Marching Orders

[This page begins with introductory material 
originally written for a different website.
Readers who are already familiar with such material
may want to skip the first section or so.

Clearly, the title I have chosen for this page
is provocative. At the end of this page,
I will offer a few comments about the matter.] 


Rudolf Steiner held meetings with the teachers at the first Waldorf school. He used these meetings to set out the direction and purpose of Waldorf education. You can find most of the following statements in the two-volume set FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER. [1]

Steiner told the teachers that they must serve the "the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods." He informed the teachers that they were on a messianic mission to save the world: They would be “the means by which that streaming down from above [i.e., the gods' beneficence] will go out into the world.” [2]

Steiner presumably knew what the divine plan is, at least in his own opinion; and he spoke of many gods, not one. It would be almost impossible to believe that Steiner made such grandiose and — from an orthodox Christian viewpoint — heretical remarks, except that he did. This conception of Waldorf schooling is so essential, let's look at Steiner's words again, more fully: 

“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.” [2] 

Note, please, that Steiner included himself: He didn't say to the teachers "you" will do so-and-so, he said "we." 

The core of the divine cosmic plan, and hence of Waldorf's purpose, entails the future evolution of humankind. (I outline Steiner's fantastic visions of the future in “Everything” and the essays that follow it.) In fulfilling the holy plan of the "gods," Waldorf teachers are directed by religious doctrines. But the religion involved is not orthodox Christianity or any other large, recognizable faith. It is Anthroposophy, the weird faith Steiner himself whipped up (mainly by cribbing from Theosophy [3]). If they are faithful to Steiner, Waldorf teachers work to fulfill Anthroposophy as a faith.

Steiner conducted himself as a religious leader, for example by writing prayers for Waldorf teachers and students to recite, in unison, in school. [4] He presented himself as a master of virtually all knowledge, a savant, a clairvoyant guide to the mysteries of the universe. [5] Messianic self-promoters are always extremely dangerous. An old proverb: If you meet someone who has all the answers, run for your life!


Steiner sometimes seemed to lack the courage of his convictions (for the sake of argument, let's stipulate that Steiner believed what he said — this raises the question of his sanity, but let's not trouble ourselves over that just now). Steiner worried about opposition to his weird, occult tenets, so he instructed Waldorf teachers to keep the school's occult purposes secret. They were not to use the word "prayer," for instance. 

“Never call a verse a prayer, call it an opening verse before school. Avoid allowing anyone to hear you, as a faculty member, using the word ‘prayer.’” [6] 

Similarly, Steiner told the teachers not to reveal the tenet that some people are "not really human." 

"[Some] children are born with a human form, but are not really human beings ... Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings ... [W]e do not want to shout that to the world.” [7] 

Steiner worried about a lot of things, such as the poor academic standards at Waldorf. So he told the teachers to hush this up also. He said the school would not prepare students for final examinations, but he didn't "dare" to reveal this. 

“It is a question of whether we dare tell those who come to us that we will not prepare them for the final examination at all, that it is a private decision of the student whether to take the final examination or not.” [8] 

His overall directive to Waldorf teachers was, understandably, quite broad: 

“We should not speak to people outside the school....” [9]


On specific subjects, especially sciences, Steiner gave his teachers truly bizarre guidance. He explained to them that the earth doesn't orbit the sun. Rather, the sun is flying through space, with three planets ahead of it and three trailing behind. [10] As for the earth itself, Steiner taught that islands such as Great Britain are not attached to the ocean floor. Instead, they float, and are held in position by the stars. [11]


Basic to Steiner's religion are the borrowed concepts of karma and reincarnation. [12] Steiner said that upper school students might be given instruction about reincarnation, but only in the most cautious manner. [13] (Steiner’s explanation for why some people are “not really human” is tha“they are not reincarnated, but are human forms filled with a sort of natural demon.” [14]) 


Critically important: Steiner affirmed that 

"Anthroposophy will be in the school." [15] 

So, it is clear that children attending a Waldorf school receive their educations within a miasma of mystic nonsense. The harm inflicted can last a lifetime.


I describe my own experiences as a Waldorf school student in the essays "Unenlightened" and (a shorter version) "I Went to Waldorf". In another essay ("My Sad, Sad Story" — if I sometimes mock Steiner, I sometimes mock myself) I pick up the tale following my graduation from Waldorf. I should stress that I have written about my own experiences only because I have the right to do so. Other Waldorf graduates and their parents have more powerful stories, but it is up to them to decide whether to tell those stories. Whether my own story has any general applicability is a question I leave for you to resolve.


Waldorf schools generally teach Anthroposophy to the students, but typically they do this covertly, without telling the students or the students' parents what is going on, and generally without expounding Anthroposophical doctrines in so many words. Their approach is indirect and sly. They maintain deniability, teaching Anthroposophy without, as it were, teaching it. [See, e.g., "Sneaking It In".] There are several reasons for this approach. Anthroposophy is occult — many of its doctrines consist of "mystery knowledge" that only insiders, or "initiates," are supposed to possess. The inner circle of a Waldorf school may possess this knowledge, but people in outer circles are kept more or less in the dark — the farther anyone is from the center, the less s/he is told. Students are near the periphery, so they rarely receive clear, open statements of doctrine from their teachers. Still, the kids may internalize many Anthroposophical beliefs and attitudes, delivered to them through subtle processes. The kids will have been told mystical stories, and taught "verses" (prayers), and led in devout songs (hymns), and required to do eurythmy (a sort of Anthroposophical temple dancing), and been nudged and winked at and quietly coaxed in all manner of oblique ways. They will have gotten an extensive esoteric workout. [See "Indoctrination".] After spending eleven years at a Waldorf school, I knew a lot of Anthroposophy, although I didn't quite know that I knew it, if you follow me. I didn't consciously know that my beliefs and attitudes came, to a very large extent, out of Steiner's occult doctrines.

