“Lovers of unconscious humour
are recommended to make a study
of pages 53-55 of the text.”
— Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics,
Max von Laue,
ridiculing Rudolf Steiner’s
OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE
TOP TEN JOKES
TOLD BY R. STEINER
With Apologies to All
Compiled by Roger Rawlings
Afterword by Diana Winters
Addendum by Margaret Sachs
"Are We Having Fun Yet?" by Yrs. Trly.
Jokes Unintentionally Provided by Rudolf Steiner
Anagram by Diana Winters
Steiner’s statements were often unintentionally hilarious.
He was serious about each of the following remarks.
I kid you not.
10) “[A]n island like Great Britain swims in the sea
and is held fast by the forces of the stars.” 
9) “It is bias that causes people to imagine that their heads
are the most perfect part of themselves.
It is certainly structured in a most complicated way,
but it is really just a metamorphosed cuttlefish.” 
8) "I am an I only to myself; to every other being I am a you.” 
7) “The group soul of a beehive is a very high level being ...
It has attained a level of evolutionary development
that human beings will later reach....” 
6) “The animal man of the Moon [did] not yet have firm bones ...
[T]he Moon of that time did not have
a thin, airy atmosphere ... [I]ts envelope was considerably thicker,
even denser than the water of today.” 
5) “[These were] human beings who had their origins in the interbreeding
of Earth offspring with humans who...moved to Jupiter.” 
4) “Gnomes are...unable to grasp how there can be anything but
an ineffectual relationship with [us].”  *
3) [Why bulls charge at red fabric]
“When the eye confronts red ...
the blood in the eye is slightly destroyed ...
When the bull confronts red he simply says, ‘Dash it all,
all the blood in my head is being destroyed!
I must defend myself!’ So he goes wild....”  **
2) “[Science] sees the heart as a pump that pumps blood through the body.
Now there is nothing more absurd than believing this,
for the heart has nothing to do with pumping the blood.” 
1) “It would be a mistake to view the lung
as less spiritual than the nose.” 
It's hard to know where to stop.
Steiner gets more preposterous the more you read him.
Consider the following a series of curtain calls:
Oh, if only we could see them!
Unconscious humor was never better than this!
(What is it called again?
Actually, this is a nifty example of the hypnotic
and intellectually vapid quality of Steinerspeak:
Mentioning "certain" things that he does not define
["certain ceremonial magic", "a certain sphere",
"certain Indian occultists"],
Steiner repeats a certain phrase
(in this certain instance, "occult imprisonment")
over and over, repeatedly,
saying it again and again, repetitiously,
reiterating and restating
the same thing multiple times —
using the very same identical words
he already used before,
previously, at the start,
It isn't extremely informative.
[For more of this sort of thing by Steiner,
see "Double Trouble."])
* A joke is a failure if you have to explain it. But I can’t resist commenting on a couple of these. About gnomes: Steiner believed in them. Seriously: “There are beings that can be seen with clairvoyant vision at many spots in the depths of the earth ... If you dig into the metallic or stony ground you find beings which manifest at first in remarkable fashion — it is as if something were to scatter us. They seem able to crouch close together in vast numbers, and when the earth is laid open they appear to burst asunder ... 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....” 
** Probably you’ve heard the canard about bulls and the color red. Red drives bulls crazy, no? No. Bulls have little or no ability to see red.  They can, however, tell when pieces of cloth are flapped in their faces, and they don’t like it. (Who does?) But the color of the cloth is irrelevant. The interesting point, here, is that Steiner falls for the canard. He did this over and over. He cited myths, legends, fables — and, as in this case, folklore — finding “truth” in just about all of it. But, truly, much of the source material Steiner relied on is silly, and wide swaths of it are flat-out wrong. In fact, Steiner’s “spiritual science” — Anthroposophy — is an amalgam of such fallacies, many of them ancient, gathered from around the world. A big pile of fallacies is not a treasury of truth. It is a big pile of fallacies. Consider Mars. Steiner knew that the ancient Greeks associated Mars with war (“Mars”: the Greek god of war), and what was good enough for them was good enough for him: He bought it: Mars is a warlike place. Just one little problem. The ancients who imagined stuff about Mars had almost no actual knowledge of that planet. Granted, Mars is red (which is why bulls don’t see it — sorry), but this doesn’t mean it is a bloody place. There are no warriors on Mars. No wars have been fought on Mars. Mars is a lifeless place, with the possible exception of microscopic organisms. (Actually, I would be delighted if we find life forms on Mars, and I would be thrilled if we discover the ruins of ancient civilizations there — even warlike civilizations. But so far we have not, and we have no reason to think we ever will.) If you want to know about Mars, consult NASA, not ancient myths — and certainly not Rudolf Steiner. “The Buddha wandered away from earthly affairs to the realm of Mars ... The Buddha Mystery on Mars did not take the same course as the Christ Mystery on earth, but Buddha, the Prince of Peace...was transferred to the belligerent realm of Mars ....”  Great stuff. I probably should have put this quote on the top ten list instead of burying it here in a footnote. Oh, well. Steiner had a million of ‘em. 
