Necessary Roughness?


Rudolf Steiner presented himself as an apostle of peace and love. Yet his vision was, in various senses, bloody. His account of human history — past and future — pivots on recurring bursts of extreme violence. Mankind has nearly destroyed itself several times in the past, Steiner taught, and it will do so again in coming eras.

In part, Steiner deplored mankind's violence. But, in part, he also affirmed it as necessary.

“[T]hese things [i.e., our continued evolution] cannot happen in the world without the most violent struggle. White mankind is still on the path of absorbing spirit more deeply into its essence. Yellow mankind is on the path of preserving the [prior] period when the spirit was kept away from the body, when the spirit could only be sought outside of the physical human being. But the result will have to be that the transition from the fifth cultural epoch [i.e., the present] to the sixth cultural epoch cannot happen differently than as a violent fight between white mankind and colored mankind in the most varied areas. And world history will consist of those events that will lead to these battles between white and colored mankind, until the great fight between white and colored mankind has been brought about. Future events are frequently reflected in previous events. You see, we stand before something so colossal that, if we regard it through the diverse perceptions of spiritual science, we will in the future recognize it as a necessary occurrence.” — Rudolf Steiner, DIE GEISTIGEN HINTERGRÜNDE DES ERSTEN WELTKRIEGES {The Spiritual Background of the First World War} (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1974), p. 38; translated by Roger Rawlings, 2010.

Such a war, a worldwide race war, is "a necessary occurrence." Spiritual science — that is, Steiner's own teachings — proclaims this truth. Human progress "cannot happen" without "a violent fight between white mankind and colored mankind in the most varied areas."

This apocalyptic vision is rooted, at least partly, in Norse mythology — the body of myths that Steiner admired and that plays a key role in the Waldorf curriculum. [See "The Gods".] Norse myths are blood-soaked, beginning with a creation story in which a mighty battle is fought and a great giant is killed. So much blood pours from the giant's body that all but one of his children drown in it, and the survivor floats away on the tide of blood.

"The ancient Giant [Ymir] was slain. So huge was Ymir that his blood when he was slain poured out in such might flood that his sons were all drowned in it, all except the Giant Bergelmir. He was in a boat with his wife when the flood came; they floated away on the flood..." — Padraic Colum, MYTHS OF THE WORLD (Grosset & Dunlap, 1959), pp. 187-188.

At the other end of the Norse cycle of myths, the world is destroyed and all the gods, giants, and humans are killed in the horrific war of Ragnarörk, otherwise known as Götterdämmerung or the Twilight of the Gods. This apocalypse is needed, in Norse belief, to clear the slate so that a new, better world can be born.

"While this last great battle was raging, while gods and giants clashed, the earth shook and trembled. The sky was split, the world ash, Yggdrasil, was riven by cracks, and even through the underworld there rolled peals of thunder. Over the whole plain of Vigrid, gods, valkyries and brave warriors fought with unabating fury against giants and monsters ... All over the plain of Vigrid there were dead bodies ... Surt, the fire-giant...threw fire over the world, and even Asgard [land of the gods] went up in flames. The fire devoured Midgard [land of mankind] and all men and women perished ... The battle of Ragnarok ended in fire." — Charles Kovacs, NORSE MYTHOLOGY, Waldorf Education Resources (Floris Books, 2009), pp. 187-188.

Many of Steiner's teachings can be traced back to Norse myths, which Anthroposophists believe give a generally accurate picture of cosmic evolution, especially the evolutionary epochs that yet like ahead for us. 

“No other mythology gives a clearer picture of evolution than Northern mythology. Germanic [or Norse] mythology in its pictures is close to the anthroposophical conception of future evolution.” — THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 17, lecture synopsis.


Steiner taught that mankind's evolution on Earth has been punctuated by catastrophes brought about by human wickedness. Thus, he taught that we once lived on the continent of Lemuria. While there, we fell under the influence of Lucifer, and we then destroyed the continent by unleashing volcanic fires:

"[I]n the lower kinds of human beings the life-body [i.e., the etheric body] was after all too little protected, and could not sufficiently resist the encroachments of the Luciferian nature [i.e., the effects of Lucifer]. Such human beings could [use] the fiery spark of the I [the spiritual ego] call forth in their environment mighty workings of fire ... This led eventually to a stupendous Earth catastrophe. A great portion of the then inhabited Earth was destroyed in these fire-storms, and with it perished also the human beings who had fallen into error." — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2009), pp. 191-192.