The esoteric, occult nature of Anthroposophical beliefs is one major reason for Waldorf schools to proceed stealthily  But there are also other reasons. Anthroposophy is gnostic, meaning that from the perspective of large, established Christian denominations, it is heretical. This by itself creates a sharp, felt need in for Waldorf insiders to guard their secrets. Mainstream Christianity is, after all, the default faith throughout most of the Western world, and most Waldorf schools exist in Western countries. Even secularists tend to accept Christianity as an important part of Western cultural tradition. Revealing Steiner's heretical doctrines too openly would distress and offend many "outsiders" such as students' parents. So it is best for Waldorfers to keep mum and go about their business quietly.

Financial considerations also give the schools a reason to be secretive. Many Waldorf schools depend primarily or completely on the tuition paid by students' families. Scaring away families would be bad for business.

Finally, in countries where a clear line is supposed to exists between secular schools and religious schools, Waldorf schools would cut their own throats if they revealed that they are, indeed, religious.

So Waldorf schools teach Anthroposophy in roundabout ways, subtle but very effective. Here is a question posted in June, 2009, at the waldorf-critics discussion list. The writer is the mother of a Waldorf school student. My reply deals with some subjects covered, and some quotations cited, elsewhere here at Waldorf Watch. If you come upon material you've already seen, please just skip ahead:

Maura Kwaten wrote:

"In our school says, 'This philosophy (Anthroposophy ) can be applied to all walks of life and it is out of this that the teachers work. THE PHILOSOPHY ITSELF HOWEVER IS NOT TAUGHT TO THE CHILDREN.' They use really bold letters to drive the point home!

"Why isn't it taught?"

I posted the following answer, which I am editing slightly for inclusion here:

Perhaps Anthroposophy isn't taught at some Waldorf schools. But it certainly is taught at many of the schools, as Steiner intended. The process is often deceptive, often covert, but it is real. In fact, it is the main purpose of the schools, as conceived by Steiner. 

In public, Steiner denied that Anthroposophy would be taught at the original Waldorf School; but in faculty meetings and elsewhere, generally in private, he admitted that it would be taught: 

"The older students often mentioned that we emphasize that the Waldorf School is not to be an anthroposophical school. That is one of the questions we need to handle very seriously. You need to make the children aware that they are receiving the objective truth, and if this occasionally appears anthroposophical, it is not anthroposophy that is at fault. Things are that way because anthroposophy has something to say about objective truth. It is the material that causes what is said to be anthroposophical. We certainly may not go to the other extreme, where people say that anthroposophy may not be brought into the school. Anthroposophy will be in the school when it is objectively justified, that is, when it is called for by the material itself.” [16]

Notice what Steiner is saying. The older students have heard the denials that the school would teach Anthroposophy, yet they feel that Anthroposophy is actually present in the classroom, and they are asking what's going on. Steiner's reply to the teachers, in private, is that Anthroposophy will in fact be in the school, in virtually every subject, since Anthroposophy is the Truth. When will it be in the school? When will its presence be justified? Almost always.

Let's take some examples of ways in which Anthroposophy is in the schools. I'll start with indirect ways in which Steiner's views are conveyed to students; later I'll get to more direct ways.

Kids at Waldorfs are taught wet-on-wet watercolor painting. Why? Because this technique creates images that resemble the spirit realm as Steiner described it. These paintings, in other words, accustom the kids to a vision compatible with Steiner's. 

“You see, when the soul arrives on earth in order to enter its body, it has come down from spirit-soul worlds in which there are no spatial forms ... [The spirit realm] has no spatial forms or lines, [but] it does have color intensities, color qualities. Which is to say that the world man inhabits between death and a new a soul-permeated, spirit-permeated world of light, of color, of tone; a world of qualities not quantities....” [17] 

In the phrase “between death and a new birth,” Steiner is referring to spiritual life between earthly incarnations, or in other words he is alluding to his concept of reincarnation.

Steiner also said that spirit beings enter the physical realm through colors. For instance, 

“If the person devoting himself to the color which covers these physically dense walls were one who had made certain occult progress...the walls would disappear from his clairvoyant vision ... [T]he walls become like glass, but in the sphere which opens up there is a world of purely spiritual phenomena; spiritual facts and spiritual figures become visible....[M]any different kinds of elementary beings are around us ... But they cannot all be seen in the same way; according to the capacity of clairvoyant vision, there may be visible and invisible beings in the same space. What spiritual beings become visible in any particular instance depends on the colour to which we devote ourselves. In a red room, other beings become visible than in a blue room.... ” [18] 

Thus, the use of color — and the environment created by variously colored rooms — in a Waldorf school is meant to have spiritual effects. This use of color is an embodiment of Anthroposophical doctrine.

The study of all arts at Waldorf schools is drenched with mystical Anthroposophical thinking. Arts are not studied or performed for aesthetic or cultural reasons, primarily, but for spiritual reasons. 

“This is what gives art its essential lustre: it transplants us here and now into the spiritual world.” [19] 

Steiner meant this quite literally. Through art, students are supposed to become connected with the spirit realm. This is clearest in eurythmy. Eurythmy is not dance, per se. It is a literal enactment of Anthroposophical doctrine — it is an Anthroposophical religious exercise, and it is generally required of all students. Why? 

