This is a continuation of the essay "Unenlightened." 

II. Waldorf’s Purpose 

Ours was a school of secrets. To explain how it operated, I need to risk repeating myself somewhat. Our teachers — most of whom I admired — did not spell out their spiritualistic goals for us. They rarely mentioned Anthroposophy, and — except on a few rare occasions — they did not explicitly teach us any of its doctrines. Nonetheless, those members of the faculty who knew and accepted Steiner’s teachings necessarily sought to shape us in conformity with those doctrines. It is only now, in long retrospect and after considerable research, that I can give a clear account of how and why it was done. Of course, I could have informed myself about Anthroposophy when I was still in high school. As far as I can remember, Steiner’s books were not displayed in ordinary bookstores in those days, but I could have ordered them from Anthroposophical presses. The parents of my schoolmates probably should have done the same. If anyone who gets involved with a Waldorf school winds up feeling deceived, s/he must accept part of the responsibility.

At one level, our Waldorf operated very nearly in the open. Our teachers tried to augment each student’s mental, emotional, and physical capacities. This is the purpose Waldorf schools usually ascribe to themselves. Check, for instance, another statement from the AWSNA website: 

“Waldorf teachers strive to transform education in to [sic] an art that educates the whole child — the heart and the hands, as well as the head.” [1] 

The schools aim to help students to better themselves. Very good. 

But much lies behind that aim. It is important to realize that an Anthropological definition of “the whole child” covers several special tenets, which range from the slightly to the extremely unusual. Let’s start with this: Anthroposophy concerns itself with the child’s “soul” and the child’s “spirit.” Outside esoteric doctrines, these terms are usually interchangeable, but Steiner drew distinctions between them. Sometimes he connected the terms, referring to the “spirit-soul” (or occasionally the “soul-spirit”), but more commonly in his teachings “soul” refers to the essence of an individual renewed during various physical incarnations, while “spirit” implies a higher, undying member representing the authority of the spiritual realm: 

“The soul must not be impelled, through the body, to lusts and passions ... The spirit, however, must not stand as a slave-driver over the soul, dominating it with laws and commandments....” [2] 

So human beings have both souls and spirits.

The whole child also has a karma. 

"[T]he law of karma answers the great human question: why are children born into such widely differing conditions? For instance, we see one child born to wealth, perhaps endowed also with great talents and surrounded by the most loving care. And we see another child born to poverty and misery, perhaps with few talents or abilities, and so apparently predestined to failure ... [W]hen a child is born, it is not for the first time: he has been on Earth many times before. Now in the external world the rule of cause and effect prevails, as everyone recognises, and it is this great natural law of cause and effect which we see, carried over into the spiritual realm, as the law of karma." [3]

The whole child also has an aura. 

◊ "Here on earth, a person's aura carries a kind of remnant of the things he received when he had ascended to the spiritual world [in sleep or death]." [4] 

◊ "Whereas what we call the child's aura hovers around it during its earliest years like a wonderful human and superhuman power and, being really the higher part of the child, is continued on into the spiritual world, at the moment to which memory goes back, this aura sinks more into the inner being of the child." [5] 

A related Anthroposophical belief is that during life on Earth, every true human being incarnates nonphysical bodies (such as the “etheric body” and the “astral body”). I will discuss these bodies later. The factor to contemplate now is that each “whole child” is involved in the process of these incarnations, and a Steiner-inspired education will take these incarnations into account. The various bodies developed during planetary stages of human evolution, according to Steiner. The details aren't important to us just now, but take warning from the weirdness of Steiner's words: 

“Man's physical body was prepared on Saturn; on the Sun was added the etheric or life body ... It took what the physical body had already become by itself, and worked on it further. On the Moon was added the astral body; this still further altered the form of the [physical] body. On Saturn the physical body was very simple, on the Sun it was much more complicated ... On the Moon the astral body was added, and on the Earth the ego....” [6]

The concept of a “whole child” includes all of the child’s senses, naturally. Steiner taught that human beings have twelve senses: 

“First, we have the four senses of touch, life, movement and balance. These senses are primarily permeated by will ... The next group of senses, namely smell, taste, sight and temperature are primarily senses of feeling ... I need to add that the sense of I and the senses of thought, hearing and speech are more cognitive senses....” [7] 

Some parts of that quotation probably need clarification. The “sense of the I” is one’s sense of spiritual self-knowledge: “the spiritual sense of our Self.” [8] As for “cognitive senses,” Steiner said that there are several ways for an individual to gain knowledge, including some that function while one is dreaming or asleep. [9] Deep knowledge of the spirit world becomes available when one develops the necessary “organs” for clairvoyance: 

“You see, the organs of clairvoyance must be developed from within, but we develop our capacity for judgment in conjunction with the outer world....” [10]

To quote one of Steiner’s adherents on a related matter: Teachers can lead children along the correct developmental path by helping them to preserve, as much as possible, the “dream-like yet intensely real awareness of spiritual worlds” that children innately possess. [11] This nearly unconscious psychic power is also a component of the “whole child.”