*** This explains the rather enigmatic indication Steiner gave during a Waldorf faculty meeting: “Handwork. Knitting develops good teeth.”  The American Dental Association is strangely uninformed on this point.
**** Steiner's comments about science and technology are almost invariably nutty. He professed to know virtually everything about everything, but in fact... I'd spell it out for you, but we don't have enough anthills here. [See "Steiner's 'Science'".]
***** Steiner knew as little about animals and insects as he did about planets and stars — which was almost as little as he knew about children. Bear in mind that all this craziness counts for deep insight in Waldorf circles. In truth, what Steiner peddled was often little more than astrology and other forms of superstition trussed up in the elaborate lingo of pseudoscience.
****** There's actually a very good reason why people don't look for elephant skeletons in caves. Can you guess what it is?
OK. Enough bull.
But about those gnomes ...
by Diana Winters
The presence of stuffed-fabric gnomes in Waldorf kindergartens strikes some parents as charming or even humorous. The gnomes are not only physically present: they often appear in stories the teachers tell, and the children are encouraged to draw gnomes. But the gnomes' role is more complicated than this. I urge prospective Waldorf parents to see past the charm-facade provided by the gnomes. The gnomes sell the school incredibly well, and that is one of their main functions. They literally sell like hot cakes at school fairs or craft shows, and they "sell" the school by dulling parental reasoning abilities. Parents fall "in love" with the gnomes, along with the knitted bunnies and ponies and flowing silks and homey "just like grandma's" atmosphere of the kindergartens.
I urge prospective or current Waldorf kindergarten parents to visit a classroom and observe just how (or whether) the children actually relate to or interact with the gnomes in the classroom. The gnomes aren't cuddly. They aren't friendly. They're actually just a little bit threatening. Gnomes in Waldorf lore are not quite sympathetic to humans — they're tricky and conniving, not exactly smart but crafty, resentful, frankly a little on the mean and stupid side. Gnomes aren't friends or playmates for children — they're often just odd, grimacing presences on the shelf. Watch in the classroom and see — do the children play with them? Do they talk to them? Do they appear to view the gnomes affectionately? Do the gnomes have names, personalities, do the children tell stories about the gnomes? Watch and see.
Gnomes are something that Waldorf schools can hook onto in popular culture, from suburban lawn ornaments to familiar fairy tales, and insinuate a message about "nature spirits" that is meant to prepare children to be receptive to a wide variety of related beliefs about the "spiritual hierarchies" as outlined by Rudolf Steiner. Nature spirits are at or near the bottom of a very complex hierarchy, going up through various rankings of angels and archangels to the Christian seraphim, cherubim etc. (in other terminology "thrones" and "dominions" etc. God, however, is curiously rarely spoken of). Of course, angels are also often spoken of and painted or drawn in Waldorf. I think gnomes get more systematic emphasis because talk of angels is too blatantly religious, parents will wonder if their child comes home always talking about angels, whereas gnomes can be treated as simply creatures from children's stories or fairy tales, and of course most Waldorf schools deny to parents that the curriculum is religious.
Gnomes at work underground.
Drawing by a Waldorf student.
[Courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]
by Margaret Sachs
The felt gnome in my son's Waldorf classroom sat on a shelf near the top of the chalkboard. I remember the class teacher telling a group of parents that the gnome's role was to watch the children while he, the teacher, was out of the classroom. He said it with a smile and a twinkle in his eye, so my reaction was that it was funny and cute. I assumed it was intended as a big joke and that all the other parents shared that assumption. It never occurred to me that the gnome might have a different significance for the children. But I don't remember my children ever including gnomes in their conversation or play.
The teacher spoke of the gnome affectionately. I think he said the gnome's name was George. It's really weird to look back now, picturing all those adults sitting at their children's desks, listening attentively to a man who, unknown to us, believed his guru could see real gnomes. It's like something out of a Monty Python skit.
To learn a little about gnomes and other nonesuchs
that Steiner said are real, please use this link: "Beings"
An army of parodied Waldorf-ish gnomes,
created as part of an installation titled
"We Are Rudolf Steiner"
by former Waldorf student Ally Sachs.