“In having people do eurythmy, we link them directly to the supersensible world.” [20] 

Note the wording. Waldorf teachers don't invite or encourage students to do eurythmy: They have (i.e., require) them to do it, because it connects them to the supersensible (i.e., spiritual) realm. This is Steiner's religion in practice. Eurythmy is Anthroposophy in motion — kids doing eurythmy are being taught Anthroposophy in the form of spirit-connecting physical motion.

Or consider the gnome dolls so often found in Waldorf classrooms. Why are they there? Because they represent beings that Steiner said actually exist: 

“There are beings that can be seen with clairvoyant vision at many spots in the depths of the earth ... Many names have been given to them, such as goblins, gnomes and so forth.” [21] 

The gnome dolls are present almost in the same way that statues of saints and angels can be found in churches: They represent the spiritual beliefs fostered in those buildings. Of course, one often sees images of angels in Waldorf schools, too. It is all the same: It is surrounding the kids with Anthroposophy.

Or consider Norse myths. These are given great emphasis in Waldorf schools. Why? Because they can be made to apparently embody Anthroposophical beliefs. 

“No other mythology gives a clearer picture of [spiritual] evolution than Northern mythology. Germanic mythology in its pictures is close to anthroposophical conception of future evolution.” [22] 

Kids who are taught Norse myths in Waldorf schools are being taught a soft form of Anthroposophy. The Norse gods, you see, are real gods for Steiner and his followers.

“Myths and sagas are not just 'folk-tales'; they are the memories of the visions people perceived in olden times ... At night they were really surrounded by the world of the Nordic gods of which the legends tell. Odin, Freya, and all the other figures [i.e., Norse gods] in Nordic mythology were not inventions; they were experienced in the spiritual world with as much reality as we experience our fellow human beings around us today.” [23]

The religious/Anthroposophical nature of Waldorf schooling shines out starkly in the morning prayers the students recite in unison. The schools call these prayers "morning verses," but they are prayers, written by Steiner. The include such words as 

"I reverence, O God,

The strength of humankind ...

From Thee come light and strength,

To Thee rise love and thanks.” [24] 

The children saying these words are addressing and thanking God. They are praying. And, crucially, they are being taught Anthroposophical forms of prayer. They are being instructed in Anthroposophy.

If the examples I've given so far seem in any way nebulous, we should recognize that various Anthroposophical concepts are also brought into classes throughout all grade levels in more explicit ways. At many (perhaps most or even all) Waldorf schools, direct and indirect intellectual reference is made to many Anthroposophical tenets. These include the following. (Some of these ideas can also be found outside Waldorf schools, of course. And some of them may be true. But the combination found inside Waldorfs is probably unique. Steiner said that "the Waldorf teacher’s consciousness" is "hardly present anywhere else in the world." [25] The same can probably said of the Waldorf student's consciousness.)


Anthroposophical tenets and attitudes that are often conveyed, to one degree or another, to Waldorf students include the following:

◊ karma

◊ reincarnation

◊ spiritual evolution

◊ rejection of Darwinism but belief in purposeful, 

progressive earthly evolution

◊ the utter difference between humans and animals

◊ polytheism

◊ the reliability and power of imagination 

and inspiration and intuition and

emotion (subjectivity) as opposed to rationality; 

hence, preference for

hazy pastel mystical thinking 

as opposed to rigid deadly logic

◊ the efficacy of elevated 

(in a sense, transcendent) consciousness:

clairvoyance or ESP and other psychic powers

◊ maya (the deceptive nature of physical reality)

◊ the problematic nature of nature

(the natural world embodies wonderful forces

but ultimately it beneath us, a set of snares)

◊ the shallowness and unreliability of science

◊ the wickedness of technology

◊ the wickedness of the modern world generally

◊ the solemn mystic primacy of the Sun

◊ the importance of Christ

(the Sun God)

◊ the importance (but obsolescence) 

of the Old Testament

◊ the existence of invisible beings above humanity

and also below humanity

◊ the existence of other worlds and realms

(including invisible ones)

◊ the transcendent power of art

◊ the superiority of ancient "wisdom"

(myths, visions, intuitions, folk tales, fairy tales)

as opposed to modern materialistic illusory 


◊ the unreliability of the brain

◊ the unreliability of the senses

◊ the unreliability and corrupting power of the body

◊ the cultural superiority of Europe 

(especially north/central Europe,

in particular Germany and the Nordic countries

occupied by highly civilized white people)

◊ the reality of magic in various guises 

(e.g., biodynamic gardening)

◊ suspicion of modern medicine 

and preference for "natural" or herbal healing

◊ the possible if not certain spiritualistic (astrological)

significance of heavenly bodies

◊ the cyclical nature of history

◊ the possibility of hidden groups or forces 

controlling history for good or ill

◊ the ultimate, constant warfare 

between forces of good and evil

(or between light and dark, 

which may find expression in skin coloring)

◊ the real existence of angels, 

including guardian angels

◊ the belief that people by and large 

are foolishly materialistic and unawake

(Steiner called non-Anthroposophists 

robots, blind moles, etc.)

◊ the belief that the general run 

of worldly knowledge

(as found in encyclopedias, in regular schools, 

in colleges) is wrong

◊ the belief that truth is known only among 

superior sorts such as ourselves

(i.e., Waldorf teachers and students)

◊ the possible real and continuing existence 

of specters, ghosts, the dead

◊ the possibility of communication with them...

and so on.

In the discussions at waldorf-critics, the participants have described many examples of such tenets and attitudes being conveyed inside Waldorf schools,. Not all Waldorf schools manage to implant all of these concepts in all of their students, but most try, and some succeed. 

One specific example: reincarnation. Belief in this may not always be openly espoused in Waldorf schools today, but Steiner said it probably should be: 

“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.” [26] 

When a Waldorf school shies away from espousing reincarnation outright, it will probably push the concept indirectly.

