Sanctifying Rudolf Steiner




“Those who come to me wanting to hear the truths available through esotericism and nevertheless refuse to walk the path are like schoolchildren....”

— Rudolf Steiner [1]

Rudolf Steiner.

[Public domain photo.]


Rudolf Steiner invented Waldorf education as well as the mystical system upon which it is built, Anthroposophy. He laid down the principles of Waldorf education, and he directed the implementation of those principles in the day-to-day operations of the first Waldorf school. Today, he remains the central figure in the Waldorf movement — he is the indispensable man, the founder, the guiding light.

One way to comprehend Steiner's preeminent role in Waldorf education is to consult the works written about him by his admirers within the Waldorf movement. Consider, for instance, the booklet RUDOLF STEINER AS EDUCATOR. [2] It was written by Hermann von Baravalle, an Anthroposophist who was a close associate of Steiner's. Von Baravalle taught at the first Waldorf school, where he participated in faculty meetings run by Steiner. Later, he was instrumental in bringing Waldorf education to America.

RUDOLF STEINER AS EDUCATOR goes well beyond hagiography; it describes Steiner as virtually a flawless paragon, nearly godlike in his perfection. This, indeed, is how Steiner is often portrayed by the advocates of Waldorf education. [3] In Waldorf schools, when teachers utter Steiner’s name, the tone is usually reverential. Discussions between Waldorf faculty members often center on the proper interpretation of statements made by Steiner. When a quotation from one of Steiner's books or lectures is produced, argument tends to end: The final word has been given, and that word is Steiner's.

In RUDOLF STEINER AS EDUCATOR, von Baravalle writes this: 

“Dr. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), the Austrian philosopher and educator, is outstanding in our age and universal in his perceptions and achievements.” [4]

Von Baravalle continues, 

“A member of the faculty of the new school [i.e., the first Waldorf school] described the opening day...September 7th, 1919, as follows: ‘The celebration lasted from morning to night. Humor and gaiety stemmed from Rudolf Steiner ... How untiring this man was in all varieties of human response! To such a man children are greatly attracted ... Parents and pupils...were present. Rudolf Steiner was constantly surrounded. He had a kind word for everyone — a different remark for each individual person. Even to the youngest he seemed to make himself understood.’” [5]

There is little intentional humor in Steiner’s works, and the role Steiner usually assumed — and was accorded — was that of an unchallengeable savant delivering pearls of wisdom, not a conversationalist eager to hear what others had to say. But von Baravalle would have us believe otherwise:

“One of Rudolf Steiner’s outstanding characteristics was his ability to listen to another person. And the other person, whether in conversations, in discussions or in faculty meetings, felt thoroughly understood and at ease. Workmen for whom he held special courses and discussions...as well as personalities representing many different walks of life, expressed almost identical reactions: ‘He is our kind. He speaks our language.’ Rudolf Steiner’s answers to the frequent requests for advice that came to him were the outcome of this careful listening ... His personal concerns were submerged to the point of non-existence; [his] answers were wholly unbiased simply because they arose out of the specific issues and life situations themselves. The facts spoke, not he.” [6] 

According to this account, Steiner was both a great listener and a highly empathetic man of the people — he was "our kind." Note, however, that his role was to provide answers — he was the font of wisdom. The people around him sought his insights (they made "frequent requests for advice"), and he — the focus of everyone's attention — dispensed sagacity, as if from on high. [7] It was proper for Steiner to position himself above others because he virtually transcended individual existence: “His personal concerns were submerged to the point of non-existence ... The facts spoke, not he.” His answers, in other words, were transparently, transcendently true. He was, in this sense, a spiritual exemplar. Who wouldn't want to receive guidance from such a selfless, far-seeing sage?

Rudolf Steiner.

[Public domain photo.]

After discussing the stages of childhood development as posited by Steiner [8], von Baravalle returns to the subject at hand: Rudolf Steiner in his role as peerless educational authority. Von Baravalle pursues this aim primarily by giving quotations from Steiner. Some of them are, to non-Anthroposophists, shocking. Let's look at a few.


Steiner: “In the Waldorf School what a teacher IS is far more important than any technical ability he may have acquired in an intellectual way. The essential thing is that the teacher not only love children, but also love the methods he uses and in fact, the whole school procedure.” [9] 

Love of children is undeniably a virtue. But what about the rest of this statement? Stressing “what a teacher IS” surely means that the teacher must possess the proper values and wisdom — which to Anthroposophists can only mean that s/he must be an Anthroposophist or at least a fellow traveler. The rest of the statement bears this out. A Waldorf teacher need not possess “any technical ability...in an intellectual way” — that is, the teacher doesn't need to have mastered ordinary educational techniques or, perhaps, even the intellectual content of the material to be taught. But s/he must be wholly committed to the Waldorf approach (s/he must “love...the whole school procedure"). In other words, the Waldorf teacher must be wedded to the Waldorf system. S/he cannot explore non-Waldorf approaches or implement classroom strategies that diverge from Steiner's guidance. S/he must unwaveringly follow Steiner’s dictums. The important thing is not what s/he knows, but what s/he IS: i.e., s/he must be a follower of Rudolf Steiner. As Steiner once asserted, 

"As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” [10]

Waldorf teachers today still, by and large, accept this proposition. Thus, one has written,

"Waldorf teachers must be anthroposophists first and teachers second." [11]


Steiner: “Any attempt to improve the methods of education should consist in modifying the intellectual element which has become over-dominant since the fourteenth century ....” [12] 

The "improvement" Steiner means here is his own contribution. He "improved" modern education by essentially overturning it. Waldorf education is deeply anti-intellectual. Waldorf teachers need not possess "technical ability...acquired in an intellectual way," and in their classroom work they should downplay intellect among the students. Steiner frequently advised again "over-dominant" intellectuality or, more generally, brainwork. [13] 

Waldorf education has spiritual goals, not primarily educational or intellectual goals. [14] Children sent through Waldorf schools are not taught much about the real world, but they are nudged toward mystical imaginings and cloudy, dreamlike visions. [15] By all means, Waldorf teachers should minimize "the intellectual element." Waldorf schools are often, consequently, weak academically, while the arts are promoted for their supposed spiritual effects. [16] 

Steiner was an intellectual — he made his living by peddling the products of his busy brain. But the educational system he devised de-emphasizes the importance of the brain. He taught, 

"[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition.” [17]


Steiner: “As much as I appreciate the achievements of experimental and statistical methods in education, I also know that they are a symptom of the loss of direct inner contact between human beings. We have become alienated to what is inwardly human....” [18] 

Some of this is just Anthroposophical jargon. No one can know the inner reality of anyone else; there is no such thing as “direct inner contact between human beings.” But put that aside. Note the gist of the statement. As so often, Steiner declares his opposition to objective, scientific knowledge (“statistical methods in education”). Even more startlingly, he expresses opposition to “experimental...methods in education” (he "appreciates" such methods, but  they are symptomatic of serious modern ills). 

We might observe that, in 1919, Waldorf education itself was an experiment. From an Anthroposophical perspective, however, Waldorf education is firmly rooted in the will of the gods — as relayed by Rudolf Steiner — and thus it is not at all uncertain or questionable. As Steiner once 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.” [19]

Steiner claimed to understand "what is inwardly human" — that is, the human soul and spirit — and his new form of education was meant to address this inward human essence. If he was correct about mankind's inner essence, then perhaps Waldorf schooling may be spiritually beneficial. But if he was not correct (and we have many reasons for doubting his correctness), then Waldorf schooling may be purposeless, or worse.

Waldorf representatives today still accept Steiner's view of the "inwardly human," for instance in statements such as this (identifying the basis of Waldorf education). The following was written by a prominent Waldorf teacher:

"Waldorf education is based upon the recognition that the four bodies of the human being [the physical, etheric, astral, and ego bodies] develop and mature at different times.” [20] 


We should circle back, briefly, to the beginning. Von Baravalle's booklet proceeds from this premise:

“Dr. Rudolf Steiner...is outstanding in our age and universal in his perceptions and achievements.”

All of Steiner's perceptions and pronouncements are treated as being virtually unquestionable. Steiner was noble, his teachings are noble, and the results of his teachings — in particular, Waldorf education — are ennobling. Consider, for instance, what Steiner had to say about the arts.

Steiner: “The artist does not bring the divine to the earth by letting it flow out into the material world, but rather raises the world into the sphere of the divine.” [21] 

This is the key to the arts-based Waldorf approach that, at least initially, can seem so attractive. [22] The arts at Waldorf schools are meant to raise children's souls into the divine sphere. As Steiner said, 

“This is what gives art its essential lustre: it transplants us here and now into the spiritual world.” [23]

But, again, note that the success of this approach depends on Steiner being correct about human spirituality and the divine. 

Genuine Waldorf schools are, in essence, churches. [24] The teachers typically consider themselves to be priests, and they seek to guide their students toward divinity as propounded by Rudolf Steiner. [25] The schools usually do not openly describe themselves in such terms; families who opt for Waldorf schooling are often surprised when, eventually, the spiritual beliefs and purposes of the Waldorf approach become apparent to them. 

Waldorf schools are well practiced in disguising themselves [26], but sooner or later the disguise may slip, and then the question for a family becomes whether to stay — whether the school you chose remains attractive to you after its real character is exposed. Your answer will largely depend on whether you can accept the occult beliefs on which the schools are based. [27]


Von Baravalle tries to present Steiner — the man Anthroposophists revere — in the best possible light. For von Baravalle and his fellow Anthroposophists, Rudolf Steiner was virtually flawless: a saint, a great spiritual master, very nearly a god. If you enter a Waldorf community, you will be expected to adopt this attitude or, at the very least, to express no opposition to it.









Rudolf Steiner died in 1925, but his words live on. There are specialty publishing houses in Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere that are largely devoted to repackaging and reissuing Steiner's works. Some general-purpose publishing houses also offer a sampling of Steiner texts.

