This is the first part of a seven-part sequence of essays.
Some of the material in these essays is duplicated
at other places here at Waldorf Watch.
If you come on something you've read before,
please just skip ahead.
"Unenlightened" has gotten a bit old.
It dates from about 2005. In later years,
I learned even more about Waldorf schools and Anthroposophy,
knowledge that is reflected in other, later essays
presented here at Waldorf Watch. If I were to rewrite "Unenlightened" now,
I would incorporate some of that additional knowledge.
However, "Unenlightened" remains essentially true,
and because it has been reprinted and excerpted at several other forums,
I have decided to leave it largely unchanged.
— Roger Rawlings
I. Scandal at Waldorf
Starting when I was seven years old, and continuing until I was eighteen, I attended an occultist school that was devoted to a heretical variant of Christianity. The curriculum was based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, a European mystic who, among other deplorable doctrines, taught that a worldwide racial apocalypse is historically necessary. My experiences at the school may seem dated, now — I attended from 1953 until 1964 — but increasing numbers of kids are being sent to such schools today, with potentially damaging consequences for them individually and also for our society as a whole. I am writing with those students in mind. The past — especially my own small history — has value only if it can provide lessons for the future.
I went to the Waldorf School in Garden City, New York. It was a lovely place, with caring teachers, and pleasant, carefully selected classmates. For the most part, I enjoyed my years there. The school was small: twenty or so students at each grade level. The ambiance was close and comfortable. The occult doctrines to which the school was devoted were rarely expressed openly; instead, they were conveyed to the students in covert, roundabout ways, in a process of gradual spiritualistic conditioning. The same process is currently followed at many Waldorf schools around the world.
As Rudolf Steiner would have wanted, our school projected an image of itself as a nonsectarian, arts-intensive preparatory school employing a progressive curriculum. This image undoubtedly led many parents to enroll their children at the school without understanding what they were letting them in for. Even after enrollment, students and their families usually had difficulty penetrating Waldorf’s disguise. We students memorized no passages from holy books, we sang from no hymnals. Yet a subtle mystical atmosphere suffused the school. There was a pervasive but unspoken spiritualistic vibe in almost every lesson, in almost every activity. To one degree or another, the vibe affected most students, sometimes deeply. It was in the air we breathed, it defined the tenor and subtext of our days. Ultimately, it shaped and colored our education at least as effectively as if priests were delivering sermons to us.
Our school was a descendent of the first Waldorf School, established by Rudolf Steiner in 1919. Today there may be as many as 1000 such schools, some called Waldorf, and some bearing other names.  These schools generally attract little critical notice; the rare accounts printed in newspapers and elsewhere are often brief and flattering, for a variety of reasons. The schools typically enjoy excellent student/teacher ratios; their walls are hung with striking examples of student art; their teaching methods theoretically benefit “the whole child;” and, most important, the schools almost never make overt, public professions of Steiner’s mystic doctrines.
Our school ran smoothly, peacefully. But on one dramatic occasion, the occultism concealed within the school was suddenly exposed. Several years after I graduated — and long before I’d fully grasped what had been done to me at the school — THE NEW YORK TIMES ran an article about my alma mater: “‘Psychic' Ex-Student's Influence Shakes Waldorf School.”  Coming upon the article in a library, I was galvanized. The TIMES revealed that a former Waldorf student had started claiming to possess paranormal powers: He could converse with beings in the spirit world. Shockingly, several teachers and staff members at the school — including the headmaster, the former headmaster, and the high school principal — accepted his story and began deferring to him as a clairvoyant sage. They ceded control of the school to the young man and his “spiritual contacts.” The bewitched teachers sought supernatural guidance in matters large and small, ranging from curricular matters to deciding what records could be played at school dances. When word of this remarkable administrative arrangement inevitably leaked, the occult beliefs of the school’s leaders emerged, fleetingly, into plain view. [For the TIMES article and other reports, see “The Waldorf Scandal”.]
