On several occasions during faculty meetings at the first Waldorf school, Rudolf Steiner discussed astrological subjects. These were not abstract, academic discussions. Steiner was expressing his astrological beliefs. Such beliefs lie behind many practices at Waldorf schools.
Here are the passages recording Steiner’s statements. Boldly, the editors of FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), list these passages under the index heading “astrology”.*
In the first passage, Steiner links “temperament” to astrological sign. This is revealing. Waldorf teachers categorize their students according to the antiquated and wholly discredited system of “temperaments” that were once believed to be caused by “bodily humours”. [See “Humouresque”.] Here we see that the irrationality of this approach is heightened by the ties Waldorf faculty trace between temperament and the influence of the stars.
“In cholerics, you will probably generally find an abnormally developed sense of balance (Libra) and an external display of that in the ear canal through an autopsy. The experience of rhythm, the sense of balance and sense of movement, the interaction of these, rhythmic experience. In sanguines (Virgo), in connection with the sense of balance and sense of movement, the sense of movement predominates. In the same way, in melancholics (Leo) the sense of life predominates and in phlegmatics (Cancer) the sense of touch predominates physiologically because the touch bodies are embedded in small fat pads. That is physiologically demonstrable.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 91.
In the second passage, Steiner’s wife Marie recommends her husband’s lecture "The Twelve Moods" to Waldorf teachers. Steiner himself then explicitly links the book to astrology. (Indeed, in the book, Steiner claims that there are twelve identifiable human moods, each of which can be identified by one of the twelve astrological signs. He did this with all sorts of phenomena, breaking them into groups of twelve for the signs of the zodiac or into groups of seven for the seven “sacred planets”.) Note that Steiner offers this as something Waldorf teachers “can use” in teaching various subjects.
“Marie Steiner: I would recommend Dr. Steiner’s Twelve Moods.
“Dr. Steiner: The Twelve Moods were once tested in connection with astrology. They are cosmically connected. That is something you can use both in the teaching of style and in eurythmy.” — Ibid., p. 362.
Next we find Steiner stating one of his more bizarre clairvoyant “insights”: that the continents float and are held in place by the power of the stars. Indeed, Steiner often taught — and Waldorf teachers believe — that the stars, constellations, and planets exert enormous forces upon the Earth, forces that science cannot detect but that clairvoyants such as Steiner recognize.
“Usually people do not think about how it looks if you move toward the center of the Earth. You would soon come to regions where it is very fluid, whether it is water or something else. Thus, according to our normal understanding, the continents swim. The question is, of course, why they don’t bump into one another, why they don’t move back and forth, and why they are always the same distance from one another, since the Earth is under all kinds of influences. Why don’t they bump into one another? For instance, why is a channel always the same width? We can find no explanation for that from within the Earth. That is something that comes from outside. All fixed land swims and the stars hold it in position. Otherwise, everything would break apart. The seas tend to be spherical.
“The contrast is interesting. The continents swim and do not sit upon anything. They are held in position upon the Earth by the constellations. When the constellations change, the continents change, also. The old tellurians and atlases properly included the constellations of the zodiac in relationship to the configuration of the Earth’s surface. The continents are held from the periphery; the higher realms hold the parts of the Earth. In contrast, the Earth holds the Moon dynamically, as if on a leash. The Moon goes along as if on a tether.” — Ibid., pp. 617-618.
Steiner also told Waldorf school teachers to discuss the zodiac with their students. This might be harmless, if we were sure that Waldorf teachers do not believe in the astrological powers of the zodiac. But because we know just the opposite — that they do believe in astrological powers — red flags begin to wave. Thus, true-blue Waldorf faculty will teach the students not about ancient superstition that should be repudiated, by about ancient superstition that they embrace as truth.
In particular, Steiner told Waldorf teachers to lay out the astrological signs appropriate for each type of animal. There is no reason for doing this except that Steiner and his followers believe that the stars literally influence and even control various animals.
“In discussing the zodiac, you should begin with the mammals, represented by Leo; then birds, Virgo; reptiles, Libra; amphibians, Scorpio; fish, Sagittarius; articulates, Capricorn; worms, Aquarius. Then continue on the other side, where you have the protists, Cancer; corals, Gemini; echinoderms, Taurus; ascidians, Aries; mollusks, Pisces. You should realize that the zodiac arose at a time when the names and classifications were very different. In the Hebrew language, there is no word for fish, so it is quite reasonable that you would not find fish mentioned in the story of creation. They were seen as birds that lived in water. Thus, the zodiac is divided in this way, into seven and five parts for day and night.” — Ibid., pp. 659-660.
