, as it were, that reach into the spirit realm.
OK. So here's how lying, slander, and other vile thoughts create such monstrosities as phantoms and ghosts:
"If a person, let us say, has told a lie during the day, its effect remains in the physical body and is to be seen by clairvoyant perception while the person sleeps. Let us suppose this person is altogether un-truthful, piling up lies, then he will have many such effects in his physical body. All this hardens, as it were, in the night, and then something very important happens. These hardenings, these 'enclosures,' in the physical body are not at all agreeable to the beings who from higher worlds must take possession of the physical body in the night and carry out the functions otherwise exercised by the astral body and ego. The result is that in the course of life and by reason of a body diseased — one might say — through lies, portions of those beings who descend into man at night become detached. Here we have again detachment processes and they lead to the fact that when a man dies his physical body does not merely follow the paths which it would normally take. Certain beings are left behind, beings which have been created in the physical body through the effect of lying and slander, and have been detached from the spiritual world. Such beings, detached in this circuitous way, now flit and whir about in our world and belong to the class that we call 'phantoms.' They form a certain group of elemental beings related to our physical body and invisible to physical sight. They multiply through lies and calumnies, and these in actual fact populate our earthly globe with phantoms. In this way we learn to know a new class of elemental beings.
"But now, not only lies and slanders but also other things belonging to the soul life produce an effect on the human body. It is lies and slanders which so act on the physical body that a detaching of phantoms is caused. Other things again work in a similar way on the etheric body. You must not be amazed at such phenomena of the soul: in spiritual life one must be able to take things with all calmness. Matters, for example, which have a harmful result on the etheric body are bad laws, or bad social measures prevailing in a community. All that leads to want of harmony, all that makes for bad adjustments between man and man, works in such a way through the feeling which it creates in the common life that the effect is continued into the etheric body. The accumulation in the etheric body caused through these experiences of the soul brings about again detachments from the beings working in from the spiritual worlds and these likewise are now to be found in our environment — they are 'spectres' or 'ghosts.' Thus these beings that exist in the etheric world, the life world, we see grow out of the life of men. Many a man can go about amongst us and for one who is able to see these things spiritually, his physical body is crammed, one might say, with phantoms, his etheric body crammed with spectres, and as a rule after a man's death or shortly afterwards all this rises up and disperses and populates the world. " — NATURE SPIRITS, pp. 84-85.
*Although Steiner taught that our thoughts mainly produce spiritual, not physical, realities, he did not rule out the latter. Indeed, drawing from Theosophy, he often indicated that everything existing on any level of reality is the product of the thoughts of some beings or other. Let's turn again, for a moment, to Dr. Koetzsch, who tended to use plainer language than Steiner. What are the ideas that we can wish into existence by believing them firmly enough? Here's one: "Every domain of human thought and activity — education, medicine, agriculture, social, economic and political life, art, architecture, religious life, care for the elderly, and so on — must be renewed on the basis of a spiritual understanding of the human being." ["Anthroposophy 101".] This is a comprehensive catalog of every significant sphere of life here, in the physical realm. And the idea we must make true by believing it is that absolutely everything here in the physical realm must be remolded to conform to Anthroposophy. Anthroposophists may be deluded, but their ambitions are limitless.
Here is another quotation in which Steiner says
that we create evil beings.
And this example shows the horrific implications:
Steiner encourages his followers to believe
that children can be
possessed by demons:
"Demons are born through man's immoral conduct ... The demons created out of immoral actions also have an astral body, an ether body and a physical body [like human beings]...but they do not have the basis for developing an ego [the essential human divine spark]. They are born headless, as it were. They do not take up the basis for regular evolution to Jupiter existence but reject it. By doing so they condemn themselves to a fate of dropping out of evolution and adding to the hordes of luciferic beings, falling into their power. Unable to progress in a regular way they become parasites. This is what happens to all the spirits who reject normal evolution; they have to attach themselves to others in order to progress. Spirits who arise through immoral actions have a particular tendency to be parasites in human evolution on Earth under Lucifer's leadership, and to seize hold of the evolution of human beings before these make their physical entry into the world. They attack human beings during the embryonic stage and share their existence between conception and birth. Some of these spirits, if they are strong enough, can continue to accompany the human being after birth, creating the phenomena seen in children who are possessed." — Rudolf Steiner, ANGELS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996 ), p. 167.
