Curses Disguised as Blessings


One goal Waldorf teachers often set for themselves is instilling a sense of reverence in their students. Reverence may be admirable, but whether anyone can implant it in another is doubtful. It is fundamentally a religious sentiment. Secular people may admire something; they may honor or respect something; but they will rarely revere anything. Reverence is, generally speaking, an attitude of spiritual devotion — which is one reason members of the clergy are often referred to as Reverends. Reverence is an attitude that arises naturally from a full heart or soul. When Waldorf teachers attempt to instruct children in reverence, they are undertaking a religious mission, acting as self-appointed Anthroposophical missionaries. Even if their motives are pure, they may inflict real harm. [1]

Reverence may be held up as an ideal. Children may learn the desirability of reverence — the intention to be reverent may be evoked in them. But the danger is that outer forms of reverence may be learned without the inner reality of soulfulness being brought to life, and it is only such inner reality that gives the outer forms meaning. An aspiration to reverence or even a mimicry of reverence may substitute for the real thing, and the aspiration may then become self-defeating. This danger is likely to be aggravated if the spiritual guidance of children is undertaken by adults who have no real qualifications to serve as spiritual guides. This is often the case in Waldorf schools, where the teachers claim authority to minister to their students as "priests." In the words of Rudolf Steiner, 

"In our teaching and educating we should really become priests ... We have been placed next to children in order that spirit properly germinates, grows, and bears fruit." [2]

Whether Waldorf education can cause spirit to germinate becomes, then, the central question.

I’ll tell you a little about my own experiences. As I may have mentioned before, I attended a Waldorf school from second through twelfth grade. For many years after graduating, I struggled with my extremely low opinion of myself. Much of the problem arose because I almost never felt the things I'd been taught I was supposed to feel. I had been educated by people who often seemed to embody a sort of reverent otherworldliness; their eyes and souls seemed to be focused on the transcendent. These were my role models, my guides, and I strove to become what they seemed to be. I was, indeed, more serious about emulating our teachers than many of my classmates were; I was one of the students who seemed most likely to follow the path toward full-fledged embrace of Anthroposophy.

But there was a problem, one that become more pronounced as the years unwound following graduation. I had been taught to have unrealistic aspirations; I had been trained to require the impossible of myself. I found now that I enjoyed sunsets and rainbows well enough, but they didn't fill me with transcendent joy as apparently they had done for my teachers. I liked morning mists, but they didn't elevate my consciousness enough to let me perceive dancing elves and fairies — which some of my teachers seemed to perceive. I enjoyed classical music, but it didn't transport me in any literal way into the supersensible realm, whereas for my enchanted teachers... [3]

The fault, I was sure, lay in myself. I had learned that joyous, supernal reverence was the only true frame of mind; all other conditions betrayed deep psychic and spiritual flaws. If I could not revere deeply and passionately those that things my teachers had revered, then I was revealing my own depravity.

Waldorf schooling may be well-meaning, but because it is fundamentally divorced from reality, it imposes unrealistic expectations and hopes on its victims. I know some Waldorf graduates, faculty members, and staff who responded to the sort of problem I confronted by fervently working themselves up into simulations of joy, transcendence, etc. — but the effort was plainly artificial and the results were plainly false, a process of self-deception, as many of these people ultimately realized. [4]

The central difficulty is that if one can only be satisfied by delights and states of being that are unavailable in the real world, then one must either transition into a fantasy world (which, clinically, means becoming to some degree insane) or live disappointed and thwarted in the real world. Either course means throwing away the chance of living fully and happily here and now, in the real world, in what is — as far as we can know — the one and only life we will get. 

These days, I am no longer religious. [5] But at one stage of my recovery from Waldorf I found wisdom in Buddhism and other eastern faiths. I was helped by simple but profound concepts such as: This Is It. Be Here Now. Such concepts boil down to existential authenticity, the condition of being whole. One irony of the Waldorf approach is that the Waldorf conception of the "whole child" includes so many unreal elements: multiple unreal senses, invisible unreal bodies, etc. Aiming for Waldorf "wholeness" means being always incomplete. [6] You literally cannot be what Waldorf says you should be. 

Nowadays sunsets, rainbows, and all the other beauties of life are genuinely pleasing to me, in a wholly down-to-earth way. On the Internet, I sometimes use the handles “downfromfog” and “nonlevitating” because this is what I finally learned to do: come down out of the Waldorf fog, stop yearning for levitation or transcendence, and begin living. (Good ol' me.) 

