July, '18


Here is a collection of items that appeared on the Waldorf Watch "news" page in July, 2018. The items appear in reverse chronological order: newest first, oldest last. To find a specific item, scroll down the page.

I am the author of the Waldorf Watch commentaries, editorials, and explanatory notes you will find here. In them, I often generalize about Waldorf schools. There are fundamental similarities among Waldorf schools; 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. 

— Roger Rawlings

July 31, 2018



From GoLocalProv [Rhode Island, USA]:

Meadowbrook Waldorf 


Lightning Strike Investigated as Cause 
of Meadowbrook Waldorf School Fire

[by] Rachel Nunes, Contributor

Just a day after the Meadowbrook Waldorf School in Richmond burned to the ground, investigators are considering lightning as a potential cause….

While investigators found evidence of lightning strikes on the property, as well as a "fried" generator, it has not yet been determined what caused the fire to spread to the school's main building….

On the school's Facebook page, Meadowbrook-Waldorf Officials say cleanup is in full swing, with several photos, art projects, and other items salvaged from the wreckage.

In a post on Monday morning, school officials say a massive fundraising appeal will be launched, and the school is on track to open as scheduled in the fall. 

July 30, 2018



Here are excerpts from news accounts of a fire that has destroyed a Waldorf school yesterday in Rhode Island, USA:

From The Providence Journal:

Huge fire destroys Richmond independent school

by Christine Dunn

More than 100 firefighters, including many volunteers, worked throughout the day Sunday to battle a massive blaze at the Meadowbrook Waldorf School….

The fire call came in after 8 a.m. Sunday, but even at 4 p.m., there were still flames on the roof of the one-story school, located in a remote, wooded spot….

Michael Sweeney, chief of investigations for the state fire marshal’s office, said that heavy equipment was being brought in to take down the building “and really soak it,” and he expected firefighters would continue to work into the evening hours….

...The school, which has about 145 students, will have to rent a new location for the upcoming school year.

[Associated Press]

Almost 250 Firefighters Work to Put Out School Blaze

Almost two dozen fire departments are at the scene of a school fire in Rhode Island....

WPRI-TV reports firefighters were called to Meadowbrook Waldorf School in Richmond around 8:30 a.m. on Sunday morning.…

…Officials expect the school will not be occupied again from severe damage….

…There is no further information on what caused the fire….

From NBC 10 News [Providence, Rhode Island]:

Fire engulfs the Meadowbrook Waldorf school in Richmond


…The Meadowbrook Waldorf School’s structure burned Sunday morning as fire crews worked the scene.

It took hours to get the fire under control.

At one point the roof started to collapse so the crew had to retreat for their own safety….

The school serves children in prekindergarten through grade 8 according to its website.

Luckily no one was in the building at the time of the fire.…

The school’s Facebook page asked parents to shield their children from the “terrible event at MWS,” calling the school an “especially sacred place for the children”….

July 29, 2018



From the Waldorf Critics discussion site (with a modest amendment): 

The Steiner Academy Exeter is yet another UK Steiner school with safeguarding issues, among other problems. On July 16, two 6-year-old boys wandered away from the school. Fortunately, no harm came to them and they were found by the police.

Six-year-old boys wander out of school - and no one noticed [DevonLive, July 24]

The article also mentions that this school was rated by Ofsted in 2015 as requiring improvement, prompting some parents at that time "to raise fears of bullying problems, a failure to deliver 'quality education', and complaints not being dealt with properly …” A later inspection report published in June stated that further improvements were still needed and that “Areas highlighted were to improve the quality of teaching, leadership and pupil attendance."

According to a March 26, 2018 article, this same school was on a list of 10 schools in Devon with the worst records for unauthorized absences in 2016/17.

The Devon schools with the worst unauthorised absence rates [DevonLive, March 26]

I think parents should always be wary of putting their children in the care of people who believe that whatever happens is due to karma. Children need to be in the care of adults who take full responsibility for their safety.

— Margaret Sachs [https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/waldorf-critics/conversations/messages/31857]

July 29, 2018




Here is a message I posted today at the Waldorf Critics discussion site. [See https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/waldorf-critics/conversations/messages/31856.]  I wrote my message in response to a brief posting by "samoancoconuts" — that is, a correspondent named Eric. [See https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/waldorf-critics/conversations/messages/31855.]

I think you are correct, Eric. I would be eager to hear Peter’s thoughts.

Here are a few of my own thoughts. I offer them for the sake of general readers. I certainly do not presume to teach you, Eric and Peter, anything on these issues.

Steiner taught that race is connected to karma. If we are deserving, he said, we rise through a hierarchy of races, climbing to higher and higher racial forms in successive incarnations. Ideally, each time we reincarnate, we do so as a member of a higher race than in our previous life. If we are undeserving or wicked, on the other hand, we fall to lower racial forms in our successive lives. Black is lowest, white is highest, Steiner taught. Just as we create our own karmas, we reincarnate in the racial form that we deserve based on our past behavior, Steiner said. The two processes (karma and incarnation within a race) are interconnected. Just as we may eventually free ourselves from karma, so we may free ourselves from the inherent limitations of race.

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

Forgive me, please, for once again bringing up this quotation. It is crucial, I think. The proposition that some races are higher than others is the essence of racism, and here we find it clearly affirmed in Steiner’s teachings.

Steiner often spoke of the importance of race. In a sense, he said, our actions in any specific life depend — at least in part — on our race during that life. Steiner said that we as individuals are expressions of the soul of our race. (I’ll quote next from a different edition of the same Steiner text I quoted above.)

"Each of us belongs to a family, a people, a race. Our activity in this world depends upon our belonging to such a unit. Even our individual personality is related to it. In fact, our membership in a family, a nation, or a race affects not only our conscious activities [but also our unconsciousness], for every family, nation and race has its own destiny, just as each has its own particular character ... The life of families, nations, and races is affected not only by the individuals who belong to them but also by 'family souls,' 'nation souls,' and 'race spirits.' These are real beings. In a sense, as individuals, we are only the instruments — the executive organs, so to speak — of these 'family souls' and 'race spirits.' Indeed we may say, for example, that the soul of a nation or people makes use of the individual who belongs to it to accomplish certain tasks ... In the truest sense, we each receive our allotted human task from our family, nation, or race soul ... [A]s isolated individuals, we would wholly harden within ourselves and fall into ruin if we did not acquire the powers inherent in the spirits of our race and nation." — Rudolf Steiner, HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS (Anthroposophic Press, 1994) , pp. 190-192.

The races to which we belong help give our lives meaning, Steiner said. But race is a limitation, according to Steiner; each race is (or should be) just one stage along our journey upward. Eventually, Steiner taught, we must free ourselves of race — we must evolve beyond race. Someday, everyone who makes the journey upward through all the racial forms will emerge in a state that transcends race. This is the “liberation” Steiner mentioned. We will all become “universal humans” who are not members of any race. Of course, those who have fallen downward will not emerge this way. They may, in fact, fall so low that they will lose the capacity to reincarnate. They will have descended into a sort of perdition.

“Man has either hardened or possesses the possibility of developing to higher stages. Races would not stay behind and become decadent if there were not men who wish to stay behind and are obliged to stay behind, since they have not developed their eternal life-kernel [i.e., their spiritual essence]. Older races only persist because there are men who cannot or will not move forward to a higher racial form ... There are sixteen possibilities of becoming merged with [a] race. They are called the ‘sixteen paths of perdition.’ On these paths man would merge with the material [i.e., become wholly material rather than spiritual]. By striving forward, however, he is drawn up from race to race to ever higher stages.

“We see then that it is actually possible for a man to combine with the one incarnation [i.e., to get stuck at one stage of development] in such a way that he remains behind in evolution. His other soul-brothers are therefore at a higher stage when he reappears in a new incarnation. He must then content himself with an inferior incarnation which has been left to him in a decadent race. This is something that positively takes place.…

“Now let us take an extreme case and imagine that a man unites too fully with what is to constitute the character of an incarnation [i.e., he stalls at a specific level]. Let us suppose he reaches what is to be reached in sixteen incarnations; he takes the sixteen false paths. The earth does not wait for him, the earth goes forward and he finally arrives at a point where he can no longer incorporate in a human body, for none are in existence [at his level]. There will be no more bodies in which souls that have grown too much involved in their bodily nature can incarnate. Such souls lose the possibility of incarnation and find no other opportunity ... They must therefore live a bodiless existence. They must cut themselves off entirely from the progress of evolution. Why have they deserved this? By reason of the fact that they have not made use of life! ... They do not advance with world evolution, they remain behind at a certain stage. Beings that stay behind at such stages appear in a later epoch with approximately the character of the earlier age. They have grown together with it, but not in the forms of the later epoch. They appear in a later epoch as subordinate nature-spirits." — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 69-70.

Steiner’s adherents say he was not a racist. They say Steiner taught that all human souls are equal in that they all have the possibility of rising higher and higher, eventually reaching a universal condition beyond race.

But I suggest we pause, here, to reflect. Steiner said that some races are higher than others. Good people evolve upward through the races while bad people fall downward through the races, he said. Eventually, good individuals may emerge from the upper limits of race, but bad individuals may stall at low racial levels. Ultimate human equality will be found only among the good — it will be found among the triumphant universal humans, who no longer are members of any race. Fallen souls will not be equal to the universal humans. Having "merged with a race," they will descend to become soulless "subordinate nature spirits" who have "cut themselves off entirely from the progress of evolution." In other words, human equality will be limited to those who make the ascent, putting race behind them.

Is this an enlightened conception? In his time (the late 19th and early 20th centuries) Steiner may have seemed relatively enlightened on racial matters compared to some of his contemporaries. But by our standards today, he must be judged a racist. Surely, today, we must reject the idea that some races are higher than others. Surely, today, we must reject the proposition that humans can truly become equal only after they cease to be members of different races. Surely we should affirm that all races are equal, now, and all members of all races are equal, now. The white race is not higher than the black race. A white person alive now is not higher than a black person alive now. We are equal, now. There is no hierarchy of races. Believing in a hierarchy of races is — in and of itself — racist.

- Roger

[For more on racial matters, see "Steiner's Racism", "Embedded Racism", "Races", "Universal", and "White/Black". For more on nature spirits, see "Neutered Nature".]


On July 30, I added the following message at Waldorf Critics [https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/waldorf-critics/conversations/messages/31859]:

Prompted by Eric's recent reference to "Steiner's racist model," I recently offered a few thoughts about that model.

That leads me to the following.

A new book from a prestigious academic press offers an intriguing perspective on Rudolf Steiner and the movement he founded, Anthroposophy. HITLER’S MONSTERS, by Eric Kurlander, examines occult movements in Germany before and during the period when Germany was ruled by the Nazis. 

No historical account merits uncritical acceptance, especially one that deals with such highly charged material. But this book does merit, at a minimum, serious consideration. Here is one excerpt:

“[Steiner’s] insistence on having ‘proven’ occult phenomena for which there was no empirical evidence prevented anthroposophy from being accepted within the scientific community. That only changed in the 1930s, when the Third Reich began officially sponsoring elements of Steiner’s doctrines....

“Anthroposophy was at least as much a religious faith as it was a scientific doctrine. Steiner’s teachings and articles, published in his occult journal, Lucifer-Gnosis, anticipated the Nazis’ own interest in Asian religion, Gnosticism, and Luciferianism....

“The affinities between anthroposophy and the völkischright extended beyond epistemology and religion. Steiner was eager to assert the superiority of white Europeans, claiming ‘that in the grand cycle of spiritual evolution, the Germanic race had advanced the furthest’ ... ‘Humanity has risen by throwing out the lower forms in order to purify itself,’ Steiner argued, ‘and it will rise still higher by separating another kingdom of nature, the kingdom of the evil race. Thus mankind rises upward.’

“Anthroposophists embraced eugenics...because they thought that spirituality and race were intrinsically linked. ‘Human souls develop different cultures on the basis of different racial and ethnic forces,’ Steiner contended, whereas ‘dark skin is due to demonic interference’. Marriage between Aryans and ‘coloured races’ or Jews, according to Steiner, was in conflict with Germany’s world mission to sponsor positive biological and spiritual evolution.”

— Eric Kurlander, HITLER’S MONSTERS — A Supernatural History of the Third Reich (Yale University Press, 2017), pp. 18-19. 


The book contains numerous other references to Steiner, anthroposophy, biodynamic agriculture, etc.


Participants and lurkers here at the Waldorf Critics site will be interested to note that one of the experts referenced (many times) by Kurlander is Dr. Peter Staudenmaier, who often posts messages here. Indeed, Kurlander drew some of the material quoted above, at least in part, from Staudenmaier.


HITLER'S MONSTERS is available from Yale University Press as both a hardback [https://yalepress.yale.edu/book/9780300189452/hitlers-monsters] and a paperback [https://yalepress.yale.edu/book/9780300234541/hitlers-monsters].
- Roger

July 27, 2018



Waldorf schools typically acknowledge that their educational approach is based on Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy. [1] But they rarely explain in any detail what Anthroposophy is. Often, they deflect questions by referring to the Greek roots of the word "anthroposophy": anthro, human, and sophy, wisdom. Anthroposophy is human wisdom. Who could possibly object to that?

