Looking with Fresh Eyes

[The following items were originally posted, in slightly different form,
at the online forum Waldorf Critics.]

Square One Contents

Part I

Scroll down to the items that catch your interest.


Part II

To go to Part II, click on this link: Revisiting II.



I have a modest proposal. I think it might be useful, occasionally, to go back to square one in order to review fundamental issues concerning Waldorf education. Newcomers, lurkers, perplexed Waldorf parents, and wounded Waldorf students, among others, would probably be grateful. Why do we criticize Waldorf education? What, fundamentally, is wrong with Waldorf? Everyone who gets involved with a Waldorf school is likely to realize that Waldorf schools are (how shall I put this?) strange. What is the basis of that strangeness? What are Waldorf schools all about?

Those of us who began participating on the Waldorf Critics site long ago (and some began here much earlier than I did) may be about talked out on such questions. But if we think of the needs of others, we may want to go back over the ground anew.

With that in mind, I’d like to submit, occasionally, some square one stuff. Having worked for the last few years on the Brief Waldorf/Steiner Encyclopedia and the Semi-Steiner Dictionary, I’ve had to attempt to explain Waldorf issues concisely and clearly. Possibly there might be some benefit in reproducing some of those explanations here.

So here is a brief (well, almost brief) exposition of the goals of Waldorf education, given chiefly in the words of Waldorf proponents and representatives. My own concise (and clear?) contributions come at the beginning and end of the list of quotations.


Conveying knowledge to children, and preparing children for productive lives in the real world, are low on the list of Waldorf goals. Instead, Waldorf schools have occult, spiritual purposes. These can be described in various ways. Here are a few such descriptions, all coming from within the Waldorf movement: 

◊ “One question that is often asked is: ‘Is a Waldorf school a religious school?’ ... It is not a religious school in the way that we commonly think of religion ... And yet, in a broad and universal way, the Waldorf school is essentially religious.” — Waldorf teacher Jack Petrash, UNDERSTANDING WALDORF EDUCATION (Nova Institute, 2002), p. 134.

◊ “Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We...are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods ... [W]e are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55.

◊ “Waldorf education strives to create a place in which the highest beings [i.e., the gods], including the Christ, can find their home.” — Anthroposophist Joan Almon, WHAT IS A WALDORF KINDERGARTEN? (SteinerBooks, 2007), p. 53.

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

◊ “A Waldorf school organization that seeks to allow the spiritual impulses of our time to manifest on earth in order to transform society ... [I]t strives to bring the soul-spiritual [i.e., the combined effects of soul and spirit] into the realm of human life.” — Waldorf teacher Roberto Trostli, “On Earth as It Is in Heaven”, Research Bulletin, Vol. 16 (Waldorf Research Institute), Fall 2011, pp. 21-24.

◊ “[Waldorf] education is essentially grounded on the recognition of the child as a spiritual being, with a varying number of incarnations behind him ... [I]t is [the faculty's] 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. 

◊ “The success of Waldorf Education, Rudolf Steiner [said], can be measured in the life force attained. Not acquisition of knowledge and qualifications, but the life force is the ultimate goal of this school.” — Anthroposophist Peter Selg, THE ESSENCE OF WALDORF EDUCATION (SteinerBooks, 2010)‚ p. 30.

◊ "Waldorf education is based upon the recognition that the four bodies of the human being [the physical, etheric, astral, and ego bodies] develop and mature at different times.” — Waldorf teacher Roberto Trostl, Introduction to RHYTHMS OF LEARNING: What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents & Teachers (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 4-5.

◊ “[F]rom a spiritual-scientific [i.e., Anthroposophical] point of view child education consists mainly in integrating the soul-spiritual members with the corporeal members [i.e., integrating the invisible bodies with the physical body].” — Waldorf teacher Gilbert Childs, STEINER EDUCATION IN THEORY AND PRACTICE (Floris Books, 1998), p. 68.

◊ “This is precisely the task of school. If it is a true school, it should bring to unfoldment [i.e., incarnation and development]...what [the child] has brought with him from spiritual worlds into this physical life on earth.” — Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS , Vol. 1 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 5, GA 235.

◊ “[T]he purpose of [Waldorf] education is to help the individual fulfill his karma.” — Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 52.

◊ "Waldorf education is a form of practical anthroposophy." — Waldorf teacher Keith Francis, THE EDUCATION OF A WALDORF TEACHER (iUniverse, 2004), p. xii.

◊ "[The] special contribution, the unique substance, mission, and intention of the independent Waldorf School, is the spiritual-scientific view of human nature [i.e., Anthroposophy].” — Anthroposophist Peter Selg, THE ESSENCE OF WALDORF EDUCATION (SteinerBooks, 2010)‚ p. 4.

◊ "The reason many [Waldorf] schools exist is because of Anthroposophy, period. It's not because of the children. It's because a group of Anthroposophists have it in their minds to promote Anthroposophy in the world ... Educating children is secondary in these schools." — Former Waldorf teacher "Baandje." [See "Ex-Teacher 7” —]

◊ “In the child we have before us a being who has only recently left the divine world. In due course, still at a tender age, he comes to school and it is the teacher’s task to help guide him into earthly existence. The teacher is therefore performing a priestly office.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 23.

◊ "I think we owe it to our [students'] parents to let them know that the child is going to go through one religious experience after another ... [W]hen we deny that Waldorf schools are giving children religious experiences, we are denying the whole basis of Waldorf education." — Waldorf teacher Eugene Schwartz, "Waldorf Education - For Our Times Or Against Them?" (transcript of talk given at Sunbridge College, 1999).

◊ "Waldorf teachers must be anthroposophists first and teachers second." — Waldorf teacher Gilbert Childs, STEINER EDUCATION IN THEORY AND PRACTICE (Floris Books, 1991), p. 166.

◊ "We certainly may not go to the...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.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 495.

Waldorf schools are on a messianic mission in service to their religion, Anthroposophy. This — not conveying information about the real world to their students — is their chief purpose. [See “Mission" —] The schools attempt to cooperate with the gods, seeking to apply Anthroposophy so that the students can incarnate properly and fulfill their karmas. Educating the students in any normal sense is, at best, a secondary goal.

— Roger Rawlings


As we saw during our first visit of Square One, providing a good education is not the top priority at Waldorf schools. But do the schools inflict any actual harm? Can kids be damaged by attending Waldorf schools? Here’s an admirably calm and reasoned answer:


Individuals who become involved with Waldorf schools may be harmed in various ways. [1] A small minority may be victimized by physical abuse, bullying, or sexual mistreatment at the schools. [2] More common is the infliction of emotional and psychological damage, including the trauma of demonization and stereotyping. [3] The greatest harm typically done by the schools is subtle but nonetheless profound. The effect of lengthy immersion in the fantastical Waldorf/Anthroposophical worldview can be dissociation from reality; the line between truth and falsehood blurs, with the resulting danger that individuals may be drawn into the occult, phantasmagoric form of spirituality promoted by Rudolf Steiner and his adherents. [4] The primary victims are the students themselves, but other members of their families and even their teachers may suffer as well. [5]

Some victims reel away from the schools in pain and confusion; some bear wounds that last for many years or, indeed, throughout life. For some, their time at Waldorf was dreadful. [6] Yet the harm caused by Waldorf education may be, in some senses, worst for those who love their Waldorf experiences. The ultimate aim of Waldorf education is to lead students and their families into the cult called Anthroposophy. [7] When this project succeeds, people become entangled in a strange worldview — heretical from the perspective of the world's major faiths — that separates them from the real world and may make functioning in that world extremely difficult. [8] Even when individuals avoid full conversion to Anthroposophy, they may find that their Waldorf education has left them unprepared for productive life outside the Anthroposophical community. Waldorf schools tend to provide a poor academic education, in part because their aims lie elsewhere. [9] Upon leaving the schools, students may find that they lack the knowledge, skills, and qualifications to succeed in the ordinary spheres of life. [10]

Some students thrive in Waldorf schools, and some parents choose Waldorf schools for their children knowing the real nature of Waldorf education. [11] Some Waldorf graduates go on to successful careers in a wide array of fields. [12] Whether a child is harmed by Waldorf depends on many factors, including the length of time s/he is enrolled as a Waldorf student. The Waldorf curriculum is meant to encompass all the stages of childhood, in sequence, from beginning to end; only children who enter Waldorf very young and stay until the completion of high school receive the complete Waldorf treatment. [13] Moreover, there is some variation among Waldorf schools, and considerable variation among Waldorf teachers; these factors, along with the personal qualities of individual students, can lead to significantly different outcomes. Nonetheless, parents considering Waldorf schools would do well to carefully consider the criticisms leveled at Waldorf education before making a potentially crucial choice for their children. [14]

[1] See, e.g., "Who Gets Hurt?” 

[2] See, e.g., "Slaps" and “Extremity”.  

[3] See, e.g., "Nuts", "Races", and “Temperaments". 

[4] See, e.g., “Reality and Fantasy”, “Truth”, and “Deception”.

[5] See "Moms", "Pops", "Our Experience", "Coming Undone" and the accounts written by former Waldorf teachers, beginning with "He Went to Waldorf”.

[6] See "Cautionary Tales”.

[9] See "Academic Standards at Waldorf" and the entry in The Brief Waldorf/Steiner Encyclopedia for "Waldorf education: goals” [].

[10] For an overview of problematic aspects of Waldorf education, see the series of pages beginning with "Help!"; also see "Aid and Comfort”.

[11] The schools tend to be secretive; only Anthroposophists are likely to fully understand and approve of the Waldorf approach. See, e.g., “Secrets”.

[12] The same can be said for graduates of almost any type of school. Even the worst schools sometimes have outstanding students and graduates. Critics of Waldorf education argue that some Waldorf graduates succeed despite of, not because of, their Waldorf schooling. See, e.g., the section "Waldorf Graduates" in "The Upside”.

[13] See "Who Gets Hurt?, "The Waldorf Curriculum" and the section "We Don't Teach It" in "Spiritual Agenda”.

[14] See the reviews of Waldorf schools collected and posted at the Waldorf Review — e.g.,



Is it possible to briefly characterize typical, representative Waldorf schools? Is there such a thing as a representative Waldorf school? What does the term ”Waldorf school” actually mean? Here’s one shot at an answer.

(Steiner schools)

Broadly speaking, Waldorf schools are institutions that, to one degree or another, are run in compliance with the ideology of Rudolf Steiner. [1] They typically identify themselves as Waldorf schools, Steiner schools, or Steiner Waldorf schools, but in some instances they use wholly different names. Efforts are made to protect the Waldorf trademark, so that only genuine Waldorf schools can call themselves such, but on the other hand some Waldorf authorities argue that their movement is so amorphous as to defy definition. See, e.g., the rhetorical argument made by a Waldorf faculty chairperson: "'Waldorf education' does not exist" [2] — the point being that Waldorf schools vary greatly. [3] Still, Waldorf education certainly does exist as a distinct phenomenon that can be defined with considerable precision.

Generally, Waldorf schools follow a set curriculum that derives from the program established by Rudolf Steiner and his colleagues at the first Waldorf school, although variations can be found. [4] The common curriculum is geared toward the incarnation of three invisible, nonphysical bodies: the etheric body, astral body, and "I." [5] Each child's presumed karma and temperament are deemed crucially important, and the faculty's beliefs about these help steer the educational process. [6] There is heavy emphasis on myths, fairy tales, legends, and other spiritualistic stories, especially in the early grades. [7] Art is emphasized for its supposed spiritual effects. [8] Emphasis is placed on beauty, and there is usually an anti-intellectual, antiscientific ethos as promoted by Rudolf Steiner. [9] Subjects are taught at the "correct" time or developmental stage in children's lives: The students are thought to recapitulate human spiritual development, so that fourth graders, for instance, stand at about the level of ancient Egyptians, fifth graders at the level of ancient Greeks, sixth graders at the level of ancient Romans, and so on. [10]

Subjects are often taught using the "block" system: A subject will be taken up, studied for a few weeks, then set aside for many weeks or months. The most important class of the day is usually the "main lesson" — a long class focusing on the subject constituting the "block" of the moment. The main lesson usually comes at the beginning of the school day. Other classes and activities during the day are often keyed to the main lesson. Usually, main lessons are taught by "class teachers" — that is, teachers who take primary responsibility for a group of children and stay with them for several years, first grade through fifth, for example, or first grade through eighth, etc. This means each class teacher must present a great number of subjects at a great number of grade levels as the students pass from grade to grade. [11]

The schools do not, as a rule, explicitly teach students the tenets of Steiner's occult system, Anthroposophy. But there are numerous exceptions to this rule, and the schools subtly steer students toward an Anthroposophical perception of reality. [12] Students are encouraged to feel about things as their teachers feel about them, while factual knowledge about the world is minimized — emotion is a truer path than thought, Steiner said. According to Steiner, Waldorf teachers should be devoted Anthroposophists and Waldorf classes should reflect Anthroposophical teachings when the subjects being studied call for this.

The key truth about Waldorf schools is that they are disguised religious institutions, whose purpose is to enact Anthroposophy in the world and thus spread Anthroposophy. [13] The Waldorf approach is built on the occult doctrines of Rudolf Steiner, especially his mystical conception of human nature. [14] Steiner's religious teachings find their way into many classes as well as such activities as festivals that are, at root, religious observances. [15] Teachers and students usually begin each day by reciting, in unison, prayers written by Rudolf Steiner (these invocations are usually disguised as "morning verses"). [16]

This brief summary cannot do full justice to the subject of Waldorf schools. In effect, all of Waldorf Watch is devoted to producing a complete answer to the question, What are Waldorf schools? [To dig further into the answer, see, e.g., "Soul School”, "Academic Standards at Waldorf”, “Foundations", “Clues”, "Waldorf Now”, "Teacher Training”, “Today", "Report Card”, etc. Also see the entries for "Waldorf curriculum", "Waldorf education: goals", "Waldorf students", "Waldorf teachers", etc., in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

[1] The ideology is Anthroposophy, an occult religion founded by Rudolf Steiner, who also founded Waldorf education. See the entry in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia for "Anthroposophy"; also see "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?

[2] S. K. Sagarin, THE STORY OF WALDORF EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES (SteinerBooks, 2011), p. 147.

[3] See, e.g., "Non-Waldorf Waldorfs”.

[5] See the entries for these terms in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia; also see “Incarnation”.

[6] See "Karma" and “Temperaments”.

[7] See, e.g., "The Gods" and "Sneaking It In”.

[8] See "Magical Arts”.

[10] See, e.g., "Oh My Stars”.

[11] For an overview of Waldorf methodology, see “Methods”.

[13] See "Here's the Answer".

[14] See "Oh Humanity”.

[15] See "Magical Arts”.

[16] See “Prayers”.