It is both unnecessary and, indeed, immoral to send children into the world burdened by expectations and yearnings that cannot be fulfilled. It means creating artificial but very deep problems that can take decades to resolve. It is wrong.



Parents have a hard time coming to the realization that a Waldorf school can damage their children. The schools usually are pretty, bright artwork is on display everywhere, there are cute gnomes in some classrooms, lovely festivals are celebrated — it is hard to realize that such a school can be damaging. Yet this is precisely the realization parents need to reach, the sooner the better.

Young kids are the most impressionable, so the danger of drifting away from reality may start in the earliest grades. If, when children are very young, their concepts of reality and unreality become deeply scrambled, they may sink further and further into unreality. The longer they attend a Waldorf school, the deeper the problem may become. The impressions created early in life can be reinforced over the years, and what may have seemed charming or even normal in childhood — preferring fantasy to reality — may become a profound dilemma later on.

This is the context for understanding Steiner when he said to Waldorf teachers: 

“Given the difficult, disorderly, and chaotic conditions of our time, it might almost be preferable from a moral viewpoint if children could be taken into one’s care soon after birth.” [7] 

If they follow Steiner's directions, Waldorf teachers consider themselves to have messianic purposes. [8] Their intentions may be good: They want to shepherd the little children to the Truth, which is Anthroposophy. If need be (and it often seems to be needed) they will do this without the parents' permission or knowledge. [9] In this sense, they attempt something similar to what Steiner suggested, removing kids from their parents' care and putting those children under their own more esoterically "correct" care. They think they possess divine secrets that the rest of mankind lacks, secrets that must be guarded from the uninitiated, whose souls have not been properly prepared. [10] So true-believing Waldorf teachers work is secrecy, for the good of all.

They mean well, and yet because they are deluded — operating in a fantasy universe of elves and giants and multiple gods and secret cosmic scripts and gnostic reinterpretations of divine texts [11] — they can injure children in ways that may last a lifetime. The damage is greatest not when a Waldorf school fails, but when it succeeds: If Waldorf teachers pull a child into their fantasy universe, they are luring her/him into a kind of insanity, by which I mean removal from clear-eyed existence in the real world.

One of my sisters attended a Waldorf school from kindergarten all the way through high school. She got the whole Waldorf treatment. She tells me that when she and her old schoolmates discuss Waldorf now, they all say that they felt they were in a fog the whole time they attended the school. This is the state Waldorf attempts to inculcate: mental blurring (Steiner denigrated the brain, intellect, and virtually all knowledge offered by any source other than himself). [12] Waldorf schools see education in the conventional sense as a purely secondary goal. Their primary goal is indoctrinating the kids (subtly, indirectly) in Anthroposophy.

The Anthroposophical universe is itself a fog, because it is unreal; and the fog at Waldorf schools is all the deeper because, usually, the teachers do not explain Anthroposophical doctrines to the kids, they just slip them in subliminally. [13] A student who gets this treatment may, possibly, be able to fight her/his way to clear-mindedness after graduation. But the effort to do this is not easy, not every affected Waldorf graduate succeeds at it, and in fact not every affected Waldorf graduate realizes that it can or should be done. Waldorf alumni in the latter category will go through life as mystics, to one degree or another; and some of them will begin studying Steiner's works and become full-fledged Anthroposophists. In them, the Waldorf system will have attained its goal.

After I graduated from Waldorf, I was not an Anthroposophist (at least not consciously), but I had deeply instilled Anthroposophical attitudes. I yearned for spiritual blessing, I craved transcendence, I found little or no beauty in physical reality, I was a mystic, a romantic — and, as I’ve said, I ached with a sense of my own inadequacy: I had been trained to need forms of fulfillment that do not, actually, exist. As a result, I felt empty — I couldn't get what I sought. Other religions can point their young in these same directions, of course; and one can argue that seeking spiritual blessings is wise and good. But the only blessings that are true, that are not curses in disguise, are blessings that flow from reality, from the real universe. A blessing from a pack of lies and/or delusions is no blessing — it is a wound, a burden, a curse. Perhaps major religions such as Christianity or Hinduism confer real blessings; Anthroposophy surely does not.