The truth, however, is rather different. Anthroposophy as conceived and developed by Rudolf Steiner is in fact a new-age religion. It is a system of occult, mystical, pagan beliefs. [2]

The practice of Anthroposophy entails prayers, meditations, and other activities common to most religions. But it also centers on the attempt to develop clairvoyance in order to gain "objective," "scientific" knowledge of the spirit realm. Steiner prescribed numerous mental/spiritual exercises intended to help his followers develop their clairvoyant powers. [3]

This brings us to the great problem for Anthroposophy — the fatal flaw in Anthroposophy: Clairvoyance is a fantasy. As far as anyone actually knows, clairvoyance does not exist. [4] For this essential reason, none of Steiner's exercises works. The core of Anthroposophy is hollow; people who embrace Anthroposophy are unwittingly engaged in a process of self-deception. [5]

Despite the futility of their efforts, Anthroposophists today continue striving to become as wonderfully perceptive as Steiner claimed to be. They continue to perform the exercises he prescribed, and they continue to spin variations on the themes he developed. A new book from the Rudolf Steiner Press continues in this tradition.


Practical Exercises for Perceiving Soul and Spirit

(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2018),

by Roger Druitt.

Author Roger Druitt offers various exercises that, he says, will enable us to "perceive" invisible essences and entities, including soul and spirit. [6] Druitt refers to clairvoyance as a reality [7], but he claims that his exercises enable us to attain high powers of perception that stop short of that highest form of "seeing." Like Steiner, he argues that ordinary perception and ordinary thought, when properly refined and directed, will enable us to reach the outermost bounds of purely physical perception. So, for instance, he writes:

"Our eyes see the flow of water downstream but another sense perceives the flow of form upstream. This perception is the result of the interplay of [the] senses of sight, movement and thought and takes us to the edge of physical sense perception." — Roger Druitt, OBSERVING NATURE'S SECRET, p. 47.

Steiner taught that we have 12 senses, including the senses of "movement" and "thought." [8] Here, Druitt claims that by sharpening these senses, we can look beyond the merely physical (e.g., water flowing downstream) to observe realities that would otherwise be imperceptible (e.g., the flow of "form" upstream). Such perception takes us to the tremulous verge of clairvoyance itself. [9]

The vacuity of Druitt's work is suggested by the psuedo-phenomena he affirms. Steiner taught that, ultimately, there are really just four fundamental "elements." These are earth, air, fire, and water. These four elements are expressions of four forms of "ether." Or, at a deeper level, we can recognize that the four elements are the outward expression of invisible "elemental beings": gnomes, who dwell within earth; sylphs, who dwell within air; fire-spirits, who dwell within fire; and undines, who dwell within water. You may recognize these conceptions as antiquated fallacies. Steiner affirmed them a century ago, and Druitt affirms them now, in the second decade of the 21st century.

Druitt's instructions, like Steiner's, lead toward delusion, not reality. The promised "secret of nature" is illusory. Here is Druitt endorsing Steiner's erroneous teachings:

"A point of entry into this world of glimpsing the ether...is to observe light ... After gaining some familiarity with these exercises, a clear difference in each direction and each light source is discerned ... There will gradually be sensed the qualities of earth, water, air and fire ... These four elemental qualities each signal one of the four etheric forces...warmth ether, light ether, chemical or tone ether...and life ether." — OBSERVING NATURE'S SECRET, pp. 49-50.

"There is a wealth of material in Anthroposophy about all this...how the elements of Nature work in different substances and in the traditional elements of Earth (all that is solid), Air (all that breathes), Fire (the heat that permeates everything as an entity of itself...) and Water (all that flows). Out of all this one can speak of 'elemental' beings as those that typically 'are' the processes within one or the other of these elements...."  — OBSERVING NATURE'S SECRET, p. 7.

"The moist earth where [a plant's] seeds germinate and the roots grow...is the domain of the elemental beings of the earth, the gnomes. The region of moist air where the leaves unfold...is the domain of water beings or undines, nymphs. That of warm air is the place of sylphs or air sprites who serve the blossoms ... Lastly, the concentrations of fire and light within the blossom...give a home to the fire spirits or fire sprites...." — OBSERVING NATURE'S SECRET, p. 88.

Gnomes. Nymphs. Sylphs. Fire sprites.

Finding truth in the occult beliefs of Anthroposophy — discerning such things as "form" flowing upstream or "gnomes" laboring among the roots of plants — depends on self-deception. It depends on leaving the real world and entering the realm of fantasy and myth, the realm of fairy tales and fables. It depends, ultimately, on mistaking the imagined cosmos of myth and fairy tale for the real world of rational perception and comprehension. We might hope that today, in the 21st century, few if any adults would make this profound error. Yet this error, misconceived as Truth — or as "Nature's Secret" — is inherent in Anthroposophy.

We should give the final word to the founder of Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner. Here is one of the "factual" statements Steiner made about gnomes (aka "goblins"):

“There are beings that can be seen with clairvoyant vision at many spots in the depths of the earth ... If you dig into the metallic or stony ground you find beings which manifest at first in remarkable fashion ... They seem able to crouch close together in vast numbers, and when the earth is laid open they appear to burst asunder ... Many names have been given to them, such as goblins, gnomes and so forth ... What one calls moral responsibility in man is entirely lacking in them ... Their nature prompts them to play all sorts of tricks on man....” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 62-63.

Sadly, the trick played on Anthroposophists is the trick they play on themselves. It is the trick of believing Steiner's falsehoods.

◊ • ◊

Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] See, e.g., "Spiritual Agenda" and "Soul School".

[3] See "Knowing the Worlds".

[4] See "Clairvoyance".

[6] Steiner differentiated between soul and spirit; see the entries for these terms in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.

[7] See, e.g., OBSERVING NATURE'S SECRET, p. 31. Druitt says we should not take clairvoyant reports as "revelation," but we can learn from them "if we follow them with thought, taking care to avoid any nebulous mysticism." Steiner's teachings, we may infer, are not "nebulous." Indeed, Steiner claimed to employ "exact clairvoyance."  [See "Exactly".] Steiner's clairvoyant reports are, for Anthroposophists, virtually beyond dispute. We may confirm them using our own "authority," Druitt says — "we find our way there and independently through observation and thinking."

[8] See "What We're Made Of". Other senses named by Steiner include the senses of life, balance, and speech. None of these is confirmed by modern science. In fact, Steiner had mystical reasons for designating 12 senses. He considered 12 to be a magical number; he associated it with, among other things, the signs of the zodiac and the number of Christ's apostles. [See "Magic Numbers".] 

"Perception" that depends on nonexistent senses is, in reality, not perception at all. It is a form of imaginative fantasy. In this, it is scarcely distinguishable from clairvoyance, which is equally a form of imaginative fantasy.

[9] According to Steiner, the ultimate purpose of Anthroposophical mental/spiritual exercises — including those that may seem to have no connection to clairvoyance — is clairvoyance. And, Steiner added, the spiritual aspirant must follow the instructions given by Steiner himself; other instructions may destroy the aspirant's health and morals. Steiner described the proper path in some detail. The aspirant slowly activates inner spiritual organs, occultly designated lotus flowers. "Now, when the student begins his exercises, the lotus flowers become more luminous; later on they begin to revolve. When this occurs, clairvoyance begins ... The regulation of the [specified] activities of the soul in the manner described causes the sixteen-petalled lotus to shine in glorious hues, and imparts to it a definite movement. Yet it must be noted that the faculty of clairvoyance cannot make its appearance before a definite degree of development of the soul has been reached ... The first traces of clairvoyance only appear when he [i.e., the aspirant] has reached the point of being able to live in the specified way ... Now this lotus flower may be made to develop in another way by following certain other instructions. But all such methods are rejected by true spiritual science, for they lead to the destruction of physical health and to moral ruin. They are easier to follow than those here described. The latter, though protracted and difficult, lead to the true goal and cannot but strengthen morally." — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), pp. 83-87.

— R.R.

July 24, 2018




When Waldorf or Steiner schools fail, the causes can often be found in the very factors that, in other instances, help these schools to thrive: steadfastness and faith.

Rudolf Steiner told Waldorf teachers to be uncompromising in their devotion to their spiritual mission:

“As teachers in the Waldorf School, you will need to find your way more deeply into the insight of the spirit and to find a way of putting all compromises aside.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118.

Among other things, Steiner said, rejecting compromises means disregarding what people from outside the school say. Waldorf teachers — knowing that they are right and outsiders are often wrong — should disregard both criticism and praise from outsiders. Indeed, if outside authorities actually affirm anything about Waldorf education, this should be seen as a bad sign:

“It will be impossible for us to avoid all kinds of people from outside the school who want to have a voice in school matters … [But] any concurrence from other pedagogical streams [i.e., other forms of education] concerning what happens in the Waldorf School will cause us to be sad rather than happy. When those working in modern pedagogy praise us, we must think there is something wrong with what we are doing.” — Rudolf Steiner, ibid., p. 118.

By this logic, if a Waldorf school is criticized by educational experts, the school must be doing something right.

To ensure that Waldorf schools do things right, Steiner indicated, Waldorf teachers should be uncompromisingly devoted to their creed, Anthroposophy:

“As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” — Rudolf Steiner, ibid., p. 118.

In practice, not all Waldorf teachers are deeply committed, uncompromising Anthroposophists. But many are. And Steiner said they all should be.

The recent collapse of the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, and the new effort to bring that school back to life, may very well stem from the uncompromising steadfastness of the teachers and staff at the school. Knowing that they are right, they have stuck to their guns. They have refused to alter their practices and methods, even as cold-eyed outsiders pressed them harder and harder. They refused to compromise as their school went down to ruin, and now they refuse to accept the demise of their school.

The attitude exemplified by many Waldorf teachers is, to put the matter blunting, arrogant. They believe they know best. They believe they are superior to outsiders who do not grasp the wondrous Waldorf faith.

Here is a revealing statement by a Waldorf teacher who, for a number of years, was the head of the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City:

"Anthroposophists generally practise what they preach...but only up to a point. We certainly have no difficulty in rejecting most of the world's recognized authorities, along with the orthodoxies of politics, economics, medicine, science, art, agriculture and education that they represent — except when they just happen to fit in with something that we are pushing. As a group we believe that we have access to knowledge that puts us in a superior position, and the tendency to let this feeling of superiority show is one of the most off-putting features of the anthroposophical personality." — Keith Francis, THE EDUCATION OF A WALDORF TEACHER (iUniverse, 2004), pp. 60-61.

The Waldorf sense of superiority is rooted in the belief that Waldorf education serves the gods. Some Waldorf teachers embrace this fundamentally religious belief more intensely than their colleagues do, but the belief can be found near the core of most Waldorf schools. Here is Kieth Francis describing the central committee of his Steiner school, a committee that — as in most Waldorf or Steiner schools — was called the “college of teachers”:

“The College of Teachers of which I was privileged to be a member for many years had a strong tendency to oscillate between two extremes and I have seen similar tendencies in my travels as a visiting teacher [at other Waldorf schools]. One extreme is the position that the College should concern itself with purely spiritual matters and leave the nuts and bolts to other groups or individuals. The other is that the College should take the responsibility for everything, right down to the shape of the bathroom doorknob. Proponents of the first view say that it is the task of the College to maintain the lines of communication with the spiritual beings [i.e., gods] who hover over the school, and if the College doesn’t do it perhaps no one will. The school is a spiritual organism and there must be an organ to receive and cherish what flows in from the spirit [realm]. Those who take the second view say that decisions about nut and bolts are spiritual matters.” — Keith Francis, ibid., p. 184.

Rudolf Steiner claimed that Anthroposophy is a science, not a religion. This claim is false, but it need not detain us for the moment. The point to recognize is that a zeal that certainly seems religious burns in the breasts of many Waldorf teachers. Sometimes, if most of the teachers at a particular Waldorf school share this zeal and see eye-to-eye on most issues, then that school gains unity and strength. In other instances, however, discord can arise — factions and cliques may form, dividing Anthroposophists from non-Anthroposophists, or even dividing Anthroposophists from one another. The specific issues that trigger discord on a Waldorf faculty may seem trivial to outsiders, but because Waldorf disputants tend to have uncompromising, reverent certainty about their opinions, these small issues may produce mighty strife. Here is Keith Francis describing struggles in the New York Steiner school:

“I remember several occasions when the work of the College [of Teachers] ground to a halt for weeks or even months because of implacable bees in the bonnets of one or two members. I remember other occasions when good people left the school because they couldn’t stand it any more.” — Keith Francis, ibid., p. 103.

"[S]everal teachers had...become excessively, in fact obsessively, preoccupied with the development of the instrumental program [i.e., the creation of a student orchestra]. The program certainly needed developing, but the zeal and fervor with which the ideas were put forward would have been somewhat more appropriate for a religious revival." — Ibid., p. 109.

"Are such goings on the inevitable result when anthroposophy interacts with human nature? Perhaps it isn't just anthroposophy but anything that makes people think that they know better than everyone else." — Ibid., p. 110.

"Between them the school's managers and their protégés had turned the Rudolf Steiner School into a place where I didn't want to be ... I got myself a job at the [non-Steiner] Lenox School ... My work at Lenox was rather trying, since the students were much nastier than the ones at the Rudolf Steiner School and this was only partly compensated for by the fact that the teachers were considerably easier to get on with." — Ibid., p. 115. [See "His Education".]