Later, we established habitations on the continent of Atlantis. But once again, we brought destruction down on our own heads:

“Mighty and ominous powers of Nature were thus let loose by the deeds of men, leading eventually to the gradual destruction of the whole territory of Atlantis by catastrophes of air and water. Atlantean humanity — the portion of it, that is, which did not perish in the storms — was compelled to migrate. As a result too of the great storms, the whole face of the Earth changed. Europe, Asia and Africa on the one hand, and America on the other, began gradually to assume their present shape....” — OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, pp. 198-200.

This is a vision of creation through destruction, such as Norse myths portray.

Steiner extended this vision into the future. Our own time will culminate in mighty combats and devastation. If a race war is necessary at the end of our current cultural epoch, Steiner said that a larger, more all-devouring war will rage at the end of the seventh great epoch. [See "Epochs".] This will be the terrible War of All Against All. Humanity will once again wreak general havoc. [See "All vs. All".]

• “The Lemurian race was destroyed by fire, the Atlantean by water; ours will be destroyed by the War of All Against All, [by] evil, by the struggle of men with one another. Humanity will destroy itself in mutual strife.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE TEMPLE LEGEND AND THE GOLDEN LEGEND (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), p. 115.

• "Because egotism is the fundamental power in the soul, the war of all against all will rage within [the] larger part of humanity." — Rudolf Steiner, SPIRITUALISM, MADAME BLAVATSKY & THEOSOPHY (SteinerBooks, 2002), p. 110.

• “Consider that through evil separating from good, the good will be immeasurably strengthened ... The best of humanity must be chosen and prepare for survival beyond the time of the great War of All Against All, when people will oppose them who bear in their countenances the sign of evil.” — Rudolf Steiner, EVIL (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), p. 194.


According to Steiner, warfare and violence are not restricted to the Earth. Rather, the wars waged here below are often extensions of wars being waged on high.

In Norse myths, there are two bands of gods, the Aesir and the Vanir. They contend with one another while also striving to fend off their common enemies, the giants. Battles between opposing groups of gods appear at various stages of cosmic history as described by Steiner. Thus, the Crusades were a combat between Western and Eastern spiritual forces, Steiner taught. The conflict here on Earth mirrored a battle on high, waged by regressive gods, "retarded Spirits of Form", and normal gods, "properly advancing Spirit of Personality":

"We see in the Crusades the second fluctuation back and forth of a battle from East to West and from West to East, a battle that is a reflection of that other, spiritual battle between the retarded Spirits of Form and properly advancing Spirit of Personality." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 89.

Spiritual influences pass back and forth across the face of the Earth,
often advanced by violent means, according to Steiner.
[R.R. sketch, 2011, based on the one in BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924, p. 89.]

Steiner taught that celestial combat is frequent, and some of the battles have occurred quite recently. Thus, for instance, in 1879 AD, the Archangel Michael won a war against the demon Ahriman and his legions, in the spirit realm:

“[W]e have to point to a struggle, a real war in that world, which began [around 1840] and came to a certain conclusion for the world of the spirit by the autumn of 1879. To have the right idea about these things, you must visualize a battle which continued for decades in the spiritual worlds, from the 1840s until the autumn of 1879. [paragraph break] This may be called a battle which the spirits who are followers of the spirit belonging to the hierarchy of Archangels whom we may call Michael fought with certain ahrimanic powers [minions of Ahriman]. Please consider this battle to have been in the first place a battle in the spiritual world. Everything I am referring to at the moment relates to this battle fought by Michael and his followers against certain ahrimanic powers.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FALL OF THE SPIRITS OF DARKNESS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2008), pp. 136-148.

There are both good gods and evil gods, according to Steiner. The evil spiritual powers are generally identifiable as Lucifer and Ahriman, whom we might more accurately designate as demons. [See "Lucifer" and "Ahriman".] The horrors of violence, warfare, and destruction arise partly from the human soul but also partly from the machinations of the demonic powers. The fate of humanity is bound up with the fate of the gods:

"Our gaze, which must of course be full of understanding for human karma, is now deflected from the destiny of men to the destiny of gods. For when we contemplate the horrors of war, the guilt and ugliness of war in their connection with death-dealing elemental catastrophes, we are watching the battle waged by the good gods against the evil gods — in two directions evil [i.e., Lucifer and Ahriman]. We gaze beyond the life of men into the life of gods, beholding the life of gods as the background of human life. We watch this life of gods — not with dry, theoretical thoughts, but with our hearts, with deep, inner participation; we watch it in its connection with the individual karma of men on earth because we see human destiny inwoven with the destiny of gods." — Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS, Vol. II (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1974), p. 251.

