The Plan



"Every word and gesture in my teaching as a whole will be permeated by religious fervor."

— Rudolf Steiner, describing the proper attitude for a Waldorf teacher. 

Like so much else about Waldorf schools, the standard Waldorf curriculum can seem attractive, initially. But a closer look raises concerns, especially with regard to occultism. Not all Waldorf schools are alike — some abide by Steiner’s occult intentions more fully than others do. Some cling more tightly to the prototype curriculum Steiner established at the first Waldorf school, while others adapt and modify this curriculum — or stray from it — to varying degrees. Parents should certainly work to understand what goes on at any particular Waldorf school before sending their children there. 

One occult premise of the general Waldorf curriculum is that children gain augmented spiritual capacities on a seven-year schedule. [1] A second premise is that children repeat, in their individual lives, the spiritual and cultural evolution that humanity as a whole has undergone. [2] Still another premise is that children represent four spiritual-psychological-emotional categories, four “temperaments,” so their schooling should be tailored for these categories. [3] Such concepts have little or no scientific support, but they generally control the operations of Waldorf schools.

Here is an overview of the curriculum you will find at many, if not all, Waldorf schools. [4] We will sketch a grade-by-grade outline presently.

Very young children retain memories of their lives in the spirit realm before birth, or so Waldorf teachers typically believe. [5] Kids should be encouraged to preserve these memories as long as possible. In Waldorf preschools, young children are immersed in an atmosphere of myths and legends, a mystical/spiritual atmosphere reinforced by such things as the presence of gnome statuettes in the classroom. [6] Academics are usually absent from Waldorf preschools, and even the first few grades of the lower school (first grade, second grade...) may seem, from a conventional perspective, formless and devoid of much academic content. The students play, listen to stories, and dabble in the arts. Because colors are deemed to have magical properties, only crayons of certain bright, cheerful colors are used — and only blunt crayons, to discourage kids from making realistic line drawings. [7] Reading, writing, and arithmetic are usually not begun until children near their first major developmental milestone — at about age seven, around the time when most kids lose their baby teeth. [8] The real world as apprehended by the ordinary senses and clear minds is held at bay throughout these early grades and often far beyond. 

The miasma of myth and fantasy extends from preschool into the lower grades at a typical Waldorf. Fairy stories, legends, and fables are stressed in grades one and two. [9] In grade three, more conventionally spiritual/religious material is covered, especially Old Testament stories. [10] In grade four, the focus shifts to Norse myths [11], with myths from other cultures moving center stage in grade five. [12] When the kids are eleven or so, study is directed to ancient Greece, and a year later, ancient Rome. [13] This progression is meant to reenact the evolutionary development of humanity overall.

Basic math skills are introduced during the lower grades, but only lightly. [14] The same holds for other subjects — they generally enter the classroom tangentially and in romanticized form. The introduction to life sciences, for instance, consists mainly of romanticized nature stories. [15] Exposure to foreign languages may begin in the lower grades, but usually without formal study of vocabulary or grammar. [16] Activities such as watercoloring, knitting, and gardening take up a good deal of time — these are deemed to have esoteric value, although parents are often not informed of this rationale. [17] The teachers strive to provide slow learning (which critics contend means little or no learning).

Students in the middle grades (roughly grades 5 through 8) are still not considered able to reach their own conclusions or even to grasp such elementary concepts as cause-and-effect [18], so class work consists mainly of copying lessons and drawings put on the chalkboard by the teachers. [19] Student artwork and classwork are thus generally derivative, with little or no individuality, although different tasks are often assigned to kids having different "temperaments." [20] Math study progresses a bit, with memorization of multiplication tables, for instance; math is considered a form of divine revelation, and this attitude is subtly conveyed whenever possible. [21] Elementary exposure to geography and physics usually occurs in the middle grades, along with continued “study” of life sciences. An underlying antiscientific bias often distorts these subjects, however. [22]

The stress on art persists in the middle grades, because of Steiner’s belief that that the arts provide direct communication with spiritual worlds. [23] Students are typically required to perform eurythmy, a form of dance believed to have occult effects. [24] Often, students are also taught to play recorders (simple woodwind instruments) and to participate in group singalongs or choruses. [25] Watercoloring continues, but it is now supplemented by drawing and clay sculpting. The prohibition against crayons and pencils that can produce clear lines is gradually relaxed as the kids grow older, and gradually some scope is given for individual creativity in the arts. [26]

Throughout the curriculum, academic subjects are given less emphasis than at many other kinds of schools. A typical Waldorf day begins with a prayer [27] followed by a long “main lesson” [28] — ninety minutes or more devoted to a subject, for example botany. The other events of the day are, to one degree or another, keyed to the main lesson. This creates immersion in a subject, but only briefly. Main lesson subjects change every three weeks or so — botany gives way to history, for instance, and then history gives way to something else. Subjects are thus dropped, only to be picked up again in following months or years, again for brief three-week exposures. [29] The cyclical pattern of this program is intended to reflect the cyclical nature of man’s spiritual evolution, as described by Steiner. [30] Textbooks are generally shunned, which means that virtually all information presented in class originates with the Waldorf teachers themselves, a process that vests the teachers with enormous authority. Not incidentally, this arrangement ensures that students receive only one point of view: the Anthroposophical/Waldorf/Steiner point of view. Students create their own texts — called class books, block books, or lesson books — mainly by copying what their teachers write and draw on the chalkboard. [31]

In grades seven and eight, subjects often include Medieval history, the Renaissance, and national history. But, as before, subjects are presented briefly, then dropped. Instruction is still largely rote, with an emphasis on stories told by the teacher. Biographies of great people, and tales of world exploration, may be emphasized. [32] Math and the sciences are taken to higher levels than previously, and among art studies, creative writing may be given special attention. The study of foreign languages, if not introduced earlier, may begin now. [33]

Waldorf teachers stay with their classes for many years, shepherding them through a wide array of subjects. A class teacher may sometimes stay with the same group of children from first grade through fifth or even eighth grade. There are advantages to this approach — the teacher presumably gets to know the kids well. But there may also be problems. Over the years, kids may wind up spending nearly as much time with a particular Waldorf teacher as with their parents, which can cause a diversion of loyalty. Also, teachers presenting multiple subjects over many years necessarily present material that they have not mastered — the education becomes all the more superficial. “The class teacher up to class nine is expected to be able to teach all the main lessons, and teach them with imagination and artistry.” [34] This goal is nearly impossible to attain, and while teachers strain to get there, students are denied exposure to a variety of opinions and approaches, particularly from experts in various fields. The Waldorf system virtually guarantees that some subjects — perhaps many subjects — will be taught badly, by unqualified instructors.

Students are not considered capable of abstract reasoning until they are at least fourteen (or, at a deeper level, twenty-one). [35] The high school curriculum built on this dubious notion is a bit more conventional than the Waldorf middle-school curriculum. The day will generally still begin with a prayer and a main lesson, but after that students may separate, taking various electives. Textbooks may appear for the first time — teachers will still control the students’ knowledge to a large extent by writing and drawing lessons on the board, but students will also be assigned readings in various carefully selected texts. [36] Subjects covered in earlier grades (world history, national history, sciences, and so forth) will be repeated, still in a cyclical pattern, although in greater depth, and some classes apart from the main lesson will extend for many weeks. There will continue to be a strong emphasis on arts, crafts, and such projects as gardening. Depending on pressures applied by the community in general and parents in particular, there may or may not be much college preparation. [37] Even during high school, an effort is made to preserve students from maturing too soon. Steiner taught that premature aging can cause various difficulties, such as developing flawed telepathic powers rather than the “higher” form of clairvoyance he advocated. [38] 

The central truth is that Waldorf schooling is not primarily geared to formal education — it is a spiritualistic enterprise geared to the promotion of Anthroposophy. Usually the process of Anthroposophical indoctrination is subtle and more or less hidden from view, but on occasion it becomes quite plain. The entire Waldorf curriculum is entwined in occult conceptions such as belief in reincarnation and the proposition that souls of children bear the imprint of pre-earthly existence. If a Waldorf school succeeds in its purpose, a student’s supposed contact with the spirit realm will be preserved from early childhood right through to adulthood. Subliminal contact with the invisible world beyond will be strengthened and channeled, but at a cost. Understanding of, and preparation for, life in the real, visible world will be given short shrift. 

Can a student attending a Waldorf school get a good education? The answer depends on many factors, including the student’s innate abilities, the degree to which s/he resists Waldorf’s occultism, the resources available outside the school (at home, in the community at large, on the Internet), etc. But the academic success — or lack of academic success — of Waldorf students is not the key issue to consider when evaluating Waldorf education. Waldorf is rooted in occultism and it is meant to foster an occult mindset in its students. Only parents who want this for their children should select Waldorf.

Footnotes for the Foregoing

(Scroll down to find further sections.)

[1] Taking the idea from Theosophy, Steiner taught that humans manifest nonphysical bodies on a seven-year schedule. Nonphysical bodies consist of incorporeal rather than material forces and substances. Until age seven, a child is primarily a physical being, then an “etheric” body incarnates, followed at age fourteen by an “astral” body and, at age twenty-one, an “I.” 

“During the period from birth until about seven years of age, the etheric body undergoes a process similar to that undergone by the physical body before birth. Only at the end of that time can we say that the etheric body is ‘born.’ In the same way, the astral body is ‘born’ at the age of fourteen or fifteen....” etc. — Rudolf Steiner, THE EDUCATION OF THE CHILD, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 43.]

Mature humans have four bodies. Steiner taught, however, that people who are not really human lack an "I." Think about basing a child’s education on such premises. 

[2] The child "recapitulates the cultural epochs of all Mankind.” — Waldorf teacher Peter Curran, quoted in WHAT IS WALDORF EDUCATION?, a collection of essays by Steiner (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), p. 21.

For Anthroposophists, “cultural epochs” or “ages” are long stretches of time in mankind’s spiritual evolution. They are dated from the sinking of Atlantis (yes, Atlantis).

[3] See "Humouresque".

[4] For a brief, sympathetic presentation, see Stewart C. Easton, MAN AND THE WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1989), pp. 395-8.

Not all Waldorf schools today follow the standard Waldorf curriculum, but most do, to one degree or another. Variations are usually minor, but the only way to know the sequence of studies followed at any individual Waldorf school is to investigate that school specifically.

[5] See "Thinking Cap".

[6] Gnomes are considered real, in Waldorf belief. They are "nature spirits." [See "Neutered Nature" and "Gnomes".] Gnome statuettes, dolls, and pictures are deemed to represent invisible beings that are really present in the schools.

[7] See Sharon Lombard, “Our Brush with Rudolf Steiner” [ ]


“Formal instruction of reading in a Waldorf school begins in the first grade when a child is six, turning seven (older than first graders in the public school.)" 

Also see Roy Wilkinson, THE CURRICULUM OF THE RUDOLF STEINER SCHOOL (Robinswood Press, 1990), p. 7: 

“The first lessons in arithmetic, to children aged 6, are introduced in story form....” 

While there is variation among Waldorf schools, there is also impressive uniformity. Here’s from Australia: 

“Steiner schools wait until the early childhood phase before formally starting reading, writing, and maths in year one [i.e., first grade].” — Karen McElroy, “Education and Children’s Health,” THE DAILY (Queensland, Australia), Jan. 15, 2009.

Postponing instruction in reading and math until children turn seven does not doom the students to educational failure. In Finland, which has a public school system generally judged excellent, reading and math are postponed until age seven. But Finnish schools are in most other ways wholly unlike Waldorf schools. The occultism at the basis of Waldorf education is wholly absent from the Finnish system. Indeed, the Finnish model (secular, public, rational, and scientific) is virtually the antithesis of Waldorf, and its success provides virtually no evidence supporting the Waldorf approach overall.

[9] See "Fairy Tales".

[10] See "Old Testament".

[11] See "The Gods".

[12] See "Oh My Word". 


[14] See H. v. Baravalle, TEACHING OF ARITHMETIC AND THE WALDORF SCHOOL PLAN (Publications of the Waldorf School, Adelphi College, 1950).

Math is important, Steiner said, but it must be taught in a spiritual way. Math shows order in the universe, which in turn reveals the gods' design. Thus, math (and especially "sacred geometry") reveals the divine basis of life and puts us in communion with the high spiritual powers. For these reasons, Steiner made such statements as 

“The child who has a right introduction to arithmetic will have quite a different feeling of moral responsibility from the child who has not.” — Rudolf Steiner, quoted  in TEACHING OF ARITHMETIC AND THE WALDORF SCHOOL PLAN, p. 75. 


“If men had known how to permeate their minds with mathematics in the right way during these past years we should not now have Bolshevism in Eastern Europe.” — Rudolf Steiner, ibid.

[15] See

“Up to age 9 it is a matter of stories about familiar things which appeal to the imagination and feelings....” — “Nature Study and Science,” THE CURRICULUM OF THE RUDOLF STEINER SCHOOL, p. 13.

[16] Stewart C. Easton, MAN AND THE WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1989), p. 396.

One reason cliques develop at Waldorf schools is that Steiner’s instructions were often vague or, on numerous occasions, highly questionable. Teachers may come up with varying interpretations, which may lead to ideological arguments and groupings. For example, Steiner said 

“The use of the French language quite certainly corrupts the soul.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 558. 

So, should French be taught? At my Waldorf, it was. At other schools, it may not be, or the issue may become a cause of dispute within the faculty.

[17] See "Magical Arts", "Biodynamics", and "Clues". 


[19] Because of the “evil” quality of black, chalkboards at Waldorf schools are often any color except black. If I remember correctly, at my school — back in the day when most chalkboards were black — the boards were green.

[20] See "Humouresque" and "Temperaments".

[21] See "Mystic Math".

[22] See "Steiner's 'Science'" and "Clues"

[23] See "Magical Arts".

Engagement in arts begins in the very earliest grades, and it usually continues through the end of high school. Early on, artistic activities (painting and drawing, singing, elementary eurythmy, and so forth) flow into each other, and may — along with listening to myths, legends, and fairytales — comprise the larger part of each school day. By the middle grades, there is greater separation between the various arts, with instruction given in one art at a time, during a particular period of time (a class period).

[24] See "Prayers".


“In having people do eurythmy, we link them directly to the supersensible world.” — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 247.


Participation in singing and other forms of music-making generally begins in preschool, although it is usually not formalized until much later. The playing or recorders and other simple instruments may begin quite early. The reading of music, and playing from musical scores, generally is postponed until the upper grades of middle school or later.


“Tenth Grade...block printing, weaving, clay, pottery, drawing....” — “Why Waldorf Works”, Feb. 3, 2009. 

This website is deeply pro-Waldorf: It is sponsored by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America. Let the reader beware. Does Waldorf work? And if so, at what price? Consider the underlying occultism — I will return to this point.


At the Waldorf I attended, each day's main lesson ran ninety minutes, from 8:30 until 10 a.m. At some Waldorfs, the main lesson may be two hours long.

[29] “The Ascending Spiral of Knowledge" — “Why Waldorf Works,” Feb. 3, 2009.

[30] To examine Steiner’s version of human evolution, see "Everything".

[31] See "Lesson Books".

[32] See "Oh My Word" — the history curriculum.


“Upper Grades 7-8   Creative writing, reading, spelling, grammar, poetry, and drama ... Mathematics, geography, physics, basic chemistry, astronomy, and physiology ... [K]nitting, crochet, sewing, cross-stitch, basic weaving, toy-making, and woodworking ... Foreign languages (varies by school): Spanish, French, Japanese and German.” — “Why Waldorf Works,” Feb. 3, 2009.


[35] Ibid., p. 396, and A. C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1956), p. 24.

[36] See "Unenlightened". 