Steiner set forth other interesting tenets concerning children’s faculties, children's growth (e.g., the three seven-year-long stages of childhood development), and children's temperaments (phlegmatic, melancholic, etc.: based on the ancient concept of humours). [12] But we’ve already covered enough ground to make the point: A child attending a full-fledged Waldorf school will be educated in accordance with Steiner’s dubious theory of human nature. The effects on the child may be profound — profoundly harmful, if Steiner's theory is false. Emphasizing dreams and clairvoyance, as opposed to rational thought (which Steiner deemphasized and even dismissed), suggests that the Steiner approach is fundamentally flawed; certainly, it sets Waldorf education in opposition to most legitimate forms of education, which emphasize use of the brain.

This leads us to an even more fundamental subject. True-believing Anthroposophists know that Steiner had loftier intentions than simply trying to improve each child — he aimed to improve all of humanity, and his conception of human improvement was stupendous. Steiner claimed that he could peer far into the times to come and that he had seen the future course of humanity’s development. Here is the heart of the Waldorf mission as laid out by Steiner: Teachers should conduct children’s education in conformity with the gods’ (note the plural: gods') benevolent intentions. They should train students to climb the evolutionary ladder, assisting them to develop into ever-more-perfected beings. Preserving the children from becoming automatons, the teachers should direct them toward the supersensible realm. Eventually, students who are correctly led will pass through numerous upward-evolving reincarnations until they become pure spirits, liberated from physical embodiment.

The educational mission I have just now described is hard to reconcile with a normal sense of reality. And because, by implication, I am attributing that mission to teachers of mine who were silent on the subject, I incur a strong moral obligation to present a detailed, coherent explanation of my assertions. I will do my best to give such an explanation now. 

I should start by saying that I want to be scrupulously fair. Probably some of my teachers took jobs at Waldorf simply because they needed work. Others may have chosen the school intentionally but without having made an extensive study of Steiner’s books and lectures. Teachers in these categories almost surely had no deep spiritualistic designs on their students. At most, they would have felt a warm, fuzzy sense of spirituality within Waldorf’s walls. They participated in an occult system that has significant potential to harm children, but — to varying degrees — they did so unwittingly. Surely some thought that Steiner’s doctrines offered interesting “insights” into the stages of childhood development, leading to educational approaches intended to help each child fulfill his or her potential. Nothing more than that — nothing about reincarnation, spiritual evolution, the “gods” (plural) and their “divine cosmic plan,” organs of clairvoyance, the demon Ahriman, planetary colonies, and other occult mysteries. I freely stipulate that everyone at my Waldorf school had the best of intentions. However, I think it is essential for us to realize what Rudolf Steiner wanted Waldorf education to accomplish and what his doctrines truly entail.

While some of our teachers may have known little about Steiner’s occult doctrines, others — true devotees of Anthroposophy — would have known them well. Most of these faculty members presumably would have accepted Steiner’s vision of their messianic purpose in the service of “spiritual powers.” Here are remarks Steiner made to the first Waldorf teachers in August, 1919:

“We can accomplish our work only if we do not see it as simply a matter of intellect or feeling, but, in the highest sense, as a moral spiritual task. Therefore, you will understand why, as we begin this work today, we first reflect on the connection we wish to create from the very beginning between our activity and the spiritual worlds.... Thus, we wish to begin our preparation by first reflecting upon how we connect with the spiritual powers in whose service and in whose name each one of us must work.” [13]

Many people would appreciate an educational plan that emphasizes spirituality. If you are one, please consider the specific nature of Steiner’s spiritualism. He does not speak of service to God, for instance — he refers to “spiritual powers,” plural, or “gods,” plural. His philosophy entails reincarnation, among other tenets derived from Eastern religions. His views, thus, are heretical by the standards of devout Christianity, and they are deeply mistaken by the standards of the other major monotheistic faiths, Judaism and Islam. 

Addressing Waldorf School teachers, Steiner initially made the spiritual goal of Waldorf schooling seem innocuous (if vague): 

“The task of education is to bring the soul-spirit into harmony with the temporal body...because when the child is born into the physical world they [i.e., soul-spirit and body] do not yet properly fit each other.” [14] 

So the goal is to accommodate the very young child to its new life, bringing its physical and spiritual components into harmony with one another. But Steiner later revealed a broader vision that extends beyond the very young. Addressing his teachers in September, 1919, Steiner said, 

“Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods, that we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” [15] 

The goal for teachers at Waldorf schools, then — “in a certain sense” — is to save the world by serving as conduits of the gods’ benevolent intentions. Waldorf teachers are, “in a certain sense,” the means of fulfilling the divine plan. Waldorf teachers, then, are engaged in a messianic mission.