Although Steiner taught that Anthroposophists are free to make their own discoveries about the spirit realm, in practice most Anthroposophists take most of their beliefs from Steiner's books and lectures. Steiner’s word is, for them, very nearly sacrosanct. In practice if not in theory, the religion of Anthroposophy frequently boils down to the uncompromising embrace of Steiner’s teachings.

Here is a report from a teacher who, at least briefly, worked in a Waldorf school. Inclined to favor Waldorf education, she became a member of a Waldorf faculty, and she shared a house with a devoted Waldorf veteran. In her new home, she gained experience of life among Anthroposophists:

“...As I was walking in with my first box of things my new housemate confronted me about my belongings. She was upset that I had so many books and made it clear that I had to keep them locked away in my bedroom! After that first encounter everything I did seemed to be horrible in her eyes. She didn’t like the medicine I took; it was made in a lab. I needed to go to anthroposophical doctor and use only natural medicines. She didn’t like the clothes that I wore; they weren’t all cotton and dyed with natural dyes. She didn’t like me talking on the phone even though it was in the kitchen and belonged to the house; the phone was a tool of [the demon] Ahriman....

"...[T]here were [Waldorf] teacher gatherings and study groups at our house often ... [A]ll the teachers were passionate and really believed in what they were doing. It soon became obvious to me that...what I had hoped was a misinterpretation of Steiner’s philosophy was in actuality the perfect implementation of it. As far as the outright distortion of scientific or historical facts in the Waldorf curriculum, I was asked, ‘Whose facts are they? How sure are you that yours are true?’ ... For many of the teachers, the only science or history they knew were what they learned in their Waldorf teacher training courses. Then came the statement that clarified all their misinformation for me. I was told, ‘Steiner had exceptional powers, he saw the future, he knew the truth. If you truly need to learn, you need to study and follow Steiner. Steiner is all anyone ever needs to know.’” [See "My Experiences with Waldorf" and “Ex-Teacher 5”.]

A Waldorf faculty’s steadfastness and faith may strengthen the group, enabling their school to overcome many challenges and tribulations. On the other hand, these very qualities may produce turmoil within the faculty. And in extreme cases, these qualities may contribute to a Waldorf schools’s collapse.

— R.R.

July 21, 2018


From The Hemel Gazette [Johnson Publishing, UK]:

Rudolf Steiner School 

announces plans to ‘re-open’ - 

just weeks after confirming 

it would close

by Ben Raza

A private school which announced it was set to close this summer after years of criticism over its leadership and safeguarding of children could re-open in September — potentially with the same staff, management and students. 

Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley [RSSKL] appeared to have finally lost its 12-month battle to remain open…. 

But parents have now been contacted to say that Alpha Schools WILL run a school on the site … And they say that it will be “learning as usual”, with former RSSKL staff, and the same curriculum. 

Both Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley and Alpha Schools refused to answer questions from the Gazette this week. 

And they refused to explain: 

Whether either organisation has been in touch with either Ofsted [the Office for Standards in Education], the Department For Education, Herts [i.e., Hertfordshire] County Council, or the Charity Commission about this move; 

What has happened to the £750,000 corporate loan that RSSKL took out;

What will happen to the assets and liabilities of RSSKL; 

Or what assurances they could offer that the ‘new’ school will not suffer the same difficulties as RSSKL.…

It is also unclear:

What the ‘new’ school will be called; 

Who the new principal would be; 

If the new school has secured insurance — something which RSSKL had been unable to achieve for the next academic year.… 

[7/21/2018    https://www.hemeltoday.co.uk/news/rudolf-steiner-school-announces-plans-to-re-open-just-weeks-after-confirming-it-would-close-1-8574440    This story originally appeared on July 20.]

◊ • ◊

Waldorf Watch Response:

It is not surprising that the Steiner movement is unprepared to let their school in Hertfordshire, England, give up the ghost. Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley has been one of the leading Steiner schools in the UK. The fight to preserve the school has been long and fierce. Indeed, the future of Steiner education in the UK might be said to hang in the balance. As Andy Lewis wrote months ago at the Quackometer blog: "[T]his is a fight the Anthroposophical movement cannot afford to lose." [See "The Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley’s Fight For Existence".]

Ben Raza, writing in The Hemel Gazette, is surely correct that numerous questions hang over the plan to resuscitate RSSKL (or to replace it with a "new" school that is essentially identical to the old school). The UK's Department for Education had ordered RSSKL to close after a series of failed inspections. The problems found at the school were numerous and serious — and the school failed to correct them, despite a lengthy vetting process that provided ample opportunity for the school to right itself. [See, e.g., the Waldorf Watch summary posted on July 7, 2018: "Remembering RSSKL - The Faults Found".]

At least one key member of the RSSKL community acknowledged the severity of the problems at the school. A report in The Hemel Gazette included this:

Chair of the trustees, Peter Harrington, [said] there was no single issue or member of staff which was to blame for the school’s plight, but that it was “consistent failings across a range of issues”. 

He said...“There are lots and lots of problems at the school.”


The chief question now would appear to be whether the Department for Education will accept the reopening of a school it had ordered to shut down. Reopening the school under a new name while retaining the old curriculum and faculty would seem to be a nonstarter.

A secondary question is whether any insurer will offer the "new" school an insurance policy. Without such insurance, a school cannot operate legally in the UK. RSSKL's collapse was so severe, insurers fled. [See, e.g., “Rudolf Steiner School in Kings Langley to close next week:”  http://www.watfordobserver.co.uk/news/16336099.rudolf-steiner-school-in-kings-langley-to-close-next-week/]

Alpha Schools is a private limited company, headquartered in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Its chief business is running private primary schools.

The July 20 article in the Hemel Gazette, excerpted above, includes this:

Alpha Schools Ltd was founded eight years ago and is believed to currently own eight schools across the UK, with fees ranging from £1,860 to £4,114.85 per year. 

The company made a gross annual profit of £4,536,962 according to its most recent accounts.

For previous Waldorf Watch coverage of events at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, see "RSSKL".

— R.R.

July 20, 2018


From SFGATE [San Francisco, USA]:

All 10 kindergartens with the highest rates 
of vaccine exemptions are in N. California

By Alyssa Pereira

Across the state [i.e. California], kindergarteners are being vaccinated at the highest rates in years. But that has led to some "pushback" from anti-vaxxers, particularly in Northern California.

Some Californians, the Los Angeles Times finds, are seeking doctors who will issue medical exemptions so they can avoid immunizing their children. The state is one of just three nationwide since 2015 that has passed a law prohibiting parents and guardians from denying immunizing their children on the basis of personal beliefs.

As a result, those who are anti-vaccine may be subverting the law to find other ways forego the practice, despite the fact that there are no legitimate reasonsfor healthy children to not be vaccinated....

Some doctors issuing these medical exemptions have been known to do so for flimsy reasons, leaving a rash of children vulnerable to serious medical issues. Northern California has 10 kindergartens with the highest rates of medical exemptions.…

Doctors say just 3 percent of children at most should be exempt, due to serious health complications, such as a child undergoing chemotherapy.

Ninety-five percent of the population needs to be vaccinated to stave off an outbreak of a very contagious disease, such as one that broke out at Disneyland in 2014....

California kindergartens with the highest medical exemption rates include:

58 percent: Sebastopol Independent Charter - Sonoma County
52 percent: Yuba River Charter - Nevada County
51 percent: Sunridge Charter - Sonoma County
43 percent: Live Oak Charter - Sonoma County
38 percent: Berkeley Rose School - Alameda County
38 percent: The New Village School - Marin County
37 percent: Coastal Grove Charter - Humboldt County
37 percent: The Waldorf School of Mendocino County - Mendocino County
35 percent: Summerfield Waldorf School & Farm - Sonoma County
33 percent: Santa Cruz Waldorf School - Santa Cruz County

[7/20/2018   https://www.sfgate.com/local/article/kindergartens-vaccines-medical-exemptions-calif-13085811.php    The updated version of this story was posted on July 19.]

◊ • ◊

Waldorf Watch Response:

Although the SFGATE article does not mention it, every single kindergarten on the list is associated with Waldorf education. Some of the kindergartens, such as Sebastopol Independent and Live Oak, are publicly identified as "Waldorf-inspired" programs. Others, such as Yuba River and Central Grove, say that they are guided by the "principles of Public Waldorf Education." Similarly, Berkeley Rose says it is "accredited by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA)," and The New School says its curriculum is "inspired by and based on indications given by Rudolf Steiner.”

Waldorf schools almost never have official anti-vaccination policies, and often the decision not to vaccinate children is made freely by the kids' parents. Rudolf Steiner said that vaccines can be helpful in some instances. Yet parents with strong anti-vax convictions tend to flock to Waldorf schools. Why?

Unofficially, Waldorf schools tend to strongly oppose vaccination. Despite his occasional, moderate statements about the efficacy of vaccines, Steiner warned his followers against terrible (and entirely imaginary) dangers implicit in vaccination. He said that black magicians and other evildoers will develop vaccines intended to destroy human spirituality. So, for instance, Steiner made statements such as these:

◊ "[T]hrough criminal occult activity...those whose intentions toward humanity are not good, in other words those who are black or grey magicians, can gain possession of [dark] secrets ... [They] will make impossible all of humanity's spiritual development ... [Their evil] inoculations will influence the human body in a way that will make it refuse to give a home to the spiritual inclinations of the soul.” — Rudolf Steiner, SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), pp. 90-91.

◊ "[P]eople are now vaccinated against consumption, and in the same way they will be vaccinated against any inclination towards spirituality. This is merely to give you a particularly striking example of many things which will come in the near and more distant future.” —  Rudolf Steiner, THE FALL OF THE SPIRITS OF DARKNESS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993), p. 200.

◊ "[C]ertain inoculations will be used to influence the human body in such a way that it provides no place for the spiritual proclivities of the soul. Human beings will be immunised against any predisposition for spiritual ideas ... [S]uch, at least, will be the endeavour. They will try by inoculation to bring it about that even in childhood, human beings lose the urge towards the spiritual life." — Rudolf Steiner, BEHIND THE SCENES OF EXTERNAL HAPPENINGS (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1947), lecture 1, GA 178.

◊ "[Vaccination] will harm only those who grow up with materialistic ideas. Then vaccination becomes a kind of ahrimanic power [i.e., it serves the demon Ahriman]; the individual can no longer rise above a certain materialistic way of feeling. And that is really why vaccination causes us concern, because people are 'garbed through' with a phantom." — Rudolf Steiner, PHYSIOLOGY AND HEALING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2013), p. 238.

If some vaccines are potentially so terrible — stemming from black magic or demonic malevolence — surely the safest course is to avoid vaccines altogether. Instead of putting your faith in materialistic approaches such as modern medicine, think spiritualistically instead. Follow Steiner, not Ahriman.

Such, in any case, is the point of view generally harbored in Waldorf schools. Here, for example, is a statement about childhood diseases, written by a Waldorf teacher. The teacher explains that children's physical bodies, inherited from their parents, are often mismatched with the kids' inner spiritual essences, their spiritual egos. [See "Ego".] Children need to undergo certain beneficial childhood diseases in order to "harmonize" their physical bodies with their "I's". But vaccination would interfere with this necessary process, thereby thwarting children's spiritual development:

"Childhood diseases...result from a necessary developmental process in which the human being tries to overcome influences from the inherited physical body. The child must bring inherited substances into line with his own 'I' ... The intensity of this process depends on the degree of conformity between the physical body and the 'I'. The bigger the difference, the more intense the harmonization process expressed in these types of disease will have to be. This basic concept of the origin of childhood diseases has been complicated by new forms of medication that suppress symptoms (vaccination) ... [T]he harmonization process is partly blocked by their use." — Henk Van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011), p. 20. (The parenthetical reference to vaccination occurs in the text; I did not add it.)

Most parents who fear vaccines for their kids are worried about such things as autism (which has been falsely linked to vaccination). They aren't thinking about black magicians or the need to reform the physical body so it can house the "I". But many Waldorf teachers do think about vaccination in these terms. Thus, parents and teachers, coming from different directions, may meet in a common (and mistaken) attitude: They oppose vaccination for the children in their care. Unintentionally, they endanger these children as a result, making the kids susceptible to serious diseases that could easily be avoided. 

For more on these matters, see "Steiner's Quackery". Also see the Waldorf Watch news item for July 1, 2018: "Waldorf, Child Care, and Modern Medicine". 

— R.R.

July 18, 2018


Announcement of an upcoming event at Great Lakes Waldorf Institute [Wisconsin, USA]:



Great Lakes Waldorf Institute is delighted to offer a mid-summer morning dedicated to exploring Rudolf Steiner’s path to spiritual understanding.

In this morning class we will study this wonderfully translated and abridged lecture [by Rudolf Steiner], which is an elegant summary of at least six complicated anthroposophical themes:  the relationship of anthroposophy to religion, the evolution of consciousness, mythology, biological evolution, the path of initiation, and, above all, the meaning of the Incarnation.  Accompanying our study will be some artistic exercises in geometric drawing.

Saturday, July 21st, 2018       –       9:00 am – 12:00 pm  


◊ • ◊

The announcement refers to this lecture, abridged by Frederick Amrine:

[Independently published (January 16, 2018)]

◊ • ◊

Waldorf Watch Response:

Anthroposophy attaches great importance to the figure of Christ. Steiner taught that the future of humanity hinges on our acceptance of Christ. Steiner lectured on the four gospels of the New Testament, he prayed to Christ, and today throughout the Anthroposophical community — including in Waldorf schools — the festivals of the Christian calendar are celebrated. For all these reasons, Anthroposophy is often mistakenly deemed a branch or denomination of Christianity.