[37] Theoretically, a Waldorf school could set high academic standards in basic subjects (history, math, and so forth) and reserve the school’s spiritualistic intentions for other parts of the day (arts classes, story hours, etc.). This might produce a solid academic record, depending on the caliber of the students enrolled and the degree of the faculty’s commitment to Steiner’s mystical intentions. Some American Waldorfs today claim to exceed various scholastic standards and benchmarks. Considering how low standards have generally become in the USA, this claim could easily be true in at least some instances. And, of course, it may well be that some Waldorfs today place greater emphasis on academics than my alma mater did. When College Board exams loomed for me, I realized that I was ill-prepared, so I bought some study guides and crammed. I still have one of them: Robert Sobel, THE COLLIER QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO AMERICAN HISTORY (Collier Books, 1962), $1.50.

The fundamental problems for Waldorf schools in attempting to achieve academic respectability is that the schools' underlying belief system, Anthroposophy, is largely at odds with truth. Anthroposophy rejects most findings of modern science and modern scholarship in most academic fields. Thus, in teaching students what modern science and scholars say, Anthroposophists think they are conveying falsehoods — which they naturally resist doing.


“Lower forms of clairvoyance, such as telepathy, telekinesis and so on...are simply the result of this premature aging....” — Rudolf Steiner, SOUL ECONOMY: Body, Soul, and Spirit in Waldorf Education, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), p. 132.




We should pause, momentarily, to stress something fundamental. I wrote, above, about the "standard" Waldorf curriculum. In a sense, this is a phantasm. My description is a reasonable summary, drawn from numerous sources. But "Waldorf" schools whose offerings do not fit neatly into this description are not necessarily, for this reason alone, impostors.

All Waldorf schools existing today are variants of Rudolf Steiner's original Waldorf school, created in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1919. But no Waldorf school existing today is a precise duplicate of that school as it was then. In all probability, no Waldorf school existing today uses precisely — down to the last detail — the same curriculum Steiner created for that first Waldorf.

There is variation. But don't let this confuse you.

Waldorf education, as initiated by Steiner, is an enactment of Anthroposophy. The essence of Waldorf education is to be found in the spiritual/Anthroposophical purpose of applying Anthroposophy to the education of children. A school is a true or authentic Waldorf school if it holds Anthroposophy in its heart and attempts, in all good faith, to apply Anthroposophy to children's schooling.

Every Waldorf school is defined by its relationship to Anthroposophy: a close, reverent relationship, or a looser, possibly even rebellious relationship. (Some "Waldorf" schools are authentic Waldorfs, some are not.) Which subject is taught at which time, and how the subject is taught, and precisely what material is contained in each lesson — these are secondary questions. So don't be surprised if you come upon descriptions of the Waldorf approach that contradict one another at least a little, on one point or another.

Waldorf schools may wear different suits of clothing. But if, below the surface, they are true Anthroposophical institutions, then they will attempt to follow Steiner's example, and their programs will represent sincere efforts to offer Waldorf education today in forms that are as true as possible to the standard originally set by Steiner.











The following statements are taken from THE EDUCATIONAL TASKS AND CONTENT OF THE STEINER WALDORF CURRICULUM, published by Steiner Schools Fellowship Publications in 2000 and reprinted in 2008; the editors are Martyn Rawson and Tobias Richter. Often called “the yellow book” because of its bright-yellow cover, the book is widely used by teachers throughout the Waldorf movement. (A slightly revised edition was published in 2014.)

As you read the following, be alert for telltale signs of occultism or mysticism peeping through. You might also note how academics are so often missing from the discussion — Waldorf teachers have various goals in mind, goals that are often divorced from ordinary (or real) education.

If you have become conversant with Anthroposophical jargon, you may have little trouble decoding these excerpts. But if not, your eyes may start to water, blur, or roll. In that case, please skip ahead — we will try to return to rational discourse further down the page, and we will explore the issue of deciphering Anthroposophic code.

◊ “The Kindergarten (3-6 years) ... Cognitive, social, emotional and physical skills are accorded equal value [1] ... [Activities involve] feeling, touching, exploring and imitating ... [The child] 'thinks' with the entire physical being [2] ... [A]dults in Kindergarten teach by imitation...the teachers carry out their daily tasks in such a way as to be worthy of imitation [3] ... The forces of imitation [within a child] naturally give way...around the time of the second dentition [4] ... Seasonal activities celebrate the cycles of the year [5] ... There is a rhythmic alternation between the 'child's time' (creative play, outside time) and the teacher's time [including story telling] ... Stories are told not just once, but many times [6] ... A well told [sic] story creates an appreciation for the human voice and the beauty and rhythms of language ... Children leave Kindergarten with a rich and varied repertoire of songs, stories and poems." — THE EDUCATIONAL TASKS AND CONTENT OF THE STEINER WALDORF CURRICULUM, pp. 32-33.

◊ “Class 1 (Age 6-7) The seventh year sees the commencement of 'formal' schooling [7] ... Awareness of the complexities of the mother tongue and number[s] is acquired through informal play...not didactic instruction [8] ... [T]he second dentition [releases] become active in developing the facility for...pictorial thinking [9] ... The child is still in a mood of dreamy wholeness [10], more able to bring broad awareness than focused concentration to learning settings ... Cultivating reverence for nature [11], care for the environment, respect for others, interest in the world and a feeling of confidence in their teachers [12] — these are the moral aims for Class 1 and the following classes." — pp. 36-37.

◊ “Class 2 (Age 7-8) The eight-year-old child continues to reside in a largely self-created psychological landscape ... The children show greater alertness in noting what happens around them at this age. The mood of wholeness differentiates into contrasts such as a deeper, more conscious feeling for the religious element [13] alongside a tempting awareness of the mischievous ... The pupils continue to familiarize themselves with the fundamentals of numeracy and literacy, while in gross and fine motor movements — whether through skipping, catching and throwing a ball, or knitting, crocheting, or flute-playing [i.e., playing recorders] — they develop a repertoire of skills and competencies ... The adult teeth continue to push through....” — p. 37.

◊ “Class 3 (Age 8-9) ... [C]hanges, referred to as the ninth/tenth-year threshold, may begin as early as 8.5 years or as late as 9.5 years [14] ... The child develops a firmer, more balanced gait; speech sounds are increasingly formed in the middle of the mouth and articulated more directly and the child focuses on the ‘middle distance’. The child’s constitution is noticeably stronger [15] ... [T]he child experiences a duality in perceiving the world. A process begins to unfold through which the child experiences with increasing strength, a sense of objectivity, alongside growing subjectivity .... The images of the Old the children to engage in a new relationship with their surroundings ... As the Class 3 children become more aware of themselves and the physical environment in which they live, a new interest in the practical, material world emerges. [16]” — pp. 37-38.

◊ “Class 4 (Age 9-10) In Classes 4 and 5...the transition from early childhood is complete, the transition toward puberty has not yet begun ... The self-activity of the child brings about a harmonizing of the relationship of the breathing to the blood circulation. [17] Confidence in their new state is expressed [by the children] in a quality of vigour and an eagerness to look at and learn about the world ... The aim of Class 4 is first and foremost to channel positively the powerful energy which ten year-olds [sic] bring to the classroom ... The narrative content of the lessons aims to respond by offering stories in which a multiplicity of personalities contributes to the whole (e.g. stories of the Norse Gods [18]) and in which darkness and evil become more concrete. [19] The children should begin to identify individual 'badness' in contrast to social or communal 'goodness'. [20]” — pp. 40-41.

◊ “Class 5 (Age 10-11) At this age the child attains a certain ease and grace of movement intrinsic to the age ... Psychologically, the ‘I’/world differentiation develops, the individual ‘will’ element begins to grow, the awareness of ‘self’ strengthens [21] ... Cognitively, children are more able to understand questions and phenomena in a realistic and reasoning manner. The pictorial element in thought processes remains an important element [22] ... Out of the growing memory powers, the sense for time has developed ... The child experiences a growth in length ... Musically, a child has the capacity to master a musical instrument ... Elementary notions of personal responsibility and a faculty for understanding 'right and wrong' in a 'reasoning' spirit may be grasped ... Towards the end of this year the teacher will begin to experience her pupils' emergent intellectual faculties [23] ... The harmony [of the group] is lost, to be found again at the end of the Upper School years.” — p. 41.

◊ “Class 6 (Age 11-12) ... [T]he child’s growth begins to express itself in the skeleton ... [T]he child develops a tendency for awkward, angular movements. The 12-year-old experiences the strength of gravity through the skeleton. [24] The physical change is accompanied by the first experience of causation in the thinking realm [25], while psychologically, the child enters a phase which may be characterized as the ‘changeling’ period. The 12-year-old experiences what may be described as the death of childhood and the birth-pangs of the individual [26] ... The aim [for the class] is to forge a new social relationship between each other [sic] and their teacher [27] ... [T]he children can be led to understand causal relationships in the world. The children's awareness should be directed towards the [outer, adult] world ... The pupils should be challenged and are capable of high standards in their school work ... [T]he children are ready to develop a causal understanding of the world, yet given the emotional and subjective nature of their experience, it is important that this causal aspect be clothed in imaginative and pictorial language. [28]” — pp. 41-45.

◊ “Class 7 (Age 12-13) ... An appetite for knowledge of, and about, world phenomena, mingles with a budding capacity for reflection and the first promptings of self-reflection [29] ... [T]he physical changes which establish sexual identity and capacity begin to manifest more clearly ... Sporadic bursts of energy and an appetite for expanding outer horizons vie with periods of lethargic heaviness and subdued introspection ... [T]here are important differences in the manner in which boys and girls face up to the challenges of this age [30] ... The pupils...should be encouraged to challenge attitudes and assumptions which formerly they accepted on authority [31] ... [T]he teacher will have to accommodate the increased self-knowledge of the students ... [T]he (re)discovery by Europeans, of distant continents, and the discovery by non-Europeans of the strange forces emanating from Europe, is a major topic [32] ... At a period when they can be shy, self conscious [sic] and awkward...eurythmy [33] can articulate their experience of dynamic space as well as providing an artistic medium for the expression of their soul moods ... Just as handwork in Classes 7 and 8 gains an element of the artistic, so do crafts and woodwork [34] ... Salad servers, candle holders, postcard stands etc. [sic] are made in woodwork.” — pp. 45-49.

◊ “Class 8 (Age 13-14) ... [T]he young person seems more robust and the tenderness of the previous two years has lessened somewhat ... [T]he world of ideas begins to take on meaning for the young adolescent and the critical faculties of the 14-year-old are noticeably sharper [35] ... The emergence of an independent life of feeling enters the ‘labour and delivery’ phase [36] ... [G]irls may spend their time and energy in discussing and sharing their feelings ... Boys tend to respond differently to the hormonal and soul changes ... [B]oth genders now stand before new and unknown vistas with sharpening minds, tender hearts and limbs that struggle to reach an accommodation with gravity [37] ... Class 8 turns to [study of] the human from as such [38] ... [Y]oungsters in Class 8 are led...into the real world [sic] ... As the pupils begin to notice the sanguine, melancholic, choleric and phlegmatic temperaments they begin to see each other in a new light [39] ... In Class 8 a year-long project is...undertaken by each student. Subjects and methods are many and varied ... [A] project provides opportunities [for teachers] to enter into relationships [with the students] based on an area of common interest. This enables teachers to continue an on-going relationship genuinely wanted by the pupils [40] ... 'When you discharge a child from [Grade 8] you should have laid the foundations for him or her to be no longer tied to the [physical] body ... [I]n thinking, feeling and will he must have become independent of the body.' [41]” — pp. 45-49.

The book continues in much the same vein, specifying different stages and approaches for the "upper school" or high-school years, classes 9 - 12. I strongly urge parents interested in Waldorf schools to study this book with great care. The mystical and occult nature of Waldorf schooling is often concealed in the book's sections, but the concealment is often imperfect — Anthroposophy repeatedly breaks into the open.

Footnotes for this Section

[1] Waldorf downplays academics and brainwork; it elevates other things to equal or greater importance. This is what is meant by the Waldorf motto "head, hands, and heart." [See "Holistic Education".] Downplaying academics and brainwork necessarily means failing to provide what is usually considered a good education. This problem begins with Waldorf preschool, where there is usually no basic academic instruction. The Waldorf approach means young children are not given the preparatory instruction programs such as Head Start provide in conventional school settings. Waldorf students may start out behind and they may remain behind.

[2] Steiner taught that "thinking" occurs in the bones and teeth, for instance. [See "Thinking".] Here we are told that young children think with their entire physical bodies, not their brains in particular. We will see presently that a major purpose of Waldorf schooling is to separate students from their physical bodies, which means making them more wholly spiritual beings.

[3] Waldorf teachers are encouraged to become ideal role models. Waldorf students are meant to model themselves on their teachers. In this and other ways, Waldorf teachers try to supplant parents as the most important adults in students' lives. [See, e.g., "Faculty Meetings".]

[4] I.e., the appearance of the second set of teeth. This event is given extraordinary importance in Waldorf thought — it is taken as a sign that the etheric body has incarnated. [See the entry for "etheric body" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

[5] Activities of this sort center on religious festivals such as Michaelmas. [See the section on festivals in “Magical Arts”.]

[6] Such stories, repeated "many times," provide a method for inculcating Anthroposophical concepts, beliefs, and attitudes. [See, e.g., "Fairy Tales" and "Sneaking It In".] The process may be considered a form of indoctrination. [See "Indoctrination".] 

[7] According to Waldorf belief, the etheric body incarnates at around this age. [See "Incarnation".] Formal instruction in such subjects as math and reading is postponed until this crucial event occurs.

[8] I.e., formal instruction. Until then, children are expected to feel their way toward knowledge through play and through imitating their teachers. (The role of the teacher gradually changes after this stage, but students are still expected to follow the example set by their teachers, and — as we will see — Waldorf teachers make special efforts to remain closely connected with their students. Toward the end of formal schooling, the teacher's role becomes more nearly that of a guru. [Gurus are important figures in Waldorf belief. See, e.g., "Guru".])

[9] Steiner taught that true thinking is pictorial — it is imagination (the forming of true mental images) or, at a higher level, clairvoyance. [See the entries for these terms in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

[10] In Waldorf belief, children retain a dreamy awareness of the spirit realm from which they have descended. Waldorf schools try to keep kids young so this awareness will be preserved. ["Thinking Cap".]

[11] In seeking to promote reverence, Waldorf teachers essentially undertake the role of priests. [See "Schools as Churches".] 

The Waldorf attitude toward nature is complex; reverence is one element, but distrust is another. The physical, natural world is a place of illusion, Steiner taught. [See "Neutered Nature".]

[12] Again, a central aim pf Waldorf schooling is to get children to trust their Anthroposophical guides — imitating, obeying, and depending upon their Waldorf teachers in virtually all matters.


"It is possible to introduce a religious element into every subject, even into math lessons. Anyone who has some knowledge of Waldorf teaching will know that this statement is true." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD's CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 94.

[14] See the entry for "crossing the Rubicon" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.

[15] Although Waldorf schools claim to honor the individuality of their students, they often proceed on the premise that all children of a given age are essentially alike: "The child" reaches a certain developmental level at age 8-9, or instance, then s/he reaches another stage at age 9-10, etc.

[16] See "Old Testament". Steiner taught that the ancient Hebrews laid the basis for a materialistic view of reality; hence, children in Grade 3 are led — though Old Testament stories — toward a new relationship with "the practical, material world." The Anthroposophical view of Jews and their religion contains at least traces of anti-Semitism. 

"The Jews have a great gift for materialism, but little for recognition of the spiritual world." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM BEETROOT TO BUDDHISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 59.