When a child spends many years at a Waldorf school, s/he will almost inevitably emerge having learned a great many Anthroposophical tenets without necessarily having been told that they are Steiner's doctrines. S/he may hold these tenets in the conscious mind or s/he may hold them mainly at a subconscious level, as inclinations or unspoken preferences. Either way, a Waldorf student who is susceptible — who does not rebel or tune the teachers out — will likely emerge having been brainwashed in Anthroposophy. I myself graduated from a Waldorf school having absorbed almost all of these lessons.

Is Anthroposophy taught in the schools? Absolutely.

— Roger Rawlings

Here is an excerpt from a recent book:

"Controversy regarding the Steiner educational system surfaced in Australia in July 2007 when a number of parents contacted the media with concerns over whether the Steiner education system was based on a holistic or spiritual model. One parent, Ray Pereira, reported that he could not believe what he was hearing from the school faculty. His son's teacher had informed him that his child had to repeat prep because the boy's soul had not fully incarnated. She said 'his soul was hovering above the earth,' Pereira said. 'And she then produced a couple of my son's drawings as evidence that his depiction of the world was from a perspective looking down on the earth from above. I just looked at my wife and we both thought, we are out of here.'"

— Aron Raphael, 


(Bay Tree Publishing,  2009), p. 114.

[R.R., 2010.]

Waldorf schools represent a worldview, Anthroposophy, that most people would surely consider weird. This apparent weirdness doesn't make Anthroposophy good or bad, right or wrong. But if you decide to associate yourself with a Waldorf school, you should understand what you are becoming involved in. Here is one example of the occultist thinking that underlies Waldorf schools. It isn't bad, it isn't good. But for better or worse, it is a sample of occultist thought: 

“Just as speech proceeds from out of the larynx, [and] the child from the womb, so the fully developed human being at about age 35 is born, as it were, from out of the cosmos...[T]he form of man, the complete human form, [is born] as a spoken word." — Rudolf Steiner, EURYTHMY AS VISIBLE SPEECH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1955), p. 35.

Steiner meant that humans are the fulfillment of the "words" spoken by the gods. He taught that there are many, many gods. The swirling actions of the gods form a sort of cosmic dance. It is a dance of spiritual essences, divine thoughts, creative words. 

“We ask the divine powers which have existed from the beginning: How then did you create man in a similar way as the spoken word is created...?" — Ibid., p. 35. 

As you can already see, when you begin to peel back the layers of Anthroposophy, you may discover surprises. The Waldorf worldview is polytheistic: Man was created not by God but by the words of many gods. Some people may find this an attractive idea, perhaps even a true idea. At Waldorf schools, it is accepted as revealed Truth. 

The gods' dance is reenacted in Waldorf schools through a form of interpretive movement called eurythmy. The stances and gestures in eurythmy are supposed to make visible the spiritual meaning behind spoken words — thus, they are supposed to convey and even create occult wisdom. Eurythmy is considered so important, so central to Waldorf's purpose, that all students are usually required to participate in it.

Here are four representative eurythmic positions with their associated astrological signs. Yes, astrology. The occult powers of the stars are very important to Anthroposophists. Astrology, as interpreted by Steiner, is never far below the surface in Waldorf education:

This sketch is my rendering of an illustration in EURYTHMY AS VISIBLE SPEECH [p. 159]. The astrological signs appear in the book just as you see them here. Additional eurythmic movements are shown, with their associated astrological signs, on pages 160-162, 167, and 168, and there is an astrological chart showing all twelve signs of the zodiac along with the signs for all seven of the "sacred planets" [p. 172]. Steiner offers a detailed discussion of all this. He outlines twelve gestures that correspond to the twelve signs of the zodiac. He then says 

“These gestures in their totality represent the entire human being...." [p. 158]. 

In Anthroposophic doctrine, human beings are microcosms that reflect the entire cosmos, which in turn is reflected in the signs of the zodiac.

Steiner lays out specific connections between eurythmic gestures and astrological signs. For instance, concerning the tenth gesture (X), he says 

"Here (X) is that element which is manifested in the outer world in everything standing under the sign of eternal action, under the sign of eternal will: Taurus, the bull." [p. 170.]  

Steiner discusses a total of nineteen gestures: twelve for the signs of the zodiac and seven for the sacred planets, and he connects all of them with speech. Consonants have their origin in the zodiac, he says; vowels have their origin in the sacred planets.

Steiner wraps things up by saying 

"Today, then, we have discovered nineteen gestures; twelve static and seven permeated with movement — of which latter one is quiescent only because rest is the antithesis of movement. (In the Moon we have movement annulled by its very velocity.)" [p. 175.]  

Occult thinking of this kind appeals to some people. If you are one, then Waldorf schools may appeal to you. But if you find anything unsettling about such occultism, Waldorf may not be the place to send your kids.

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

An Anthroposophical mystic seal, a variant of a seal of the Apocalypse.

“It can be said that this seal represents the idea of total humanity ... When we go back in human evolution, we come to a time when men were at an imperfect stage. Thus, for example, they did not have heads ... It would sound grotesque, indeed, were you to hear a description of the men of that time. Only gradually was the head developed, and it will continue developing. Men also have organs today that have come to the end of their development and in the future they will no longer form part of the human body. There are others that will transform themselves. An example is the larynx, which, to be sure, has a great future connection with the heart. At present the larynx is at the beginning of its development, but in times to come it will be transformed into a spiritualized organ of reproduction. You will get an idea of this mystery if you make clear to yourselves just what it is that a man achieves with his larynx today.”
— Rudolf Steiner, 
(Anthroposophic Press, 1972), 
pp. 49-50.