[Copyright Ally Sachs]
ARE WE HAVING FUN YET?
by Roger Rawlings
Maybe I should add the following. I’ll use a Q & A format:
1) Q. In the list of “jokes,” above, do I quote R. Steiner out of context? A. For sure. But, consider: All quotations are always out of context. To keep a sentence in context, you really ought to quote the entire paragraph in which it appears. But that paragraph would be out of context unless you reprint the whole text in which it appears, such as a chapter of a book. I can’t very often reprint whole chapters (copyright, and all). But let’s say I did. That chapter would be out of the context of the whole book. So let’s say I reprinted the whole book (and got sued by the publisher for my trouble). The book would be out of the context of all the author’s other books. So let’s say I reprint several related books... You get the idea. The only solution to this difficulty is to make sure that any quotation is faithful to the meaning of the statement as it appears within its original context. I have done so. If you doubt this, please check up on me. I’ve documented each quotations. Consult the texts in question and draw your own conclusions.
2) Q. Do I mangle Steiner’s meaning by chopping out various words and phrases? A. I do excise Steiner’s repetitions, asides, and other idiosyncratic confusions, but this is to his benefit. I work to present Steiner’s points as clearly as may be. If you have doubts, I again suggest that you check up on me. I have no reason to alter Steiner’s meaning, since his meaning is the best case against him. Further, please bear in mind that I am generally looking at English-language editions of Steiner’s works. Often enough, these works have been bowdlerized: The Anthropo-friendly editors have sometimes left out the worst phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and lectures. So, if I still find amazingly cockeyed statements in the remaining texts, imagine what I might find if I turned to the German-language texts. (Funny you should ask. I’ve gone to the German texts occasionally, and found real dillies. See, e.g., "Forbidden" and "Also Forbidden" — they aren't funny, but they are revealing.)
3) Q. Should Steiner’s statements be taken as metaphoric, or parabolic, or anything else aside from literal? A. Steiner did sometimes mean his words to be taken in a non-literal way. He salted his remarks with phrases such as “as it were.” He frequently hedged. More important, he claimed that you can’t understand him unless you agree with him, i.e., unless you become an Anthroposophical initiate. This is a clever defense, since it cuts out all possible critics. But it reminds me of a book I bought as a teenager, when my religious faith was wavering. Written by a Catholic theologian, it was titled TEN PROOFS OF THE EXISTENCE OF GOD, or something like that. I never got past the foreword, because in it the author explained that the proofs will seem conclusive only to people who start with the premise that God exists. Huh? I was young at the time, but even back then I could spot a cop-out tautology when I saw one. Returning to Steiner: My approach is to take Steiner seriously, which means taking his statements seriously (and laughing at them if that is the response that serious consideration of silly remarks leads us to). If Steiner hedges on the meaning of his words, I usually include the hedge. If the point he is making is preposterous, I usually point this out. But in all cases, I try to relay accurately what Steiner said and meant. (To repeat, repetitiously: I don't want to misquote Steiner, ever. His actual words and thoughts are the strongest arguments against his actual words and thoughts.)
4) Q. Isn’t laughing at Steiner wrong? A. Yes, in a sense. The damage Steiner and his followers can inflict on children (and adults) is no laughing matter. But, on the other hand, much of what Steiner said and wrote cries out for derision. And mockery can serve a practical purpose. You’re less likely to be lured into something harmful if you see through it. Consider: If members of the audience attending Steiner’s first occult lecture had started to giggle, then burst into derisive cackles, and then — holding their bellies, shaking their heads — walked out en masse, history might have been different. In a sense. As it were.
by Diana Winters
Anthroposophy : Pooh, phony star
Drawing by a Waldorf student.
Loki, the prankster god of Norse mythology
(beloved by my Waldorf classmates and me,
way back when).
Examples of intentional wit or humor are rare in Steiner's work. We find a lot to laugh at, but usually Steiner wasn't trying to be funny. Nobel prize winner Max von Laue was onto something when he said lovers of unintended humor might get a kick out of Steiner. One example (out of a stock of zillions): “Moving about in the world of the plants we everywhere find the earth covered in noses; that is what the plants are." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 162. [R.R. sketch, 2013, based on image in the book.] When reading such statements, remember that Steiner used metaphors almost as rarely as he used wit. When he said something is a nose, he meant it is a nose — in a spiritual, cosmic sense, of course.*
Here is a rare example of Steiner apparently trying to be funny. Mocking Einstein, Steiner said “With the theory of relativity, people finally arrive at the idea that you can hear the sound before the cannon is actually fired! (Laughter)." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM ELEPHANTS TO EINSTEIN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), pp. 179-180.