Defenders of Waldorf education sometimes argue that Steiner’s Anthroposophical preachments have no bearing on his educational principles. Unfortunately, the argument doesn’t hold water. In July, 1920, Steiner explicitly linked Waldorf education to the objectives of Anthroposophy. He made the following statement to Waldorf teachers at a faculty meeting in the first Waldorf school:

“The task of Anthroposophy is not simply to replace a false view of the world with a correct one ... The nature of Anthroposophy is to strive not only toward another idea, but toward other deeds, namely, to tear the spirit and soul from the physical body. The task is to raise the spirit-soul into the realm of the spiritual, so that the human being is no longer a thinking and feeling automaton ... [H]uman beings are in danger of losing their spirit-soul. What exists today in the physical [realm] as an impression of the spirit-soul, exists because so many people think that way [i.e., like automatons], because the spirit-soul is asleep. The human being is thus in danger of drifting into the Ahrimanic world [the realm ruled by a demonic enemy of human evolution], in which case the spirit-soul will evaporate into the cosmos. We live in a time when people face the danger of losing their souls to materialistic impulses. That is a very serious matter. We now stand confronted with that fact. That fact is actually the secret that will become increasingly apparent, and out of which we can act fruitfully. Such things as the pedagogy of the Waldorf School can arise from a recognition that humanity must turn toward spiritual activity, and not simply from a change in theory. We should work out of that spirit.” [16] 

Steiner was speaking to Waldorf teachers, specifying the spirit in which they should approach their work, and he could hardly have put his case more forcefully. (Granted, he might have put parts of it more clearly.) Mankind stands at a crisis point, in danger of losing its spirit-soul. Already the spirit-soul is asleep, so there is almost no impression of the spirit-soul to be found in our material world. And worse may lie ahead: We may drift into the clutches of Ahriman, a demonic partner/rival of Lucifer. [See "Ahriman" and "Lucifer".] We are threatened, in other words, with descent into soulless materialism. We must act to avert this catastrophe. The task of Anthroposophy — and, by extension, of Waldorf pedagogy — is to free mankind from bondage in the material realm, which turns people into automatons. To put this a bit differently, the task is to “raise” individuals toward greater spirituality. Hence “the pedagogy of the Waldorf School” becomes possible, and Steiner tells his teachers how they can “act fruitfully”, helping to save humanity by assisting it to “turn toward spiritual activity”. Taking Steiner at his word, the goals of Anthroposophy and Waldorf pedagogy are spiritualistic and closely related to one another if not identical. (I will return to the question of human automatons — one of Steiner’s more deplorable concepts. And we will meet Ahriman again as we proceed through Steiner’s dogmas.)

Steiner’s spiritualistic intentions for his school were never far from the surface. A believer in reincarnation, he taught that “[P]eople live repeated earthly lives.” [17] In September, 1920, he considered giving older students guarded instruction about reincarnation, to show them how their conduct in one life can raise them to higher levels in the next life:

“For the seventh, eighth, and ninth grade independent religious instruction we could move into a freer form and give a theoretical explanation about such things as life before birth and after death. We could give them examples. We could show them how to look at the major cultural connections and about the mission of the human being on Earth. You need only look at Goethe and Jean Paul [i.e., Johann Paul Friedrich Richter, a German author] to see it. You can show everywhere that their capacities come from a life before birth.” [18]

The gist of such instruction would be that those who live properly in one life advance in the next — they progress — while those who live improperly suffer the karmic penalty — they regress. Advancing humans carry with them humanity’s evolutionary future. It is worth considering what effects a belief in reincarnation entails. Individuals who are born into lowly circumstances — poverty, oppression, perhaps illness — deserve these conditions, it is their karmic due. The purpose of their lives is to work out the consequences of errors they committed in previous lives. They brought their sufferings on themselves. Helping or curing these sufferers may be a grave error, for they must be left to endure their karmic fates.

Whether or not Waldorf teachers instruct their students about reincarnation or Steiner’s theory of evolution, these key beliefs should shape their intentions for their students, according to Steiner. No conscientious teacher would want to consign students to lower evolutionary levels in their coming lives. So they should accept each student’s current state of evolution and try to assist her/him to climb higher in the lives to come. At the Garden City Waldorf, I heard only a few tangential references to reincarnation, but our teachers did sometimes inform us about a distinctly non-Darwinian theory of evolution. It was one of the very few Anthroposophical doctrines that was openly revealed (although the teachers did not identify it as a piece of Anthroposophy). I will relate what Waldorf’s headmaster had to say about evolution in a following essay.