There is considerable overlap among the many books published in Steiner's name. Still, his output was enormous. He wrote numerous books and delivered literally thousands of lectures. For Anthroposophists — including many Waldorf teachers — these works are virtually holy texts.

A few examples:

[Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002.]

[Health Research, 1972.]

[Anthroposophic Press, 1987.]

[Kessinger, 1996.]

 [Anthroposophic Press, 1993.]

[Anthroposophic Press, 1968.]

[Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005.]

[Anthroposophic Press, 1996.]

[SteinerBooks, 2007.]

[Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983.]

[Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995.]

Steiner did not write most of the books attributed to him.

Most of these books consist of transcripts 

of his lectures and other utterances

painstakingly transcribed by his devout followers.














Waldorf schools are well practiced in disguising themselves, but sooner or later the disguise may slip, and then the question becomes whether to stay — whether the school you chose remains attractive to you after its real character is exposed. Your answer will largely depend on whether you can accept the occult beliefs on which the schools are based. Here are some examples. Anthroposophists take statements like the following quite seriously. They believe these things. Can you?

"[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 [i.e., fulfill their karma]... [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.


“The ashes that a thought leaves strengthen bones, and so people with rickets do better if they think abstractly.” — Rudolf Steiner, FROM THE CONTENTS OF ESOTERIC CLASSES, 3-14-08, GA 266.


[T]he moon today is like a fortress in the universe, in which there lives a population that fulfilled its human destiny over 15,000 years ago, after which it withdrew to the moon together with the spiritual guides of humanity ... This is only one of the ‘cities’ in the universe, one colony, one settlement among many ... As far as what concerns ourselves, as humanity on earth, the other pole, the opposite extreme to the moon is the population of Saturn.” — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER SPEAKS TO THE BRITISH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 93.


[Science] sees the heart as a pump that pumps blood through the body. Now there is nothing more absurd than believing this....” — Rudolf Steiner, PSYCHOANALYSIS AND SPIRITUAL PSYCHOLOGY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1990), p. 126.


There are beings that can be seen with clairvoyant vision at many spots in the depths of the earth ... They seem able to crouch close together in vast numbers, and when the earth is laid open they appear to burst asunder ... Many names have been given to them, such as goblins, gnomes and so forth ... Their nature prompts them to play all sorts of tricks on man.... ” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 62-3.


With the students, we should at least try to...make it clear that, for instance, an island like Great Britain swims in the sea and is held fast by the forces of the stars. In actuality, such islands do not sit directly upon a foundation; they swim and are held fast from outside.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophical Press, 1998), p. 607.


Buddha...became for Mars what Christ has become for the earth ... The Buddha wandered away from earthly affairs to the realm of Mars ... [T]he Buddha accomplished a Buddha crucifixion there.” — Rudolf Steiner, LIFE BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH (SteinerBooks, 1985), pp. 72 & 207.


Within the brain there is absolutely no thought; there is no more of thought in the brain than there is of you in the mirror in which you see yourself." — Rudolf Steiner, WONDERS OF THE WORLD, ORDEALS OF THE SOUL, REVELATIONS OF THE SPIRIT (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), p. 119.










Rudolf Steiner.

[Public domain photo.]










I prefer to think that Steiner was sane. This keeps our attention on his statements, not on him as an individual. After all, we cannot really know him. He is gone, we cannot interview him, we cannot quiz him. But his doctrines are still with us. We can read his statements. We can form our opinions of those statements.

Another view is certainly possible, however. Steiner may not have been sane; he may have been out of his mind. Certainly his doctrines describe a universe quite different from verifiable reality.

Steiner said he had his first spiritualistic experience when he was a young child, between the ages of five and seven. He claimed that the soul of a dead relative visited him. Biographer Gary Lachman writes,

“Although he hadn’t met her before, Steiner could tell that she looked like people in his family. She then spoke to him, saying, ‘Try now, and later in life, to help me as much as you can.’ ... It eventually came out that a close relative had committed suicide on the same day that Steiner had his vision.” [28]

Seeing invisible beings and hearing inaudible voices are often judged, with good reason, to indicate mental imbalance of one sort or another. If Steiner truly believed he had seen a ghost or spirit — if he was prone to such delusions — then it is possible that he suffered from mental problems all his life. In that case, his decision as an adult to turn to occultism becomes comprehensible — esoteric theories may have enabled him to get a grip on the visions that haunted him. Some of his biographers acknowledge the possibility that he was at least a bit deranged. Describing the young Steiner’s obsessiveness, Lachman writes,

“Such unhealthy pursuits — at least from the point of view of the average person — may indeed be the start...a ‘schizophrenic’ personality....” [29]

Where does this get us? The two chief possibilities are that Steiner’s “clairvoyant” visions were intentional lies told by a sane charlatan, or they were the hallucinations suffered by an unfortunate psychotic.* The practical difference, for us, is slight. Steiner set forth an amazing array of bizarre propositions, insisting that they are the truth. They are anything but that. They are falsehoods that Steiner himself either did or did not know to be false. 

The only thing that really need concern us is that Steiner's occult visions form the basis of Waldorf education. Unless you find good, solid sense in Steiner's strange pronouncements, you will not ultimately find good solid sense in Waldorf schooling. 

[To review more of Steiner's pronouncements, see, e.g., "Say What?" and "Wise Words". To consider how such pronouncements underlie Waldorf pedagogy, see, e.g., "Oh Humanity". To see how Waldorf teachers slip many of Steiner's beliefs into the lessons they teach, see "Sneaking It In".]


* The third major possibility is that ghosts and spirits really exist, and Steiner really was able to perceive them. Many people believe in ghosts and spirits, after all, and the ability to perceive them — which Steiner identified as clairvoyance — cannot be absolutely discounted. The problem here is that despite mankind's long fascination with these possibilities (that ghosts and spirits exist, and that some people are really clairvoyant), no solid evidence for them has ever been produced. Go back to the list of Steiner's pronouncements, above. Steiner claimed to perceive a vast number of things for which there is simply no evidence. Indeed, in many cases, the evidence that we do possess tends to undercut Steiner: It demolishes his assertions. This is a large topic, of course, and I delve into it at length on other pages here are Waldorf Watch. For our purposes at this juncture, it is perhaps sufficient to repeat this point: Unless you find good, solid sense in Steiner's strange pronouncements, you will not ultimately find good solid sense in Waldorf schooling. 









Here is a brief summary of Rudolf Steiner’s life: [30]

◊ Rudolf Steiner is born on Feb. 27, 1861, in Austria-Hungary.

◊ Rudolf is raised in various Austrian towns, as his father — a railroad employee — is transferred from post to post.

◊ 1867  Rudolf enters a local school; he is removed after being accused of causing a disturbance; thereafter, he receives homeschooling.

◊ 1868  During this year, Rudolf is visited by a ghost in a railroad station, or so he later claims.

◊ 1869  After his father is transferred once again, Rudolf enrolls in another school; he is assigned extra lessons because his work is unorthodox.

◊ 1876  Despite his checkered educational history, Rudolf begins tutoring classmates and others.

◊ 1879  Rudolf enrolls in the Vienna Institute of Technology. While there, he begins editing the "scientific" works of the German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; Steiner completes this project at the Goethe Archives in Weimar. Steiner will claim afterward that he was initiated into occult mysteries during this period.

◊ 1883  Rudolf Steiner graduates from the Institute; he works still as a private tutor. He becomes politically active in the German nationalist movement within Austria.

◊ 1886  Steiner publishes his first book, A THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE IMPLICIT IN GOETHE'S WORLD CONCEPTION.

◊ 1888  Steiner becomes editor of Deutsche Wochenschriftt [German Weekly] magazine.

◊ 1891  Steiner is awarded a doctorate in philosophy via Rostock University. (Steiner did not attend Rostock. He submitted a thesis and took an oral exam. He received the lowest passing grade.)

◊ 1893  Steiner publishes THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM, a work he will later revise significantly. In its revised form, it is studied by his followers today and is taken to be a foundation of Anthroposophy.

◊ 1897  Steiner moves to Berlin, where he becomes editor of Magazin for Literature [Magaine for Literature]. Seeking to establish himself as a philosopher, he espouses rationalist views, criticizes Theosophy, and is involved in socialistic intellectual circles.

◊ 1899  Rudolf Steiner marries Anna Eunicke, a union about which he is later reticent. Also in 1899, he becomes instructor at a working men's institute in Berlin, then he becomes involved in Theosophy and starts lecturing on occultist themes.

◊ 1902  Steiner joins the German Theosophical Society, becoming General Secretary. Indicating that he is clairvoyant and always has been, he begins referring to his doctrines as Anthroposophy (knowledge or wisdom of the human being). He meets Marie von Sivers, who will become his second wife.

◊ 1903  Steiner separates from — but does not divorce — his first wife, who has been perplexed by his turn from liberal academia to Theosophy.

◊ 1904  Steiner publishes KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT, one of his fundamental occultist expositions. Around this time, he is appointed leader of the Esoteric Society for Germany and Austria.

◊ 1905  Steiner is active in politics during this period; he presses for reforms in German society and culture.

◊ 1907  Steiner organizes a world conference of the Theosophic Society, in Munich, Germany. Thereafter, he begins writing four "mystery plays" that are still performed by Anthroposophical groups.

◊ 1909  Steiner publishes OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, framing his overall occultist conceptions. He later revises the book several times.

◊ 1911  Anna Steiner (Rudolf's first wife) dies.

◊ 1912  Rudolf Steiner creates eurythmy, a dance form representing visible speech, with the purpose of connecting practitioners to the spirit realm.

◊ 1913  Steiner breaks from Theosophy; he establishes Anthroposophy as a separate movement. Work begins on the Anthroposophical headquarters building, a wooden structure erected in Dornach, Switzerland. Steiner names the building the Goethanum, in honor of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. During this year, the General Anthroposophical Society is established.