A few paragraphs later, Steiner returns to his astrological theme. Note that he explicitly states his doctrine that the forces of the zodiac are projected onto the Earth. And he tells the Waldorf teachers that globes showing the connections between the zodiac and the Earth will provide what they need to teach “animal geography” properly.
“When teaching animal geography, you need to consider the zodiac in connection with what I have just said, that is, look at the projection of the zodiac upon the Earth. You will then find the areas of the animal groups on the Earth. You have some globes where the zodiac is drawn upon the Earth. They will provide you with what you need.” — Ibid., p. 661.
The Waldorf take of astrology shows up in other Waldorf books besides FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER. In the following passage, for instance, we find Steiner speaking about the “spiritual forces” that stream down from the Sun. This is the central concept of astrology, that celestial objects project spiritual powers onto the Earth. The book in question here is ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1997). Yes, the Sun's rays come down to the Earth. But do these rays include astrological, "spiritual" components? How can we know? How could Steiner know? He couldn't. But he insisted that he could. But let that go. Let's say that he could know and did know. The only point we need to consider at this moment is whether you agree with him and want to elect people who agree with him to be your children's teachers. What Steiner is saying here is that the Sun sends magical astrological influences to the Earth and this is important in the growth of plants. Do you agree?
“The Sun is not merely what is described by astronomy and spectrum analysis; with the Sun’s rays, spiritual forces stream and interweave down to the Earth. In this ensoulment of sunlight we have the element that, for example, determines expansion in the growth of the plant." — Rudolf Steiner, ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 56.
Next, in THE ROOTS OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), we overhear Steiner speaking again about the powers flowing down from above. Part of what he says makes sense, or nearly so. The Sun certainly does send down energy that affects life on Earth. But the Moon? And the stars? Note that Steiner speaks of “Moon forces” and he says that the stars “are at work in the plant.” This is nonsense, and doubly so because he is not speaking of physical forces but astrological ones.
Note that whereas, above, Steiner said that science is at least partly right, here he tells us that science is really just about totally wrong. He rejects real science — such as astronomy — and offers his occult teachings in their place. Our liberation, he says — our passport into the "distant spaces of the cosmos" — depends on our acceptance of occultism (such as is provided by a certain R. Steiner) and our repudiation of the foolish rational system called science. Astronomy has "lost sight of our relationship to the universe." But R. Steiner's version of astrology has not.
(P.S. Steiner revered Goethe. Sort of. But even Goethe was wrong about many things, according to Steiner. If you want the real truth about anything, you need to apply to the one unassailable source: R. Steiner. Or so R. Steiner said.)
“Above all, in the astronomical realm we have lost sight of our relationship to the universe. If you look at a plant, you can see how it takes root in the ground — how it arises from a seed, unfolds its first leaves and stem, more leaves and a blossom, and how it then gathers itself together again in the fruit. Goethe described it this way: In the plant you see how it draws out into space, rotates, and then contracts. Goethe was unable to go far enough. He described this expansion and contraction of the plant, but could not come to the point of knowing why this happens. It happens because the plant is exposed to the forces of the Moon and Sun. Whenever the Sun’s forces are active, the plant expands and opens its leaves; when Moon forces act on it, plant life contracts — it develops the stem and then the seed, where the whole plant life is drawn together in a single point. Thus, when we consider this expansion and contraction as Goethe has shown it to us, we see in it the alternation of Sun and Moon forces, and we are led out into the distant spaces of the cosmos. When we can see how the stars are at work in the plant, we do not remain bound and limited.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE ROOTS OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), pp. 82-83.
The following is a passage from DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS (Anthroposophical Press, 1997). The person heading the discussions is, of course, Rudolf Steiner. Here, he indicates that “astronomical conditions” are important in the study of geography. (Remember, the stars hold the continents in place.) By implication, he also indicates that the stars affect human beings and human ethnic groups. (In plain language, this means races.)
“In geography, we continue with the study of astronomical conditions and begin to cover the spiritual and cultural circumstances of Earth’s inhabitants, of the various ethnic groups, but always in connection with what the children have already learned about material cultural circumstances — that is, economic circumstances — during their first two years of geography lessons.” — Rudolf Steiner, DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), pp. 191-192.