And here is an statement that some Anthroposophists attempt to defend by insisting that it is a joke: “[I]f we give these Negro novels to pregnant [white] women to read, then it won’t even be necessary for Negroes to come to Europe in order for mulattos to appear. Simply through the spiritual effects of reading Negro novels, a multitude of children will be born in Europe that are completely gray, that have mulatto hair, that look like mulattos!” — Rudolf Steiner, ÜBER GESUNDHEIT UND KRANKHEIT (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1994), GA 348, p. 189. Distinctly not funny, IMO.
But Steiner did sometimes try to crack a joke. He had a sense of humor. We see this, for instance, in the caricatures he sometimes drew. Here is my sketch of Steiner's caricatures of (clockwise from upper left) the genius, the philosopher, the master, and the greater philosopher:
[Rudolf Steiner, ART (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 159. R. R. copy, 2010.]
Might such drawings actually reflect a touch of self-deprecation on Steiner's part? Was he, in whole or in part, the genius, the philosopher, the master, and/or the greater philosopher whom he had in mind? Possibly. But probably not. Steiner was touchy and proud. He had very low tolerance for any challenge to his own doctrines or his own preeminence. Tellingly, the Anthroposophical authors of ART find great spiritual wisdom in these and similar scribbles (Steiner also caricatured the student, the statesman, the businessman, the lady of fashion, and so on):
"[T]hese witty grotesqueries confirm both the power of observation and intuitive understanding of inner values, even when distorted. What the soul comprehends, becomes a definite instinct in the fingers and easily passes over into form." [Ibid., pp. 157-158.]
Actually, that quote is a pretty good unintended joke, told not by Steiner this time but by some of his devoted followers.
— Roger Rawlings
* "[P]lants smell the universe and adapt themselves accordingly ... The violet is really all nose, a very, very delicate nose ... [The] violet is really all nose — but a delicate nose, inhaling the cosmic scent of Mercury. It holds the scent, as I have indicated, between its solid parts and exhales it; then the scent is dense enough for us to be able to smell it. So when Mercury comes toward us through the violet, we smell Mercury. If with our coarse noses we were to sniff toward Saturn, we would smell nothing. But when the asafetida, which has a keen nose for Saturn, sniffs toward that planet, it smells what comes from it, adapts its gas content accordingly, and has a most foul odor. Suppose you are walking through an avenue of horse chestnuts — you know the scent of horse chestnut, or of linden blossoms? They both have such perfume because their flowers are sensitive noses for everything that streams into the universe from Venus." — Rudolf Steiner, THE EVOLUTION OF THE EARTH AND MAN AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE STARS (Anthroposophic Press, 1987), pp. 146-147.
"Well, well," you say to me. "You admit that Steiner had a sense of humor. So, surely, some of his 'unintentional' jokes were quite intentional. The webbed-feet thing, for instance. That was a perfectly intentional joke!"
"No," I reply. "(And don't call me Shirley.) Steiner told some jokes, but my list of unintentional jokes is solid. Here's the webbed-feet thing again, this time in context. It is still a remarkably daffy statement, but quite clearly Steiner meant it seriously:
If there was any laughter involved, I suspect it was Steiner laughing silently to himself, amazed at the gullibility of his followers.
— Roger Rawlings
Steiner urged Waldorf teachers to include some humor in their classes, and he placed a bemused, smiling "elemental being" atop his sculpture, "The Representative of Humanity." [See "Compassion and Its Absence".] The being depicted there gazes with detachment upon the travails of humanity. Humor, Steiner said, is necessary — and, in its own way, serious. "Genuine ascent to the spiritual must be endeavored with purity of soul (which is never devoid of humor)." — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 232-233. Perhaps, then, Anthroposophists will appreciate my sense of humor?
Steiner's teaching are often unintentionally funny — but the effect of Waldorf schooling may be anything but funny. Children can be damaged, psychologically and even spiritually, by being immersed in a welter of occultism. Sometimes Waldorf teachers express their occult beliefs openly; more often, they allow their unspoken beliefs to infuse the classes and activities in the schools.
Perhaps we can summarize the issue by asking whether children should be educated by people who think Steiner's teachings are true. Here's one more example of Steiner's astonishing occultism, taken more or less at random. Steiner's followers consider such teachings to be clairvoyant revelations — not just true but virtually gospel-true.
[R.R. sketch, 2010. A word of caution: It isn't easy for me to remember life on the Moon. My sketch may be slightly inaccurate as a result.]