Rudolf Steiner is by far the most important figure in the Waldorf movement. Steiner schools are called Steiner schools for a reason. Still, Rudolf Steiner is long dead (he expired in 1925), and defenders of Waldorf education today sometimes argue that his influence has waned. So we need to consider statements made much more recently than 1925, statements both by Anthroposophists and by observers who have penetrated the enclosed Anthroposophical community. What can we learn? Have Waldorf schools truly distanced themselves from Steiner? Is Steiner really no longer the leading spirit in Waldorf schools?

We can begin with an inflammatory topic. Steiner was a racist. But surely Waldorf schools have been cleansed of all Steiner-like racism by now. No? No, evidently not. Not in all cases, at least.

Steiner taught, for example, that some races are less evolved than others. The highest race is white, he said. Black people are less evolved than white people. People who are white today used to have darker skins when they lived as members of lower races (we evolve upward through the races by reincarnating in higher and higher racial forms, Steiner taught). Surely this appalling, racist doctrine has been eliminated from Waldorf thinking today. No? No, evidently not. Not in all cases, at least.

The following is from a BBC news report in 2014: A parent is speaking about an event at a Waldorf school: 

“There was diversity training at the school, and part of it was ticking boxes of which ethnicity you were. And four of the teachers ticked all of the boxes, and the trainer asked why on earth they had done that. And they said because they had been all those races. And all those teachers were white, so obviously they see themselves as the pinnacle.” [1]

Assuming the parent’s statement is true, we can conclude that those Waldorf teachers still accepted Steiner’s racial teachings as recently as 2014. [2] And if some Waldorf teachers were still doing so as recently as 2014 (89 years after Steiner’s death), it seems more than likely that some Waldorf teachers are still doing so in 2016.

Or consider another example. Steiner taught that Archangels (who are gods) oversee human groupings such as races. If you are black, your god is different from the god of white people, for instance. Moreover, the racial gods assign different tasks to the races they oversee, and they direct each race to live in a specific region upon the Earth, separated from the other races. Surely this appalling, racist doctrine has been eliminated from Waldorf thinking today. No? No, evidently not. Not in all cases, at least.

The following is from a play written for young Waldorf students to perform. The author is Eugene Schwartz, a leading proponent of Waldorf education, who has himself been a Waldorf teacher. In the play, the Archangels address Noah’s sons after the Flood has subsided:

"MICHAEL: 'Shem, to the North and West you must go ... You and your race shall become those who know.'

"GABRIEL: 'Japheth ... Go to the East ... You and your race shall become those who do.'

"RAPHAEL: 'Ham ... Go to the South ... You and your race shall become those who love.'"

The Archangels specify where each race should dwell (in the North and West, the East, and the South), and they assign each race a distinct mission (knowing, doing, loving). Using euphemisms, the play accords with Steiner’s racial teachings. Steiner taught that white-skinned people, living in the North and West (i.e., Europe), lead “thinking lives” (“Denkleben”), while yellow-skinned people, living in the East (i.e., Asia), lead emotional lives (“Gefühlsleben”), and black-skinned people, living in the South (i.e., Africa), lead impulsive lives (“Triebleben”). Steiner also said that blacks, who burn inside, have very powerful drives; he essentially endorsed the widespread stereotype of the time that blacks are sexually ravenous (which, in a manner of speaking, makes them “loving”). Schwartz generally echoes Steiner’s teachings on these matters, in a play written for third graders to perform. Euphemisms notwithstanding, this is horrifying, IMO. “You and your race… You and your race… You and your race…” If there was any justification for such thinking in Steiner’s time, there is absolutely none now. Schwartz published the play some years ago, in 1984, but it remains available online in 2016 at a site providing Waldorf instructional resources, the Waldorf Online Library. Evidently at least some Waldorf authorities continue to find the play acceptable today, in 2016. [3]

A few more points should be made. What are the implications of the divisions between races as they are presented in the play? Note that the two races not assigned to “know” are, implicitly, consigned not to know — they, the non-European races, must be seen as comparatively ignorant. By the same token, two of three human races are implicitly identified as being less able to “do.” They presumably lack skills, dexterity, competence. Not as individuals, mind you, but as races. Likewise, two of three human races are implicitly tarred as being less loving. Their hearts are comparatively cold, it would seem; they are less empathetic, less kind. Perhaps they are prone to the antithesis of love: hatred. Not as individuals, mind you, but as races. These are all horrid, grotesque, racist propositions. Encouraging young children to think in these ways is awful; it is wicked; it should never be done. Yet here we see it being recommended, in Waldorf education, in accordance with Rudolf Steiner’s racist doctrines.

We can hope that most Waldorf teachers today are not racists. Probably, indeed, most are not — at least, not consciously. Yet racism remains built into the thinking that undergirds the Waldorf worldview. Racism should be yanked out by the roots, not prettied up in cute little pageants for young children to enact. [4]

[1] See "BBC & SWSF".

[2] The parent does not say when this occurred; recently, it would seem, but perhaps a few years ago. Bear in mind, also, that the words attributed to the teachers are hearsay; we cannot be absolutely sure that the parent is telling the truth. How much trust we should place in the BBC is also open to question. But the parent’s statement is consistent with everything we know about Anthroposophical doctrines concerning race. I use the statement chiefly as a way to ease our way into a painful topic. In future installments of “What They're Saying”, I will chiefly present direct quotations from Anthroposophical texts.

[3] The play can be found in the Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 5, pp. 1-9. [See "Clearing House".] Because the play was written some years ago, we may hope that it does not represent Anthroposophical beliefs today. Yet Anthroposophical beliefs change very slowly if at all. Admitting that Steiner could be wrong about major issues is extremely difficult for Anthroposophists — it would call into question the very basis of their faith. Thus, the decision by the Waldorf Online Library to continue offering the play, without apology or demurral, in 2016 is troubling.

[4] For more on these very troubling topics, see “Steiner’s Racism”, “Races”, and “Embedded Racism”.




In our last visit to Square One, we considered the highly contentious and distressing subject of racism as built into the thinking that underlies Waldorf education.

Let’s turn to other, less inflammatory issues. Steiner’s strange, occult, mystical doctrines concerning all issues, not just race, still suffuse Waldorf/Anthroposophical thinking today. Here are a few sample quotations from recent works by Anthroposophists and Waldorf educators, along with extremely enlightening commentary added by yrs trly. We will examine other quotations during other visits to Square One.

(One benefit of this exercise is that it provides practice in deciphering Anthroposophical prose, a taxing but necessary skill for parents who want to understand what Waldorf education really is. Adding to the task: To grasp what one Anthroposophist is saying, you often need to draw on knowledge you’ve gained by reading other Anthroposophists [1] or by consulting resources such as The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.)

Waldorf schools famously emphasize the imagination. Why? 

“When a teacher gives imaginative pictures to a class each individual in the class can then transform these pictures into personal experiences which will form the foundation for a healthy and inspired relationship to knowledge. An education founded on imagination, as opposed to one that is a product of 'bits' of information [sic], permits children to develop flexibility in their conceptual lives. Education which is full of life and life's pictures is healthy education and acts as a seed for the future, both for the individual and human cultural and social life as a whole.” — Arthur M. Pittis, “Literacy, Not Just Reading”, an essay in WALDORF EDUCATION: A Family Guide (Michaelmas Press, 1995), edited by Pamela Johnson Fenner and Karen L. Rivers, p. 73.

Steiner taught that true thinking is a “pictorial activity”: it involves forming mental pictures. He was right to some extent, but he was obviously wrong in a larger sense. Many concepts, including concepts in philosophy, theology, mathematics, etc., cannot be pictured. [2] Waldorf schooling aims at promoting clairvoyance, which is the alleged psychic power to form accurate mental images of spiritual truths or realities. This is what “pictorial activity” and “imagination” and “intuition” — words often used by Waldorf faculty — are ultimately all about: clairvoyance. But clairvoyance is a delusion, it does not exist [3]; and an educational program built on belief in clairvoyance is fundamentally flawed.

”Rudolf Steiner describes how, in our development after physical birth, we human beings go through further 'births': 'Just as we are enclosed within the physical sheath of our mother up to the time of birth, we are enclosed in an etheric sheath up till the change of teeth, that is, till about the seventh year.'" — Michaela Strauss, UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS: Tracing the Path of Incarnation (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007), p. 51.

UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS is a particularly startling book. Published fairly recently (the revised edition came out in 2007), it accepts Steiner's occultist views and applies them to the interpretation of innocent children's drawings. It accepts the etheric sheath, incarnation, the "I", clairvoyance, etc. — a welter of occult nonsense — as truth. (The "etheric sheath" is akin to the "etheric body" [4], one of the three invisible bodies that Waldorf teachers believe develop during childhood.) 

Here is a typical "insight" from UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS, giving the Waldorf slant on what a child means when s/he draws a house. The child, according to Strauss, is telling us about the process of human incarnation. 

"In no other motif can one see the multiple experiences in the process of human incarnation as in the motif of the house." — Ibid., p. 58. [5]

A parent or teacher who follows the advice in this book will impose occult interpretations on a child's innocent activities, using these as the basis for misdirecting the child in ways that may be deeply, permanently harmful. [6]

“Waldorf education holds that development has a meaning which cuts across different time scales and different kinds of being. The mythical and religious content of the earliest grades bring the child to the same wellsprings from which humanity began its great journey into awareness. Myth and religion are the parents of art and science, delivered of them by that dubious midwife, philosophy. [7] Today art and science eclipse and usurp their elders, as if they were themselves characters in a Greek myth or tragedy. They have empowered us to stuff our world with facts and artifacts at rates whose increase may well prove pathological.” — Clifford Skoog, “Waldorf Education and Science”, in WALDORF EDUCATION: A Family Guide (Michaelmas Press, 1995), p. 79.

This passage comes early in a chapter advocating the Waldorf approach to science. At its core, the Waldorf approach to science is antiscientific: Waldorf generally mistrusts science. Myth and religion play a far bigger role in Waldorf schooling; science, “facts,” and “artifacts” (the products of human brainwork and industriousness) are considered generally sick or “pathological,” according to Waldorf doctrine. There is some truth in the Waldorf position, but there is also a lot of fallacy and error in it. Waldorf schools try to steer students away from the real world and into the fantasy world of Anthroposophy. The “mythical and religious content" of Waldorf schooling is, ultimately, Anthroposophy. [8]

[1] To leap ahead, see “Today”, “Today 2”, and “Today 3”.

[2] See, e.g., “Steiner’s ‘Science'"

[3] See, e.g., “Thinking Cap”, “Clairvoyance”, and “Reality and Fantasy”.

[4] Steiner taught that the etheric body incarnates around age 7 (when adult teeth replace baby teeth), the astral body at around age 14, and the ego body or “I” at around age 21. [See “Incarnation”.]

[5] To dig further into some of the subjects raised in such statements, see, e.g., "Magical Arts”, “Nutshell", and “Underpinnings".

[6] Waldorf teachers have become notorious for making mystical interpretations of their students’ artwork. Here is the beginning of an article about Waldorf education: 

“Ray Pereira could not believe what he was hearing. His son's teacher had just said his child had to repeat prep because the boy's soul had not fully incarnated. [paragraph break] ‘She said his soul was hovering above the earth,’ Mr Pereira said. ‘And she then produced a couple of my son's drawings as evidence that his depiction of the world was from a perspective looking down on the earth from above. ‘I just looked at my wife and we both thought, “We are out of here”.’" 

[7] Why is philosophy “dubious”? Steiner is sometimes described as a philosopher, but actually he was a mystical occultist. [See, e.g., “Occultism”.] Intellect of the sort used in philosophy is almost always suspect in Anthroposophy and in Waldorf education. [See, e.g., “Steiner’s Specific”.]

[8] See, e.g., “Steiner’s ‘Science’” and “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?



The belief system underlying Waldorf education is called Anthroposophy. “Anthroposophy”: a tongue-twister, a word hardly ever heard outside the Steiner universe. What is Anthroposophy, in brief?


The word "Anthroposophy" (pronounced an-throw-POS-oh-fee) comes from Greek, meaning human ("anthropo") wisdom ("sophy") or knowledge of the human being. Generally described as "spiritual science" by its adherents, Anthroposophy is a polytheistic religion entailing meditations, observances, and prayers. A variant of Theosophy developed by Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy assigns tremendous significance to human beings, placing them at the center of the created universe. The faith’s cosmology is essentially a set of reassurances for the frail human ego. The principles and practices of Waldorf education derive from Anthroposophy. [1]

The "human wisdom" embodied in Anthroposophy is esoteric and fundamentally unsupported by verifiable knowledge or information. According to Waldorf belief, human beings have both souls and spirits, they have three invisible bodies, they have 12 senses, they exhibit four classical temperaments, their racial identities reflect their degree of spiritual evolution, their hearts do not pump blood, their brains do not think, they have karmas, they are heavily influenced by astrological forces, they have hidden inner doubles, and so on. None of this is demonstrably true. [2]

The "science" in Anthroposophy is the use of clairvoyance to study the spirit realm. [3] Rudolf Steiner laid out spiritual exercises, meditations, prayers, and other practices intended to assist his followers in developing precise or exact powers of clairvoyance. [4] The process, he taught, is a modern form of occult initiation. [5] He claimed that he himself was a high initiate whose clairvoyant findings — being "exact" — are very nearly undeniable. [6]

Anthroposophists believe that there are invisible worlds both above and below us, populated by powerful, invisible beings. The beings below us have no true spirits, while those above us are, for the most part, beneficent gods. There are many ranks of gods. [7] The gods have evolved, much as we evolve, and we ourselves will ultimately rise to the highest divine rank. Our evolution began during a period called Old Saturn, followed by Old Sun and Old Moon. [8] After our present existence during Present Earth, we will evolve through the phases Future Jupiter, Future Venus, and Future Vulcan. [9] This is the central narrative of Anthroposophy. [10]

While most of the gods are good and merciful, there are also evil gods, demons, and other forces of evil. The intended trajectory of human development is upward, but not all humans participate properly in evolution as intended by the good gods. Some people descend, taking the "black path" toward perdition. [11] It is possible, indeed, that only a small band (in effect, only Anthroposophists) will persevere in the ways of righteousness. The coming War of All Against All will winnow humanity, just as previous catastrophes have done. [12]

Steiner became a Theosophist in 1902. In 1913, he broke away to establish Anthroposophy as a separate occult movement. However, he had described his own teachings as Anthroposophy even while he was nominally a Theosophist, and his teachings changed little after the break. In 1919, Steiner oversaw the creation of the first Waldorf school. Waldorf schools are rooted in Anthroposophy, and Waldorf faculties are typically guided by Anthroposophists. Indeed, the chief purpose of Waldorf education is to spread Anthroposophy and its purported benefits, although the effort is often covert and subtle. [13]

Like many of the sources from which it draws [14], Anthroposophy is a complex, multi-layered body of teachings. Such complexity can be alluring. A single falsehood, standing alone, may be readily pierced and rejected; it has little power to sway us. But a rich tapestry of untruths, multicolored and vibrant, may exert a powerful, persistent attraction. Anthroposophy offers an intricately detailed alternative reality. The susceptible may lose themselves within it — they may plunge into its fabulous landscapes and remain for the rest of their days in a world that is far removed from what the rest of humanity would call reality.