But the differences between Anthroposophy and Christianity are enormous. Anthroposophy is polytheistic, whereas Christianity is one of the world’s great monotheistic faiths. [See “Polytheism”.] The Christ revered in Anthroposophy is not, in the traditional Christian sense, the Son of God — rather, he is the Sun God, the god who dwells on, and controls, the Sun. He is the same god as Apollo, or Hu, or Baldr. [See “Sun God”.] Steiner found significance in the four Christian gospels, but he also found serious faults in them — so much so that he wrote his own, new-and-improved, fifth gospel. [See “Steiner’s Fifth Gospel”.] While Steiner’s teachings derive, in part, from the gnostic Christian tradition [see “Gnosis”], they include numerous beliefs that are incompatible with mainstream Christianity, such as karma and reincarnation. [See “Karma” and “Reincarnation”.] Overall, the differences between Anthroposophy and Christianity are far greater than their similarities. [See “Was He Christian?”]

The announcement of the upcoming class at Great Lakes Waldorf Institute mentions several topics. Let’s review them briefly.
 (I will not confine myself to the contents of the lecture in question but will range over Steiner's teachings more generally.)

1. The relationship of Anthroposophy to religion. Steiner claimed that Anthroposophy is a science, not a religion. This “science” employs clairvoyance to study the spirit realm. There are at least two major problems here. The first is that clairvoyance does not exist. [See “Clairvoyance”]. Thus there can be no science that depends on the use of clairvoyance. The second problem is that Anthroposophy is very clearly a religion. The practice of Anthroposophy entails faith, reverence, prayers, meditations, spiritual guides, spiritual observances, submission to the gods, and efforts to fulfill the will of the gods. Anthroposophy lays out the path to spiritual improvement and salvation for its adherents, and it threatens spiritual loss and perdition for everyone else. Anthroposophists believe that they are on the side of the gods, and they believe that their critics are on the side of the demonic powers. Anthroposophy is a religion. [See “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?”] 

2.  The evolution of consciousness. This is the central subject of Anthroposophy. Steiner taught that we are evolving, through a long series of reincarnations, to higher and higher levels of spiritual consciousness. We began our existence in an extremely dim state during an evolutionary period called Old Saturn. Subsequently, we evolved through the Old Sun and Old Moon periods. In the future we will evolve to the Future Jupiter, Future Venus, and Future Vulcan periods. Along the way, we are aided by nine separate ranks of gods. When we complete our evolution, we will stand above all these gods; we ourselves will be the supreme deity of the cosmos. [See “Everything”. Also see the entries for “evolution of consciousness” and “historical narrative of Anthroposophy” and in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

3. Mythology. Anthroposophists believe that myths are true — they are the stories told by ancient clairvoyants, describing the things they had seen and experienced during their visits to the spirit realm. The myths given greatest emphasis in Anthroposophy — and in Waldorf schools — are Norse myths, which Anthroposophists believe give a true account of human evolution. [See “The Gods”.]

4. Biological evolution. In Anthroposophical belief, the evolution of our bodies is far less important than our spiritual evolution (the evolution of our consciousness). But Steiner did teach that our physical, biological bodies are evolving in conjunction with the evolution of our souls. Steiner’s account of such evolution has nothing to do with Darwin’s account, and it is unsupported by any scientifically verifiable information. Thus, for instance, Steiner taught that when we lived “on” the Moon (that is, when we passed through the Old Moon period), we had soft, pliant bodies that floated through the dense lunar atmosophere. [See “Lunacy”.] Steiner's descriptions of our other stages of biological evolution are equally hallucinatory.

5. The path of initiation. This is Anthroposophy itself, the path we should follow if we want to evolve properly. We become “initiates” when we develop clairvoyance and then attain the hidden or “occult” spiritual knowledge needed for our spiritual advancement. Initiation is a central doctrine in Anthroposophy. [See “Inside Scoop”.] Most Anthroposophists consider themselves initiates, as do many Waldorf teachers. Steiner claimed that he has received a super, double initiation. One corollary of the concept of initiation is this: Initiates will usually withhold their great secrets from the uninitated. Thus, you cannot expect Anthroposophists to tell you things that they think are beyond you. Anthroposophists and Waldorf representatives are often highly secretive when dealing with outsiders. [See “Secrets”.]

6. The meaning of incarnation. The meaning is implicit in the points we have already reviewed. We incarnate on the physical plane, from time to time, as part of the process of our evolution. Between our lives on the physical plane, we dwell in the spirit realm, preparing for our future incarnations. Our goal is to evolve to higher and higher conditions of consciousness during our progressive incarnations. But it is possible to move downward instead of upward. Evildoers and the spiritually blind may fall to lower evolutionary conditions in their future incarnations. Truly evil souls may eventually “fall out of evolution” altogether, losing their possibility of accompanying Anthroposophists on their journey to the ultimate peak of evolution, when they will become the supreme deity of the cosmos. [See, e.g., “The Tenth Hierarchy”.]

That’s my summary of the six topics that will be discussed in the upcoming class. But of course I am standing on the outside, looking in. If you want to know for sure what will be revealed in the class, perhaps you should sign up.

— R.R.

July 17, 2018





[Waldorf Publications at the Research Institute for Waldorf Education, 2016]

Waldorf education is based on an extraordinary conception of human nature. This is perhaps clearest in the earliest part of the Waldorf curriculum, the part aimed at the youngest children.

According to Waldorf belief, young children arrive on Earth through the process of reincarnation. [See "Reincarnation".] They have had many previous lives, alternating between lives on Earth and lives in the spirit realm. They descend into their newest Earthly lives bringing with them their karmas and their astrological identities. [See "Karma" and "Star Power".]

The kids come bearing, also, memories of their recent lives among the gods on high. [See "Higher Worlds".] These precious memories may be destroyed if the children are rushed into physical, Earthly existence. Therefore, Waldorf teachers should strive to preserve children’s dreamlike consciousness. Instead of encouraging young students to develop their intellects, Waldorf teachers should actively shield the kids from influences that would stimulate their rational minds. [1] They should help kids to remain as young as possible for as long as possible.

Here is a passage from a recent publication that outlines some of these propositions. Specifically, this passage deals with kids attending a Waldorf kindergarten:

“The lively, waking dream of the young child’s consciousness must be allowed to thrive in the early childhood group. This means that the teacher refrains as much as possible from verbal instruction. Instead, her gestures and actions provide a model for the child’s imitation. Familiar daily rhythms and activities provide a context in which the need for verbal instruction is reduced. Simple, archetypal imagery in stories, songs, and games provide experiences that the children can internalize but that do not require intellectual or critical reflection or explanation.” — Susan Howard, “The Waldorf Kindergarten”, in WALDORF EDUCATION - An Introduction for Parents, edited by David Mitchell (Waldorf Publications, 2016), p. 14. 

Rudolf Steiner spoke of the marvelous quality of young children’s dreams:

"The dreams of young infants are quite marvellous … They are truly cosmic. The child dreams of the things he experienced before he came down to earth." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM LIMESTONE TO LUCIFER (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), pp. 194-195. 

Steiner taught that the intellect, on the other hand, is destructive:

“The intellect destroys or hinders.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995, p. 233.

For such reasons, Waldorf teachers try to retard the mental development of their young students:

“[I]n Steiner’s view…childhood is a time of contracting consciousness.... [The child] loses his dream-like perception of the creative world of spiritual powers which is hidden behind the phenomena of the senses. This is...the world of creative archetypes and spiritual hierarchies [2] … [T]he child [possesses] a dream-like yet intensely real awareness of spiritual worlds. This awareness fades quickly in early childhood, but fragments of it live on in the child for a much longer time than most people imagine ... [I]n a Waldorf school, therefore, one of the tasks of the teachers is to keep the children young.” — A. C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1956), pp. 15-16.

Later, of course, kids need to develop the capacity for rational or intellectual thought. Steiner himself was an intellectual. Intellect has its place, he said. But young kids should be protected from the cold, demonic influence of the intellect.

"Intellectuality flows forth from Ahriman [3] as a cold and frosty, soulless cosmic impulse.” — Rudolf Steiner,  ANTHROPOSOPHICAL LEADING THOUGHTS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 98.

We should circle back to Susan Howard’s statement to glean a few more points.

“Verbal instructions” should be minimized because these would stimulate the kids’ rational brains. This would be bad. By comparison, “simple, archetypal imagery” is good for young souls. Such imagery does not need “intellectual or critical reflection or explanation.” In Waldorf schools, such imagery is mainly provided through extended, repetitive exposure to myths and fairy tales that reflect Anthroposophical beliefs about the spirit realm. [See “Sneaking It In”.]

The goal is for the children to “internalize” these Anthroposophic or semi-Anthroposophic images. Another way to describe this is to say that Waldorf schools aim to indoctrinate their young students. They immerse the kids in “stories, songs, and games” that provide “archetypal imagery.” According to Waldorf belief, Archetypes are spiritual beings who are perfect spiritual models for incarnated beings. Everything good that exists in the physical universe is a reflection of gods or Archetypes high above. 

“From the point of view taken by occultism [4], the things presented to us in the sense world can only be rightly understood if our knowledge includes cognition of the ‘above,’ the spiritual archetype, the original Spiritual Beings [5], whence all things manifest have proceeded.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT SIGNIFICANCE OF BLOOD (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1922), pp. 11-12.

No Waldorf teacher would use Steiner’s high-flown, intellectually challenging words in a Waldorf kindergarten. But by filling the kids’ heads with imagery that reflects Anthroposophical beliefs, Waldorf teachers hope to steer kids toward embracing Anthroposophy in their hearts (when they are young) and, eventually, in their minds (when they grow up). In other words, Waldorf schooling is a covert process of conditioning, habituating, and — ultimately — indoctrinating. [See “Indoctrination” and “Spiritual Agenda”.]

Steiner once gave these words of guidance to a Waldorf teacher who seemed to be going astray:

“The problem you have is that you have not always followed the directive to bring what you know anthroposophically into a form you can present to little children. You have lectured the children about anthroposophy when you told them about your subject. You did not transform anthroposophy into a child’s level.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 402-403.

Steiner rarely put the matter so plainly, but indeed this is what Waldorf teachers are supposed to do: “bring what you know anthroposophically into a form you can present to little children.” Waldorf teachers should “transform anthroposophy into a child’s level.” This is the teachers’ “directive.”

Defenders of Waldorf education often say that the Waldorf approach is based on Anthroposophy, but Waldorf schools do not teach the kids Anthroposophy. This is disingenuous. It is misleading. It is untrue. And here we see the truth. Waldorf teachers should follow “the directive to bring what you know anthroposophically into a form you can present to little children.”

◊ • ◊

Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] It may seem strange to speak of intellect when discussing very young children such as kindergartners. But, in fact, when very young kids learn the alphabet, and numbers, and how to read, and how to add — when they learn such things, they are using the rational parts of their brains, they are using their dawning intellects. It is telling, then, that Waldorf education usually tries to withhold such knowledge and skills from young students. Generally, Waldorf schools do not teach reading, writing, and basic math until kids reach the age of seven, or even later.

[2] i.e., gods. Anthroposophy is polytheistic. Steiner taught that there are nine ranks of gods, subdivided into three groupings that he called "hierarchies." [See "Polytheism".]

[3] Ahriman is one of the great demons Steiner often wrote and spoke about. The other is Lucifer. [See "Ahriman" and "Lucifer".]

[4] In Steiner’s vocabulary, “occultism” is good. Steiner taught that occultism is the study and acquisition of hidden (occult) spiritual truths. Steiner's most important book is titled OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE. The "occult science" he primarily meant is his own body of teachings: Anthroposophy. [See "Everything".]

[5] I.e., creator gods. Steiner taught that all gods have played roles in creation and evolution, but some have been more central than others. [See, e.g., the descriptions of various "Spirits" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

— R.R.

July 15, 2018



A lengthy article about Anthroposophy and its institutions has appeared in the July, 2018 edition of the monthly French newspaper LE MONDE DIPLOMATIQUE

The article offers a broad overview touching on some of the topics we have discussed here in recent days and weeks. Here are some excerpts. (I have added some explanatory footnotes.)