◊ 1914  Most of Rudolf Steiner's time in this and following years is devoted to lecturing on his occult research and visions, including the application of his doctrines in such fields as education, medicine, and agriculture. On December 24, 1914, Rudolf Steiner marries Marie von Sivers, whom he has known for several years as a fellow esotericist.

◊ 1919  Steiner directs the formation of the first Waldorf school, in Stuttgart, Germany. The school is sponsored by Emil Molt, owner of the Waldorf Astoria Cigarette Factory. Rudolf Steiner remains involved with the school throughout the following years.

◊ 1921  Steiner founds the first Anthroposophic medical clinic.

◊ 1922  At the beginning of the year, the Goetheanum is destroyed by fire — Anthroposophists blame arson by right-wing enemies, but no proof is forthcoming. Steiner continues with his diverse enterprises. During 1922, he oversees the establishment of the Christian Community, an overtly religious offshoot of Anthroposophy.

◊ 1923  Steiner reportedly contracts the illness that will eventually kill him. He remains active, however, in his various pursuits. Among other activities, he oversees the design of a new Goetheanum, a concrete structure to be built on the site of the original Anthroposophical headquarters in Dornach.

◊ 1924  Steiner's health deteriorates. By some accounts, he has stomach cancer. Still, he continues to help steer Anthroposophical enterprises, including Waldorf education. Construction begins on the second Goetheanum.

◊ Rudolf Steiner dies on March 30, 1925.










For a somewhat speculative portrait of Rudolf Steiner,

see the Afterword to "Steiner's Specific".

To delve into the religion from which Steiner derived

the core of his teachings — Theosophy —

see "Basics".





Rudolf Steiner.

[Public domain photo.]


Here are two thumbnail biographies of Rudolf Steiner: 


Rudolf Steiner, (born Feb. 27, 1861, Kraljevi?, Austria—died March 30, 1925, Dornach, Switz.), Austrian-born spiritualist, lecturer, and founder of anthroposophy, a movement based on the notion that there is a spiritual world comprehensible to pure thought but accessible only to the highest faculties of mental knowledge. 

Attracted in his youth to the works of Goethe, Steiner edited that poet’s scientific works and from 1889 to 1896 worked on the standard edition of his complete works at Weimar. During this period he wrote his Die Philosophie der Freiheit (1894; “The Philosophy of Freedom”), then moved to Berlin to edit the literary journal Magazin für Literatur and to lecture. Coming gradually to believe in spiritual perception independent of the senses, he called the result of his research “anthroposophy,” centring on “knowledge produced by the higher self in man.” In 1912 he founded the Anthroposophical Society. 

Steiner believed that man once participated more fully in spiritual processes of the world through a dreamlike consciousness but had since become restricted by his attachment to material things. The renewed perception of spiritual things required training the human consciousness to rise above attention to matter. The ability to achieve this goal by an exercise of the intellect is theoretically innate in everyone. 

In 1913 at Dornach, near Basel, Switz., Steiner built his first Goetheanum, which he characterized as a “school of spiritual science.” After a fire in 1922, it was replaced by another building. The Waldorf School movement, derived from his experiments with the Goetheanum, by 1969 had some 80 schools attended by more than 25,000 children in Europe and the United States. Other projects that have grown out of Steiner’s work include schools for defective children; a therapeutic clinical centre at Arlesheim, Switz.; scientific and mathematical research centres; and schools of drama, speech, painting, and sculpture. Among Steiner’s varied writings are The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (1894), Occult Science: An Outline (1913), and Story of My Life (1924). 

— "Rudolf Steiner." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 21 Nov. 2012.



The Austrian-born Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was the head of the German Theosophical Society from 1902 until 1912, at which time he broke away and formed his Anthroposophical Society. He may have abandoned the divine wisdom for human wisdom, but one of his main motives for leaving the theosophists was that they did not treat Jesus or Christianity as special. Steiner had no problem, however, in accepting such Hindu notions as karma and reincarnation. By 1922 Steiner had established what he called the Christian Community, with its own liturgy and rituals for Anthroposophists. Both the Anthroposophical Society and the Christian Community still exist, though they are separate entities. 

It wasn't until Steiner was nearly forty and the 19th century was about to end that he became deeply interested in the occult. Steiner was a true polymath, with interests in agriculture, architecture, art, drama, literature, math, medicine, philosophy, science, and religion, among other subjects. His doctoral dissertation at the University of Rostock was on Fichte's theory of knowledge. He was the author of many books and lectures with titles like The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (1894), Occult Science: An Outline (1913), Investigations in Occultism (1920), How to Know Higher Worlds (1904), and "The Ahrimanic Deception" (1919). The latter lecture describes his "clairvoyant vision" of the infusion of various spirits into human history and reads like the memoir of Daniel Paul Schreber. He was also much attracted to Goethe's mystical ideas and worked as an editor of Goethe's works for several years. Much of what Steiner wrote seems like a rehash of Hegel. He thought science and religion were true but one-sided. Marx had it wrong; it really is the spiritual that drives history. Steiner even speaks of the tension between the search for community and the experience of individuality, which, he believed, are not really contradictions but represent polarities rooted in human nature. 

His interests were wide and many but by the turn of the century his main interests were esoteric, mystical, and occult. Steiner was especially attracted to two theosophical notions: (1) There is a special spiritual consciousness that provides direct access to higher spiritual truths; (2) Spiritual evolution is hindered by being mired in the material world. 

— Robert Todd Carroll, “Rudolf Steiner”, THE SKEPTIC DICTIONARY 

(Wiley, 2003), http://skepdic.com/steiner.html..


It is, perhaps, worth noting that despite the enormous importance attached to Steiner by his followers, Steiner is largely unknown outside the small circle of Anthroposophy. The item I have quoted from THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA is that reference work’s entire entry on Steiner.

We might also note that there are slight disagreements about the dates of various events in Steiner's life. Further research should resolve such issues, which do not, however, seem to affect the overall picture.










Here are the opening paragraphs of 

an article by historian Peter Staudenmaier.

(In accordance with the editorial guidelines

for the volume, quotations from primary sources appear in italics,

 while quotations from secondary sources appear in quotation marks.)

Rudolf Steiner and the Great War: 

Karma, Clairvoyance, and the German Spiritual Mission

Peter Staudenmaier

in Christian Hoffarth, ed., Prophecy, Prognosis, and Politics from Antiquity to the Modern Age 

(Frankfurt: Klostermann, 2022), 239-54

Nearly a century after his death, Rudolf Steiner remains something of a mystery. Known as the founder of an alternative spiritual movement called anthroposophy, Steiner’s far-flung legacy includes Waldorf schools, biodynamic farming, Weleda and Demeter products, and a lasting impact on New Age currents and esoteric belief systems across the globe. Biographers have termed him a »modern prophet«, and much of his renown stemmed from claims to clairvoyant knowledge of the higher worlds that determine human destiny. Even those familiar with Steiner’s spiritual teachings are often unaware of his complex political outlook, much of it centered on the conviction of a German mission to redeem the world from materialism. These views took on particularly acute form with the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. In a series of pronouncements about the war’s deeper spiritual meaning, Steiner endeavored to explain unfolding events in esoteric terms, making a substantial contribution to the genre of occult interpretations of the war and its causes. Through personal relations with high-level figures, he sought to bring insights from the higher worlds to bear on worldly matters in wartime Germany.

A child of the Habsburg Empire, Steiner (1861–1925) was raised in an Austrian Catholic milieu but with a freethinking father. His roots in ethnic German communities in nineteenth century Habsburg lands shaped Steiner’s viewpoint for the rest of his life. The road to public recognition was winding, from peripheral origins to the mature thinker who came to be known after his death as »the most prolific and perhaps the most intellectually demanding of all modern occultists.« After attending the Technical College in Vienna, Steiner moved to Germany in 1890. He earned a doctorate in philosophy but failed to find an academic position. By the turn of the century he established himself in literary circles in Berlin and began offering lectures at the local branch of the Theosophical Society, one of the major esoteric organizations of the era. In 1902 Steiner became General Secretary of the German section of the Theosophical Society, a position he held for the next decade. 

While theosophical ideas about karma and spiritual evolution provided the framework for Steiner’s developing cosmology, his tenure within the organization was contentious. Founded in New York in 1875, the Theosophical Society’s leadership was predominantly English and American, with international headquarters located in British India. Steiner feuded repeatedly with the London-born president of the Society, Annie Besant, over doctrinal matters. Some of the debates had national undertones; Steiner held that German culture offered the most suitable setting for esoteric insights. The final split came in 1912, when Steiner broke away from the Theosophical Society to found the Anthroposophical Society. After an abortive attempt to erect a temple for the new movement in Munich, the Anthroposophical Society moved its base of operations to Switzerland in 1913, though Steiner maintained his residence in Berlin. 

In the eyes of his followers, Steiner had a nearly messianic stature. They viewed him as »leader of all of humankind« who enjoyed »divine authority« and was »more or less infallible.« The founder of anthroposophy was a figure of world-historical greatness, an Initiate and a man who towered immeasurably above his time. His singular importance to German spiritual life took on apocalyptic proportions: Steiner and those about him stand prepared. They have accepted the challenge, and they are ready to take up the fight for Germany’s civilization — for the German Soul: ready to fight this fight to a finish. This struggle will show on which side stand the Powers of Light and Truth, and on which are to be found those of Darkness and Falsehood.

Like other theosophists, Steiner adopted the notion of karma from Asian sources while investing it with new significance. Such appropriation of purportedly Eastern spiritual traditions was a common feature of modern German occultism. Steiner asserted that his access to spiritual truths came through clairvoyant reading of the Akashic record, a supernatural repository of cosmic memory affording knowledge of the past, present, and future. This belief, likewise inherited from theosophy, underlay esoteric claims regarding everything from lost continents and ancient civilizations to current political affairs, from the etheric and astral planes to the hidden meaning of contemporary events. Though the concept of Akasha was borrowed from Sanskrit, »Theosophical interpretations of the term as referring to a cosmic memory bank have little if any basis in Indian religious terminology.« Avowals of higher knowledge and references to karma and clairvoyance marked Steiner’s public statements all through his career as an esoteric teacher. 

