Waldorf for the 21st Century




This is the first of eight interconnected pages that sample recent Anthroposophical publications. Rudolf Steiner created Anthroposophy and its offshoots, such as Waldorf education, during the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century. "Today" and the pages that follow it ("Today 2", "Today 3", and the rest) focus on the Anthroposophical present: the last decades of the twentieth century and the first decades of the twenty-first. These texts represent the thinking that undergirds Anthroposophical undertakings, including Waldorf education, today.

The texts I quote on these pages are not presented in chronological order; instead, I have attempted to create a thematic collection that, in its totality, produces an accurate summary of Anthroposophical writings in our time. The oldest texts represented on these pages date from about 1970 or so; the newest date from around 2020 or so. If you want to concentrate on the most recent texts I quote, you should jump ahead to the final page in the series: "Today 7" and "Today 8".  

— R.R. 









Anthroposophists in general, and Anthroposophical Waldorf teachers in particular, tend to be secretive. But increasingly today they recognize the need to explain themselves, if only partially. There is now a growing body of Anthroposophical literature that describes — and advocates — Waldorf education. Examining this literature can be highly instructive. Occasionally, you will find straightforward statements of Anthroposophical beliefs. More often, you will encounter occultist terms that are used without a frank presentation of the underlying creed. And sometimes you will find apparently innocuous statements that have been carefully calibrated to conceal more than they reveal. You may agree with at least some parts of what you read in these texts, or you may confront occultist concepts and practices that you abhor. In any event, careful study of these publications should enable you to comprehend the underpinnings of Waldorf education in a way that would be difficult if not impossible otherwise.

Let’s examine a few examples. I will quote from some recent books by Anthroposophists — including Anthroposophical Waldorf teachers — and I will offer a brief comment on each quotation. The overarching theme of this exercise should quickly become apparent: The mysticism that infected Waldorf education in the past continues to lurk within it today. Rudolf Steiner's occult preachments are being promoted today with as much fervor as they were Steiner's own day. What you are about to read represents the Waldorf belief system as it exists now.

Here are the main books I will quote from, along with their publication dates. All of them have been released since 1995.

MILLENNIAL CHILD: Transforming Education in the Twenty-first Century (Anthroposophic Press, 1999).

UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS: Tracing the Path of Incarnation (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007).


WALDORF EDUCATION: A Family Guide (Michaelmas Press, 1995).

WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century (Xlibris Corporation, 2000).

I will also quote from some other recent sources.

OK. Examples. In an effort to clarify the Anthroposophical jargon, I will place central concepts in bold type.  

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.” — Waldorf teacher Arthur M. Pittis, “Literacy, Not Just Reading”, an essay in WALDORF EDUCATION: A Family Guide (Michaelmas Press, 1995), edited by Waldorf teachers Pamela Johnson Fenner and Karen L. Rivers, p. 73.

Statements like this, using impressive terminology to express admirable purposes, are common in Waldorf public relations efforts. What do they actually mean, however? What, for instance, is "imagination" as conceived in the Waldorf universe? Rudolf Steiner taught that true thinking is a “pictorial activity”: It entails the formation of 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. They are abstractions, generalizations, intellectual constructs — they are high products of careful cogitation, necessary in any serious effort at ascertaining truth. [See, e.g., "Steiner's 'Science'".] 

As designed by Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf schooling aims at promoting clairvoyance, which is the alleged psychic power to form accurate mental images of spiritual truths or realities. In genuine Waldorf schools (those that adhere most faithfully to Steiner's vision) this is what “pictorial activity” and “imagination” and “intuition” are ultimately all about: clairvoyance. But clairvoyance is a delusion, it does not exist. [See “Clairvoyance”.] Consequently, an educational program built on belief in clairvoyance is fundamentally flawed. It tends to steer students and their teachers into fantasy realms, while loosening their grip on factual information about the real world (denigrated by Pittis as mere "'bits' of information"). Rather than providing a real education, Waldorf schooling often directs its victims toward mysticism and falsehood. [See, e.g., “Thinking Cap” and “Reality and Fantasy”.]




"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.'" — Anthroposophist 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," one of the three invisible bodies that, according to Steiner, develop during childhood. Until incarnation, the etheric body is enclosed in the etheric sheath. [See “Incarnation”.]) 

Here is a typical "insight" from UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS, giving the Anthroposophical 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." — UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS, p. 58. 

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. A child who draws broken incomplete houses, or who fails to draw houses at all, presumably is expressing failure or aversion to the process of incarnation. All manner of inappropriate and false conclusions may be reached about this child, with damaging consequences for the way the child is treated thereafter.

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




“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. 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.” — Waldorf teacher Clifford Skoog, “Waldorf Education and Science”, in WALDORF EDUCATION: A Family Guide, 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. [See "Science".] Myth and mysticism play far bigger roles 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. Genuine 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. [See, e.g., “Steiner’s ‘Science’” and “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?”]

(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”.])

When he was a child, Jack Petrash was taught that asbestos is safe and beneficial. Later, of course, asbestos was identified as a carcinogen. On this basis, Petrash argues that schools should not place too much emphasis on teaching children facts. 

“This [e.g., society’s changed understanding of asbestos] is the obvious flaw in fact-based education. Whether we were taught about the solar system, the Soviet Union, or computers, much of what we had to learn in school is now outdated.” — Waldorf teacher Jack Petrash, UNDERSTANDING WALDORF EDUCATION (Gryphon House, 2002), p. 26.

Genuine Waldorf schools tend to be allergic to facts; they promote an occult perspective that is deeply at odds with factual reality. Steering children away from a rational perception of the real, factual world does them a grave disservice. 

Of course, “facts” can change — new discoveries can be made, new insights can be gained. If the value of asbestos was once taken as an unqualified fact, the advance of science led mankind to adjust its understanding of this mineral. Today we know that asbestos has useful fire-resistant and insulating properties, but the use of asbestos must be stringently restricted because inhaling asbestos particles can cause cancer.

So facts are slippery. They can change (or our understanding may change, anyway). But the way to deal with this is not to downplay facts, it is to remain abreast of the latest discoveries. Children need to be told the truth and equipped with the rational skills needed to perceive the truth. Waldorf schools tend to nudge kids in a very different direction — toward woolly devotion to mystial fantasies. [See, e.g., “Steiner’s Blunders”, “Truth”, and “Manifestations”.]

The aversion to facts so often found in Waldorf schools — an aversion to real knowledge about the real world — can be traced to Steiner's doctrines. Virtually all the attitudes and practices found in genuine Waldorf schools can be traced to those doctrines. Discussing the way Waldorf teachers should approach their work, Steiner said this:

"The Science of the Spirit [i.e., Anthroposophy] teaches us the art of forgetting ... All memorized matter should disappear from the mind to make room for an actively receptive spirit." — Waldorf founder Rudolf Steiner, quoted by Waldorf teacher Eugene Schwartz in MILLENNIAL CHILD (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), pp. 150-151.

Memorization is, of course, not the end-all and be-all of education, but it certainly plays an important role. Memorizing some things (such as multiplication tables, or rules of grammar, or important historical dates) is necessary: The mind must be furnished with information. 

Steiner did not deny this, absolutely; but he argued against brainwork generally, including memorization. He taught that real knowledge consists of "living thoughts" produced by the gods. Our brains do not produce true thoughts; at most, they are receptors for receiving the living thoughts beamed down to us by the gods on high.