Some Waldorf graduates come away feeling that the school did confer blessings. And most Anthroposophists must feel, I infer, that their faith (or "spiritual science") blesses them. I would be happy for them if I thought they were not fooling themselves. [14] Perhaps they are not. Perhaps the universe is as Steiner described it; perhaps spiritual science is the wave of the future; perhaps true blessings do flow from Waldorf schools. Since I am not omniscient — since my own perspective is undoubtedly imperfect — I must acknowledge these possibilities. But the odds that Waldorf is right are extremely long. Science and reason provide little or no basis for accepting Steiner's teachings. Steiner was clearly wrong about a lot, and as mankind accumulates more and more real knowledge about the universe, Steiner's teachings become more and more implausible. Anthroposophy does not stand the test of time. It can survive only in the minds of people who reject actual knowledge, opting for occultism instead. [15]

While I was still a Waldorf student, I sometimes thought that I really could feel as I was supposed to feel. A victim of quiet, occult brainwashing over many years, I sometimes thought I could enter the trancelike, brain-suppressed, glorious, spiritualized state that Waldorfs aim to inculcate. I had a heightened imagination, I was inspired (I was conspicuous, even in a Waldorf school, for being deeply, outspokenly religious), I was intuitive like crazy. [16] I was such a wholesome prospective Anthroposophist that the headmaster at our school took me under his wing, grooming me to be a real Anthropop, even an Anthropop leader. I can see how, very easily, I could have gone all the way, done as he wished — and perhaps today I would running a Waldorf school somewhere.

But, somehow, I had within me a tiny, saving sliver of rationality. Somehow I knew, even as I nearly experienced the "elevated" state I was meant to experience — deep down, I knew it was false. I knew that all of us who tried to enter that state were pushing ourselves, hypnotizing ourselves, lying to ourselves. The human capacity for self-deception is immense, and somehow I understood this danger, ever so slightly, even when I was most deeply sunk in Waldorf's fog. That tiny sliver of rationality saved me — although at the time it caused me great pain. As I approached graduation, my occultist faith was already receding and I experienced the "joy" of elevated, transcendent self-deception less and less. Still, it took me many, many years after graduation to truly get my feet on the ground.

I should hasten to add that my personal, subjective experience is no basis for action by anyone else. Indeed, I try not to use it as a basis for my own actions. When I write about Steiner and Waldorf, I take care to document my work, quoting Steiner, other Anthroposophists, and many non-Anthroposophical scholars. My experiences as a Waldorf student and, later, as a Waldorf survivor, gave me the impetus to begin my investigations into Waldorfworld, but I do not ask anyone to reach any conclusions about Steiner, Anthroposophy, or Waldorf based on my personal experiences. An Anthroposophist could argue that my experiences were unique, they show my spiritual inadequacy, and indeed they may indicate that I am demonic and/or subhuman.

Perhaps this hypothetical Anthroposophical representative is right about me — I’ll leave that for you to decide. All I’ll say in my own defense is that in my essays about Waldorf schools and Anthroposophy, I have done my level best to tell the absolute truth. I have tried to shine a bright light into darkness, in order to help students and parents who are involved in — or who are thinking of becoming involved in — Waldorf schools. If I have helped anyone here or there, even a little, then I am content.

— Roger Rawlings


A painting by a Waldorf student.

Waldorf schools generally adhere 

to a single curriculum

promoting a single view of the world:

the Anthroposophical view.

The characteristic artwork created by students

in various Waldorf schools

tends to reflect this uniformity.

[Image courtesy of 

People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools].


On many pages here at Waldorf Watch, important points are reiterated multiple times in multiple ways.
(Often, the pages are compilations of items originally posted elsewhere.) 
Moreover, some important page sections appear on more than one page. 
Whenever you come upon material that you have already read or absorbed, please just skip ahead. 
You should soon reach material that is less familiar to you.


This is a rather conventional, saccharine image of fairy folk. Some Waldorf teachers and students would find it a fair representation of at least one part of their worldview. But some others, embarrassed, would reject it. The Waldorf universe is populated by innumerable, invisible beings, large and small, high and low. Steiner's teachings about such beings are sophisticated and complex. Whether his teachings make sense — whether such beings exist in any form — is a question that may merit careful consideration. In any event, you should realize that Steiner and his followers accept the existence of realms and beings that the rational mind and modern science find absolutely no evidence for, and that most mainline religions would decry as absurd or heretical.

[Public domain image.]