[R.R. sketch, 2014, 

based on the image the book.] 


How to Continue Your Relationships with Those Who Have Died 

(Anthroposophic Press, 1999.)


(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2006.)

If you are considering a Waldorf school for your children, you owe it to yourself and them to buy a few books by Rudolf Steiner and study them carefully. If you like what you find there, then a Waldorf school may indeed be right for your family. But you may discover that Anthroposophical thinking is utterly alien and bizarre, in which case you may want to protect your children from it.

(Note, by the way, that Steiner wrote many books, but some of the books published over his name consist of transcripts of lectures he delivered. He did not always intend his lectures to become publicly known, but his devout followers copied them down so as not to lose a single word that proceeded from his lips. Today, in the age of Amazon and other Internet facilities, getting ahold of Steiner's books and lectures is far easier than it was in the past.) 

[R.R., 2010; my interpretation of the sketch in
Steiner's BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924.]

To figure out whether Waldorf education is right for your kids, you may need to learn how to interpret the unique language spoken by Anthroposophists. Here is another example — not good, not so very bad, but occult. 

“Here on earth we have solid things that can be weighed, and attached to these objects that can be weighed are the colours, the red, the yellow, whatever our senses perceive as being attached to the objects. When we sleep, yellow is a freely floating being, not attached to anything, but weightless, freely weaving and floating.” — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 108.

If you assume that Steiner was speaking about what we see in our dreams — for instance, we may see yellow floating around freely, detached from any object — this statement may seem a bit silly but otherwise fine. But Anthroposophists find much more in Steiner's words.

When we sleep, Steiner taught, parts of our higher nature leave our bodies and travel to spirit realms. Among the many spirits they meet there are various colors. The colors, including yellow, are "beings" or spirits. They are, in fact, spiritual agents that shepherd us to the spirit realm and bring the spirit realm to us. (Art classes in Waldorf schools have this process in mind.)

Specifically, Steiner said that our physical bodies and "etheric" bodies remain on Earth while we sleep, but our "astral bodies" and spiritual "egos" travel to the higher, spiritual worlds where they consort with all manner of spirits or gods. This is helpful, Steiner said — it strengthens and guides us when we return to Earth in the morning and resume our karma. You see, we live many, many lives, in a long process of reincarnation. We alternate between lives on Earth and lives in other worlds.

This, and much more, is what lies behind the apparently mild quotation you see above. When investigating Waldorf schools, if you encounter language that strikes you as odd or mysterious, don't pass by silently. Ask questions. Probe. Dig. Read. Work to understand what you are being told (and what is being concealed).

An item from the Waldorf Watch "news" page:

Andy Lewis has posted the following 

at his website, The Quackometer. 

I have added a few endnotes.  

While I do not wholly agree with Lewis on all points,

much of what he says is manifestly accurate.

Steiner Schools are based on the idea that children’s spirits and souls need attention as they are incarnated into their bodies. This incarnation happens in seven years cycles and a teacher’s early role is to help children understand their previous incarnations. \1\ As such, these are not places of education, but places of spiritual midwifery. Karma drives the manifestation of souls, with previous actions bearing on subsequent lives. If you have done wrong, then that wrong must be worked out in another life in order for the souls to evolve towards higher forms of spiritual development. Steiner believes the blond haired, blue eyed races of Europe represented the current pinnacle of spiritual development \2\ and a child’s soul must be guided towards such incarnations from the ‘lower races’. \3\

Naturally, none of this is discussed on the current Michael House Steiner School web site. \4\

This worldview has consequences within schools. It is a common complaint that bullying goes unchecked as [there] is a belief that the bullied and the bullier [are] reversing roles from previous incarnations and these karmic issues must be worked out by the children. \5\ Children are divided into temperaments: choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic and melancholic. Such designations, based on physical appearance, guide a teacher’s interactions with a child. \6\

Karma is central to Steiner’s worldview. Disease is a result of karmic influences. If you get measles, that is what is intended for you. If you die [due to measles], then you will be reincarnated having worked out that aspect of your karma. Steiner schools are notorious as centres of unvaccinated children. Why would you want to intervene in karma? \7\


\1\ See, e.g., “Incarnation”, “Karma”, and “Most Significant”. 

“[T]he purpose of [Waldorf] education is to help the individual fulfill his karma.” — Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 52. 

Steiner taught that in a future evolutionary epoch, we will transcend karma — see "Sixth Epoch". But in the present, we are very much creatures of karma.

\2\ Steiner on this point:

“If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense ... Blond hair actually bestows intelligence. In the case of fair people, less nourishment is driven into the eyes and hair; it remains instead in the brain and endows it with intelligence. Brown- and dark-haired people drive the substances into their eyes and hair that the fair people retain in their brains.” — Rudolf Steiner, HEALTH AND ILLNESS, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1981), pp. 85-86.

Steiner taught that whites lead "thinking lives" whereas blacks lead "instinctual lives" and yellow-skinned peoples lead "emotional lives."  [See "Races".] While Steiner downplayed the importance of the brain [see "Steiner's Specific"], he nonetheless placed thoughtful, white-skinned Europeans — and especially Germans — at the peak of human development. Indeed, he was a German nationalist who saw special significance in German culture and the Gernan "national mission." [See "The Good Wars".]

\3\ Steiner wrote the following:

“A race or nation stands so much the higher, the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal human type ... The evolution of man through the incarnations in ever higher national and racial forms is thus a process of liberation [leading to] an ideal future." — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 149.

\4\ Michael House is the premier Steiner school in the United Kingdom. See

\5\ See, e.g., "Slaps".