Imagine how a Waldorf teacher might treat a child whom s/he
believes to be possessed — a child s/he thinks brings a demon
into the classroom each day.
(For testimony by a father whose daughter, a Waldorf student,
was judged to be demonic, see "Nuts".)
[R. R., 2010.]
Yet more items from the Waldorf Watch "news" page:
From The Buffalo News:
[A] group is asking the state for permission to start a Waldorf-inspired charter school in Buffalo [New York State, USA]. The Wisteria Charter School ...would offer Waldorf-style education tuition-free for the first time in Western New York ... Wisteria's founders say they plan to incorporate the hallmarks of Waldorf education — imaginative play, handwork, daily outdoor experiences, strong community connections — into their program while still meeting the testing requirements set out by the state and federal government.
Efforts to create Waldorf charter or free schools continue apace. A key reason is indicated in this news item: When schools become part of a public school system, they can stop charging tuition, so they can offer their form of schooling to far more families. At present, Waldorf schools largely cater to well-off families who can afford fairly stiff tuition charges. The creation of Waldorf (or "Waldorf-inspired") charter schools would change this.
• ◊ •
The key issue for officials who may consider granting charters to Waldorf schools is how closely the schools will adhere to the educational tenets laid down by Rudolf Steiner and his devout Anthroposophical followers. There may be variation from one Waldorf school to another, but any fully fledged Waldorf charter school will be deeply immersed in occultism. [See, e.g., "Spiritual Agenda" and "Soul School".]
A short test that might be given to education officials considering applications from Waldorf groups is this: Please define the word “Anthroposophy.” Officials who cannot do so are clearly unprepared to make a sensible judgment concerning Waldorf or “Waldorf-inspired” schools.
Additional questions might include: 1) How many bodies do fully formed human beings have, according to Waldorf belief? Answer: Four. 2) What is the main purpose of education, according many Waldorf advocates? Answer, according to at least some leading Waldorf authorities: Helping children incarnate their three invisible bodies. 3) What is the primary mechanism that guides the formation of school classes, according to Waldorf belief? Answer: Karma — the karmas of the students and the karma of their teacher. 4) What organs are the seats of knowledge and cognition, according to Waldorf belief? Answer: Not the brain nor any other physical organ, but invisible organs of clairvoyance. 5) What is the primary task that should be undertaken by teachers, according to Waldorf belief? Answer: Waldorf teachers are on a messianic mission to serve the will of the gods.
Area's first measles case in over 20 years
The Charlottesville-Albemarle Health Department [Virginia, USA] announced Thursday that there have been three cases of measles in the area...
Exposures may have occurred on May 20 at the Charlottesville Waldorf School [and elsewhere] ...
...Waldorf, a private school serving students from preschool to eighth grade, confirmed that a student was one of the three cases. The school cancelled classes today to hold a vaccination clinic for the school community...
[Health official Dr. Lillian] Peake said she doesn’t yet have a full idea of the seriousness of the situation, which is technically considered an outbreak.
There were three cases of measles throughout Virginia in 2010, Peake said, and only one case in both 2009 and 2008. Prior to that, the last case in Virginia occurred in 2001.
• ◊ •
The result of withholding vaccination is that diseases that have long been under control are now recurring, needlessly endangering the lives of children.
Waldorf schools generally do not officially oppose vaccination. But often a high percentage of students at Waldorf schools are unvaccinated. Sometimes this is largely the parents’ choice, but the choice is consistent with underlying Waldorf misgivings about vaccination. Rudolf Steiner taught that vaccination may sometimes be appropriate, but he said vaccination only treats the physical side of karma, so it is, by itself, inadequate. He also taught that vaccination may hold severe dangers since the forces of evil will use vaccinations to attack the good people of the Earth, cutting them off from the spirit realm.
Vaccination, in and of itself, does not get to the root causes of disease, Steiner said. “If we destroy the susceptibility to smallpox [through vaccination], we are concentrating only on the external side of karmic activity.” — Rudolf Steiner, MANIFESTATIONS OF KARMA (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), pp. 165-166.
Because illness is a matter of karma, Steiner taught, shielding someone from contracting a disease can be a serious error — an individual may need to undergo that disease to fulfill her/his karma. We should not interfere with karma unless we are very, very sure that we know what we are doing.