L’anthroposophie, discrète multinationale de l’ésotérisme

Anthroposophy, the discreet multinational of esotericism

[by] Jean-Baptiste Malet 

During his lifetime, [Rudolf] Steiner endowed his spiritual movement with a vision … A century later, Anthroposophy is an empire. With respectively 14 billion and 4 billion euros of assets under management, the Triodos and GLS banks, two institutions founded and managed by Anthroposophists…support Anthroposophically inspired companies. [1] No less than 1850 kindergartens and 1100 Steiner-Waldorf schools…spread over 65 countries, apply [Steiner's] pedagogical principles.… [2]

Anthroposophy is the paradox of a movement that seems to reflect contemporary attitudes, but it is born out of a reaction to modernity. At the end of the 19th century in Germany, preachers revived a mythical Germanic past, criticized technical and scientific progress, cities, and the Enlightenment. They exalted nature and the medieval roots of an organic, rural and unchanging Volk ("people"). In the 1880s, Steiner...published dozens of articles in the Pan-German press [3] … Passionate about esotericism, he joined the Theosophical Society in 1902 [4] … In 1913, he organized a split and founded the Anthroposophical Society, an attempted amalgamation of esotericism, idealistic philosophy, Christian mysticism, völkisch paganism (peopled with a pantheon of Norse gods, including Thor, Odin and Loki), and claims about science…. [5]

According to Steiner, Mars is a liquid planet, Earth a giant skull, the Moon a heap of vitrified horns, and knitting builds up good teeth; islands and continents float on the sea, held in place by the force of the stars; the planets have a soul; minerals come from plants; clairvoyants are able to detect atheists, because the latter are inevitably ill; initially immobile, the Earth was put into rotation by the human “I”.… [6]

Steiner's work has a darker dimension. From 1910 onward, he claimed that Germanic and Nordic people belong to the same ethnic group, the Aryan race, and denounced "the appalling cultural brutality that was the transplantation of blacks to Europe, causing the French people to regress as a race." A few years later, many Anthroposophists were members of the Nazi party, the SS or the SA…. [7]

From its beginning, the Anthroposophical Society has set itself the mission not of expanding through aggressive proselytism — Anthroposophists claim only 44,000 members throughout the world — but rather by creating hubs that germinate a counterculture … It is by changing people’s consciousness that we act on society as a whole, Steiner felt … More than a century later, Steiner's anti-modern, pantheistic, and puritanical counterculture enjoys solid support in the "official society"....

Mr. Gerald Häfner, co-founder of the party Die Grünen (the Greens), was elected to the Bundestag between 1987 and 2002, and to the European Parliament from 2009 to 2014. [8] Member of the Executive Committee of the German Anthroposophical Society from 2002 to 2005, Mr. Häfner heads the Society's Humanities Section....

Mr. Lukas Beckmann, another co-founder of Die Grünen (the Greens), general secretary of the ecologist group in the Bundestag from 1994 to 2010, has also been involved in Anthroposophic finance [9] ... [H]e was Executive Director of GLS Treuhand [10]....

To stand out from the norm in order to establish one's credit without contesting mainstream social structures, such is also the path followed by Anthroposophy in the field of education. Inaugurated in 2015, the Domaine du Possible, a non-contract school [11], was built in the heart of nature in Arles … On open house day, April 21, 2018…Mrs. Françoise Nyssen (who became Minister of Culture in May 2011) photographs the show. [12] With Mr. Jean-Paul Capitani…Mrs. Nyssen is the founder of the school.…

Inside the classrooms of the Domaine du Possible, we discover works of Steiner pedagogy, timetables announcing eurythmy lessons [13], the German magazine of Steiner schools [14], a medicine cabinet containing "Anthroposophic medicines" [15], dictation workbooks [16] alluding to medieval myths and gods in conformity with Steiner pedagogy [17]. "The teachers say this isn't a Steiner school [18], but it's 100% Steiner," says a sophomore. “I've been in Steiner School since I was eight. My parents moved me here. And, frankly, it's the same madness. We do exactly the same things at a Steiner school”….


◊ • ◊

Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] In addition to Waldorf schools (sometimes called Steiner schools), Anthroposophical enterprises include Camphill residential communities, biodynamic agricultural operations, Anthroposophical medical practices, cosmetic/medical manufactories and dispensaries, cultural organizations such as eurythmy troupes, and so forth. Anthroposophy is a revolutionary movement that aims to reform human institutions in compliance with Rudolf Steiner's directives. Steiner's overall scheme for social organization is called "threefolding." [See "Threefolding".]

[2] The number of Waldorf and/or Steiner schools fluctuates, as new schools are created but other schools collapse. [See, e.g., "Failure".] Advocates of Waldorf education often claim that theirs is the fastest-growing independent school movement in the world, but such claims are rarely buttressed by reliable statistics. The Waldorf movement has gradually grown, but it remains small by various measures. Many individual Waldorf schools are tiny, and some are short-lived. There are approximately 1,100 Waldorf schools in the world today (July, 2018); by comparison, there are about 7,000 Montessori schools. [See "Montessori FAQ's."] The number of Waldorf kindergartens is less certain. The totals are sometimes inflated by the inclusion of playgroups or informal home gatherings. Many of these groups have very small enrollments.

[3] Pan-Germanism (German Pangermanismus or Alldeutschtum) is, generally, a nationalistic movement that seeks to unite most or all German-speaking peoples in an enhanced German fatherland. [See, e.g., "Pan-Germanism" in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.]

[4] "Theosophy, occult movement originating in the 19th century with roots that can be traced to ancient Gnosticism and Neoplatonism." — Encyclopaedia Britannica. Steiner took many of his teachings from Theosophy. Indeed, Anthroposophy may be considered a variant or branch of Theosophy. [See "Basics".]

[5] See, e.g., the entry "Anthroposophy" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.

[6] Although Steiner claimed to be a "spiritual scientist" who provided true, objective descriptions of both spiritual and physical reality, many of his teachings are plainly false or at least highly doubtful, and they often betray a deep anti-scientific bias. For further examples of Steiner's oddest teachings, see, e.g., "Steiner's Blunders". For Steiner's view of science, see "Science".

[7] The SS was a Nazi security force; among other duties, it administered concentration camps. The SA was a Nazi paramilitary force; its members were often called "brownshirts" (for the color of their uniforms).

Steiner's racial views rank among the most deplorable of his teachings, and the intersections between Anthroposophy and fascism define one of the most explosive subjects that arise in historical accounts of the Anthroposophical movement. [See "Steiner's Racism" and "Sympathizers?" ]

[8] Häfner, an Anthroposophist, is a German politician. The Green Party is a pro-environmental political party. The Bundestag is the German parliament. The European Parliament is the directly elected legislative body of the European Union (EU).

[9] Lukas Beckmann, an Anthroposophist, is a German politician.

[10] GLS Treuhand is a bank that underwrites initiatives consistent with Anthroposophical social goals.

[11] I.e., an alternative, private school that has no contract with the government. Freed from at least some government control, these schools are self-financed. (Steiner taught that all educational, cultural, and spiritual institutions should be kept separated from the political and economic spheres of life.)

[12] Françoise Nyssen, an Anthroposophist, is a French-Belgian politician. In 2017, she was appointed Minister of Culture in the French government.

[13] Eurythmy is a form of spiritualistic dance — in a sense, a new for of temple dancing — created by Steiner. The movements of the dancers are meant to open channels to the spirit world and to make manifest the inner meaning of language. [See "Eurythmy".] 

[14] One such magazine available online is Erziehungskunst [Educational Art].

[15] Steiner advocated numerous medicinal approaches that have little if any curative value. Some, indeed, may be seriously injurious. Arguably, Anthroposophical medicine is the most dangerous field established by Steiner. Waldorf education occupies an intermediate position on the scale of harm that may result from Anthroposophical practices. Biodynamic agriculture — which incorporates silly but generally harmless procedures — is perhaps the least harmful Anthroposophical undertaking. [See "Steiner's Quackery", "Who Gets Hurt?", and "Biodynamics".]

[16] I.e., lesson books, created by Waldorf students by taking down the words of their teachers and copying art created by their teachers. [See "Lesson Books".] In Waldorf schools, lesson books often substitute for textbooks, which are not often used in these schools. Thus, Waldorf students are usually not exposed to any views except those of their teachers (many of whom are typically Anthroposophists). The result, critics charge, is that Waldorf schools effectively indoctrinate students in Anthroposophical beliefs and attitudes. [See "Indoctrination" and "Sneaking It In".]

[17] Steiner taught that myths, legends, and even fairy tales are essentially true — they are reports of clairvoyant visions attained by the ancients. The mythology of northern Europe — Norse mythology — is given particular emphasis in Waldorf schools. [See "The Gods".]

[18] Spokespeople for Waldorf schools often deny the Anthroposophical tenets and purposes embraced by the faculty. [See, e.g., "Secrets".] In an extreme case, a Waldorf school might even deny that it is a Waldorf school. If the student quoted in the article, above, is correct, then this is what is happening at Domaine du Possible. In any event, Waldorf schools are often accused of deceptive practices. Many parents report that they were misled about the nature of the education their children would receive at a Waldorf school; and they were especially misled  when these schools concealed their allegiance to Rudolf Steiner's mystical doctrines. [See, e.g., "Our Experience" and "Coming Undone".]

My thanks to former Waldorf teacher Grégoire Perra for bringing this article to my attention. The English translation was prepared with the assistance of the online translation service DeepL.

— R.R.

July 14, 2018


(and Anthroposophy?)  

A book from Yale University Press touches, at least tangentially, on the question of intersections between Nazism and Anthroposophy. The following is from a book review in The Federalist [FDRLST Media]:

Indiana Jones Isn’t Wrong — 
The Nazis’ Fascination With 
The Occult Was Very Real

by Nathanael Blake

…Recently released in paperback by Yale University Press, Eric Kurlander’s book Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich, provides a sober scholarly treatment of a subject that has frequently been sensationalized in pop history potboilers as well as pop culture. Dr. Kurlander, a history professor at Stetson University, has written a thorough overview of the intersections between Nazism and various mystical, occult, and pseudo-scientific theories….

From astrology to racial mythology, the Nazi leadership was fascinated, in some cases enthralled, by a wide mix of pseudo-science and mysticism. And they put it into practice. “Nazi leaders sponsored everything from astrology, parapsychology and radiesthesia to biodynamic agriculture and World Ice Theory”....

[Heinrich] Himmler and the SS [the Nazi paramiltary organization led by Himmler] were the locus of occultism and mysticism within the Nazi regime, but they were not alone. Kurlander relates that Hitler read and carefully annotated books on magic, and that he “hired Germany’s most famous dowser…to police the Reich Chancellery for harmful death rays.” Meanwhile, [Hitler's Deputy Führer] Rudolph Hess sponsored “astrology, anthroposophy, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Tibetan mysticism”….

[7/14/2018   https://thefederalist.com/2018/07/13/indiana-jones-isnt-wrong-the-nazis-fascination-with-the-occult-was-very-real/   This review originally appeared on July 13.]

◊ • ◊

Waldorf Watch Response:

Few things enrage Anthroposophists more than the allegation that there were any connections whatsoever between their movement and Nazism. Yet several historians have traced such connections. [See "Sympathizers?"]

Certainly, the two ideologies have some things in common. They both assert the importance of race, assigning high rank to some races (white, "Aryan") and low rank to others (generally, the darker the lower). They both hold that some people, including members of the lowest races, are subhuman. And they both find great significance in the German national "mission." Historian Peter Staudenmaier has offered this overview: 

“Anthroposophy as Steiner taught it focused crucially on ideas like ‘the German spirit’ and ‘the German soul’ and ‘the German essence’ and ‘the German mission’ and so forth. These same concepts were central to several versions of Nazi thought as well. Nazis often found worldviews like Anthroposophy too flighty, too woolly, too religious, not political enough, while Anthroposophists often found Nazism too political, too materialist, not spiritual enough. But some Nazis had notably positive attitudes toward Anthroposophy, and some Anthroposophists enthusiastically greeted the rise of Nazism.” [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/9771  Also see Staudenmaier's BETWEEN OCCULTISM AND NAZISM - Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race in the Fascist Era (Brill, 2014).]

HITLER’S MONSTERS adds at least a little to the historical record. The book contains multiple references to Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner, biodynamic agriculture (farming based on Steiner’s occult teachings), Theosophy (Steiner was a Theosophist before breaking away to establish Anthroposophy as a separate movement), Theosophical evolutionary theory, Norse mythology (which is stressed in Waldorf schools), etc.

Kirkus Reviews had this to say about HITLER’S MONSTERS:

"Kurlander…delivers a serious consideration of the place of supernatural belief in the larger German society. The author writes of the influence of the so-called border sciences of parapsychology and their ilk on fascism, and vice versa, and of the identification of Jews and other 'undesirables' with vampires, zombies, ghouls, and kindred monsters, joining modern racism to older cultural touchstones. Kurlander traces much of that to the Romantic era, when 'folklore, mythology, and neo-paganism rushed to fill an important gap in the German spiritual landscape' … The Nazis made use of existing mythology and added elements to proclaim Hitler 'a ruler of souls' and a wizard possessed of powers no other earthly ruler held. Whether Hitler believed in such things himself is arguable, but clearly there was a kind of approved occultism that the regime tolerated even while rooting out 'rival esoteric doctrines' that did not cohere with the state-sanctioned forms…." [https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/eric-kurlander/hitlers-monsters/]

Steiner's teachings must be counted among the "rival esoteric doctrines" that partially overlapped, and partially contravened, Nazi occultism. If some Nazis were sympathetic to Anthroposophy, and if some of Steiner's followers joined the Nazi party (and the Fascist party in Italy), the historical record is complicated and contentious.

Steiner and Anthroposophy are by no means central to HITLER’S MONSTERS. But anyone interested in the history of Anthroposophy — the occult body of teachings that form the basis of Waldorf pedagogy — will want to dip into this book.

— R.R.

July 12, 2018



Rudolf Steiner was a conspiracy theorist. [See “Double Trouble”.] Dark conspiracy theories exercise a deep fascination for many of Steiner’s followers. 

Conspiracist thinking seems to be strengthening within Anthroposophical circles these days. The problem has apparently gotten so bad that a splinter group of Anthroposophists is sounding the alarm.