For an examination of 

Anthroposophical indoctrination

in Waldorf schools, see "Indoctrination".


The Waldorf universe is a structured, 

orderly, hierarchical place

filled with magic, astrological powers, 

and mythological beings.

Perhaps images like this 

don't do it justice 

(indeed, this image was not created 

with Waldorf in mind) 

— but then again...

[Public domain image.]


Before breaking away to establish Anthroposophy, Steiner was a Theosophist. Theosophy teaches that we will evolve through seven planetary stages [see "Basics"], but there is also an eighth stage or "sphere." Steiner endorsed this doctrine with reservations, altering it to suit his own vision. In Theosophy, the Eighth Sphere is the Planet of Death — in effect, it is Hell. Steiner accepted this, but only to a degree. Here is a "clarifying" statement by Steiner. Aside from a couple of prefatory remarks, I will offer no commentary — sometimes it is best to receive Steiner's words without any mediating explanations.

Prefatory remarks: ◊ In the drawing, the green sphere is Earth; the blue sphere is the Moon; the red sphere is the Eighth Sphere. ◊ In Steiner's statement, the Sinnet referred to is an occultist who publicly revealed the existence of the Eighth Sphere.

Steiner's statement:

“To present this correctly, we must show the Earth here, and the Eighth Sphere here (see diagram). The Eighth Sphere belongs to our physical Earth in the sense indicated. We are surrounded everywhere by the Imaginations into which the aim is that mineral materiality shall continually be drawn. There lies the reason for the sacrifice made by Jahve or Jehovah — the precipitation of substance far denser than the other mineralised substance. This was established by Jahve as Moon, as the counteracting agent. It was substance of extreme density — and this density was described by Sinnett as substance of a far denser physical-mineral character than exists anywhere on the Earth. Hence Lucifer and Ahriman cannot dissolve it away into their world of Imaginations. And so this Moon circles around as a globe of dense matter, solid, dense, indestructible. If you read carefully enough you will find that even the descriptions of the Moon given by physicists tally with this. Everything that was available on the Earth was drawn out and placed there in order that there should be enough physical matter incapable of being wrested away. When we look at the Moon, we see there in the Universe a substance far more intensely mineralised, far physically denser, than exists anywhere on the Earth. Jahve or Jehovah, then, must be regarded as that Being who even in the physical domain has ensured that not all materiality can be drawn away by Lucifer and Ahriman. And then, at the right time, equal care will be taken by the same Spirit that the Moon shall re-enter the Earth when the Earth is strong enough to receive it, when the danger is averted by the development that has meanwhile taken place.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT MOVEMENT IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), pp. 87-88.

[R.R. sketch, 2010, based on the one on p. 87.]


The Anthroposophical view of human nature is complex and strange. Here is a little bit more about our identity, as described by Steiner. 

“When we place man in the universe in accordance with his true identity — on earth he is, so to speak, a miniature image of himself — we must place him in the eagle sphere as regards his head ... The lion is the representative of the animals which are in the real sense sun animals ... The lion prospers best when the planets above the sun and the planets below the sun are in a constellation where they exert the least influence on the sun itself ... [W]hat lives in the lion's gaze lives also in the organization of the human chest and heart ... [W]e must put the human being into the diagram in such a way that we place the heart and lungs in the region of this sun activity ... When we turn to the inner planets...we have first the Mercury sphere. This has to do with the finer parts of the metabolic system ... [T]he region of Venus ... is connected with the somewhat coarser parts of man's metabolic system ... We come next to the sphere of the moon. (I am drawing this in the sequence customary today in astronomy; I could also draw it differently.) There we enter the region which exerts influence on the metabolic processes, for these are connected with the moon ... [T]he facts of human earthly evolution are such that, to an ever increasing degree, eagle forces wish to concentrate one-sidedly on the human head, lion forces on he human rhythmic system, and cow forces on the human metabolism and all human activity on earth." — Rudolf Steiner, HARMONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), pp. 23-26. 

[RR sketch, 2009, based on the one on p. 23.] 

According to Anthroposophy, we are microcosms — we contain within ourselves the distillation and potentiality of all the high universe. We're It, the center, the berries, the cat's pajamas, the Sun and the Moon. Some of this may be seem attractive, but some of it is quite clearly an occult fantasy. "Educating" children under the influence of occult fantasies may not be best for the children individually or for mankind as a whole.