The "spiritual and cultural circumstances of Earth’s inhabitants" is directly related to "astronomical conditions" — or, in a word, astrology.
Steiner repeatedly taught that various human races are under the influence of astrological forces. For instance, “We...find there [i.e., in Asia] the Venus-race or the Malay race. We then pass on across the wide domain of Asia and in the Mongolian race we find the Mars-race. We then pass over into the domain of Europe and we find in the Europeans, in their basic character, in their racial character, the Jupiter men. If we cross over the ocean to America, where the place is at which the races or civilizations die, we then find the race of the dark Saturn, the original American-Indian race, the American race. The American-Indian race is the Saturn race.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF FOLK-SOULS (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1929), lecture 6, GA 121.
The stars influence human history and the inner condition of human experience, Steiner taught.
"People can develop a strong will in the proper way only if we continue to enlarge their perspective and direct them toward those things that act spiritually in the world, those things coming from the stars that have a spiritual effect upon world history and upon the depths of the human heart." — Rudolf Steiner, THE RENEWAL OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 238.
The belief in "things coming from the stars that have a spiritual effect upon world history and upon the depths of the human heart" is, in a word, astrology.
The lines of influence run both ways, Steiner said. The stars affect us and we affect them.
"[H]uman beings need a living spirit, one that permeates their souls, one that can be found everywhere in history and which has an effect right up to the stars." — Rudolf Steiner, THE RENEWAL OF EDUCATION, p. 239.
Steiner found value and inspiration in the study of astrological influences, and he said that Waldorf students will find similar value and inspiration. He put a positive spin on his astrology, in other words. Yet it remained astrology.
"You will learn that what shines down from the moon and stars, what expresses itself and reveals itself in this world that speaks to us when the plants grow green and come up out of the earth in spring, what reveals itself in deep valleys and in the shapes of mountains and in minerals — that all this challenges us to lend a hand and bring forth the best that we can. It challenges us to learn to understand something about the world so that we can work in it." — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 107.
Waldorf astrology is part and parcel of the Waldorf belief that there are deep spiritual ties between humanity and all of the surrounding universe. This is a highly appealing idea. Nonetheless, we should not close our eyes to the fact that, in Steiner's formulation, the idea entails astrology.
"[T]he human being is a mirror of the world; all the secrets of the universe are contained in the human being. The fixed stars work in the human being, the moving planets work in the human being, and all the elements of nature work there as well." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ROOTS OF EDUCATION, p. 84.
The stars work in us. The planets work in us. This is, in a word, astrology.
These are doctrines that Rudolf Steiner propounded and that his followers — many of whom teach in Waldorf schools — embrace. Whether astrology surfaces in a Waldorf class depends on the specific Waldorf teacher and school in question. But astrological beliefs undeniably lurk below the surface (and sometimes just barely below the surface) of Waldorf pedagogy.
Instead of renouncing astrology as nonsense,
Steiner affirmed it, adjusting it only in minor ways,
such as by revising the zodiacal symbols.
Here are four of his revisions:
[R.R. sketches, 2009-2010, based on images in
Rudolf Steiner, CALENDAR 1912-1913,
If you'd like to explore Steiner's views on the celestial spheres,
this would be a good place to start. Within the covers of this book, you will find such gems as
"[S]cience speaks under the influence of the demonic Mars-forces."
— Rudolf Steiner, ASTRONOMY AND ASTROLOGY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2009), p. 126.
Science (as, for instance, astronomy) is almost always wrong, according to Steiner.
But pseudoscience (as, for instance, astrology) met with his approval.
And this is what you will find in or behind Waldorf schools, today. Occultism.
(Please note: Steiner made his silly statements long ago.
But Steiner's followers still affirm them. This book was published in 2009.)
For some additional glimpses of Waldorf links to astrology,
see "Ex-Teacher 4".
The author is a former Waldorf teacher.
"[A]strology is a highly sophisticated occult science predictive in many areas."
— THE NEW STEINERBOOKS DICTIONARY OF THE PARANORMAL
(Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1980), p. 17.
The zodiac as displayed at one Waldorf school:
— Compilation and commentary by Roger Rawlings
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 14. PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER ◊◊◊
If you'd like more information about any of the topics discussed here,
you might begin by consulting the following resources:
THE SEMI-STEINER DICTIONARY
THE BRIEF WALDORF / STEINER ENCYCLOPEDIA
WALDORF WATCH INDEX
WALDORF WATCH TABLE OF CONTENTS