The following are excerpts from an article in a German-language Swiss newspaper, Solothurner Zeitung:


[A]n initiative of various representatives of the anthroposophical scene has now emerged, who are openly criticizing [Anthroposophical leanings toward conspiracist thinking] for the first time. In a statement that has so far only circulated within the Steiner movement, they want to make it clear "that conspiracy theories in the anthroposophical movement do not remain unchallenged." They are critical of the fact that such theories "increasingly resonate" within the movement….

Two senior employees from [the Anthroposophical headquarters] are among the eight signatories of the declaration.…

David Marc Hoffmann, director of the Rudolf Steiner Archive, writes: "In the anthroposophical environment, I repeatedly meet representatives of the most crude ideologies: Holocaust denial, theories of conspiracy by Jews, Jesuits, Bilderbergers or Freemasons." He would be ashamed to be represented before the world by representatives of such thinking: "I don't want to have anything to do with these purveyors of simplistic thought”.…

[7/12/2018  Translated with the assistance of www.DeepL.com/Translator   The story originally appeared on July 11.]

At the Waldorf Critics discussion site, historian Peter Staudenmaier has offered a response:

[S]everal prominent anthroposophists have finally taken a public stance sharply criticizing the conspiracist tendencies within their movement. Their statements were published online by Info3 in late June … The statements are fairly brief but definitely worth reading; I found the one from David Marc Hoffmann particularly telling. There are aspects that fall significantly short of a full reckoning with this serious problem — they do not grapple with Steiner's own conspiracist teachings, to choose one conspicuous example — but this is nonetheless a positive development that critical observers of anthroposophy should support. It would be a nice surprise to see something similar from English-speaking anthroposophists someday.


Thanks to the Swedish blogger — and former Waldorf student — Alicia Hamberg for informing us English-speakers about the Solothurner Zeitung article. To follow Alicia on Facebook, see https://www.facebook.com/etherealkiosk.

— R.R.

July 11, 2018



Rudolf Steiner’s followers have an enormously inflated opinion of their leader. For instance, did you know that the two most important historical figures of the early 20th century were Adolf Hitler and (wait for it) Rudolf Steiner? These two titans occupied opposite ends of the moral spectrum, one standing for all that is evil, the other standing for all that is good.

“The infernal powers know their own, but there are also rare souls, known and unknown, who are the servants of the light, unfailingly devoted to advancing the greater purposes of existence no matter what the sacrifice and inevitable hardships. In the future, we may well look back on the first third of the twentieth century and recognize the two major antagonists who epitomized the spiritual conflict — namely, Adolf Hitler and Rudolf Steiner.” — William A. Bryant, JOURNEY THOUGH TIME (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 2006), p. 163.

A new book, due out soon from the Anthroposophical publishing house Temple Lodge, again represents Steiner as the preeminent champion of the great and good. In this instance, he stands as the virtuous opponent of a new demonic threat: artificial intelligence (AI).

The Challenge of Artificial Intelligence
A Spiritual-Scientific [i.e., Anthroposophical] Response
by Nicholas Perlas
(Temple Lodge, 2018)

Steiner certainly opposed most products of modern technology, and fear of modern technology runs through most Anthroposophical enterprises, including Waldorf schools. [See "Spiders, Dragons and Foxes".] According to Steiner, much of technology is literally demonic — it is a manifestation of the terrible demon Ahriman. [See "Ahriman".] Seen from an Anthroposophical perspective, electronic computing machines are hellish, and artificial intelligence intensifies this hellishness. 

This much, at least, is true: We are creating computerized systems that can outthink us in various ways. AI systems have already beaten the best human players at chess, for instance, and at Jeopardy. The worry is that metal-and-silicon super-intelligences may learn to outthink us in many other, more important areas. Then, having surpassed us so extensively, they may push us aside, becoming the new masters of the Earth. They will enslave us, making us into miniature, subjugated replicas of themselves. Or perhaps they will simply wipe us out, seeing no value in our continued existence.

The dangers of artificial intelligence may or may not be real. Some technologists, such as Elon Musk, take the threat seriously. Others, such as Bill Gates, say such worries are overblown. Perhaps we can at least agree that the matter deserves careful attention. 

In the meantime, Anthroposophists take comfort from their reliance on the wisdom and prepotency of Rudolf Steiner. Put it this way: They hope to be saved from a possibly overblown threat by a vastly overblown master.

Here are excerpts from Temple Lodge’s promo for their new anti-AI book:

Although still in its earliest stages, artificial intelligence (AI) is radically transforming all aspects of society. With the immanent emergence of Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI)…mankind stands at a crossroads … [I]f we do not master [i.e., tame] it now, ASI will transform mankind into its own image. Ultimately, it will destroy the human race.

…Rudolf Steiner, however, not only foresaw these developments, but gave clear alternatives. Steiner...provided philosophical, ontological and social innovations to save humanity from the abyss….

…This, says the author [Nicholas Perlas], is humanity’s last stand, and failure is not an option.

July 8, 2018




In discussing the concerns that have arisen due to the “grooming” of students in Steiner schools, I quoted from the book that gave rise to these concerns: A HANDBOOK FOR WALDORF CLASS TEACHERS, compiled by Steiner teacher Kevin Avison (Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, 2004; reprinted 2011). I pointed out that the final appendix of the book — Appendix M — is ironic. Avison does not seriously advise Steiner teachers to follow the recommendations given in Appendix M: bribing the kids with chocolates, giving the kids pet names, cultivating certain students as allies, and so forth.

A new edition of the handbook makes Avison's ironic intention plainer. The dubious appendix has now been recast as Appendix X. And, crucially, it now begins with the following disclaimer:

"Warning Note    Anyone who believes this is ‘advice’ should think again. This page should be read with caution as a humorous exploration of what perhaps shouldn’t be done in the classroom." — A HANDBOOK FOR WALDORF CLASS TEACHERS (Floris Books, in association with the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, 2016), p. 146.

This warning note is reassuring (despite the ambiguous “perhaps” that Avison tosses in). But we shouldn’t drop the matter altogether. The sort of practices listed in Appendix M/X do occur in at least some Steiner schools. Steiner teachers often try to bond with their students to an uncommon extent. The ultimate aim is luring students into accepting the teachers’ Anthroposophical belief system. [See “Grooming, Nicknaming, Enlisting”, posted here on July 2, 2018.]

Consider the problems that have caused the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley to collapse. The foremost problem was the failure of the school to ensure the safety of the students. And this failure largely involved the creation of unhealthy, personal contact between teachers and students:

"[T]he school has been ordered to close down for good, with inspectors saying…there were no 'professional boundaries' between students and teachers, with some meeting up outside school … [T]eachers were far behind the necessary standards, with some even casually meeting children outside class. The [inspectors’] report said: 'Professional boundaries between staff, parents and pupils are not maintained ... Parents arrange for pupils to see their teachers, and former teachers, off the school site. This culture is unchanged, despite known serious safeguarding failings.’" — The Daily Mail, September 3, 2017. [See the Waldorf Watch item "Remembering RSSKL — The Faults Found", July 7, 2018.]

This report comes to us from the Daily Mail, a tabloid — not the most reliable source. But we have other, more credible sources of information about Steiner/Waldorf schools. For instance, former Waldorf teacher Grégoire Perra has written the following about life in a Waldorf school where he taught:

"[A]ll lines of separation are erased. Very soon, our colleagues become a kind of family … Students become for us both our children and our friends and associates.  There reigns a sort of permanent 'incestuous' atmosphere that can go haywire very quickly for everyone … [There is] total confusion of identities … Nobody there knows who he is or what exactly his role is … [T]his nebulous dissolution of personalities and responsibilities gives rise to accounts of illicit relations between teachers and students. It is what often happens." — Grégoire Perra, “The Anthroposophical Indoctrination of Students in Steiner-Waldorf Schools”. [See “He Went to Waldorf”.]

Other accounts by other authors paint a similar picture of life within at least some Steiner/Waldorf schools. Incestuous involvements of all sorts tend to develop. Lines are erased, confusions proliferate, and the welfare of students is jeopardized. [See, e.g., “Extremity”.] 

And what is the reason for all this? Aside from satisfying the sexual/romantic desires of some errant teachers, it lies in the very purpose of Waldorf education, which is to spread Anthroposophy. In a word, the purpose is indoctrination — enticing, leading, and sometimes dragging children toward embracing Anthroposophy. Perra recounts multiple ways that Steiner/Waldorf teachers seek to infuse their students’ minds, hearts, and psyches with Anthroposophical beliefs. [See “Indoctrination.” Also see, e.g., “Sneaking It In”.]

In another of his essays, Perra gives a simple example of the problematic relationships between Steiner teachers and students. He writes about the practice of Steiner teachers writing personalized poems for their students.

"It is extremely gratifying when someone takes the trouble to write a poem about you … Who normally writes such poems, except distraught lovers?  … [T]he teachers in these schools do not only ask the students to physically strip down, as they do in kindergarten, but they ask for psychological nakedness as well. They ask the students to reveal their most private thoughts … [T]his unveiling process leads some parents to quickly and easily hand complete authority to the teachers and the school. The psychological effect includes the entire family." — Grégoire Perra, “Nearly Undetectable Influence and Indoctrination”. [See “Mistreating Kids Lovingly”.]

The implications of such developments help explain what the inspectors found so alarming at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langely, and they suggest why there is now public concern about the “grooming” of students by faculty in Steiner/Waldorf schools. The lovely surface presented to the world by Steiner/Waldorf schools can be seriously misleading. In these schools, students may be harmed in many ways, ranging from the carnal to the spiritual. Young lives may be seriously damaged — perhaps, in some cases, irreparably. 

— R.R.

July 7, 2018



As of today, visitors to the website of the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley would find no indication that the school has collapsed. The site's home page still paints a glowing portrait of the school and its claims:

The Rudolf Steiner School provides a comprehensive and well-rounded inter-disciplinary Steiner Waldorf education — Pre-school to A levels — that is permeated with sciences, arts, music and foreign languages. Our pupils develop creative, flexible, independent thinking, thereby preparing themselves for university and successful careers.

For 69 years we have been successfully preparing young people to live fulfilling and rewarding lives. Our spacious 10-acre campus is on the site of a 13th-century royal palace and priory and includes sports fields, a gymnasium, a large theatre, arts and crafts block, pottery and photography lab.

[7/7/2018   http://rsskl.org]

Undoubtedly the website will soon be revised or simply closed down, reflecting the closure of the school itself. [See the item dated July 6, 2018, below.]

In the meantime, it might be helpful to review the problems that led to the collapse of the school, which had been one of the foremost Steiner schools in the United Kingdom. Inspectors faulted the school for shortcomings on several fronts. Here are excerpts from news accounts that explain some of the reasons UK education authorities ordered the school to shut down.

The Hemel Gazette, May 29, 2018:

The [inspectors'] report says the school has failed to meet the necessary standards for safeguarding, handling of complaints, and quality of leadership.

And it says that the school’s leaders have “potentially put pupils at risk” with their recruitment policies. 

Criticisms include: “The lack of rigour and inaccurate recording amount to more than administrative errors. 

“They are indicative of leaders’ continuing failure to take their responsibilities seriously”.... 

The Hemel Gazette, April 27, 2018:

Ofsted [the Office for Standards in Education]...stated standards were not met in ‘Quality of education’, and in ‘Quality of leadership in and management of schools’.

About quality of education, the report says “Work was frequently unchallenging and teachers’ assessment of the progress made by pupils was still in its infancy”....

The section about ‘Welfare, health and safety of pupils’ adds: “Leaders have failed to ensure that all new employees have been thoroughly vetted prior to taking up their post. 

“They have accepted applications that fall far short of a professional standard and have not taken up appropriate references. 

“Once again, leaders have potentially put pupils at risk by not assuring themselves of the suitability of the staff they employ.”

The Daily Telegraph, June 24, 2018:

A flagship Steiner school is to close amid fears over child safety, after it emerged that parents who tried to raise the alarm about safeguarding lapses had been sent gagging letters [i.e., letters telling them to keep quiet].…

The school’s most recent Ofsted report noted that “the culture for safeguarding pupils at the school is not strong enough” and that leaders have “underestimated and downplayed these inadequacies”.

Inspectors said that the process for addressing historic safeguarding complaints has “stalled”, and that “resolution is no longer in sight”....

The Daily Mail, September 3, 2017:

A top £10,000 a year school has been ordered to close following a damning report from Ofsted that flagged up serious fears of child safety….

[T]he school has been ordered to close down for good, with inspectors saying data protection had been breached, pupils were able to wander off-site during lunch breaks and that there were no 'professional boundaries' between students and teachers, with some meeting up outside school.…

[L]ead inspector Philippa Darley and her team found that, in many respects, teachers were far behind the necessary standards, with some even casually meeting children outside class.

The report said: 'Professional boundaries between staff, parents and pupils are not maintained ... Parents arrange for pupils to see their teachers, and former teachers, off the school site. This culture is unchanged, despite known serious safeguarding failings.

The report also slammed the school for lying to parents about the severity of some of the issues, and for failing to keep data secure.

'Leaders have underplayed and misrepresented the school's safeguarding failings to parents,' it said....

'They have also stated that "no transgressions or wrongdoings were found to have taken place" and have implied that former parents who expressed concerns have misrepresented the position. These messages are not supported by the inspection evidence....

'Crucially, leaders do not base their decisions, at all times, on what is in the best interests of the child. This is the core principle of good safeguarding practice and a statutory requirement for all schools.'