"The brain...mediates between the spiritual and the physical world juts as a radio mediates between the broadcaster and the listener ... The brain does not produce thoughts." — Waldorf teacher Henk van Oort ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011), p. 16.

Steiner advocated forgetting in order to clear the brain's powers of reception, removing data, facts, and mere earthly knowledge that would otherwise gum up the works. The cleared brain would then be able to receive celestial transmissions that would confirm his own mystical teachings. [See, e.g., "Thinking" and "The Waldorf Curriculum".]

You may want to ask yourself whether a good educational system can possibly be based on such ideas as we have seen here: the brain does not think, facts should be spurned, knowledge should not be memorized, myth and imagination (clairvoyance) should be emphasized instead.



“The human being is marked among the creatures of the earth by the capacity to experience him/herself as a self-enclosed being, as an ‘I.’ However, this distinction has been purchased at a price. That price is separation. We find ourselves living in a state of separation from nature, from other human beings, even from ourselves. This condition can be felt as a painful exile. It begets in us the desire to unite with that from which we are separated. A great longing for wholeness lives in our souls.” — Waldorf teacher Philip Wharton, “Festivals, Seeds of Renewal”, in WALDORF EDUCATION: A Family Guide, p. 143. 

The author adds, “We can learn to experience ourselves in the world, the world in us.” — Ibid., p. 144.

These comments come in a chapter discussing the festivals celebrated at Waldorf schools. The “I” is one of three invisible bodies that, according to Steiner, fully incarnated human beings possess. [See “Incarnation”.] This is an esoteric or occult concept, having central importance in the religion of Anthroposophy. We have uniques spiritual identities, our "I's," which cause us to feel separate from the cosmos around us. To heal this sense of separation, Waldorf schools sponsor festivals such as the observance of Michaelmas. These festivals are colorful and attractive, often staged with trappings that may seem nondenominational. But at root they are religious observances. [See the section of festivals in "Magical Arts".]

Likewise, the idea that we can find "the world in us" is the Anthroposophical belief that human beings are microcosms, containing everything of value in the universe. [See “The Center”] Our separation from the cosmos is thus an illusion. One way to express the purpose of Waldorf schooling is to say that it seeks to overcome the illusion of separation; it seeks to guide the individual soul into conscious connection with the multiple gods revered in the Waldorf religion: Anthroposophy. [See "Polytheism" and "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"]

Wharton’s exposition of Waldorf festivals is rooted in Anthroposophical concepts, and it hints at the real agenda: leading students toward initiation in Steiner's (i.e., Waldorf's) occult belief system. [See, e.g., “Inside Scoop”.]

“The equinox is for us a turning point, a change in the relation of light and darkness in the world around us. On September 29th the autumn festival traditionally known as Michaelmas is celebrated. This festival is named for the Archangel Michael, conqueror of  the powers of darkness, the harvester of the deeds of human souls. It is at this time that the image of Michael with the dragon appears before us as a mighty imagination, challenging us to develop strong, brave, free wills, to overcome love of ease, anxiety and fear.  This demands inner activity, a renewal of the soul which is brought to consciousness in the Michaelmas festival, the festival of the will.” — Waldorf teacher Karen Rivers, “Michaelmas”, in WALDORF EDUCATION: A Family Guide, p. 145.

This is another reference to a Waldorf school festival, in this case what is often called the Fall Festival. Notice the odd use of the word “imagination” (whenever you find Waldorf schools using a word in a strange way, you should look for underlying Anthroposophical doctrines ). “Imaginations” are the mental pictures Steiner advocated, produced by clairvoyance. "A mighty imagination" is a glorious, true, clairvoyant image, according to Anthroposophical belief. At genuine Waldorf schools, students are led toward the goal of developing clairvoyance through emphasis on imagination, dream, myth, fantasy, etc. The goal is erroneous, but Waldorf schools gear many of their activities toward it. 

Other points to notice: The “autumn festival” (like most Waldorf festivals) is essentially a religious ceremony (this one celebrates St. Michael); the “freedom” advocated by Waldorf schools boils down to freely following the tenets of a specific religion, Anthroposophy; the “will” is a capacity emphasized in that religion. [See, e.g., “Magical Arts”, “Freedom”, and “Will”.]

As for Michael: In Anthroposophical teachings, he is the Archangel of the Sun. He is a warrior god, fighting the forces of evil or darkness, symbolized as "the dragon." Michael serves under the Sun God, Christ. His greatest antagonist is the Sun Demon, Sorat (the Antichrist). However, Michael also fights against the terrible demon Ahriman ("the dragon"). [To look into some of these Anthroposophical beliefs, see, e.g., "Michael", "Sun God", "Evil Ones", and "Ahriman".]



"The ‘four temperaments,’ first described by the classical Greek physician Galen...may be understood as the solution to the challenge of integrating the etheric body with its physical counterpart ... Rudolf Steiner attempted to describe them in terms of the fourfold human being 'Where the bearer of the I [Ego] predominates, a choleric temperament results. Where the astral body predominates, we find a sanguine temperament. Where the etheric or life body predominates, we speak of a phlegmatic temperament. And where the physical body predominates, we have to deal with the melancholic temperament.’ ... One of the most important characteristics of the Waldorf method is the degree of consciousness with which it works at helping these higher bodies integrate.” — Waldorf teacher Eugene Schwartz, MILLENNIAL CHILD, pp. 185-186.

Waldorf schools tend to segregate children on the basis of the four “temperaments.” The classical view of temperament, originating with the ancient Greeks, is false and was discarded by science long ago, but Waldorf schools often cling to such thinking. [See, e.g., "The Phlegmatic Sits by the Window".] Schwartz is to be praised for at least laying out some Anthroposophical doctrines clearly. According to Waldorf belief, people have four bodies (three of them invisible), and these are associated with the four temperaments. [See “Incarnation”.] Also, “one of the most important characteristics of the Waldorf method” revolves around these fantasies: working with the etheric body, astral body, and "I" of each student. [See the entries for these terms in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.] If these bodies existed, this might be commendable; but because they don't, it isn't.

Belief in the four temperaments and the four "higher bodies" is important for the Waldorf method. To this extent, then, the Waldorf method is — at best — a waste of time. But considered at its worst, the Waldorf method sucks kids into a severely irrational vision of the world and themselves. It is deeply alienating. [See, e.g., “Humouresque”, "Double Trouble", and “Waldorf Now”.]

“1) There’s a proper time and method for particular subjects to be taught. The child recapitulates the cultural epochs of humankind. 2) Reverence and respect for Earth is fostered. 3) Qualitative as well as quantitative dimensions in all things should be developed. 4) Above all, human beings are spiritual as well as physical beings.” — Waldorf teacher Peter Curran, TAMARACK TALK, Also see WHAT IS WALDORF EDUCATION?, a collection of essays by Steiner (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), pp. 21-22. The wording is slightly different, but the meaning is the same.

Like many pro-Waldorf statements, this one may seem to pass muster, at first. But dig a little, and you find Anthroposophical occultism. “Cultural epochs” are phases of mankind’s spiritual evolution, as described by Steiner — who knew all about it thanks to his “exact clairvoyance”. [See "Epochs" and "Exactly".] Moreover, children mature according to a process that recapitulates human evolution, which began during Old Saturn and will reach almost unimaginable heights during Future Vulcan. [See "Matters of Form".] Therefore, there is just one “proper method” — it is the Waldorf method, which presents material to children according to the occultly conceived stages of evolution they have attained.