Warfare is necessary for the advancement of our karma, Steiner taught. It is a real and present feature of cosmic experience. Bear in mind that when lecturing about the war between Michael and Ahriman, Steiner was discussing something that he said had happened during his own lifetime and during the lives of most of his audience. Moreover, Steiner taught that humans participate in celestial warfare during our interludes spent in the spirit realm, between earthly incarnations. We are combatants:

"[Y]ou must visualize a battle which continued for decades in the spiritual worlds, from the 1840s until the autumn of 1879. This may be called a battle which the spirits who are followers of the spirit belonging to the hierarchy of Archangels whom we may call Michael fought with certain ahrimanic powers [i.e., minions of Ahriman]. Please consider this battle to have been in the first place a battle in the spiritual world. Everything I am referring to at the moment relates to this battle fought by Michael and his followers against certain ahrimanic powers. A good way of strengthening this idea, especially if you want to make it fruitful for your life in the present time, is to have it in your mind's eye that the human souls who were born exactly in the fifth decade of the nineteenth century actually took part in this battle between Michael's followers and the ahrimanic powers when they were in the spiritual world. If you think on this, it will give you a great deal of understanding of the outer and inner destiny experienced by these individuals, and above all of their inner constitution. The battle thus took place in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s and came to a conclusion in the autumn of 1879, when Michael and his followers won a victory over certain ahrimanic powers." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FALL OF THE SPIRITS OF DARKNESS, pp. 136-137.


Steiner said that the War of All Against All will begin in about the year 9700 AD. This is comfortably far off, as we normally reckon the passage of time. But seen within the context of Anthroposophical doctrines, the intervening centuries will flash by. If we reincarnate at the normal pace described by Steiner, the War of All Against All will come just a few incarnations from now.

Even more ominously, Steiner sometimes said that the War of All Against All might begin far sooner. It could begin at almost any time. By one calculation, it might have broken out around the year 1999. [See "Millennium".] Here is how one of his followers expressed this possibility, derived from Steiner:

• “Sorath, the Sun-Demon of the Apocalypse [i.e., the Antichrist]...will raise his head again around 1998.” — Richard Seddon, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND: From the Work of Rudolf Steiner (Temple Lodge Publishing, 1993), p. 26.

• “[I]f we allow things to take their course, we shall face the war of all against all at the end of the twentieth century.” — Ibid., p. 20.

Depending on how you judge the present condition of mankind, this most extreme forecast seems not to have been fulfilled. But Steiner's followers generally conduct their lives on a state of alert, expecting catastrophic conflict at nearly any moment.

Steiner and his followers deplore violence and warfare. But they also expect them and even, in a sense, welcome them. Evil must be confronted.

— Roger Rawlings


For more on the violence Steiner described,

 see "All v. All", "Millennium", and "War".


The violence in Anthroposophical teachings may certainly find expression in Waldorf classrooms.

• "The three gods, Odin, Vili and Ve, had killed Ymir and driven away his giant offspring ... They took the flesh of Ymir...and the flesh became the soft earth ... They took the bones of Ymir and...the bones became rocks and mountains and stones ... The blood of Ymir became the oceans and seas and rivers and streams of the world ... The skull of Ymir...became the blue vault of the sky ... In the rotting flesh of Ymir there [were] beetles...and from these the gods made the fairies and elves." — Waldorf teacher Charles Kovacs, NORSE MYTHOLOGY, Waldorf Education Resources (Floris Books, 2009), pp. 15-16. 

• "Lemuria was purported to have been destroyed by fire; unlike later Atlantis which sank into a watery grave. Youthful Mankind on Lemuria, as yet still 'spirit beings'...raged over the inflammable land in scandalous abandon, eventually releasing giant fire-storms which, over time, engulfed the entire continent, causing it to sink ... Lemuria was the 6th evolutionary stage ... The unruly power of [the Lemurians'] Lucifer-inspired youthful Ego created the great fire storms which destroyed the continent." — Waldorf teacher Alan Whitehead, ANCIENT SATURN TO ATLANTIS - A Teenagers' Travel Guide to the Evolution of the World and Man in the Light of Rudolf Steiner's Spiritual Science — A Creative Approach (Golden Beetle Books, 1991), pp. 62-72.


All vs. All 

— or Ragnarörk

[R.R., 2010].


Mankind's current condition, in the troubled realm of material existence, can be attributed in large part to the celestial combats waged by the gods. Or so Steiner taught.

"The progressive gods, the upper gods, and Lucifer with his hosts of the lower gods of hindrance, waged war against each other, and from the very beginning of earthly evolution, man was dragged into this warfare among gods. It was an issue that the gods in the higher worlds had to settle among themselves, but as a result of the conflict, men were drawn more deeply into the material world than was originally intended." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1956), lecture 3, GA 130.