When Europe descended into war in the summer of 1914, spiritual leaders across the continent faced the challenge of coming to terms with a global military conflict that seemed to put basic values into question. Steiner’s response was complicated by the international nature of the movement he led. While his core supporters were concentrated in German-speaking Europe, he had followers from Russia to Britain and beyond. All were welcomed at the Anthroposophical Society center in Dornach, in neutral Switzerland, even as the war raged around them. But Steiner’s Germanocentric worldview strongly colored his perception of events. He lectured throughout Germany and Austria for the duration of the war, invoking universal brotherhood while taking sides on behalf of the Central Powers and against the Entente. The course of the war became an obsession; in the midst of lofty disquisitions on esoteric principles, he returned to the topic again and again, denouncing Russian, French, and British actions as an affront to spiritual rectitude.

Partisan standpoints were the norm among German intellectuals during the war. What distinguished Steiner’s stance was his insistence on viewing the conflict through an occult lens. Linking geopolitical realities to developments in the higher worlds, Steiner offered a spiritual justification for the German war effort, meant to save humanity from the machinations of the powers of darkness working behind the scenes of world history. His first lecture after the outbreak of hostilities depicted the war as a karmic necessity, the culmination of spiritual battles that had been brewing for centuries. The struggle was thus of prophetic significance for all of cosmic evolution. For Steiner, the campaigns mounted by the Central Powers were a sanctified crusade against the baleful materialism represented by the Entente.

Speaking to his followers in Berlin at the beginning of September 1914, Steiner explained the celestial reasons behind the thunder of war and the sacred blood of sacrifice. He urged his audience to have faith in our hearts that events will take the right course within world karma — that there has to be strife, that blood and more blood has to be shed, in order to achieve what he who guides the destinies of the world wants to achieve for mankind on this earth. A month later Steiner declared that the war was based on the karma of the nations and must occur for the salvation of humankind. Necessary but tragic, the fighting had been foisted on Germany and Austria by their enemies: this war is a conspiracy against German spiritual life. 

Such views were rooted in a fundamental belief in the German spiritual mission, a crucial tenet in Steiner’s cosmology. The German people, he taught, embodied universal values. In a March 1915 address in Berlin, Steiner reiterated that his insight into the war stemmed from clairvoyant experience, allowing him to understand the tremendous hatred directed toward the Germans by the Entente nations. The British and French, mired in materialism and blinded by national pride, failed to see that German intentions were entirely benign: The Western European peoples have become very much crystallized in their national characteristics, but in the case of the German people this cannot happen because of the peculiar nature of the German folk spirit. The result is that German attitudes will always have to remain more universal than those of other peoples. These things relate to profound realities in the spiritual world. 


For a look at Steiner's involvement with the leader

of the German military at the outbreak of World War I,

see "Steiner and the Warlord".










A German edition of Steiner's THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM

(Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1973).

When he set out on his public career, Rudolf Steiner was a secular intellectual who mocked occult movements such as Theosophy. In 1893, he published THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM — a straightforward philosophical treatise, not an occult text. Steiner thought the book would establish him as the next great German philosopher. This did not happen, and following his disappointment, Steiner astonished his family and friends by announcing that he was now an occultist. Thereafter, he revised THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM to make it consistent with his new, mystical beliefs. Waldorf schools still like to refer to Steiner as a philosopher (it sounds so much better than "occultist"), but Steiner wrote no further philosophical texts. 

Today, labeling someone an occultist almost seems unfair, but Steiner embraced the term. He said such things as 

"We have been equipped for our task by the methods of occult science..."


"Recently in my occult research the following question arose..."


"In occultism...we speak of the Mars half of Earth evolution and of the Mercury half...."

and so forth. [See "Occultism".] 

Steiner was an occultist, and Waldorf education is built on the foundation of his occult teachings. [See, e.g., "Soul School".]

It is also important to realize that the version of PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM studied by Steiner's followers today is the heavily revised, occultist final version. Steiner's original devotion to freedom became more and more compromised as he sank further and further into occultism. Essentially, in the mystical teachings he eventually devised, there is little scope for true human freedom. You can freely choose the correct, upward path to spiritual improvement (Steiner's path), or you can freely choose the suicidal downward path to spiritual ruin (the path of Steiner's foes). This is the crimped view of "freedom" that ultimately underlies Waldorf schooling. [See "Freedom".]

The mystical nature of freedom as conceived by Steiner is reflected in this publisher's statement: 

"[F]reedom cannot be settled for us by philosophical argument. It is not simply granted to us. If we want to become free, we have to strive through our own inner activity to overcome our unconscious urges and habits of thought. In order to do this we must reach a point of view that recognises no limits to knowledge, sees through all illusions, and opens the door to an experience of the reality of the spiritual world. Then we can achieve the highest level of evolution. We can recognise ourselves as free spirits." — Rudolf Steiner Press, description of THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM, reprint edition, 2011.










Steiner occasionally revealed himself to be quite human — which shouldn't surprise us. Despite his pretensions, he was hardly a saint. Here are just a few indicators. Make of them what you will.

Steiner was a German nationalist. He was closely associated with the leader of Germany's military at the beginning of World War I. [See "Steiner and the Warlord".] Steiner's fierce devotion to the German nation led him to make a series of remarkably nasty comments about President Woodrow Wilson, who brought the USA into the war on the side of Germany's enemies. [See Woodrow and Rudolf.]

Steiner's racial views were, by today's standards, appalling. [See "Steiner's Racism".] He deplored French policies that allowed blacks to settle in Europe, which led to this strange outburst: 

“The use of the French language quite certainly corrupts the soul ... The French are also ruining what maintains their dead language, namely, their blood. The French are committing the terrible brutality of moving black people to Europe ... The French as a race are reverting.” [See "Say What?"]

Steiner was concerned with how he appeared in the press, and he lashed back at his critics. [See the addendum to "Was He Christian?", in which we see Steiner expressing his annoyance at Christian and American criticism of himself and Anthroposophy.] More generally, Steiner seemed to feel besieged by critics, and he encouraged his followers to think they were surrounded by enemies. [See "Enemies".]

Although he promoted the sanctity of marriage, he left his first wife. Although he warned against the use of alcohol, he drank. Although he warned of the demonic nature of modern technology, he enjoyed being driven about in automobiles. [For some of these matters, see The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia. Revealing portraits of Steiner can also be found in THE SUN AT MIDNIGHT (James Clarke & Co., 2009), FEET OF CLAY (Free Press Paperbacks, 1996), MADAME BLAVATSKY'S BABOON (Secker & Warburg, 1993), and THE SKEPTIC'S DICTIONARY (http://skepdic.com/steiner.html).]

Sane or not, Steiner was just a guy, with a full set of human foibles and flaws. Which shouldn't surprise us.

Rudolf Steiner.

[Public domain photo.]










Here is an item from the Waldorf Watch News.

I have edited slightly for use here:

“The ashes that a thought leaves strengthen bones, and so people with rickets do better if they think abstractly.” — Rudolf Steiner, FROM THE CONTENTS OF ESOTERIC CLASSES, 3-14-08, GA 266.

Waldorf Watch Response:

Rudolf Steiner was impressive. Ask him a question about almost anything — how people lived on the continent of Atlantis, how to know higher worlds, how to treat rickets — and he had an answer. And not just any answer, but a remarkable answer, a startling yet seemingly authoritative answer. He displayed surprisingly wide knowledge. He cited authorities, scholars, mystics, ancient savants. He poured out a torrential flood of verbiage that could sweep you far from the shores of your old reality.*

He was impressive. Read his lectures and come away stunned. Here was a brilliant man. Just think what he might have contributed to humanity if he had used his brilliance constructively! But something went wrong. We can’t know what it was. Perhaps he was an intentional con man, a fully self-aware charlatan. Or perhaps he was insane — a sort of lunatic savant, if you will. In either case, the value of his teachings is essentially nil. (Also essentially nil is the likelihood that he was what he claimed to be, an occult initiate with clairvoyant access to virtually unlimited information about just about everything.)

I’m not a betting man, but if forced to choose one of these possibilities, I’d choose door number one. Charlatan.

I could be wrong, of course. I could be mistaken, for instance, in thinking that abstract thought is not a plausible treatment for rickets. But whether I am right or wrong is not very important. What is important is your opinion. Are you a gambler? Are you prepared to put you money down — or, more to the point, put your children’s lives down — in the Great Steiner Gamble? If you send your children to a Waldorf school, you are gambling that your children will be best served by teachers who think that Steiner was almost always right about almost everything.

To my mind, you would be taking a huge gamble for very high stakes. So I would suggest this: Pause. Let the flood of Steiner’s verbiage recede. And then, in the cool of the evening, think things over. Do you believe that goblins exist? Do you believe that the heart does not pump blood? Do you believe that there is an invisible celestial storehouse of wisdom hidden from you but accessible to clairvoyants? Do you believe that the continents float in the sea and are held in place by the stars? Do you believe that abstract thought is a plausible treatment for rickets? Rudolf Steiner affirmed all of these astounding propositions and a great many more. Anthroposophists believe him. Do you?

For more of Steiner’s astounding propositions, see “Steiner’s Blunders”. But there I go again. I gave that essay its title. Perhaps a less pointed title would have been better. Perhaps when reading the Steiner quotations I present in that essay, you will conclude that they are pearls of great wisdom. I doubt it. Indeed, I think the essay presents example after example of things Steiner said that are clearly, factually, well-nigh indisputably wrong. Flat wrong. Astoundingly wrong. 