[17] Waldorf education is often more concerned with the supposed process of incarnation (the arrival and development of various "bodies," including the physical body and its systems) than with ordinary learning, academics, or brainwork. [Concerning the Waldorf view of human nature and bodily systems, see, e.g., "What We're Made Of" and "Oh Humanity".] If the Waldorf view on these matters is wrong, then Waldorf eduction is largely misdirected.

[18] Steiner taught that Norse myths present an essentially true picture of human spirit evolution. [See "The Gods".] Other mythologies also have large casts of characters and tell of battles between good and evil, but Waldorf schools — following Steiner — credit Norse myths with greater truthfulness and depth.

[19] Although Anthroposophists often describe their belief system as almost wholly affirmative and optimistic, in fact violence and combat (warfare between forces of good and evil) are central within it. Much of this can be traced, in its particularities, to Norse myths. [See, e.g., "Violence" and "Evil".]

[20] The human "ego" is crucial and important, Steiner taught. [See "Ego".] But egoism — separating oneself from one's social unit — is often deemed wicked. This belief is related to the concept that the gods intend all children within an age group to stand at a particular archetypal level.

[21] Understanding oneself as a unique individual is a key objective in Anthroposophy, although the effort entails the potential sin of egoism. While the recognition of the difference between "the I" and "the world" would normally be deemed a simple insight, attained by children at an early age, Anthroposophists vest this insight with enormous occult importance. No one can know your innermost self except you yourself. 

"I am an I only to myself; to every other being I am a you.” — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1979), p. 49.

[22] Again, in Waldorf belief, pictorial thinking is ultimately clairvoyance. [See “Clairvoyance”.] Waldorf students are urged to think pictorially or imaginatively because, Steiner taught, this may lead to development of full-blown clairvoyant powers. If clairvoyance is a delusion — if there is no such thing as clairvoyance — then the Waldorf movement has no firm basis.

[23] Anthroposophy and Waldorf are generally anti-intellectual. [See “Steiner’s Specific".] Steiner taught that we need to develop intellect for use in our Earthly incarnations (the brain, and intellect, and physical science yield more or less accurate knowledge of the superficial level of Earthly existence). The benefits will carry over into future evolutionary growth, he said. But we must not rely on intellect too much, and eventually we must put intellect behind us.

[24] According to Waldorf belief, the child is alien to the Earth and to the physical forces of life on Earth. Only gradually does the child truly become "at home in the physical body." Steiner taught that children become more or less comfortable in their physical bodies by age seven, but they don't really feel easy with physical forces such as gravity until many years later. Until then, they are still largely beings of the spirit realm. 

"Not until [puberty] does [the child] arrive fully in the outside world." — Rudolf Steiner, THE EDUCATIONAL TASKS AND CONTENT OF THE STEINER WALDORF CURRICULUM, p. 46.

[25] I.e., a comprehension of cause-and-effect. (Whether children really cannot grasp such things until grade 6 is doubtful. The Waldorf curriculum is based on the twin beliefs that children develop very slowly, and that all children develop more or less at the same slow pace. If these beliefs are false, then once again the Waldorf approach is baseless.)

[26] Having incarnated the etheric body (around age seven) and having "crossed the Rubicon" (around age nine), the child begins to attain full selfhood. At age 14, the astral body will incarnate, and at age 21, the spiritual "ego" will incarnate. [See “Incarnation”.] If these Waldorf beliefs are false...

[27] Once again, Waldorf teachers work to bind their students to themselves.

[28] For reasons we have already touched upon, Anthroposophists hold that rational and/or intellectual thought must always be subordinate to pictorial, imaginative, or clairvoyant insight. This is especially true for children, according to Waldorf belief.

[29] Again, proponents of other educational approaches argue that children reach these capacities must earlier; and they usually argue that children mature at different paces. Seen from a non-Waldorf perspective, Waldorf generalizations about child development are largely false.

[30] Some critics would argue that Waldorf education is hobbled by sexism. [See "Gender".]

[31] Steiner encouraged Waldorf teachers to prepare older students for independent lives in the "real world." Whether this objective can truly be attained within the occult Waldorf system is moot, however. If students have been indoctrinated and tightly bound to their teachers, then they are unlikely to find paths through life that diverge far from the Anthroposophical path. [See "Freedom".]

[32] Steiner taught that Europe — and especially Central Europe, in particular Germany — stands at the peak of human development. [See the entries for "Europeans", "Central Europe", and "Germans" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

[33] See "Eurythmy".

[34] See the entry for "crafts" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.

[35] According to Waldorf belief, children of this age pass into the third major developmental stage, when the astral body incarnates. [See “Incarnation”.] Children attain for the first time some capacity to think for themselves. This is signaled by puberty, according to Steiner. (Proponents of other educational systems generally argue that most children begin to think for themselves far earlier. Some educators criticize Waldorf for intentionally retarding students' intellectual development.)

[36] According to Anthroposophy, feelings are far more important than thoughts — they are more direct avenues to truth. [See “Thinking”.] Steiner taught that adolescents enter a phase of heightened feelings that may — when properly overseen — lead to spiritual wisdom.

[37] Again, children are conceived as struggling to find their footing in the physical world. 

Anthroposophical generalizations about the genders are certainly questionable. [Again, see "Gender".]

[38] See, e.g., "Our Parts".

At the Waldorf school I attended, some physiology and/or biology courses were taught by our headmaster, who had no academic qualifications in these fields. Unfortunately, some of the "information" we received from him and from at least one other of our teachers was threaded through with racism. [See "Compassion and Its Absence" and "Light and Dark".]

[39] Waldorf efforts to prepare students for the "real world" may be sincere, but they are undercut by the unrealistic, esoteric worldview on which Waldorf is founded. Here, for instance, we see the students being taught to classify one another according to an ancient, false system: the classical temperaments, "sanguine, melancholic, choleric and phlegmatic." Far from shining "a new light," this spurious system shrouds human character in dim shadow. Waldorf students are led away from, not into, the real world. [See "Humoresque", "Temperaments", and "The Ancients".]

[40] Again, Waldorf teachers make a concerted effort to establish and preserve bonds between themselves and their students. Rather than setting their students free, they seek to continue exercising their influence over the students.

[41] This concluding statement is by Rudolf Steiner, and it helps explain where Waldorf teachers want to lead their students. They want to lead them into the occult mysticism promulgated by Steiner. 

"[I]n thinking, feeling and will [the student ] must have become independent of the body." 

No longer "thinking" with their entire physical constitutions, Waldorf students should cease relying on any physical instruments at all, including their brains. They should "think" and "perceive" pictorially, through incorporeal modalities. (Ultimately, such "thinking" should become clairvoyant perception.)

Note that the first Waldorf School originally lacked an upper school or high school. Graduation from Grade 8 meant departure from the school. Thus, in this statement, Steiner was describing an ultimate purpose, the effect the Waldorf School should have for it departing graduates. (Later, when an upper school was added, the statement presumably applied to the mindset students should have when entering the mystical shades of advanced Anthroposophical learning. 

"Even though at the founding of the original Waldorf school, the students left school after Class 8, Steiner's equally relevant when the students go on to the Upper School." — p. 49.) 

The objective is to ascend into the "supersensible" realm where we do not need to rely on our physical senses or our physical brains. The objective is to dwell in a region that rational people understand to be mere fantasy; we should "think" and "feel" and exercise "will" without use of the organ that makes thinking possible. The result must be, then, to substitute baseless imaginings for factually founded rational comprehension.

For a further overview of the Waldorf curriculum,

year by year, see "Curriculum by the Numbers".

To investigate the "core principles" that inform 

the Waldorf curriculum, see 

"Core Principles".

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”.

For more on academic standards at Waldorf schools,

see "Academic Standards at Waldorf".

For more of Steiner's indications concerning

the way various subjects should be taught in Waldorf schools,

see "Basement".

For a peek at the training Waldorf teachers receive,

see "Teacher Training".

To examine what may be Steiner's central educational "insight,"

see "Most Significant".










Waldorfish art by a Waldorf grad.









The Waldorf curriculum is meant to affect students' heads, hearts, and hands. Most of the material we are considering here is directed to heads and hearts (and souls and spirits). What about hands? Arts and crafts occupy at least a third of a typical Waldorf education. In THE CURRICULUM OF THE RUDOLF STEINER SCHOOL, Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson lays out the handwork portion of the curriculum. He does so with far great specificity than any other portion of the curriculum. I will reprint Wilkinson's outline verbatim (including his somewhat idiosyncratic use of capitalization):

Class 1              Knitting with two needles.

Class 2              Knitting and Crochet Work.

Class 3              Useful articles in either of these media, i.e. woolen caps, scarves, jumpers, etc.

Class 4              Exact stitching and Embroidery.

Class 5              Socks, gloves, dolls, puppets, stuffed animals, individual articles of clothing.

Class 6              As Class 5. Woodwork, carving simple practical objects; Gardening.

Class 7              Blouses, shirts on to which could be worked original patterns or designs. Woodwork, practical objects, moving toys; Gardening.

Class 8              Use of the sewing machine, darning, mending, nature of materials. Woodwork, as Class 7; Gardening.

Class 9              Cane work, basketry, dresses. Woodwork, Carving, Stone Sculpture where possible, Clay Modeling, Gardening.

Class 10            Embroidered table cloths or other articles using original designs. Gardening, knowledge of soils, manures, etc. Clay Modelling, Spinning, Weaving.

Classes 11-12   Bookbinding and leatherwork. Woodwork, Cabinetmaking.

— Roy Wilkinson, 


(Robinwood Press, 1990), p. 21.

Despite Wilkinson’s specificity, many Waldorf schools diverge from this sequence of projects to one degree or another; Wilkinson states that his list ”is not comprehensive.” Bear in mind, also, that Waldorf students undertake various arts projects in addition to crafts projects. Indeed, some of the crafts listed by Wilkinson are in fact arts (carving, sculpture, modeling). Waldorf students spend many hours in artistic activities such as painting, drawing, and sculpting. [See "Magical Arts".] As for handwork per se, teaching children to knit, crochet, use sewing machine, make cabinets, and so forth, is one of the ways Waldorf schools try to prepare students for life in the "real world.” Thus, we find Waldorf defenders boasting that their schools sometimes arrange internships for students in bakeries and garages — places where basic manual skills are exercised. [See "My Life Among Them", Part 3.] You might consider whether these are the sorts of occupations you have in mind for your children. Waldorf schools largely deplore more modern technologies and occupations, such as those related to computers. [See "Spiders, Dragons and Foxes".]











When Waldorf teaching materials enumerate academic educational goals, the terms used tend to be broad and obscure (almost, sometimes, Delphic), and the nature of Waldorf slow learning is made apparent. Here, for instance, are the "grammatical steps" students should master as they proceed through the first seven grades at a Waldorf school:

Class 1        Hardly touch it [i.e., grammar] at all.

Class 2        Build up concepts of what is a noun and a verb with its tenses ... conversation about the structure of sentences.

Class 3        Conscious feeling ... for short, long, expanded sounds, etc.  A feeling approach towards articulation of language and general language-configuration ... Different parts of speech, and parts of sentences ... Structure of a sentence, punctuation.

Class 4        A clear idea of tenses, of what is expressed by the changing forms of the verb ... Prepositions governing cases (applies to German grammar) ... Modulate the language plastically.

Class 5        Difference between active and passive voice ... Indirect speech ... Difference between writing one's own opinion and reporting another person's opinion ... Complete punctuation.

Class 6        A feeling for the subjunctive ... A strong feeling for the plasticity of the language.

Class 7        A sensitive appreciation of forms expressing wish, wonder and surprise.

— E. A. Karl Stockmeyer, 


(Floris Books, 2015), pp. 66-67.


I have reproduced this table verbatim and completely. The ellipses and the parenthetical phrase are Stockmeyer's.

Note the emphasis on feeling ("Conscious feeling...for short, long...", "A feeling approach towards...", etc.). Note the almost esoteric nature of some of the stated educational goals ("A strong feeling for the plasticity of the language", etc.). Note how late various skills and knowledge are meant to be acquired ("A clear idea of tenses" is not a goal until children are approximately 10 years old, the "difference between active and passive voice" is not stressed until children are approximately 11 years old, etc.). Certainly, the table covers actual grammatical concerns, and thus it points toward real academic substance. But teachers in other types of schools will probably be surprised to see how long various subjects are postponed in Waldorf schools, and how cryptic and offbeat many of the stated goals are ("Modulate the language plastically", "A sensitive appreciation of forms expressing wish, wonder and surprise", etc.). Some of the terms used may be considered sophisticated, or they might be considered esoteric. The educational arc described by Stockmeyer rises from virtual denial ("hardly touch it"), through subjectivity and emotion ("feeling", "sensitivity"), to the affirmation of expressions of aspiration and awe ("wish, wonder and surprise"). Within the Waldorf context, this arc clearly aims toward a spiritual rather than a merely mental objective.

Why Class 8 goes unmentioned is unclear, but a comment about Class 9 a bit later in the text throws an interesting light on the efficacy of Waldorf education. Under the heading "Punctuation", Stockmeyer records the following: 

"In a teacher's meeting on 3 July 1923 Steiner pointed out that the pupils of Class 9 were not using any punctuation marks. He then proceeded to give some very revealing guidance for the teaching of punctuation." [p.69] 

Like Steiner himself, you might be startled to learn that ninth graders in a Waldorf school, many of whom had presumably received the benefits of Waldorf education for at least a few years, apparently knew little or nothing about punctuation. The first Waldorf school was established in 1919, so students who were in the ninth grade in 1922-23 did not pass through the Waldorf fifth grade (they entered the school at or after sixth grade). This means they did not receive Waldorf instruction in "complete punctuation" meant for fifth grade. Still, they were deemed fit for admission to ninth grade, and they got no help with punctuation until well into the ninth grade, if then. For them, the effect of the Waldorf program, at least on the subject of punctuation, had apparently not been slow learning. It had been no learning.

Did Steiner's new, "very revealing guidance" improve matters? See "Oh My Word".





The following is

"Are Waldorf Schools Religious?

Is Anthroposophy Taught in Waldorf Schools?"

by John W. Morehead 


Proponents of the Waldorf system may acknowledge that it requires teacher acceptance of certain Anthroposophical principles, but argue that does not mean the teacher will necessarily inculcate those beliefs in students any more than a Christian teacher would necessarily teach students to be Christians. This is an unfair and deceptive comparison. Considering the role of the Waldorf teacher in instructing children with the Waldorf curriculum, Anthroposophical writer Gilbert Childs notes:

"Waldorf teachers must be Anthroposophists first and teachers second… it must never be forgotten — and one must be emphatic about this — that the whole of teaching matter and method in Steiner schools is aimed at developing within each child the [occult] consciousness that spirit permeates everything in the world" (STEINER EDUCATION IN THEORY AND PRACTICE, 1991, p. 166).

The whole purpose of all teaching in the Steiner/Waldorf schools is thus stated to be explicitly spiritual, i.e. religious. Contrary to the claims of Waldorf supporters, the role of the Waldorf teacher does promote Anthroposophy. Even if not taught or named explicitly, Anthroposophy undergirds and shapes all other teaching, even the manner of teaching, in the Waldorf program. If it did not, it simply would not be a Waldorf school: "The aim at the Waldorf School is to teach and educate according to the findings of the science of spirit" (Steiner, EDUCATION… p. 21), i.e., Steiner's occult Anthroposophy. 

No one can ignore the clear statements of the program's founder, quoted above, and claim to have made a thorough and unbiased examination of the Waldorf system, the Waldorf teachers' role in integrating Anthroposophical teaching into the life of the child through the teaching experience.

According to Steiner, Anthroposophy is an essential foundation of the Waldorf educational philosophy, in which the teacher fosters a particular teacher-student relationship considered essential to the learning process. "The science of spirit teaches me how I stimulate a particular part of the soul that brings about a certain relationship between the educator and the child, which allows something to flow from the teacher directly to the innermost feeling-life of the child's soul" (Steiner, EDUCATION AS AN ART, 1970, p. 28). The understanding and development of this relationship is thus based in Anthroposophical "science of spirit" teaching.