[Ragnarök: Friedrich Wilhelm Heine]

The archetype for the War of All Against All
is Ragnarök, the climactic, all-destroying war
foretold in the extremely violent Norse myths,
which are emphasized in Waldorf schools.
[See "The Gods".]


Steiner often affirmed the necessity, and even benefits, of violent conflict. Thus, for instance:

“In a February 1915 lecture, Steiner acknowledged that [World War I] had caused ‘enormous rivers of blood to flow,” but explained that these rivers of blood ‘must flow today because of the eternal necessities of earthly evolution.’” — Peter Staudenmaier, "Between Occultism and Fascism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race and Nation in Germany and Italy, 1900-1945" (eCommons, Cornell), 2010, pp. 113-114. 


[R.R., 2010.]


You also may want to look at
Amazing as it may seem,
Steiner was friends with
— and vigorously defended —
the head of the German military at the beginning
of World War I
— a man who arguably was a war criminal.

(If Steiner befriended the German warlord, he
violently denounced the American President
— Woodrow Wilson —
who sent American troops into battle 
against Germany.
You will find some of Steiner's statements
about Wilson in 


War, bloodshed, violence,
catastrophe — for our own good, of course.
Greet the new dawn.
[R.R. sketch, detail.]


"The superhuman Beings were known in Europe too; but they were seen in perpetual warfare with the associates of Lucifer. The God of Light was indeed proclaimed, but not in such form and figure as would enable one to say with assurance that He would conquer Lucifer. Nevertheless these Mysteries too were irradiated by the figure of the Christ that was to come. Of Him it was prophesied that His Kingdom would replace the kingdom of that other God of Light. (The sagas that tell of the Twilight of the Gods, and kindred legends, originated in this knowledge of the European Mysteries.)" — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, chapter 4, part 7.


For a brief look at World War II
(when Germany and America again fought)
as seen from within an American Waldorf school,


Here are some titles of books in which there are 
Steinerian references to the War of All Against All. 
Let the reader beware:








Rudolf Steiner, REVERSE RITUAL






Among the books I’ve listed is Steiner's THE INTERIOR OF THE EARTH: An Esoteric Study of the Subterranean Spheres. As the subtitle suggests, this book contains some surprises. The very fabric and structure of the Earth entail violence, its causes, and is consequences. [See "Past and Future".]

Steiner taught that the Earth is a single, living organism. Further, he said the Earth is comprised of several layers of matter and spirit. Various layers are capable of sentience, and some are quite sensitive. The layer called the “Fire Earth,” for instance, “would cry out if stepped on.” — p. 31.

More to the point is what Steiner said about a subterranean source of human strife. Steiner called the the eighth layer of the earth “the Splintering Earth.” This layer has much to answer for: 

“The essential thing is that this layer shatters moral qualities ... Through the power it radiates up to the earth’s surface, it is responsible for the fact that strife and disharmony exist....” — Ibid., p. 31. 

The fabric and structure of our world transmit strife and disharmony. The gods above us are often at war, and the ground beneath our feet shatters morality. Strife and conflict are the context of our lives, Steiner taught. 


[Courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]




Violence is probably rare in Waldorf schools. But it is not wholly absent. And indeed, Steiner sanctioned some violence, in the form of corporal punishment in schools. Steiner gave a green light for corporal punishment: 

“Under certain circumstances it may be necessary [for a teacher] to spank a child ... I have to admit that there are rowdies....” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 22.

Children should not be slapped unnecessarily, Steiner said. But sometimes slaps, at least of a spiritual kind, may be needed. Advising Waldorf teachers, Steiner said, 

“If you give them [i.e., students] a slap, you should do it the way Dr. Schubert [one of the Waldorf teachers] does ... There are physical slaps and astral [i.e., spiritual] slaps. It doesn’t matter which one you give, but you cannot slap a child sentimentally.” — Ibid., p. 323.

Affirmations of corporal, and/or spiritual (psychological, emotional) violence, were doubtless more acceptable in Steiner's place and time — Germany in the early twentieth century — than they have been subsequently. But a climate of violence has persisted in at least some Waldorf schools down to our own time. Thus, a former student of a Waldorf school in Sweden has written, 

"My Waldorf school, and the kindergarten, too, was very violent; violence was around all the time. There was lots of bullying, and I've read other state that the school was well-known for its problems with bullying. Nothing was ever done to stop the bullying."

In a similar vein, a mother has written the following about her family's recent experiences in a Waldorf school in Great Britain:

"Our three-year-old was happy in the kindergarten for over a year, but when our eight-year-old daughter went into Class Three, there was bullying of gang-like proportions. We continually asked the school to follow their own policy on bullying, which claimed that they would not tolerate it. 