Steiner also told his followers to fear vaccinations for another reason. Black magicians and other evildoers will create vaccines that deaden people to the spirit: “Endeavors to achieve this will be made by bringing out remedies to be administered by inoculation [i.e., vaccination]...only these inoculations will influence the human body in a way that will make it refuse to give a home to the spiritual inclinations of the soul.” — Rudolf Steiner, SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), pp. 90-91.
Maybe the vaccine you receive will help you avoid smallpox. This may be good or bad. It will be very bad if your karma requires you to have smallpox. And in any case, as the doctor or nurse approaches you with a syringe containing a vaccine of some sort, can you be sure it is a vaccine that will protect you from smallpox, or is it a vaccine that will destroy your soul?
Wackiness of this sort poses a very real threat to the health of children whose parents or teachers withhold needed medical treatment in accordance with Steiner’s teachings. [See “Steiner’s Quackery”.] Note that the Charlottesville Waldorf School admirably (if belatedly) arranged a vaccination clinic for the school community. Numerous students at the school had not be vaccinated previously.
Rudolf Steiner encouraged his followers to believe that they are surrounded by enemies, including secret brotherhoods of evil conspirators who plan to destroy human spirituality. He said that conspiratorial evildoers murder people in order to send the victims’ souls into the afterlife in a condition that will enable them to learn occult secrets that human beings should not yet possess. The plotters then use mediums (spiritualists who can communicate with the dead) to learn these secrets, which they proceed to use in the furtherance of their dastardly schemes. One atrocity planned by black magicians and materialistic scientists is to create vaccines that will make people turn away from the spirit realm.
Some vaccines, Steiner said, may have value in preventing certain diseases, but other vaccines will murder the human soul. Consider the implications. How will you know which vaccines are ok and which ones are not? Perhaps avoiding all vaccines would be the wisest course. And thus Steiner’s teachings steer people away from totally imaginary dangers (black magicians, mediums, secret occult brotherhoods) while steering toward very real dangers (some children will inevitably die if they are denied the vaccines that could save them). [See “Double Trouble”, “Enemies”, and “Steiner’s Quackery”.]
Here is Steiner, discussing such things:
“Nonsense” is the word, all right. The idea that “black or grey magicians” can discover occult secrets through the use of murder and mediums is nonsense. The idea that secretive materialistic evildoers will create vaccines to destroy the human capacity for spiritual experience is nonsense. Steiner’s teachings, in other words, are nonsense.
Steiner would have us believe that opposing him means that we are spiritually blind, that we think spirituality itself is a sham. This is manifestly untrue. Many of us who criticize Steiner do so in part because he so clearly subverted spirituality. He took some of mankind’s highest and most wondrous impulses and packaged them as a set of deep dark secrets, an immense puzzle of occult hocus-pocus. 
Nonsense. In a word, Steiner's teachings are nonsense. Steiner’s conspiracy theories are nonsense. Steiner’s demonization of his opponents is nonsense. The death of human spirituality is far more likely to come from irrational, grotesque nightmares peddled by the likes of Rudolf Steiner than from the enlightened efforts of human beings to find truth by opening their eyes and sensibly, intelligently examining the magnificent universe in which we live.
 The Thugs were a band of murderers in India. What Steiner says about them is more or less true. But whether anything else Steiner says here is true is, at a minimum, highly questionable.
 Steiner is saying that secret brotherhoods of evil conspirators stage murders because the souls of murdered people gain secret knowledge when they pass over into the spirit realm.
 The evil conspirators use mediums to receive secret occult knowledge from the murdered souls.
 The secrets gained through murders and mediums are things that humanity should not yet know, but the evildoers — black or grey magicians — want these secrets now, so that they can put them to evil uses.
 The evil conspirators want to destroy human spirituality. They want to blind us to spiritual truths and thus confine us to the material or physical world.
 Evil materialistic scientists (aka, black magicians) will create vaccines that will make people turn away from spirituality. The vaccines will be given to children, destroying their spirituality near the very beginning of life.