This is a variant of an Anthroposophical mystic seal, reflecting Steiner's interpretation of the Book of Revelation. 

“Were we to go far back millions of years in human evolution, another picture would come toward us. At present, men are physically on earth, but there was a time when what wandered about here on earth was not yet able to take up a human soul because it was on the astral plane. Even further back in time, we come to a period when the soul was on the spiritual plane, in devachan. In the future, when it will have purified itself on earth, the soul will again ascend to this high plane. Its course moves from the spiritual, through the astral, the physical and then again up to the spirit. This seems a long development for the human being, yet it still appears brief compared to the other planets. During those times men went through not only physical transformations, but spiritual and astral transformations as well. To follow these requires that we rise to spiritual worlds. There the music of the spheres can be heard, tones that swell and flood through space in this world, the harmony of the spheres, called by the occultist 'the trumpet tones of the angels,' will sound forth for them. Hence, the trumpets in the third seal.” — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SIGNS AND SYMBOLS (Anthroposophic Press, 1972), pp. 52-53.

[R.R. sketch, 2010, based on an image in 
(Health Research, 1969).]



Steiner's teachings are based on visions that he claimed to attain through clairvoyance. He knew, for example, how insects, birds, and fish feel about themselves. What he said is pretty, in a way. But science has shown that there is no such thing as clairvoyance; Steiner's visions, thus, were imaginary inventions of his own. Note how, even in the following pretty statement, Steiner rejects scientific truth and stresses cosmic (astrological) influences. The closest he comes to accepting science is his reference to "ether" — a concept from 19th century physics that Steiner embraced but that physicists subsequently rejected. There is no clairvoyance, there is no ether — there is no substance to Steiner's statements. 

"The butterfly rightly regards itself as a creature of the light, the bird as a being of warm air, but this is impossible for the lower animals — amphibians, reptiles and fishes ... A fish lives primarily in the element of water. But water is certainly not just the combination of hydrogen and oxygen which it is for the chemist. Water is permeated by all kinds of cosmic forces. Stellar forces also enter into it ... [T]he bird actually feels the air that enters into it and is everywhere diffused through it, as its own being ... The fish has water within it, but it does not feel itself to be water ... It feels itself to be the glittering shell or vessel enclosing water  .. [T]he fish experiences the ether to be the element in which it actually lives. It does not not feel the astral as something belonging to it." — Rudolf Steiner, HARMONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), pp. 99-100.

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



A core doctrine in Steiner’s teachings is that we are evolving toward life on or during Vulcan. There’s not much point in debating this prediction. But anyone thinking about Waldorf schools should realize that occultism lies at their foundation. 

◊ “On the planetary body following Jupiter, the astral body will have developed as far as the physical body of today; it will have behind it the Moon, Earth and Jupiter evolutions and will have reached the Venus evolution. The final planetary incarnation will be that of Vulcan, when the ‘I’, the Ego, will have attained the highest stage of its development. The future incarnations of the Earth will thus be: Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan.” — Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY OF THE ROSICRUCIAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966), lecture 7, GA 99. 

◊ “[T]he Vulcan human being limps. His legs are in retrogression; they cease to have significance. At the end of evolution, in the Vulcan metamorphosis of the Earth, man will be the three-membered being that the saga indicates as the ideal.” — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 3, GA 93a. 

◊ “[H]umanity participates in that wonderful stream of being that develops as it flows through Saturn, Sun, Moon and Earth and on towards Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan. There are lesser streams that overlap and unite in man, creating the separate forces he needs in the course of his development. These are granted to humanity from out of the deep impulses that rule the cosmos.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE RIDDLE OF HUMANITY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1990), lecture 5, GA 170. 

[R. R. sketch, 2010: 

Not having the foggiest, 

I gave my imagination free rein.]


Here is an excerpt from

"Cult? Occult? Science? Religion?"

at the Website EASE —

Examining Anthroposophy and Steiner Education*

"There is a role for faith organizations in the area of social care. They bring a distinctive emphasis to their work which compliments their professional care. This had been identified in our Social Capital research and has been acknowledged in other countries as a valuable way forward for social care to be in partnership with such faith based groups. As your Board, we look beyond this immediate difficult period to an exciting future serving the Church and the people of Scotland in Christ's name." 

Rev. Jim Cowie, 

Convenor of the Board 

of Social Responsibility, 

Church of Scotland. 