The scandal nearly ripped the school apart. Scores of parents, appalled to learn what had been going on, yanked their kids out. The school seemed doomed. Nevertheless, after considerable tumult leading to the firings and/or resignations of those who were most deeply implicated in the scandal, the school survived. It is still in business today, graduating class after class. And rather than renouncing Rudolf Steiner or disavowing an interest in the spiritual realm, it today operates under the following mission statement:
Rudolf Steiner was a charismatic, spiritualistic lecturer. He was intelligent and articulate (although not always easy to comprehend), possessing an impressively retentive memory and a compelling public persona. Holding apparently impressive academic credentials, he had numerous talents and interests. His greatest interest lay in what he called the “supersensible” world, the spiritual realm that cannot be perceived using our ordinary senses — clairvoyance is required, and Steiner claimed to be clairvoyant. Having served for some time as leader of the German Theosophical movement, in 1912 Steiner established his own religious system, which he dubbed Anthroposophy (meaning, literally, “human wisdom”). This amalgam of spiritualistic doctrines is the bedrock faith upon which Steiner-inspired schools function.
Adherents of strange faiths often find it unwise to profess their beliefs too openly, knowing that they might incite opposition; so they often erect barriers of silence and denial protecting their inner circle. Waldorfers almost always deny that their schools are tightly bound to Anthroposophy; they generally claim that Anthroposophy is not a religion; they usually conceal the doctrines of Anthroposophy from students' parents and other "outsiders;" and, overall, they tend to assert that Waldorf schools have no religious purposes. If the mission statement of the Garden City Waldorf school reflects a degree of candor, most official statements coming from within the Waldorf movement are markedly less candid. At the website of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA), the following answer is given to the question whether Waldorf are schools religious:
Aiming at an “understanding of all...religions” suggests that quite a bit of time will be spent studying religion, and the phrase “belief that there is spiritual dimension to the human being and to all of life” suggests that such study may lean toward spiritualism. (In fact, Anthroposophy draws from religious and spiritualistic traditions from around the world, so studying multiple faiths may serve as preparation for conversion to Anthroposophy.) Despite these two chinks, however, the AWSNA denial seems nearly categorical. "“Waldorf schools are non-sectarian [sic] and non-denominational ... Waldorf schools are not part of any church."
Revealing the occult program that Steiner laid out for Waldorf schools will occupy a large portion of this essay. But we can establish certain basic facts by starting with a simple matter: the morning prayers usually recited by all Waldorf teachers and students before the first class of the day. Addressing the teachers at the first Waldorf school, Rudolf Steiner told them how each school day should begin: by praying (although he directed the teachers to mislead outsiders about this): “We...need to speak about a prayer. I ask only one thing of you. You see, in such things everything depends upon the external appearances. Never call a verse a prayer, call it an opening verse before school. Avoid allowing anyone to hear you, as a faculty member, using the word ‘prayer.’”  Later, Steiner added, “It would be nice to begin instruction with the Lord’s Prayer and then go on to the verses I will give you” and he proceeded to tell at least one Waldorf teacher to include the Lord’s Prayer. 
Steiner wrote two prayers for use by students at his school. This is the one for students in the lower grades. Some of the language is hardly appropriate for young children, but that in itself tells us much about Waldorf schooling:
The Sun with loving light
Makes bright for me each day;
The soul with spirit power
Gives strength unto my limbs;
In sunlight shining clear
I reverence, O God,
The strength of humankind,
That Thou so graciously
Hast planted in my soul,
That I with all my might
May love to work and learn.
From Thee come light and strength,
To Thee rise love and thanks.
With his concern for external appearances, Steiner hesitated to order recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and he enjoined his teachers from using the word “prayer.” Yet his prescribed “verse” uses Bible-like language (“I reverence, O God,” “To Thee rise love and thanks”) to address and honor God. The verse is undeniably a prayer. Indeed, it is included in the book, PRAYERS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN, which consists of numerous prayers Steiner wrote for various occasions.  Thus, Steiner had his students begin their day with a religious act.
In the modern era, students at many Waldorfs have continued reciting Steiner’s “verses” or variations of them. An article in THE ATLANTIC has reported “The verse for the first through fourth grades, for example, says in part, ‘I revere, Oh God, the strength of humankind, which Thou so graciously has planted in my soul....’”  Such facts lend themselves to a suspicion, at least, that Waldorf schools have a religious purpose. This suspicion can only be heightened by the following reference in the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RELIGION: “Anthroposophy is continuous with the Rosicrucian stream of the Christian esoteric tradition.”  Steiner’s philosophy, in other words, arises from an esoteric strain of Christianity. It is, at its core, religious.