Because the past evolution of humanity is fixed (it has already happened), the Waldorf curriculum tends to be strictly structured with little or no room for individual explorations by the students. Kids are not encouraged to follow their own interests. Instead, all the children at a given grade level are expected to march essentially in unison. They are recapitulating a certain stage of human evolution; accordingly, they will be given what they need at the "proper time." All fourth graders stand at the level of the ancient Egyptians, for instance; all fifth graders stand at the level of the ancient Greeks; all sixth graders stand at the level of the ancient Romans; and so forth. [For overviews of the Waldorf curriculum, see "The Waldorf Curriculum", "Basement", and the entry for "Waldorf Curriculum" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

"In its drawings the child describes for us different conditions of consciousness, which are parallel with those of the cultural epochs. Time divisions within the first seven years [of a child's current Earthly life] show this phenomenon in a larger context." — Anthroposophist Michaela Strauss, UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS: Tracing the Path of Incarnation, p. 20.

Here we have the concept of cultural epochs tied explicitly to varying "conditions of consciousness." [See the entry for "conditions of consciousness" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.] These conditions, tracing the stages of our evolving awareness, are central to Anthroposophical dogma. A key goal of existence, according to Anthroposophy, is rising to higher and higher levels of consciousness, enabling us to become more and more spiritually advanced. Mankind is following an evolutionary path laid out by the good gods and implemented by the secret "White Lodge." [See "The White Lodge".] We gradually ascend from a nearly comatose consciousness during our early evolution to an extraordinarily advanced clairvoyant consciousness at the culmination of our evolution. [See "Everything".]

Another name for conditions of consciousness, in Anthroposophy, is "planetary conditions." The major changes in our consciousness occur as we move from "planet" to "planet." We began our evolution during the condition called "Old Saturn," and we are evolving toward the condition called "Future Vulcan." [See "Matters of Form".] For the moment, we are undergoing the "Earth" stage of our evolution. During this stage, our consciousness has made small upward jumps as we moved from low cultural epochs to higher cultural epochs. 

"Rudolf Steiner...shows the stages of humanity in the course of the history of civilizations, passing from 'dream-like clairvoyant' visions to a conscious perception of the surrounding world ... Are not children's drawings also impressions, 'footprints' on the path to human maturity?" — UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS, p. 18. 

As always, carefully note the words used by Anthroposophists. "Human maturity," according to Anthroposophy, is something very different from the ordinary maturity attained by an ordinary individual. In Anthroposophy, our level of maturity is a reflection of the stage of spiritual evolution we have attained.

To answer Strauss's queston (to paraphrase: Don't kids' pictures depict stages along our evolutionary path?), the obvious answer is No.




“Must teachers be clairvoyant in order to be certain that they are teaching in the proper way? We may, indeed, need only the ‘clairvoyant’ faculties that we are already using without being aware that we possess them ... The teacher's faculty [of clairvoyance] must be cultivated and brought to a stage of conscious awareness on the part of the teacher.” — Waldorf teacher Eugene Schwartz, WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century (Xlibris Corporation, 2000), p. 17. 

Schwartz later adds, 

“Earlier in this book I spoke of the ‘everyday clairvoyance’ which allows us to perceive the activities of the ‘higher bodies’ of the human being without our necessarily being endowed with the degree of spiritual insight necessary to see the bodies themselves.” — Ibid., p. 34.

These quotations return us to subjects we’ve already touched on: clairvoyance, our invisible bodies, and the like. There’s no need to dwell on these matters further except to stress that, indeed, occultism is basic to the Waldorf movement. Not all Waldorf schools are genuine — that is, not all of them are run by fervent Anthroposophists determined to implement Rudolf Steiner's beliefs. Nor are all Waldorf teachers fervent Anthroposophists — some are low-key Anthroposophists, some are spiritually-inclined allies of Anthroposophists, and some (who may not last long in the Waldorf movement) stand apart from Anthroposophists, having little in common with them.

But as we are seeing here, numerous statements published by Anthroposophists and Waldorf teachers indicate the high degree to which Anthroposophical conceptions are woven into Waldorf thinking. The statements we are reviewing tell us that these conceptions are strongly affirmed by various members of Waldorf faculties — including particularly influential Waldorf teachers (those who, for instance, write books). Do you want to send your child to a school where at least some teachers likely believe the nutty stuff we have been seeing? You might contemplate what it would mean to have your child “educated” by people who think, for instance, that they are clairvoyant and that your child has invisible bodies. Can true education be established on the basis of such delusions? [See, e.g., "Occultism", “Underpinnings”, "Basement", and “What We Are”.]


“When a school is based on a spiritual conception of the human being, a more diverse set of values become important ... Sometimes the important spiritual lessons at a school are not actually spoken; they simply are lived ... And yet, there are times when spiritual matters need to be addressed more specifically.” — Waldorf teacher Jack Petrash, UNDERSTANDING WALDORF EDUCATION, pp. 138-142.

Many people of faith would find little to quarrel with in these sentences. But all parents considering Waldorf schools should bear several points in mind: Whether or not you are religious, Waldorf schools are  religious (they are "based on a spiritual conception") — and their religion is the occult worldview called Anthroposophy. According to Steiner, Waldorf teachers are in effect priests, ministering to their students. [See "Schools as Churches".] 

Anthroposophy will be in the schools, Steiner said. [See "Here's the Answer".] Here Petrash tells us "the important spiritual lessons" are often not laid out in so many words for the students. Instead, these lessons are implied, suggested, or "simply lived." The students are enveloped in an Anthroposophical spiritual atmosphere that may slowly, over the course of weeks and months, sink in. But this does not mean Anthroposophical beliefs will never be stated aloud in these schools. No. "[T]here are times when spiritual matters need to be addressed more specifically” — that is, openly and explicitly.

Either way, whether the teachers simply "live" their beliefs or proclaim these beliefs openly, the "spiritual conception" of Waldorf schools will be central. You may have sent your children to a Waldorf school expecting them to receive a good education there. But the teachers there may have a very different goal in mind. They may think it is their job to give your children "important spiritual lessons" quietly or aloud, either by suggesting these lessons through their conduct or, on more urgent occasions, by professing these lessons openly. They may think they should fill the role of priests. Is this what you want from them?

Before sending your child to a Waldorf school, you should make sure that you understand the school’s intentions. Learning about those intentions can be difficult. Steiner instructed Waldorf teachers to keep many of their beliefs and practices hidden from outsiders — among whom he counted students' parents. But because you love your children, you should make the effort. [See, e.g., “Faculty Meetings”, “Discussions”, “Secrets”, and “Prayers”.]

"It is essential that [the] stories and 'explanations' of phenomena speak to the feelings  of the primary school child and do not appeal only to intellectual capacities. Both the questions asked by a child of this age and the feelings that are evoked by appropriate answers can give us some insight into the relationship of the etheric and astral bodies."  — Waldorf teacher Eugene Schwartz, MILLENNIAL CHILD, p. 184. 

If you don't think children have etheric and astral bodies, then this statement (like so many of the statements we have seen) must strike you as gibberish. Hear, hear.

But let's pass on to other components of Schwartz's argument. Schwartz argues that parents should give what we might call mythological rather than rational answers to children's questions. So, for instance, he offers the following model answer to the question, "Why does the sun turn red when it sets?" 

