WHAT WE’RE MADE OF:
Our Occult Innards
Madame Helena Blavatsky, one of the founders of the religion called Theosophy, was effectively Rudolf Steiner’s mentor. If Steiner never sat at her feet, he was nonetheless powerfully affected by her spiritual vision; his own teachings derive, to a large extent, from hers. The title of Madame Blavatsky’s magnum opus is, tellingly, THE SECRET DOCTRINE. Many religions, certainly including Blavatsky’s Theosophy and Steiner’s Anthroposophy, place great emphasis on their “secrets” and “mysteries.” Generally, possession of such “mystery knowledge” is supposed to be confined to initiates — insiders, the select few. The thrill of possessing privileged, holy knowledge is great among true believers. To be an initiate is to be saved, one of the elect, one of the wise, one of the good.
Claiming to possess occult secrets can have some unfortunate side-effects, however. Sometimes the secrets turn out to be mere bits of discarded science — ideas that educated people once considered true but that science has since rejected: The Sun orbits the Earth, the Earth is hollow, the universe is filled with an invisible ether, racial differences are deep and important, a secret planet (Vulcan) orbits extremely close to the Sun, and other such fallacies.  In other instances, esoteric secrets never had any rational validity to begin with, but their antiquity is counted in their favor. They are thought to have been handed down by the ancients who, occultists believe, were closer to God, or had truer intuitions, or possessed greater clairvoyant powers, than the degenerate people of today. Thus we find belief in sprites or spirits of all sorts, bizarre conceptions of the movements and powers of the planets, faith in various forms of spells and magic and alchemy, and so forth. No matter where the various occult “secrets” come from, they embolden true believers to deny modern scientific information. Today’s spiritualists often reject vaccination, deny the causes of AIDS, repudiate Einsteinian physics, turn thumbs down to Darwinian evolution, and even close their eyes to firmly established historical events such as the Holocaust. 
Let’s examine some of the “mystery knowledge” that Rudolf Steiner revealed to teachers at the first Waldorf school. I’ll concentrate mainly on statements Steiner made about human nature and the human body, drawing quotations from several Steiner texts, especially THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE: Foundations of Waldorf Education.  The concepts Steiner expressed in these texts undergird the study of many subjects at Waldorf schools. [See "Oh Humanity".] As Anthroposophist educator Roy Wilkinson has written,
Wilkinson actually understates the case. Steiner’s views on human nature inform the entire Waldorf curriculum, not just the "study of physiology or anthropology." After all, the only way to teach students is to reach them, and the only way to do that is to understand who and what they are. All the classes, courses, studies, and even the extracurricular activities undertaken at Waldorf schools are rooted in "the understanding of the human being as given by Rudolf Steiner.”
A word before we plunge in. Wading through Steiner’s rambling, obscure, and obtuse comments can be a chore — and finding sense in them may sometimes seem impossible. But the attempt is necessary for anyone who wants to know what goes on inside Waldorf schools. Bear in mind that the statements quoted here represent the “Foundations of Waldorf Education.” This stuff is loony, but it is fundamental. In an attempt to add some clarity, I will interject explanations as we go along. I will also occasionally supplement Steiner’s words with brief comments about the education I received at a Waldorf school.
If you would prefer to go straight to
the bigger picture,
skip down the page to
"Nine, Seven, Four".
Here are some of Steiner’s amazing remarks:
◊ Thinking with Your Bones:
When Steiner states, here, that the ancients believed that humans think with their bones, he has the opportunity to say how wrong they were. But he does just the opposite (as usual for him): He embraces ancient, dead “knowledge” and incorporates it into his theology. Hence, geometry is not a branch of mathematics governed by rational laws; geometry — like virtually everything else presented to students in a Waldorf school — is deemed to be the expression of cosmic, spiritual influences. At the Waldorf school I attended, our geometry teacher continually urged us to see past the forms we created with compass and straight edge: We should gaze beyond them, to find a spirit of perfection. Geometry embodies truths that, ideally, we should feel deep in our bones. We learned that the circle is the perfect form; the equilateral triangle is “highest” of all angular shapes; the “Golden Mean” embodies a timeless aesthetic ideal; the “Platonic realm” is more real than coarse physical reality; and so forth and so on. Our math classes were, at their base, theology classes. And much of this resulted from Steiner's misrepresentation, or deep misunderstanding, of the human organism. At the corporeal level, we think with our bones, Steiner said; abstract science derives from our skeletons. Beyond this — deeper than our bones, truer than science — is the realm of "living" thought, spiritual insight, which occurs outside our bodies, in incorporeal "organs of clairvoyance," according to Steiner. [See "Thinking".] All of this is basic Anthroposophical doctrine, and all of it overlooks an obvious, basic reality: Thinking of all sorts actually occurs in the brain, not in our bones, not in organs of clairvoyance. But Steiner's description of human nature and human capacities, largely derived from ancient falsehoods, is detached from reality.
(Concerning "abstract science": Steiner said that own teachings, Anthroposophy, constitute the truest, highest form of "spiritual science." [See "Steiner's 'Science'" and "Altogether".] Steiner claimed to be, in a spiritual way, a scientist. But, in fact, Anthroposophy is deeply unscientific; Steiner's teachings are, fundamentally, antiscientific. "Abstract" science, for Steiner, is any science based on intellect rather than clairvoyance. In other words, it is any real science. Steiner essentially deplored all real sciences to the degree that they ran counter to his "spiritual" science. [See "Science".])
◊ Thinking with Your Bones, the Sequel:
If some types of thinking occur in our bones, then the bones in our fingers (and toes) may produce "bright" thinking, brighter than what we produce "with the nerves of the head." "Thinking" with our fingers, as when drumming fingers on a desktop, is a genuine phenomenon, Steiner states. Indeed, when we "think with our fingers," we create connections to the deep spiritual forces of karma.