In discussing the morning prayer and citing one reference book, we have only scratched the Waldorf surface. But already we can see the pattern of denial surrounding Waldorf schools start to break down. In fact, considering how small Anthroposophy is compared to major religions, how odd many of its beliefs (when they are revealed) seem to outsiders, and how much it is centered on the pronouncements of a single inspirational leader, Anthroposophy can most accurately be classified as a cult. And to the extent that various Waldorfs embrace Anthroposophy, they associate themselves with the cult to precisely that extent .
– Roger Rawlings
To reach the next section of “Unenlightened”,
please use the following link:
My Waldorf experiences lie far in the past
— but they are relevant today.
Many thousands of children today attend schools that are
guided by the same thinking that guided my teachers:
Rudolf Steiner's mystical educational doctrines.
Our school was associated with Adelphi College
— later Adelphi University —
until the scandal broke,
at which point Adelphi severed the ties.
Above is the front page of our yearbook for the year I graduated:
1964 PINNACLE (Kansas City: Inter-Collegiate Press, 1964).
And here is the cover:
Note the clever logo, forming a five-pointed star, a pentagram.
The logo was — and as far as I know still is —
the school's official emblem.
According to Steiner, the pentagram is an occult symbol for man
and for positive spiritual power.
An inverted pentagram (with a point at the bottom)
is the symbol for black magic.
We weren't told any of this;
perhaps kids at some other Waldorf schools
are told a bit more than we were
about the symbols and emblems used in their schools.
Drawing by a Waldorf student
[courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools]:
the human form within a pentagram.
Steiner sometimes drew sketches
to illustrate his lectures.
The pictures can be quite informative
(when they are not totally inscrutable).
Here are two images of the human embryo
as depicted by Steiner.
On the left, we see the signs of the zodiac
arranged to show their importance
to various portions of the embryo —
i.e., the developing human body.
[The image derives from Rudolf Steiner,
ASTRONOMY AND ASTROLOGY
(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2009), p. 89;
this is my copy of Steiner's sketch.]
On the right, you see the influence of the zodiac (red)
and spirit-soul forces (yellow) within an
overall constellation of forces
as they affect the developing human body.
[Rudolf Steiner, FROM COMETS TO COCAINE
(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000, p. 23; again, my copy.]
These images are not entirely consistent
with one another — you must get used to
inconsistencies if you study Steiner.
But the larger point is coherent, and worrisome.
Astrological influences are real and important,
according to the Waldorf belief system.
Indeed, astrology often lurks just below
the surface of Waldorf schooling.
For more on Anthroposophical astrology,
and "Waldorf Astrology".
"Each region of the zodiac can be looked upon as the home of particular spiritual beings and a centre of forces. There are 12 signs of the zodiac and 12 corresponding parts of the human organism ... While the forces of the zodiac correspond to the human physical structure, the planets and their forces are mirrored in the internal organs ... Thus for example: Sun : Heart : Aurum (gold); Moon : Genitals: argenum (silver); Mercury : Lungs: Cinnabar (mercury)." — Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 47. [R.R. sketch, 2009, based on the image on p. 48.]
Waldorf schools often describe themselves
as offering “holistic” education.
They say they educate the “whole child” —
head, heart, and hands.
To understand what these fine words mean
in a Waldorf context,
see “Holistic Education”.
This image closely resembles paintings I remember in my old school:
Created by students or teachers, they seemed to suggest spiritual
essences or beings, swirling etheric or celestial powers.
This particular painting was created by a student
in a different Waldorf school
and is displayed here courtesy of
Many Waldorf schools promote such art.
An elemental "rock being" sitting atop
a monumental sculpture attributed to Steiner.
Often taken as a symbol of benevolence,
the being is detached and bemused
as it watches human destiny unfold.
Illustrations in books of Steiner's lectures
often use a style like this:
parallel lines, open to the outside,
combining to create sinuous organic forms.
Talismanic circular forms and spirals are common,
suggesting spiritual essences.
According to Steiner,
this particular image reveals the ancient Earth.