"All day long, Mother Sky watches with joy as her child, the Sun, runs over the world, shedding light and giving warmth, and playing hide and seek with his friends, the clouds. When the day ends, Mother Sky calls the sun home. 'Bed-time!' she exclaims, and she dresses him in his warm red flannel pajamas...." — MILLENNIAL CHILD, p. 187. 

Schwartz's model answer is cute. But do you agree this is the way to talk to children when they ask a serious question about reality? The Waldorf approach, as devised by Waldorf founder Rudolf Steiner, is designed to deflect attention away from reality. The Waldorf approach aims to entice children into a mystical mindset in which fantasies are taken for truth. The reason for this is that, according to Steiner, fairy tales and myths do not convey fantasies: They convey truths.

◊ “Fairy tales are never thought out [i.e., invented]; they are the final remains of ancient clairvoyance, experienced in dreams by human beings who still had the power ... All the fairy tales in existence are thus the remnants of the original clairvoyance.” — Rudolf Steiner, ON THE MYSTERY DRAMAS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), p. 93.

◊ “Actual facts concerning the higher Spiritual Worlds lie at the foundation of all myths.” — Rudolf Steiner, UNIVERSE, EARTH AND MAN in their Relationship to Egyptian Myths and Modern Civilization (Kessinger Publishing, 2003), p. 94 {facsimile of 1931 H. Collison edition}, GA 105. 

◊ “Myths...are the memories of the visions people perceived in olden times ... At night they were really surrounded by the world of the Nordic gods of which the legends tell. Odin, Freya, and all the other figures in Nordic mythology were...experienced in the spiritual world with as much reality as we experience our fellow human beings around us today.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 198.

Steiner also taught that beings such as gnomes and fairies really exist; he said the Earth, the planets, the sky, rocks, minerals, etc., are alive; he advocated astrology and the use of horoscopes (when understood in his own way); he taught that human souls have traveled to other planets and returned; he said fire-breathing dragons really roamed the Earth in olden days; and so forth. In short, he embraced ancient ignorance in preference to modern knowledge. Consequently, fantastical falsehoods may be conveyed to students in Waldorf schools, especially the youngest students, but also students in higher grades. Steiner's followers accept his falsehoods as truths.

The little myth Schwartz invented may not be "true" in the way ancient fairy tales and myths are "true." But an invented myth like Schwartz's serves, in Steiner's Waldorf approach, to usher children toward the mythic, mystic vision of Anthroposophy. And this vision remains at the heart of the Waldorf approach year after year, in grade after grade. Children in Waldorf schools may remain immersed in a deeply unrealistic, esoteric conception of reality long after leaving the lower grades —  they will remain immersed all the way through the highest grades. If Waldorf schools work as Steiner intended, the children will never emerge from this esoteric conception — rather, they will be led far down the path toward acceptance of Steiner's religious teachings. [See, e.g., "The Waldorf Curriculum", "Thinking Cap", "Oh My Stars", "Oh My Word", and "The Gods".]




"This is an essential 'technique' of Waldorf education; at every seven-year developmental phase the teacher works intensively with one of the child's higher bodies, slowly weaving its activities together with the member [i.e., higher body] worked on in a previous stage of growth. What is distinctive about the Waldorf method is that it perceives the validity of each approach in the course of time, as a particular 'higher member' is dominant in effecting growth and maturation." — Waldorf teacher Eugene Schwartz, WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century, p. 35. 

Much of what we have already seen is recapitulated here. Waldorf teachers operate on the basis of esoteric fantasies that they accept as truths: They think human beings have more than one body, for instance, and they think that humans evolve or grow in accordance with a series of seven-year-long phases. [See "Most Significant".] 

All of this derives from ancient mysticism. Steiner adopted the concept of multiple bodies from Theosophy, which adopted the idea from earlier occult teachings. (Remember, Steiner valued ancient ignorance above modern knowledge. [See "The Ancients".]) 

Likewise, Steiner subscribed to the ancient idea that seven (7) is a magic number — specifically, it is the number of perfection. [See "Magic Numbers".] Anthroposophy is full of enumerations centered on seven and other numbers believed to possess occult powers or meaning. 

All of this is bunk, yet it is found near the core of Waldorf schooling. As Schwartz says, working on students' invisible (and nonexistent) higher bodies "is an essential 'technique' of Waldorf education."

Mystics might wish to send their kids to a Waldorf school. All other parents should think twice (or seven times twice), and then make a different choice. [See, e.g., "What We Are", "Waldorf's Purpose", and "Horoscopes".]


"Children's first drawings follow a cosmic movement that knows neither the outside nor inside ... Soul processes find their expression in the realm of colour ... The drawings illustrate transitions and overlapping of the most varied realms of perception."  — Anthroposophist Michaela Strauss, UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS: Tracing the Path of Incarnation, p. 71.

Parents of Waldorf students need to recognize that teachers at their kids' school may assess the students based on dreams, "clairvoyance," horoscopes, and other forms of occult voodoo. [See "Dreams", "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness", and "Horoscopes".] The thesis of UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS is that children may be comprehended through the occult indications discernible (by mystics) in the kids' artwork. Steiner taught — and Waldorf teachers generally believe — that children are born with memories of their past lives. [See "Thinking Cap".] Waldorf teachers try to help children preserve those memories, fending off at least to some degree the "narrowing of consciousness" that comes with full Earthly incarnation: 

"The narrowing down in the perception of cosmic realms through the acquisition of selfhood — the process of becoming an 'I' — resembles an incapsulating of the soul." — UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS, p. 52. 

As we have seen, Waldorf education tries to correct the separation of the self from the mystical cosmos.

Parents of Waldorf students need to recognize these things, and they should ask themselves whether they accept these things.



Waldorf teachers may look for signs of the students' past lives, their karmas, their evolutionary status, their level of incarnation, and so forth, in the students' classwork. A teacher may decide, for instance, that a student is incompletely incarnated, judging from a mystical interpretation of details in drawings and paintings. Here's one such incident:

"Controversy regarding the Steiner educational system surfaced in Australia in July 2007 when a number of parents contacted the media with concerns over whether the Steiner education system was based on a holistic or spiritual model. One parent, Ray Pereira, reported that he could not believe what he was hearing from the school faculty. His son's teacher had informed him that his child had to repeat prep because the boy's soul had not fully incarnated. She said 'his soul was hovering above the earth,' 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'." — Non-Anthroposophical author Aron Raphael, CULTS, TERROR AND MIND CONTROL (Bay Tree Publishing,  2009), p. 114.

Waldorf beliefs can astonish the rational mind. (Recall Eugene Schwartz arguing that teachers need to be clairvoyant.) The Waldorf curriculum is largely centered on such occult fantasies as the gradual incarnation of invisible bodies. We may be inclined to think that, surely, Waldorf teachers don't really believe such things. They don't believe, surely, that occult truths are revealed in dreams, horoscopes, or even children's drawings. Surely.

But true-believing, Anthroposophical Waldorf teachers do believe these things. 

"Children's drawings make visible the path of incarnation." — Anthroposophist Michaela Strauss, UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS: Tracing the Path of Incarnation, p. 84. 

Unless you want your children judged on the basis of mystical delusions, you should not send them to a Waldorf school.

[Waldorfic art by R.R.]




There is a lot of pro-Waldorf literature in circulation these days, most of it written by Anthroposophists, Waldorf teachers, and retired Waldorf teachers. I urge you to get some of this literature and study it carefully.