But read “Steiner’s Blunders” and/or any of the other essays here at Waldorf Watch — "Steiner’s ‘Science’”, "Steiner Static", and “Steiner’s Quackery” leap to mind — and draw your own conclusion.


* We are considering a nice, concise statement by Steiner. Here is a more typical example of Steiner is full flight:

"I have described to you what could result from treating someone with too much phosphorus, where the function that phosphorus is normally able to fulfill in the human organism is excessively enhanced. Those forces that are outside in the world, however, anchored in the different minerals, are present in the human being in another form, as it were, in a supersensible form, and they can be active within the human being. Man is a microcosm in a certain respect. If these forces that are normally anchored in phosphorus outside in nature are active within the human being, as can occur particularly in early childhood, then the illness rickets occurs. By penetrating the connection of the human being with the surrounding world, we have been able to ascertain that the manifestation of rickets in the human organism is a process similar to the one that takes place outside in nature in the manifestation of phosphorus. I am speaking to you aphoristically and obviously in a way in which not all the parts of a sequence of proof are connected; by means of a specific case, which is actually only indicating the direction, we can see how to search in a spiritual scientific way for this connection between the human being and the rest of the world.

"Now, however, it is possible to proceed further. I have shown you earlier today how, with the metabolic-limb system on one side and the nerve-sense system on the other side, the balancing rhythmic system in between, these two systems work together in a way. You see, in fact, that what serves as an irregularity in the metabolic-limb system, bringing about illness, is just what induces health in the head system. Thus in the human head system there are always certain functions that stem from phosphorus, though from a very slight quantity of phosphorus that is found in the human brain. We have already become acquainted with this phosphorus-activity from the other side, in the way I have described to you, as something that brings the proper breakdown in the calcification processes in the metabolic-limb organism. These phosphorus processes in the brain, however, must be present wherever there is to be breakdown and where, above all, this breakdown is to be continually active. In other words, because the phosphorus process is present in the brain, we continuously have a kind of manifestation of rickets in the brain in, you could say, a status nascendi.

"This is precisely the basis of our brain-activity, that bone continuously wants to be formed, but this bone formation is continuously inhibited once the skull has developed to surround the human brain in the right way. In the human brain — and this reveals itself to human perception — we have a continuous striving toward bone formation, but this bone formation reaches its conclusion at a certain age, at which time this activity of bone formation ceases. We thus have here something that is really conducive to illness but that is balanced from the other side, from the other pole of the organism; we have here a continuous striving toward rickets.

"It is interesting that a rhythm such as this one that can be observed in the human being is also present outside in the rest of nature, though appearing in a certain respect as the opposite. If we look at the remarkable significance of phosphorus for the human brain, we have to say to ourselves that as phosphorus is taken in it is worked through up to the head. It undergoes a transformation within the human organism itself. It follows the same direction as the growth in the human being. It incorporates itself into this direction of growth in the human being, thus reducing its own activity to a minimum, as it were, diluting it. By means of this dilution the restrained rickets of the head can become the carrier of just those soul-spiritual processes that must be undertaken by means of the human head's mediation.

"It is interesting that if very small doses of phosphorus are administered to the human being in the right way, rather than the somewhat larger, ordinarily perceptible doses of phosphorus, something different is achieved even in the function of phosphorus. If these small doses are administered to the human organism, they work in the same way as phosphorus works in the human brain. They now work in the rest of the organism as small doses able to restrain the rickets process if it has begun in children. Phosphorus in small quantities, in the smallest doses, can therefore serve as a remedy against rickets. In a more comprehensive sense, phosphorus can generally be used as a remedy against everything in which this ego-scaffolding, the physical ego-scaffolding, which I have sketched under the red, is freed within the organism, as a result of illness, from the actual soul activity: in other words, phosphorus brings back the soul activity, returning the condition to normal.

"I would have to present a very complicated exposition about human nature for you to be able to see what actually lies at the basis of the dispute between allopathy and homoeopathy. In certain areas, however, you could say that what homoeopathy reveals becomes perfectly evident, as in these cases I have indicated to you. With certain small doses of phosphorus, or also sulphur (in short, something combustible — I will return to this) rickets as well as other inflammatory conditions can be healed, illnesses that stem from a blood-activity that has been freed from the ego-being." — Rudolf Steiner, PHYSIOLOGY AND THERAPEUTICS (The Mercury Press, 1986), lecture 4, GA 314.











Here is a chronological list of the books authored by Rudolf Steiner. Other books attributed to him consist of documents, especially transcripts of Steiner's lectures, lessons, discussions, and sundry remarks. Such secondary books are extremely numerous (Steiner gave thousands and thousands of lectures), and they are important for anyone studying Anthroposophy, but Steiner did not review or correct most of them for publication. The following books, on the other hand, presumably represent Steiner's carefully considered, revised, and proofread opinions:











 - expanded as A ROAD TO SELF-KNOWLEDGE  in 1912)

ATLANTIS AND LEMURIA (1904 - later expanded as COSMIC MEMORY)








FOUR MYSTERY DRAMAS (1913 - first installment in 1910)


GUIDANCE IN ESOTERIC TRAINING (1914 - first installment in 1904)






FUNDAMENTALS OF THERAPY (1925 - published posthumously,

and thus presumably not fully revised and proofread)

STORY OF MY LIFE  (1925 - published posthumously,

and thus presumably not fully revised and proofread)


Here are some books that report statements made by Steiner on educational matters (there are other such books, as well; and some overlap).  Anyone who wants to understand Waldorf education should become acquainted with them:

DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 1997)


EDUCATION FOR SPECIAL NEEDS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005)



THE NEW ART OF EDUCATION (Philosophical-Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1928)

PRACTICAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS  (Anthroposophic Press, 2000)

SOUL ECONOMY AND WALDORF EDUCATION  (Anthroposophic Press, 1986)

THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 2004)

WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vols. 1 & 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996)









In the 1920s, in Germany, Steiner was immensely famous. Indeed, his admirers looked on him as a potential savior of the German nation. To understand this, it is necessary to remember how chaotic and downbeaten Germany was in those years. The loss of World War I was a calamity that spread its dire consequences throughout the land for many years. The Versailles Treaty had dismembered Germany and burdened its people with the obligation to pay ruinous reparations to the victorious Allies. Germany indeed needed salvation, and desperate Germans cast their eyes everywhere, looking for any sign of hope.

Some turned to Steiner. Some turned to Hitler. Some turned elsewhere.

This helps explain why Hitler once attacked Steiner in print. 

“Who is the driving force behind all this devilishness? The Jew! The friend of Doctor Rudolf Steiner....” — Adolf Hitler, “Staatsmänner oder Nationalverbrecher?” (Völkischer Beobachter, Mar. 15, 1921.) [34] 

Hitler's anti-Semitism was so extreme, he may well have thought Steiner was a friend or dupe of the Jews. Actually, Steiner was himself an anti-Semite [see "RS on Jews"], but a somewhat muted one. Steiner associated with Jews and occasionally had good things to say about the Jewish people as a whole. Certainly Steiner never advocated the extermination of all the world's Jews — he never imagined the Holocaust. He taught that Jews should merge into other races and peoples, thereby peacefully ceasing to exist as a separate people.

Hitler became notorious for turning on his friends, conniving and actively participating in their murder, as in the Night of the Long Knives. Steiner, as far as we know, was no friend of Hitler or National Socialism. But there were more affinities between Nazism and Anthroposophy than anyone on either side was entirely comfortable with. [See "Sympathizers?"] Of course, Hitler would have been incensed at any suggestion that Rudolf Steiner might be Germany's savior. Hitler had someone else in mind for that role.

The American editors of an early English-language edition of Hitler's book, MEIN KAMPH, placed Steiner in an interesting context. Describing the hysteria and despair sweeping Germany after World War I, they wrote, 

“Extraordinary phenomena...were numerous during the post-War years — e.g., the curious 'healer' of Hamburg, Häuser, who was followed by immense crowds; the Bibelforscher (Bible Students) who raised tides of adventistic emotion in Silesia and elsewhere; and Rudolph [sic] Steiner, the anthropologist [sic], who built houses resembling trees; etc.” — MEIN KAMPF (Reynal & Hitchcock, 1940 - copyright 1939, Houghton Mifflin, published by arrangement with Houghton Mifflin), footnote on p. 467.

Steiner's followers, of course, see him in a different context. The following is from a website promoting the sort of organic gardening that Steiner advocated: 

"Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), founder of biodynamics, was a highly trained scientist and respected philosopher. Long before many of his contemporaries, Steiner came to the conclusion that western civilization would increasingly bring destruction to itself and the earth if it did not begin to incorporate an objective understanding of the spiritual world and its interrelationship with the physical world. Steiner's spiritual scientific methods and insights have given birth to practical holistic innovations in many fields including education, banking, medicine, psychology, the arts and, not least, agriculture." — https://www.biodynamics.com/steiner.html.

— Submitted by Roger Rawlings










From a book (having an unfortunately sensationalistic title) 

put out by a prestigious academic publisher in the US:

In its attempt to unite spirituality and science, anthroposophy made a nominally greater effort than theosophy to validate its doctrine empirically … [But Steiner’s] insistence on having ‘proven’ occult phenomena for which there was no empirical evidence prevented anthroposophy from being accepted within the scientific community. That only changed in the 1930s, when the Third Reich began officially sponsoring elements of Steiner’s doctrines, most notably ‘bio-dynamic’ agriculture.

Anthroposophy was at least as much a religious faith as it was a scientific doctrine. Steiner’s teachings and articles, published in his occult journal, Lucifer-Gnosis, anticipated the Nazis’ own interest in Asian religion, Gnosticism, and Luciferianism … Steiner argued that ‘Asian religious evolution is the carrier of a Luciferian element’ that ‘mankind as a whole once possessed but was later forced to abandon’ … Two decades later, Nazi religious theorists would make nearly identical arguments.