 Even agnostics and atheists should honor true spirituality. Whether or not a separate spirit realm exists, spirit is important in the real, physical world. The spirit of honesty, the spirit of truthfulness, the spirit of sisterhood/brotherhood, the spirit of service to others, the spirit of good stewardship, the spirit of compassion, the spirit of love — these are very real and very important, not as mere abstractions but as powerful forces in our lives. Beauty, wonder, awe, meditative transcendence, intellectual discovery, manual skillfulness, good works, high ideals — these can make the human spirit soar, and the pursuit of moments (stretched perhaps to hours or lifetimes) when we experience this selfless enlargement of the self is a a supremely worthy activity. It may, indeed, be what makes us human in the best sense.
[Anthroposophic Press, 1998]
If you want to learn about Waldorf education,
this book and its companion (Vol. 2) provide a good starting point.
Rudolf Steiner is long gone, but Waldorf teachers today
continue to study his words devotedly;
indeed, Waldorf teacher training revolves around the study
of Steiner's books and lectures. [See "Teacher Training".]
For a look at Waldorf faculty meetings presided over
by Steiner, see "Faculty Meetings".
Blogs such as the one quoted below are no substitute
for an in-depth examination of the Waldorf movement.
Ocean Charter is a Waldorf Education Public Charter School [California, USA] and nothing like any other Public school I’ve seen. They learn by painting, drawing, creating, and/or singing songs (multiplication/division/mythology/geology/everything!)…instead of textbooks. Their teachers are not music teachers, they are not experts in any one subject — they teach all of it, and it is a strong and loving understanding between the teacher and student that the Teachers are learning along with the kids.
/1/ See, e.g., "Cautionary Tales".
• ◊ •
This is a typical, wide-eyed, enthusiastic first impression of a Waldorf school. Many people respond this way when first seeing Waldorf education in action.
But many people also become disillusioned, sometimes quite soon. /1/
Pause and consider what the enthusiastic blogger is saying. "Painting, drawing, creating, and/or singing songs" are wonderful activities, and they should be included in all school curricula. But can kids really learn "everything" by doing these things? Physics? Algebra? French? World history? The main thing you learn from doing a lot of painting is how to paint. This is a good thing to learn. But it isn't a method for learning "everything." Ditto for "drawing, creating, and/or singing songs" — good activities, but not the end-all and be-all of education. (A teacher might come up with a clever song that lists all the Presidents of the United States in order, and kids might learn this song, but we would be fooling ourselves if we thought learning such songs is a substitute for actually studying American history.) /2/
What about the absence of textbooks in Waldorf schools? Do you really want to deprive your children of textbooks? Consider. The Waldorf approach means that the only source of information a child receives is the Waldorf teachers themselves. No other views will be presented, and no real authorities will be consulted. The Waldorf view, and only the Waldorf view, will be taught. Parents are often impressed by the lovely lesson books that Waldorf students create, largely by copying what their teachers have written and drawn on the blackboard. But creating such lesson books is no substitute for reading authoritative textbooks. /3/
Note that Waldorf teachers "are not experts in any one subject — they teach all of it." Is this really what you want? Teachers who do not know any subject in depth, but who teach all subjects? This is indeed what Waldorf schools offer, and it guarantees that students will often be taught by people who are unable to take them deeply into any subject. Everything will be superficial and, to one degree or another, wrong. /4/
Waldorf teachers are often loving individuals with good intentions. They tend to revere children, and this can be extremely attractive. To understand what is going on, however, realize that the teachers' attitude toward children grows out of the Waldorf religion, Anthroposophy. According to that religion, children have recently arrived from the spirit realm, where they lived — as reincarnating beings — before coming to Earth for their latest incarnation. Thus, children bring with them more recent memories of the spirit realm than the teachers themselves possess, and they should be honored for this. Also, Waldorf teachers believe it is their karma to teach these particular children, just as it is the children's karma to be taught by these teachers. /5/ Thus, a reverential attitude is developed, but it is based on extremely dubious grounds — memories of life before birth, reincarnation, karma…
If you find yourself getting excited about Waldorf schooling, pause, gather yourself, and think carefully. Waldorf schools are often fun places full of beauty and good feeling. /6/ They may not, however, be very good schools — i.e., places where kids get a good education. /7/ The main Waldorf objective is not to teach children but to give them spiritual assistance in the process of incarnation and in the fulfillment of karma. /8/ And, of course, the teachers hope to steer children toward truth — which, in their opinion, is Anthroposophy. /9/ Do you want your children to become mystical occultists — that is, junior Anthroposophists? If not, Waldorf is almost certainly the wrong place to send the precious souls who are your keeping: your children.