[3] See “Clairvoyance”.

[4] See "Knowing the Worlds”.

[5] See "Occultism" and "Inside Scoop”.

[6] See “Exactly”.

[7] See “Polytheism”.

[8] See "Old Saturn", "Old Sun", and "Old Moon, Etc.

[9] See "Present Earth" and "Future Stages”.

[11] See "Evil", "Evil Ones", "Hell", and “Sin”.

[12] See "All vs. All" and "Steiner Static II”.

[13] See “Here’s the Answer”, "Oh Humanity", and "Sneaking It In”.

[14] see, e.g., "Basics".



Recently (Square One - 3) I offered a summary description of Waldorf schools, quoting from a wide array of Anthroposophists and Waldorf teachers. Here is a variant description, this time quoting Rudolf Steiner exclusively. The basic question any parents must bear in mind when considering Waldorf schools for their children is precisely what sort of education the kids would receive there. What, in brief, are Waldorf schools really like?

So, Waldorf schools, take two:

Waldorf or Steiner schools operate in accordance with the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, who founded the first Waldorf school in 1919. Steiner was an occultist who claimed to have precise knowledge of the spirit realm thanks to his "exact clairvoyance." He laid out his spiritual "discoveries" in such books as OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE. He called his body of teachings "Anthroposophy," a word meaning knowledge or wisdom of the human being. Steiner claimed that Anthroposophy is a science, although in fact it is a religion involving prayers, meditations, gurus, reverential practices, and spiritual observances. [1]

Waldorf faculties usually acknowledge that their educational approach arises from Anthroposophy, but they usually deny that they teach Anthroposophical doctrines to their students. In a restricted sense, this may be true in many cases. But in a larger sense, it is false [2], and we have Steiner’s word for it. Addressing Waldorf teachers, Steiner said:

“You need to make the children aware that they are receiving the objective truth, and if this occasionally appears anthroposophical, it is not anthroposophy that is at fault. Things are that way [in the Waldorf School] because anthroposophy has something to say about objective truth. It is the material that causes what is said to be anthroposophical. We certainly may not go to the other extreme, where people say that anthroposophy may not be brought into the school. Anthroposophy will be in the school when it is objectively justified, that is, when it is called for by the material itself.” [3]

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

Although Steiner himself sometimes said — especially when speaking in public — that Waldorf schools do not teach Anthroposophy to the students, he sometimes said just the opposite in private, when speaking with Waldorf teachers. Thus, for instance, he once chided a Waldorf teacher for failing to frame Anthroposophy in a form that young students could grasp. 

“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.” [4] 

Giving Waldorf teachers a “directive” to bring Anthroposophy down to a child’s level is, of course, quite different from directing Waldorf teachers to leave Anthroposophy out of the classroom. Despite denials, Waldorf schools do indeed try to teach the kids Anthroposophy.

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

“As teachers in the Waldorf School, you will need to find your way more deeply into the insight of the spirit and to find a way of putting all compromises aside ... As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” [5]

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

“One of the most important facts about the background of the Waldorf School is that we were in a position to make the anthroposophical movement a relatively large one. The anthroposophical movement has become a large one.” [6]

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

“As far as our school is concerned, the actual spiritual life can be present only because its staff consists of anthroposophists.” [7]

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

◊ "The position of teacher becomes a kind of priestly office, a ritual performed at the altar of universal human life." [8]

◊ “We can accomplish our work only if we do not see it as simply a matter of intellect or feeling, but, in the highest sense, as a moral spiritual task. Therefore, you will understand why, as we begin this work today, we first reflect on the connection we wish to create from the very beginning between our activity and the spiritual worlds ... Thus, we wish to begin our preparation by first reflecting upon how we connect with the spiritual powers in whose service and in whose name each one of us must work.” [9]

◊ “Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods, that we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” [10]

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

“[W]e have to remember that an institution like the Independent Waldorf School with its anthroposophical character, has goals that, of course, coincide with anthroposophical desires. At the moment, though, if that connection were made official, people would break the Waldorf School’s neck." [11]

What is Anthroposophy? It is a religion: 

"[T]he Anthroposophical Society...provides religious instruction just as other religious groups do." [12]

And so: 

"It is possible to introduce a religious element into every subject, even into math lessons. Anyone who has some knowledge of Waldorf teaching will know that this statement is true." [13]


"Yesterday, I was sitting on pins and needles worrying that the visitors would think the history class was too religious." [14] 

Steiner wasn't concerned that the history class was religious; he worried that outsiders might think it was excessively religious. That there will be some religious content in a Waldorf class goes without saying. Waldorf schools, you see, are religious institutions, with "a religious element" introduced into "every subject." And the religion the schools adhere to is Anthroposophy.

Hence Steiner was able to say to Waldorf students: 

“[D]o you know where your teachers get all the strength and ability they need so that they can teach you to grow up to be good and capable people? They get it from the Christ.” [15] 

Take care when Steiner and his followers refer to "Christ." They do not mean the Son of God worshipped in regular Christian churches; they mean the Sun God. [16] This need not detain us at this moment, however. The key point for us now is to recognize Steiner's admission that Waldorf teachers are true believers; they believe that they draw their authority from a god. Their work as Waldorf teachers is religious. Even when encouraging their students to love beauty, their purpose is fundamentally religious.

“We must, in our lessons, see to it that the children experience the beautiful, artistic, and aesthetic conception of the world; and their ideas and mental pictures should be permeated by a religious/moral feeling." [17]

So, to wrap this up: Waldorf schools are covert religious institutions. They exist to spread the religion created by Rudolf Steiner: Anthroposophy. They go about this task cautiously, secretively — but they go about it. Sending a child to a Waldorf school means sending her/him to an institution where many, if not all, of the teachers are true-believing Anthroposophists who would like to lead the child and the child's family toward the "true spiritual life" — that is, spiritual life as understood in Anthroposophy.

[2] See, e.g., “Sneaking It In”.

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

[4] Rudolf Steiner, ibid., pp. 402-403.

[5] Rudolf Steiner, ibid., p. 118. 

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

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

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

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


[11] Rudolf Steiner, ibid., p. 705. 

[12] Rudolf Steiner, ibid., p. 706.

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



[16] See “Sun God”.

[17] Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS, p. 77. 


What can we say about Waldorf teachers? Who are they? How are they trained?

Here’s one brilliantly concise overview:


Ideally, according to Rudolf Steiner, all Waldorf teachers should be devoted Anthroposophists. [1] Non-Anthroposophists are, as a rule, hired to teach in Waldorf schools only when more suitable candidates (i.e., Anthroposophists) are unavailable. The training of Waldorf teachers usually includes broad exposure to Steiner's occult doctrines, and such training may constitute the entire postsecondary education received by some trainees. Waldorf teachers generally aim to develop a special form of clairvoyance, the "Waldorf teacher's consciousness", and they usually continue their study of Steiner's doctrines throughout their careers. [2] The ultimate purpose for true-believing Waldorf teachers is the messianic practice of Anthroposophy [3]; the teachers generally see themselves as serving a priestly function. [4]

Some Waldorf teachers, called "subject teachers", specialize in specific subjects (math, French, history, etc.). But other Waldorf teachers have a much broader mandate. These "class teachers" take primary responsibility for a group of children and remain with that group for many years. Typically, a class teacher begins with a group of entering first graders and takes that group through fifth or even eighth grade. In extreme cases, a teacher may stay with a group from the earliest years all the way through high school. Along the way, the class teacher instructs the students in most of the major subjects studied at all of the successive grade levels. Whether any teacher is truly qualified to do this, and whether the students can receive a good education under this system, become pertinent questions. [5]

At many Waldorf schools, all faculty members are presumed to have more or less equal say in the running of the school; they are meant to work together collegially, with little formal administrative structure. At some Waldorf schools, however, there are principals or headmasters as well as other officers of various ranks and functions. [6] Typically, whatever the formal organization of a Waldorf school, much of the real power is held by the "college of teachers," an inner group primarily composed of committed Anthroposophists. Meetings of the entire faculty are typically held on Thursday afternoons; meetings of subsets of the faculty are scattered throughout the week. Brief reviews of Anthroposophical principles occur during many of these meetings, along with short readings from Steiner' works, recitation of prayers written by Steiner, etc. Meetings of the "college" may be held in the evenings or on weekends; they can be intense and prolonged, and they often entail in-depth study of Steiner's lectures and books. (The ideal of collegiality may be more nearly attained within the college of teachers than within the faculty as a whole. But even within the college, individuals who are particularly articulate, charismatic, or well-versed in Anthroposophy may rise to de facto leadership positions; these individuals may even be looked up to as gurus by other members of the college. [7]) 

Sometimes teachers having no knowledge of, or devotion to, the doctrines of Anthroposophy take jobs in Waldorf schools. It may even happen that such teachers constitute the majority of a Waldorf faculty. However, if these teachers hope to keep their jobs and perhaps earn promotions, they generally need to enter the Anthroposophical camp. Indeed, Waldorf schools often put their non-Anthroposophical faculty members through a process of indoctrination. Here is how one former Waldorf teacher has described this process: 

"The indoctrination of teachers...begins with the obligation to participate in many educational meetings per week (unpaid) where the talk is supposed to serve the students' welfare, but in which many portions are designed to evoke the Anthroposophical foundations of Waldorf pedagogy. Of course, these meetings begin with the reading or recitation of prayers or words of Rudolf Steiner intended for the teaching profession. [The teachers] must also attend conferences that open educational meetings, where esoteric themes are discussed ... A [Waldorf] conference is not just a simple means for communicating ideas — it is an act of sacramental communion ... Each teacher is also encouraged to take an interest in some aspect of the doctrine of Rudolf Steiner ... The class teacher will, in turn, be urged to attend the Teacher Training Institute (often at his own expense). However, during this 'training,' the talk gradually shifts to the esoteric ideas of Rudolf Steiner; the group begins to practice mediation or prayer ... Teachers are also encouraged to participate in study groups from the Anthroposophical Society to cultivate the foundations of their discipline or their teaching skills ... Meanwhile, teachers are asked to participate in various tasks of school life: monitoring the canteen, preparing various gatherings, helping with educational exhibitions, helping with open houses, gardening the school's green spaces, cleaning classrooms, doing small maintenance, undertaking administrative tasks, etc. ... Household and kitchen work are no exception ... Waldorf teachers only become more submissive to an institution to which they eventually sacrifice their lives and energy ... The teacher finds compensation, a kind of new family, in the school itself." — Grégoire Perra. [8]

[1] Anthroposophy is the spiritual movement — an occult religion — founded by Rudolf Steiner, who also founded Waldorf education. [See the entry in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia for "Anthroposophy"; also see "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?”]

[2] See “The Waldorf Teacher’s Consciousness”, "Teacher Training", and "Faculty Meetings”. Whether or not a Waldorf teacher has graduated from a Waldorf teacher-training institution, s/he will likely enroll at such institutions periodically — generally during summers and holidays — for several years after being hired at a Waldorf school.

[3] Thus, for instance: 

◊ “Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We...are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods ... [W]e are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55.

◊ "Waldorf education is a form of practical anthroposophy." — Keith Francis, THE EDUCATION OF A WALDORF TEACHER (iUniverse, 2004), p. xii.

◊ "The reason many [Waldorf] schools exist is because of Anthroposophy, period. It's not because of the children. It's because a group of Anthroposophists have it in their minds to promote Anthroposophy in the world ... Educating children is secondary in these schools." — "Baandje." [See "Ex-Teacher 7”.]

[4] See "Schools as Churches”.

[5] See, e.g., "Academic Standards at Waldorf", "Methods", and "October, 2011”. The qualifications of Waldorf class teachers is especially open to question when those teachers have received most or all of their "higher education" in Anthroposophical training programs. They may then be far better informed about Anthroposophy than about the subjects they are required to teach. Their knowledge of teaching methods and materials may also be sharply limited, being drawn almost entirely from within the Waldorf/Anthroposophical community.

[6] For inside accounts of Waldorf teaching experiences, see "My Life Among the Anthroposophists" and the reports that follow it. For guidance given by senior Waldorf teachers to their more junior colleagues, see, e.g., "Old Testament", "Methods", "Temperaments", "Fairy Tales", "Mystic Math", and "Oh My Stars”.

[7] Gurus are important in Anthroposophy. The ultimate guru for Anthroposophists is Rudolf Steiner himself. [See "Guru".]

[8] See "He Went to Waldorf”.



Rudolf Steiner remains the central figure in the Waldorf movement — his educational “indications” remain the chief source of guidance and inspiration for true-believing Waldorf faculty members. This being the case, outsiders are sometimes shocked to learn what Steiner said and wrote. Steiner described a universe quite different from the one that science and rational scholarship reveal — his vision was almost completely detached from reality. Steiner used “clairvoyance” to make “discoveries” that can cause the mind to totter.

Here are a few samples: surprising Steiner statements. As you read, bear in mind that Steiner’s followers today generally affirm the truth of almost all the words that proceeded from Steiner’s lips and pen.

“[T]he moon today is like a fortress in the universe, in which there lives a population that fulfilled its human destiny over 15,000 years ago, after which it withdrew to the moon ... This is only one of the ‘cities’ in the universe, one colony, one settlement among many ... As far as what concerns ourselves, as humanity on earth, the other pole, the opposite extreme to the moon is the population of Saturn.” — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER SPEAKS TO THE BRITISH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 93. 

"You will injure children if you educate them rationally.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 61.

“On one side we find the black race, which is earthly at best. If it migrates to the west, it dies out. Then there is the yellow race, which is poised between the Earth and the cosmos. If it migrates to the east, it becomes brown, orients itself too much to the cosmos, and dies out. The white race is the future, it is the spiritually productive race.” — Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS (Verlag Der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, 1961), GA 349, p. 62. [Translation by R.R.]

“[I]t is not that the planets move around the Sun [i.e., the planets don’t orbit the Sun], but these three, Mercury, Venus, and the Earth, follow the Sun, and these three, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, precede it [i.e., the planets move in line with the Sun].” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 30-31.

“The heart is not a pump ... Basically the heart is a sense organ within the circulatory system, yet exactly the opposite is taught nowadays.” — Rudolf Steiner, POLARITIES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MANKIND (Steiner Books, 1987), p. 56.