So, again, we find Anthroposophical doctrines — such as belief in karma — informing Steiner's description of our nature and capacities. The only rational response is to repeat the obvious, basic reality that thinking actually occurs in the brain. The brain is a physical organ, the center of sensory, nervous, and intellectual activity within the overall organism. No thinking occurs anywhere but in the brain. But Steiner denied this. Consequently, at Waldorf schools, the nature of our organs is deeply misunderstood, as is the nature of the human body in general, and the human constitution, and human consciousness. In the Waldorf universe, discussions of human nature — indeed, discussions of almost anything — quickly degenerate into unfounded affirmations of mysticism: karma, clairvoyance, the gods. [See "Karma", "Clairvoyance", and "Polytheism".]
We should spend a bit more time on the crucial subjects of thinking and the seat of thought, the brain. In the next quotation, we find Steiner explicitly stating that the brain is not involved in true thinking ("actual cognition"). You might ponder what sort of education can occur in schools that disparage the brain and downplay brainwork.
◊ No Brainer:
Spend a while on this next one; Steiner had a gift for clarifying and blurring at one and the same time:
Steiner devalues the brain, here, which is consistent with the statements we saw above. The brain in "beautiful," but it is also "a degeneration." It is a digestive organ. We can "feed" the brain and thus develop "our higher cognition" (the kind that leads to abstract science, for instance: cold intellection). But this is not real, true, important thinking. "[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition.”
We have dwelt on this point — Steiner's mischaracterization of thinking and the organ of thinking — long enough, perhaps. But there is much more to be found in this third quotation. Consider Steiner's tripartite conception of the human constitution: "the head system, the chest system, and the abdominal system, including the limbs." Steiner's description of human physiology is wildly off-base. Steiner divided the human organism into three large, loosely defined "systems," making the division in the most simple-minded fashion possible, based on physical proximity. Everything that happens in and around the head (thinking, hearing, seeing, eating, singing, screaming...) must be essentially alike, since it all happens in or near the head: It is all part of the "head system." Ditto for everything that happens in the chest (the beating of the heart, the respiration of the lungs, the rhythmic contractions of the esophagus...): It is all physically proximate, so it is all part of a single "chest system." And then we have the "abdominal system" (the gut, the bowels, the sex organs...): All of this, too, must be considered to be a single system. Major problems leap out, as soon as we consider this schema. The heart and lungs may be near one another, for instance, but their functions (circulating blood, breathing) are different, and indeed any sensible description would identify them as the centers of different systems (the blood-circulatory system and the breathing/respiratory system). And this leaves the question of the limbs. The legs are near the abdomen, more or less, so Steiner tacks them onto the "abdominal system." The arms are some distance away; they are to nearer the chest than to abdomen. But they are limbs, like the legs, so Steiner assigns them to the same "system" as the legs.
How much of this makes sense? Are the limbs truly part of the same "system" as the abdomen? Is the stomach really part of the same system as the genitals? Does it really make sense to say that the intestines, stomach, womb, bladder, genitals, bowels, legs, and arms are part of a single system? Of course not. Yet Steiner asked his followers to accept such descriptions of the human body — and, generally, they have complied. Grave dangers may result from such a misguided description of the human organism. [See "Steiner's Quackery".]
One more quack quote re. the nervous system (and then, I promise, we'll move along):
◊ What Nerve:
Doctors foolishly ascribe most forms of paralysis to nerve damage. Here, Steiner corrects them: Paralysis reflects a spiritual deficiency, a failing of “perception” — which, for Steiner, means deficiency in clairvoyance or one of its allied forms of thought such as imagination.
Consider this well. Steiner explicitly denies scientific teachings about sensory and motor nerves. The cure for paralysis, he indicates, hinges on an alternation of consciousness. Perceive your legs correctly (imaginatively, clairvoyantly), and you will walk again. This is the sort of curative process we might expect to find offered in a faith healer's tent, not in a serious medical facility or an enlightened institution of learning.
◊ Sun in the Morning and the Moon at Night:
The Anthroposophical account of human nature blurs into several forms of mysticism, including astrology. Physical organs have incorporeal components, and the organs are "consonant" with celestial orbs, especially the Sun and Moon.
We Waldorf students were led to appreciate the importance of the chest system, primarily because it contains the heart (which opens outward to the cosmos, as Steiner suggests in the present passage). One of our Friday high school assemblies was given over to a speech by an aspiring chiropractor. Afterwards, our headmaster said the presentation was excellent, but that chiropractic ascribed to the spine an importance that really belongs to the heart. Steiner himself frequently said that the heart is a sense organ:
The catalogue of false Anthroposophical teachings about the human organism is vast; it expands for us each time we look a little further into Anthroposophical texts. Consider what we have learned already. We think, in some sense, with our bones. Our brains do not think, in the deepest sense. Our legs are part of the same system as our bellies and genitals. A major part of our chests is invisible. Our hearts do not pump blood.
Based on what we have already learned, we can make a proper assessment of Anthroposophical teachings about our physical constitution. We can already make up our minds. But let's press on. There is more to be learned.
◊ Sun Power:
This passage may leave you breathless, but it is a good example of Steiner's reasoning as well as the practical value of his teachings. We are Sun beings or, more generally, spiritual beings — the Earth is not our true home. Our true home, in a sense, is the Sun, which is an intelligent force, a spiritual force. Indeed, we are surrounded by living spiritual forces and beings, and our true nature is like theirs. How can we know this? Well, one way is to observe how humans build up their inner structures (bones and so on) the way beavers build dams. And how do beavers build dams? The same way wasps build nests: They are guided by the clever, intelligent Sun. Q.E.D. Hence, we are Sun beings and our medicine must always bear transcendental, celestial influences in mind.