— See Rudolf Steiner,
SUNSPOTS TO STRAWBERRIES
(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002), p. 20.
[R.R. copy, 2009;
I have added colors to the
black-and-white image in the book.]
You can use the following link
for information about the nonexistence psychic power
that underlies the Waldorf system:
For the form of occultism behind Waldorf schools,
To investigate the perplexing question
why smart some people
(not many, but a few)
For some summary thoughts, and the entire text
of THE NEW YORK TIMES article,
For a quick overview of Anthroposophy and Waldorf schooling,
please use this link: "Manifestations".
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 2. A FORMER WALDORF STUDENT ◊◊◊
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.
 The schools are independent of one another, so the degree of commitment to Steiner’s teachings varies, as do the schools’ names. Some of the schools are called Steiner schools, and some have chosen names unique to themselves. Perhaps 200 of these schools exist in North America; the rest are in Europe and elsewhere. (The name “Waldorf” comes from the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory. The owner asked Steiner to create a school for the children of his employees. The resulting institution became the prototype for all subsequent Waldorf/Steiner schools.)
In this essay, when I refer to “Waldorf,” I usually mean the school I attended. When I use such terms as “Waldorfs” or “Waldorf schools,” I’m referring to the entire set of Steiner-inspired schools, whatever their individual names may be and however strictly they adhere to Steiner’s doctrines. Finally, when I refer to “Waldorfers,” I’m referring to teachers and students at these various schools, especially those who are most attuned to Rudolf Steiner’s teachings (i.e., those who are Anthroposophists or who feel deep affinities with the schools’ curriculums and methods). I have attempted to make my meaning clear in each instance.
I should add that another institution comes into my story. The Myrin Institute for Adult Education was situated near my Waldorf school and was associated with it. Several of the individuals who helped establish our Waldorf [waldorfgarden.org] were also important figures at the Institute. Echoing Rudolf Steiner’s advocacy of “spiritual science,” the Institute stated its objective as “contributing toward the reintegration of scientific and spiritual world concepts.” — Franz E. Winkler, THE INFLUENCE OF PSYCHOLOGY ON EDUCATION (New York: The Myrin Institute, Inc., 1955), p. 3. The Institute held seminars and published booklets arising from these events. On this website, I quote from various publications of The Myrin Institute, including some that were written by individuals whom I knew. [See the disclosure statement at the end of “Compassion and Its Absence”.] I was not privy to any of these booklets when I was a student at Waldorf, but recently I have found them informative.
 John T. McQuiston, “’Psychic’ Ex-Student’s Influence Shakes Waldorf School,” THE NEW YORK TIMES, Feb. 18, 1979, p. 48.
A separate account, written by an individual who reports being a teacher at the school during the scandal, includes the following:
“The story of the collapse [sic] of the Garden City Waldorf School is very complex....
“In his twenty years as Faculty Chairman, John Gardner had carefully crafted a strong, clear [curricular] form based on the pedagogical teachings of Rudolf Steiner, but in recent years Dr. Gardner had begun to feel the limitations of the form he had created and felt that teachers needed to be guided more by the spirit instead of the outer forms, so he started encouraging some of the teachers to use their own spiritual perceptions in their educational approach...” Following a boycott by some parents and an emergency meeting of faculty “we learned that everyone strongly aligned with the ‘spirit-led’ group had either been fired or resigned.... In the end, it was simply a matter of finances ... [T]he only thing that keeps a school alive is the tuition paid by the parents.... About a dozen teachers were fired....” — Lawrence Williams, Ed.D., THE OAK MEADOW TRILOGY (Oak Meadow, Inc., 1997) — see www.oakmeadow.com/resources.
The conclusion that “it was simply a matter of finances” suggests a strong reason for Waldorf schools to keep their Anthroposophical beliefs under wraps: They need to attract tuition-paying families, a task that would be greatly complicated by public professions of occult doctrines. Elsewhere at Waldorf Watch, I suggest additional reasons for secrecy at Waldorf schools.
Understandably, the official history for my Waldorf school, posted on the school’s website, does not mention the scandal — at least it didn’t last time I checked.
Among the faculty members who left Waldorf after the scandal was my class’s homeroom advisor during grades 9-12. After my class graduated, he became high school principal at Waldorf; THE NEW YORK TIMES referred to him in this capacity.