Below is a fairly extensive list of titles that may interest you. Some of these books and booklets are recent, some are older. Some explicitly endorse Anthroposophical mysticism, some are more circumspect. But all of them, taken singly and taken together, indicate the continuity of Anthroposophical doctrine. Not much changes among Steiner's followers with the passage of time: Steiner's teachings remain central.

Perhaps I should add a personal note. As I write this, late in October, 2022, I am 76 years old. I attended a Waldorf school from 1952 until 1964. Events that seem fairly recent to me (I have various distinct memories from the 1950s and 1960s) may seem ancient to you. If that is the case, you should certainly feel free to formulate your own conception of "today," and you should exercise your right to disregard any texts that, in your view, should be consigned to the prehistoric past. (You might be making a mistake, IMO — things truly change very slowly in the Waldorf movement, and Waldorf teachers today often consult old Waldorf writings. They are often highly respectful of Waldorf tradition, especially if it can be traced back to Rudolf Steiner himself. But the decision is yours.) 


Kevin Avison and Martyn Rawson, THE TASKS AND CONTENTS OF THE STEINER-WALDORF CURRICULUM (Floris Books, second edition, second printing, 2016).

Herman V. Baravalle, WALDORF EDUCATION FOR AMERICA (Parker Courtney Press, 1998).

Hermann von Baravalle, INTRODUCTION TO PHYSICS IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Waldorf School Monographs, 1959).

Hermann von Baravalle, RUDOLF STEINER AS EDUCATOR (St. George Books, 1960 revised edition).

Gilbert Childs, STEINER EDUCATION in Theory and Practuce (Floris Books, 1991).

Christopher Clouder and Martyn Rawson, WALDORF EDUCATION (Floris Books, 2003).

Stewart C. Easton, MAN AND THE WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1989).

Pamela Johnson Fenner and Karen L. Rivers, WALDORF EDUCATION: A Family Guide (Michaelmas Press, 1995).

John Fletcher, ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER (Mercury Arts Publications, 1987).

John Fentress Gardner, THE EXPERIENCE OF KNOWLEDGE (Waldorf Press, 1975).

John Fentress Gardner, EDUCATION IN SEARCH OF THE SPIRIT (Anthroposophic Press, 1996).

Werner Glas, THE WALDORF SCHOOL APPROACH TO HISTORY (Anthroposophic Press, 1963).

Elizabeth M. Grunelius, EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND THE WALDORF SCHOOL PLAN (Waldorf School Monographs, 1966).

A.C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1956).

David Mitchell, editor, WALDORF EDUCATION - An Introduction for Parents (Waldorf Publications, 2016).

Jack Petrash, UNDERSTANDING WALDORF EDUCATION (Gryphon House, 2002).

Ruth Pusch, editor, WALDORF SCHOOLS, Vols. 1 & 2 (Mercury Press, 1993).

Astrid Schmitt-Stegmann, THE UNIQUENESS OF WALDORF EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 2015).

Eugene Schwartz, MILLENNIAL CHILD (Anthroposophic Press, 1999).

Eugene Schwartz, WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century (Xlibris Corporation, 2000).

Peter Selg, THE ESSENCE OF WALDORF EDUCATION (SteinerBooks, 2010).

Michaela Strauss, UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS: Tracing the Path of Incarnation (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007).

Roy Wilkinson, THE CURRICULUM OF THE RUDOLF STEINER SCHOOL (Robinswood Press, 1990).

Roy Wilkinson, THE INTERPRETATION OF FAIRY TALES  (Henry Goulden Books, 1986).

Roy Wilkinson, RUDOLF STEINER: An Introduction to his Spiritual World-view, Anthroposophy (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2001).

Roy Wilkinson, RUDOLF STEINER ON EDUCATION (Hawthorn Press, 1993).

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

Roy Wilkinson, TEACHING ENGLISH (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1976).

Roy Wilkinson, THE TEMPERAMENTS IN EDUCATION (Forest Row, 1977).



It is important to realize that proponents of Waldorf education have varying degrees of knowledge concerning Waldorf schools' spiritualistic purposes. Some proponents are deeply committed occultists who know Anthroposophical doctrine quite well; some know a bit, but perhaps not in detail; and others know virtually nothing about Steiner's teachings.

It is also important to remember that Steiner's followers often take pains to disguise their beliefs from outsiders.

For these reasons, publications promoting Waldorf schools run the gamut from the openly occult to the apparently innocent. The works of Roy Wilkinson provide a useful case study. A longtime Waldorf teacher, Wilkinson wrote a series of curricular guides for Waldorf teachers. Some of these are largely free of occult concepts. But in other publications, Wilkinson revealed his firm commitment to Steiner's doctrines. Consider, for instance, the books THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION and RUDOLF STEINER: An Introduction to his Spiritual World-view, Anthroposophy. In the latter, Wilkinson lays out Anthroposophical  ideology clearly. His topics include occult initiation, higher worlds, karma, reincarnation, the four temperaments, seven-year cycles, spiritual evolution, and so forth — a litany of Anthroposophical beliefs. He hails Steiner as the herald of a new age, and he explicitly ties Steiner's pronouncements to Waldorf schools (otherwise called Steiner schools). Discussing human incarnation, for instance, Wilkinson says this:

"[W]e have marked periods of seven years and the advent of these different forces should be taken into account in education, as it is in the Rudolf Steiner schools." — Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson, RUDOLF STEINER: An Introduction to his Spiritual World-view, Anthroposophy (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2001), p. 37, emphasis added.

— Roger Rawlings


















Here is an image of the hierarchies of thinking or consciousness as conceived within Waldorf schools; Steiner sketched it in the form of a caduceus, and ancient symbol for healing.  We do not need to think for ourselves, Steiner taught: Real thinking has already been done by other, higher beings. All we have to do is receive such thinking in the form of "living" thoughts. 

“A living thought comes to us: Just as my thought is alive, so too the force that lives in and drives the plant seed must be inwardly alive. Soon this thought becomes for us a raying out of light." — Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC LESSONS 1904-1909 (Steiner Books, 2007), p. 400. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on b&w image on p. 401.] 

At the bottom of the caduceus: ordinary day consciousness, associated with the astrological symbol for the Earth; ascending, to the left, the Moon, and to the right, Jupiter; at the first intersection, "picture consciousness";  ascending, to the left, Venus, and to the right, the Sun; at the second intersection, "sleeping consciousness";  ascending, to the left, Saturn, and to the right, Vulcan (no symbol); at the top, "deep trance." If wisdom lies within, planted in our unconsciousness by the gods, then the goal is to climb toward trance. 

When they can, Waldorf schools try to start children along this path, away from ordinary consciousness. The powers of the stars and planets are taken seriously: Astrology is never far below the surface in genuine Waldorf schools. [See, e.g., "Waldorf Astrology".]

Some scholars and writers on education, 

such as Heiner Ullrich,

may not fully comprehend the occultism 

implicit in Waldorf education.

Still, their analyses of Waldorf schooling 

can be noteworthy.

Here is a message posted by historian 

Peter Staudenmaier in July, 2011


Staudenmaier's analyses tend to be acute.