The value of such teachings for medicine is nil. It is worse than nil. Instead of leading toward health and healing, it leads into potentially disastrous malpractice. Recollect the prescriptions given by one Anthroposophical MD, treating a child who was gravely sick. As the child's mother has written:
This is not medical treatment; it is quack incompetence and negligence. It is inexcusable, mystical wrongdoing. And it stems directly from Rudolf Steiner's teachings about our bodies and souls.
◊ I.Q. and Sex:
We can see all sorts of mischief arising from such ideas. Waldorf school teachers think they are right to pigeonhole students based on birthdate, astrological sign,"temperament," body type, race, and so forth — all of which are entirely bogus indicators. They think that such indicators describe us as we are, establishing our true natures. They are wrong, and the treatment they accord the children in their charge may be proportionately injurious.
◊ Eating Fat Empties Your Head:
To grasp the following, you need to know that you are a reincarnated spirit. Your “soul” is your individual spiritual identity renewed with each new incarnation, while your “spirit” is your undying spiritual component, representing the authority of the spiritual realm and carried from incarnation to incarnation. Your “spirit-soul” is the combination of both spirit and soul.
This brief statement calls for at least two responses. • Here we see Steiner actually giving good, practical advice, something he rarely did. Avoid fattening foods. Correct. But, as usual, his reasoning is outlandish. At a conventional, secular school, the study of physiology would focus largely on health and how to maintain it — indeed, the course might be called “Health.” The teacher would discuss the cardiovascular system, and how to attain cardiovascular fitness. There would be discussion of the transmission of diseases, and how to protect yourself. There would be discussion of the brain and nervous system, and the importance of avoiding concussions or spinal injuries. And certainly healthful eating habits would be discussed. At the Waldorf school I attended, such subjects were left by the wayside, in the Anthroposophical haze. We received no valid health or physiological instruction. • I do not recall that the terms “spirit” and “soul” were differentiated at the Waldorf school I attended, and I don’t remember the term “spirit-soul” being used. However, the faculty frequently spoke of either spirit or soul when addressing us. We were led to understand that we are primarily spiritual beings, which seemed okay since we heard the same thing in church and synagogue. But we didn’t know what Anthroposophists mean by this concept, for instance that an anti-spiritual diet could cause our heads to empty out. The school did, however, make careful (if not fully explained) dietary recommendations that we were supposed to convey to our parents. We were supposed to eat as Anthroposophists eat, which largely meant eating foods raised in accordance with Steiner's "biodynamic" instructions. [See "Biodynamics".]
◊ Body, Soul, and Spirit — A Work in Progress:
Basically, humans today are still mired in the physical realm, Steiner taught. We have bodies, and connected to them we have souls. Our spirits are still vague, however — we find only spiritual tendencies in ourselves, not spiritual fulfillments. Our physical bodies are in several ways our enemies. To make real progress, we will have to realize our spiritual tendencies and rid ourselves of our physical existence.
But if physical existence is reality — if we are now living our one and only life in the real world — Steiner’s guidance is worthless or worse than worthless, alienating ourselves from ourselves, and shutting us off from reality.
◊ The Head’s Chest:
I’m almost tempted to think Steiner was joking, here. At least, he was apparently trying to be witty. He was serious about his central point, however, which is unfortunate, since it is remarkably foolish. The nose is certainly connected to the lungs: We breathe by using our noses, mouths, and lungs. But the nose is not, therefore, a miniature torso. Nor does the nose “transform” the breathing process into something physical. Breathing is a physical process, needed to keep the physical body alive. As for the shamelessness of the nose and the modesty of the lungs...
Steiner’s guidance is worthless or worse than worthless, scrambling our comprehension of ourselves, and disconnecting us from reality.
◊ We Have Several Bodies, Most of Them Nonphysical:
Something is all mixed up, obviously. Never accuse Steiner of saying anything clearly. Summary: Each of us has a physical body, and tightly connected to it is an invisible etheric body. Higher than that is the astral body. Higher still is the “I,” which is our divine selfhood. (Plants and animals have etheric bodies; animals have astral bodies; but only humans have I’s.) Sometimes Steiner spoke of the “I” as a nonphysical body, but here he separates it as something beyond bodies. The “I” is even more imperceptible than the astral body.
The reason all these things are imperceptible might just possibly be that they don’t exist. Steiner claims that they do exist, and he could perceive them using an “internal” sense: clairvoyance. [See "Clairvoyance".] Indeed, all of Steiner's teachings — and thus the entire basis of Waldorf education and Anthroposophical medicine — depends on clairvoyance. If there is no such thing as real clairvoyance (and there isn't), then there is no basis for Waldorf education or Anthroposophical medicine.
◊ Kids’ Ages and Stages:
Steiner taught that children pass through three stages of development, and that anything approximating a normal education should be postponed until the third stage:
One of the many criticisms made of Waldorf schools is that they set low academic standards. Postponing “systematized” education until high school lends evidence to this criticism. At my Waldorf, class work became more formal in high school, but it remained essentially devoid of rigorous intellectual challenges.
Note that, according to Steiner, young children are focused on the past, including the prenatal past. Steiner taught that children come into this life with memories of past lives. We’ll return to this point. [As for the concept that childhood consists of three seven-year-long periods, see "Most Significant" and "Incarnation".]
Steiner's prescriptions for education are based on his mystical conception of human nature. Here, he speaks of our spirits and souls, "the spirit-soul world" (the spirit realm), and "the prenatal, the spirit-soul past" (past life in the spirit realm). Implicitly, he also speaks of reincarnation (the past lives that are the precursor of our current lives). If much of this is unfounded, then Steiner's prescriptions are worthless. And if some of Steiner's premises seem valid (if, for instance, you believe in a spirit realm, or in souls, or in spirits), you still should ask yourself if Steiner's descriptions of these things ring true; you still should ask yourself if Steiner's prescriptions are based in reality.