The Telegraph News, September 2, 2017:

Britain's flagship Steiner school has been ordered to close amid fears over child safety....

The Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley had already been banned by the Department for Education (DfE) from admitting any new pupils, following a series of damning Ofsted inspections which uncovered a raft of safeguarding failings.

It comes after Denis McCarthy, a senior staff member who was also a leading figure in the UK’s Steiner school movement, was sacked from the school for gross misconduct.…

The school has issued a public apology to children and their families for “real and serious failings going back several years”, acknowledging that it failed to act on “repeated concerns raised by parents” over safeguarding.

The Watford Observer, April 14, 2016:

An emergency inspection at a school has revealed procedures for safeguarding its pupils are not being met.

The Department for Education ordered the inspection of Kings Langley Steiner School following concerns raised about pupils’ safety and the management of the school….

Inspector Jane Cooper from the Schools Inspection Service said in her report that a number of changes at the school have had a negative impact on the management of safeguarding.

She said three teachers who held the key posts of education facilitator, designated safeguarding lead (DSL) and deputy DSL have recently given up their roles, which has highlighted the “ineffectiveness” of the current structure.

Children are at risk due to leaders not being clear enough about the interpretation of safeguarding requirements.…

Five months ago the school was visited by the education watchdog following complaints from parents.

During that inspection, inspectors found many of the risk assessments were out of date and that some were no longer applicable.

The school's failure to adequately safeguard students is surely the most dramatic of the issues raised by inspectors, and it has received the most coverage in the press.

We should note, however, that the school was also found to have serious deficiencies in other areas, including the quality of the instruction offered, the overall management of the school, recruitment practices, relationships with students' parents, and responsiveness to outside authorities. Taken altogether, the inspection reports indicate that the school failed in almost every way a school possibly could fail.

Another comment may be in order. Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley was not just any Steiner school. It was old and venerable; it was one of the leading Steiner schools in Britain. The crash of this institution, caused by such a wide array of deficiencies, has potentially devastating implications for Steiner or Waldorf education generally. To the extent that other Steiner or Waldorf schools have failings like those at RSSKL, the entire Steiner/Waldorf movement may be called into question.

For more on this final point, see "King Langley's Karma", June 23, 2018.

— R.R.

July 6, 2018



From the The Watford Observer [Hertfordshire, UK]:

Rudolf Steiner School in 
Kings Langley 
to close next week

[by] Nathan Louis

A private school will close next week after insurers were not found to keep the school open.

Rudolf Steiner School in Kings Langley hoped to remain open for the new term [next autumn] but in a letter today, trustees of the school announced this would not be possible.

The school had been threatened with closure for more than a year after a number of Ofsted [Office for Standards in Education] inspections found pupils were “at risk”....

In a letter to parents, the school said it was not "viable" to self-insure after potential insurers for the school stepped back. Consequently the school decided it was "untenable" to prepare for an autumn term and as such have voted to close the school on completion of the summer term next week.

It was in December 2016 that Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) was first told by Ofsted inspectors that it had serious problems with safeguarding of students.

The body [i.e., Ofsted] have since visited the school four times, failing in a number of categories on three occasions [i.e., the school failed three of four inspections]. The school was also threatened with closure by the government.

http://www.watfordobserver.co.uk/news/16336099.rudolf-steiner-school-in-kings-langley-to-close-next-week/    This story originally appeared on July 5.]

◊ • ◊

Waldorf Watch Response:

This, presumably, truly is the end of the road for one of Britain's premier Steiner schools. The drama has been long and arduous, but now the school seems to have run out of options.

Of course, supporters of Steiner education may seek to replace RSSKL, in whole or in part, with other Steiner initiatives in the same geographic area. But this remains to be seen.

The effect for Steiner education generally, in Britain and beyond, also remains to be seen. The failure of RSSKL is surely a setback for the Steiner movement, but the extent of the setback will not be known for some time. It will largely depend on whether the problems at RSSKL are understood to reflect systemic problems in Steiner schools generally. I have argued that the RSSKL saga certainly should be understood in this way. [See my editorial dated June 23, 2018.]

We should note that inspectors found RSSKL deficient by several measures. Inadequate safeguarding of students topped the list, but the school was also faulted for the poor quality of the teaching it offered, and for the poor quality of the school's management. In other words, there were problems in virtually all parts of the school.

So the problems at RSSKL were numerous and deep. The following is from a news account published on June 5 in The Hemel Gazette dealing with an emergency meeting for parents and others at the school:

Chair of the trustees, Peter Harrington, told the meeting there was no single issue or member of staff which was to blame for the school’s plight, but that it was “consistent failings across a range of issues”. 

He said...“There are lots and lots of problems at the school.”

For previous Waldorf Watch coverage of events at RSSKL, see, e.g., items dated June 29June 26June 25June 23June 20June 19June 6May 31May 30May 9May 2April 28April 19, and April 14, 2018. A report on July 2 also referred to the situation at RSSKL.

— R.R.

July 5, 2018



Leading with Spirit, 2018.

Announcement of an upcoming event on Whidbey Island in Washington State, USA:



Whidbey Island, WA July 8 (eve), 9-13, 2018....

Waldorf Schools work with a new pedagogy based on a holistic, age-appropriate image of child development. They also practice a new form of community life in which teachers, administrative staff, and parents are partners in developing the community of the school. The working together of these three groups in the life of the school requires insight, social sensitivity, and competence so that the school can be healthy and best serve the needs of the children. This new professional development course offers teachers, administrators, board members and parents an opportunity to reflect on and work with the challenges of building a Waldorf School Community that is vibrant, innovative and effective while honoring the unique contributions of each member of the community.

[6/5/2018    http://www.leadingwithspirit.org]

◊ • ◊

Waldorf Watch Response:

Public announcements coming from within the Waldorf community are often written in a sort of code that conceals as much as it reveals. The art of administering a Waldorf school would seem to be a dry and uninteresting subject, but several points in the above announcement deserve our attention. They need to be decoded. The more we decode, the more the subject becomes riveting — and troubling.

◊ Waldorf schools do not work on the basis of a mere "image." They stand upon Rudolf Steiner's elaborate esoteric preachments, especially those laid out in the lectures Steiner delivered to the teachers at the first Waldorf school as they prepared to begin their work there. These lectures are compiled in a book that has been published under such titles as STUDY OF MAN and THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE. In the lectures, Steiner makes clear that Waldorf education is intimately linked to his occult belief system, Anthroposophy. So, for instance, he told the Waldorf teachers this:

“[Y]ou will understand why, as we begin this work today, we first reflect on the connection we wish to create from the very beginning between our activity and the spiritual worlds ... Thus, we wish to begin our preparation by first reflecting upon how we connect with the spiritual powers [i.e., gods] in whose service and in whose name each one of us must work.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 33.

Anyone who feels drawn to Waldorf education would do well to read, carefully, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE. For an introduction to this key Waldorf text, see "Oh Humanity".

◊ Waldorf education is "holistic" only to the extent that it looks at children through the lens of Steiner's bizarre description of human nature. Steiner taught, for instance, that children develop three invisible bodies before becoming adults (the etheric body, the astral body, and the "I"). In addition, Steiner taught that humans have 12 senses, both a soul and a spirit, an astrological identity, an evolutionary status reflected by one's race, a long history of previous incarnations, and so forth. The "whole" human being, as conceived in Waldorf belief, is a fantastical (and invidious) concoction.

For more on these matters, see "Holistic Education", "Incarnation", "Our Parts", and "Races".

◊ Waldorf classes are "age-appropriate" only to the extent that they are geared to the strange account of human development provided by Steiner. So, for instance, Steiner said that the etheric body incarnates at or around age seven; the astral body incarnates at or around age 14; and the "I" incarnates at or around age 21. Similarly, Steiner said that as children grow, they recapitulate the spiritual/cultural evolution of humanity. Thus, for instance, he said that fifth graders stand at the level of the ancient Greeks, while sixth graders stand at the level of the ancient Romans. Children, therefore, should be taught only the sorts of things that were known at these various levels of human development — these things, and only these things, are "age-appropriate."

To delve into these matters, see, e.g., the entries for "bodies", "seven-year stages of growth", and "recapitulation" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.

◊ The tripartite structure of Waldorf community life (described above as a cooperative endeavor between teachers, administrators, and parents) is based on Steiner's prescription for the reorganization of human societies, a prescription he called Threefolding. According to this plan, human societies would be divided into three distinct spheres (political, cultural/spiritual, and economic) that would be wholly separate; no sphere would interfere in any other sphere. One benefit of this approach is that Waldorf schools would be free to go their way unimpeded — no one from outside the cultural/spiritual core of the school would have any say within that sphere. Furthermore, threefolding means that neither administrators nor parents should interfere with the teachers. When you hand a child over to a Waldorf faculty, you are expected to give up much of your authority over the child — the Waldorf teachers will decide what the child needs. Your role is largely confined to providing resources (money, and your volunteer work) to keep the school functioning. In theory, Waldorf classrooms are little kingdoms presided over by kings and queens (teachers) who are answerable only to themselves.

For more about the relations between Waldorf teachers and the students' parents, see "Threefolding", "Faculty Meetings", and "Advice for Parents".

— R.R.

July 2, 2018



A new controversy about Steiner schools has erupted in the UK. (To understand the allegations being made, you should know that in current British argot, "grooming" often indicates efforts by adults to lure youngsters into illicit sexual relations. I will argue that although sexual encounters between Waldorf teachers and students do sometimes occur, the "grooming" that occurs in Waldorf schools generally has a different purpose.)

The following is from The Times:

Steiner book raises grooming concerns

by Anna Behrmann

A Steiner school handbook that suggested teachers visit children at home and give them chocolate has raised concerns about the potential for grooming.

The handbook, published and endorsed by the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, tells teachers that parents’ evenings should be followed by “home visits”, where the teacher can spend time with the pupil....

In the handbook, which combines supposedly lighthearted musings with advice, teachers are told that “class pet names can be enjoyable”. It adds: “Rewards, for example chocolates (especially if the school rule is no chocolate), should be awarded to indicate how pleased you are with the individual.”

The handbook goes on to recommend that teachers “cultivate the strongest leaders in the class so that they see you as their special ally, the only adult who understands them”.

Another section advises: “Tell the class that they are a very special group (they must be to have you as a teacher) and let them know implicitly and explicitly that you are the only person able to teach them. Alongside this, it helps to hint that no one else could handle them as you do.” Its author, Kevin Avison, an executive officer and adviser of the fellowship...describes the handbook as a “humorous exploration” of Steiner teaching but adds that all the points have “something positive.”

Mike Tomlinson, former chief inspector of schools, told The Sunday Telegraph that the handbook “raises serious questions about the philosophy of the schools and the way in which they choose to see the teacher’s role”. He added: “I suspect that this may well be a call to arms to the Department for Education and Ofsted [the Office for Standards in Education]...."

[7/2/2018    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/steiner-book-raises-grooming-concerns-dz9zlndws]

An article in The Daily Mail provides some further information:

Steiner school handbook 
raises grooming concerns 
after it suggests teachers 
visit children at home 
and give them chocolates

by Zoie O'Brien

Steiner schools should be investigated for telling teachers to give children chocolates, visit them in their homes and make pet names for their favourite students, a former schools inspector said....

A source close to Stenier schools told The Sunday Telegraph the 'advice' is concerning.

They said: 'Steiner teachers really get to know the child and there is a massive opportunity for grooming by teachers with an inclination to do so.

'I am appalled that the advice is there, even ironically....'

Former chief inspector of school Mike Tomlinson [said the handbook] 'raises serious questions about the philosophy of the schools and the way they choose to see the teacher's role'....

[Steiner] schools have recently been criticised by Oftsed.

The Rudolf Steiner School, in Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, will close down after failing to make improvements since the education watchdog's last visit in December, when it stopped any new pupils from coming aboard.

Inspectors said in a damning report that data protection had been breached, pupils were able to wander off-site during lunch breaks and that there were no 'professional boundaries' between students and teachers, with some meeting up outside school.

'Leaders have underplayed and misrepresented the school's safeguarding failings to parents,' it said....

...Crucially, leaders do not base their decisions, at all times, on what is in the best interests of the child. This is the core principle of good safeguarding practice and a statutory requirement for all schools.'


◊ • ◊

Waldorf Watch Response:

This controversy may strike some readers as very strange. We might almost think that Steiner schools are being accused of treating students kindly — giving them candy, befriending them, making sure things are ok at home.

But in fact the implications of the cited practices are potentially dire. [See "Mistreating Kids Lovingly".]

Waldorf teachers often think of themselves as "priests" who oversee the spiritual development of their students. [See "Schools as Churches".] They generally do not place primary importance on educating children in any ordinary sense. Instead, their chief aim, often, is luring students and their families toward Rudolf Steiner's spiritual belief system, Anthroposophy. [See "Here's the Answer" and "Spiritual Agenda".] Ultimately, Waldorf teachers are often guilty of indoctrinating their students in Steiner's occult beliefs — they "groom" their students with this clandestine objective. [See "Sneaking It In" and "Indoctrination".] Sometimes there is also a sexual or romantic component in their behavior with at least some of their students. [See, e.g., "Extremity".]