“With the students, we should…make it clear that, for instance, an island like Great Britain swims in the sea and is held fast by the forces of the stars. In actuality, such islands do not sit directly upon a foundation; they swim and are held fast from outside.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 607-608.

”It will seem strange that in discussing man as a spiritual being, I speak first of the teeth ... [A] truly spiritual understanding of the human being shows us [that] the child develops teeth not only for the sake of eating and speaking, but for quite a different purpose as well. Strange as it sounds to-day, the child develops teeth for the purpose of thinking. Modern science little knows that the teeth are the most important of all organs of thought." — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1943), lecture 4, GA 307.

"There are beings that can be seen with clairvoyant vision at many spots in the depths of the earth ... Many names have been given to them, such as goblins, gnomes and so forth ... Their nature prompts them to play all sorts of tricks on man....” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 62.

”The criminal demons attached as parasites to unborn children cause deterioration in the succession of the generations; this eats into human beings, making them less good than they would be if these demons did not exist. There are various reasons for the decline of families, tribes, people and nations, but one of them is the existence of these criminal demon parasites….” — Rudolf Steiner, ANGELS, (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 168.

This list could be extended almost endlessly, but the above samples may be sufficient for now. Notice that several of these bizarre statements (2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9) bear directly on Waldorf education, or on education generally, or on children. Two come from FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, one comes from the book EDUCATION, and one comes from FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, a book that is often identified as providing the chief rationale for Waldorf education. [See “Oh Humanity”.]

If you want to explore many other strange statements by Steiner, see, e.g., “Say What?” and “Wise Words”. Another technique is to open virtually any book attributed to Steiner and start reading. You will soon stumble over some stunners.



Let’s circle back to an important point. Defenders of Waldorf education often claim that Rudolf Steiner, being long gone, is no longer important. The schools have moved on; they have separated themselves from Steiner’s occultism; they are, today, places where common sense and enlightenment prevail.

To test this claim, all we need to do is read the works of Waldorf advocates published in recent years. Forget Steiner. What sorts of things have his successors said and written?

Here are a few samples. All of these passages are from publications that appeared long after Steiner’s death, which came in 1925. (I’m getting a little long in the tooth; I graduated from a Waldorf school in 1964. Publications that may seem ancient to kids born in the 21st century seem pretty recent to me. The oldest of the following statements appeared in 1975. You can decide whether this qualifies as “recent.”)

”[T]he purpose of education is to help the individual fulfill his karma. The teacher is an intermediary and his task is to guide the incarnating individualities [i.e., children] into the physical world and equip them for earthly existence, bearing in mind what they bring with them from the past [1] and what they are likely to take with them into the future.” — Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION - The Waldorf School Approach (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 52.

“Must teachers be clairvoyant [2] in order to be certain that they are teaching in the proper way? ... The teacher's faculty [of clairvoyance] must be cultivated and brought to a stage of conscious awareness on the part of the teacher.” — Waldorf educator Eugene Schwartz, WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century (Xlibris Corporation, 2000), p. 17. (“Must teachers be clairvoyant in order to be certain that they are teaching in the proper way? Clairvoyance is needed...." — Eugene Schwartz, THE MILLENNIAL CHILD (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), p. 157.)

“If approximately between the ages of seven and fourteen the child is not introduced in a living way to the Christ, along the lines of the Waldorf curriculum, in later life the youngster is more likely to either deny Christ or to hold onto a traditional faith.” [3] — Waldorf teacher-trainer René M. Querido, THE ESOTERIC BACKGROUND OF WALDORF EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1995), p. 36.

”In education parent and teacher are encouraged to make themselves sensitive to karmic differences and to karmic needs. [4] Thereby, we open the way for the young child to become fully capable within the limits of her or his karma, and we endeavor to educate human beings who are capable of fulfilling the plan of creator beings [5], capable of answering the expectations of Michael." [6] — Waldorf teacher Margaret Myerkort, "Working with the Karma of the Young Child", WORKING WITH THE ANGELS (Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America, 2004), p. 35.

“[Acquiring] spiritual perception, enhanced consciousness or knowledge of higher worlds [i.e., clairvoyance] the same path that should be followed by every teacher who takes his vocation seriously.” [7] — Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 115.

“Each of us [Waldorf teachers] is centrally involved in the Michaelic battle [8] against the forces of darkness for the sake of the children and youngsters in our care.” — Waldorf teacher-trainer René M. Querido, THE ESOTERIC BACKGROUND OF WALDORF EDUCATION, p. 13.

”[Even] without reaching the initial stage of clairvoyance, which Steiner calls Imagination [9]…young people's imagination may nevertheless be strengthened ... [R]ight education can have the result that someone who is not at all clairvoyant will nevertheless be inspired through sleep." [10] — Waldorf headmaster John Fentress Gardner, YOUTH LONGS TO KNOW (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), pp. 37-38.

“A youth whose childhood has been touched by the blight of 'critical thinking' [11] will come to the moment of independent insight badly crippled ... Because skepticism has long since robbed him of part of his heart, he will now feel unable to embrace enthusiastically what he has come to understand." — Waldorf educator John Fentress Gardner, THE EXPERIENCE OF KNOWLEDGE (Waldorf Press, 1975), pp. 127-128.

[1] This is a reference to reincarnation. In Waldorf belief, we are born and reborn many times, creating and enacting our individual karmas. [See "Karma" and "Reincarnation".]

[2] Waldorf teachers generally seek to develop clairvoyance, and they base many of their decisions and actions on their "clairvoyant" readings of their students. [See, e.g., "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness”.]

[3] The Waldorf curriculum is expressly intended to introduce children to Christ, who Steiner said is the Sun God. [See "Sun God".] Anthroposophists believe that only they have a true, "living" comprehension of Christ; they deny that mainstream Christian churches have such an understanding. Indeed, the "traditional" faiths that Anthroposophy seeks to supplant include mainstream Christianity. Anthroposophy is arguably not at all Christian. [See "Was He Christian?"]

[4] "Karmic differences", as discussed here, are the differing karmas of children; "karmic needs" are the needs that must be met so that the kids can fulfill their karmas.

[5] The "creator beings" are beneficent gods. Anthroposophy is polytheistic. [See "Polytheism".] This fact alone helps answer the question whether Anthroposophy is truly Christian. Christianity is, of course, one of the great monotheistic faiths. 

[6] This is the god Michael, who stands two spiritual levels above humanity. [See "Michael".]

[7] Becoming a Waldorf teacher is often all but indistinguishable from becoming an Anthroposophist. [See "Teacher Training".] A central objective for Anthroposophists is using clairvoyance to study the "higher worlds" of the spirit realm. [See "Knowing the Worlds".]

[8] This is the battle between the god Michael and the arch-demon Ahriman, according to Rudolf Steiner's teachings. In Anthroposophical belief, Michael is the Archangel of the Sun; he is the warrior-champion of the Sun God. Ahriman is the devil of Zoroastrianism; he is a major, threatening figure in Anthroposophy. [See "Ahriman".]

[9] Waldorf schools emphasize imagination. What they mean, ultimately, is clairvoyance. [See, e.g., "Thinking Cap".]

[10] Steiner taught, and his followers still believe, that dreams often reveal spiritual insights. Imagination (or clairvoyance) and dreams are far superior to rational thought, they contend. [For some Anthroposophical teachings about the sleep state, see "Dreams".]

[11] Waldorf schools generally deplore critical thinking. They want children to develop the ability to think imaginatively and unconventionally — but rational, critical thinking is largely discouraged, especially in the lower grades. The Waldorf approach attempts to lead children toward heartfelt, semi-clairvoyant true belief, so that they "come to understand" the sorts of things that Anthroposophists “understand." Critical thought — a "blight" — is generally rejected as being destructive. [See, e.g., "Criticism". ]




A few years back, the Rudolf Steiner Press issued a notice of an upcoming publication: ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z, by Henk van Oort, a Waldorf teacher.

Terrific, I thought. Someone has finally plowed through the immense, sprawling, complex totality of Anthroposophical teachings and produced a complete guide, A to Z. I could hardly wait to get a copy.

When the book finally arrived, however, it was a severe disappointment. At a mere 140 pages (with large print and lots of white space), it was little more than a booklet. Far from comprehensive, it omitted more than it contained; it gave the barest of introductions to Anthroposophy.

Still, here it is. Published in 2011, the book is a product of the aforementioned Rudolf Steiner Press; it provides a more-or-less authorized exposition of Anthroposophical thinking as it exists in the early 21st century. Writing manifestly as a true believer, van Oort itemizes elements of the faith he and other Anthroposophists embrace today.

Here are a few excerpts. I have added some handy introductions and endnotes.

Steiner taught that humans used to live on Atlantis; he said Atlantis really existed. His followers still think so. 

Atlantis — a submerged continent, located where we now find the Atlantic Ocean. It was swallowed up by an enormous tsunami around 10,000 BC … Rudolf Steiner describes the Atlantean culture in many texts and lectures. [1]”— ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z, p. 11. 

Anthroposophy and Waldorf education are deeply anti-intellectual. In part, this is because Steiner taught that the brain is uncreative. 

Brain — the brain acts as a mirroring ground [i.e., it only mirrors thoughts produced elsewhere] … The brain does not produce thoughts. [2]” — ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z, p. 16. 

Anthroposophists believe that we are surrounded by invisible subhuman creatures called elemental beings or nature spirits. 

Elemental beings — also called etheric elemental beings, usually [associated with] the four elements…earth, water, air, and fire. Among these beings are…dwarves (earth) [3], undines (water), sylphs (air) and salamanders (fire). [4] … The elemental beings are invisible to the untrained eye. [5]" — ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z, p. 36.

Just as the brain does not think, the heart does not pump blood. Or so Anthroposophists believe. 

Heart … In contrast to the usual conception of the heart, anthroposophy tells us that [the heart] beats because blood flows through the body. [6] The heart is thus not an organ that pumps the blood around us [i.e., inside us], but instead [it] responds to the living circulation of the blood. [6]” — ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z, p. 55.

Waldorf schools emphasize imagination. Why? Because Steiner taught that imagination is a preliminary form of clairvoyance. 

Imagination … [I]n anthroposophy imagination is a capacity for true perception. [7] Clairvoyant imaginative perception may occur without direct understanding. [8] [But] after undergoing spiritual training [9], imaginations [10] can reveal their significance." — ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z, p. 59.

Anthroposophy teaches that people have differing “planetary” souls — your soul is largely conditioned by the planetary sphere where you spent the most time before your most recent Earthly incarnation. 

Planetary types … Between two incarnations, the ‘I’ [11] lives in the spiritual world where it travels through the following sequence of planetary spheres [12]: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. When the ‘I’ is again born on earth, it arrives there with all the knowledge it has been able to absorb [from the planetary spheres] … However, the planetary sphere where the ‘I’ stayed longest, and where its was able to really absorb new spiritual knowledge, will leave a predominant imprint on the soul [13] … This imprint affects our general psychological make-up. [14]” — ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z, p. 95.

Seasonal festivals, mixing Christian and pagan elements, are celebrated in Waldorf schools. Why? These observances attune us to the rhythmical life of the Earth, in accordance with the will of the gods. Or so Anthroposophists believe. 

Seasons — The earth breathes like a living being. [15] This process is expressed in the four seasons … On the summer side of the planet, the earth breathes out, while on the winter side of the planet the earth breathes in … [T]he hierarchies [16] also play a part [in the seasonal changes] … The Christian festivals [17], often drawing on ancient pagan celebrations [18], are embedded in the seasonal cycle….” — ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z, p. 106.


Henk van Oort is by no means the only Waldorf representative who still embraces Rudolf Steiner’s occultism. Here are a few samples of other startling statements, published since the year 2000, by other Steiner followers.

"One of the most important characteristics of the Waldorf method is the degree of consciousness with which it works at helping [the] higher bodies [19] to integrate. And one of the most important contributions made to modern education by the Waldorf approach is the recognition that every effort must be made to slow down the incorporation of the astral body until the child is strong enough to [receive it] without undue physical or emotional damage." — Waldorf teacher Eugene Schwartz, WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century (Xlibris Corporation, 2000), pp. 39-40.

 "At the Saturn stage [of cosmic and human evolution] there was no solar system but Ancient Saturn [20] occupied space in the universe in which the solar system was to function. A contraction took place to the present Jupiter orbit and the resultant sphere formed Ancient Sun. [21] A further contraction to the present Mars orbit resulted in the formation of the Ancient Moon. [22]“ — Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson, RUDOLF STEINER (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2005), p. 89.

 "[T]he shark eats it own weight in fish every day ... [T]he shark can distend its digestive system out both forwards and behind ... Rudolf Steiner has pointed out that in Lemurian times [23] man had a physical organism which, by virtue of the distension and contraction of his inside...indicated the beginnings of a kind of metabolism. As the shark can be counted as one of the developments of the Lemurian age, it should be recognized as a frozen and demonically hardened picture of the conditions of evolution in those times. [24]“ — Anthroposophist Rudolf Hauschka, AT THE DAWN OF A NEW AGE (SteinerBooks, 2007), p. 44.

 "The History curriculum for fifth and sixth grades in a Waldorf school follows the thread of development of cultures through Ancient India, Persia, Egypt and Chaldea, Greece, and Rome. This provides a picture of the changing human consciousness from ancient clairvoyance to the loss of spiritual vision…. [25]” — Publisher's description, TEACHING HISTORY, Vol. 1, Wilkinson Waldorf Curriculum Series (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000).

 “ of fairy tales is coupled with an understanding on the part of the story teller, doors are opened to the whole realm of life in which fairy tales are true and live forever. [26]” — Waldorf teacher Joan Almon, WHAT IS A WALDORF KINDERGARTEN? (SteinerBooks, 2007), p. 53.

[To be continued some other time(s). There is a nearly endless supply of this stuff.]

[1] Steiner taught that we lived on Atlantis during the fourth period of Present Earth; Present Earth is the fourth incarnation of the solar system. [See "Atlantis" and "Present Earth".] The “Atlantean culture” is the culture of the people who lived on Atlantis, according to Steiner. Of course, it is difficult to offer valid descriptions of Atlantean culture, since there were never any Atlanteans, since there was never an Atlantis. [See, e.g., “Atlantis and the Aryans”.] 

[2] According to Steiner, the brain is not capable of real cognition — it does not actually think. Instead, it reflects "living thoughts" that arise in the spirit realm. [See “Thinking”.]

[3] The “dwarves” are usually identified as gnomes or goblins. [See “Gnomes”.]

[4] These are not the amphibians known as salamanders; they are invisible “fire spirits." [For an overview of elemental beings, see “Neutered Nature”.]

[5] The training that makes elemental beings visible, according to Anthroposophists, is the training Steiner prescribed, leading to the development of clairvoyance. [See "Knowing the Worlds".]

[6] Steiner taught that blood (which varies from race to race) moves because of its own vital energy, not because of the action of the heart. 