 The mission statement is reasonably forthright, although it leaves crucial terms undefined and fundamental questions unanswered. You can find it at waldorfgarden.org, at the bottom of the home page. (As of mid-February, 2008, the mission statement remains unchanged.)
I do not know how much or how little the school has changed since I graduated. In this essay, I attempt to explain what the Garden City Waldorf was in my day and what it did to its students. Others, if they like, may describe the school as it is today. My purpose is to discuss the potential lifelong consequences of attending a Waldorf school where at least some of the leading faculty members take Steiner’s doctrines as gospel.
Today, thanks to the Internet and other forms of mass communications, information on all subjects is more generally available than it once was. Perhaps for this reason, various Waldorf schools now include references to Rudolf Steiner and even Anthroposophy in their promotional materials. In doing so, they implicitly acknowledge the Anthroposophical basis of Waldorf education. But anything like full disclosure of Steiner’s doctrines remains extremely rare. (I don’t want to impugn anyone’s motives. It is possible — indeed, I hope it is true — that many Waldorf teachers today have not made a deep study of Steiner’s doctrines. If so, they may not recognize what their educational programs are ultimately intended to accomplish. Conceivably, they might be persuaded to change course.)
 www.awsna.org , Frequently Asked Questions, Are Waldorf Schools Religious? [I last checked this on Oct. 28, 2006.]
Peter Curran taught history at the Garden City Waldorf School when I was a student there. Recently, I learned of his assertion that Waldorf education is built on four basic principles: “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.” — Peter Curran, quoted in WHAT IS WALDORF EDUCATION?, a collection of essays by Steiner (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), pp. 21-22.
It is instructive to see these principles as an Anthroposophist would.
 Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 20.
Throughout this essay, I quote Steiner as accurately as possible. He altered his views and terminology to some degree over time (although he generally denied this). To avoid unnecessarily complicating matters, I refrain from trying to trace such changes, which to non-Anthroposophists would generally seem minor. Steiner made each of the remarks I quote, and subsequent modifications of his teachings did not change the core of his mysticism nor the fundamental character of his teachings. Some of Steiner’s most appalling statements came near the end of his life — his views changed in some details, but their underlying nature was consistent.
Because Steiner was long-winded, I have trimmed some of his statements. But I have not altered his meaning in any instance. You can check by going to the original texts, all of which are detailed here.
 FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 38. It is important to realize that Steiner’s form of Christianity was heretical. Arguably, his teachings are not truly Christian at all. [See "Was He Christian?"] In discussing the Lord’s Prayer, for instance, Steiner asserted “[W]e shall have gradually achieved the transformation of our own being into what is called in Christianity ‘the Father.’” — Rudolf Steiner, THE LORD’S PRAYER (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007), p. 17. The notion that we may become, in any sense, God the Father must strike Christians as sacrilege. Note how Steiner implicitly differentiated his teachings from those of Christianity (“what is called in Christianity....”). Steiner maintained that monotheism is an ideal toward which the universe is moving, not an accurate description for the universe as it is. He differentiated between God the Father, the Godhead, and Jehovah. Christianity is a monotheistic faith; the polytheism of Anthroposophy violates the core tenet of Christianity. [See "Polytheism".]
Steiner is said to have recited the Lord’s Prayer each day, so loudly that his neighbors could hear him in adjoining rooms. — Rudolf Steiner, START NOW! A Book of Soul and Spiritual Exercises (SteinerBooks, 2004). However, the versions of the prayer he used are not those found in the Bible. (Matthew 6:9-13 gives the version usually recited in churches; Luke 11:2-4 is essentially the same, but shorter, omitting the final line “For Thine is....”) Steiner used one non-Biblical version before 1913, and a different one afterward. Let’s look first at the earlier version. Instead of beginning with “Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy name,” Steiner recited “Father, you who were, are, and will be in our innermost being! May your being be glorified and praised in us in all things.” And instead of ending with the words recorded in Matthew, “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever,” Steiner recited “May your power and glory work with us in all the cycles of time.” — Rudolf Steiner, START NOW! p. 217.