The importance Steiner placed on evolution is stated in the introduction to OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE: 

“Evolution is the great theme of this book and, indeed, of Steiner’s life work. It is, however, an evolution that goes far beyond anything dreamed of today in biology or geology.” [19] 

Among the remarkable statements Steiner made on the subject of evolution is the following:

“Souls whose development has been delayed will have accumulated so much error, ugliness, and evil in their karma that they temporarily form a distinct union of evil and aberrant human beings who vehemently oppose the community of good human beings. 

“In the course of its development, the good portion of humankind will learn to use the Moon forces to transform the evil part [of mankind] so that it can participate in further evolution as a distinct [i.e., separate] earthly kingdom.” [20] 

To summarize: For Anthroposophists, spiritual advancement is the goal, and it entails reincarnation and the karmic consequences of one’s behavior in each life: determining whether one advances or degenerates. Steiner’s professed hope was to promote human evolution to the highest possible degree of spirituality. This is the “divine cosmic plan” for humanity's advancement. Waldorf pedagogy is bound up in Steiner’s vision of this advancement; indeed, it is a key element, since Waldorf teachers are “the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world”. Waldorf teachers would fail in their “moral spiritual task” if they did not move their students in the direction Steiner specified: toward “spiritual activity”. Few tasks could be more important. As Steiner said, delaying the development of a human soul can have the most awful consequences. Of course, teachers can only assist children to make the modest gains possible in a single incarnation, which may help explain why Waldorfers often describe their goals in modest terms. Still, if Waldorf students are guided in the proper direction, then during subsequent incarnations they may be led even farther upward by other, higher mentors — and the process of humanity’s evolutionary perfection will advance.

Or, of course, if all of this is fantasy — if Steiner's teachings are false — then efforts to fulfill the messianic purposes of the Waldorf movement are, at best, a wast of time. At worst, they lead students and teachers into a mystical cul-de-sac where nothing real is accomplished, individuals lose themselves in phantasmagoric illusions, and no real education occurs.

— Roger Rawlings

To reach the next section of “Unenlightened”,

please use the following link:

Much of the purpose and method of Waldorf schooling in summarized in the following statement made by Steiner:

“We form a link with the knowledge of nature conveyed to children through fantasy and fairy tales. The goal is to awaken, first of all, a sense of gratitude for everything in the world. Gratitude for what others do for us and for the gifts of nature; this guides children’s religious feeling along the right path. It is tremendously important and meaningful to develop a child’s sense of gratitude. It may seem odd, but it is a profound fact that people should learn to feel gratitude whenever the weather is favorable to our endeavors. Being able to feel gratitude to the cosmos — though only in one’s imagination — deepens all our feelings in a religious sense.” [21]

The purpose is religious — the religion being Anthroposophy. Steiner often denied that Anthroposophy is a religion, but sometimes — apparently inadvertently — he admitted it. The Anthroposophical Society is comparable to other religious groups, he said, and in Waldorf schools religion may be taught from an Anthroposophical basis, luring students away from other religions.

◊ "When the [Waldorf] school was founded, we placed great value upon creating an institution independent of the Anthroposophical Society. Logically, that corresponds quite well with having the various religious communities and the Anthroposophical Society provide religious instruction, so that the Society provides religious instruction just as other religious groups do." [22]

◊ "The instruction in religion based on spiritual science [i.e., Anthroposophy] is increasing [in the Waldorf school], and more and more children come to it. Some have even deserted other religious instruction to go to the anthroposophic religious lessons. It is quite understandable, therefore, that people should say that these anthroposophists are rather bad people, since they lead children to abandon their Catholic and Protestant religious lessons for the religious instruction based on spiritual science. We do all we can to discourage them from coming, because it is very difficult for us to find religious teachers in our own area. Nevertheless, despite the fact that we never planned on this instruction except in response to parents’ requests and the unconscious requests of children (to my great distress, I might almost say), the demand for anthroposophic religious instruction constantly increases. And now thanks to this anthroposophic religious instruction the school has a completely Christian character.” [23]

Anthroposophy is certainly a religion, but is it “Christian”? Consider how Anthroposophy stands in contrast to both Catholicism and Protestantism. In Steiner’s time and place, this contrast clearly meant that Anthroposophy was heretical, denying the only recognized forms of Christianity. As for Steiner’s “distress” in meeting the “unconscious requests” of students, each reader can form an opinion. Steiner could be simultaneously candid and disingenuous.

If you are religious, you may want to send your child to a religious school. This is certainly your right. But before sending your child to a Waldorf school, understand that the religion promoted there is Anthroposophy. Ultimately, a Waldorf education will only meet your intentions only if you can embrace the tenets of Anthroposophy.