\6\ See "Humouresque" and "Temperaments". In Waldorf belief, physical appearance is not the sole indicator of temperament, but it is important.

\7\ Steiner taught that intervention in karma is sometimes necessary, but in general karma should be allowed to play itself out. Souls need to fulfill their karmas. Thus, for example, 

"[W]e see...groups of human souls in their descent from pre-earthly into earthly existence wander to regions situated, for example, in the vicinity of volcanoes, or to districts where earthquakes are liable to occur ... [S]uch places are deliberately chosen by the souls thus karmically connected, in order that they may experience this very destiny ... [They think] 'I choose a great disaster on earth in order to become more perfect....'" — Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS, Vol. 2 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1974), pp. 226-227. 

Victims of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, among other disasters, choose their fates. They are fulfilling their karmas.

If you see that a child is about to be crushed to death in a dreadful accident, you probably should step back and allow the event to unfold. The child’s own spirit has willed this eventuality. 

"In the autumn we experienced the death of a member's child, a child seven years of age. The death of this child occurred in a strange way. He was a good boy, mentally very much alive already within the limits set for a seven-year-old; a good, well-behaved and mentally active child. He came to die because he happened to be on the very spot where a furniture van overturned, crushing the boy so that he died of suffocation. This was a spot where probably no van went past before nor will go past again, but one did pass [at] just that moment. It is also possible to show in an outer way that all kinds of circumstances caused the child to be in that place at the time the van overturned, circumstances considered chance if the materialistic view is taken ... Studying the case in the light of spiritual science [i.e., Anthroposophy] and of karma it will be seen to demonstrate very clearly that external logic, quite properly used in external life, proves flimsy in this case and does not apply ... [T]he karma of this child was such that the ego, to put it bluntly, had ordered the van and the van overturned to fulfil the child's karma." — Rudolf Steiner, THE DESTINIES OF INDIVIDUALS AND OF NATIONS (SteinerBooks, 1987), pp. 125-126.

So, you see, being crushed to death was good for this child. Indeed, his own ego willed it. In other words, he got want he deserved — his horrible death fulfilled his karma, which he created by his own actions in past lives.

 [R.R. sketch, 2010.]

◊ “[A]n island like Great Britain swims in the sea and is held fast by the forces of the stars.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 607. 

◊ “[T]he continents swim ... All fixed land swims and the stars hold it in position.” — Rudolf Steiner, ibid., p. 617.

Note that Steiner made these daffy remarks when meeting with Waldorf faculty, who evidently accepted such madness as revealed truth.

Here is the physical body (blue) within the etheric body (red/orange).

Astral powers (yellow) should penetrate the physical body, 

but due to the actions of demons, this divine purpose is often thwarted.

— Rudolf Steiner, EVIL (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), p. 117.

[My version of Steiner's sketch, 2009.] 

The Goetheanum, the worldwide headquarters of 

Anthroposophy, is located in Switzerland.

The colored-glass windows in the headquarters 

depict many of Steiner's teachings.

Here are two of the strange beings depicted there:

See, e.g., Georg Hartmann, 


(Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag am Goetheanum, 1972).

[These are my copies of images in the book.]

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

“[T]he great majority of human souls had to relinquish their union with the earth. Here we come to something of great importance in the relationship between man and earth, something which happened during the time between the separation of the sun and that of the moon. During this interval human soul-spirits, except for a very small number, abandoned earthly conditions, and pressing upward into higher regions, continued their evolution upon the several planets belonging to our solar system, each according to the stage of his development. Some souls were fitted to pursue their evolution on Saturn, others on Mars, others again on Mercury, and so on. Only a very small number of the strongest soul-spirits remained in union with the earth. During this time the rest dwelt upon the earth's planetary neighbours. This came about at a time preceding (to use our own terminology) the Lemurian age.” — Rudolf Steiner, GENESIS: Secrets of the Bible Story of Creation (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1959), lecture 9,  GA 122.

"The body is the house of the spirit" — 

a drawing by a Waldorf student.

Students in Waldorf schools are sensitized 

to spiritualistic forms of thought.

This can be good or not, depending.

Believing that the spirit exists 

separate from the body is one thing; 

most people of faith believe this.

But you may decide that believing 

Steiner's odd, heretical doctrines 

is a different proposition.

[Drawing courtesy of 

People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]

Astrological symbol: Taurus,

as reconceived by Steiner.

[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on image at]

See, e.g., "Waldorf Astrology".

The philosophy underpinning Waldorf education, Anthroposophy,

hinges on the use of clairvoyance.

If Steiner did not see the things he claimed to see clairvoyantly,

then there is no basis for most of his assertions.

The value of clairvoyant thought is suggested by

this image of hypnagogic hallucination:


(Dover Publications, 1988), facing p. 14.]

Depending of who claims to possess clairvoyant powers,

the products of this "faculty" are either hallucinations or hoaxes.

There is no such faculty as clairvoyance.

See "Clairvoyance".


Here is a fascinating message posted on the Internet in September, 2009 by an advocate of Waldorf education; following it are two messages I wrote in reply. I have edited the messages slightly for inclusion here.

Far too often, messages posted by defenders of Rudolf Steiner and his works are angry — they aim barbs at the critics of Waldorf schooling. Efforts at calm, respectful discussion between the two camps — for Waldorf and against Waldorf — are rare. It was good to read the following message. It provided an opportunity to outline some principles concerning rational, respectful discussion.