After 1913, Steiner used the following words: “Father, you who were, are, and will be in our innermost being, your name in us is glorified and praised. May your kingdom increase in our deeds and our conduct. May we perform your will, as you, O Father, have laid it down in our innermost being ... May your power and glory work through us in all cycles of time.” — Ibid., p. 218. From an Anthroposophical perspective, these reworked versions of the Prayer are preferable both because they partially shift emphasis from God to us (“our innermost being,” “in us,” “with us,” “through us”) and because they allude to esoteric concepts (e.g., “cycles of time,” which is a shorthand for Steiner’s convoluted description of human evolution — see my essay "Everything" and the essays that follow it). An aside: We cannot know why Steiner recited the prayer so loudly, but — assuming that God hears even the most quiet prayers — it seems likely that he wanted his devotion to be well known. It may be fair to speculate that he was praying for the sake of his reputation rather than for the sake of his soul. Certainly in his books and lectures, he demonstrated a tendency to tout his own piety and wisdom.
Even more bizarre: Steiner said that the Lord's Prayer (or the "Our Father") is based on a "cosmic Our Father" that Jesus learned from pagans (who, according to Steiner, gave Jesus valuable spiritual truths). "What he heard was a kind of cosmic Our Father which says what the inner destiny of man must be ... It was later reversed to become the earthly Our Father." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 199-200. Steiner gives the cosmic prayer thus: "Amen. The evils hold sway. Witness of egoity [sic] freeing itself. Selfhood guilt through others incurred, experienced in the daily bread, wherein the will of the heavens does not rule, because man separated himself from your realm, and forgot your names, you Fathers in the heavens." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FIFTH GOSPEL (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 119. Note Steiner's polytheism: “Fathers.” After giving the prayer, Steiner says "Those were approximately the words Jesus of Nazareth heard in pagan lands — the secret of the earthly human being as it was presented in ancient sacred teachings. They hold deep secrets of human evolution." — Ibid., p. 120.
For Steiner’s decision to allow the use of the Lord’s Prayer at least occasionally, see FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 38, footnote 1.
 PRAYERS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 44-45.
 “A Sense of Ethics” (THE ATLANTIC ONLINE, September 1999).
Informative in some ways, the ATLANTIC article is also an example of the misunderstandings that can arise if one fails to come to grips with the occult underpinnings of Waldorf education. The author is impressed that Waldorf schools emphasize imagination, but he does not make the connection between imagination and clairvoyance. Steiner asserted, for example, that imagination is the form of nonrational cognition humans will perfect during the coming evolutionary phase called Future Jupiter. “On the planet which will replace the Earth, the whole of humanity will have this psychic-consciousness or Imagination, the ‘Jupiter’ consciousness.” — Rudolf Steiner, UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993), p. 30. In other words, when we evolve to Future Jupiter, all humans will have the sort of consciousness that, at a lower level, Waldorfs try to foster now. That consciousness allows one to gain psychic insight: “With this consciousness one sees a man in outline and in forms, as in day-waking consciousness, but one sees at the same time what lives in his soul....” — Ibid., p. 30.
Steiner’s entire evolutionary theory is based on the notion that human consciousness will expand, passing far beyond rational thought. As Steiner said in one of the meditative exercises he wrote for his followers, “Let now these intimations come/ To claim their rightful place,/ Supplanting thinking’s power....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE ILLUSTRATED CALENDAR OF THE SOUL (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2004), meditation #7.
In Waldorf schools, imagination is often recognized as a precursor to clairvoyance, and in some cases it is treated as a proxy for clairvoyant power. I will discuss these matters in later essays. For more about mankind’s future evolution as conceived by Steiner, see "Everything" and the essays that follow it.
 ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RELIGION, ed. Lindsay Jones (MacMillan Reference, 2005), pp. 392-394.
The terms "mystical", "occult", "spiritualistic", "esoteric", "gnostic", "heretical", and "religious" all apply to Anthroposophy, in various contexts.
Note the heretical nature of Steiner’s “Christianity.”
◊ Rosicrucianism is a secretive, semi-Christian order whose symbol combines a rose and a cross (hence the name). “Rosicrucian teachings are a combination of occultism and other religious beliefs and practices, including Hermeticism, Jewish mysticism, and Christian Gnosticism. The central feature of Rosicrucianism is the belief that its members possess secret wisdom that was handed down to them from ancient times.” — “Rosicrucian.” ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 2 June 2008.