Since I keep recommending it, I thought I'd provide some brief information on Heiner Ullrich's book Rudolf Steiner (London: Continuum, 2008), by one of the foremost German scholars studying Waldorf today. (For the German readers, I also highly recommend Ullrich's 2011 biography of Steiner, which contains extensive critical appraisals of Waldorf and other facets of anthroposophy.) He is an excellent example of how wide of the mark many anthroposophist perceptions of their critics can be. Far from a defender of conventional education systems, Ullrich is an expert on alternative educational models. That is exactly what drives his critiques of Waldorf. His general outlook can be characterized as appreciating a number of Waldorf's achievements in practice while emphasizing its highly problematic theoretical basis.

Ullrich's English-language book is essentially a compendium and summary of his several decades of research on Waldorf and its anthroposophical underpinnings. He praises Waldorf for a variety of reasons while also offering substantial criticisms. Ullrich is very good at putting Waldorf’s putatively innovative characteristics into the crucially important context of the history of alternative education. He notes that several central aspects of Waldorf schooling stand in direct opposition to standard principles of progressive education (he’s particularly good on Waldorf’s teacher-centered approach to pedagogy).

While noting the “striking parallels” between Waldorf and other early twentieth century instances of reform pedagogy, community schools, etc., Ullrich notes that Steiner had virtually nothing to say about these other projects, and observes that the parallels are accompanied by decisive divergences as well. “To this day Steiner’s followers stress the fundamental difference between progressive education and Waldorf Schools; the similarities are only superficial and largely coincidental.” (34)

Ullrich is perceptive on the unsatisfactory nature of existing research on Steiner and anthroposophy (121-23), and he’s excellent on the breaks and discontinuities in Steiner’s life and work and the ways these are elided in anthroposophical accounts. In a brief but insightful discussion, he is also harsh on “polemical critics of anthroposophy” (122) as mirror images of Steiner’s followers; all of this makes scholarly analysis of Steiner's ideas very difficult.  He concludes that “only a small number of studies can be viewed as attempts at critical research on anthroposophy which adhere to adequate scholarly standards.” (123)

The book includes a very good extended disquisition on the ways in which Steiner’s worldview meets the criteria of pre-scientific thought (127-35). Then there’s a detailed comparison and contrast of Waldorf and other Weimar-era alternative educational models (140-54); here again Ullrich emphasizes the many differences between Waldorf pedagogy and progressive education.

Ullrich's basic motif is to contrast Waldorf’s “dubious” foundations with its impressive successes. Despite its fundamentally misguided underlying principles, he thinks many Waldorf schools in practice do some things quite well. He also thinks the time for ideological critique of Waldorf is past, and that the efforts by some Germanophone Waldorf representatives toward dialogue with educational scholars since the 1990s have shifted the terrain; the task now is to explore concrete details of how Waldorf schools actually function, what their real effects are, and so forth.

The book argues that educational scholarship can learn from Waldorf on a variety of these issues, though Ullrich also points out that there are matters on which Waldorf’s approach is inseparable from its anthroposophical foundations and where Waldorf and alternative education advocates must simply part ways. (He also notes, of course, that Waldorf schools could learn from other schools, both alternative schools and public schools, on a range of issues.) He says that external appraisals of Waldorf pedagogy have so far been text-based, and what we need now are empirical analyses focused on what actually happens in the schools.

Ullrich is not particularly sanguine about the notion that Waldorf schools today are wisely leaving the outmoded aspects of Steiner's original model behind. He writes: “Within the broad spectrum of Waldorf Schools, most adhere to the traditional model of the original Stuttgart school in a more or less unchanged form.” (223) That is grounds for considerable concern. The book assembles a range of informative analyses that can be very useful and thought-provoking for admirers and critics of Waldorf alike. As other listmates have suggested, it can be a good idea to ask your local library to order a copy of the book, which makes it available to a wider readership.


Here is an excerpt from

"Why Waldorf Schools Are Not Suitable for Public Funding"

by Dan Dugan


I enrolled my son in the San Francisco Waldorf School halfway through the sixth grade. I was very impressed with the school. I liked very much the way art is integrated into the curriculum in Waldorf. Drawing, calligraphy, music, dance, and drama aren't separate subjects, but part of the regular lessons. Students hand-write and illustrate their own books for every subject. Subjects are taught in blocks that last several weeks. When Roman History is studied, for example, students will draw and paint Romans, write about them, sing, dance, and act out plays about them.

One day while visiting the school, I browsed through some books by Rudolf Steiner that they had for sale. I saw some very strange things about "astral bodies" and "root races." I asked my son's teacher whether these subjects were taught in the classroom. She assured me that though the teachers studied Steiner, only Steiner's teaching methods were used in the classroom, and Steiner's philosophy wasn't taught to the children. I learned later that this is a standard disclaimer, and it is far from the truth. I should have known better, but I was so in love with the facade of the school that I looked the other way.

Over the year and a half my son was in the school, I became increasingly disturbed about three things:

1. Weird science. In a chemistry lesson, the teacher burned different substances and the students drew and described the qualities of the flames, smoke, and ash. No mention was made of oxidation or, for that matter, any chemistry at all. In a lesson on the physics of light, they were taught that Newton was wrong about color and Goethe was right. White light is a unity and cannot be divided into the colors of the spectrum; the colors are merely an artifact of the prism. I thought perhaps these mistakes were due to the ignorance of particular teachers, but when I obtained Waldorf curriculum guides, I discovered that the inadequate and erroneous science was part of the Waldorf system.

2. Racism. I was shocked to pick up a Steiner book for sale at the school and read: "If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense if men do not arrive at a form of intelligence that is independent of blondness" (Steiner, 1981, p. 86).  Why would a school in San Francisco in 1988 be promoting 1920s German racism? They would, I thought, have to be some kind of cult to be so out of touch with reality.

3. Quack medicine. An "Anthroposophical physician" gave a lecture to the parents on "Anthroposophical medicine."  It was classic quackery, claiming to be scientific but ignoring science in favor of cult beliefs, namely, Steiner's seemingly authoritative pronouncements. For example, Anthroposophical medicine doesn’t believe in germ theory, teaching instead that the real causes of infectious diseases are karmic or spiritual, and that the presence of microorganisms is only a symptom.

I started speaking up at meetings and lectures about these problems. I requested a meeting with the College of Teachers, the committee of senior teachers that ran the school. They were "too busy." Instead, a committee of three teachers was delegated to give me an ultimatum: "You don't have to believe what we believe, but if you are going to talk about your disagreements with the other parents, you will have to leave." We left.

Here is an excerpt from

"Exhibition Highlights Rudolf Steiner's 

Influence on Modern Germany"

by Tobias Rapp


May 21, 2010

translated from the German 

by Christopher Sultan,1518,696140,00.html]:

"Can you really dance your name?" It's a question that is familiar to anyone who, like this author, is a former student of a Waldorf school. It doesn't come right away, but it is almost inevitable, once a sufficient level of familiarity has been reached in a conversation. After all, it's part of the general stereotype that people in Germany have about Waldorf schools, whose unusual educational philosophy is based on the ideas of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner.

And no matter what his or her school experience was like, every former Waldorf student finds the question a little embarrassing — because the answer is indeed, yes, you can dance your name. Waldorf schools do indeed teach eurythmy, an expressive art form where people dance to music or poetry, waving their arms around while doing so.

Sometimes — and this is probably something former students should keep to themselves — the pupils wore dresses and green or purple veils while performing their dances, even at the age of 17. They are also generally unwilling to demonstrate their eurhythmy skills to the curious; many former Waldorf students are just happy to have that part of their lives behind them.