Several years after writing "Unenlightened", I answered a series of questions posed on the waldorf-critics discussion site (the questions are at and my answer is at I will repeat my answer here, although it goes over some of the ground we have already covered. It states some matters more clearly, and it adds further material:

Q. [W]hy isn't the [Waldorf] curriculum flexible?

A. Anthroposophists tend to view Steiner as a sort of Moses. Moses came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments chiseled in stone. Anthroposophists think Steiner passed along similarly eternal, unquestionable spiritual guidance. (Steiner left open the possibility that future clairvoyants would see even more deeply into spiritual matters than he did, so Anthroposophists have a little leeway, they can attempt to make their own spiritual "discoveries." But only in this sense do they consider Steiner's teachings at all questionable.)

Q. Is the driving force to push Anthroposophy rather than educate well?

A. Bingo. The point of Waldorf schooling is spiritual training, not education per se. Anthroposophy is meant to be the salvation of humanity. Waldorf schools are supposed to share this goal and work out of it — i.e., out of a grounding in Anthroposophy:

“The task of Anthroposophy is not simply to replace a false view of the world with a correct one. That is a purely theoretical requirement. The nature of Anthroposophy is to strive not only toward another idea, but toward other deeds, namely, to tear the spirit and soul from the physical body [i.e., free humanity from mere material existence — ultimately, to make humans entirely spiritual beings]. The task is to raise the spirit-soul into the realm of the spiritual, so that the human being is no longer a thinking and feeling automaton [materialists, such as people who disagree with Steiner, are mere flesh-and-bone robots, automatons] ... [H]uman beings are in danger of losing their spirit-soul. What exists today in the physical [realm] as an impression of the spirit-soul, exists because so many people think that way, because the spirit-soul is asleep [i.e., the impression of the spirit-soul in the wide world today is warped, because it comes from people who think like automatons — people who are spiritually comatose]. The human being is thus in danger of drifting into the Ahrimanic world [the realm ruled by a demonic enemy of human evolution], in which case the spirit-soul will evaporate into the cosmos. We live in a time when people face the danger of losing their souls to materialistic impulses. This is a very serious matter. We now stand confronted with that fact. That fact is actually the secret that will become increasingly apparent, and out of which we [Waldorf teachers] can act fruitfully. Such things as the pedagogy of the Waldorf School can arise from a recognition that humanity must turn toward spiritual activity, and not simply from a change in theory. We should work out of that spirit.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 115.

In sum, Waldorf teachers try to turn the students away from the real world and toward "spiritual activity," which for them means Anthroposophy. Steiner's followers "do" Anthroposophy, and the spiritual activities they "do" are the ones Steiner prescribed. And this is what they want the children to learn to do.

Q. Is the curriculum that Steiner invented completely linked to Anthroposophy so that by not teaching about ancient India and Egypt in a certain way at a certain time would mean not reaching the child's soul in a specific way ?

A. Yes. Steiner said that children repeat (or "recapitulate") in their own lives the evolution humanity as a whole has gone through. Thus, certain things are taught in each grade because the children at that age are at a certain stage of human evolutionary development. Changing the curriculum of any grade would be wrong because it would mean teaching kids stuff at the wrong age. So the Steiner curriculum is set in stone because human evolution has occurred as Steiner (and, essentially, only Steiner) has described it.

Here's a thumbnail description (from a guy who happened to be one of my teachers, long ago): 

“There’s a proper time and method for particular subjects to be taught. The child recapitulates the cultural epochs of humankind ... Above all, human beings are spiritual as well as physical beings.” — TAMARACK TALK, 

Cultural epochs are the phases of our recent evolution. (This quote seems to have disappeared from the Tamarack site after I began publicizing and analyzing it.)

As you can see, the Waldorf approach to *everything* is rooted in Anthroposophy, and the goals of the teachers are Anthroposophical goals (although the schools need to disguise this fact to save themselves from attack): 

“[W]e have to remember that an institution like the Independent Waldorf School with its anthroposophical character, has goals that, of course, coincide with anthroposophical desires. At the moment, though, if that connection were made official, people would break the Waldorf School’s neck.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 705.

Here am I, in about 1955, 

kneeling among my classmates for our annual class photo.

To respect the privacy of my old friends, 

I will not include full images of them on this site.

Spectacular watercolor painting attributed to a Waldorf fifth grader at a different Waldorf school many, many years after I graduated from the Waldorf School of Adelphi University. The emphasis on art at Waldorf schools can be beneficial. The occult purposes behind this emphasis may be something else. The curricula at most Waldorf schools tend to be very nearly the same, and the underlying occultism is often very much the same. Thus, work created by students in various Waldorf or Steiner schools tends to reflect the same, uniform Anthroposophic aesthetic. [Image courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]

Steiner sometimes drew sketches to accompany his lectures.

The results were not always very illuminating.

Here is my rendering of a sketch Steiner made to show

groups of spiritual beings — gods — poised above humanity.