Speech to the General Assembly 

of The Church. 

Edinburgh, 23rd May, 2003. 


We assume there is a general, broad agreement with Rev.Cowie: Churches of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, together with The Roman Catholic Church and other churches (established or not) provide wonderful and much-needed care in their own locality.  One has to make up one's own mind if "faith" concomitants are acceptable at the particular centre in question. Nonetheless, in general terms, what you see is what you get: these centres do deliver exactly what it says on the box. We contend that this is not quite the case at Anthroposophical centres: what it says "on the box" only touches on what is actually delivered at the most superficial level, something like "Care provided on the principles of Rudolf Steiner." i.e. Anthroposophy.

...Well, what is Anthroposophy?

"Anthroposophy isn't anything: it just is."

"Anthroposophy isn't just a world view; it's a way of life." 


The foregoing are just two responses encountered in attempting to get to grips with just what Anthroposophy is, and what becoming a service user, or worker, entails. 


Despite Anthroposophy's clear reluctance to provide definitive words in order to answer such questions, it remains that many people do want answers in clear language rather than the evasiveness demonstrated above. 

...Look at promotional material of the particular centre of Anthro-outreach you are interested in. Does it really seem like what you are looking for, or do all these words simply allude to something you want but can't quite define?  Do the words actually describe much? Will they resonate the same way with other people as they seem to resonate with you, or might they become a source of ongoing discussion on just what it was all getting at? Do they ultimately mean anything at all, or are they so vacuous that they can in fact mean whatever a reader might want them to mean? 

Are the (probably as yet un-asked) questions they purport to answer in fact dependent on who is asking — and why?

...The question, of course, is how an outsider can be sure that one school of thought is less entitled to our trust than a rival one. In many instances such confidence would be unwarranted. Certain indicators of bad faith, however, are unmistakable: persistence in claims that have already been exploded; reliance on ill-designed studies, idolized lawgivers and self-serving anecdotes; evasion of objections and negative instances; indifference to rival theories and to the need for independent replication; and "movement" belligerence. Where several of these traits are found together, even a lay observer can be sure that no sound case could be made for the shielded theory; its uncompetitiveness is precisely what has necessitated these indulgences. 

* EASE ( has subsequently gone offline. Some remnants have been preserved at (


Back in ancient times — or, to be precise, during the summer of 1963 — some schoolmates and I spent a month touring Germany chaperoned by our German teacher. We were joined on the tour by students from a German Waldorf school. We were wholly unsurprised when our chaperone arranged a side trip to Switzerland so that we could visit the Anthroposophical headquarters, the Goetheanum. (I don't recall who took these photos. I appear in a few of the upper four, so it wasn't me. The bottom, larger image — showing the Goetheanum — is the face of a postcard I bought either at the Goetheanum or in a nearby town.)



Perhaps the silliest-looking building in the known universe, this is the boiler house on the Goetheanum campus. The Goetheanum itself is impressive, and some of the secondary buildings on the campus are at least defensible as works of architecture. But then there is this. When some Waldorf schoolmates and I toured the campus in 1963 and came upon the boiler house, we could hardly believe our eyes — and the shock has scarcely lessened with the passing of the years.

Steiner himself drew up the overall concept for the boiler house, and he was proud of his work. But there's a problem. The most eye-catching features of the boiler house, clearly, are the concrete leafs or buds decorating the chimney — an effort to make the structure seem organic and natural. The expedient fails, spectacularly — and indeed it betrays Anthroposophical falsehood. If Steiner had been true to his own teachings, there would be no mechanical contrivances such as boilers at the Goetheanum. Steiner taught that machines and technology introduce demons into human life. The boiler house, then, populates the Goetheanum campus with demons. Trying to make a chimney resemble a gargantuan vegetable does nothing to diminish this dreadful circumstance. Here is Steiner on the question of machines such as steam engines: 

“When we build steam-engines, we provide the opportunity for the incarnation of demons ... In the steam-engine, Ahrimanic demons are actually brought to the point of physical embodiment.” — Rudolf Steiner, “The Relation of Man to the Hierarchies” (ANTHROPOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT, Vol. V, Nos. 14-15, 1928). 

A boiler is not a steam engine (although most steam engines are built around boilers), but Steiner's concerns about modern technology and the incarnation of demons extended far beyond specific types of machines. The boiler house at the Goetheanum produces heat and electricity for the campus, and — woe betide — this only makes things worse. 