The affinities between anthroposophy and the völkisch right extended beyond epistemology and religion. Steiner was eager to assert the superiority of white Europeans, claiming ‘that in the grand cycle of spiritual evolution, the Germanic race had advanced the furthest’. Steiner’s belief in ‘cosmic eugenics’, to borrow from one of his followers, included a racial model of evolution in which ‘that might be destroyed which is not worthy to take part in the ascent of humanity’. ‘Humanity has risen by throwing out the lower forms in order to purify itself,’ Steiner argued, ‘and it will rise still higher by separating another kingdom of nature, the kingdom of the evil race. Thus mankind rises upward.’

Anthroposophists embraced eugenics not primarily because of their faith in modern science, then, but because they thought that spirituality and race were intrinsically linked. ‘Human souls develop different cultures on the basis of different racial and ethnic forces,’ Steiner contended, whereas ‘dark skin is due to demonic interference’. Marriage between Aryans and ‘coloured races’ or Jews, according to Steiner, was in conflict with Germany’s world mission to sponsor positive biological and spiritual evolution.

— Eric Kurlander, HITLER’S MONSTERS — 

A Supernatural History of the Third Reich 

(Yale University Press, 2017), pp. 18-19. 










All his adult life Steiner participated in various secret societies and magical orders, establishing some of his own. For example, he joined the Masonic rite led by Heinrich Klein and Franz Hartman, who initiated Steiner into the 'Brothers of Light and the Rosicrucian Illuminati' (King, 1970, p. 206). He also bought a membership in 'Memphis-Misraim' from Theodore Reuss in 1905 (Koenig, http://www.cyberlink.ch/~koenig/steiner.htm, paragraph 8), and used that ritual as a basis for his 'Mizraim Aeterna,' which he hoped would restore the Eleusinian mysteries. Rituals of 'Mystica Aeterna' were celebrated only in the presence of Rudolf Steiner and by members of the Theosophical Society (Koenig, paragraph 17). The mystagogue [i.e., Steiner] created an 'Esoteric School' that held closed meetings and utilized some Masonic rituals. In 1921, the 'Esoteric School' was transformed into the 'Free University for Hermeticism' (Koenig, paragraph 39).* Steiner borrowed extensively from Blavatsky's doctrine and took from the French occultist Eliphas Levi's Dogma and Ritual of High Magic (Koenig, paragraph 45). Steiner's Apocalyptic Seals are almost identical to Levi's seals pictured in the book. Steiner inspired others, like Max Heindel, to found the Rosicrucian Fellowship in Oceanside, California (Jenkins, 2000, pp. 82-83), and L. Ron Hubbard of the Church of Scientology.

Steiner told followers of his clairvoyant abilities and other psychic powers, claiming to read the Akashic record to obtain information and channel Zarathustra. The Akashic Record is believed to be an invisible chronicle that records every word spoken and deed performed by mankind since the beginning of time. Occult believers say this record can be found in the ether and read by clairvoyants. Steiner taught believers how to read to the dead and to meditate on the deceased's handwriting in order to communicate with those that have died. He lectured profusely on topics such as reincarnation, hypnotism, occult science, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, mystery centers of the middle ages, astral bodies, gnomes as life forms, angels, karma, Christian mysticism, how to see spiritual beings, modern initiation, Atlantis, Lemuria, etc. Steiner's sermons, setting out his occult teachings, were recorded by his disciples and published in more than 350 volumes....

During his time as General Secretary of the Theosophical Society, Steiner built Rosicrucian Temples. One lay beneath the Stuttgart House, although many of his followers who met upstairs knew nothing of its existence. In 1912, after a doctrinal rift with [Theosophist] Annie Besant over her claim that Jiddu Krishnamurti was a reincarnation of Christ, the charismatic prophet [Steiner] instigated a schism in the Theosophical Society. Steiner took most of the German and Austrian believers with him to establish his own esoteric religion, Anthroposophy, in order to be free from Besant's theological restraints and impositions. Steiner and some followers moved to Dornach, Switzerland, to build their utopia which included an enormous mystical temple known as the Goetheanum. The original intricately carved and painted wooden building burned down during Steiner's day but was replaced by a subsequent temple designed by Steiner and constructed out of concrete. The second Goetheanum remains the world headquarters and spiritual center for Anthroposophy today.


— Sharon Lombard, "Spotlight on Anthroposophy"



* Koenig, P. (n.d.). ANTHROPOSOPHY ORDO TEMPLI ORIENTIS: Theodor Reuss and Rudolf Steiner. Retrieved September, 9, 2001 from http://www.cyberlink.ch/~koenig/steiner.html.










Steiner was highly educated and highly intelligent. Many people who met him found him a compelling figure. The uses he made of his gifts are questionable, however. In developing Anthroposophy, he created what is in effect an occult theory of everything. It is an impressive edifice, comprehensive and arcane. But is it true — does it, in fact, provide an explanation of reality?

Consider the numbers seven and twelve. Steiner insistently ranked phenomena in hierarchies, listings that range from low to high. He particularly liked to offer rankings consisting of seven or twelve stages. He taught that seven is the occult number of perfection; as the sum of three (divinity) and four (creation), it manifests in the seven "sacred planets," the number of notes in a musical scale, the number of colors in the rainbow, and other ordained phenomena. Twelve, Steiner taught, summarizes "all things that co-exist in space." As the factor of three (divinity) multiplied by four (creation), twelve is the number of "macrocosmic powers," the number of constellations in the zodiac, and the number of Christ's disciples, among other holy manifestations.

The system Steiner concocted out of such precepts — Anthroposophy — impresses some people, including some very smart people. Steiner evidently penetrated to the divine order of things — he pulled everything together and "made sense" of everything by showing how it all fits together. The problem, however, is that so many of Steiner's categories are arbitrary; they are stretched or trimmed to suit his predetermined intention. He didn't discover real results, he simply imposed a plan of his own invention (borrowed in large part from others, but reworked to conform to his purposes).

We can speculate about Steiner's motives and convictions. Did he believe what he taught? Did he convince himself (a frequent occurrence for intellectuals, who can be bowled over by their own cleverness)? It isn't important. He convinced others, who became his followers. But we need not be convinced today, so long as we are willing to keep our eyes open and to insist on real discoveries rather than arbitrary designs created on the basis of occult fallacy. 

Here's a brief example of Steiner in action: 

"In the course of these lectures we have heard how certain high-ranking Powers of the Hierarchies [i.e., gods] have worked, through human beings, into all the civilisation-epochs since the Atlantean catastrophe [i.e., the sinking of Atlantis].

"...The pupils of Zarathustra saw twelve powers proceeding from the twelve directions of the Zodiac ... [T]he Persian conceived of the macrocosmic forces coming from the twelve directions of the universe and penetrating into, working into humanity, so that they are immediately present in man. Consequently, what unfolds through the working of the twelve forces must reveal itself also in its microcosmic form, in human intelligence; that is to say, it must come to expression in the microcosm, too, through the twelve Amshaspands (Archangels), and indeed as a final manifestation, so to say, of these twelve spiritual, macrocosmic Beings who had already worked in former ages, preparing that which merely reached a last stage of development during the epoch of Persian civilisation.

"It should not be beyond the scope of modern physiology to know where the microcosmic counterparts of the twelve Amshaspands are to be found. They are the twelve main nerves proceeding from the head... [S]uch indications must be given if a spiritual-scientific conception of the world is to be spoken of in the true sense, and attention called, not merely in general phrases, to the fact that man is a microcosmic replica of the macrocosm.

"In other regions, too, it has been known that what comes to manifestation in the human being flows in from outside. For example, in certain periods of Germanic mythology mention is made of twelve streams flowing from Niflheim to Muspelheim. The twelve streams are not meant in the physical-material sense, but they are that which, seen by clairvoyance, flows as a kind of reflection from the macrocosm into the human microcosm, the human being who moves over the earth and whose evolution is to be brought about through macrocosmic forces." — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT HISTORY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), pp. 86-90.

If we are prepared to accept the existence of Atlantis, and the truth of astrology, and the esoteric significance of Norse myths — then, perhaps, the remarkable recurrence of the number twelve may strike us as meaningful, and we may therefore accept the doctrine Steiner was determined to press, that human beings are microcosmic replicas of the divine macrocosm. It's a pretty conceit. But if we pause to reflect that Atlantis never existed, and astrology is bunk, and Norse myths are mere fantasies — and that there are far more than twelve "major nerves" proceeding from the head [35] and that the number of archangels is debatable [36] — then the significance of Steiner's teaching evaporates, the mist clears from our eyes, and we have the renewed opportunity to look upon reality realistically.

— R.R.











I posted the following message in September, 2011


I began by briefly quoting a previous message from someone else: 

In waldorf-critics@yahoogroups.com, "petekaraiskos" <pkcompany@...> wrote:

> Steve... Dan isn't calling you insane... (just thought I'd head this one off...)

Waldorf Watch Response:

Discussions of insanity are always touchy, perhaps never more so than when they occur in the context of Anthroposophy. It would be difficult, for instance, to argue against the proposition that Rudolf Steiner was insane. But we cannot prove that he was insane, and in any case the question is irrelevant. What we can know with great clarity is that Steiner's teachings are insane, and this is really all that need concern us. This, and the knowledge that Waldorf education is built on the foundation of Steiner's insane teachings.

Steiner's followers will assure you that everything Steiner said was true. Some of his statements can be made to seem loony, they argue, but only when these statements are taken out of context. So don't just read an excerpted sentence, read the entire lecture or book from which it was taken, and then you will see that what Steiner said was perfectly sensible. This is a standard Anthroposophical claim. Sadly, however, it is untrue. The context of Steiner's looniest statements is more of Steiner's loony statements. Not to put too fine a point on it, generally speaking each loony sentence of Steiner's comes out of a loony paragraph of Steiner's which in turn comes out of a loony lecture or chapter of Steiner's.