I also took the opportunity to respond, tangentially, to some of the attacks made against me for writing such things as "Weird Waldorf". The title of the essay is provocative, and it is sure to offend many Waldorf defenders. But having read the essay now, you may agree that the epithet "weird" is actually quite apt — it accurately characterizes the ideology underlying Waldorf schooling. Still, if I should have chosen a less pointed word, I offer my regrets. (If the title caught your attention, however, and enticed you to take a look, then perhaps my purpose was attained and possibly might be forgiven.)

Internet message:

I am actually a devoted follower of Anthroposophy and really love the basic principles behind Waldorf education. This is my choice and I am not intending to defend my beliefs nor to criticize those of others. However after reading articles of criticism of Waldorf schools and Anthroposophy I must admit that these criticisms can often be well founded and there are many very worthwhile questions and concerns which I believe it to be the duty of Anthroposophists to truthfully answer.

I sent my own children to a Waldorf school,  taught not only in the state system but also in the Waldorf system and I was connected for several years to the Anthroposophical society. Unfortunately I found these experiences to be alienating, cruel and humiliating. Nonetheless I have come to some important realizations. I agree it is time for a really good honest look into these systems and to weed out misconceptions or spiritual abuse. I also accept it is time for Anthroposophists to stop being dishonest and closed to the public for that can only lead to mistrust and lack of responsibility for their beliefs and actions. Hiding behind words, Steinerisms — in fact there is in my opinion a truth to the cult of Anthroposophy, they can feel safe and righteous. 

If one is true to Anthroposophy there will be no harm done to others, there will be honest, open discussion, love of the spirit and honouring of others’ beliefs. Waldorf schools ARE based on beliefs of reincarnation, the fourfold nature of the human being, etc., but this need not be evil or wrong unless those in charge of the care of our children are closed to discussion and accountability. I am always wondering why the secrecy if we believe in Anthroposophy? 

At first I was very anxious reading criticisms but my love of Anthroposophy leads me to defend it rightfully and to, like the critics, bring to the light the truth about the underlying wrongs which put a darkness over the many wonderful, soul-enriching ideas and ideals of Rudolf Steiner. There is a rightness about the questioning because where our treasured children are concerned we do need to be sure of their safety on all levels.

To conclude, I am a supporter of the many wonderful Waldorf methods, and I totally believe that correctly managed these can provide children with a well-grounded education. On the other hand, I concede that the lack of openness about the philosophy takes away free choice of parents — even, sadly, to the point of subtly gaining students on false pretenses. Without the full knowledge of what underlies the Waldorf system, the danger is that many new-age, alternative parents will drift to a system which they think will provide what they are looking for. The school I taught in had parents practicing witchcraft, shamanism, tarot, rekei, wicca — but that is not Anthroposophy nor a part of the Waldorf curriculum. 

Keep up the good work, and if I can be of assistance in answering questions I am more than willing to offer my time. 

I posted the following two replies. 

Here is the first:

Thanks very much for writing.

I agree with much of what you say, and I greatly appreciate the spirit of your message. Open and fruitful conversations between critics and advocates of Anthroposophy and Waldorf schooling can be difficult. Sometimes they seem impossible. But I always try to remain hopeful.

> I am always wondering why the secrecy if we believe in Anthroposophy ?

I think there are a couple of reasons. Steiner taught that the truths of Anthroposophy are occult or gnostic; most people are not prepared for them and should be shielded from them. Also, at an immediate, practical level, Waldorf schools may rightly fear that they would attract few students if they openly professed Steiner's occult teachings. Occultism scares most people (as, in my opinion, it should). So Waldorf educators may often think that they have no alternative but to work toward their goals stealthily.

Please write to us again; tell us more; and offer your comments on the statements made here.

Far too often, discussions between Anthroposophists and their critics become heated and even nasty. The result can be an end of communication and the shared search for truth. I believe that we all are searchers, seeking truth. We may disagree profoundly, but we are all on the same journey, and with a little charity in our hearts we can make the journey together.

- Roger Rawlings

P.S. Relevant to the above: Occasionally people write to me, privately, urging me to notice the attacks being made against me on the Web. Quite understandably, my criticisms of Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy, and Waldorf education are upsetting to people who love the things I criticize. But as a rule, I do not attempt to answer personal attacks made against me. The attacks are unimportant. Derogatory statements made about me, whether they contain truth or not, are unimportant because I am unimportant. All that matters is the truth about the issues that affect our lives and world, and we will find truth only if we are calm and reasonable. I think your message, Holly, opens up a possible channel for calm, reasonable communication, and I thank you for it.

 A short time later, I added this:

It might be helpful if I try to frame the issues that are important for discussion on this list, IMO.

We are seeking the truth about large, important questions. At the philosophical level, these questions include examining Anthroposophy to see whether its description of reality is true. At a practical level, we seek to understand how Waldorf schools function; whether they help or harm students; whether they provide a good education; whether they promote Anthroposophy; whether they conceal their real purposes; and so forth.

These questions are the legitimate issues for discussion here. Closely related to them are the secondary questions that they raise. So, for example, in considering Steiner's version of evolution, we may certainly need to consider other versions, such as Darwin's. Discussion of these secondary questions is best when we tie it clearly to our consideration of Anthroposophy and Waldorf schools.

Truths about individuals (including Steiner) are irrelevant, as — of course — are lies about individuals. It makes no difference whether any participant here is a good or bad person (however one defines these terms). What matters is the statements we make about the issues of our discussion. Whether these statements are true or false is important; who made them and why is unimportant.