"[S]team engines...are by no means the most demoniacal. Whenever electricity is used...there is far more of demon magic." — Rudolf Steiner, THE KARMA OF VOCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1984), lecture 9, GA 172. 

Perhaps the contours of the boiler house magically disarm demons, in which case the boiler house is perfectly okay from an Anthroposophical perspective. Perhaps. Or perhaps Steiner's teachings on these matters are much like the design of the boiler house: They are essentially, unintentionally laughable.

What do you think?



Anthroposophical art is distinctive — 

and an acquired taste.

It is meant to suggest hidden wisdom, 

deep and high.

The covers of older 

Anthroposophical publications often

present good examples 

(newer editions tend to have

trendy contemporary designs 

that conceal more than they reveal).

I bought a copy of the booklet, above, 

during my visit to the Goetheanum —

but I lost it later. 

I recently had to pay a pretty penny 

for another copy.


(Philosophical-Anthroposophical Press, 1961).]



[R.R., 2010.]



The Hermetic Arcanum.
This is not an Anthroposophical image.
Here are Waldorf Watch, 
I include this image and others like it 
to put Anthroposophy in its proper context:
Steiner's doctrines are but one variant 
in the wide and wild
expanse of ancient and modern occultism.
The Hermetic Arcanum 
is an image of alchemy.
In his own unique way,
Steiner taught that alchemy,
as redefined by himself,  
is for real.
[See "Alchemy".]


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

— R. R.


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


For parents considering sending kids to a Waldorf school

Detailed pointers on evaluating a Waldorf school


One family's story [external link]


Classroom discipline and...

Some positive elements, but also...

A parent's cry


Court case

A father asks for guidance

Looking at a Parent Handbook

Unjustly assailed

An inquiry into the “success” of Waldorf schooling

The “temperaments” as conceived and acted upon in Waldorf schools

Can a Waldorf school cleanse itself?

Examining a problem that began with the first Waldorf School

An overview and a parent's personal report [external link]


You may also want to consult a few essays 
posted elsewhere at Waldorf Watch:

A guide for students and parents

Reports and advice from parents whose children attended Waldorf schools

A report by a mother who was drawn to a Waldorf school but left disillusioned

Talking it over

Had enough?


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



[1] On the Waldorf effort to instill reverence and related emotions, see, e.g., . Many Waldorf schools have the students recite a prayer (written by Steiner) that includes the words 

“In sunlight shining clear

I reverence, O God,

The strength of humankind ... 

From Thee come light and strength,

To Thee rise love and thanks.” 

This is just one indication of the Waldorf religious mission.

Waldorf schools usually conceal their mission from outsiders. “Waldorf schools are non-sectarian [sic] and non-denominational [sic]. They educate all children, regardless of their cultural or religious backgrounds. The pedagogical method is comprehensive, and, as part of its task, seeks to bring about recognition and understanding of all the world cultures and religions. Waldorf schools are not part of any church. They espouse no particular religious doctrine but are based on a belief that there is a spiritual dimension to the human being and to all of life.” — , Frequently Asked Questions, Are Waldorf Schools Religious? [I last checked this on Oct. 28, 2006.]

This is the sort of denial that Waldorf schools regularly issue. Take it with great heaps of salt. [See, e.g., “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?”, "Here's the Answer", "Spiritual Agenda", and "Soul School".]

Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIV, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 225-226. Steiner made many such statements, e.g., 
"[A] teacher’s calling becomes a priestly calling, since an educator becomes a steward who accomplishes the will of the gods in a human being." — Rudolf Steiner, HUMAN VALUES IN EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XX (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 9.

[See "Schools as Churches", "Waldorf Worship", and "Waldorf Priests".]

[3] Steiner taught that elves, gnomes, giants, dwarfs and all manner of mythical beings really exist. [See, e.g., “Neutered Nature” and "Steiner Static". On the magical powers of the arts — and the effects they are supposed to have — see “Magical Arts”.]

[4] The headmaster at our school devoted most of his life to Anthroposophy. But toward the end of his time on Earth, his faith wavered — he, too, had not found the gifts that Anthroposophy promised. He did not renounce Anthroposophy, absolutely, but he gravitated toward charismatic Christianity: See John Fentress Gardner, TWO PATHS TO THE SPIRIT: Charismatic Christianity and Anthroposophy (Golden Stone Press, 1990). In effect, he decided to eliminate the middleman, Steiner. Rather than seeking Christ through Steiner, we should go straight to Christ, Gardner decided. See John F. Gardner, MOST NEEDED NOW: THE DIRECT APPROACH (Evergreen Education, 1995).