Nonetheless, I agree that we should not be content reading a few excerpts from Steiner's works. As I have recommended for, lo, the past many years, I urge everyone to read some of Steiner's books and lectures from start to finish. Even books that merely record Steiner's more or less casual utterances are worth study. If you are considering sending a child to a Waldorf school, I absolutely recommend that you read FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER from cover to cover. Waldorf teacher-trainees often study this book in some detail, and they tend to treat it as a sort of Bible. So, if you want to know what true-blue Waldorf teachers think and believe, this is an invaluable source.

The problem with tackling FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER is that it is extremely long — 811 pages spread over two volumes. Perhaps you would prefer to start with something less overwhelming. Okay, allow me to recommend THE OCCULT SIGNIFICANCE OF BLOOD. This is a very manageable 44 pages.

Warning: THE OCCULT SIGNIFICANCE OF BLOOD is both loony and horrid. But then, so are many passages in FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER. Indeed, the Steiner statement that I have nominated as The Worst Thing Rudolf Steiner Ever Said comes out of FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER. Here it is, in toto. (Steiner was addressing Waldorf teachers. At one point one of the teachers is quoted. All the rest of the passage comes from Steiner's mouth.)

Dr. Steiner: "That little girl L.K. in the first grade must have something really very wrong inside. There is not much we can do. Such cases are increasing in which children are born with a human form, but are not really human beings in relation to their highest I; instead, they are filled with beings that do not belong to the human class. Quite a number of people have been born since the nineties [the 1890s] without an I, that is, they are not reincarnated, but are human forms filled with a sort of natural demon. There are quite a large number of older people going around who are actually not human beings, but are only natural; they are human beings only in regard to their form. We cannot, however, create a school for demons."

A teacher: "How is that possible?"

Dr. Steiner: "Cosmic error is certainly not impossible. The relationships of individuals coming into earthly existence have long been [pre]determined. There are also generations in which individuals have no desire to come into earthly existence and be connected with physicality, or immediately leave at the very beginning. In such cases, other beings that are not quite suited step in. This is something that is now quite common, that human beings go around without an I; they are actually not human beings, but have only a human form. They are also quite different from human beings in regard to everything spiritual. They can, for example, never remember such things as sentences; they have a memory only for words, not for sentences.

"The riddle of life is not so simple. When such a being dies, it returns to nature from which it came. The corpse decays, but there is no real dissolution of the etheric body, and the natural being returns to nature.

"It is also possible for something like an automaton could occur. The entire human organism exists, and it might be possible to automate the brain and develop a kind of pseudomorality. [sic]

"I do not like to talk about such things since we have often been attacked even without them. Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings. Nevertheless, these are facts. Our culture would not be in such a decline if people felt more strongly that a number of people are going around who, because they are completely ruthless, have become something that is not human, but instead are demons in human form.

"Nevertheless, we do not want to shout that to the world. Our opposition is already large enough. Such things are really shocking to people. I caused enough shock when I needed to say that a very famous university professor, after a very short period between death and rebirth, was reincarnated as a black scientist. We do not want to shout such things out into the world." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 649-650.

Loony. And horrid,

 — Roger (Don't Blame the Messenger) Rawlings









Waldorfish art, inspired by a stage set

at the Goetheanum, where Steiner's

"mystery plays" are often performed.











Steiner's followers sometimes look upon him as virtually a second Christ. Thus, for instance, after his death, Steiner's wife Marie — a leader in the Anthroposophical movement — wrote this: 

“His life, consecrated wholly to the sacrificial service of humanity, was requited with unspeakable hostility; his way of knowledge was transformed into a path of thorns. But he walked the whole way, and mastered it for all of humanity.” [37]

In the Bible, Jesus is depicted as wearing a crown of thorns and carrying his cross on the arduous path — afterwards called the Via Dolorosa — to Calvary, where he died for all of humanity.

Anthroposophists may consider Steiner to be Christlike for a specific reason. Steiner taught that Christ was not so much our Savior as our role model. 

“Christ shows himself to him as the great human Prototype and Example.” [38] 

Steiner's followers believe that in progressing so very far along the spiritual path, Steiner fulfilled the Christ Impulse more than almost anyone else since Christ himself. Steiner's teachings are gnostic, purporting to convey the hidden meaning of the Scriptures. Steiner claimed to have discovered gnosis through his powers of clairvoyance, which enabled him to read the Akashic Record, a celestial storehouse of all knowledge. 

“This history is written in other than ordinary characters, and in Gnosis, in Theosophy, is called 'The Akashic Record.'” [39] 

Bear in mind that whenever Steiner praised Theosophy, he meant his own doctrines, which as early as 1902 he began calling Anthroposophy. The meaning of Theosophy/Anthroposophy/Gnosis is the hidden meaning of Logos, the Word of God, which Christ embodied. 

“This took place through the Divine-Spiritual Logos, Christ, uniting His cosmic destiny with the Earth....” [40] 

This is what Steiner brought us, or so he and his followers have assured themselves. (Some of Steiner's teachings will resonate with Christians. But the differences between Christianity and Anthroposophy are deep and wide. Anthroposophy is polytheistic, and it promises its adherents that they will eventually evolve to become God the Father.)

Steiner did not claim to be a god — he said that spiritually correct humans will become gods, but none of us is there yet. Accordingly, Steiner did not claim infallibility. Yet he presented himself as virtually omniscient — a pose that caused him problems, as he occasionally complained. 

“Numbers of individuals come to me asking questions out of the blue about this or that, and often requesting information about matters that, at the time of questioning, are remote from my concern. They demand that I give them the most exact information. People are commonly convinced that a person who speaks out of a connection with the spiritual world knows about everything it contains and is always in a position to give out any information desired.” [41]

Despite the inconvenience he created for himself, Steiner persisted in his pose of near-omniscience. He claimed to be the bearer of truth concerning a nearly unlimited array of subjects, a claim he underscored by peppering his statements with such refrains as "I am right." He knew so very much about so very much because of his high spiritual consciousness, clairvoyance. Or so he said, Meaning he was right about just about everything. Thus, for instance: 

◊ ”You will have to admit that I am right in saying that our children....” [42] 

◊ “Consult any botanist you like and you will see that I am right....” [43] 

◊ “Consider the characteristic nature of those great minds and you will see that I am right....” [44]

Especially in spiritual matters, Steiner claimed to be almost always correct. He claimed to use “exact” clairvoyance, thus obtaining exact results. 

“The method applied in Dornach [i.e., at Steiner’s headquarters, the Goetheanum] can be designated as ‘exact clairvoyance.’” [45] 

Steiner said that he gained increasing knowledge of spiritual matters as he progressed in clairvoyant insight. He said that his early books, such as THEOSOPHY, did not present a complete picture because his clairvoyant insights were not yet wide and deep enough. But, later, he was able to fill in the picture more and more. His original views had not been wrong — merely incomplete. Essentially, he had been right all along.

The following are some of the last words Steiner wrote; they appear in the 1925 edition of his magnum opus, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE. The original edition of OCCULT SCIENCE had appeared fifteen years earlier. Steiner died not long after penning these words: 

“At the time when THEOSOPHY was written the subject-matter of the present volume [i.e., OCCULT SCIENCE] could not be brought into an equally finished form. In my Imaginative perceptions I beheld the spiritual life and being of individual Man and was able to describe this clearly. The facts of cosmic evolution were not present to me to the same extent. I was indeed aware of them in many details, but the picture as a whole was lacking ... Since the Imaginations described in this book [i.e., OCCULT SCIENCE] first grew into a total picture in my mind and spirit, I have unceasingly developed the researches of conscious seership [i.e., exact clairvoyance] into the being of individual Man, the history of Mankind, the nature and evolution of the Cosmos. The outline as presented fifteen years ago has in no way been shaken. Inserted in its proper place and context, everything that I have since been able to adduce becomes a further elaboration of the original picture.” [46] 

This was written on January 10, 1925. Steiner died on March 30, 1925.

—  R. R.










[1] Rudolf Steiner, FIRST STEPS IN INNER DEVELOPMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), p. 25.

[2] Hermann von Baravalle, RUDOLF STEINER AS EDUCATOR (St. George Books, 1960 revised edition).

Anthroposophists often claim that they do not slavishly follow Steiner. To some degree, this is true. Steiner advocated subjectivity — he urged his followers to trust their own intuitions, their own “clairvoyance,” their own heartfelt “spiritual insight.” This naturally leads to differences of opinion among Anthroposophists — what one person “intuits” may be quite different from the revelations produced by someone else’s “spiritual insight.” Anthroposophists may find that their inner guides actually lead them to differ from Steiner himself, occasionally. Yet there can be no question that a form of virtual Steiner-worship exists among Anthroposophists. The speculation about when he will next be reincarnated is one indicator. Others can be found in the tellingly titled book, A MAN BEFORE OTHERS: Rudolf Steiner Remembered (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993). This collection of reminiscences by Steiner’s acquaintances contains numerous gems such as the following. Merely looking upon Steiner walking across a stage filled his followers with reverence: 

“Slowly, Rudolf Steiner walked over to the lectern. The way he walked revealed something of the balance between a soaring freedom from the body and the permeation of earth substance with will.” — A MAN BEFORE OTHERS, p. 209. 

What one person may deem a mincing gait may look to another like a spirit-infused glide.

[3] Other books about Steiner written by Anthroposophists and Waldorf educators include RUDOLF STEINER: Herald of a New Dawn (Anthroposophic Press, 1980), by Stewart C. Easton; A LIFE FOR THE SPIRIT: Rudolf Steiner in the Crosscurrents of Our Time (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), by Henry Barnes; RUDOLF STEINER - An Introduction to his Spiritual World-view, Anthroposophy (Temple Lodge, 2005), by Roy Wilkinson; and A MAN BEFORE OTHERS: Rudolf Steiner Remembered (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993).


[5] Ibid., p. 14.

[6] Ibid., p. 17.

[7] See, e.g., Rudolf Steiner, DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), and Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998).