“[Science] sees the heart as a pump … Now there is nothing more absurd than believing this.” — Rudolf Steiner, FREUD, JUNG, AND SPIRITUAL PSYCHOLOGY, (SteinerBooks, 2001), pp. 124-125.

[7] In Anthroposophical belief, imagination is a form of, or precursor to, clairvoyance, which is “true perception.” [See, e.g., “Thinking Cap”.]

[8] I.e., people can have clairvoyant perceptions without understanding the nature of these perceptions.

[9] Anthroposophical spiritual training (of which Waldorf education is a branch) aims to produce true clairvoyance and true understanding of clairvoyance.

[10] “Imaginations,” in Anthroposophical terminology, are mental pictures created through clairvoyant perception.

[11] The “I” is the third and highest of our invisible bodies, according to Steiner. We will delve into this matter in a coming installment of Square One.

[12] In Anthroposophical lore, the planetary spheres are regions of the physical/spiritual solar system dominated by various planets. Planets close to the Sun have small spheres; planets far from the Sun have large spheres that enclose the smaller spheres of the lesser planets.

[13] Thus, some people are “Saturn humans”, some are “Mars humans”, etc. These are their “planetary types." [For more on the relationship of humans to the planets, see “Planetary Humans”.]

[14] Hence, in seeking to fully comprehend their students, Waldorf teachers will often seek to determine what planetary types the kids embody.

[15] In Anthroposophical belief, virtually all things — including rocks — are alive. Steiner contradicted himself often, but he generally taught that the Earth is alive.

[16] I.e., the gods. Anthroposophy teaches that there are nine ranks of gods divided into three “hierarchies." [See "Polytheism".]

[17] As found in Waldorf schools, the seasonal festivals are “Christian” only to the extent that they reflect Anthroposophical teachings about Christ. Chiefly, Steiner taught that Christ is the Sun God. [See “Sun God”.]

[18] Pagan elements often predominate in the Waldorf observance of the seasonal festivals. Anthroposophy itself is arguably pagan, in that its teachings diverge far from those of any large, established religion. Anthroposophy is arguably not really Christian. [See “Was He Christian?”]

[19] These are invisible bodies that, according to Anthroposophy, incarnate during the first 21 years of life: i.e., the etheric, astral, and ego bodies. [See “Incarnation”.]

[20] In Anthroposophical belief, this was the first incarnation of the solar system, during which humanity first came into being. It is also referred to as Old Saturn. [See “Old Saturn”.]

[21] This was the second incarnation of the solar system: Old Sun. [See “Old Sun”.]

[22] This was the third incarnation of the solar system: Old Moon. [See “Old Moon, Etc.”.]

[23] I.e., when we lived on the lost continent of Lemuria, prior to life on Atlantis — according to Anthroposophical belief. [See “Lemuria”.]

[24] I.e., sharks are demonic remnants of life from the Lemurian age. (Didn't anyone ever tell you this stuff before?)

[25] Steiner taught that ancient peoples had natural powers of clairvoyance that modern humans have largely lost. Here this fantasy is presented as historical fact taught to Waldorf students.

[26] Steiner taught that all fairy tales, like all myths, are true: They are reports of clairvoyant visions had by ancient peoples. [See, e.g., “Fairy Tales”.]



According to Waldorf belief, childhood consists of three seven-year-long phases. This three-part division of childhood was originally spelled out by Rudolf Steiner, and today some of Steiner’s followers consider it his most important educational contribution. 

“Perhaps the most original and significant component in Steiner’s educational philosophy is its conception of child development in seven-year stages.” — Robert McDermott, THE ESSENTIAL STEINER (Lindisfarne Press, 2007), p. 396.

The three stages run from birth to about age 7; from age about 7 to age about age 14; and from about age 14 to about age 21. What happens during these stages? Principally, the four bodies of the human being incarnate. The physical body incarnates at the moment of physical birth, the etheric body incarnates at about age 7, the astral body at about age 14, and the “I” at about age 21.

How does this strike you? Do you doubt that people wind up with four bodies? Do you doubt that, as Anthroposophists claim, each child is actually born four times (as the four bodies incarnate)? If so, you may be surprised to learn that Waldorf education is based on these ideas. 

"Waldorf education is based upon the recognition that the four bodies of the human being develop and mature at different times.” — Waldorf teacher Roberto Trostli, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 4-5.

The three “higher” or “subtle” (i.e., nonphysical) bodies are invisible. This may seem to prove that these bodies are indeed high and subtle; or, you may be tempted to think, it may suggest that they don’t exist. Which is it? How can we decide? To perceive these bodies, Anthroposophy teaches us, we must use clairvoyance. Now, this is a clue. Clairvoyance does not exist. [See “Clairvoyance”.] If the only way to see something is to use clairvoyance, then we can never really see that thing. This means we have no reason to believe in that thing; as far as we can ever know, that thing does not exist. And such is the situation concerning the three “higher” or “subtle” bodies. They almost surely are nothing but fantasy.

And yet Waldorf education is based on belief in them. Or so we are told.

Actually, Waldorf education is based on numerous myths, dreams, fantasies, and falsehoods, not just this one fantasy about invisible bodies. If you cannot subscribe to the various Waldorf myths, dreams, fantasies, and falsehoods, you really should not send your child to a Waldorf school. Going to such a school may carry a child far away into a phantasmagoric fantasyland — a land of myths, dreams, fantasies, and falsehoods from which s/he may have great difficulty returning.

All that being said, let’s try to understand what Anthroposophists mean by their references to the three nonphsysical bodies. Here are superbly concise descriptions (swiped from that invaluable repository of wisdom, The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia):

1. The Etheric Body 

In Anthroposophical belief, this is the first of our nonphysical bodies. [1] The etheric body is a constellation of life forces; it is also called the life-body or formative-forces-body. The living, formative forces of this body sculpt and preserve the physical body. The etheric body incarnates (i.e., is born) at about age 7, an event marked by the replacement of a child's baby teeth by adult teeth. Once the etheric body develops adequately, it actuates the knowledge-acquiring faculty called imagination (the first stage toward clairvoyance). [2] In addition to human beings, Steiner said, plants and animals also have etheric bodies; minerals do not. 

◊ “The ether[ic] body is an organism that preserves the physical body from dissolution every moment during life. In order to see this body, to perceive it in another being, the awakened spiritual eye [3] is required. Without this ability its existence as a fact can still be accepted on logical grounds, but it can be seen with the spiritual eye just as color can be seen with the physical eye.” — Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1971), chapter 1, part 4, GA 9.

◊ “It may perhaps be difficult to understand this, but the etheric body does not in any way grow older; the etheric body grows younger and younger, in the same degree in which the physical body grows older, until it reaches, as it were, a certain childlike stage of etheric existence [4], when the human being passes through the portal of death after having reached a normal age. We should therefore say to ourselves: When we begin our physical life on earth through birth, then our etheric body, that has become united with our physical body, is, comparatively speaking, old, and in the course of our earthly life it grows younger and younger, until it reaches its childhood stage, when we pass through the portal of death." — Rudolf Steiner, "The Etheric Body as a Reflexion of the Universe", ANTHROPOSOPHIC NEWS SHEET, No. 39/40, GA 159.

[1] See "Incarnation".

[2] See "Thinking Cap" and the entry for "imagination" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia (hereafter: BW/SE).

[3] I.e., clairvoyance, or an organ of clairvoyance. [See, e.g., "Knowing the Worlds".]

[4] I.e., existence on the etheric plane. [See the entry for "etheric realm” in BW/SE.]

[5] The ego body or its essence is also called the "I". [See the entry for "I" in BW/SE.]

2. The Astral Body

According to Steiner, the astral body is the second of our nonphysical bodies; it is also called the soul body, faith body, or sentient body. [1] Housing the soul [2], it consists of soul forces/living forces that fine-tune the physical body (which has been shaped by the etheric body). [3] The astral body contains the senses (twelve in all). [4] It incarnates at about age 14, an event marked by the sexual changes of puberty. Once this body develops adequately, it actuates the knowledge-acquiring faculty called inspiration (the second stage toward clairvoyance). [5] Steiner taught that animals also have astral bodies; plants and minerals do not. 

The Waldorf curriculum is keyed to the incarnation of the astral body as well as the etheric body and the “I.” [6] As the various invisible bodies incarnate, we effectively recapitulate former periods of cosmic evolution, Steiner taught. Gods one level above humanity, Angels, implant true clairvoyant images in the astral body. 

“[T]he astral body is the legacy of the Moon-evolution [7], the etheric body of the Sun-evolution [8], the physical body, in its first rudiments, of the Saturn-evolution [9]... The astral body is the member nearest to the Ego [10] ... The Angels form pictures in man's astral body and these pictures are accessible to thinking that has become clairvoyant.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE WORK OF THE ANGELS IN MAN’S ASTRAL BODY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1960), GA 182.

The astral body is far more attuned to the spirit realm than are the physical and etheric bodies. Indeed, every night, when we sleep, the astral body and the “I” rise into the spirit realm while the physical and etheric bodies remain behind on Earth. During one of his lectures, Steiner drew a diagram [10] showing the astral body and the “I” floating outside the physical body and its attendant etheric body. Describing the diagram, Steiner said: 

“Here (outline) we have the physical body and the ether body (yellow). It fills the whole of the physical body. And here (right) we have the astral body, which is outside the human being at night (red). At the top it is very small and hugely bulging down below. Then we have the I (violet). This is how we are at night. We are two people in the night." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 102. 

Arrows in the diagram show how, after their sojourn in the spirit realm, the astral body and "I" return to the physical and etheric bodies in the morning.

[R.R. copy of Steiner's diagram.]

[1] See "Incarnation".

[2] See the entry for "soul" in BW/SE; cf. spirit.

[3] The etheric body is the first of our three nonphysical bodies. Unlike the astral body, it is tightly bound to the physical body.

[5] See "Thinking Cap" and the entry for "inspiration" in BW/SE.

[6] The "I" or ego or ego body is the third and highest of our nonphysical bodies. [See "Ego".]

[7] I.e., the third incarnation of the solar system, called Old Moon. [See "Old Moon, Etc.".]

[8] I.e., the second incarnation of the solar system, called Old Sun. [See "Old Sun".]

[9] I.e., the first incarnation of the solar system, called Old Saturn. [See "Old Saturn".]

[10] To see a copy of the diagram, see, e.g., "What a Guy". [Scroll down to "Here (outline)".]

What you’re about to read gets a bit dense. But hang in there. If you want to penetrate Waldorf education to its core, you will need to develop a tolerance for esoteric Anthroposophical lingo. On the other hand, if the density of the following gets TOO dense, feel free to skip ahead to my concluding remarks, beginning with “Whew!”

3. The I or Ego

According to Steiner, drawing from Theosophy, the "I" or "ego" consists of spirit forces. It is, in a sense, one of our invisible bodies — the fourth component of our current human constitution along with the physical body, etheric body, and astral body. But more accurately, the I is our spark of divinity, our divine human essence. Possessing an I makes one human; when you have an I, you have an individual spiritual identity. 

The I conveys the power of human self-transformation. It incarnates (i.e., is born) at about age 21. After it develops adequately, it actuates the knowledge-acquiring faculty of intuition (the third stage toward clairvoyance). One's I can be truly perceived only by oneself. You can know that another person has an I, but you cannot know that person’s I as you know your own I. [See "Ego".]

The I can be considered one's purest self, the spiritual essence that we may not initially realize we possess. It comes to us from the cosmic I, the universal I of the cosmos. [1] During previous evolutionary phases, divine selfhood transfused the entire created universe. Now, during our current phase of evolution, we work on realizing our individual I's, receiving them, as it were, from the cosmic forces of divinity. [2] In an important sense, the I is given to each of us by Christ, as the god who has most directly brought divine truth and essence to us. [3] However, the god Thor has also been active in the bestowal of the human I. [4]

Other beings than ourselves have evolved through a human stage, attaining their own I’s. [5] They then evolved higher to become superhuman — they became gods. As bearers of I's, we too will evolve to superhuman status: We too will become gods. Animals and creatures lower than animals lack I’s.

The I contains lower and higher components. The “higher I” can be understood as the transcendent spiritual identity of an individual or group; it is, in a sense, an inner god or developing divinity. The higher I of an individual is, in a sense, an extension of the higher I of the group to which the individual belongs. Different groups have different higher I’s. 

“Just as the leader of the Sun’s evolution [6] became the higher I that worked in the life body [7] of the descendants of human beings who had remained on Earth, [the] Jupiter leader became the higher I that spread like a common consciousness through the human beings who had their origins in the interbreeding of Earth offspring with humans who first appeared on Earth during the period of the air element and then moved to Jupiter. [8]” — Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 238.

Although our higher I is inherent within us, in a truer sense the higher I is located in the spirit realm, where it remains during our Earthly incarnations. In contrast, the lower I or ego is the identity we feel ourselves to possess when we live on the physical plane. 

"The higher 'I' remains in the spiritual world during an incarnation on earth ... What we feel as our 'I' during our life on earth is the mirror image, or 'ego', of this higher 'I' ... The more someone identifies with his ego or lower 'I', the more difficult it becomes to gain awareness of the purely spiritual entity of this higher 'I'. [9]" — Henk van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011), p. 58. 

Becoming too involved with one's lower I can lead to egoism, the self-destructive condition that will produce the War of All Against All. [See "All vs. All".]

We enlarge our individual I's by moving outward from them. This is part of the process of spiritual elevation and evolution. We came from the universal spiritual powers, the gods [10], and we will return to reunite with them, but we will do this in altered, more evolved form. We make our own I’s, and we will remake the universe as we fulfill our I’s by moving beyond them. The lower or ordinary I is reduced as the higher I is perfected. 

“Our ethical principles become the guides for [our] soul forces. Through moral judgment, the I becomes the soul’s guide ... If an individual then extracts a higher I from the ordinary one, the original I becomes independent in a certain respect [11], and it loses as much vital strength as is given to the higher I.” — Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE, p. 308. 

Anthroposophists also sometimes speak of the "highest I." This is the godly being we can become when the higher I is united with the universal I, which may be considered the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost. [12] 

"The being to come was disclosed to Moses from two sources as the highest form of the 'I'." — Rudolf Steiner, THE NEW ESSENTIAL STEINER, p. 107. 

We move toward attainment of the highest I by following our Prototype, Christ [13] — thereby receiving the Spirit within the enveloping activities of the innumerable gods. We realize our highest potential as we enable the world, indeed the universe — indeed the gods — to find their own ultimate fulfillment in us.

“Soul of Man! ... 
[T]he surging 
Deeds of the World’s Becoming 
Do thine own I 
Unto the I of the World ... 
Soul of Man! ... 
Practice spirit-vision 
In quietness of Thought, 
Where the eternal aims of Gods 
World-Being’s Light 
On thy own I 
For thy free Willing.”