◊ A Matter of Matter and Energy:
Steiner's teachings about human blood are, as you might expect, mystical and unscientific. Nothing practical or true is contained in them or emerges from them. [See "Blood".]
Steiner's teachings about the position of humankind in the cosmos, and the role we play in the karma of the Earth, are similarly mystical and unscientific. They are essentially indistinguishable from fantasy. [See "The Center".]
All of this bear directly on Waldorf education ("[U]nless you penetrate such views, it is impossible to be a good [Waldorf] teacher"). An antiscientific bias is evident throughout the curriculum Steiner developed. At the Waldorf school I attended, we were continually advised that science has severe shortcomings and that we should not consider ourselves limited by those shortcomings. But does this mean that scientific laws should have no meaning for us? Are we or are we not real beings in the real world? And should human beings, as real beings in the real world, take credit for creating matter and energy, and for saving the Earth from death? Parents considering their children to Waldorf schools should mull over such matters carefully. We might paraphrase Steiner: Unless you penetrate such views, it is impossible to be a good Waldorf parent. And unless your children prove receptive to such views, it will be impossible for them — in the final analysis — to be good Waldorf students.
(By the way, the law concerning energy is called the law of the conservation of energy, period. Matter is something else again — it certainly can be destroyed, whereas energy cannot.)
◊ Evolving in Reverse:
Steiner taught that science has evolution backwards. People did not evolve from animals; just the opposite:
Steiner taught that we are essentially spiritual beings, and our true home is the spirit realm. Perhaps you agree. But do you agree with the specifics of Steiner's doctrines?
In at least one Friday assembly of the entire high school, our headmaster spoke of a Steinerian form of evolution, although he did not attribute it to Steiner. But he firmly stated that animals descended from man, man did not descend from animals. When he discussed this subject in private conversations with students, he was more forthcoming, referring to Steiner and his lectures. Biologists would fall of their chairs if they heard the statements made by Steiner and our headmaster. They contain no truth about the human constitution; but they are considered gospel truth in the true-believing Waldorf community.
◊ Tug-of-War Between the Physical and Spiritual:
As far as I can recall, the extreme spiritual importance of the limbs was not ever spelled out for us. However, we were made to understand the great seriousness of eurythmy, a spiritual form of “dance” in which the pelvis is held still while the limbs make elaborate, graceful motions. [See "Magical Arts".] Here is Steiner’s recondite explanation:
In the lower grades, at least, we all had to do eurythmy. Thus, by Steiner’s lights, we were all linked directly to the supersensible world. This was Waldorf’s goal, although it was never explained clearly to us or to our parents.
◊ Making Sense:
Steiner taught that human beings have twelve senses:
Like most of what we have seen here, this flies in the face of science, reality, and truth. We do not, for instance, have a sense of life. We know we are alive because our physical senses tell us so, and because our brains — those organs Steiner derided — give us consciousness. Nor do we have a sense of speech — we have speech centers in our brains that enable us to speak, and our brains are likewise able to interpret speech (which comes to us principally through hearing and/or vision). Steiner padded his list, making claims with no basis is fact.
I don't mean to oversimplify. In a general way, it is usually sufficient to refer to five human senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste), but the true story is much more complex. Various animals have various senses, and we humans have sensory experiences that do not fit neatly within the old schema of five senses.  But this is a question for rational, scientific discussion — and note that all the senses that actually exist are firmly rooted in the physical body. Steiner rooted only four senses in the physical body, and he posited eight nonphysical senses in order to accommodate his occult paradigm. There are twelve senses, he said, just as there are twelve signs of the zodiac — indeed, each sense is associated with one of the signs.
(We will look more fully into the "twelve senses" presently.)
◊ Milk of Knowledge:
Oddly enough, Steiner associated breasts with the abdomen-limb system rather than the chest. Men, women, and children may all be surprised to learn the following:
When the spirit awakens, interesting results follow. We can, perhaps, pause here to summarize what we have seen up to this point, before moving on to more general considerations.
Steiner taught that kids are born with innate intuitions of the spirit realm. A child whose spirit has been awakened can focus on its past lives in that realm.  Ideally, the child then remains in a spiritually enhanced haze until its baby teeth fall out — at about age seven — which is when it is okay for children to start learning to read.  But not until seven more years have passed, as we have already seen, should children begin to receive a “systematized” education — at about age 14. That’s the Waldorf way, anyhow. In other schools, systematic education begins considerably earlier.
You should decide which sort of education you want for your child. Your decision may be based, at least in part, on your own view of human nature and human needs. How many of the statements we have seen seem true to you? How many seem like a valid foundation on which to base your child's education?
Nine, Seven, Four
We have sampled various statements Steiner made about various parts of the human constitution. Let's step back, now, to consider Steiner's overall summary of our parts.
Steiner divided and subdivided phenomena, and he added phantom phenomena, to create patterns that conform to his numerological preferences. [See "Magic Numbers".] Thus, he divided man's nature into three categories, and then he subdivided each of these into three subcategories. The main categories are body nature, soul nature, and spirit nature. Here they are, along with their subcategories. Overall, this is Steiner's schema for the ninefold nature of human beings:
NINEFOLD NATURE OF MAN
1. Physical Nature
2. Etheric Nature
3. Soul Nature (a)
Soul Nature (b)
4. Sentient Soul
5. Intellectual Soul
6. Spiritual Soul
7. Spirit Self (a)
8. Life Spirit
9. Spirit Man 
I'll discuss the parts of human nature, as conceived by Steiner, in a moment. But first you need to know that Steiner said that in addition to body nature, soul nature (b), and spirit nature, there are additional, unknown natures — which we can disregard, thank goodness, because Steiner himself generally did so (they are unknown, remember).
Moreover, Steiner reshuffled the ninefold deck in order to create sevenfold and and fourfold listings. (He knew that some spiritual traditions are inconsistent with his ninefold account, so he offered alternative accounts that may work better from those perspectives. Thus, he wound up with a ninefold account of our parts, and a sevenfold account, and a fourfold account.)