It should be obvious, then, that application of the Waldorf program requires teachers who believe in the Anthroposophical philosophy upon which it is based. Steiner understood this well: "The Waldorf teacher holds the conviction that what he meets in the child from week to week, from year to year is the expression of a divine spiritual being that descends from purely spirit-soul existence [reincarnation] and evolves here in the physical-bodily existence between birth and death, uniting the line of heredity which gives it its physical-etheric nature from parents and ancestors" (Ibid., p. 23).

The Anthroposophical foundation and teacher orientation of the Waldorf program led former Waldorf teacher M. C. Richards to state: "One could say that Waldorf education has a hidden agenda. Its curriculum is described in terms common to public schools in general: arithmetic, writing, reading ... But in Steiner schools the dimensions of these subjects are threefold: they are artistic, cognitive and religious. Religion is not an affair for Sunday alone or for theologians and priests. It is a dimension applicable to all our experience" (TOWARD WHOLENESS: RUDOLF STEINER EDUCATION IN AMERICA, 1980, p. 164).

Many advocates of Waldorf education and schools claim that Anthroposophy is not taught in Waldorf schools or in Waldorf-based curriculum. Technically this is correct, but only with qualification. Anthroposophy is not taught explicitly as a total system of religion, but it does serve as a foundation for Waldorf educational theory and practice, and its teachings are implicit within Waldorf curriculum.






Waldorf teachers are usually given considerable flexibility in deciding what to do in class, so long as they adhere more or less to their school's general curriculum (which is usually designed to comply with the outlines we have already reviewed). Precise goals of instruction in specific topics at specific grade levels may or may not be spelled out.

Here is a summary for topics to be covered in "natural history" classes, according to one Waldorf authority. Although the claim is often made that Waldorf schools do not teach the children Anthroposophy, various Anthroposophical beliefs are evident in this summary. (I have edited the summary slightly for length and clarity; and I have added a few notes.)

Class 4             Age ten. The threefold human being [i.e., body, soul, and spirit]. Animals and man. Animals are specialized in one direction [humans encompass all directions]

Class 5             Animals continued. Plant study to show the plant between earth and cosmic forces.

Class 6             Plant study continued. Minerals in connect with geography and geology.

Class 7             Conditions of nutrition and health [with emphasis on organic foods].

Class 8             Mechanics of bones and muscles. The functions of the organic systems….

Class 9             The nature of man, body, soul and spirit. Enlightened [i.e., Anthroposophical] anthropology.

Class 10           ...[T]he study of peoples [i.e., nations, races, families] — ethnography, also in an enlightened sense.

Class 11           The structure of cells ... The earth and the universe. The eye.

Class 12           Twelvefoldness of the animal world [animals, humans, and the zodiac have twelve divisions] ... Man as a synthesis of the animal world and as a microcosm [i.e., a miniature replica of the cosmos].


(Hawthorn Press, 1993), p. 112.

In Waldorf belief, animals evolved from humans, not vice versa. Animals are limited beings, unable to evolve further, whereas humans are universal beings, microcosms of the entire universe, having unlimited evolutionary potential. Humans today stand below multiple ranks of gods, but we will evolve upward to attain the highest divine stature. During our evolution on Earth, we have risen from lowly ethnographic forms to higher forms, leaving our previous human structures behind much as we are leaving animal nature behind. As a culmination of the entire universe, we contain within us the twelve realms of the zodiac (animals and plants are dominated the zodiac; we will master the zodiac).

Whether, and to what degree, such Anthroposophical doctrines are conveyed to Waldorf students varies from school to school and from teacher to teacher.





Here is an item from the Waldorf Watch News.

I quote from a Waldorf document, 

then I offer a response.

"What about the speed of the stars? How fast do they appear to move in their courses?" — Waldorf educator Hermann von Baravalle, ASTRONOMY - An Introduction, Waldorf Curriculum Series (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1991, revised 2000 by Norman Davidson), p. 7.

Waldorf Watch Response:

The speed of the stars! Now there’s a fascinating subject, one that good teachers could use to great advantage, stimulating the minds and stretching the imaginations of their students. All the stars in our galaxy orbit the galactic center. How fast are they going? How fast, for instance, is our Sun moving? Do different stars move at different speeds? Why? This is exciting material. And there’s plenty more. Not all of the lights we see in the night sky are stars; some are planets. How fast are the various planets moving as they circle the Sun? In addition to stars and planets, there are still other lights in the sky, especially galaxies — huge pinwheels and platters and globes of stars, far far away. How fast are these moving toward or away from us? Almost every child would love to explore such questions.

Unfortunately, in his teachers’ guide — intended to show Waldorf teachers how to present astronomy to sixth graders — Hermann von Baravalle avoids these questions. Science classes at Waldorf schools often shortchange students by offering minimal information about the real universe, and this astronomy course follows the Waldorf pattern. The stellar speed von Baravalle refers to is the apparent motion of the stars (“How fast do they appear to move?”), which is an illusion caused by the spinning of the Earth. And the “courses” he mentions are illusory paths, also caused by the Earth's motions. Von Baravalle focuses not on the actual universe but on the subjective view students may obtain by gazing upward without knowing what they are seeing. And von Baravalle does not propose to provide kids with much real information that would enable them to know what they are seeing.

Von Baravalle calls every light in the night sky a “star” (e.g., “The brightest of stars is Venus.” — p. 35). Von Baravalle distinguishes only slightly between stars and planets, accepting the ancient view that planets are "wandering stars."* Nor does he provide much information about the size or composition of the things we see in the night sky, their true motions, their distance from the Earth, and so forth. He does, however, provide a chapter on the signs of the zodiac. A student studying astronomy in this, the Waldorf way, will come out of the class with virtually no real knowledge. Are stars bigger than planets? Are stars closer to us than planets or farther away? What are stars made of? What are planets made of? Are there different kinds of the planets? How many stars are there? How many planets do we know about? You can continue this list yourself. Think of any question that a student might ask concerning the real objects in the sky. In all probability, a Waldorf astronomy course — such as the one outlined by von Baravalle — will skimp on the answers.

The occult rationale for the course von Baravalle describes is this: According to Waldorf belief, sixth graders recapitulate the mental and spiritual condition of ancient Romans; therefore, sixth graders today should know only as much as the ancient Romans knew. (I kid you not.) All grades at Waldorf schools are meant to help kids pass through particular spiritual-evolutionary stages. But the Waldorf view of evolution (beginning on Old Saturn and moving toward Future Vulcan) is a fantasy, unsupported by any objectively verifiable information. The association of various childhood ages with various stage of human evolution is likewise unfounded. And here we see an example of the harm that can result — twenty-first century children are denied twenty-first century information. Instead, they are restricted to ancient ignorance. 

A six grader is certainly capable of comprehending real information about stars and planets. Indeed, a third grader is. But at Waldorf schools, such information is largely withheld in deference to Rudolf Steiner and his fabulous untruths. [For more on this, see “Oh My Stars”. Also relevant are "Waldorf Curriculum", "Astrology", "Astrosophy", "Star Power", "Planetary Humans", and "Everything".]

* Here is the beginning of chapter 7: 

"Observing the Planets - Flexibility in the Cosmos:  Five 'stars', different from all the others, appear at times in the night sky. All five shine brightly at night in some months ... These five special stars include the brightest of all stars ... The brightest of stars is Venus." [p. 35.] 

We might note that there are really eight planets, not five. (There are nine if we count Pluto.) Venus is the brightest planet, chiefly because it is the nearest planet. (Venus orbits the Sun at a distance of about 68 million miles; the Earth orbits the Sun at a distance of about 93 million miles.) The brightest star visible in the sky is Sirius. (Sirius is about 9 light years away.) Some of the "stars" we see with our naked eyes are really nebulas and galaxies. The closest large galaxy in the sky is Andromeda. (It is about two million light years away.) Von Baravelle is mum about all this.




Steiner waffled a bit when discussing whether students should be told the truth about various things. Should they, for instance, be told that islands and continents float in the ocean and are held in place by the force of the stars?

If a Waldorf teacher wants to tell students the truth about such matters, s/he will tell them the following:

“[A]n island like Great Britain swims in the sea and is held fast by the forces of the stars. In actuality, such islands do not sit directly upon a foundation; they swim and are held fast from outside. In general, the cosmos creates islands and continents, their forms and locations.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 617.

Starry constellations and individual stars

in the blue firmament beam their powers

down to a green island on the green Earth.

[Colored copy of image by Steiner;

R.R., 2013.]



Do Waldorf educational methods work?

See "Methods".



For the Anthroposophical view of Old Testament stories,

see "Old Testament".



For the Anthroposophical view of fairy tales,

see "Fairy Tales".





Human History

Unless you look carefully, some portions of the Waldorf curriculum may seem nearly conventional. Here are excerpts from an outline of the Waldorf history curriculum, offered by a Waldorf teacher. (If you are unacquainted with various terms used, or their Anthroposophical significance, The Semi-Steiner Dictionary and/or The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia  should help in at least some instances. Pages such as "Oh My Word" and "The Grail" should also prove informative.)

Class 5             (Age 11) The history and culture of the ancient oriental peoples … [Then] the first really historical concepts … [T]he Hebrews and Greeks.

Class 6             (Age 12) Roman times … [T]he tremendous influence of the Greco-Roman civilizations on…the rest of Europe.

Class 7             (Age 13) European and world history during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries … [T]he cradle of modern civilization … World exploration and discovery [by Europeans]….

Class 8             (Age 14) [Europe] from the sixteenth century to the present … [H]ow the great inventions have contributed to civilization….

Class 9             (Age 15) Aspects of [European] history from the Thirty Years’ War until modern times … The Age of Reason….

Class 10           (Age 16) [D]evelopment of peoples according to their climatic and topographical circumstances … [O]riental and Greek history [studied again] in greater detail … [T]he decline of the freedom of the Greek states under Alexander the Great.

Classes 11-12   (Ages 17-18) [T]he history of literature…how this reflects man’s individual and social development … [T]he "pre-literary” themes of the Middle Ages…such as the legends of the Holy Grail … [R]eview of the history of English literature … [G]reat literary figures of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries….


(Floris Books, 1991), pp. 177-179.

This outline is followed mainly by Waldorf schools located in Western countries (where, in fact, most Waldorf schools are located); modifications would usually be attempted in Waldorf schools located elsewhere. Anthroposophical thinking is Eurocentric. Steiner taught that human history has been a progression from lowly Eastern cultures and peoples to higher Western cultures and peoples, culminating today in Central Europe — especially Germany.* (Peoples who have not contributed to the advancement leading toward European civilization have been, to varying degrees, irrelevant.) Humans first attained the ability to think rationally in ancient Greece; Europeans proceeded to explore the world and spread Western influences broadly; "modern civilization" is essentially a European achievement.

The study of history indicated in this Waldorf outline culminates with the study of Western literature. In the Waldorf view, history and mythology are interwoven, and sometimes they are nearly indistinguishable. Legends such as those surrounding the Holy Grail reflect the divine will informing human history.

The outline shown here allows for Western history to be taught in a more or less conventional way; but it also allows Waldorf teachers to work Anthroposophical teachings into the lessons, if they so choose.

* The cultural epochs of human history to date, according to Steiner, have been Ancient Indian, Persian, Egypto-Chaldean, Greco-Roman, and Anglo-Germanic (the present). Note the trajectory leading in stages from the East to Central Europe. Most of Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Australia are excluded.










The first part of "Honoring Each Child's Individuality"

also appears on the page "Humouresque."

If you have read this section there, you may want to

skip down to the second part, below.


Waldorf teachers have ample opportunity to get to know their students well. Waldorf schools are often small, and the teachers typically see the same groups of students year after year.

Certainly most Waldorf teachers strive to understand their students, and they usually think they attain clear knowledge of the kids in their charge. But, unfortunately, the screen through which they view their students consists of false concepts that inevitably distort and conceal the truth.

In accordance with Anthroposophical tenets, Waldorf teachers think that children can be meaningfully and profitably differentiated by age, sex, temperament, race, and astrological sign, among other factors. The real character traits of the students tend to disappear in the fog produced by Anthroposophical misconceptions.

This is not to say that the Waldof approach is obviously mistaken in all respects. There is more validity in some of the factors we have listed than in others. But even when distinctions are drawn on the basis of genuine factors such as age and sex, large questions are raised.

Let's focus, for now, on questions.

Do all students of the same age stand at the same level of spiritual/mental/emotional development? Do they all have essentially the same needs and interests? Are all fifth graders, for instance, recognizably different from all sixth graders? The Waldorf approach answers yes to these questions. [1]

Do boys and girls have inherently different minds due to gender? Should children of different genders be taught different things in different ways? Rudolf Steiner said so. [2]

Is the ancient doctrine of “temperament” correct? Can children be divided into the four classical “temperaments” (phlegmatic, melancholic, choleric, and sanguine)? Waldorf schools typically do this. [3]

Are the differences between races more than skin-deep? Do children of each race have significantly different mental, emotional, and bodily natures than the children of other races? Do children of different races stand at different evolutionary levels? The Anthroposophical answer is yes. [4]

Is astrology for real? Does the astrological sign of a child have any meaning? Does a child born under one astrological sign have different character traits than a child born under another sign? The Waldorf belief system affirms astrology. [5]

Possibly you agree with the Waldorf/Anthroposophical perspective in one or two of these matters. But do you agree on all of them? Do you recognize that contemporary scholarship and science cast grave doubt on all of them, to at least some degree?

One problem with these Waldorf metrics is that, even when we count the ones that seems to be approximately valid, they stereotype children. It is wrong to judge human beings based on race, or sex, or “temperament,” or astrological sign... Pigeonholing people according to these categories is discriminatory and demeaning. If you judge a child to be a “choleric,” for instance, you are stereotyping the child, not seeing her or him as a distinct individual. If you think a child is a Gemini and therefore unlike a kid who is  a Scoprio, you are making baseless judgments. If you think a girl should be steered away from certain classes (physics and chemistry, perhaps), which boys should be steered into, your thinking is blinkered. If you think a black child is likely to be less intellectually adept than a white child, your thinking is prejudiced. And so on.

Now, granted, if you use all of the Waldorf metrics together, each child in a group may be labeled differently than any other child in that group. A “white choleric male Scorpio” would thus be distinctly differentiated from a “black sanguine female Aries.”

Moreover, we could admit shadings to the picture. Thus, we could say that a child may chiefly exhibit one temperament while also bearing traces of other temperaments. Maybe a child is mostly phlegmatic, for instance, but with a large admixture of melancholia and a trace of choler. Likewise, kids within an astrological sign were born on different days, so they would have somewhat different horoscopes — we could acknowledge these differences. And some children are born of mixed-races parents, so we could adjust our racial evaluations accordingly. And so on. Taking such distinctions into account, we could “individualize” children in these ways.

But such individuation would be severely, damagingly false. Making distinctions between individual human beings on the basis of race, or sex, or astrological sign, or temperament — these are largely indefensible. Even making distinctions on the basis of age are dubious (some fifth graders are quite mature, for instance, while some ninth graders are quite immature). You cannot learn the truth about an individual human being by judging that person based on false stereotypes. Likewise, you cannot learn the truth about an individual human being based on factors that provide a little, but only a little, real information. (Ok. A particular student is a girl. Another is a boy. What can you conclude about them? Very little except that one is a girl and one is a boy. You don't actually know much at all about these two kids: their talents, their ambitions, their dreams, their capacities, their shortcomings, their characters...)