Within Waldorf communities, the line between home and school — or between personal and professional spheres — may become blurred, with teachers seeking to supplant parents as the most important adults in students' lives. The Waldorf movement is quite prepared to direct and control students' families in virtually all spheres of life. Thus, there are Waldorf publications on how to make Waldorf-approved soups, and how to make Waldorf-approved bread, and how to make Waldorf-approved dolls, and how to be a Waldorf-approved housewife, and — overall — how to raise children in the Waldorf-approved way. [See "Discussions".]

Here are a few statements made by Rudolf Steiner, directing Waldorf teachers to consider themselves apostles of Anthroposophy who have a broad mandate:

◊ "[W]e [Waldorf teachers] wish to begin our preparation by first reflecting upon how we connect with the spiritual powers [i.e., gods] in whose service and in whose name each one of us must work.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 33. 

◊ "The position of teacher becomes a kind of priestly office, a ritual performed at the altar of universal human life." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 23. 

◊ "You [Waldorf teachers] will have to take over children for their education and instruction — children who will have received already (as you must remember) the education, or mis-education given them by their parents ... [W]hen we receive the children into the school we shall still be able to make up for many things which have been done wrongly, or left undone [by parents and others], in the first years of the child's life." — Rudolf Steiner, STUDY OF MAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 16.

 ◊ "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.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 69.

The purpose of all this, ultimately, is to spread Anthroposophy: 

“One of the most important facts about the background of the Waldorf School is that we were in a position to make the anthroposophical movement a relatively large one. The anthroposophical movement has become a large one.” — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p.156.

Waldorf or Steiner schools are integral parts of the Anthroposophical movement. But this fact must be disguised:

“[W]e have to remember that an institution like the Independent Waldorf School with its anthroposophical character, has goals that, of course, coincide with anthroposophical desires. At the moment, though, if that connection were made official, people would break the Waldorf School’s neck." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 705.

When the "grooming" of students goes beyond Anthroposophical proselytizing — and, specifically, when it leads to illicit liaisons between teachers and students — enormous additional problems can result. The harm inflicted on students then may extend far beyond the confusions that result from being lured into occultism. [See, e.g., Mistreating Kids Lovingly”.] It would appear that sexual/romantic liaisons may have occurred at the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley. Wether or not that is the case, any such conduct by teachers at any Waldorf school would, of course, be deplorable. This is a subject we will return to in a coming editorial.

Having reviewed these matters to this point, we should consider whether the handbook referred to in the news articles, above, has been misinterpreted. Are the objectionable passages in fact humorous or ironic?

The publication at issue is A HANDBOOK FOR WALDORF CLASS TEACHERS, compiled by Kevin Avison and published by the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (2004; reprinted several times, most recently in 2016).  I will quote from the 2011 edition. The objectionable passages arise principally in the final section of the handbook: Appendix M.

There is, indeed, a tongue-in-cheek quality to this appendix, which Avison subtitles "How to make it difficult for anyone else to teach your class — ever!" (He uses the word "class," here, in the standard Waldorf way: It refers to a group of children who proceed together, as a group, from one grade level to the next, generally under the primary tutelage of a single "class teacher.")

Here is a survey of some of the guidance given in Appendix M:

"Always refer to the class as 'my class'....

"Tell the class frequently that they are a very special group ... [I]t helps to hint frequently that no-one can or could handle them as you do....

"Fill every space on the blackboard with your artistry...preventing any [other] teacher from erasing even last week's reminder....

"Class 'pet names' can be useful. Rewards, for example chocolates (especially if the school rule is no chocolate), should be awarded....

"Make a special point of cultivating the strongest leaders in the class so that they see you as their special ally....

"Form cliques with chosen colleagues....

"Occasionally, but with powerful emotion, use your 'veto' [in faculty meetings] on the grounds that you alone are speaking for 'the children'...."


Much of this is clearly meant to be over the top and therefore amusing. But we should note that the humor here (like much comedy anywhere) depends on a shock of recognition. Most people who are acquainted with Waldorf schools know that many of the teachers there behave as Avison describes.This is how Waldorf teachers often conduct themselves. It is behavior that arises from excessive devotion to the vision Rudolf Steiner propounded. [See the quotations, above.] Avison's point is that Waldorf teachers, while engaged in their mission, should try to rein in their more extreme habits.

But, to repeat, the conduct Avison lampoons is indeed typical of the way many Waldorf teachers act, and it is closely bound up with Waldorf teachers' genuine conception of their job. If we dial back the humor in Avison's satire, we are left with statements that could very well be understood to contain serious recommendations for teachers in the Steiner/Waldorf system. [To consider some comedy-free descriptions of Waldorf teachers in action, see, e.g., "Ex-Teacher 2", "Ex-Teacher 5", and "His Education".]

— R.R.

◊ • ◊


Here is a message I posted at the Waldorf Critics list as part of a discussion about the matters mentioned above. I was responding to a message from a friend who is a former Waldorf student:

Thanks, Alicia.

I agree again. You're right ("There wouldn't be any point to the handbook's existence, and its marketing by the SWSF, unless it were serious").

Anyone wanting to understand Waldorf education would do well to study the handbook. This is why I devote a lot of space to it toward the end of "Waldorf Now" [https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/waldorf-now]. The handbook reveals a lot, and much of what it reveals is troubling.

The handbook employs irony chiefly in a single appendix — Appendix M. There, the handbook describes recognizable Waldorf-teacherly behavior, and it encourages Waldorf teachers — the intended readers of the handbook — not to take such behavior too far. (For instance, the handbook is being ironic when it recommends that Waldorf teachers form "cliques.") But, certainly, many Waldorf teachers behave more or less as Appendix M describes, and I have argued that such behavior arises from the conception of the Waldorf teacher’s role that was developed originally by Rudolf Steiner.

In responding to recent news accounts that mention the handbook, I simply encourage Mike Tomlinson and UK education officials to read the handbook with discernment. This means, among other things, spotting irony when it pops up, and differentiating ironic statements from serious statements. Most of the handbook is entirely serious, and thus the handbook reflects the Anthroposophical nature of Waldorf schooling. There is nothing funny about that.

Here, for instance, are the first few points I make about the handbook in my comments at "Waldorf Now":

◊ The handbook explicitly identifies Waldorf schools as esoteric Anthroposophical institutions. Thus, when recommending “anthroposophical exercises” for the faculty members, it speaks of “the esoteric community which is the true heart of the Waldorf school” [p. 19]. Anthroposophical exercises are generally meditations. Steiner prescribed many such exercises, at least some of which are meant to foster clairvoyance.

◊ The “spiritual content of the curriculum” is openly acknowledged [p. 18]. 

◊ Consistent with Rudolf Steiner’s instructions, the handbook indicates that the relationship between Waldorf teachers and their students is fundamentally spiritual. It speaks, for instance, of the “meditative relationship between teacher and class (a relationship of and to spiritual beings)” [p. 20]. The relationship "of" spiritual beings involves teachers and students; the relationship "to" spiritual beings involves human beings and gods (the humans reach upward to the gods).

◊ The handbook says that each day at a Waldorf school should begin with an "incarnating exercise, register, [and] Morning Verse" [p. 38]. In Anthroposophical belief, childhood is a time when three nonphysical bodies — the etheric body, the astral body, and the ego body or "I" — gradually incarnate. "Incarnating exercises" are meant to aid this process. The "register" is the calling of the roll. "Morning Verses" are prayers, generally written by Steiner himself. So, Waldorf days begin with prayers. Steiner instructed Waldorf teachers to disguise such prayers by calling them “verses." Steiner encouraged his followers to disguise or hide their beliefs and practices in many instances.

◊ Classes may end with "a closing verse or grace" [p. 39]. Both the "verse" and the grace would normally be a prayer addressed, directly or indirectly, to one or more gods.

◊ Faculty meetings should open and close with "verses," and the agenda often should include preparations for "festivals" [pp. 46-47]. Again, the "verses" would normally be prayers; the "festivals" would usually be muted or disguised religious observances, such as celebrations of Christmas, Advent, Michaelmas, etc.

I continue in this vein. No chuckles there. Many parents may want a spiritual education for their children, but they need to realize that the spirituality in Waldorf schools is distinctly Anthroposophical. The only parents who will fully approve of the beliefs that underpin Waldorf education are those who embrace Anthroposophy. Putting this another way: Only Anthroposophists (members of “the esoteric community which is the true heart of the Waldorf school") should choose a Waldorf school for their children.

Thanks again for your comments, Alicia. We are, I think, mainly in agreement — as we often have been.

July 1, 2018



As is often the case, Waldorf institutions have shown up on another list of child-care facilities having abnormally low percentages of fully vaccinated students.

The following is from The Oregonian/OregonLive [USA]:

The least-vaccinated 
child-care facilities 
in Oregon

by Mark Friesen

About 92 percent of children enrolled in child-care facilities in Oregon were fully vaccinated during the 2017-18 school year, data released recently by the Oregon Health Authority shows. The agency aims for at least a 95-percent immunization rate for community protection. Below are the child-care/preschool/Head Start facilities that had the lowest vaccination rate in that county….

Benton County
Corvallis Waldorf School

Children: 48
Children with all vaccinations: 66.7%
County child-care/preschool/Head Start vaccination rate: 92.6% (No. 22)….

Deschutes County
Waldorf School of Bend 
Children: 21
Children with all vaccinations: 42.9%
County child-care/preschool/Head Start vaccination rate: 90.4% (No. 29)

https://www.oregonlive.com/expo/news/erry-2018/06/ac3b50b4913233/the_leastvaccinated_childcare.html    This story originally appeared on June 29.]

◊ • ◊

Waldorf Watch Response:

Many members of the Waldorf community have grave misgiving about vaccines. Fear of vaccination is often linked to basic Waldorf beliefs.

According to these beliefs, vaccination can be especially harmful if it prevents children from undergoing diseases that the kids need to endure in order to incarnate properly. Childhood diseases often result from a child's effort needed to overcome inherited characteristics that may interfere with karma. Kids need to have certain diseases that vaccination may prevent:

"Childhood diseases...result from a necessary developmental process in which the human being tries to overcome influences from the inherited physical body ... This basic concept of the origin of childhood diseases has been complicated by new forms of medication that suppress symptoms (vaccination)." — Waldorf teacher Henk van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011), p. 20. 

Thus, from a Waldorf/Anthroposophical perspective, children should be allowed to be sick. Childhood diseases are a blessing: 

"[W]e should consider [childhood illnesses] as the greatest blessings, because through them man is able to strengthen his personal form by conquering a predisposition, enabling him to incarnate better." — Waldorf teacher L.F.C. Mees, BLESSED BY ILLNESS (Anthroposophic Press, 1983), p. 192. 

The founder of Waldorf education, Rudolf Steiner, said that vaccination can be beneficial in some circumstances. But he also warned his followers that grave dangers lurk in modern medical practices, vaccination in particular:

◊ "[T]he heirs of modern materialism will look for the vaccine to make the body ‘healthy’, that is, make its constitution such that this body no longer talks of such rubbish as soul and spirit [i.e., vaccines will disable us from believing in spiritual realities] ... Materialistic physicians will be asked to drive the souls out of humanity.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FALL OF THE SPIRITS OF DARKNESS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2008), p. 85. 

◊ “Certain circles in this materialistic age are striving to paralyse and make impossible all of humanity's spiritual development ... Endeavors to achieve this will be made by bringing out remedies to be administered by inoculation ... [T]hese inoculations will influence the human body in a way that will make it refuse to give a home to the spiritual inclinations of the soul.” — Rudolf Steiner, SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), pp. 90-91. 

The Waldorf view of childhood vaccination is ultimately rooted in Rudolf Steiner's occult preachments.

[For more on Waldorf beliefs concerning modern medicine, see "Steiner's Quackery".]

— R.R.

◊ • ◊


From Precision Vaccinations:

Anti-Vaxx Children Often Attend 
This Private School Organization 

Waldorf Association Schools are leading vaccine exemption private schools 

By Don Ward Hackett 

June 25th, 2018 – If you believe it's best for your children’s health not to vaccinate, there is one private school organization that is a leader in Nonmedical Exemptions From School Immunization Requirements.

According to reporting by Dr. Vincent Iannelli, a board-certified pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, many parents of school-age children who are opting not to vaccinate enroll them into Waldorf schools

There are over 160 Waldorf Schools in the USA. 

Waldorf schools have their foundations in anthroposophy, which the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America defines as “the belief that humanity has the wisdom to transform itself and the world, through one’s own spiritual development.” 

Some of these Waldorf schools are the leading Nonmedical Exemption (NME) schools in various states, such as: 

• Waldorf School of Mendocino County (California) - 79.1% 
• Tucson Waldorf Schools (Arizona) - 69.6% 
• Cedar Springs Waldorf School (California) - 64.7% 
• Waldorf School of San Diego (California) - 63.6% 
• Orchard Valley Waldorf School (Vermont) - 59.4% 
• Whidbey Island Waldorf School (Washington) - 54.9% 
• Lake Champlain Waldorf School (Vermont) - 49.6% 
• Austin Waldorf School (Texas) - 48% 

Dr. Iannelli’s reporting is supported by new state-based, kindergarten vaccination data from 2017, which identifies Waldorf Association schools as NME leaders in these states: 

New York

Vaccinations have proven to be one of the most cost-effective and successful public health interventions, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Vaccines are effective not only because they protect individuals who have been vaccinated, but also because they confer a broader protection for communities by establishing “herd immunity.” 

Which means, when a sufficiently high proportion of a population is vaccinated against communicable diseases, the entire population can obtain protection....