A final note. The school that so wowed the blogger is a Waldorf charter school — that is to say, it is a Waldorf school that is supported by taxpayers; it is a Waldorf school that has been accepted into the public education system. /10/ Taxpayers and education authorities may want to think carefully about the true nature of Waldorf education before granting charters, and public financial support, to such schools. And they may want to ask probing questions before renewing existing charters. Waldorf schools are essentially religious institutions, which have the purpose of promoting Anthroposophy. And, as I have argued, they may often provide very poor education for the kids. Is this really a good use of public funds? Is it even, in the USA, permissible under the Constitution?
/2/ To look into the Waldorf emphasis on art, see "Magical Arts". To examine the curriculum followed in typical Waldorf schools, see "The Waldorf Curriculum" and the pages that follow it. To delve into Waldorf methods, see "Methods".
/3/ See "Lesson Books” and “Mystic Lesson Books”.
/4/ A Waldorf teacher will often begin with a group of students who are entering first grade and stay with that group through fifth or even eighth grade, teaching most subjects at all of these grade levels. No teacher is truly qualified to do this. To look into Waldorf teacher training, see "Teacher Training" and "Waldorf Teachers - How Are They Trained?".
/5/ To dig into some of this, see, e.g., "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?", "Thinking Cap", "Reincarnation", and "Karma".
/6/ Don't get carried away with this vision, however. Waldorf schools can also be dark and frightening places. [See, e.g., “Slaps".]
/7/ See, e.g., "Academic Standards at Waldorf".
/8/ Here are sample statements by Waldorf teachers explaining the real purpose of Waldorf schools:
[For more, see "Here's the Answer". For more on incarnation and the four human bodies, see "Incarnation". For more on Christ — who in Anthroposophical doctrine in one of many gods — see "Sun God”.]
/9/ See, e.g., "Here's the Answer" and "Spiritual Agenda".
/10/ In Britain, these are called free schools. [See “Coming Undone” and the website “Stop Steiner in Stroud”.]
Anyone who doubts that Waldorf education is mystical and/or religious should look into the spiritual training that new Waldorf teachers receive, as well as the continuing spiritual education that veteran Waldorf teachers undertake throughout their careers. Alicia Hamberg at The Ethereal Kiosk has helpfully summarized lectures given recently at the New Impulse Conference 2012 at the Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training [California, USA]. Here are some of the matters discussed in those lectures by Claus-Peter Röh. (I will quote from the summaries posted by the conference organizers.)
\1\ In Waldorf belief, children should not use their heads or brains much until they have developed other "forces," and even then use of the intellect is generally downplayed unless intellect is conditioned by emotion and clairvoyant imagination. Waldorf education generally works to delay the children's "waking up" — young students are meant to be held in a dream-like consciousness as long as possible. [See "Thinking Cap".]
\2\ Steiner taught that in addition to the physical body, fully incarnated humans have etheric, astral, and ego bodies — constellations of developmental, soul, and spirit forces. [See "Incarnation".]
\3\ In Waldorf belief, children arrive on Earth attuned to the spirit realm and the spiritual level of earthly existence. Only slowly does the child settle within her/himself and start to see the world as separate from the self.
\4\ The Waldorf curriculum is not primarily meant to provide a good education, as usually conceived, but to help integrate the various components of the human organism as occultly conceived. The "ego" mentioned here is the ego body or "I"; the "body" mentioned here is the physical body.
\5\ By preparing the spirit properly — immersing a child in myths and occult beliefs — Waldorf schools try to ensure that the brain, when it finally wakes up, will understand the universe properly (i.e., in accordance with Anthroposophical beliefs). [See "Indoctrination".]
\6\ The path of childhood development is the process of incarnating our invisible bodies: the etheric body becomes fully incarnate around age seven, the astral body around age fourteen, and the ego body around age twenty-one. Waldorf teachers try to help children incarnate properly so that the various parts of each child's being — such as the physical body and the etheric body — are properly balanced. Likewise, various spiritual functions — such as the will and the inner ego force — should be balanced. The primary focus is on the soul with its soul forces, and the spirit with its spirit forces. Steiner differentiated between soul and spirit. The former is the portion of one's spiritual self that exists only during a single incarnation; the latter is the portion of one's spiritual self that is carried from incarnation to incarnation.