Steiner taught that there are nine ranks of gods

subdivided into three "hierarchies."

The three spheres shown here represent these hierarchies. 

"I felt myself one with the Beings of the First and Second Hierarchies,

and I beheld the weaving and working of the Third Hierarchy in mighty

spirit-clouds over my body."  

— Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS, Vol. 2 

(Rudolf Steiner Press, 1974), p. 235.

[R.R., 2009 — my sketch based on the one in the book.]

[R.R. copy, 2009 — my sketch based on the one in the book.]

Steiner taught that fully incarnated human beings have four bodies: the physical, etheric, astral, and ego bodies. 

"Take, first of all, man's physical body (red) ... [And] this is man's etheric body body (blue); this is the human astral body (yellow); [and] here we have man's ego [orange]... [W]e must be clear about the fact that the whole world actually dwells in man's physical, etheric, and astral bodies." — Rudolf Steiner, MATERIALISM AND THE TASK OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1987), pp. 156-157. 

Reincarnation, a key concept in Anthroposophy.

[See "Reincarnation".]

During each life, we live out the karma 

we created for ourselves in past lives, 

and we prepare our future karma.

The concept derives from Eastern religions;

Steiner tried to make it compatible 

with his form of heretical Christianity.

[R.R., 2009.]

The wheel of karma


(Dover Publishing, 1950), p. 96].

[R. R. sketch, 2009; a copy of a rough sketch by Steiner.]

This is my rough sketch of a rough sketch Steiner made for a figure to be etched into a colored window at the Goetheanum, the Anthroposophical headquarters. Waldorf Watch contains many sketches of those windows, which clearly express the religious nature of Anthroposophy. 

“The pictures in the us the beings we shall encounter when we search for the path to the spiritual worlds ... Sitting there inside our building...the gods can speak to us ... [W]e ourselves want to become inwardly active in finding the path to the gods.” — Rudolf Steiner, ARCHITECTURE: As a Synthesis of the Arts (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), pp. 94-95.

The Gotheanum, named for Goethe, is in effect a cathedral. See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?

[R.R. sketch, 2010.]

“It is rightly said that even the wisest may learn from a child, for in the child is working the wisdom which does not pass later into consciousness. Through that wisdom man has something like telephonic connection with the spiritual beings in whose world he lives between death and rebirth. From that world there is something still streaming into the aura of the child, which is, as an individual being, immediately under the guidance of the entire spiritual world to which it belongs. Spiritual forces from that world continue to flow into the child. They cease so to flow at the point of time to which memory goes back.” — Rudolf Steiner,THE SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE OF MAN AND HUMANITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1970), lecture 1, GA 15. 

For an exploration of karma,

please use this link: "Karma"

For the lowdown on auras,

please see "Auras"

For more about evil and sin, 

see "Sin"

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


A report on life as a Waldorf student

An overview of Waldorf schooling; a far longer version of "I Went to Waldorf", including:


"Unenlightened - Part 3"

"Unenlightened - Part 4"

"Unenlightened - Part 5"


"Unenlightened - Part 6"

"Unenlightened - Part 7"

The formatting at Waldorf Watch aims for visual variety, 
seeking to ease the process of reading lengthy texts on a computer screen. 

Some illustrations appearing here at Waldorf Watch 
are closely related to the contents of the pages 
on which they appear; 
others are not 
— the latter provide general context. 

A note on sources: I have accessed Anthroposophical texts in various ways. 1) Chiefly, I have acquired books in the old-fashioned way, as physical objects. When I refer to a book I possess, I give the title, publisher, date of publication, and page number for each reference. 2) I have dipped into some books through Google Books []. I provide the same information for these volumes. 3) I have read various texts at the Rudolf Steiner Archive []. Because the Archive does not provide page numbers, for these references I provide titles, names of publishers, dates of publication, and (where applicable) GA numbers. Be advised that Google Books sometimes gives inaccurate page numbers, and the Steiner Archive is full of typos. I have corrected these problems as well as I could, but I may have missed some instances. 

You may have difficulty finding a few of the sources I cite. Anthroposophists tend to conceal various sources, and sometimes — following criticism — they remove or alter sources that they had previously displayed online.

— R. R.


[1] , Frequently Asked Questions, What is Waldorf education? [I last checked this on Oct. 22, 2006.]

My former headmaster occasionally gave somewhat less guarded descriptions of the work done by teachers at Waldorf schools. For example: 

“[T]o develop in their students...the intuitive faculties, alongside and as a balance for the intellectual. This is being done through the new art of education [created] by Rudolf Steiner, and drawn upon since by Waldorf schools throughout the world....” — John Fentress Gardner, in an addendum to Sylvester M. Morey's CAN THE RED MAN HELP THE WHITE MAN? (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1970), p. 115. 