The truth is that every child should be treated as a totally unique individual, and no dubious or fallacious metrics should be applied. This complicates things, for sure. A teacher facing a class of 30 students faces 30 utterly unique, mysterious, flawed, and wonderful individuals. Teaching them all, reaching them all, will be extremely difficult. But that's the job. That's the challenge.

To meet this challenge, a teacher should refer to the most up-to-date research on child psychology and educational methods. S/he should keep current with new developments, and s/he should look to the future, gladly embracing new knowledge as it becomes available. S/he should not rely on backward, outdated concepts of the kind that are embedded in Anthroposophy.

The Waldorf approach cannot produce accurate, true portraits of individual human beings in all their marvelous, unique complexity. Within the Waldorf worldview, human individuality tends to disappear in a fog of errors and half-truths.


Supporters of Waldorf education make many bold, glowing claims about the Waldorf system. Waldorf schools honor individuality. Waldorf schools promote freedom. Waldorf schools prepare students for life in the real world.

If Waldorf schools really did these things, we would be churlish to oppose them. But, unfortunately, Waldorf schools generally do not do these things. Indeed, Waldorf schools often do precisely the opposite. 

We can gain considerable insight by paying close attention to the language Waldorf supporters use in making their claims. This language is, often, a sort of code. It seems to say one thing (usually something quite lovely), when in fact it actually says something quite different.

Do Waldorf supporters realize that they often speak untruths? Do they intentionally lie to you and me? Or do they, in effect, lie mainly to themselves, convincing themselves to believe things that are false, things that are unreal? We can't see into their hearts to disentangle their motivations, and perhaps it doesn't really matter, in the long run. But we need to learn an important lesson: We must be on guard when listening to Waldorf spokespeople. The truth, sadly, is often not in them. 

Let's examine the Waldorf code, a little. The “yellow book” — THE EDUCATIONAL TASKS AND CONTENT OF THE STEINER WALDORF CURRICULUM — provides numerous examples that merit close examination. Probably the most important example occurs early in the book (pp. 7-8); it is a statement that lays out a major premise of Waldorf education. Children are unique individuals, author Martyn Rawson tells us, and Waldorf education respects each child's individuality: 

“[A]re children everywhere the same? … The answer is, clearly not. Diversity is a primary characteristic of the human being … [T]he most dominant characteristic is always…individuality.” [p. 7]

So, children are not all alike. Human individuality is paramount, and Waldorf schools respect this.

Rawson proceeds to explain the Waldorf view. There is an “archetype of human development” — a pattern of growth and development that all children follow. But no child follows it perfectly. Individuality arises because different children follow the archetype to various degrees — there are various “temperaments, constitutional types, [and] psychological types.” Moreover, there are differences between various human populations — “cultural characteristics, geographical types and so on.” So, fundamentally, we are all alike, but beyond our basic similarities we differ from one another is numerous subsidiary ways.

“Steiner Waldorf education assumes that there is an archetypal human developmental timetable…a universal pattern of child development … [A] common path runs through a variety of different cultural and geographical landscapes.” [p. 7]

So, to repeat, we are all fundamentally alike, but there are also differences between us. Because of the underlying similarities, “it is possible for schools or even whole regions to have broadly similar curricula," but there is also room for variation. If, by and large, all Waldorf schools in Europe share a single curriculum, Waldorf schools in other regions (the Americas, Asia…) may have somewhat different curricula.

The underlying archetype of human development is the same everywhere; it is the ideal model for human “spiritual development” or, in other words, it sets the pattern for “human evolution." All humans face the same task as they incarnate upon the Earth. 

“[T]he spiritual core of the person [strives] to come ever more fully to expression within [the physical body] … This body must first become a home for the soul and spirit.” [p. 7]

All children go through this process of incarnation, but they do so in various ways. 

“Each individual developmental path has its own trajectory, which we usually refer to as an individual’s…destiny.” [p. 7]

The differences between individuals may result from specific variations (different temperaments, for example) or from larger, geographic factors (different cultures in different regions, for example). Still more differences may be produced by the passage of time — children today differ from the children of the past. 

“Cultural change drives human evolution along at an increasingly faster pace … [C]hildren today have a different inner relationship to questions of higher meaning, which is reflected in their spiritual development.” [p. 8]

So school curricula need to evolve as the world changes, keeping abreast with the changes in people.


There we have Waldorf teacher Martyn Rawson's description of how Waldorf faculties think about the children in their charge. All people are basically alike, although of course there are many individual differences.  As a vast generalization, the Waldorf view may seem quite sensible.

But let’s look a little more closely. On a scale running from “we are all the same” at one end of the scale to “we are all different” at the other end of the scale, where should we locate the Waldorf view? Clearly, the Waldorf view stands very near the “we are all the same” end of the scale. There is just one “archetypal human developmental timetable.” Just one. And there is just one “universal pattern of child development.” Just one. This is the Waldorf view as explained by Rawson.

Genuine individuality is very nearly ruled out by such a vision. We are all on the same schedule, we are all subject to the same pattern. We become different from each other only if we fail to fulfill the one true archetype. Individuality means wandering off course, departing from the correct universal pattern. Individuality, seen in this way, is tantamount to error. It is very nearly sinful. [6]

Understanding the Waldorf view on this subject, as on virtually all subjects, requires us to grasp at least some of the mystical doctrines of Anthroposophy. According to Rudolf Steiner, Archetypes are not mental constructs or mere abstractions. Archetypes are actually gods who preside over us — they are divine spirits who help shape us and guide our development. [7] We should reverently strive to fulfill their beneficent intentions for us. To comply with an Archetype, in other words, is to fulfill divine intention. Failing to comply means working at cross purposes with divine intention; it means failing to evolve properly.

From the Anthroposophical perspective, we do not have many different paths to choose from. Basically, there are just two paths — the black path of error and the white path of virtue. [8] We must select the white path or lose our souls. This is not a vision that allows a wide scope for individuality or freedom. In fact, it is a vision that undermines both individuality and freedom. We must strive to fulfill the one archetype, the one universal pattern, as closely as possible — or else.

The factors that, in the Waldorf worldview, allow for individual variation are few and confining. Consider “temperament,” for instance. How many different types of temperaments (personality types, dispositions) would you say exist among the billions of humans alive today? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? No. In the Waldorf view, there are just four — people are either phlegmatic, choleric, melancholic, or sanguine. [9] This is an ancient paradigm for categorizing people, one that science rejected long ago. But it is still affirmed, today — in the 21st century — in Waldorf schools. 

What about the “constitutional types” mentioned by Rawson? Do these provide a more flexible, sensible paradigm on which to base human individuality? No. Here is an authoritative Anthroposophical statement on the matter: 

"Steiner describes terms of six constitutional types: large-headed and small-headed, earthy and cosmic, fantasy-rich and fantasy-poor. Together with the four temperaments this typology connects the fundamental constitutional characteristics with the help of which a child learns to express himself in the most varied ways and to reveal his inner being.” [10] 

Are you willing to accept this as a reasonable way to think about children? In the Waldorf worldview, differences may be discerned between an earthy, melancholic child, for instance, and a cosmic, phlegmatic child. But combining two nonsensical systems of categorization brings us no closer to truth. Indeed, the Waldorf approach virtually guarantees that children will be misunderstood and mistreated. No child is a cosmic phlegmatic, or a small-headed choleric, or a fantasy-poor sanguine, or... No child deserves to be labeled in any such way, and none deserves to be treated in any such way.

What about the “cultural characteristics, geographical types and so on” mentioned by Rawson? Do these provide a sensible basis for differentiating between human populations? Here we enter an even more dreadful corner of the Waldorf worldview, and one that is given great importance in that worldview. (Notice that Rawson asked "are children everywhere the same?" Location, geographical position on the planet, is key.) Steiner taught that the gods put various peoples on different parts of the Earth for good reason; geography provides a sort of natural segregation. [11] Different parts of the Earth have different spiritual effects for the people living there, Steiner said. As a result, different nations and races have different soul qualities. Indeed, different peoples are presided over by different gods. [12] The chief difference between variouis human populations is that some are more highly evolved than others. Whites are the most highly evolved, blacks are the least evolved, and reds and yellows stand at two different points in-between. [13] We must certainly hope that few if any of Steiner’s followers today still cling, unswervingly, to his racist teachings. But these teachings are still embedded in Anthroposophy, and their potential wickedness remains a real concern. Any curricular elements rooted in such thinking would be deeply deplorable.

Affirming that all people are basically alike is a laudable, enlightened view. But Waldorf thinking veers from truth and enlightenment when it insists on categorizing people according to various false criteria. In the process, recognition of students' real attributes tends to be lost. Despite what Steiner’s followers may tell themselves, and despite what they may tell us, the thinking behind Waldorf schools makes accurate assessment of individual students nearly impossible. To the extent that Waldorf thinking recognizes human individuality, it does so on largely specious grounds. And to the extent that Waldorf thinking is carried to its logical conclusion, it actually rules out any real respect for human individuality. Waldorf thinking categorizes people on the basis of criteria that have little or no real significance: "temperament," constitutional type, race, and so forth.

The code employed by Steiner’s followers is revelatory. Once you learn to recognize the meanings that lurk in the mystical language of Anthroposophy, much that may have seemed abstruse will stand exposed as woeful error. 


We should end by picking our way through some of the other code words used by Rawson (whether or not he thinks of them as code). The mysticism of Waldorf thinking is never far from view, once we have learned where to look. (To aid clarity, I have highlighted certain key terms in the following passages with bold type.)

“[T]he spiritual core of the person [strives] to come ever more fully to expression within [the physical body] … This body must first become a home for the soul and spirit.” 

Here Rawson is discussing the process of incarnation. Anthroposophy includes belief in reincarnation; we pass through many, many successive lives. During each new life on Earth, one's spirit (or "spiritual core") strives to develop a physical body to house it (the spiritual core strives "express" itself physically). 

In addition, Anthroposophy teaches that each person has both a soul and a spirit. The soul is your spiritual self during a single Earthly incarnation; your spirit is the higher spiritual self that you carry through all of your incarnations.

“Each individual developmental path has its own trajectory, which we usually refer to as an individual’s…destiny.”

Closely related to belief in reincarnation is belief in karma. Anthroposophists believe we create our own destinies or karmas as we proceed through our various incarnations. Here Rawson says that one important difference between individuals is the difference between their karmas. But if karma is an illusion — if it does not exist — then this cannot be a real difference between individuals. Put thr matter this way: Only if you believe in karma can Rawson’s statement seem to be plausible. For most other readers, Rawson's statement — and the Waldorf belief system that it expresses — must be seen as baseless mysticism. 

“The Waldorf Curriculum [sic] is a cultural process, which reflects and supports this archetypal development by providing the right challenges and support at the right times.”

Surely without meaning to, Rawson here undercuts his assertion that different Waldorf schools have different curricula; here he speaks of a single “Waldorf Curriculum” that presumably is found in all  Waldorf schools. 

But let's not indulge in a "gotcha" moment; let’s concentrate, instead, on the other parts of Rawson's statement. Rawson says that archetypes (which in Anthroposophy are gods: Archetypes) have established the correct outline of human growth (“archetypal development” — development under the guidance of a sequence of Archetypes). Rawson then indicates that Waldorf schools present the students with “challenges and support at the right times.” What are the right times? Steiner taught that each maturing human being repeats, at the individual level, the overall pattern of human evolution. All fourth graders, for instance, stand at the level of the ancient Norsemen, all fifth graders stand at the level of ancient Greeks, all sixth graders stand at the level of ancient Romans, and so forth. This is the pattern laid out for us by the gods (including Archetypes); this is the pattern upon which “the Waldorf Curriculum” is based. Does it make sense to you? Unless it does, you should be gravely concerned about Waldorf education overall. A system of education based on nonsense has, literally, nothing to stand upon.

“[C]hildren today have a different inner relationship to questions of higher meaning, which is reflected in their spiritual development.”

Waldorf education is religious; it is based on the spiritual system of belief created by Rudolf Steiner: Anthroposophy. At its core, Anthroposophy is a gnostic religion. [14] "Higher" truths, Steiner taught, are occult or hidden spiritual truths. The goal for any practicing Anthroposophist is to attain clairvoyance so s/he can penetrate to the hidden, higher meanings that hover over our lives. Finding these meanings enables us to evolve higher: We proceed further along the path of spiritual development laid out for us by the gods. Students at Waldorf schools are rarely lectured about Anthroposophical doctrines, but they are nonetheless nudged along the Anthroposophical path, the path that supposedly leads toward the discovery of "higher meanings." This is done in order to further the students' "spiritual development" — evolution along the divine path.

If you think the spiritual development of your children should be left to you and/or to clergy selected by you, you may not want Waldorf teachers to arrogate this responsibility to themselves.

“Steiner Waldorf education assumes that there is an archetypal human developmental timetable … [A] common path runs through a variety of different cultural and geographical landscapes.”

Anthroposophy is a polytheistic religion. Steiner taught that there are nine ranks of gods above us. Archetypes are one type of god — they may be equated with the divinities called Spirits of Form. Standing four levels above us, Spirits of Form help shape our evolutionary path, our spiritual quest reaching out across the cosmos. Let's turn to the founder of Waldorf education, Rudolf Steiner, for a little enlightenment.

“[W]hen we get beyond the Archai [gods three levels above us], we reach…the Spirits of Form ... The spirits whose care it is to see that the whole of humanity should be led from one planetary condition to another, are the...Spirits of Form.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES, lecture 6. 

Many parents want religious education for their children. But before sending a child to a Waldorf school, make sure that you are comfortable with the gnostic, polytheistic, occult faith upon which Waldorf education is built.

Footnotes for 

"Honoring Each Child's Individuality"

[1] See, e.g., the section “Year by Year”, above.

[2] See "Gender". Also see, e.g., the section “Sexism” on the page “Clues”.

[3] See, e.g., “Temperaments”.

[4] See, e.g., “Races”.

[5] See, e.g., “Waldorf Astrology”.

[6]  See "Sin". Steiner said that failing to evolve properly (i.e., in accordance with the universal archetype) is the "great sin."

[7] so, for instance, Steiner said the following:

"[S]piritual archetype[s] [are] the original Spiritual Beings whence all things manifest have proceeded.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT SIGNIFICANCE OF BLOOD (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1922), p. 12. 

Anthroposophy reveres a vast number of gods. [See "Polytheism".] As we will see, one interpretation is that Archetypes are Spirits of Form.

[8] See the entries for "black path" and "white path" in "The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia". Also see "Guardians".

[9] See, e.g., "Humoresque" and "Temperaments".

[10] Michaela Gloeckler, "Constitutional Types in School-Age Children", AnthroMed Library [].

[11] See "Lecture" and, e.g., "Differences".

[12] See, e.g., "Embedded Racism".

[13] See "Steiner's Racism".

[14] See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?" and "Gnosis".









Here are four more items from the Waldorf Watch News:


Curriculum Policy

This is one of the central texts in Anthroposophy. 

It summarizes the spiritual-evolutionary discoveries 

Steiner claimed to make through the use of occult science. 

The book has been issued in numerous editions 

by various publishers and under a variety of titles. 

[Aziloth Books, 2011.]

The following is taken from a Waldorf/Steiner school’s 

description of its curriculum, tailored by the school 

for public consumption:

The key underlying principle of the curriculum is a commitment to working with Steiner's developmental insights. These are contained in a series of books and lectures which form on-going study material for the teachers in our school. 

These insights affirm:

That each child is unique, with their own path in life.

That the teacher's aim is to support the emerging individual in their all-round development.

That each stage of a child’s development requires a different approach to education.  In kindergarten, learning is based on imitation, whilst during the Lower School years, children learn through their imagination.

That artistic and imaginative teaching enables all pupils to access the subject with enthusiasm and understanding, regardless of ability.

That lesson content needs to mirror the pupil's developmental stage.