— Rudolf Steiner, quoted by Sergei Prokofieff in 
(Temple Lodge Publishing, 2006), pp. 210-211.

[1] See the entries for "cosmic I" and "universal I" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia (hereafter BW/SE).

[2] See, e.g., the discussion of this in THE NEW ESSENTIAL STEINER (Lindisfarne Books, Anthroposophic Press, 2009), pp. 163-164.

[3] In Anthroposophy, Christ is the Sun God. [See "Sun God".]

[4] Thor is a Norse god. [See "The Gods".]

[5] See the entry for "human stage of evolution" in BW/SE. The gods we call Angels were human during Old Moon (the third incarnation of the solar system), and the gods we call Archangels were human during Old Sun (the second incarnation of the solar system), etc.

[6] I.e., the presiding spirit of the second incarnation of the solar system, called Old Sun. [See "Old Sun".]

[7] I.e., the etheric body. [See "Incarnation".]

[8] Steiner taught that some humans have moved to other planets when conditions on Earth became too difficult for them. Generally, they later returned. [See the entry for "planetary migrations" in BW/SE.] Here Steiner says that the spirit of the leading Jupiter deity became the higher I for human beings who descended from the mating of humans who stayed on Earth and humans who migrated to Jupiter and then returned.

[9] The distinction drawn here between the I and the ego (equating the ego with the lower I) is not always maintained in Anthroposophical texts.

[10] Anthroposophy recognizes a vast panoply of gods. [See "Polytheism".]

[11] I.e., it separates from the human being and becomes an independent spiritual being, as it were. It declines as the human perfects her/his higher I.

[12] See "God" and the entry for "Holy Ghost" in BW/SE.

[13] See "Prototype".

Whew! Anthroposophy, which draws on many ancient and modern strains of occultism, can make one’s head spin. If what you’ve just read seems like gibberish to you, then you may have made an important discovery about the thinking that lies behind Waldorf education. Anthroposophy is complex, occult, and “deep” — but is it true? Does it bear any discernible relationship to reality? Unless you can answer “yes” wholeheartedly, you really should not send your child to a Waldorf school. Remember, Waldorf education is "based" on the concept of our three invisible bodies.

We might think a bit further about one proposition I laid out a while ago. I said, to quote: “If the only way to see something is to use clairvoyance, then we can never really see that thing. This means we have no reason to believe in that thing; almost certainly, that thing does not exist.”

Well just a minute, Rawlings. Slow down. The real question is not so much whether we can see something (plenty of things are invisible; e.g., air) but whether we can know anything about it. Steiner, that clever fellow, anticipated my argument. Concerning the etheric body, he said we can see it only if we use clairvoyance, but we can logically deduce its existence even if we don’t have clairvoyant powers. 

“Without this ability [i.e., clairvoyance] its existence as a fact can still be accepted on logical grounds.…” — Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1971), chapter 1, part 4, GA 9.

A clever claim. False, but clever. Bear in mind that logic can lead us to false conclusions if we start with false premises. We can reason thus: “1. Major premise: Clairvoyance is real. 2. Minor premise: Clairvoyance reveals etheric bodies. Hence, 3. Conclusion: Etheric bodies exist.” This is logical, but it is also false. Our major premise is false, so our minor premise is hollow, so our conclusion is false.

To reach true conclusions, logic must proceed from true premises: facts, realities. This is where Anthroposophy fails. It denies factual information while affirming fantasies. Steiner sometimes claimed that logic, science, scholarship, etc., support his occult teachings. On other occasions, he said that logic, science, scholarship, etc., do not support his occult teachings and thus they are obviously worthless. In reality, science and modern scholarship have made Steiner’s occult teachings less and less plausible as time has rolled on in the years since Steiner’s death. Steiner was wrong over and over, about almost everything [see, e.g., "Steiner's Blunders" and “Steiner Static”], and the falseness of his teachings has become increasingly clear as science and scholarship have progressed.

The point is this: If we can “see” or “know” something only through the use of clairvoyance, then we cannot see it or know it, because clairvoyance is a delusion. [See “Clairvoyance”.] And, obviously, illogical thinking cannot plug the gaps left by clairvoyance or stand in for clairvoyance where clairvoyance is absent. Faulty reasoning and rejection of factual knowledge can never yield reliable truth. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Illogic".]

Despite the claims that Steiner and his followers have sometimes made, there is essentially no support for Anthroposophy apart from the purported support that comes through clairvoyance. If clairvoyance does not work, then Anthroposophy implodes. And if Anthroposophy implodes, then there is no basis for Waldorf education. And, sad though this may be, the truth is that clairvoyance does not work. We do not gain knowledge through the imagined, self-deceiving "use" of clairvoyance; we gain only fantasies and imaginings. Anything that depends on clairvoyance depends on thin air, vacuum, nothingness. And Waldorf education depends on clairvoyance, through its dependence on Anthroposophy. [See, e.g., “Oh Humanity” and "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness".]

In the end, Waldorf education is unsupported and unsupportable. It stands on nothingness, zilch, void.



During some of our recent visits to Square One, we plunged more or less headlong into the mind-numbing occult doctrines of Anthroposophy. Doing this is necessary, from time to time, because ultimately Waldorf schools exist to enact and promote Anthroposophy. So we need to understand Anthroposophical doctrines.

But we also need to resurface, occasionally, clear our minds, and consider the more accessible aspects of Waldorf education. Beauty and art, for instance. Waldorf schools are often beguilingly attractive, placing great emphasis on art. Some families are drawn to the schools for this reason alone.

So what are the arts all about, at Waldorf? I’m sorry to have to tell you (not that you’ll be surprised, by now), what they are all about is mysticism and/or occultism. Or, in a word, Anthroposophy. (We’re tottering on the brink, here — likely to plunge into mind-numbingness again. Yes, the dread word “occult” will recur in the following paragraphs, but I’ll try to keep our heads above water.)

So. Waldorf and the Arts:

Arts are stressed in Waldorf schools, and this tends to make the schools attractive. But the purpose of the arts at Waldorf schools is occult: The goal is to enter the spirit realm and invoke spiritual presences. 

”This is what gives art its essential lustre: it transplants us here and now into the spiritual world.” — Rudolf Steiner. [1] 

When considering such statements by Steiner and his followers, you should realize that they are meant literally, not figuratively. Thus, for instance, Steiner said, 

“In having people do eurythmy [a form of dance created by Steiner], we link them directly to the super sensible [i.e., spiritual] world.” [2] 

Eurythmy is usually a required activity in Waldorf schools.

For Steiner and his followers, creating links to the spirit realm is a central goal, and pursuit of this goal is woven into the Waldorf curriculum. Steiner taught that art comes to us from the spirit realm; the true origin of art lies with the gods, so performing or creating art is effectively a religious activity. 

"It is only during our materialistic age that...we have forgotten the supersensible origin of art.” [3] 

Characteristic forms of art found in Waldorf schools seek to evoke and express spirituality. Thus, young Waldorf students are taught a style of painting — "wet on wet" watercoloring — that produces images that approximate Steiner's descriptions of the spirit realm.
"[In the spirit realm] there are no spatial forms ... But…[that realm] does have color intensities, color qualities. … [It] is a soul-permeated, spirit-permeated world of light, of color, of tone; a world of qualities not quantities; a world of intensities rather than extensions.” [4] 

Older Waldorf students are taught a second painting style — "veil painting" — that suggests the soul's capacity to pierce the veil of illusion and see clairvoyantly into the spirit realm.

This is a wet-on-wet painting I produced as an adult, 

emulating paintings produced in Waldorf schools; 

it can be taken a representing a world of colors 

but no defined shapes: the spirit realm. 

(Wet-on-wet paintings are created by spreading runny 

watercolor paint on wet paper using wet brushes.)

This is a veil painting I produced as an adult, 
emulating paintings produced in Waldorf schools
Such paintings suggest the soul’s capacity 
to break through into the spirit realm. 
(Veil paintings are produced by putting down layers 
of watercolor paint, one at a time, slowly. 
Each layer is allowed to dry before the next layer is applied. 
The layers are offset from one another slightly, 
so that a three-dimensional effect is attained.)

At Waldorf schools. all art forms — not just the visual arts — are prized for their purported spiritual powers. Thus music is deemed to have spiritual effects not unlike the other arts. 

“[O]n listening to music, [a person] has an inkling...of the spiritual world.” [5] 

(Steiner was specifically referring to classical music. Popular music such as jazz , rock and roll, rap, etc., are usually deplored in Waldorf schools.)

The components of arts — such as the tones produced in music and the colors used in painting — are considered spiritually potent in and of themselves. Thus, for instance, 

“[C]olours…are windows through which we can ascend spiritually into the spiritual world.” [6] 

The mystical power of colors enables clairvoyant seers to perceive different spiritual beings in rooms of differing colors, Anthroposophists believe. 

"You will best realize the significance of colour if we describe how it affects the occultist ... [A]ccording to the capacity of clairvoyant vision, there may be visible and invisible beings in the same space. What spiritual beings become visible in any particular instance depends on the colour to which we devote ourselves. In a red room, other beings become visible than in a blue room.” [7] 

Thus, as usual, exploring the thinking behind Waldorf schools leads us back to clairvoyance.

Anthroposophical art can be found hanging on the walls of typical Waldorf schools, and the walls themselves represent a form of Anthroposophical artistry. Waldorf walls are usually painted using a special technique called lazuring or lasuring. 

"Rudolf Steiner encouraged artists to paint walls with transparent radiant color. He used the word 'lasur' to describe this new way of coloring walls — where color would feel as though it were in the space and not just on the wall … [The effect is] as though one could 'spiritually pass through the walls.’” [8] 

The colors used on Waldorf walls are meant to evoke different spiritual forces appropriate to the development stages reached by the maturing children. In the lowest grades, warm reddish hues predominate, followed by orange-yellow hues in third grade, greenish hues in fourth and fifth grade, followed by bluish and then purplish hues in the higher grades. [9]

Parents of Waldorf students are often delighted by the artwork produced by their children and preserved in class workbooks. They may not realize the occult purposes of the artwork, however. They also may not know that the children produce much of this artwork by carefully copying drawings and paintings created by their teachers, and that producing such copied art often substitutes for actually studying and learning academic subjects. As one Waldorf educator has written, 

“Copying is the curse of the Waldorf Schools. There is altogether too much of it, and it is not confined to the elementary school. In high school, where there is much less excuse for it, it still goes on. The way in which many [Waldorf] teachers organize their work implies that they consider that the whole object of the course is the creation of a gorgeous notebook [as opposed to learning subject matter]. And the way in which some teachers judge the work of other teachers implies the same thing.” [10]

The occult purposes of the arts in Waldorf education is suggested by the titles of such Steiner texts as ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998) and ART AS SEEN IN THE LIGHT OF MYSTERY WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2010). “Mystery wisdom” is occult spiritual knowledge attained through the use of clairvoyance, according to Anthroposophical belief.

[For more on the arts at Waldorf, see, e.g., "Magical Arts", "Mystic Colors", "Eurythmy", "Lesson Books", and "Mystic Lesson Books".]

[1] THE GOETHEANUM: School of Spiritual Science (Philosophical-Anthroposophical Press, 1961), p. 25.

[2] Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 247. 

[3] Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY, p. 238.

[4] Rudolf Steiner, THE ARTS AND THEIR MISSION (Anthroposophic Press, 1964), p. 23.

[5] Rudolf Steiner, quoted in ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER, John Fletcher (Mercury Arts Publications, 1987), p. 136.

[6] Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SEEN IN THE LIGHT OF MYSTERY WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2010), p. 111.

[7] Rudolf Steiner quoted in ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER, p. 95.

[8] See the entry for “lazure” in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia. Also see "Mystic Colors".

[9] See the section “Waldorf Classroom Walls” in "Mystic Colors".

[10] Keith Francis, THE EDUCATION OF A WALDORF TEACHER (iUniverse, 2004), p. 132.



Waldorf education, also called Steiner education, derives principally from the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. Knowing Steiner’s teachings is much more important than knowing Steiner’s biography. Still, anyone who gets involved with a Waldorf school is likely to be curious about Steiner the man. So here is one brief account.


Austrian/German lecturer and author; professed initiate, clairvoyant, and occultist. Originally a secular intellectual, widely known in Germany, Steiner shifted into occultism, became a Theosophist, and later founded his own occult system, Anthroposophy. He was the originator of Waldorf education, Anthroposophical medicine, and biodynamic agriculture, among other pursuits. [See, e.g., "Here's the Answer", "Steiner's Quackery", and "Biodynamics".]  Steiner was a genuine polymath, but today he is generally unknown except within the circle of his adherents. Steiner claimed to be a scientist, but he did no real science — he identified himself as a “spiritual scientist,” by which designation he meant that he used clairvoyance to study the spirit realm. He produced some writings of a philosophical nature, but following his conversion to occultism, his work shifted accordingly, and he revised some of his early writings to make them consistent with his later, esoteric teachings. [See, e.g., "Exactly", "Philosophy", and “Occultism".]

Rudolf Steiner was born on Feb. 27, 1861, in Austria-Hungary. He attended schools in various Austrian towns, and he also received homeschooling, as his father — a railroad employee — was transferred from post to post. in the late 1870s, Rudolf Steiner enrolled in the Vienna Institute of Technology, where he began the editing of Goethe’s "scientific" works; he completed this project at the Goethe Archives in Weimar. During this period, he worked as a private tutor, and he became politically active in the German nationalist movement within Austria. (Later, he would claim that he received occult initiation during this time.) In 1888, he became editor of Deutsche Wochenschrift [German Weekly] magazine. After receiving a doctorate in philosophy — unconventionally — from a professor at Rostock University acting on his individual authority, Steiner published THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM (1893), a work he would later revise significantly. In its revised form, it is studied by his followers today and is taken to be a foundation of Anthroposophy.

In 1897, Steiner moved to Berlin, where he became editor of Magazin für Literatur [Magazine for Literature]. Seeking to establish himself as a philosopher, he espoused rationalist views, criticized Theosophy, and involved himself in socialistic intellectual circles. In 1899, he married Anna Eunicke, a union about which he was later reticent. Also in 1899, he became an instructor at a working men's institute in Berlin. Soon thereafter, he became involved in Theosophy and started lecturing on occultist themes. He joined the German Theosophical Society in 1902, becoming General Secretary. Indicating that he was clairvoyant and always has been, he began referring to his doctrines as Anthroposophy (knowledge or wisdom of the human being). At about this time, he met Marie von Sivers, who would become his second wife.