Remember the term “intuitive faculties” when pondering Steiner’s doctrines on imagination, cognition during sleep and dreaming, clairvoyance, etc. These intertwined alternatives to rational thought are integral to the Anthroposophical faith. (A small anecdote: One year — I’ve forgotten the grade level — we made clay pots, and we were instructed to decorate them with American Indian symbols. We had not been taught such symbols, so a teacher was amazed that I covered my pot with completely authentic Indian markings. She told me I had great powers of intuition. She may or may not have known that, in Anthroposophical belief, intuition is a form of clairvoyance. In any case, I was neither intuitive nor clairvoyant in this instance. I had learned the symbols while studying my Cub Scout handbook.)

A concise explanation of what Waldorfers mean by “the heart and the hands, as well as the head” is the following: 

“Steiner viewed human beings as consisting of three spheres of activity — the head, the heart, and the will — that manifest through thoughts, feelings and physical actions. To educate children to be complete and balanced human beings, we must attend to the needs of all three aspects of a child’s being. From the Waldorf perspective, attaining knowledge is one purpose of the learning process, but just as important — and perhaps even more important — is to educate the heart and the will of the child, so that knowledge is joined with reverence and action.” — Lawrence Williams, Ed.D., OAK MEADOW AND WALDORF. [See]

Note that at Waldorfs, educating hearts and wills is at least as important as — and may be “even more important” than — imparting knowledge. This deviates significantly from a conventional definition of education. Dr. Williams is a Waldorf educator.

Steiner actually disparaged intellect and the use of the brain. The head, as seat of the brain, is distinctly downplayed in Waldorf education (contrary to the approaches taken by most other, more legitimate forms of education). See, e.g., "Steiner's Specific - Thinking Without Our Brains".

[2] Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 96.

In quoting Steiner, I often omit extraneous and repetitive phrases. For more on my reasons for doing this, please see "A Question of Quotes" at the end of the Table of Contents.

[3] Rudolf Steiner, AT THE GATES OF SPIRITUAL SCIENCE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1986), p. 55.

[4] Rudolf Steiner, THE RIDDLE OF HUMANITY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1990), GA 170.

[5] Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE OF MANKIND (The Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain, 1921), lecture 1, GA 15.

[6] Rudolf Steiner, quoted by Richard Seddon, RUDOLF STEINER (North Atlantic Books, 2004), p. 29.

For more on planetary stages of evolution, see "Everything" and "Steiner Static".

[7] Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 142-145. 

[8] Ibid., p. 67.

[9] Ibid., p. 118.

[10] Rudolf Steiner, INTRODUCING ANTHROPOSOPHICAL MEDICINE (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), p. 198.

[11] A.C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1956), p. 15.

A.C. Harwood had a long career as a Waldorf educator and lecturer. He died in 1975.

[12] The seven-year growth periods are related to the child’s nonphysical bodies: 

“We know from our anthroposophical studies that the astral body is born at this stage [around age 13] — that it comes into its own at this time. Just as the physical body is especially active from birth to the seventh year, and the etheric body from the seventh to the fourteenth or fifteenth year, the astral body (strongly connected to the ego) is active from the fourteenth to the twentieth or twenty-first year, when the ego [the “I”] can be said to be born.” — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 73.

Concerning temperaments: See, e.g., Mark Grant, “Steiner and the Humours: The Survival of Ancient Greek Science,” THE BRITISH JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL STUDIES, Vol. 47, No. 1 (Mar. 1999), pp. 56-70.


I do not know how many of our teachers had studied Steiner, nor how many of his books they had read. Far fewer of his books were available in English translation in those days than are available today. But at least some titles had been available for decades. For example, ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION, containing lectures about the underlying principles of Waldorf education, had been in circulation in the USA — in English translation — since 1926. Other Steiner titles were translated and published in the following years.

Moreover, beginning in the mid- to late-1960s — and perhaps earlier — faculty members at various Waldorf schools distributed mimeographed copies of translated Steiner texts through a formal network. The spring, 1967 issue of a publication called "Waldorf Clearing House" asks participating Waldorf schools to describe "What each school is translating and planning to print." The same issue refers its readers to publications offered by the Steiner Schools Fellowship, in Great Britain, and by St. George Books, in New Jersey, USA. The next issue (winter, 1967-68) lists Steiner texts recently published, in English translation, by the Rudolf Steiner Press of Great Britain, and it offers a bibliography of German-language Anthroposophic texts ripe for translation: texts "written by [German] Waldorf teachers or others, exploring the teachings of Dr. Steiner." Other issues of "Waldorf Clearing House" have similar contents, such as the winter, 1971-72 issue, in which my old Waldorf school offers mimeographed copies of Steiner lectures for sale ($1.50 for a set of three lectures, $3.00 for different set). 