◊ Occultism is belief in magic, witchcraft, and other dark supernatural phenomena (occult: hidden, secret, dark). “Occult practices centre on the presumed ability of the practitioner to manipulate natural laws for his own or his client's benefit; such practices tend to be regarded as evil only when they also involve the breaking of moral laws. Some anthropologists have argued that it is not possible to make a clear-cut distinction between magic — a principal component of occultism — and religion, and this may well be true of the religious systems of some nonliterate societies. The argument does not hold, however, for any of the major religions, which regard both natural and moral law as immutable.” — “Occultism.” ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 2 June 2008.
◊ Gnosticism grew from a splinter movement within Second Century Christianity. Drawing partly from pre-Christian ideas, Gnostics believed that only secret esoteric knowledge (gnosis) leads to redemption. “There was wide disagreement among groups as to the importance of rites, with some practicing quasi-Christian Eucharists and baptisms and others rejecting all aspects of conventional worship, including prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.” — “Gnosticism.” ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 2 June 2008. “Gnosticism” is a term developed by modern scholars. Usually, “Gnosticism” (capital G) refers to a Greco-Roman esoteric movement of the Second Century AD. Used more generally, “gnosticism” (small g) encompasses various forms of mysticism. I classify Steiner’s doctrines as gnostic in this broader sense.
After asserting that Rosicrucianism has been misrepresented, Steiner made the following revealing statement, arguing that updated Rosicrucianism is appropriate for (white) Europeans: “[H]umankind is constantly evolving. People today have an entirely different, finer brain structure, even an entirely different blood formation ... For this reason, today all truths must be formulated differently, and methods of initiation must be designed so that they are appropriate for today's European. These are the reasons why there has to be [true] Rosicrucianism, why we need a different form of initiation.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY: Early Lectures (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 146. Steiner promised such initiation (access to secret truths) through Anthroposophy.
As I mentioned earlier, Steiner’s divergence from orthodox Christianity can be seen in his embrace of polytheism. Speaking to Waldorf teachers, he said “[W]e are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 54. Steiner also said “Monotheism or monism can only represent an ultimate ideal; it could never lead to a real understanding of the world, to a comprehensive, complete view of the world.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 115. Monotheism — the worship of the one and only true God — is the cornerstone of Christianity as well as Judaism and Islam.
A final, general note. It is probably not unfair to charge Steiner with many contradictions. For instance, sometimes he said that the Earth orbits the Sun, and sometimes he said it does not. [See "Deception".]
Finding contradictions in Steiner's works is easy; deciding what to make of them is something else. Anthroposophy is an exceedingly complex body of teachings, describing what Steiner said is an exceedingly complex spiritual reality. Sometimes "contradictions" in all this can be explained away as a necessary result of complexity — there are hidden, deep connections that rectify superficial conflicts. But sometimes this is not the case; sometimes we spot contradictions that seem to have no extenuation. Such instances reinforce the conclusion we may have already drawn from other evidence, that Steiner was perpetrating an exceedingly elaborate spiritual scam, trusting in elaborations and obfuscations to shield him from criticism. His followers, in any case, often find justification for their devotion in the sheer, stunning complexity of the vision Steiner presented for their awed acceptance.
This is one of my recent attempts to represent the sort of art you may see in a Waldorf school — generally watercolor, with transparent pastel shades, an effect of veils, often vague organic/spiritual forms, sometimes a suggestion of passageways leading into the distance, perhaps some mysterious shapes like runes or occult symbols...
Often the paintings displayed in Waldorf schools, especially the paintings created by Waldorf teachers, are far more accomplished than what you see here — they give an impression of many layers and thus great depth. Not all Waldorf art is like this, of course, and not all Waldorf art contains all of these elements. But if, when visiting a Waldorf school, you see any pictures having some such characteristics, you may want to ask a few questions. Steiner taught that art connects us directly to the higher spirit worlds. The particular forms of art promoted in Waldorf schools are meant to have intensified spiritual effects.
For more on the role played by art
in Waldorf education, see "Magical Arts".