"In reality, they continually ignored the problem and refused to separate children who were assaulting others in our daughter’s class whilst assuring us that they understood the seriousness of the situation. Forgetting to mention the fact that another parent had just withdrawn her sons from the school because of the bullying, the school then suddenly acted to make the 'irritant' – in this case us – disappear."

And this is a report from a father discussing Waldorf schools, in particular in the USA:

"I think it is very important to at least try to understand what some children go through in Waldorf/Steiner schools — especially those where Anthroposophic extremism is the norm. There are the obvious questions around "\'is Anthroposophic education good for children?' And then there are other issues: I've known more than a few children who were hit, screamed and sworn at by Waldorf teachers — with virtually NO repercussions, other than pathetic suggestions that those who raise concerns do not understand karma. [Steiner taught that the things that happen to us in this life often come from our karma, which we created for ourselves in our previous lives — Steiner’s doctrines include both karma and reincarnation.] Fact is there were no other available teachers, so the wild ones stayed, believing (and being supported by peers) they were destined to be with the children in their class. That's what Steiner says." 

For more on such matters, see "Slaps".


[R.R., ~ 1996]


Steiner mined the dark seams in various spiritual traditions, including that darkest of all biblical narratives, the Book of Revelation with its apocalyptic scenes reminiscent of Ragnarök. Such teachings led Steiner, often, to warn his followers of the dangers posed by black magicians.

"The writer of the Apocalypse [i.e., the Book of Revelation] turns his clairvoyant vision to the fact that...[errant] people would gradually lose devachan [the heavenly realm]; kamaloca [purgatory] would last longer and longer and they would be captured, united with the gravity of earth [i.e., trapped on the physical level of existence].

"Today only black magicians do this; ordinary human beings cannot yet close themselves off from all wisdom. The writer of the Apocalypse, however, must place everything in perspective....

"...In all of occultism there are certain symbols that dominate and always mean the same thing ... [T]he divine power of the word in the mouths of human beings is everywhere signified by the 'sword.'

"Everywhere we find the sword employed as a symbol of the humanization of divine power. 'And to the angel of the community in Pergamon wrote: "The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword."' (Rev. 2:12) But through knowledge the human being can also most be misled into black magic." — Rudolf Steiner, READING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE (Anthroposophic Press, 1993), lecture 4, GA 104a.

[For more on such matters, see, e.g., "White/Black", "Magic", "Magicians", "Double Trouble", "Zoroastrianism", and "All vs. All".]


Further Reading

Beyond the books I mentioned, above, the following also contain interesting indications of Steiner's take on violence:

Rudolf Steiner, The APOCALYPSE OF ST. JOHN: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (SteinerBooks, 1977).

Rudolf Steiner, EVIL (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997).

Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998).

Rudolf Steiner, THE FALL OF THE SPIRITS OF DARKNESS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2008).

Rudolf Steiner, READING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE (SteinerBooks, 1993).



"[A] fearful war is waged all the time between the air-fire beings [followers of Lucifer] and the earth-water beings [followers of Ahriman]; they fight to get possession of man. And it is important that man should be aware of this war that is perpetually being waged for him; he must not be blind to it. In our day we have advanced far in our knowledge of external Nature. Here, as we have seen, the conditions are quite different; here the Luciferic beings live at peace with the Ahrimanic. But man's knowledge does not reach to that which lies behind the world of the senses, does not reach to supersensible Nature, nor has he any knowledge of sub-human Nature. And these two realms harbour beings who carry on, as I have said, a terrible warfare, fighting for the possession of man." — Rudolf Steiner, MAN'S LIFE ON EARTH AND IN THE SPIRIT WORLDS (Health Research, 1960), lecture 5, GA 218.


Machines of War

[public domain, 1783].


A posting at the Rudolf Steiner Archive:

"Thousands of years ago nuclear warfare literally blew away people's consciousnesses. Thousands of years ago the simultaneous detonation of numerous nuclear weapons generated massive electro-magnetic energy pulses which swept the earth. These mammoth EMP's erased the full memories and consciousness of most humans. Only those individuals who had activated their own internal electro-magnetic energy fields were able to escape the memory loss caused by the external Electro-Magnetic Pulses (EMP's)." []

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



An examination of Steiner’s central text

Steiner’s extraordinary, sci-fi-like narrative of human evolution.
The tale of our ancient past and our distant future, as told by Steiner. It continues in:


And badder, and baddest

America, Germany, and Waldorf

How to, he said


Steiner’s occult conspiracy theories


Back-room maneuvers


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. 


[R.R., 2017.]