SEVENFOLD NATURE OF MAN
1. Physical Nature
2. Etheric Nature
3. Astral Nature
(combining Soul Nature (a) and Sentient Soul)
4. Intellectual Soul
5. Spirit Self (b)
(combining Spiritual Soul and Spirit Self (a))
6. Life Spirit
7. Spirit Man 
FOURFOLD NATURE OF MAN
1. Physical Nature
2. Etheric Nature
3. Astral Nature
4. The I
(combining Spirit Self (b), Life Spirit, and Spirit Man) 
These three schemas are not wholly consistent with one another, so a certain amount of confusion will persist after even a painstaking analysis, should you care to undertake one. In order not to inflict pointless pain, I will keep my analysis, here, fairly brief.
The fourfold schema is the clearest, reflecting Steiner's basic concepts. Steiner was reacting against both materialism and orthodox Christianity. Materialism or science describes man as purely a physical being; psyche, emotions, and spirit are products of the operation of the physical organism. On the other hand, orthodox Christianity — like most faiths — posits a dualistic view: Man is both physical and spiritual.
Steiner insisted that the physical organism is the lowest and least important of man's components, and he was even more insistent that man's spiritual nature is multifaceted. Specifically, he related the fourfold nature of man to four forms of cognition that he said man can attain.
Physical body: ordinary sensory perception
Etheric body: imagination
Astral body: inspiration
The "I": intuition
As a human being matures and develops, Steiner said, s/he manifests four bodies, one at a time, on a seven-year schedule: the physical body appears at birth, the etheric body incarnates at about age seven, the astral body becomes manifest at about age fourteen, and the "I" is attained at about age twenty-one. As these bodies are realized, the human being gains the capacity for the associated forms of cognition. Imagination, inspiration, and intuition are all "supersensible": They do not rely on ordinary senses but on the "super" senses of the three nonphysical bodies. The path of initiation requires us to develop and perfect these forms of knowledge, which are variations of clairvoyance. 
The ninefold schema makes subtle distinctions within this general outline. Steiner was drawn to the numbers three and nine (three squared) for a variety of reasons. Three is important in Christianity (the triune God has three members), for instance. Steiner was a "Christian" in a gnostic, unorthodox, sense. [See "Gnosis".] He was fascinated by trinities of many kinds. ["Trinities confront us everywhere." See "Trinity".] In occultism generally, the number three often expresses hidden, higher "truths": teachings that stand beyond mere duality, and that are accessible only to the initiated. Steiner taught that three is the number of divine revelation. [See "Magic Numbers".] With this in mind, Steiner developed a theory of social organization which he called Threefolding (society consists of economic, political, and cultural spheres which should be kept distinct). [See "Threefolding".]
Let's examine the three main subdivisions within the ninefold constitution of man, along with the three components of each division:
Body Nature: We have physical bodies, clearly. Our "etheric" bodies are tightly linked to these, providing the needed life forces. Soul nature (a)* is our individual spiritual identity, varying from life to life (we reincarnate many times, Steiner said). The soul and the etheric body link the physical body to higher realms. The human being is a microcosm of the universal macrocosm, with levels of human nature reflecting — and connecting to — levels of the spirit realm.
* Steiner often used the same words for different things, creating needless confusion. Soul nature (a) is a part of our body nature, our physical nature. Soul nature (b) is a separate, higher nature, which we will examine next. (Steiner did not use the clarifying adjuncts "(a)" and "(b)"; I have added these, attempting to make Steiner's teachings clearer than he himself did.)
Soul Nature (b): The higher embodiment of the human soul ("soul nature (b)") connects us to the "soul world" — a level of spiritual existence above the material level but below the spiritual level. The three components of soul nature (b) — the sentient soul, the intellectual soul, and the spiritual soul — have developed over time, during our evolution. They endow us with increasing levels of awareness. For instance, the sentient soul (allowing us to form concepts) developed during ancient Egyptian times, while the intellectual soul (allowing us to think rationally) developed during Greco-Roman times. [See the entries for "sentient soul", etc., in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.] In our personal development, we recapitulate the overall development of humanity. [For an overview of this developmental history, see "Matters of Form".]
The sentient soul is somewhat misnamed, since it enables us to apprehend reality only as generally undifferentiated beings, lacking self-awareness and any real power of thought. We became more fully present, individualized, and thoughtful when developing the intellectual soul (Steiner taught that intellect developed for the first time in ancient Greece — all previous peoples were intellectually benighted). Today we are capable of still higher cognition thanks to the spiritual soul, the development of which can be dated to 1413 AD. We are now capable of "felt" thought, the mind working in conjunction with the heart of apprehend more deeply than intellect alone would permit. Exact clairvoyant insight is now available to us [see "Exactly"], especially if we attend to Steiner.
Spirit Nature: Our spirits are higher than our souls: They are immortal citizens of the spirit realm. In developing and unlocking the components of our spirits, we make possible our ultimate, full ascension into the spirit-world (a higher realm than the soul-world). The spirit self (a) is manas (a Sanskrit term), which may be considered the reincarnating self. It is the transformed, more purely spiritual astral body. The life spirit is buddhi, a yet-higher component, which is the transformed etheric body — developing it moves us farther toward pure spiritualization, breaking linkages with material reality. Spirit man is atma, the transformed physical body. The god within, it links us to the Godhead while more completely severing our physical bonds. However, none of these high levels of consciousness will be fully attained during life on Earth — we will have to evolve much further on other planets. 
I realize that much of what I am laying out here is vague. The only way to fully grasp Steiner's meaning is to delve deeply into the many subjects I discuss throughout the essays on this website — or, since Anthroposophists would surely deny that any real knowledge can come through me, you may need to submit to the process of Anthroposophical initiation. 