In 1903, Steiner separated from his first wife, who had been perplexed by his turn from liberal academia to Theosophy. In 1904, Steiner published KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT, one of his fundamental occultist expositions. Thereafter, he began writing four esoteric "mystery plays" that are still performed by Anthroposophical groups today. In 1909, Steiner published his most important book, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, framing his overall occultist conceptions. He later revised the book several times.

Anna Steiner (formerly Anna Eunicke) died in 1911. In 1913, Rudolf Steiner broke from Theosophy, establishing Anthroposophy as a separate movement. Steiner married his second wife, Marie von Sivers — a devout Anthroposophist — in 1914. Much of Rudolf Steiner’s time in the following years was devoted to lecturing on his occult visions and doctrines. In 1919, he directed the formation of the first Waldorf school, in Stuttgart, Germany; in 1921, he founded the first Anthroposophic medical clinic; in 1922, he oversaw the establishment of the Christian Community, an overtly religious offshoot of Anthroposophy.

Rudolf Steiner became ill in 1924. He died on March 30, 1925. [1]

Rudolf Steiner


[Public domain photo.]

At his prime.

[Public domain photo.]

Death mask.

[Public domain photo.]

Impressionistic portrait.

[R.R., 2015.]

Steiner is not simply admired by his followers today — he is, generally, revered. Among Anthroposophists, Steiner's doctrines and educational system are generally deemed to provide the only “knowledge” anyone needs. Thus, for instance, a teacher who worked briefly at a Waldorf school has reported: 

“For many of the [Waldorf] teachers, the only science or history they knew were what they learned in their Waldorf teacher training courses. Then came the statement that clarified all their misinformation for me. I was told, ‘Steiner had exceptional powers, he saw the future, he knew the truth. If you truly need to learn, you need to study and follow Steiner. Steiner is all anyone ever needs to know.’” [2]

Steiner claimed to possess remarkable clairvoyant powers. Through his use of clairvoyance, Steiner claimed, he attained spiritual knowledge that was not accessible in any other way. 

“Clairvoyance is the necessary pre-requisite for the discovery of a spiritual truth….” [3] 

Steiner made many astounding clairvoyant statements about both the spiritual and physical realms. A relatively mild example: 

“One who is able to approach these things clairvoyantly knows that on…the moon [there live] beings in a certain respect similar to man, but they are dwarfs in comparison … [W]hen these beings withdraw, so to speak, to their habitat they acquire the faculty of a tremendous roaring, of uttering immensely powerful, frightening sounds.” [4] 

We will see additional, more extreme examples presently.

Steiner said that Waldorf teachers should develop their own powers of clairvoyance whenever possible; and those who do not become clairvoyant should accept the guidance of those who do. 

"Not every Waldorf teacher has the gift of clairvoyance, but every one of them has accepted wholeheartedly and with full understanding the results of spiritual-scientific investigation concerning the human being. And each Waldorf teacher applies this knowledge with heart and soul.…” [5] 

“Spiritual-scientific investigation” is the use of clairvoyance to attain spiritual truths. Steiner provided a primer on attaining clairvoyance: his book KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT, mentioned earlier.

In addition to claiming clairvoyance, Steiner claimed to be an occult initiate — that is, one who has been admitted into the inner circle of savants who possess secret spiritual wisdom. (The two claims are, of course, closely interconnected.) [6] Steiner spoke of his “occult researches,” as for instance: 

“[T]he Christ Impulse [7] works on below the surface — works, at first, as occult, i.e., hidden, reality. My dear friends, allow me at this point to confess to you that when in my occult researches I tried to follow this stream, I often lost trace of it; I had to search for places where it reappeared.” [8] 

Another instance: 

“Recently in my occult research the following question arose. What is the relationship between the visionary worlds [9] that one can find through initiation...and the realm in which one dwells between death and a new birth?” [10] 

Similarly, Steiner spoke of things that he and other occultists have learned, as when he said, 

“In occultism…we speak of the Mars half of Earth evolution [11] and of the Mercury half.” [12] 

Or, again, 

“[I]n occultism we call the Moon the ‘Cosmos of Wisdom’ and the Earth the ‘Cosmos of Love.’” [13]. 

In occultism, we...

Whether the results of Steiner’s clairvoyant/occult “research” can stand up to scrutiny is, to put the matter mildly, questionable. The very existence of clairvoyance is extremely doubtful. No credible evidence for the existence of clairvoyance has ever been produced. [14] Moreover, Steiner’s teachings are studded with so many staggering falsehoods and fallacies, they raise serious doubts about the reliability of his claimed clairvoyant powers. Steiner contended that because his clairvoyance gave him “exact” knowledge of the spirit realm, therefore he also had superb knowledge of the physical realm. There is reason to be skeptical. Consider, for instance:

◊ “There are beings that can be seen [clairvoyantly] in the depths of the earth...goblins, gnomes, and so forth.” [15]

◊ During the Lemurian epoch, “[T]he majority of souls withdrew from the earth to other planets…..” [16]

◊ “Gravity is...perceived only by those beings that live on a solid planet ... [B]eings dwelling on a gaseous planet instead of seeing bodies falling towards the planet would see them always flying off ... Gravity begins when we find ourselves on a solid planet.” [17]

◊ “If by some convenient transport the physicists could reach the sun, they would be amazed to find no gas whatsoever. They would find hollow space, a real vacuum. This vacuum radiates light.” [18]

◊ “With pneumonia, the cause is always in the astral body [19]; pneumonia can occur in no other way.” [20]

◊ “[M]istletoe [which can be used to treat cancer] does not belong to our earth, it is alien.” [21]

◊ “[W]ith the dying out of the worst parts of the ancient population of [Asia], the whole region gradually became filled with demonic beings ... Their influence can best be seen at the time of the Great Migrations, when large masses of people, including Attila and his hordes, came over from Asia and caused great terror among the people in Europe. This terror made the population susceptible to the influences of the demonic beings ... As a consequence of the terror produced by the hordes coming over from Asia, there gradually developed what manifested during the Middle Ages as the epidemic of leprosy.” [22]

◊ “[T]he atom is nothing but coagulated electricity." [23]

◊ “When we build steam-engines, we provide the opportunity for the incarnation of demons ... In the steam-engine, Ahrimanic demons [24] are actually brought to the point of physical embodiment.” [25]

◊ “Vulcan beings [26] are now actually entering this earth existence ... And it is thanks to the fact that these beings from beyond the earth are bringing messages down into this earthly existence that it is possible at all to have a comprehensive spiritual science [i.e., Anthroposophy] today ... The beings I have spoken about will descend gradually to the earth. Vulcan beings, Vulcan supermen, Venus supermen, Mercury supermen, [S]un supermen, and so on will unite themselves with earth existence.” [27]

◊ “[A] kind of ‘Chineseness’ is beginning to manifest in Europe ... [S]ince the Chinese population is nowhere near as great [i.e., large] as it was in former times, it is...not possible for all these Chinese souls to incarnate [in China] ... [T]he Chinese [have had] to take in, to a certain extent, some very immature, sub-standard souls ... But those souls who had themselves decided to incarnate in Chinese bodies were...diverted to Europe.” [28]

◊ “The Earth cannot revolve around the Sun because meanwhile the Sun would move away from it. In reality, the Sun moves on, and the Earth and the other planets follow it." [29]

All of these statements raise serious questions about the veracity, knowledge, good sense — and even, some have argued, sanity — of their author. And the catalogue of such faulty Steiner statements is immense; we have only scratched the surface here. [30] The crucial point for readers of this page is this: Waldorf education was created by, and it still draws its central direction from, the “clairvoyant” and “occultist” who authored statements such as these. I humbly suggest that you ponder this well.

[1] For these matters, see the the chronology (“Significant Events in the Life of Rudolf Steiner”) in Steiner’s AUTOBIOGRAPHY (SteinerBooks, 2006). Also see such sources as Henry Barnes, A LIFE FOR THE SPIRIT: RUDOLF STEINER IN THE CROSSCURRENTS OF OUR TIME (Anthroposophic Press, 1997); Emil Bock, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF RUDOLF STEINER, Vols. 1 & 2 (Floris Books, 2008); Stewart C. Easton, RUDOLF STEINER: HERALD OF A NEW EPOCH (Anthroposophic Press, 1980); and A MAN BEFORE OTHERS: RUDOLF STEINER REMEMBERED (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993). In addition, consult the work of Geoffrey Ahern, Peter Staudenmaier, Anthony Storr, and Peter Washington.

[2] See “Ex-Teacher 5”.

[3] Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY OF THE ROSICRUCIAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966), lecture 1, GA 99.

[4] Rudolf Steiner, THE INFLUENCE OF SPIRITUAL BEINGS ON MAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1982), lecture 1, GA 102. [For more on the Moon, see “Lunacy”. Because space probes and manned Moon landings have revealed the Moon to be a lifeless globe entirely unlike the one Steiner described, Anthroposophists often deny that any probes or manned vehicles have reached the Moon.]

[5] Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), pp. 224-225. [For more on the form of clairvoyance Waldorf teachers should strive to attain, see “The Waldorf Teacher’s Consciousness”.]

[6] For more on initiation, see “Inside Scoop”. For more on occultism, see “Occultism”.

[7] I.e., the impetus given to human evolution by the incarnated Sun God.

[8] Rudolf Steiner, CHRIST AND THE SPIRITUAL WORLD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2008) p. 97.

[9] I.e., the worlds that can be perceived only through clairvoyance or through the "visions" attained by occult initiates.

[10] Rudolf Steiner, LIFE BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH (SteinerBooks, 1985), pp. 5-6. [Reincarnation is a key Anthroposophical tenet. When we die, we dwell in the spirit realm "between death and a new birth," after which we reincarnate on Earth. See "Reincarnation".]

[11] I.e., the evolutionary period that is centered on the Earth more or less as we know it now: Present Earth. [See "Present Earth".] During half of this period, Mars has particular powers for us; during the other half, Mercury has such powers.

[12] Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY OF THE ROSICRUCIAN, p. 80.

[13] Rudolf Steiner, THE INFLUENCE OF SPIRITUAL BEINGS ON MAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1961), lecture 6, GA 102. [Steiner taught that wisdom became perfected during Old Moon and love is being perfected during Present Earth.]

[14] See “Clairvoyance”.

[15] Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 62-3.

[16] Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT HISTORY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), p. 36. [For more on the Lemurian epoch, see “Lemuria”.]

[17] Rudolf Steiner, SCIENCE (Rudolf Steiner Press 2003), pp. 136-137.

[18] Rudolf Steiner, THE EVOLUTION OF THE EARTH AND MAN AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE STARS (Anthroposophic Press, 1987), pp. 143-144.

[19] This is the second of our three invisible bodies. See the episode of Square One titled “Our Invisible Bodies”.

[20] Rudolf Steiner, THE TEMPLE LEGEND (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), p. 60.

[21] Rudolf Steiner, THE APOCALYPSE OF ST. JOHN (Anthroposophic Press, 1993), p. 99.

[22] Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY (SteinerBooks, 1995), p. 31.

[23] Rudolf Steiner, "The Work of Secret Societies in the World" (transcript, Rudolf Steiner Archive), GA 93.

[24] I.e., malevolent companions of the arch-demon Ahriman. [See “Ahriman”.]

[25] Rudolf Steiner, “The Relation of Man to the Hierarchies” (ANTHROPOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT, Vol. V, Nos. 14-15, 1928).

[26] I.e., inhabitants of Vulcan. Vulcan is a hypothetical planet that is closer to the Sun than Mercury. It does not exist. [See “Vulcan”. The planet Vulcan should not be confused with the evolutionary stage called Future Vulcan. Steiner taught that Future Vulcan will occur after Future Jupiter and Future Venus. See “Future Stages”.]

[27] Rudolf Steiner, MATERIALISM AND THE TASK OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (SteinerBooks, 1987), p. 261.

[28] Rudolf Steiner, THE KARMA OF UNTRUTHFULNESS, Vol. 1 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1916), GA 173, lecture 13. [Steiner contended that the Earth's population has not increased; the same number of souls who existed previously, overseen by the same number of guardian angels, has reincarnated in epoch after epoch. As for the population of China: Despite rigorous effort at population control, it has grown inexorably to its present level of nearly 1.4 billion.]

[29] Rudolf Steiner, THE FOURTH DIMENSION (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 128. [Steiner often said that the planets do not orbit the Sun; then, sometimes, he said that they do. See “Deception”.]

[30] See “Steiner’s Blunders” and “Steiner Static”.



Q. What kind of training do Waldorf teachers receive? How well qualified are they? 

A. Waldorf teachers typically get their training at Anthroposophical institutions — such as Rudolf Steiner College — that specialize in preparing teachers to work in the Waldorf system. Much of this preparation involves the study of instructional methods and techniques, but usually a core component is study of Rudolf Steiner's occult texts such as AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE and HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS. A concerted effort is usually made to ensure that new Waldorf teachers will be well versed in, and committed to, Rudolf Steiner's mystical visions. 

Waldorf teachers may receive additional, recurrent training during their careers, often at the same institutions. In addition, there are often seminars and discussions held at Waldorf schools themselves, generally focused on the doctrines of Anthroposophy and their application in the schools. These gatherings are generally confined to members of the faculty, but sometimes they are opened to parents and others. 

A Waldorf teacher usually takes responsibility for a group of students over the course of several years, shepherding them from first grade through fifth grade, for instance, and teaching them most of the subjects studied in those years. Considerable training and retraining is required to undertake this task, and there is some doubt that it can be done well. Indeed, this arrangement may ensure that Waldorf students are taught badly in at least some subjects at some levels. Even with retraining, a teacher who was qualified to teach first-grade math is unlikely to be truly qualified to teach fifth-grade world history. This would be a serious drawback to the Waldorf approach, if Waldorf schools were primarily interested in providing a good education as this concept is usually understood. But in fact Waldorf schools generally have other priorities. [See "Waldorf Schools - What Is Their Purpose?”]

Training for new Waldorf or Steiner teachers 
takes place in special institutions.
This image shows a class at the 
Rudolf Steiner College in California, USA.
The photos on the wall depict Rudolf Steiner 
and the Anthroposophical headquarters.
The image on the blackboard includes the 12 signs of the zodiac 
(astrology is basic to the Waldorf belief system).
The book on the student's desk (center, bottom) is 
(original title: OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE) —
Steiner's main exposition of his esoteric or occult teachings.
[Downloaded Sept. 25, 2011; Rudolf Steiner College,
Studying to become a Waldorf teacher differs little 
from studying to be an Anthroposophist.

We can gain insight into the training — and priorities and qualifications — of Waldorf teachers by surveying the courses offered in Waldorf teacher training programs. [See “Teacher Training”.] The following course descriptions are taken from the Rudolf Steiner College 2011-2012 Catalogue. (I have added some terrific footnotes.) 