I used to teach college writing courses. Often, these became classes in how to make clear, accurate, true statements — how to analyze subjects and make defensible statements about them. Here's an example I often used: It is not adequate to argue against an idea by saying that Adolf Hitler had that idea. Let's stipulate the Hitler was the worst human being who ever lived; let's stipulate that he was both insane and extremely evil. Nonetheless, he might have made a true statement here or there, at one time or another. (Even Satan, it is said, tells the truth sometimes.) Maybe Hitler lied most of the time, and maybe any good idea he had came to him by accident. Still, if we are to decide whether any particular statement of his is true or false, we have to set aside our opinion of Hitler as a person and tackle his idea. Thus, was it good or bad to build highways in Germany? Hitler said it was good, and his government built the roads. The highway program was not automatically wrong because Hitler supported it. The highway program was good or bad because of the objectively verifiable benefits or harm it caused, not because of the person who thought it up.

Likewise, no ideas expressed or discussed here are true or false because of the personal strengths or flaws of the people who make the statements. This is why, quite rightly, this list has a rule against making ad hominem arguments (arguments that are directed against people instead of against ideas). A "bad" person may make a "good" statement, and the only way to figure out which statements are good is to objectively, rationally explore the statements in and of themselves. Ad hominem attacks are a recognized form of logical fallacy; they get us nowhere.

We should be alert to ad hominems wherever they occur and whomever they target. If someone somewhere on the Web says that Dan Dugan, or Peter Staudenmaier, or anyone else anywhere is demented and evil, people should not allow such attacks to cloud their thinking. If someone is evil, or insane, or perverse, or possessed by demons, this is of immense importance to that individual, and to her/his loved ones, and to his/her minister, and so forth. But the character, virtues, and vices of individuals do not determine the truth about the issues we discuss here. If Hitler sometimes had a good idea, the same may be true of everyone else who ever lived (even Dan, and Peter, and — conceivably — me). The only way to evaluate ideas is to forget who expressed them and evaluate the ideas themselves: think them through, search for evidence, evaluate arguments for logic or the lack of logic, and so forth. That's what we, and everyone else interested in Anthroposophy and Waldorf education, should do concerning these interesting and important topics.


- Roger Rawlings

For more Steiner quotes about eurythmy,
please see "Eurythmy".

Anthroposophy is a complex system 

possessing illusory symmetry and harmony.

But in fact it is a kludge, 

incomplete and awkward, 

having little connection to reality.

[R. R. sketch, 2010, with thanks to Spirogiro.]

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


Bringing the inquiry up to date: What goes on inside Waldorf schools today?

Waldorf schools in the 21st Century

What they're saying


  TODAY 4,
  What they're reading

  TODAY 5,
  What they're saying (cont.)

Readings (2018...)


More, and more, and...


A brief summary of Rudolf Steiner’s doctrines and teachings

A guide for students and parents

Steiner's theory of everything

Some of the things you aren’t supposed to know

To survive or not, to teach or not


Debating and evaluating Waldorf education

News about Waldorf schools

The Watch in Waldorf Watch (Cont.)

NEWS 3    
Watching (Cont., Cont.)

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. 


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

[2] Ibid., p. 55.

[3] For Steiner’s discussion of Theosophy, see e.g., Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY: An Introduction to the Spiritual Processes in Human Life and in the Cosmos (Anthroposophic Press, 1994) and Rudolf Steiner, SPIRITUALISM, MADAME BLAVATSKY, AND THEOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 2001).

According to Christopher Bamford, editor-in-chief of SteinerBooks: 

“[S]teiner felt the necessity of refounding Theosophical insight ... [H]e felt he had to infuse Theosophy, which had an anti-Christian bias, with the real meaning of Christ and the Mystery of Golgotha.” — Christopher Bamford, introduction to Steiner's WHAT IS ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 2002), p. 19.

[4] Rudolf Steiner, PRAYERS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995).

[5] See, e.g., Rudolf Steiner, THE FIFTH GOSPEL (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995) and Rudolf Steiner, READING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE (SteinerBooks, 1993).

To consult the Akashic Record (a cosmic storehouse of all knowledge) or to read the pictures of the Apocalypse, the necessary tool is clairvoyance.


[7] Ibid., pp. 649-650.

[8] Ibid., p. 712.

[9] Ibid., p. 10.

[10] Ibid., pp. 30-31. 

“[I]t is not that the planets move around the Sun, but these three, Mercury, Venus, and the Earth, follow the Sun, and these three, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, precede it.”

[11] Ibid., p. 607. 

“[A]n island like Great Britain swims in the sea and is held fast by the forces of the stars.”

[12] See, e.g., Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS: Esoteric Studies (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1974).


[14] Ibid., p. 649.

[15] Ibid., p. 495.

I discuss this subject at length on the page “Foundations”.


[17] Rudolf Steiner, THE ARTS AND THEIR MISSION (Anthroposophic Press, 1964), p. 23.

[18] Rudolf Steiner quoted by John Fletcher, ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER (Mercury Arts Publications, 1987), p. 95.

[19] Rudolf Steiner, quoted in THE GOETHEANUM: School of Spiritual Science (Philosophical-Anthroposophical Press, 1961), p. 25.

[20] Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 247.

[21] Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 62-3.

[22] Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 17, lecture synopsis.

[23] Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 198.

[24] Rudolf Steiner, PRAYERS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 45.

[25] Rudolf Steiner, DEEPER INSIGHTS INTO EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1983), p. 21.


I often generalize about Waldorf schools. 
There are fundamental similarities among Waldorf schools; 
I describe the schools based on the evidence concerning 
their structure and operations 
in the past and — more importantly — in the present. 
But not all Waldorf schools, Waldorf charter schools, 
and Waldorf-inspired schools are wholly alike. 
To evaluate an individual school, you should carefully examine its stated purposes, 
its practices (which may or may not be consistent with its stated purposes), 
and the composition of its faculty. 

— R. R.

[R.R., 2015.]