The intermediate schema, the sevenfold nature of man, probably need not detain us. It is the same as the fourfold and ninefold schemas, slightly revised. Steiner frequently divided his teachings into categories of seven. Thus, our evolution consists of seven major stages (conditions of consciousness), each of which can be subdivided into seven lesser stages (conditions of life), each of which can be subdivided into seven sub-sub stages (stages of form), etc. Similarly, children mature through seven-year-long periods, there are seven "sacred" planets, there were seven holy Rishis in Hindu tradition, just as there were seven wise men in ancient Greece, and so forth.  Occultists (and gamblers) often place high value on the number seven, for its supposed good fortune and mystic significance. (In Western numerology, seven is associated with both scholarship and mysticism, which makes it particularly apt for Theosophy and Anthroposophy, which claim to present sure knowledge of mystical matters).
Complicating things slightly: Steiner often taught that we are threefold beings, consisting of body, soul, and spirit. Go back to the ninefold nature of man, detailed above. Our three parts are then the three subdivisions of our nine parts: body nature, soul nature, and spirit nature. This is, in fact, how Anthroposophists usually describe the human constitution, at least informally.
Here is a pastel sketch Steiner did
depicting the threefold nature of humanity.
[See the cover of WHAT IS ANTHROPOSOPHY?
(Anthroposophic Press, 2002.)]
We exist on the physical, etheric, and astral planes.
The physical human stands below the soul,
which stands below the spirit.
Without soul and spirit, the physical body
is effectively decapitated.
Taken at a lower level, at the level of body nature,
the physical body is below the etheric body,
which is below the astral body.
Again, the physical person is effectively
headless without the higher components.
We have seen how nine, seven, four, and three are all crucial numbers in the Anthroposophical worldview and/or in Anthroposophical physiology. One more important number must also be recognized: twelve. There are twelve constellations in the zodiac (as usually conceived), there were twelve Apostles, there are twelve hours in the day and twelve more at night, etc. Steiner and his followers find great significance in such matters. As Steiner said, for instance, "[T]he fundamental number of space is twelve, and in flowing into space, time is revealed according to the number twelve. At the point where time flows out into space the number twelve dominates. We have twelve tribes in Israel, also twelve apostles at the moment when Christ...poured out into space," and so on. 
Twelve is reflected in our natures in various ways, according to Anthroposophical belief. Clearest, perhaps, is the enumeration of human senses.
[Hawthorn Press, Anthroposophy Series, 1990.]
In his book, OUR TWELVE SENSES, Steiner devotee Albert Soesman helpfully describes the human senses as itemized by Steiner. Four are physical senses, four are soul senses, and four are spirit senses. The breakdown works fine for anyone who puts credence in such forms of occultism as numerology and astrology. Everyone else may be surprised to learn that we have so many senses, and that some of the "soul" and "spirit" senses are clearly associated with the physical body (e.g., vision and hearing), while some of the "physical" senses clearly are not (e.g., life sense and self-movement sense).
Three is the number of divinity revealing itself, Steiner taught, and four is the number of creation. Twelve — three times four — is the number of the celestial constellations or, more generally, it is the key number for spatial relationships. We have seen one Steiner statement re. the importance of the number twelve for existence in space. Here is another:
These are our senses,
as per Soesman as per Steiner.
Note that each sense
is associated with a sign
of the zodiac.
life sense (Scorpio),
self-movement sense (Sagittarius),
and balance (Capricorn).
and temperature sense (Leo).
language sense (Gemini),
conceptual sense (Taurus),
and ego sense (Aries). 
Quite astonishingly, Steiner's followers today — in the 21st Century — continue to espouse such teachings.
Depending on which Steiner text you happen to consult, the evolutionary relationships between the parts of the human physical/spiritual organism may seem to vary. Here's one thumbnail description of part of the story:
According to the belief system underlying Waldorf education, we gradually incarnate over a period of 42 years (and our total spiritual evolution lasts longer still: Having begun many, many incarnations ago, it lasts throughout this life, and it will extend through many, many future lives). We undergo a process of continuous spiritual development, leading to higher and higher stages of spiritual self-realization and spiritual insight.
The Waldorf curriculum is designed to foster the early stages of this process (as attainable at mankind's current evolutionary level) and to set each student's feet on the path to the succeeding stages. The methodological goal is the acquisition of "exact clairvoyance" [see "Exactly"], which essentially means becoming a deeply perceptive, and wholly committed, Anthroposophist. This is the underlying purpose of Waldorf schooling, pursued at individual Waldorf schools with varying degrees of fervor and focus.
Here is the schedule (or one version thereof)
for the stages of incarnation:
Event - Age
Birth of physical body - 0 years (natal day)
Full incarnation of etheric body - 7 years (marked by loss of baby teeth)
Full incarnation of astral body - 14 years (marked by puberty)
Full incarnation of "I" - 21 years (adulthood)
Full incarnation of sentient soul - 28 years (development of spirit self)
Full incarnation of mind soul - 35 years (development of life spirit)
Full incarnation of consciousness soul - 42 years (development of spirit body)
[See, e.g., Stewart C. Easton, MAN AND THE WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY
(Anthroposophic Press, 1989), pp. 102-103n, and 148-149.]
Sometimes Anthroposophists speak of the "birth" of the etheric body, astral body, etc. But more accurately, all elements of human nature are brought into this life from the preceding life in the spirit realm. The various parts of our nature develop (i.e., they fully incarnate) at the dates indicated, but we have all of them within our essential spiritual nature from the beginning of earthly life, if only in kernel form.
People who are not really human [see "Steiner's Bile" and "Nuts"] do not develop or evolve in this way. They may leave the correct stream of evolution, lose their human souls, sink into the abyss, be relegated to an irreclaimable moon, or suffer other forms of perdition. [See "Hell".] If any subsequent form of evolution is open to them, it is too awful and strange for us to discuss.