[5] This is, in a sense, a matter of definition. In some ways, I have more genuine "religious" experiences now than ever before. I find great joy and beauty — along with awe and fearsomeness — in the natural, real world. [See "Horror and Hope".] Put it this way: I am a secularist. I expect that when I die, I will be dead — gone, extinguished, poof. I expect that my current life, in what I call the real world, is the only life I will have, occurring in the only world I will inhabit. I do not claim to know God or God's will; indeed, I see no compelling evidence that there is a God (or a panoply of gods, as Anthroposophists believe), although I remain open to persuasion. I am an agnostic, not an atheist. Yet as a secular agnostic, I have learned more about true appreciation of the cosmos than ever my teachers conveyed. I experience it when, daily, I take woodland walks (through groves that are entirely devoid of elves and gnomes), and at night when I gaze at the stars (real stars, in the real universe, shorn of astrological powers and imagined deities). The operations of natural law, creating the astonishing natural world, move me profoundly (to the extent that my consciousness, produced by a limited human brain, can comprehend them). I had to put Waldorf behind me in order to finally open my eyes and welcome what life actually offers, in reality.

Here are excerpts from messages I posted in an online discussion in 2016:

As I have said here before, I am not an atheist, I am an agnostic. I do not claim to know that God does not exist (or that there are no gods); but neither do I claim to know that God does exist (or that there are gods). I don't know, and as far as I can tell, no one knows. But this does not mean that I am unspiritual. I have spiritual experiences daily, and I seek them out. I go for meditative walks in the woods, enlarging my consciousness as much as I can, and finding joy and solace in the wondrous life all around me. (We have deer, here. I do not hunt, nor do I allow any hunting here. So the deer are safe here, and some of them have gotten to know and trust me. They allow me to approach them closely. One has gone for a walk with me. Two have allowed me to be present at the birth of their fawns. I deem these spiritual experiences.) At night, before bed, I always go outdoors and gaze at the stars, and expand my consciousness as much as I can. And I thank the cosmos for my life. I deem this a spiritual experience.

P.S. Lest it cause confusion, I probably should add that I thank the cosmos silently. I thank the processes (probably, at root, physics) that caused the Earth to form, and life to evolve, and me to be born. (Wow! Me! The pinnacle of creation!)

I might also add that as far as I can tell, "spirit" and "mind" and "psyche" are all pretty much the same. My spirit, I think, is produced by the functioning of my brain, a physical organ. When I die, my brain will stop working, and my spirit will blink out of existence. (Drat. There goes the pinnacle of creation, down the drain. Pooh.)

[6] See, e.g., “Waldorf’s Purpose”, a section of my essay "Unenlightened".

[7] Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 69.

[8] Steiner said this to the teachers at the first Waldorf school: 
“Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods, that we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55. 

[9] Waldorf schools can be extremely secretive. [See “Secrets”.] 

[10] For information about occult initiation, leading to mystery wisdom ordinary people don’t possess, see “Inside Scoop”.

[11] I discuss these matters in various essays on this site. [See the Index and Table of Contents.]

[12] For Steiner’s views on the brain, see, e.g., “Thinking Cap”. Thumbnail: Waldorf schools try to minimize use of the brain. Teaching kids too much information (knowledge: the goal of a real education) would strain their memories and cause health problems. Likewise, allowing kids to think hard (learning to use one's brain: another goal of a real education) would be bad, especially before the age of 14. Underlying reality: A school that aims at occultist indoctrination naturally would want to minimize knowledge and thought. [Also see "Thinking", "Steiner's Specific", and "Materialism U."]


[13] See "Sneaking It In".

[14] See "Why? Oh Why?"

[15] To see how wrong Steiner often was, see “Steiner’s Blunders”, "Steiner Static", and "Millennium". For information on “spiritual science,” see “Steiner’s ‘Science’”.

[16] Imagination, inspiration, and intuition are three stages of spiritual consciousness, according to Steiner. In practice at Waldorf schools, these words are proxies for clairvoyance. [See the entries for these terms in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]


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


[Public domain photo.]