\7\ Steiner taught that the human organism has three systems: the head system, the limb/metabolic system, and the chest or trunk system. [See "What We Are".] Each of these, perceived occultly, is a separate "man": the head-man, the limb-man, and the chest- or trunk-man. These "men" embody the "forces" of thinking, willing, and feeling, and each has both lower and higher parts.
\8\ This is the process, mentioned earlier, of developing other forces before emphasizing the capacity for thought. All parts of the Waldorf curriculum are meant to have mystical impact; the arts in particular are thought to be pathways into the spirit realm. Form drawing is the repetitive sketching of geometric forms, meant to awaken clairvoyant capacities.
\9] Waldorf teachers believe that their students chose them before birth; a class comes together because of their karmas and in accordance with the will of the gods. A Waldorf teacher thus has immense authority: S/he has this group of children "for higher reasons."
\10\ “Seeing” the spirit force within a child — i.e., perceiving the child’s spiritual essence — is a major goal for Waldorf teachers. This requires spiritual or psychic insight, i.e., clairvoyance. Waldorf teacher Eugene Schwartz has described how Waldorf teachers use “everyday clairvoyance” for this purpose. [See, e.g., Schwartz’s WALDORF EDUCATION (Xlbiris, 2000).]
\11\ This is an anecdotal example of the Waldorf approach — a Waldorf teacher perceives a student's spirit reflected in the eyes. Such perception occurs when the "intuition" of the "higher self" (i.e., the clairvoyant power of the spiritually enlightened self) is employed.
\12\ These are the stages of incarnation mentioned earlier.
\13\ The Waldorf approach is meant to subtly shift as the children grow older, incarnating new capacities. As we saw previously, the teachers attempt to "develop [each child's] limb man and part of the chest man and then let them awaken the other part of the chest and the head." [To examine the Waldorf approach, described in more accessible terms, see “Curriculum” and “Methods”.] "Living pictures" are visualized or clairvoyantly imagined realities — embodiments of the gods' living thoughts. [See "Thinking".] Claus-Peter describes the child gradually emerging to conscious assertion of the ego, awake in the world (as occultly conceived).
\14\ Like other Anthroposophists, Waldorf teachers use the prayers, meditations, spiritual exercises, etc., prescribed by Rudolf Steiner. [See, e.g., VERSES AND MEDITATIONS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004).] Waldorf teaching cannot be performed properly without these spiritual preparations.
\15\ Steiner prescribed two meditations for teachers. "He...suggested specific exercises and meditations for teachers to help them work more consciously on the Earth on behalf of the spiritual powers [i.e., gods]." — Roberto Trostli, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING (SteinerBooks, 1998), p. 54. “The first meditation describes what our task is: to overcome the abyss between subject and object, inner and outer. The first meditation has to do with Imagination. This meditation is to be done in the evening before preparations and before one’s personal meditations. We are seeking the powers of enlightenment with this meditation ...The second meditation has to do with Inspiration ... In America we should strive to speak the verses in German ... Dawning light...wisdom as seen within. I am the mediator between the above and the below. Steiner gave this meditation to Maria Roeschl Lehrs in the Autumn of 1923, four years after the first was given.” — “Ponderings of the College of Teachers”, http://www.awsna.org/PonderingsCollegeTeachers.pdf]. Steiner summarized the Waldorf teacher's role in these words: "I [the teacher] am the mediator between the divine spiritual world and the child. The child believes me and accepts what I say, but does not yet understand it ... When [in later life] something arises in the soul that was once accepted on trust and is only now understood, we can see that to teach properly we must not consider only the immediate moment but the whole of life. In all that we teach children, this must be kept in view." — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 34.
\16\ Waldorf education, as described here, is spiritual communing between teacher and student. As we have seen, however, the teacher's authority and influence are meant to be great; the child is molded in accordance with Anthroposophical precepts.
"All we have really to do is to develop the limb man and part of the chest man. For after that it is the task of the limb man and chest man to awaken the head-man. Here we come to the true function of teaching and education. You have to develop the limb man and part of the chest man, and then let this limb man and part of the chest man awaken the other part of the chest man and the head-man." — Rudolf Steiner, THE STUDY OF MAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966), lecture 11, GA 293.