"Cosmic and Human Evolution (1.5 credits). This course explores the stages of cosmic and human evolution from Ancient Saturn through Ancient Sun, Ancient Moon [1] and Earth evolutionary cycles [2], and lays seeds to understand further stages of evolution in Future Jupiter, Future Venus and Future Vulcan stages. [3] Texts include Esoteric Science: An Outline and Spiritual Hierarchies and Their Reflection in the Physical World."

[1] These are ancient evolutionary stages described, clairvoyantly, by Steiner. [See “Old Saturn”, “Old Sun”, and “Old Moon”. Whether or not you think these stages ever happened (hint: they didn’t), the point is that Waldorf teacher-trainees are taught that they did. And apparently the trainees take it sitting down. (Any trainee who leaps up, shouting, “This is insane! Let me out of here!” does not complete the training and does not go no to a career as a Waldorf teacher.) 

[2] According to Steiner, we currently live in the Present Earth evolutionary stage. [See “Present Earth”.] 

[3] These are future evolutionary stages described, clairvoyantly, by Steiner. [See “Future Stages”] 

"Karma and Reincarnation (1.5 credits). This course is an in-depth exploration of Rudolf Steiner’s original insights into the nature of reincarnation and karma. [1] Texts include Manifestations of Karma, Theosophy, Reincarnation and Karma, World History in the Light of Anthroposophy, and selected lectures from the 8 volumes titled Karmic Relationships. [2]" 

[1] See “Reincarnation” and “Karma”. Although Anthroposophy is sometimes mistaken for a Christian sect, it is more akin to Hinduism in some ways: It is polytheistic, and it includes belief in reincarnation and karma (concepts not found in the Bible). 

[2] These are books and lectures by Steiner. Waldorf trainees are assigned great piles of such reading. 

"The Philosophical Foundations of Waldorf Education (7.5 credits). Waldorf education is based on Anthroposophy, a transpersonal and phenomenological world-view [sic]. [1] It is necessary for the Waldorf educator to grasp this view of the human being because Waldorf pedagogy arises directly from this understanding. [2] The curriculum and methods arise from an understanding of this ontology." 

[1] Actually, Anthroposophy is a religion (although it pretends otherwise). [See, e.g., “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?”] 

[2] To explore the Anthroposophical “view of the human being,” see “Oh Humanity”. The Anthroposophical view is almost completely divorced from what most people would call reality. It is fundamentally occult, mystical, and pagan.

"Astronomy — Macrocosm, Microcosm (2.0 credits). [1] This course combines viewing the night sky, studying the constellations and rhythmic movements of the planets, and their correlations with the human form, rhythms of life, stages of consciousness and how the human individuality is related to the starry worlds and the Earth. We will discover the relationship between astronomy and the human body, astrology and the human soul [2], and astrosophy with the human spirit. [3]" 

[1] Steiner taught that the human being is a microcosmic representative of the entire universe; and vice versa. Man is the center of the universe. [See “The Center”.]

[2] Astrology underlies many Waldorf beliefs and practices. [See "Astrology", "Waldorf Astrology", and "Star Power”.] 

[3] Astrosophy (meaning "star wisdom") is a variant form of astrology; it is also important in the Waldorf belief system. [See “Astrosophy".]  

"Human Development and Pedagogical Implications, Level I (3.0 credits). This course offers a background theoretical foundation to the practical classes in the first year. The causes of learning and behavior difficulties, human development from an anthroposophical perspective, the incarnation process in the first seven years [1], the twelve senses [2] and movement development [3] are important themes...." 

[1] Steiner taught that at approximately age seven, the etheric body incarnates. [See “Incarnation”.] 

[2] Steiner taught that humans have 12 senses, centered in the astral body. [See “What We’re Made Of” and “Incarnation”.] 

[3] In Waldorf schools, the chief modality for improving “movement development” in children is the mystical form of dance called eurythmy. [See “Eurythmy”.] 

Let’s wrap things up with a quick survey of additional course offerings. I will hold my peace. If you are unacquainted with some of the terms used, you might consult The Semi-Steiner Dictionary.

◊ "Cosmic and Human Evolution (1.0 credits) [sic]. Through this course, students will understand the evolution of the cosmos, the kingdoms of nature, and of the human being from the standpoint of Anthroposophy."  

◊ "Seven Planetary Soul Types (0.5 credits) ... [H]ow they relate to the seven visible planets and the constitution of the human being."  

◊ "The Evolution of Consciousness through Art History. A spiritual overview of the visual arts ... [T]he changing evolution of consciousness of the human being from the ancient mystery centers to the modern age ... [W]orld art within the Post-Atlantean cultural epochs...."  

◊ "Human Development and Pedagogical Implications, Level II (3.0 credits) ... [S]tudents explore the spiritual archetypes of the human being, as given by Rudolf Steiner, as well as an introduction to Astrosophy ... [S]oul and constitutional types in children ... [M]editative work of the teacher…." 

◊ "Spiritual Streams and Sun Initiates (1.0 credits). This course is an exploration of the spiritual streams identified by Rudolf Steiner in The Search for the New Isis, selected lectures from Karmic Relationship, and World History in the Light of Anthroposophy."  

◊ "The Master Thesis Project Course will be introduced as a modern path of initiation...." 

In our short review of courses offered by Rudolf Steiner College, we have seen that aspiring Waldorf teachers are taught about planetary stages of evolution (Old Saturn, etc.), karma, reincarnation, Anthroposophical ontology, macrocosm/microcosm, astrology, astrosophy, seven-year-long phases of incarnation, the twelve human senses, cosmic evolution, planetary soul types, life during the epoch since Atlantis sank, a modern path of occult initiation, etc. The trainees are, in other words, steeped in mystic Anthroposophical doctrines throughout their training. The nature of this training, focusing on such mystical conceptions, raises serious doubts about the qualifications of teachers who graduate from such a program. 

And note that, in order to graduate from the Rudolf Steiner College program, a trainee has to suppress any urge to jump up, shouting, “This is insane! Let me out of here!” Graduates of the program either make their peace with the insanity of the things they are told, or they conclude that there is nothing at all insane about the things they are told. They either decide that Anthroposophy is okay (nothing to flee from), or they embrace it as The Truth (something to run to). They have every right to do so. They have every right to believe whatever they wish. The only question for you is whether you want such people to “educate” your child.



We should dip into Anthroposophical doctrines from time to time.

Anthroposophists will object to the word “doctrines.” They claim that they do not believe anything, the know it, thanks to their use of clairvoyance. But they betray themselves when they say such things. They believe in clairvoyance, first of all. This belief is unfounded; clairvoyance does not exist. [See "Clairvoyance".] As a result, Anthroposophists do not “know” any of the things they claim to know through clairvoyance. Anthroposophists merely believe in the things that they wish they knew. They have faith, not knowledge. Steiner himself stressed the need for faith. [See “Faith”.]

Waldorf education is based on Anthroposophy and it exists to serve Anthroposophy. Knowing what Anthroposophists believe is, thus, important. So let’s talk a little about a supremely significant topic: the gods as posited in Anthroposophy.

The religion observed in Waldorf schools bears a superficial resemblance to Christianity, but this resemblance is misleading. Waldorf schools are actually devoted not to Christianity but to the religion patched together by Steiner: Anthroposophy. [See “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?”] Christ is recognized in Anthroposophy, but only as one of a vast array of gods. [See “Polytheism”, “Was He Christian?”, and “Sun God”.] Christianity is one of the world’s great monotheistic faiths. The world also has numerous great polytheistic faiths, such as Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism. Anthroposophy is a minor polytheistic faith, unimportant almost everywhere except in Waldorf schools.

According to Steiner, gods such as Zeus, Thor, etc., are real beings; they are rulers of cosmic spheres and supervisors of cosmic/evolutionary periods. They are the immortal, incorporeal, spiritual beings above man. They are not unchanging, however: They evolve, much as we evolve. Nor are they uniformly beneficent: There are evil gods as well as good gods. [See “Evil Ones”.] There are nine ranks of gods, Steiner taught, and we ourselves will become the tenth rank.

The gods are known by many names. Here are the nine ranks of gods, divided into three subcategories called "hierarchies," as described by Steiner. I will provide the names that Steiner generally preferred for the nine primary types of gods; other names also appear in Anthroposophic texts and their sources.

◊ The First Hierarchy ◊

∆ Gods nine steps above humanity: Spirits of Love ∆ 

∆ Gods eight steps above us: Spirits of Harmony ∆

∆ Gods seven steps above us: Spirits of Will ∆

◊ The Second Hierarchy ◊

∆ Gods six steps above us: Spirits of Wisdom ∆

∆ Gods five steps up: Spirits of Movement ∆

∆ Gods four steps up: Spirits of Form ∆

◊ The Third Hierarchy ◊

∆ Gods three steps up: Spirits of Personality ∆

∆ Gods two steps up: Spirits of Fire ∆

∆ Gods one step above humanity: Sons of Life ∆

Good gods are benevolent and selfless; they help humanity to evolve. Evil gods oppose the divine cosmic plan and they seek to derail human evolution. Steiner identified some of the evil gods as Spirits of Adversity, Spirits of Darkness, Spirits of Hindrance, Spirits of Obstruction, Spirits of Temptation, and so forth. [See the entries for these terms in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

Normal gods evolve at the proper rate. Abnormal gods lag behind their peers — they remain at levels they normally would have risen beyond. (Thus, for example, an abnormal Spirit of Personality operates effectively as a Spirit of Fire.) Sometimes abnormal gods stay behind for beneficent reasons, such as providing special assistance to mankind. Thor is an example. [See “The Gods”.]

Above the nine ranks of gods hovers the amorphous and mysterious Godhead. Not a god as such, the Godhead is in effect divine will, the general spiritual benevolence that manifests in the creative acts of the gods. [See “God”.]

Below the nine ranks of gods are ourselves, human beings. Below us, in descending order, are animals, plants, and minerals. And then there are nature spirits (invisible, unspiritual beings such as gnomes [see “Gnomes” and “Neutered Nature”]) and various types of demons. (The category of demons overlaps the category of evil gods.)

Here are some general “facts” about the nine godly ranks, according to general Anthroposophical consensus. (There are other descriptions of some of these gods, and other names are sometimes applied to them. Thus, the following list is not absolutely “true” even by Anthroposophical lights.)

◊ The First Hierarchy ◊

∆ Spirits of Love: They dwell beyond the solar system in the upper portions of the zodiac, and they translate divine will into beneficent spiritual conceptions.

∆ Spirits of Harmony: They dwell in the lower portions of the zodiac, where they help harmonize the solar system with the rest of the universe.

∆ Spirits of Will: Dwelling in the sphere of Saturn, they convey the plans of higher gods into the solar system, providing the substance from which lower gods will work.

◊ The Second Hierarchy ◊

∆ Spirits of Wisdom: They dwell in the sphere of Jupiter. They receive the beneficence of the First Hierarchy and oversee the process of implementing it.

∆ Spirits of Movement: They are centered in the sphere of Mars. Their task is to guide the motions of spiritual energy within the forms of evolution, thus maintaining the system of evolutionary advancement.

∆ Spirits of Form: Dwelling in the sphere of the Sun, they help to apply the works of higher gods especially to the human form.

◊ The Third Hierarchy ◊

∆ Spirits of Personality: Dwelling in the sphere of Venus, they oversee the epochs of human evolution, giving each period its character or personality.

∆ Spirits of Fire: Centered in the sphere of Mercury, they oversee human groups such as families, peoples, and races. They are commonly called Archangels.

∆ Sons of Life: Centered in the sphere of the Moon, they guide and protect individual human beings. Commonly called Angels, they are all effectively Guardian Angels.

Seen from a certain perspective, Anthroposophical theology can seem intriguing, attractive, even plausible. All the gods (from highest to lowest) are ascribed noble tasks (from highest to lowest), and all are located in certain portions of the cosmos (from highest to lowest). Everything seems to fit, so — as Anthroposophists have argued — the schema has an undeniable “inner logic.” Consequently, the leap can be made, from “this is plausible" to “this is True.”

But let’s pause a moment to ponder. Is this intriguing description of the gods, no matter how attractive we may find it, true? What support can we find for it? Is the schema even plausible, when we slow down to mull things over? Consider the business of the planets, for instance. Various gods (all the ranks below the eighth and ninth) are located in planetary spheres: Saturn, Jupiter, and so forth. But note how strange the list of planets is. Why are the Sun and Moon treated as if they are planets? And why are some planets omitted? What happened to Uranus and Neptune? Come to that, what happened to the Earth? Anthroposophists have answers for such questions, but the answers are as strained and unconvincing at the schema overall. (For instance: Uranus and Neptune are not really planets, Steiner taught; Saturn is the outermost planet.) If we cling to our powers of reasoning and consider matters with critical intelligence, Anthroposophical theology stands revealed as contrived, unfounded, and unpersuasive.

But theology is always a difficult, perhaps irresolvable subject. We needn’t pretend to resolve it here. All we need do is understand what Steiner said about the gods, and recognize that his account of them is generally affirmed by his adherents today, including true-believing Waldorf faculty members. Unless you can affirm Steiner’s account of the gods, a gap will likely open — perhaps expanding to a yawning chasm — between the Anthroposophical worldview and your own.* If that is so, then you may want to think twice before sending your child into an milieu — the Waldorf school movement — where Steiner’s account prevails.

For more on various matters we have discussed here, see “Polytheism”, “God”, “Trinity”, and "Tenth Hierarchy". You might also consult relevant entries ("Elohim", "Spirits of Personality", "Brahma", "Odin", etc.) in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia. A relevant Steiner text is THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES AND THE PHYSICAL WORLD (Anthroposophic Press, 1996). Also see, e.g., Roy Wilkinson’s RUDOLF STEINER (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2005), especially the chapter “The Spiritual Hierarchies”. To explore more generally, you might visit the Rudolf Steiner Archive or search Steiner texts at Google Books.

* If you adhere to a monotheistic faith, you should have grave doubts about the polytheism of Anthroposophy. If you adhere to a polytheistic faith, you may have grave doubts about the specific gods enumerated in Anthroposophy. If you are a secularist, you should have grave doubts about Anthroposophy generally.

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. 

— R. R.

To go to Part II of Revisiting Square One, 
click on this link: Revisiting II.

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



A short, direct answer to the question, "What are Waldorf schools all about?"

Best foot forward

The bright side


A pictorial overview

Waldorf's goals

Waldorf's reality

Teachers as priests

Does Waldorf Work?

How they teach it


Words of warning

The key to Waldorf

The use of "clairvoyance" by Waldorf teachers

Developing our invisible bodies

Steiner, trying to make Waldorf education seem sensible

MY LIFE AMONG THE ANTHROPOSOPHISTS, Part 1Part 2Part 3Parts 4-6Charlie

The memoir of a former Waldorf student and teacher

SQUARE ONE, Part 1, Part 2


Any here?


Design of the site

[R.R., 2014]