That lesson content needs to be related back to the human being in a moral and inspiring manner ... [etc.]


Waldorf Watch Response:

To understand a Waldorf document, it is often necessary to read between the lines. Waldorf documents are often couched in euphemistic terms meant to disguise the esotericism that lurks in the Waldorf worldview. In this instance, you have been reading a portion of the “curriculum policy” posted by the Exeter Steiner School, in the UK. Here is a brief gloss:

◊ “[O]n-going [sic] study material for the teachers in our school”: Waldorf teacher training usually places a heavy emphasis on the esoteric doctrines of Rudolf Steiner. [See “Teacher Training”.] The study of such doctrines continues after teachers join Waldorf faculties. Often, the inner circle of teachers at a Waldorf school constitutes a “college of teachers” that meets to study and discuss Steiner’s works. [See “Waldorf Now” and “Faculty Meetings”.]

◊ “Steiner's developmental insights”: Rudolf Steiner was an occultist. [See “Occultism”.] His “insights” arose from his occult belief system, Anthroposophy. His primary “insight” about children is that each child is born four times. The physical body is born, then at age seven the etheric body is born, at 14 the astral body is born, and at 21 (the end of childood) the ”I” is born. The Waldorf curriculum is geared to this baseless doctrine. [See “Incarnation”.]

◊ “[E]ach child is unique, with their own path in life”: This is a reference to karma, a basic Anthroposophical tenet. In Waldorf belief, children are reincarnating spirits who, during earthly life, try to fulfill their unique karmas. Waldorf teachers try to help the children in this task. [See “Karma”.]

◊ “[T]he teacher's aim is to support the emerging individual in their all-round development.” Note that the aim is not to teach the children — the aim is not to impart information. The aim is to support the incarnation and development of children according to the karmic seven-year cycles posited by Steiner (birth of the etheric body, birth of the astral body...). [See “Most Significant”.]

◊ “All-around development” sounds good. Waldorf schools often claim to educate “the whole child.” What the schools mean, however, is bizarre. In Waldorf belief, each child has a karma, an astrological identity, a spiritually important racial identity, both a soul and a spirit, several invisible bodies (incarnating sooner or later), twelve senses, and so on. The Waldorf conception of human nature is mystical and unreal. [See “Holistic Education”.]

◊ “[E]ach stage of a child’s development requires a different approach to education.” Waldorf teachers believe that as children grow up, they repeat the evolutionary history of humanity. [See “Today”.] Thus, for instance, children in the sixth grade are considered to be at the level of ancient Romans and their classes are shaped to be appropriate for ancient Romans. [See "Oh My Stars".] This foolish doctrine regiments the students, requiring them all to study the same subjects in the same screwball way, regardless of individual interests or capacities.

◊ “[A]rtistic and imaginative teaching”: This is one of the most appealing aspects of Waldorf schooling. Waldorf teachers try to be artistic and imaginative in their teaching, and they encourage students to create art and to use their imaginations. You should realize, however, that in Waldorf schools the arts are meant to create direct connections to spirit worlds [see “Magical Arts”], while imagination is considered a stage of (or preparation for) clairvoyance [see “Thinking Cap”, “Steiner’s ‘Science’”, and “Clairvoyance”].

◊ “[L]esson content needs to be related back to the human being in a moral and inspiring manner.” This is an indirect reference to the underlying religious nature of Waldorf education. Anthroposophy is a polytheistic religion that stresses both morality and inspiration, and it looks forward to the deification of humanity. [See "Tenth Hierarchy" and "The Center".] You may want a religious education for your child, but before sending her/him to a Waldorf school, make sure that the doctrines of Anthroposophy are acceptable to you. [See “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?” and "Spiritual Agenda".]

I think we can leave off here. The curriculum policy at the Exeter Steiner School contains many more passages. I encourage you to read the entire policy and endeavor to find the Anthroposophical doctrines behind each passage. [If you are not well-versed in Anthroposophical doctrines, "The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia" and "Here's the Answer" might prove helpful.]

— R.R.









Curriculum in Verse

Written by a Waldorf teacher:

By protecting our children’s youth

We feel we help them gain truth

We do not agree with modern day songs

We believe they are immoral and wrong

We want all students to learn to think on their own

And not just learn what is known

We believe reading and writing should not be the only goals

Children need to learn to become one with their souls

We believe we should help foster children to feel

For them this is how the world becomes real

We want them to have a better understanding of reality

And not just give into normality.


Waldorf Watch Response:

This is the beginning of a poem written to explain Waldorf schooling. It lays out many Waldorf beliefs in fairly open style, although none of the concepts is explained in any depth.

Let’s pitch in and provide some of the background needed to fully grasp the poem.

Line 1: Waldorf schools try to protect “our children’s youth” because they want to prevent children from growing up quickly. Rudolf Steiner's followers believe that children are newly reincarnated beings who arrive on Earth with memories of the spirit realm. These memories will be preserved if the kids are kept as young as possible for as long as possible. Thus, Waldorf schools actually want to retard their students' maturation. [See “Thinking Cap”.]

Line 2: The “truth” true-blue Waldorf schools wish to convey is Anthroposophy. They generally present Anthroposophy to the students indirectly and subtly, but they present it. [See “Spiritual Agenda” and “Soul School”.]

Lines 3-4: Some "modern day" [sic] songs certainly are immoral and wrong, but this blanket condemnation obviously goes too far. It reflects a fundamental Waldorf attitude, however. Authentic Waldorf schools try to shield students from most modern music, art, technology, and knowledge. The schools are far more comfortable with the “wisdom” of ancient peoples. [See “The Ancients: Mistaking Ignorance for Wisdom” and "The Gods".]

Line 5: “Thinking” is a peculiar concept, in the Waldorf universe. There is a deep anti-intellectual bias at Waldorf schools and a belief that real thinking is not done in the brain. “Real” thinking, in Waldorf belief, is clairvoyance, which doesn’t happen in the brain. [See “Steiner’s Specific”.]

Line 6: Authentic Waldorf schools devalue “what is known.” In most other types of schools, “what is known” is called knowledge and it is the focus of the educational process. In Waldorf schools, ordinary, real-world knowledge is considered generally unimportant. The focus, instead, is on helping the students to incarnate their invisible bodies. [I kid you not. See “Incarnation”.]

Line 7: In accordance with what we have already seen, Waldorf schools postpone reading, writing, a ‘rithmetic (the 3 R’s) until the children turn seven or so — this is the time when, in Waldorf belief, the “etheric body” incarnates. Academic standards in general are often low at Waldorf schools, and students there may take a very long time to catch up with students at other kinds of schools. Some may never catch up. [See “Academic Standards at Waldorf”.]

Line 8: Waldorf schools are indeed more interested in their students’ souls than in their brains. True-blue Waldorf schools are disguised religious institutions, fronting for the pagan, polytheistic religion created by Rudolf Steiner, called Anthroposophy. True-blue Waldorf teachers consider themselves to be priests who serve the "divine cosmic plan" of the gods. [See "Schools as Churches", “Here’s the Answer”, “Prayers”, and “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?”]

Lines 9-10: Feeling is more important than thinking, in Waldorf education. Rudolf Steiner taught that we should trust our hearts more than our heads, and he said emotion rather than thought can lead us to the spirit realm. Waldorf schools try to teach students to feel about things as Anthroposophists feel about things. [See “Reality and Fantasy” and “Spiritual Agenda”.] (The phrase "foster children" can be confusing. The writer is not referring to children in foster homes; s/he means that Waldorf teachers encourage all children to trust their feelings.)

Lines 11-12: “Normality” is what most people would call the real world. This is not the world authentic Waldorf schools care much about. They are interested in the “higher worlds” Rudolf Steiner described. “A better understanding of reality” looks past the real world and tries to discover the higher worlds that are populated by tiers of gods, many of whom preside over planets and stars, and who affect human life through their astrological powers, among other ways. [See “Higher Worlds”, “Polytheism”, and “Waldorf Astrology”.]

That’s probably enough for now. There are more stanzas to the poem, but I leave it to you to read and decode them.

— R.R.









Fifth-Grade Curriculum

“The study of ancient civilizations in the fifth grade spans the time from the legendary continent of Atlantis some 10,000 years ago to ancient India, ancient Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and finally ancient Greece. The children delight in finding common threads in the creation stories and hero tales of the different peoples — from floods and rainbows, to initiations and quests, to the intervention of the gods in human affairs. Most importantly, the students trace the evolution of human consciousness through millennia and across the globe, especially with respect to views of life, death, and the afterlife.”

[Downloaded 10-7-2011]

Waldorf Watch Response:

Genuine Waldorf schools (some of them, anyway) teach about Atlantis because Rudolf Steiner said Atlantis really existed. Indeed, in the quotation we see here — taken from the description of fifth grade studies at Highland Hall Waldorf School in California, USA — we find reference to many Anthroposophical doctrines: Atlantis, initiation, gods, “the evolution of human consciousness,” the afterlife, and so on. Some of these concepts also occur in other belief systems, of course, and all of them may be studied without necessarily involving religious indoctrination of students. But in bona fide Waldorf schools, the line is often crossed, and indoctrination occurs — indoctrination in the occult teachings of Rudolf Steiner. [See, e.g., “Atlantis and the Aryans”, “Inside Scoop”, “Polytheism”, “Matters of Form”, “Spiritual Agenda”, “Here’s the Answer”, "Weird Waldorf", etc.]

Here's a comment by a father who says he considered Waldorf education for his daughter: 

“Waldorf's roots are steeped in the teaching of Rudolph Steiner, a Christian-based [sic] mystic who believed in reincarnation, clairvoyance,  Atlantis, and forest gnomes.  And I am not being metaphorical here.  His belief system, known as Anthroposophy, is not some vestige of the path.  It is not part of the curriculum yet it is the heart of the Steiner pedagogy and epistemology.  The ideas leech to the students because it is the world view of the teachers.” [“The Hidden World of Waldorf”,]

And here's a comment by a former Waldorf student, appended to “The Hidden World of Waldorf”: 

“What I find truly unforgivable is the indisputable fact that those who sink into the depths of waldorfianism and the teachings of anthroposophy are utterly incapably of engaging in the 'real' world. A few schools even embrace this: claiming that it is a misnomer to assume making a child fit into society is a worthy pursuit. I have witnessed these people become so sucked-in that they cannot distinguish the world as Steiner proposes it from the world as it actually exists.” 









First-Grade Curriculum

It is hard to believe that true-believing

Waldorf teachers believe what they believe. 

Likewise, it is hard to believe that true-blue

Waldorf schools have the goals that they have.

Take “form drawing.” 

In one recommended sequence of subjects 

children should study in a Waldorf first grade, 

form drawing is given remarkable priority: 

First Grade Main Lesson Block Rotation [1]

Eugene Schwartz, class teacher

September 6 – September 29 Form Drawing

October 2 – October 20 Arithmetic

October 23 – November 22 Writing and Reading

November 27 – December 22 Form Drawing

January 8 – January 26 Arithmetic

January 29 – February 16 Writing and Reading

February 26 – March 23 Arithmetic

March 26 – April 12 Form Drawing

April 23 – May 11 Writing and Reading

May 14 – June 1 Class Play

June 4 – June 8 Year-End Review


Waldorf Watch Response:

Note that, under this scheme, form drawing is the first subject studied (Sept. 6-29), and it is taken up again two more times later in the year (Nov. 27-Dec. 22, and March 26-Aprll 12). As Waldorf educator Eugene Schwartz explains to the parents of his students, “In some respects, Form Drawing is the most important subject that your child will study this year.” 

Form drawing is the simple (not to say mind-numbing) repetitive tracing of abstract shapes, such as wavy line, curling lines, zigzag lines, knotted lines, and the like.

Elementary form drawing.

[FORMENZEICHNEN: Die Entwicklung des Formensinns in der Erziehung 

(Freies Geistesleben, 1992)

Visualize young Waldorf students tracing such forms (starting with simpler ones, working up to more complex ones) every morning, day after day, week after week. And visualize them, having been released from such tedium, being brought back for two more weeks-long-sessions of such work.

Although extremely boring, form drawing may have some benefits for children when they move on to work with letters in reading and writing, and numerals in arithmetic. This is the sort of benefit Eugene Schwartz mentions: 

“[I]t provides a good foundation for the letter recognition that is so central to reading, as well as numerical/spatial relationships that are so essential in arithmetic.”

But is there also a deeper, more spiritual reason for the emphasis on form drawing in Waldorf schools? Almost everything at Waldorf schools has a deep or spiritual purpose, so what is the spiritual rationale for form drawing? [2]

Rudolf Steiner taught that true cognition is not the use of the brain.

“[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 60. 

Rather, true cognition is clairvoyance, which is seated in spiritual “organs of clairvoyance" that are developed through spiritual exercises. 

“[O]rgans of clairvoyance build themselves.” — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 28.

The Waldorf curriculum is designed to lead children toward "true cognition," i.e., clairvoyance. This is why imagination is emphasized in Waldorf schools — Steiner taught that imagination is a form of clairvoyance. 

(“Essentially, people today have no inkling of how people looked out into the universe in ancient times when human beings still possessed an instinctive clairvoyance.... If we want to be fully human, however, we must struggle to regain a view of the cosmos that moves toward Imagination again.” — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 256.)

Form drawing has the same purpose as the use of imagination, according to Waldorf doctrine. The shapes children draw, over and over, are essentially geometric forms. [3] And here is the benefit of geometry, according to Waldorf doctrine: 

"Basic geometric concepts awaken clairvoyant abilities.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOURTH DIMENSION (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 92. 

To put this another way: 

“One of the many unique features of the Waldorf-Steiner Schools is the subject known as Form Drawing ... 'It rouses the soul from sleep and impels it towards the spirit. It makes us a true human being, allows us to behold the spirit and guides us towards the gods.’” — Van James, LANGUAGE OF THE LINE: a Reinvented Art-form of the Waldorf Schools ( 

Beholding the spirit, according to Waldorf belief, is achieved through the use of clairvoyance. [See "Clairvoyance".] A process that "allows us to behold the spirit and guides us towards the gods" is, in sum, the process of developing clairvoyance.

Unless you can endorse the goal of helping children to become clairvoyant, you probably should find a different form of schooling for your children.

[1] See, e.g., "Say What?" and "Weird Waldorf".

In Waldorf education, a "block" is a period of weeks during which a particular subject (math, history, geology...) is given priority. During a block, the first, longest lesson of each school day (the "main lesson") is devoted to the designated subject. Usually a block lasts three weeks or so — the children arrive in the morning, say a prayer together, and then settle down to study the subject of that block. When the block ends, the subject is dropped until later in the year or the following year, when it is taken up again in a new block.

[2] Devout Waldorf faculties generally deny or disguise their deeper purposes — they generally withhold their occult doctrines from the uninitiated, as Steiner instructed. [See, e.g., "Secrets".]

Simple form drawing may lead to the reproduction of more complex forms: knots, mandala shapes, even esoteric symbols. The results can have distinct esoteric significance, although children may not be told this.

[3] "Form drawing, the freehand drawing of geometric shapes, is a subject taught in Waldorf schools that is not offered in most other schools." — A statement posted by several Waldorf schools, e.g. the Holywood Steiner School, County Down, UK [].




A Reverent Curriculum

Let's step back and consider fundamentals.

What does the Waldorf curriculum ultimately aim to achieve?

Steiner emphasized the feeling of veneration. Waldorf schools attempt to inculcate this feeling in their students because Steiner said it is so important: 

“The student who is gifted with this feeling, or who is fortunate enough to have had it inculcated in a suitable education, brings a great deal along with him, when, later in life, he seeks admittance to higher knowledge.” [1] 

The “higher knowledge” Steiner refers to is not offered in college or through any regular form of higher education — he is talking about “admittance” to knowledge of the spiritual realm. Another word for “admittance” is “initiation.” The quotation I have given comes from a book in which Steiner spells out the steps needed to achieve occult initiation. 