Nevertheless, it's a good question. It condenses the image of Waldorf schools into a single sentence. In the general imagination, these schools are seen as different. They are regarded as somehow promoting creativity, but it is doubtful whether the children will ever use all the things they are taught. The question is also often accompanied by a sense of astonishment. Do these schools really manage to produce students who successfully earn the high-school diploma that they need for university, despite having been required to do such crazy things as eurhythmy? How is this possible?

That, in a nutshell, is the paradox of anthroposophy, the spiritual philosophy founded by Steiner. On the one hand, anthroposophists appear to be a relatively wacky Christian splinter group. On the other hand, the ideas of anthroposophy penetrate deeply into contemporary German society, and not just because of Waldorf education.

Many things that are part of everyday life for middle-class Germans, such as alternative medicine, biodynamic agriculture and natural cosmetics, are heavily influenced by Rudolf Steiner's thought. Household names in Germany which have connections to anthroposophy include the Demeter association of biodynamic farmers, which includes 4,200 farms around the world, the Weleda group of pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies, which was established by Steiner himself and currently has annual sales of €238 million ($295 million), the ethical bank GLS and the DM drugstore chain.

Rudolf Steiner (1861 - 1925), the father of anthroposophy, wasn't just one of the great eccentrics of German cultural history. He also became a philosopher whose ideas crossed over to the mainstream, and whose Goetheanum building in Dornach, Switzerland is a pilgrimage site today. It isn't easy to reconcile the two sides of Steiner.

...Steiner studied science and the humanities at various universities, and he became the publisher of the scientific writings of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He worked at times as a tutor, researcher, editor and book publisher. Politically, he was left of center, and he worked for Germany's Social Democratic Party. He was also interested in anarchism and led a bohemian lifestyle.

Anthroposophy is also the extension of the 19th-century German Goethe cult into contemporary Germany. Perhaps the fixation on Goethe explains why Steiner's spiritual philosophy, unlike other contemporary movements such as the George-Kreis (George Circle) around the writer Stefan George, has endured to this day.

...Steiner later gave a vast number of talks on every topic under the sun (with the notable exception of sex). Some of the lectures include dubious ideas about, for example, Africans. There were 5,965 lectures in all, and supporters recorded most of them in shorthand and wrote them up. Some 308 of his books are displayed on a wall in Wolfsburg, with such disparate titles as "How to Know Higher Worlds" and "On the Nature of Bees."

...Anthroposophy attempts to blend together Christian mysticism, science, Goethe's ideas, German idealism and all kinds of mysterious occult knowledge into an academic model for studying the supernatural. Steiner claimed that he had done this with the help of the so-called Akashic Records, a sort of immaterial global memory, through which he believed he had achieved "spiritual perception."

...Steiner's world was not unlike ours. The German Empire was in the midst of the industrial revolution, which was shaking society with its constant barrage of new discoveries. Science had launched a fundamental assault against religious convictions, the perception of time and space was changing and the relationship between the sexes was beginning to shift. The world, in other words, was in turmoil.

...[I]t is mainly the educated middle class, old and young, that appreciates Steiner ... It is the same social class that regards Waldorf schools as a kind of refuge from the multicultural reality of German cities: Working-class families and parents of Turkish descent rarely send their children to Steiner schools.

The following is excerpted from

"What's Waldorf?"

by Meagan Francis

in SALON, May, 2004


When Ted and Joan Shores* began researching schools near their home for their 4-year-old daughter, Clair, they settled fairly easily on the local Waldorf school.

...But the seemingly idyllic mix of a holistic education for their daughter and a supportive community for their family quickly soured: Clair began to be bullied by an older, bigger boy at school, and none of the staff seemed to notice. Though Clair was coming home in tears and no longer wanted to attend school, teachers dismissed Joan's concerns, she says — even when she'd witnessed the bullying herself. "Our lead teacher kept asking what Clair's bedtime was, while insisting she never saw bullying at school," Joan says. "She would never address the behavior of the other child." (When called for comment, a representative from Clair's school said that no one had time to answer questions.) Instead, the teacher suggested to a frustrated Ted that he "read his Steiner." Clair's teacher was referring to Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925).

...[A] growing group of parents, teachers and students who've left the Waldorf system are troubled by the way the schools interpret Steiner's philosophies. Waldorf "survivors," as they very seriously call themselves, accuse Waldorf schools of encouraging a cultlike loyalty to Steiner's philosophy, which was founded on racist and anti-Semitic beliefs and which incorporates a host of unconventional educational methods ... [T]he critical parents object not so much to the philosophies, they say, as to the administrators and teachers' lack of frankness about just what is in the curriculum, and why.

...When my children first began entertaining themselves long enough for me to plot out their educational future via the Internet, I sought out alternatives to the local public school.

...The more I read online about Waldorf schooling, clicking from virtual tour to virtual tour of beautiful classrooms and beautiful toys, all surrounded by beautiful pink-cheeked children, the more enthusiastic I got ... [F]rom the outside, Waldorf did the best job of fulfilling my educational fantasies.

...Waldorf is as much a lifestyle as it is an education, with the school's philosophies lapping into home life: Parents are often asked to enforce rules about television watching and to keep a "media free" environment for children in lower grades (no TV or computers, period). Parents also receive guidelines for packing school lunches (an Olympia, Wash.-area Waldorf school's handbook states that lunches must be packed in a basket, not a lunch box, with two cloth napkins and a ceramic cup). Mary Hammond*, a Santa Rosa, Calif., mother of two, says the Waldorf school application she filled out asked questions about how long she'd breastfed her children and how much television she and her husband watched. In many ways, says Hammond, who eventually decided that Waldorf's mandates were too strict for her children, "I felt like I was on trial to see if we'd 'fit in' with the community before we even started there!"

Former Waldorf parents criticize their schools for not fully explaining these practices — or how deeply they connect to Steiner's spiritual worldview. "Anthroposophy is the foundation of everything that happens in a Waldorf school, but it's veiled," says Dan Dugan, secretary of the Waldorf watchdog group People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS). "It isn't taught directly to the children, but to the knowing eye it is everywhere."

John Holland — a creative marketing consultant and former Waldorf parent in Berkeley, Calif., who has created, a resource site for parents, educators and others interested in Waldorf, Steiner and Anthroposophy — agrees. "The key to understanding Waldorf is Anthroposophy," says Holland.

...Holland argues that the religious basis of a movement is not the problem, but the lack of disclosure about its religious roots is. And since Waldorf's whole philosophy is based on a set of religious values, Holland says, there is no real way to separate Anthroposophy from the Waldorf curriculum. "It's a closed system," he says. "The timing of when certain things are taught, the subject matter itself, all is dictated by Anthroposophy ... I tell people that Anthroposophy is the DNA of Waldorf education."

...Holland thinks these issues could be resolved if Waldorf educators and administrators would simply be honest about the inherent racism and anti-Semitism of some of Steiner's philosophies. A simple acknowledgment of Steiner's less-than-politically-correct viewpoints, along with a unified statement denouncing those viewpoints, is all Holland believes it would take for Waldorf schools, teachers and supporters to rise above accusations of racism and anti-Semitism.