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch,
use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 7. IN THEIR OWN WORDS ◊◊◊
Some illustrations on each page here at Waldorf Watch
are closely connected to the essay on that page;
others are not — they provide general context.
 Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998, Volumes 1 & 2), p. 607.
 Rudolf Steiner, PRACTICAL ADVICE TO WALDORF TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 2000), p. 98.
 Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1979), p. 49.
 Rudolf Steiner, BEES (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 176.
 Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY: PREHISTORY OF EARTH AND MAN, from the chapter “Life on the Moon” (SteinerBooks, 1987), pp. 194.
 Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 238.
 Rudolf Steiner, CHANCE, PROVIDENCE, AND NECESSITY (SteinerBooks, 1988), p. 95.
 Rudolf Steiner, COLOUR (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1992), p. 132.
 Rudolf Steiner, PSYCHOANALYSIS AND SPIRITUAL PSYCHOLOGY, (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1990), p. 126.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Foundations of Waldorf Education, 1), p. 205.
 Rudolf Steiner, DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 128.
 Rudolf Steiner, FROM ELEPHANTS TO EINSTEIN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 44.
 Rudolf Steiner, POLARITIES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MANKIND (Steiner Books, 1987), p. 59.
 Rudolf Steiner, THINGS IN THE PAST AND PRESENT IN THE SPIRIT OF MAN (transcript, Rudolf Steiner Archive), lecture 3, GA 167.
 Rudolf Steiner, SPIRITUAL SCIENCE AND MEDICINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1948), lecture 17, GA 312.
 Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 153-154.
 Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS, Vol. 6 (Anthroposophic Press, 1972), p. 160.
 BEES, p. 155.
 Rudolf Steiner, MAN AS SYMPHONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1970), lecture 5, GA 230.
 Rudolf Steiner, FROM COMETS TO COCAINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), pp. 150-151.
 Rudolf Steiner, FROM ELEPHANTS TO EINSTEIN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), pp. 4-5.
 Rudolf Steiner, MAN AS SYMPHONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1970), lecture 9, GA 230.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE FOURTH DIMENSION (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 128.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE BHAGAVAD GITA AND THE EPISTLES OF ST. PAUL (Anthroposophic Press, 1971), lecture 4, GA 142.
 NATURE SPIRITS, pp. 62-3.
 E.g., Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson, ANIMALS IN TRANSLATION (Scribner, 2005), p. 43.
 Rudolf Steiner, LIFE BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH (SteinerBooks, 1985), p. 207.
Mars is reddish, but then so is Sedna, a minor planet of which Steiner was inexplicably unaware. (See web.gps.edu/~mbrown/sedna/ where we learn that Sedna orbits the Sun far beyond the orbit of Pluto.) Is red Sedna, then, also a warlike place, like Mars? Hard to say. Pluto, too, is reddish. What about Pluto? (See web.gps.edu/~mbrown/planetlila/ which deals with both Pluto and Eris, a planet somewhat bigger than Pluto and even farther away than Sedna. Somehow Steiner missed this planet, too.) Eris is white, so it doesn’t qualify for honors as the War Planet. But which planet truly deserves that title? If we go by which planet has actually hosted the most wars, then the War Planet is certainly the Earth.
 Jimmy Durante (a comedian I remember but you may not).
 Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998, Volumes 1 & 2), p. 112.
"A teacher asks about a possible summer camp in Transylvania.
"Dr. Steiner: 'That may be possible, but I find it difficult to imagine how. The situation there is quite different. It is very much in the East. You can have some strange experiences there. I went to a lecture in Hermannstadt in the winter of 1888-89. When I arrived in Budapest, I was unable to make my connection. I had to travel via Szegedin and arrived at about two in the afternoon in Mediaš. I was told I would have to remain there for some time. I went into a coffee house in town where you had to scrape the dirt away with a knife. A number of players came in. There was something Vulcan-like and stormy in their astral bodies; they were somehow all tangled together. Everything went on with a great deal of activity and enthusiasm. The room was next to a pigsty and there was a horrible smell. You can get into such situations in that region, so we would have to protect the children from such experiences. Everyone gets bitten by all kinds of insects as well.'" — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998, Volumes 1 & 2), p. 728.
Steiner's original caricatures, unmediated by yrs trly:
[ART (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 159.]
Was Steiner telling us something about the person he knew he really was, behind his multiple poses as genius, philosopher, and master? Or was he merely ridiculing all the geniuses, philosophers, and masters who didn't have the great good fortune to be Rudolf Steiner? It may never have occurred to him that the joke might be on himself.