When Waldorf schools attempt to provide the “suitable education” Steiner prescribed, they are trying to start the kids on the path toward occult initiation. This is spooky, but it is indeed what Steiner wanted — it is what he meant when he said Waldorf teachers are effectively priests: 

"The position of teacher becomes a kind of priestly office, a ritual performed at the altar of universal human life." [2] 

In passing, it is worth noting the titles of the books from which I am quoting. So far we have seen passages from KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT and THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION.

Some people, Steiner said, are fortunate enough to have a natural tendency toward veneration. 

“There are children who look up with religious awe to those whom they venerate. For such people they have a respect which forbids them, even in the deepest recess of their heart, to harbour any thought of criticism or opposition.” [3] 

Such veneration is tantamount to blind faith: Critical thinking is forbidden. Perhaps this is a good attitude for children to have — and, quite obviously, perhaps it is a terrible, terrible mistake. In either case, it is what Steiner wanted. Kids may start with it or Waldorf schools may inculcate it. And, importantly, adults need to have it, too, if they are to become Initiates — or so Steiner said. People who have it from the get-go will find the path to initiation easier, but no matter what, applicants for initiation need it.

“What was once a childish veneration for persons becomes, later, a veneration for truth and knowledge. Experience teaches that they can hold their heads erect, who have learnt to venerate when veneration is due; and veneration is always due when it flows from the depths of the heart. [paragraph break] If we do not develop within ourselves this deeply rooted feeling that there is something higher than ourselves, we shall never find the strength to evolve to something higher.” [4]

We should linger over this quotation. Let’s begin with points on which all of us, I hope, can agree. Yes, truth and knowledge should be held in high honor — they are our goals. And, yes, each individual should understand that there are things higher than one’s self. Unfortunately, agreement must break down at that point. What, for instance, do we mean by “something higher”? For many, this may be God. For others, it may be truth or knowledge. For some, it may be the general welfare of all life on earth, or all human life anyway, or one’s nation anyway, or one’s tribe, or one’s family... For Steiner, it is the gods themselves and their evolutionary plan for us.

Steiner’s conception of human evolution is baroque. I’ve discussed it elsewhere; I probably shouldn’t repeat that discussion now. [5] But an important characteristic of Steiner’s teachings on evolution is the rejection of Darwinian, scientific accounts of evolution, and indeed — to a great extent — rejection of ordinary (i.e., real) science in general. Steiner’s “veneration” of truth and knowledge was, in truth, extremely weak. He admired only his own teachings — his gnostic “spiritual science” — and the previous forms of occultism he drew upon. His preference, almost always, was for ancient superstition over modern science. 

How solid are the findings of Steiner’s own “spiritual science”? Steiner indicates the answer in the quotation we have just seen: “[V]eneration is always due when it flows from the depths of the heart.” This is a pretty sentiment, but it is obviously untrue. Our hearts mislead us time after time. We often love foolishly; we often venerate where veneration is not “due.” We would like to trust our hearts, but in truth maturity and wisdom teach us that we must often overrule our hearts. 

Of course, Steiner was not talking about unschooled hearts. He meant hearts and souls that had been disciplined according to the spiritual exercises of Anthroposophy. But, ultimately, those exercises are intended to create powers of clairvoyance (highly developed “intuition”, heartfelt inner perception of Truth) and, unfortunately, clairvoyance does not exist. Steiner’s entire system, pleasing as it may seem, depends upon the impossible: becoming clairvoyant. This is, clearly, a fatal flaw. [6]

In fact, Steiner demanded an even higher standard: We must develop “exact” clairvoyance: 

"Anthroposophy seeks for what may be called exact clairvoyance, again to borrow a term from scientific usage; that is to say it seeks to develop a knowledge and perception of the spiritual worlds which is no less exact, no less conscientious in the sense of exact science, than is the best tendency and striving of our natural scientific age." [7] 

But a capacity that does not exist cannot be sharpened and made exact. A sad irony in Steiner’s teachings is that, although he stressed truth and knowledge, his approach rules these out. No truth or knowledge can be attained through the use of the imaginary capacity of clairvoyance.

A quick aside: Steiner wanted his followers to perceive and comply with ”the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods.” [8] Anthroposophists, including Waldorf teachers, should know this plan better than anyone else, if they develop exact clairvoyance. But consider how many other people are equally sure that they know the divine plan or the will of God. The Pope and his adherents think that they are right (which implies that Steiner is wrong in every tenet that deviates from Church dogma, and almost all of his tenets do). Protestants have a different take on this: They are quite sure that they  are right. But Muslims know that they  possess the truth. But so do Hindus. But so do... 

Think where all this certain knowledge has gotten us. War after war, genocide after genocide, atrocity after atrocity has resulted from true believers attempting to implement their sure and certain knowledge of God’s will. I’d suggest that we all take a deep breath, step back, and admit that we do not and probably cannot know “the divine cosmic plan.” A little humility would become us.

But Steiner said he was sure that he knew the truth — not completely, perhaps, but quite “exactly” — and Anthroposophists generally proceed as if he spoke the truth. And an important part of this truth is the need for veneration:

“Have you ever paused outside the door of some venerated person, and have you, on this your first visit, felt a religious awe as you pressed on the handle to enter the room which for you is a holy place? If so, a feeling has been manifested within you, which may be the germ of your future adherence to the path of knowledge.” [9] 

Steiner was not claiming that he himself — or indeed any human being — should be worshipped. Adult veneration should be directed to truth and knowledge, he said. But he claimed an inhuman degree of knowledge, and he taught that spiritual seekers need to be uncritically accepting: 

"[To] unseal the lips of an Initiate [seekers must] begin with a fundamental attitude of the soul. In Spiritual Science this fundamental attitude is called the path of veneration." [10] 

The "Initiate" who stands at the center of Anthroposophy is Steiner himself.

An Initiate will tell you some of his/her secret wisdom only if you truly deserve it: 

“You may enjoy in the fullest sense, the heart, the love of an Initiate, yet he will only confide his knowledge to you, when you are ripe for it. You may flatter him; you may torture him....” but he will hold his tongue. [11] 

This is the language of fanatical belief, reflecting precisely the attitude that has caused humanity so much grief. And note that it is surely not the language of science. Imagine this: “You may enjoy in the fullest sense, the heart, the love of a scientist, yet he will only confide his knowledge to you, when you are ripe for it. You may flatter him; you may torture him....” This isn’t how science works, but it is how many religions — including Anthroposophy — work. Steiner’s own words lead us to the inescapable conclusion that in describing Anthroposophy he was describing a religion, not a science — although he himself seems not to have understood this.

Devotion or worship is not “due” to Steiner himself, according to Steiner; but it is “due” to his spiritualistic teachings. We must suspend our critical judgment, checking our brains at the door. Once again, remember that this is the “path” Waldorf schools try to steer students toward. 

“Our children already criticize much more than they worship. But every criticism, every adverse judgment passed, disperses the powers of the soul for the attainment of higher knowledge, in the same measure that all veneration and reverence develops them.” [12] 

Steiner often said things he didn’t really mean (if we can figure out what he meant at all, which can be a chore). Here, he presumably doesn’t really mean that all devotion is good; he probably only means that due devotion is good. In any event, he advocated devotion and he derogated critical thinking, at least in the realm of spiritual truths. Critical judgment has its uses, Steiner said; but not in the realm of spirit (which, conveniently, means not in the case of his own doctrines). 

Let’s be generous. Perhaps Steiner’s point is correct. Perhaps the proper way to approach spiritual matters is with our critical minds shut down. I would be surprised if God or the gods or evolution equipped us with brains that are of no use in the most important sphere of life, but perhaps this is the case. But if so, then there can be no such thing as “spiritual science.” The very essence of the scientific method is the sharing of results that others can confirm or overturn. This requires critical thought: analysis, scrutiny, logic. Anthroposophists sometimes act as if they think “critical thinking” is negative, destructive (being "critical" is taken to mean attacking, disparaging, finding fault where there is no fault). But the words “critical thinking” actually mean something else: They mean careful, logical examination. Anything that is true should be able to stand up under this form of scrutiny. Steiner said as much, almost. 

“Man could never have attained to the science, the industry, the commerce, the legal advantages of our time, had he not applied to all things the standard of his critical judgment. But what we have thereby gained in external nature, we have had to pay for with corresponding loss of higher knowledge of spiritual life.” [13] 

Again, Steiner apparently doesn’t quite mean what he says. He does not advocate the use of critical judgment to investigate “all things” — he exempts the most important things, spiritual truths. He exempts "higher knowledge of spiritual life" that he claimed to reveal.

Let’s remain generous. Steiner’s doctrines may be true; Anthroposophy may be the real deal. But there is nothing scientific involved. Steiner offered us a religion, which we can accept or not. Anyone who wants to be an Anthroposophist is free to do so. But s/he should not harbor any misconceptions: S/he is enrolling in a religion, not working in a field of science. S/he may believe the visions that arise in his/her “inner eye,” but that is my point. S/he believes.  S/he started out believing (s/he felt “religious awe” or s/he was given lessons in such veneration), and s/he proceeded to believe more and more, believing both what s/he was taught and what “clairvoyance” revealed. But this is all belief. At best, it is religion. At worst, it is self-deception, possibly neurotic, possibly worse.

“A first essential is a study of what has been given by the masters as spiritual knowledge, and this must be undertaken without preconceptions and misapprehensions.” [14] 

But how can we know that the reputed “masters” really are masters? And how can we choose among the various masters in various traditions? Steiner tried to paper over the differences in the religions and mythologies he adapted, but it doesn’t work. Some masters are devoted to a single God; others to multiple gods; some teach the doctrine of reincarnation; others reject this utterly; some say there are places we may call Heaven and Hell; others say not... How can we choose, at the very beginning, which masters to approach? How can we know which door to approach reverently? How can we know anything amid this welter of contradiction and confusion? The reason to reject critical thought in such matters is to wish away the contradictions and confusions. But is this truly the path to knowledge and truth?

To walk the occult path, you have to trust your gut, your heart, your imaginary psychic powers. Let’s say that you do feel religious awe, and you select a master to guide you toward Initiation. Let’s go further: Let’s say you choose Steiner or one of his Anthroposophical successors as your "master." And let’s say you do all the imaginative exercises developed in Anthroposophy. And you recite Anthroposophical prayers and mantras. And you fulfill, to the very best of human ability, all the other requirements of Anthroposophy. And let’s say it works! You become wonderfully, exactly clairvoyant. You know the divine cosmic plan, and you perceive angels above you and fairies around you and goblins below you! Wow! 

But how do you know you aren’t hallucinating? How do you know that you aren’t fooling yourself, hypnotizing or otherwise deceiving yourself? The things you feel and "know" sure look, to the rational mind, like hallucinatory inventions. If all you have to go by is your subjective experience — and this is all you have, if you are following Steiner’s rules — then you cannot be certain about anything that you think you know. [15] You cannot distinguish clairvoyant vision from imagined possibility or from delirium. You are at sea in a welter of visions that may be — some of them or all of them — utterly false. How can you sort this out? Critical thinking might help you here, but such thinking is toxic, according to Steiner.

I am sorry. It would be wonderful to have direct access to higher worlds (if they exist); it would be wonderful to be clued into the divine plan (if it exists). But Steiner did not show that these things exist, and he did not provide a method for learning that they exist. He provided a system that is indistinguishable from self-hypnosis and delusion. As a science, it is void; as a religion, it is hazardous if it lures us away from reality and into delusion. 

All of this is a bit depressing, I suppose. But it needn’t be. Having clear minds, so that we perceive the universe as it actually is, is a marvelous alternative goal for us to work toward. If we concentrate on achieving this goal, we will may make great strides. But, sadly or not, this will mean rejecting fantasies such as those Steiner peddled. I’ll put this in the sweetest way I can. Steiner’s system is an elaborated version of an ancient human aspiration. We wish, we wish, we wish for our dreams to come true. We long for life to be more fulfilling, more meaningful, more magical.

Probably every human who ever lived has had such wishes. But we can't move in the direction of our aspiration by telling ourselves falsehoods. It’s time for us to grow up and smell the coffee. There’s a real world out there for us to explore and enjoy — and save. I’d suggest we try being good stewards of the real world, and leave our fairy tales where they belong, in the nursery.

— Roger Rawlings





Footnotes for this Section

[1] Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 11.

A newer translation bears the clearer title: HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS (Anthroposophic Press, 1994).


Steiner's followers have embraced this concept. 

“The proximity to the teachings of reincarnation results in a notion of education as an aid in incarnation and spiritual development. The educator becomes the child's priest and spiritual leader.” — Heiner Ullrich, RUDOLF STEINER (Continuum Library of Educational Thought, 2008), p. 81.


[4] Ibid., p. 10.

[5] See, e.g., “Evolution, Anyone?

[6] I cannot prove that clairvoyance does not exist. But no one has proven that it does exist. 

“After thousands of experiments, a reproducible ESP phenomenon has never been discovered, nor has any individual convincingly demonstrated a psychic ability [sic; emphasis by Myers].” — David G. Myers, PSYCHOLOGY (Worth Publishers, 2004), p. 260.

To see why we can confidently say that, in all probability, clairvoyance does not exits, see “Clairvoyance”. (To see some of the fruits of Steiner’s clairvoyance, see “Steiner’s Blunders”.)

[7] Lecture, "Knowledge and Initiation - Cognition of the Christ Through Anthroposophy" (Steiner Book Centre, 1983), GA 211.

[8] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55. 


[10] Ibid., p. 10.

[11] Ibid., p. 9.

[12] Ibid., p. 11.

[13] Ibid., p. 11.

[14] Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION, The Waldorf School Approach (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996.), p. 117. 

[15] In part, you are going on what your master has told you. But you choose the master on the basis of your subjective sense of religious awe, and you can ultimately test the master’s teachings only through your subjective heartfelt clairvoyant visions (which have no probative value).







Here is another item from the Waldorf Watch News.

Benefits of Knitting program at Waldorf School Jan. 21 

Knitting is the perfect antidote to life in the fast world we live in. It offers a very tangible way to connect with yourself and to create something truly useful as well as beautiful. In a world where technological advances such as electronic books, food processors, bread machines, etc., have deprived us of many of life's tactile pleasures, the feeling of yarn and the steady repetition of stitch after stitch is a restorative tonic, producing not a virtual experience that can be altered with a single click, but a real and tangible something. 

The White Mountain Waldorf School [New Hampshire, USA] will host an open house on Jan. 21 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the topic of the benefits of knitting. 

In Waldorf schools, knitting is one component of the first grade curriculum and kindergarten children are taught to finger knit before they learn to do math. 


Waldorf Watch Response:

People are often surprised — and sometimes charmed — that knitting plays such a large role in Waldorf education. Knitting has many potential benefits, and Waldorf schools have become adept at making their fixation on knitting seem reasonable. But as with most other practices at Waldorf schools, the real reasons for the emphasis on knitting are to be found in the occult doctrines of Rudolf Steiner. 

Steiner said children are born four times. The physical body is born first, and then at about age seven the “etheric body” (an invisible constellation of formative forces) is incarnated, followed by the “astral body” (soul forces) at age 14 and the “ego body” (spiritual selfhood) at age 21. 

In line with these doctrines, Steiner said young children should not do much brainwork such as arithmetic; instead, they should concentrate on developing their physical bodies so as to prepare themselves for their second births, the arrival of their etheric bodies. Knitting and other physical activities are meant to assist in the perfection of the physical body. 

The incarnation of the etheric body is signaled by the replacement of baby teeth by adult teeth, according to Steiner. Dental care is given great significance in the Waldorf worldview, and — strangely — it is believed to be connected in deep, esoteric ways to knitting. 