For an overview of the stages of childhood as understood in Waldorf education, see "Most Significant" and "Incarnation".

[9] RUDOLF STEINER AS EDUCATOR, p. 31; lecture delivered at Oxford in August, 1922.

[10] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118.

[11] Gilbert Childs, STEINER EDUCATION IN THEORY AND PRACTICE (Floris Books, 1991), p. 166.

[12] RUDOLF STEINER AS EDUCATOR, p. 33; lecture delivered in Stuttgart, April, 1924.

[13] See, e.g., "Steiner's Specific".

[14] See, e.g., "Spiritual Agenda".

[15] See, e.g., "Thinking Cap".

[16] See "Academic Standards at Waldorf" and "Magical Arts".

[17] Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE  (SteinerBooks, 1996), p. 60.

"Actual cognition," in Anthroposophy, is clairvoyance. [See "Clairvoyance", "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness", and "Thinking".]

[18] RUDOLF STEINER AS EDUCATOR, pp. 34-35; opening address for the Waldorf School, September 1919.


Note that Anthroposophy is polytheistic. Waldorf teachers implement "the divine cosmic plan" created by "the gods." [See "Polytheism".]

[20] Roberto Trostli, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING: What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents, and Teachers (SteinerBooks, 2017), p. 4.


[22] See the entry for "arts-based Waldorf curriculum" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia

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

[24] See "Schools as Churches".

[25] See  "Schools as Churches" and "Waldorf Priests".

[26] See "Secrets" and "Clues".

[27] See, e.g., "Foundations" and "Soul School".

For more on the Waldorf approach to the arts, see "Magical Arts" and "Lesson Books".

[28] Gary Lachman, RUDOLF STEINER (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2007), pp. 12-13

[29] Ibid., p. 15.

Anthony Storr’s book, FEET OF CLAY (Free Press, 1997), deals with many self-proclaimed visionaries and leaders, including Steiner.

[30] For Steiner on Steiner, see Rudolf Steiner, THE STORY OF MY LIFE (Kessinger Publishing, 2003; facsimile of 1928 edition) and Rudolf Steiner, AUTOBIOGRAPHY (Anthroposophical Press, 2006) — essentially the same book but, in the latter form, having a useful chronology added, pp. xvi-xxix.

In addition to the Steiner biographies mentioned above, see Peter Washington, MADAME BLAVATSKY’S BABOON (Secker & Warburg, 1993).

Additional sources:

Rudolf Steiner, Portrait circa 1915 http://www.rsarchive.org/RSBio.php.  

Rudolf Steiner Timeline http://oaks.nvg.org/wm6ra6.html#bio. 

Waldorfcritics posting 10482 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/10482.  

Waldorfcritics archive http://www.waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/JanusFaceOfAnthroposophy.html. 

Waldorfcritics posting 10511 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/10511.

These and other sources do not always agree, so the chronology presented here is not gospel.

[31] The original text had little or no occultist content; in 1918, Steiner released a significantly altered edition. 

Freedom was always one of Steiner's themes, and Waldorf schools advertise their advocacy of freedom. It is important to understand, however, that the Steiner/Anthroposophical view of freedom is essentially Germanic and renunciant: "Freedom" is the overcoming of unworthy impulses, not the positive affirmation of liberty. Steiner's vision of freedom, in fact, grew less expansive after he became an occultist. In Anthroposophical doctrine, there is a white path and a black path, right and wrong, and one's only real freedom (if it can be called that) comes in choosing between them. [See "Freedom".]

[32] Steiner was a secularist before his sudden conversion to Theosophy. Here, for instance, are comments he made about the occultist movement he himself later joined:

"Theosophists...gaze upon the totality of European science and merely shrug their shoulders. They smile at the sobriety of reason and intellect, while they worship the Eastern way of seeking truth as the one and only way. Oh, it is really rich to observe the demeanor of superiority whenever you engage a Theosophist in conversation about the value of the more Western ways of knowing.

"...I advise anyone who meets with a Theosophist to stand fast, look him in the eye and with total sincerity, genuinely endeavor to glean something from the revelations of such a consummate 'enlightened one' who radiates Eastern wisdom from 'his inner being.' You will of course hear absolutely nothing, nothing but hollow phrases lifted from the Eastern scriptures, without even a hint of content.

"These 'inner experiences' are nothing short of hypocrisy. After all, it's not much of a trick to pull phrases out of a profound literature and then use them to declare that the sum and substance of Western expertise is totally worthless. Yet, [in reality], how much depth, how much inwardness actually lies behind the supposedly superficial intellect, behind the external concepts of Western science, of which the Theosophists haven't the slightest idea!

"But...the mystical way in which they assert incomprehensible foreign wisdom actually seduces a fair number of their contemporaries. 

"It also proves advantageous to the Theosophists that they are able to stay on good terms with the Spiritualists and other off-beat, like-minded seekers of the spirit. Oh, sure, they [the Theosophists] contend that these Spiritualists treat the phenomena of the spirit world as external; whereas, they themselves [the Theosophists] seek to experience such phenomena as strictly within as well as totally spiritual. But they are not above walking hand in hand with the Spiritualists when they deem such an alliance to help them wage war on the unfettered science, the straightforward science of the modern era, which is solely supported by reason and observation." — Rudolf Steiner, "Theosophists" ("MAGAZINE FOR LITERATURE", No. 34, 1897), translated by Tom Mellett. The essay is reprinted in STEINER, COLLECTED ESSAYS IN LITERATURE, GA 32, pp. 194-196.

Note how Steiner's comments undercut his own later views, such as the emphasis he placed on inner experiences, and his opposition to what he called "natural" science — i.e., "Western ways of knowing" or "Western science."

The following commentary is germaine:

"Steiner’s published polemics against Theosophical and other occult tendencies, from the 1890s, are very explicit. Examples include: Rudolf Steiner, 'Allan Kardec, Der Himmel und die Hölle' (1891) in Steiner, Methodische Grundlagen der Anthroposophie, 493-95; Steiner, 'Das Dasein als Lust, Leid und Liebe' (1892) in ibid., 510-11, attacking a recent anonymously published book by a leading Theosophist, Wilhelm Hübbe-Schleiden, whom Steiner later came to view as a Theosophical colleague and mentor; and above all Steiner’s fundamental critique, 'Theosophen,' published in his Magazin für Litteratur in 1897 and reprinted in Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Literatur, 194-96. 

"In another 1897 text Steiner expressed stark disapproval of 'Christian and mystical notions'; see Steiner, Goethes Weltanschauung (Weimar: Felber, 1897), 81. See also the published report from 1893 on Steiner’s critical lecture in Weimar on spiritism and related phenomena, in which he roundly rejected supernatural explanations and the notion of 'otherworldly beings': 'Hypnotismus mit Berücksichtigung des Spiritismus,' unsigned report originally published in the newspaper Deutschland, March 26, 1893; reprinted in Beiträge zur Rudolf Steiner Gesamtausgabe 99 (1988), 11-12. Similar sentiments appeared his 1895 Nietzsche book as well. 

"As late as 1900, Steiner still flatly rejected the notion of a 'supernatural order of the world': Steiner, Haeckel und seine Gegner, 30. The epistemological position outlined in Steiner's philosophical works from the 1890s is decidedly this-worldly and makes no reference, even obliquely, to the 'higher worlds' that stand at the center of Theosophical and Anthroposophical thought." — Peter Staudenmaier, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/12190.

[33] He may have first used the term even earlier — at least one source indicates 1900. Others indicate 1903.

[34] Hitler's primary target was not Steiner but the German foreign minister, Walter Simons. Hitler tried to smear Simons by associating him with Steiner:

"[Simons is] an intimate friend of the Gnostic and anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner, a supporter of the threefold social organism [a societal scheme advanced by Steiner] and whatever they call all of these Jewish methods for destroying the normal spiritual condition of the peoples."

See Peter Staudenmaier's "Between Occultism and Fascism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race and Nation in Germany and Italy, 1900-1945", 2010, p. 140. 

In reality, Steiner and Simons were not friends.

[35] There are 31 pairs of spinal nerves and seven pairs of major peripheral nerves. See, e.g., "Spinal and Major Peripheral Nerves", http://innvista.com/health/anatomy/spinal.htm. Also see "human nervous system." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/409709/human-nervous-system>.

[36] Christians generally accept the existence of four archangels, although the total number may be as high as fifteen. Jewish and Islamic traditions differ. See, e.g., http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/32645/archangel and http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Archangel. 

Here is one summary: "archangel, chief angel. They are four to seven in number. Sometimes specific functions are ascribed to them. The four best known in Christian tradition are Michael , Gabriel , Raphael , and Uriel ." — THE COLUMBIA ENCYCLOPEDIA, Sixth Edition, 2008. 

[37] Rudolf Steiner, THE STORY OF MY LIFE (Anthroposophic Press, 1928), p. 340, Conclusion by Marie Steiner.

Of course, we must make allowances for the grief expressed by a widow. Nonetheless, the portrait Marie Steiner paints of her former husband has been widely embraced in Anthroposophical circles.

[38] Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Anthroposophic Press, 1969), p. 272.

[39] Rudolf Steiner, ATLANTIS AND LEMURIA (Rajput Press, 1911), p. 4.

[40] ANTHROPOSOPHICAL LEADING THOUGHTS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), “A Christmas Study: The Mystery of the Logos”.


[41] Rudolf Steiner, CHANCE, PROVIDENCE, AND NECESSITY  (Anthroposophic Press, 1988), p. 74.

[42] Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER  IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 45.

[43] Rudolf Steiner, THE TEMPLE LEGEND AND THE GOLDEN LEGEND (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), p. 350.

[44] Rudolf Steiner, POLARITIES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MANKIND (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1987), p. 124.

[45] Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 205.

[46] Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969), pp. 7-12; preface to the 1925 edition, written January 10, 1925.


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

— R.R.