Failing to heed Steiner and his followers can bring severe penalties down on your head.
For further, more detailed, information about
Steiner's view of human nature,
see "Our Parts".
Steiner associated each part of the human being
with a particular type of god, standing at a particular
level in the spiritual hierarchy.
(Anthroposophy is polytheistic - see "Polytheism".)
Here are these correspondences,
reading from bottom to top:
physical body: Spirits of Personality, Archai
etheric body: Spirits of Fire, Archangels
astral body: Sons of Twilight, Angels
sentient soul: Spirits of Form, Powers
intellectual soul: Spirits of Movement, Authorities
consciousness soul: Spirits of Wisdom, Dominions
manas (spirit self): Spirits of Will, Seraphim
buddhi (life spirit): Spirits of Harmony, Cherubim
atman (spirit man): Spirits of Love, Thrones
[Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC LESSONS 1904-1909
(Steiner Books, 2007), p. 346.
R.R. sketch, 2009, based on image on that page.]
Note: Sometimes Powers are ranked lower than Authorities,
in which case the intellectual soul is aligned with Powers
and the sentient soul with Authorities.
As is often the case in Anthroposophy,
this concept is an ancient fallacy
reworked slightly by Steiner.
Here is an illustration of the correspondences imagined
in Medieval times between the human body
and the signs of the zodiac.
[Image from James Randi's
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CLAIMS, FRAUDS,
AND HOAXES OF THE OCCULT AND SUPERNATURAL
(St. Martin’s Griffin, 1995), p. 18.]
Because of the supposed influence of the zodiac on particular parts of the human body, Steiner taught that the human body has a twelve-fold constitution, and indeed specific parts of the body — in particular the head — can be seen to be twelve-fold as well.
Sometimes there is no substitute for simply letting Steiner have his say.
I don't want to help increase the sales of any Steiner books, but if you want to read more of this stuff, you should scare up a copy of HARMONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD. There's plenty more to be had between its covers. In brief, we are microcosms — we contain within ourselves the effects of all the stars and planets, as well as the best attributes of all the animals. We're It, the center, the berries, the cat's pajamas, the Sun and the Moon. Most medical schools overlook these facts.
The image above approximates the schematic on p. 154 of Rudolf Steiner's
THE APOCALYPSE OF ST. JOHN (Anthroposophic Press, 1993).
[Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005.]
Below, a rough sketch of a rough sketch that Steiner tossed off. (I’ve made my own choice of colors.) Ranged along the top are the "planets": Saturn, Sun, Moon, Mars, Earth (green, vague), Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan. (Yes, Vulcan). At the bottom is the human being: physical body (blue) around the etheric body (orange) around the astral body (red) around a stack: reading, top to bottom, sentient soul, intellectual soul, consciousness soul, and "upper trinity" (i.e., manas, budhi, and atma). Each human part is connected to its equivalent planet. For example,
Here are the associations Steiner depicted:
physical body: Saturn
etheric body: Sun
astral body: Moon
sentient soul: Moon
intellectual soul: Mars
consciousness soul: Mercury
manas (spirit self): Jupiter
buddhi (life spirit): Venus
atman (spirit man) : Vulcan
Some parts of this statement almost seem to make sense. But consider. Steiner was saying that the ancients were fundamentally correct (their dreams were true; Anthroposophists "acknowledge" or accept the ancients' truths today). Thus, in discussing the "symbols" used by the ancients, Steiner was asserting that those images were true — the ancients, you see, were clairvoyant. Steiner's basic position on such matters is that the ancients were right about many, many things, whereas modern science is wrong about almost everything. In sum, Steiner embraced ancient ignorance while rejecting modern knowledge.
The four figures represent not just parts of human nature but actual human races in ancient, ancient days: reading from the top, eagle people, human people, lion people, and bull people. [See "Four Group Souls".] We modern humans evolved most directly from the ancient "human" people. The spirit guiding us may be seen as a benevolent, godly force shepherding souls into Earthly incarnation and then beyond. We find representations of such divinity, having a distinctly "human" form, in many Anthroposophical artworks, such as one I have copied here:
Human souls within the protective
embrace of divine guidance.
[My sketch, 2010, based on a portion of a painting
by Walther Roggenkamp, reproduced in John Fletcher's
ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER
(Mercury Arts Publications, 1987), p. 219.]
"We are made up of lots of tiny human beings."
This complicates the Anthroposophical account of the human constitution.
Steiner did not always talk of tiny, inner human beings, but sometimes he did,
and sometimes he specified particular tiny, inner human beings.
See, e.g., entries in THE BRIEF WALDORF / STEINER ENCYCLOPEDIA for
Sometimes, but not always (he was often inconsistent), Steiner said
that there are essentially three inner humans within each outer human:
One of the teachers at my Waldorf school warned white students against receiving blood transfusions from nonwhites. Her warning was consistent with Steiner's teachings.
No discussion of the human constitution would be complete without delving into the mysteries of sex. Here’s Steiner’s take:
Steiner taught that a lowly form of clairvoyance is fueled by rechanneled sexual energy. He said that Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg monkeyed around with such.
Of course Swedenborg, like just about everyone else except Guess Who, didn’t have the highest, “exact” form of clairvoyance.
According to G. Who, channeling sexual energy into spiritual seeing is the wrong approach, as the ancients understood.
Now, before anyone gets too indignant, realize that Steiner says that such precautions are no longer needed. Women can now participate, but sex must still be kept firmly under control.
Swedenborg only attained a low level of clairvoyance because he did not observe this rule. He repressed his sexuality, but he tried to rely on sexual energy for his psychic explorations.
If you find a certain squeamishness about sex under Steiner’s words, you may be onto something. But, pressing on: To be male or female means embodying a cosmic principle that is the polar opposite of the principle manifested by the opposite sex.
That, I think, is clear enough.