"Waldorf Clearing House" was not launched until some time after my Waldorf years ended, but the sorts of activities it documents probably began, at least in an informal way, virtually from the time Waldorf education arrived in the English-speaking world. The first Waldorf school in Great Britain opened in 1925; the first in the USA opened three years later. There had been plenty of time for Waldorf faculties to begin translating and disseminating Anthroposophical materials. We can infer, then, that — from the earliest days on — teachers in most British, American, and Canadian Waldorf schools probably had ample opportunity to acquaint themselves with Steiner's teachings. Indeed, most of the teachers in these schools probably felt an obligation to study Steiner; faculty leaders would have seen to it. Again, various issues of "Waldorf Clearing House" offer us hints — they tell of Waldorf faculties holding formal meeting to study Rudolf Steiner's works. The winter, 1968 issue, for instance, reports that the Toronto Waldorf School held faculty meetings "every Friday afternoon. Chiefly occupied studying [Steiner's] EDUCATION OF THE CHILD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY." Likewise, the winter, 1971-72 issue states that the faculty of Kimberton Farms School "is now conducting workshops two afternoons a week. One group is reading [Steiner's] THE STUDY OF MAN and the other is reading [Steiner's] THE ROOTS OF EDUCATION." Such meetings have been standard in most Waldorf schools everywhere since Steiner's death in 1925.

"Waldorf Clearing House" originated at my Waldorf school, as one of many efforts made by faculty there to promote Anthroposophy. Later, other schools assumed editorial direction of the newsletter. [See "Clearing House".]

[14] Ibid., p. 39.

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

There are several interesting points about this passage. It clearly states that the Waldorf School has a religious mission. It also indicates that the religion in Waldorf is unusual by Western standards. Steiner does not refer to God but to the “gods.” What gods? How many are there? What are their intentions? How does Steiner know? What is the divine cosmic plan?

Steiner taught that the beings of the spiritual realm are arranged in various hierarchies — they are gods. The divine cosmic plan is essentially indistinguishable from Steiner’s doctrines, especially those forecasting humanity’s future spiritual evolution. I discuss these forecasts see my essay "Everything" and the essays that follow it.


There is an apparent contradiction between the goal stated here (“to tear the spirit and soul from the physical body”) and the goal referred to earlier (“to bring the soul-spirit into harmony with the temporal body”). But the earlier goal applies to young children who are being ushered into the world. The larger goal of Anthroposophy as a whole applies to all of humankind and, in “Waldorf pedagogy,” it applies to older children: turning them toward “spiritual activity." Complete fulfillment of this larger goal will take many cycles of reincarnation during which human evolution will proceed.

Concerning the term “spirit-soul”: Steiner differentiated between spirit and soul, but he also linked them. The linkage does not contradict the differentiation: Neither the word “spirit” nor the word “soul” is adequate by itself to represent the human being's spirituality.

Steiner’s depictions of human nature were complex and not always consistent. For a discussion of Waldorf education, it is sufficient to speak, in varying contexts, of the human body, the etheric body, the astral body, the “I,” the soul, and the spirit. Terms such as spirit-soul, spirit-self, life-spirit, and spirit-man may be taken as refinements and extensions. The latter three terms are approximately equivalent to concepts from Eastern mysticism: Manas, Budhi (or Buddhi), and Atma, components of human spirit. [See, e.g., the translator's note in Rudolf Steiner's OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969), p. 332.]


[18] Ibid., p. 184. 

[19] Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. xii, introduction by Clopper Almon.

Clopper Almon was a cofounder of the Rudolf Steiner Institute, which offers summer classes and programs — see

[20] Ibid., p. 393. 

Just as the stars and Sun have power, so does the Moon. Indeed, the Moon is essential in reuniting the component parts of human beings after sleep, enabling human souls to return from the spiritual worlds.

“It is above all the moon forces that connect man’s astral and ego organization with his physical and etheric organisms.

“Every night, when out of the spiritual world the soul desires to re-enter its physical and etheric bodies, it must place itself within the stream of the moon forces. It is of no concern here — that will be obvious to you — whether it be a new or full moon. For even when, as new moon, the moon is not visible to the senses, those forces are nevertheless active throughout the cosmos that bring the soul back into the etheric and physical bodies from the spiritual worlds.” — Rudolf Steiner, PHILOSOPHY, COSMOLOGY, AND RELIGION (Anthroposophic Press, 1984), p. 83.

The moon forces thus have profound effects upon human beings, including “evil and aberrant” humans. When the soul returns from the “spiritual worlds,” it brings effects of cosmic harmony, which strengthen and revivify. Learning to employ such forces is one of the capacities “the good portion of humankind” will develop as its evolution proceeds.

[21] Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), pp. 166-167.

[22] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER - Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 706.

[23] Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 115.

[R.R., 2017.]