“Go into our needlework classes and handicraft classes at the Waldorf School, and you will find the boys knit and crochet as well as the girls ... This is not the result of any fad or whim ... [T]o drive the soul into the fingers means to promote all the forces that go to build up sound teeth.” — Rudolf Steiner, SPIRITUAL SCIENCE AND MEDICINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1948), lecture 17, GA 312. 

In other words, 

“Bad teeth, the cause lies in the soul/spirit ... Knitting develops good teeth.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 112.

Fundamentally, Waldorf education arises from a mystical, anti-intellectual ideology. Arts and crafts are emphasized while brainwork is viewed askance. You see, according to Rudolf Steiner, 

“[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition.” — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (SteinerBooks, 1996), p. 60. 

Actual cognition, according to Steiner, is clairvoyance. 

If any of this (etheric bodies, clairvoyance, building sound teeth through knitting...) seems odd to you, perhaps Waldorf education is not right for you and your children. 

[For more on these matters, see, e.g., “Incarnation”, “Holistic Education”, “Nutshell”, “Curriculum”, “Thinking Cap”, “Thinking”, and “Steiner’s Specific”.] 


Curricular Clairvoyance

The Waldorf curriculum teaches children to rely on imaginative modes of thought, as opposed to rational or "materialistic" thinking. [1] In broad terms, Waldorf schools favor cognition that comes through the heart or soul rather than through the brain. Three types of heartfelt, soulful thinking are usually identified by Waldorf spokespeople (drawing directly from Steiner): imagination, inspiration, and intuition. According to Anthroposophical belief, these forms of thought can lead to the development of clairvoyance. Moreover, when these forms of thought are heightened and disciplined, they actually become stages of clairvoyance. (Sometimes a distinction is made so that references to the heightened forms are capitalized. Thus, a child dreaming up an image uses "imagination," whereas an Anthroposophist producing a true clairvoyant visualization uses "Imagination.") 

Whether they are talking about ordinary capacities or clairvoyant powers, Anthroposophists rank the three kinds of heartfelt thinking. Imagination is the first or lowest stage, inspiration is the second stage, and intuition is the third or highest stage.

Waldorf educator John F. Gardner, who for many years headed an American Waldorf school, delves into these subjects in his book YOUTH LONGS TO KNOW (Anthroposophic Press, 1997). Here are some excerpts. (Gardner's language, like Steiner's, is mystical. To help clarify, I have added some commentary in the text and in endnotes. The italicizations in the following passages are Gardner's own emphases.)

Gardner attempts to explain what young people want, and he proceeds to address these desires.

"[Y]oung souls...want first of all to experience life as life, with vitality and immediacy. And they long to find a meaning in life that transcends the conventional goals and routines. And they long finally to touch the ultimate higher ground of being [i.e., divinity] ... The power that can fulfill the first longing was called Imagination [2] by the idealists, romanticists, and transcendentalists of the last century. [3] Rudolf Steiner chose the same term. He called the second power Inspiration. The last power, because it penetrates to the core of existence, he said deserves the name Intuition." — YOUTH LONGS TO KNOW, pp. 18-19.

To repeat: These three powers are, according to Anthroposophical belief, stages of clairvoyance. Gardner refers to clairvoyance, as we will see, but he does so cautiously. He distinguishes the higher, clairvoyant forms of imagination, inspiration, and intuition from their lower, ordinary forms; but his exposition also blurs the difference between the high and the low, the clairvoyant and the non-clairvoyant. 

According to Gardner — consistent with Steiner — imagination is not whimsy or fantasy. Rightly understood and rightly employed, imagination produces truth, not fiction. When we make good, ardent use of imagination, Gardner says, 

" itself transformed. It becomes pictorial and its pictures move. [4] Thinking becomes seeing ... Imagination is the ability to see knowingly and to know seeingly. It transforms facts and thoughts into something new, making what is outward more inward so that it can be felt. [5] It makes what is inward more outward so that it can be vividly seen and grasped [6] ... When a concrete fact is truly imagined, it dissolves, as it were, into currents of life. We approach the living reality out of which this fact has been precipitated."  — YOUTH LONGS TO KNOW, pp. 20-21. [7]

Higher than imagination, according to Gardner and Steiner, is inspiration. Imagination produces images; inspiration produces music, in a sense: harmonies and lyrics that convey truth to the heart and soul. Intuition thus augments imagination, adding to imagination's 

"creative, living pictures, the further experience of the world as utterance and tone. Rudolf Steiner called this experience Inspiration... 'One begins to "hear" what is occurring at the heart of things ... The world begins to express its true nature to the soul ... The inspired person is able to proclaim the inner nature of things....'" — YOUTH LONGS TO KNOW, p. 22.  [8]

One step higher still is intuition. When you have a true intuition, you bypass ordinary ways of acquiring information and ordinary ways of thinking about that information: You simply know something without having to ponder how you know it — wisdom comes to you instantaneously, as it were, out of the blue. At its heightened, developed form, intuition is exact, reliable clairvoyance [9] and as such it brings deep knowledge of the deepest things. 

"[T]he human being ultimately wants to know the world as the manifestation of divine being. Beyond the passing life and soul of things, there is a hunger for intuitions of eternal spirit ... Intuition in this meaning is the highest form of knowledge." — YOUTH LONGS TO KNOW, pp. 25-26.

In Waldorf belief, "cognition" — that is, knowing — truly comes only when one rises through imagination to inspiration and then to intuition. And, since education is ultimately concerned with gaining knowledge or truth, these forms of "thought" must be education's core concerns. Only through these "powers" can we really know what we most long to know. 

"When imagination has risen to become inspired, and inspiration in turn has ascended the further step to become intuitive, the 'resistless' fire of knowing [10] comes into its own. Reaching through derivative life and soul to the causative, creative spirit-fire within and behind all things, cognition at last arrives." — YOUTH LONGS TO KNOW, p. 26.

Arriving at true, pure intuition — that is, attaining true, "exact" clairvoyance — is the goal of Anthroposophical training and self-discipline. This is a pursuit for adults, not children. When Waldorf teachers work as they should, they do not presume to bring children to such a high condition; the attainment of exact clairvoyance generally lies beyond the limits of childhood. Anthroposophists believe children have a natural connection with the spirit realm, especially in their earliest years [11]; and they credit children with latent clairvoyant potential. But they think humanity at large has lost its ancient clairvoyant powers, and as a rule true clairvoyance can be attained today only by mature, conscientious spiritual scientists who follow Rudolf Steiner's prescriptive guidance. [12] However, by stressing imagination, inspiration, and intuition at a lower, child-appropriate level, Waldorf teachers can steer their students toward the possibility of developing exact clairvoyance eventually. [13]

Reaching "higher knowledge" or clairvoyance is the goal, and the focus on this goal is implicit throughout the Waldorf curriculum. But Gardner argues that Waldorf schools confer great benefits even for individuals who do not manage to reach the goal. The powers of imagination, inspiration, and intuition are certainly within the grasp of students, he says. Exercising these can lead them to the threshold of clairvoyance; and the exercise will benefit even those students who never manage to pass over the threshold during their current earthly lives:

"What if — as may be expected — the vast majority of young people never attain any of the stages of higher knowledge during this life? ... Every young person who is guided toward the path of spiritual development will surely receive great gifts ... Much is attempted in this sense by Waldorf schools ... Without reaching the initial stage of clairvoyance, which Steiner calls Imagination(with a capital I), young people's imagination may nevertheless be strengthened. As a result they will have a greater ability to enjoy life, because they begin to feel its pulse and power [14] ... At the same time, disciplined imagination offers the ability to convert mere thought into practical energy and skill. [15] ... Without arriving at Inspiration, as Steiner understood it, youth can still be inspired to great effect. [16] For example, right education [17] can have the result that someone who is not at all clairvoyant will nevertheless be inspired through sleep. [18] ... Where will we see evidence of progress toward Intuition? We will see it in the almost magical ability to accomplish one's ideal. Everything done deeply and permanently enough is done through grace ... To live under grace is to have, as the meaning of one's life, an objective spiritual task." — YOUTH LONGS TO KNOW, pp. 37-38.

Gardner says imagination, inspiration, and intuition are ultimately forms of clairvoyance, but these capacities benefit children even at the lower, non-clairvoyant level. The quest for "higher knowledge" takes students "toward the path of spiritual development." This is the central objective of Waldorf education. The true path, from an Anthroposophical perspective, is of course the path of Anthroposophy. Waldorf schools direct children toward that path — the students will benefit from moving in the right direction, even if for some of them the path remains largely untrodden. Leading children toward the path is the important thing. "Much is attempted in this sense by Waldorf schools." 

The Waldorf educational process is distinctly spiritual or, to use a word Gardner shies from, religious. "Progress toward Intuition" involves "grace" — a religious concept — and the discovery of one's "spiritual task." The Waldorf curriculum is intended to help both teachers and students find "the meaning of one's life." Waldorf teachers work to convey "the almost magical ability" to attain the ideal, spiritual purposes of life; they devote themselves to spiritual tasks defined by Anthroposophy, focusing the presumed effects of Anthroposophy on their students. Indeed, Steiner said that ideally Waldorf teachers should develop "the Waldorf teacher's consciousness" — which is tantamount to exact clairvoyance. [19] Training to become a Waldorf teacher is, in many ways, indistinguishable from training to become an Anthroposophist. [20]

From the Waldorf perspective, educating children in the normal sense — conveying knowledge about the real world, and helping children to develop skills for their lives in the real world — are largely beside the point. Waldorf teachers who keep their higher calling firmly in mind have spiritual intentions for their students. They want to empower the students for spiritual aspiration. 

"Teachers then actually lift and enable; they do not merely explain and correct." — YOUTH LONGS TO KNOW, p. 38. 

This is "right education," according to Gardner, taking his lead from Steiner — this is what Waldorf education is meant to offer. 

Waldorf education might make sense, if only its central value — clairvoyance — were real. But it is not. Clairvoyance is a phantasm; it does not exist. [21] The absence of clairvoyance leaves a gaping void at the center of the Waldorf enterprise. The heart of Waldorf education is hollow, missing. The dream that Rudolf Steiner outlined, and that acolytes such as John Gardner eloquently endorse, proves upon rational inspection to be nothing more than a glittering fantasy. It's too bad. But luring children into a fantasy is quite different from giving them a real education.


Disclosure Statement

I knew John Gardner. I was a student at the Waldorf school he led, and in fact my mother was for several years his personal secretary at the school. As far as I know, however, he wrote the material from which I have quoted long after I graduated and long after my mother stopped working at the school. To the best of my knowledge, no one named Rawlings played any role in the production of that material.

I admired Mr. Gardner, and I take no pleasure today in pointing out the emptiness of his inspirational rhetoric. Mr. Gardner, who died in 1998, is still held in high regard within the Anthroposophical movement. For some of my personal memories of him, see, e.g., "I Went to Waldorf".

— Roger Rawlings

Footnotes for this Section

[1] See, e.g., "Thinking Cap" and "Steiner's Specific".

[2] The word appearing in Gardner's text is "Inspiration," but this clearly is a typo, so I have fixed it. Inspiration is the second "power" Garnder names, coming after Imagination.

[3] In most of his writing, Gardner attempted to support Steiner by referring to other writers and thinkers whose work might be interpreted (or misinterpreted) as consistent with Steiner's. Gardner especially turned to American authors of the nineteenth century ("the last century" for Gardner, who wrote in the twentieth century), hoping to make Steiner's distinctly Germanic occultism seem acceptable on the American side of the Atlantic.

[4] Clearly, Gardner is not here talking about imagination as fantasy or make-believe. He is talking about a power that produces truth. In Anthroposophical discourse, the true pictures created by imagination are often called "imaginations."

[5] Waldorf education generally downsplays facts or ordinary knowledge, just as it is leery of ordinary consciousness and cognition. Waldorf schooling stands in opposition to "fact-based education." — Waldorf teacher Jack Petrash, UNDERSTANDING WALDORF EDUCATION (Nova Institute, 2002), p. 26. Here Gardner speak of using imagination to internalize what one perceives in the outer world, making it a felt inner reality. (Whether this is a process of finding truth or distorting reality is, obviously, the key question for you, the reader, to decide.) In the Waldorf universe, what we feel is almost always more important than what we think.

[6] This is the flip side of imagination, giving outer form — pictorial shape — to inner conceptions that otherwise would be inchoate.

[7] Behind the mere factual, outer form of things, Anthroposophists believe, is the inner or spiritual essence of these things. Imagination — especially in its clairvoyant form — penetrates to the inner truth.

[8] Gardner here quotes Steiner. To be inspired is to be, in a sense, possessed: Instead of simply seeing imagined pictures, you feel inspirational tones deep within you. Anyone who has ever been deeply moved by music will understand what Gardner and Steiner are trying to convey. As Gardner says, 

"[Y]outh longs to see with the eyes of the soul, through imagination. It longs also to hear with the soul's ears [through inspiration]." — p. 22.

[9] See "Exactly".

[10] That is, the burning, inner certainty of pure, true, spiritual intuition.

[11] See "Thinking Cap".

[12] See "Knowing the Worlds."

[13] Not all Anthroposophists and Waldorf teachers see these things in the same light. Some speak of "natural" or "everyday" clairvoyance existing widely today, and some see it exercised by both children and adults. The summary description I have given is based on Steiner's own teachings. He said that, in the past, most people were naturally clairvoyant, but natural psychic powers have been largely lost today. Attaining real clairvoyance today is difficult and rare. In the future, however, clairvoyance will again be common. [See the entries for "Jupiter consciousness", "Venus consciousness", and "Vulcan consciousness" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]  

[14] The "beginning" made in this way is part of the process of being "guided toward the path" of Anthroposophy. This is what, Gardner says, Waldorf schools do ("Much is attempted in this sense by Waldorf schools").

[15] The ultimate form of "disciplined imagination" is the clairvoyant form of Imagination that Anthroposophists seek to achieve through their spiritual/mental exercises. At a lower level, Waldorf students are guided along the path of disciplining imagination in a form that stops short of clairvoyance.

[16] In other words, inspiration is valuable even when it stops short of clairvoyance. Note, too, that inspiration in this lower sense is not necessarily a private, inward process. Instead, it can be provided by a wise teacher — the teacher inspires the child to feel, think, or do as the teacher deems best.

[17] I.e., Waldorf education, which perhaps uniquely embodies the correct vision of education.

[18] Anthroposophists believe that much wisdom can be attained through sleep and dreams. [See, e.g., "Dreams".] Steiner taught that during sleep some portions of the human being — specifically the astral body and the "I" — ascend from Earth into the spirit realm, returning refreshed and wiser in the morning. [See, e.g., "Oh Humanity".]

[19] See "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness".

[20] See "Teacher Training".

[21] See "Clairvoyance".  










Waldorf Watch consists of a great many pages, many of which contain multiple sections. Throughout, I have tried to write in such a way that even newcomers — who may know little or nothing about Rudolf Steiner and his doctrines — will be able to follow the discussion. One drawback to this approach is that I often have to repeat points I have made before, elsewhere at the site. I ask for your forbearance. When you come upon quotations or other material that I have presented previously, please remember the reason for this redundancy, and skip ahead. Further down on that page or the next page, you should soon find less familiar material.      





A note about URL's (Web addresses) and links to them: These may become outdated. Owners of websites may remove pages, change their locations, etc. I work to maintain the URL's and links at my own websites, but I cannot control what happens elsewhere. If any URL's or links I present here prove to be outdated, I apologize. They were all current when I wrote the various essays at my sites, and perhaps with a little Internet sleuthing you may be able to find materials that otherwise seem to have vanished or been altered.

— R.R.