However, things are a bit more complicated than they might seem at first blush, especially when we consider the three human nonphysical bodies (ether body, astral body, and "I"):
I’m almost speechless, so I’ll let Rudolf continue:
Now, before anyone gets too indignant, remember that this is all very complex.
— Roger Rawlings
For more on Steiner's teachings about the sexes,
Waldorf student artwork courtesy of
Various other images from http://www.fromoldbooks.org/
Steiner promoted the ancient, and false, belief
that humans exemplify four "humours" of "temperaments."
For information on this, see "Humouresque"
For explications of the Biblical verses from which Steiner
elaborated his conception of the "I", see "Moses".
I don't want to leave you with the mistaken impression
that Steiner's view of human nature is simplistic.
As we evolved, we accumulated our various components.
You may also want to bear in mind that
there was originally just a single mega-proto human,
who later divided to become us.
Our constituents are themselves beings, monads,
who joined to become our monad or self-enclosed being,
us as we were, as it were.
It's complicated. But it has worked out pretty well.
Our nature changes and improves as we evolve.
Just as a young child does not yet have a true human ego or "I",
humanity as a whole lacked this high attribute until fairly recently.
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch,
use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 12. DANGEROUS DISCONNECTIONS ◊◊◊
[R. R., 2010.]
 E.g., Thomas R. DeGregori, “The Deadly Perils of Rejected Knowledge,” (posted September 13, 2002 , American Council on Science and Health).
 See, e.g., the discussion “Holocaust denial material recommended on yahoo anthroposophy list,” beginning with message 174 at groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/messages .
For Steiner's view of alchemy, see "Alchemy".
 Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE: Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996).
 Roy Wilkinson, THE CURRICULUM OF THE RUDOLF STEINER SCHOOL: Guides to Teaching in Rudolf Steiner Education. (Robinswood Press, 1975,) p. 18. Note that Waldorf schools and “Steiner” schools are essentially the same.
 THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 75.
 Ibid., pp. 59-60.
 Rudolf Steiner, FROM COMETS TO COCAINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 58.
 THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, pp. 159-160.
 Rudolf Steiner, POLARITIES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MANKIND, (Steiner Books, 1987), p. 56.
 FROM COMETS TO COCAINE, pp. 212-215.
 Ibid., pp. 213-214.
Steiner, by the way, was born in February.
(And here's a tiny niggle: December - March is a four-month period, whereas March - May is just three months. Steiner's math was off.)
 Ibid., p. 196.
Addressing children at the first Waldorf School, Steiner said: “You each have a physical body, a soul, and a spirit.” — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL, (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 54.
 THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, pp. 80-81.
 THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 205. This may be a rare instance in which Steiner attempted to convey his point (one that he nonetheless considered important) through the use of wit or humor. At least, I hope that he realized how absurd his statement sounds.
 Ibid., pp. 83-84.
 Ibid., pp. 155-158.
 Ibid., pp. 77-78.
 Ibid., pp. 69-70.
 Ibid., pp. 195-196.
 Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 247.
 THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, pp. 142-145.
 See, e.g., "Human sensory reception" and, more generally, "Senses" in THE ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA. (I most recently checked these items on October 11, 2015.)
 THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 177.
 See, e.g., A.C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1956), pp. 15-16
 “[O]ur children learn to read a bit later than others do, and they learn to write letters [A, B, C] later than children in other schools.” — Rudolf Steiner, HUMAN VALUES IN EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), pp. 70-71.]
 References to the various terms I've used are scattered throughout Steiner's works. A Google search will provide a quadzillion hits. Sources include THE ESSENTIAL STEINER (Lindisfarne Books, 2007), Henry Barnes, A LIFE FOR THE SPIRIT (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), Stewart C. Easton, MAN AND THE WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1989), Gary Lachman, RUDOLF STEINER (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2007), Roy Wilkinson, RUDOLF STEINER (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2001), and Geoffrey Ahern, SUN AT MIDNIGHT (James Clarke & Co., 2009).
For one explication of the ninefold nature of man, see Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY OF THE ROSICRUCIAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966), chapter 2, GA 99.
 E.g., Rudolf Steiner, THE INNER NATURE OF MUSIC AND THE EXPERIENCE OF TIME (Anthroposophic Press, 1983), lecture 6, GA 283: "When I wrote my [book] THEOSOPHY, I had to speak of a ninefold nature, further dividing the three individual members. I arrived at a sevenfold from a ninefold organization."
 E.g., Rudolf Steiner, THE INFLUENCE OF SPIRITUAL BEINGS UPON MAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1961), lecture 8, GA 102: "The different members of these beings can be investigated by occult means just as in the case of man when we distinguish his members as physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego and what is to evolve from them as spirit-self, life-spirit, and spirit-man. In his present phase of development man consists essentially of the four members first named, so that we can say that his highest member is the ego or ‘I’ and the lowest is the physical body."
 See "Everything" and the essays that follow it.
 See "Inside Scoop".
 Seven, Steiner taught, is the number of perfection. See "Magic Numbers".
 Rudolf Steiner, THE EAST IN THE LIGHT OF THE WEST (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1940), chapter 8, GA 114.
 THE EAST IN THE LIGHT OF THE WEST, chapter 9.
 Albert Soesman, OUR TWELVE SENSES (Hawthorn Press, Anthroposophy Series, 1990), p. 142.
 Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 62-63.
 Rudolf Steiner, COMMUNITY LIFE, INNER DEVELOPMENT, SEXUALITY, AND THE SPIRITUAL TEACHER (Anthroposophic Press, 1991), p. 78.
 Ibid., p. 79.
 Ibid., p. 80.
 Ibid., p. 80.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE REAPPEARANCE OF THE CHRIST IN THE ETHERIC (SteinerBooks, 2003), p. 63.
 Ibid., p. 64.
 Ibid., pp. 64-65.
 Ibid., pp. 65-66.