He also points out that the ultimate goal of Anthroposophy is to lead children through the stages of reincarnation, which blurs the line between education and religion to an even greater extent. Nancy Frost*, a former Waldorf instructor, concurs: "I heard in a faculty meeting that there were many important souls waiting to reincarnate in this century and that they would only be able to do so if there were enough Waldorf schools," she says. "By the end of the year I taught there I was completely convinced that Waldorf constituted a cultlike religious movement which concealed its true nature from prospective parents."

...As for me, the pink-cheeked, wholesome-child fantasy was almost enough to sway me, and I considered trying to get over my issues with Anthroposophy, as I presume many parents do. But ... Waldorf probably won't work for families who don't uphold its values at home — and the idea of trying to uphold a value system I don't believe in unnerved me. There's a certain relief in the low expectations of me as a public-school parent: I'm not expected to believe in much of anything besides overpriced fundraiser merchandise ... When my children began to attend the local public school, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they didn't start obsessively coloring within lines or raising their hands to speak at the dinner table. They may not be playing with wooden toys every day, but they're learning, they're happy, and they're still relatively innocent — and that's good enough.

* Names marked with an asterisk (*) have been changed.


Earlier on this page, I quoted several statements

written by Waldorf teacher Eugene Schwartz. 

Here are two items from the Waldorf Watch News page 

giving information about services offered by Mr. Schwartz.

I offer a response to each offering.


An offer from January, 2011:

"February 27, 2011 will mark the 150th anniversary of Rudolf Steiner’s birth. In conjunction with this, Eugene Schwartz has created a unique multi-media ‘Online Journey’ that will both deepen and broaden our understanding of Steiner’s contributions to the modern world ... This online course will be six hours of audio and visual content ... Although these presentations are meant to be an introduction to the life and work of Rudolf Steiner, long-time students of Anthroposophy will find new insights as well ... The fee for the online course is $35.00 ... Members receive a 50% discount on the course fee."  


Waldorf Watch Response:

I don’t usually reprint advertisements here, but I will make an exception in this case. Eugene Schwartz, an Anthroposophist, is a skilled and articulate advocate of Waldorf schooling. In addition, he has a penchant for being at least marginally more forthright than many other Anthroposophists when addressing the general public.

Schwartz is fully committed to Steiner’s occult doctrines and to the spiritual agenda of Waldorf education. As he famously said on one public occasion: 

"That's why I send [my daughter] to a Waldorf school. She can have a religious experience. A religious experience. I'll say it again: I send my daughter to a Waldorf school so that she can have a religious experience." — Eugene Schwartz, "Waldorf Education — For Our Times of Against Them?" []  

Schwartz may have regretted his candor on this occasion — he was subsequently demoted within the Waldorf community. Candor has costs.

Schwartz has said that good teachers need to be clairvoyant, and he accepts as real such fantasies as the invisible “higher bodies” described by Steiner. 

“Must teachers be clairvoyant in order to be certain that they are teaching in the proper way? We may, indeed, need only the ‘clairvoyant’ faculties that we are already using without being aware that we possess them.” — Eugene Schwartz, WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century (Xlibris Corporation, 2000), p. 17. 

Schwartz later adds, 

“Earlier in this book I spoke of the ‘everyday clairvoyance’ which allows us to perceive the activities of the ‘higher bodies’ of the human being without our necessarily being endowed with the degree of spiritual insight [i.e., heightened clairvoyance] necessary to see the bodies themselves.” — Eugene Schwartz, WALDORF EDUCATION, p. 34.

Understand that no matter how appealing Schwartz’s writings may seem, they are an invitation into occultism. Clairvoyance is the key requirement and goal of Anthroposophy: Rudolf Steiner claimed to possess it, and he laid out steps his followers should take to develop similar abilities — that is, he laid out a path toward occult initiation. See, e.g., Steiner's book HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS (Anthroposophic Press, 1994). The distressing part of all this is that clairvoyance and the "findings" of clairvoyance are delusions, delusions that Schwartz embraces as realities. [See "Clairvoyance". Newly claimed "evidence" concerning ESP may or may not have a bearing. See "ESP".]

[Anthroposophic Press, 1999.]

“Millennial Child” is both the title of a book Schwartz wrote and an organization devoted to the Waldorf movement. “Become a Member of Receive a free download of a CD of your choice, and 20% discounts on CDs and Webinars. Join by the month or by the year, and you will help support our efforts to offer free teaching resources and information about Waldorf education worldwide.” []



Photo accompanying the description of CD 141


These are, presumably, unfortunate kids

who have been sent to a non-Waldorf school

where they are forced to do such things

as read books and, perchance, learn something.

Another offer from January, 2011:

To understand today's children, Eugene Schwartz contends, we must understand the millennial rhythms of reincarnation described by Rudolf Steiner, and also recognize the significance of the assumption of ‘personal karma’ that occurs around age twelve and a half. In this rich lecture, Eugene also discusses the ‘Three A's’ that signal the approach of a new kind of child: ADHD, Asperger Syndrome, and Adoption.  


Waldorf Watch Response:

It is almost impossible to overestimate the extent to which true-blue Waldorf teachers depend on the words of Rudolf Steiner. To understand almost anything, they typically think, one needs to understand what Steiner said about it.

The most direct way to learn what Steiner said is to buy some of his books and read them. Steiner’s language is so opaque, however, that most people find his books almost impenetrable. For this reason, relying on commentators who explain Steiner is often helpful. Here at Waldorf Watch, I present my own commentaries, for whatever they may be worth. At the other end of the spectrum, Anthroposophists such as Eugene Schwartz offer a decidedly different take on Steiner.

Schwartz is prolific, affable, and accessible. He has written some books as well as various online essays. [See, e.g.,]

Schwartz also offers CDs expressing his views. The quotation, above, describes one of them. The price for such CDs at is $18.50 (plus shipping). 

If you’re prepared to shell out a bit more, you can talk to Eugene Schwartz personally, on the telephone. The rates are $25 for a half-hour chat, or $40 for a full hour. []

You may want to hurry. I don't know how long these offers will last.




Lest we forget —

here is how the purpose of Waldorf education

has been described by Waldorf educators:

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

“[Waldorf] education is essentially grounded on the recognition of the child as a spiritual being, with a varying number of incarnations behind him, who is returning at birth into the physical world ... Teachers too will know that it is their task to help the child to make use of his body, to help his soul-spiritual forces to find expression through it, rather than regarding it as their duty to cram him with information....” — Anthroposophist Stewart C. Easton, MAN AND WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 2023), pp. 277-278.

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

"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 Trostli, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING: What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents, and Teachers (SteinerBooks, 2017), p. 4.

“[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. 

"The reason many [Steiner or Waldorf] schools exist is because of the 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", 2006. [See "Ex-Teacher 7".] 

"If, therefore, we are asked what the basis of a new method of education should be, our answer is: Anthroposophy must be that basis. But how many people there are, even in our own circles, who try to disclaim Anthroposophy as much as possible, and to propagate an education without letting it be known that Anthroposophy is behind it." — Rudolf Steiner, THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD (SteinerBooks, 1995), p. 4.

“This is precisely the task of school. If it is a true school, it should bring to unfoldment in the human being what he 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.

“The task of education conceived in the spiritual sense is to bring the Soul-Spiritual [i.e., the combined soul and spirit] into harmony with the Life-Bodily [i.e., the etheric body]." – Rudolf Steiner, STUDY OF MAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), pp. 19-20.

For more contemporary statements 

by the followers of Rudolf Steiner,

see "Today 2".