WALDORF / STEINER
November 16-30, 2010
Please excuse a certain amount of repetition in the contents of this archive.
Items that now appear close together on the screen
may have originally been separated by intervals of several days.
“Community members are invited to ring in the holidays and enjoy Waldorf's faculty and staff [Massachusetts, USA] as they perform one night only in a production of ‘A Shepherd’s Play’ [sic], a Christmas folk tale, on Wednesday, December 15 at 6:30 p.m. This traditional play [about the shepherds present at the birth of Jesus] is performed at Waldorf schools worldwide. Come and enjoy this festive family-friendly event!" [11-29-2010 http://www.capecodkidz.com/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=434]
Waldorf teachers often befuddle themselves. They stage religious plays, they lead their students in prayer, they hang religious paintings in classrooms — and yet they generally say that they are not practicing religion or ushering their students to religion. The truth, however, is that they certainly are doing these things.
One of the few denials contained in the following that is almost true is the denial that Waldorf schools are Christian in a sectarian sense. The “Christianity” practiced in Waldorf schools is very far removed from the religion practiced in mainstream, Bible-based Christian sects. Note, for instance, that in Anthroposophy "the Christ being" [i.e., the Sun God] is affirmed alongside such wholly unchristian concepts as reincarnation.
“Q: Could you say more about religion in our time and in the future? Also, is it still appropriate to do a shepherd's play with the children? Is it right to have the Sistine Madonna in the kindergarten?
“A: Sometimes we find ourselves doing things in the kindergarten that seem very religious, and we must realize that we are doing these things for ourselves, as adults. We are reminding ourselves of the background of the festivals and their religious content. At such times we are not doing things with the children's needs in mind.
“Between ages seven and fourteen children live in the world of feeling and ‘religion’ is more appropriate to them ... Sometimes our kindergartens appear overly Christian in a sectarian way....
“The Christ being is of a cosmic, universal nature. When we have this in mind we can say that Christianity has a central place in Waldorf education, but not in a narrow sectarian sense....
“Regarding the Sistine Madonna, we must realize that we do not hang this painting in the kindergarten for religious reasons. We should study what Rudolf Steiner has said about Raphael and about this painting. We need to understand what it says about incarnation, about the soul carrying the spirit into incarnation....
“When we say a verse or a prayer with the children, we might not use gestures. As much as we otherwise try to include movement whenever we can; the verse works in a different realm....
"In preparing for a festival, study a lecture on that festival very carefully [i.e., a lecture by Steiner]. When you are carrying the festival inwardly, you do not have to do so much outwardly with the children. For example, at Michaelmas time, I like to do a modest marionette play of St. George and the dragon, which includes Michael. I find Michaelmas an inwardly richer festival than Christmas...." — Elisabeth Moore-Haas, “The Religion of the Young Child”, WORKING WITH THE ANGELS: The Young Child and the Spiritual World [http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW2workingangels.pdf]
For information about the etheric and astral bodies, see the next item. For more on the dangerous quackery often practiced in and around Waldorf schools, see "Steiner's Quackery". For more on the Waldorf view of nature, see "Neutered Nature".
“Students from the Waldorf School of Orange County [California, USA] on Monday planted more than a dozen California sycamore trees in the Talbert Nature Preserve below Fairview Park. It's all part of an environmental program to return native vegetation to the Santa Ana River Valley that was once home to Native Americans and Spanish settlers and, as late as the 1940s, cattle ranchers ... The Waldorf School is a private school that was founded 22 years ago. It sits on Newport-Mesa Unified School District land on a hill overlooking the preserve ... ‘Each class will be planting a tree of its own,’ said [the school's development director, Denise] Ogawa. ‘Now, everybody will have a reason to come back here. They'll all have something to remember their class by. They'll all have a tree they can point to years from now as their very own.’" [11-30-2010 http://www.dailypilot.com/news/tn-dpt-1130-native-20101129,0,3285786.story]
It is possible to be deluded and yet to do good works. Waldorf schools demonstrate this frequently, as when they encourage their students to embrace green values. (If these efforts also sometimes involve “development” — that is, fund-raising and alumni relations — no laws are being broken.)
But Waldorf beliefs about trees — like Waldorf beliefs about most things — are wrapped up in occultism and medical quackery. Thus, Rudolf Steiner taught that trees give etheric powers to mistletoe, which can then be used to cure cancer (by soaking up the “rampant forces in cancer”):
“In order to cure cancer, the forces of the astral body must be made stronger…The tree, which is rooted directly in the earth, makes use of the forces which it absorbs from the earth. The mistletoe, growing on the tree, uses what the tree gives it ... The excess of the etheric passes out of the tree into the mistletoe [sic] ... When the mistletoe is prepared in such a way that this superabundant etheric quality...is administered to a person under certain conditions, by injection...the mistletoe, as an external substance, absorbs what is manifest in the human body as the rampant etheric forces in cancer.” [Rudolf Steiner, “An Outline of Anthroposophical Medical Research: Abridged Report of Two Lectures” (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1924), authorized translation.]
Such beliefs are not merely foolish — they are potentially fatal.
Bringing the focus back to trees: We should realize that small plants all want to grow up to be like trees. “The desire to become treelike is actually present in every plant.” [Rudolf Steiner, SPIRITUAL ECOLOGY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2008), p. 105.] And, of course, trees are manifestations of the spirits that live inside them. "One former [Waldorf] teacher, who taught at John Morse, the magnet school in Sacramento...says that she was drawn to the Waldorf program because of its emphasis on art and music, but that she had found some of the kindergarten training objectionable. 'A lot of the training was very nature-driven, even animistic,' she recalls. 'Once, for instance, we participated in a ceremony in which we were told to 'thank' a tree, the presumption being that there's a spirit in the tree. When I objected, they told me that I wouldn't be successful." [See "Advice for Parents".]
“The University of Aberdeen [Scotland] offers an academic programme in Rudolf Steiner’s curative pedagogy — that is, Steiner’s theories on how to care for disabled persons. The university states that ‘[t]he content of the programme will continue to be informed by values and attitudes arising from the work of Rudolf Steiner adding a spiritual dimension to the holistic understanding of the human being and human relationships, and also by a range of other theories and approaches to work with individuals with complex needs and their families’... The training will presumably lead to ‘a sound knowledge of the holistic understanding of the human being’....” [11-28-2010 http://zooey.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/university-of-aberdeens-steiner-course/]
Waldorf schools and Anthroposophists have noble aims. They intend to correct everything that is wrong with human institutions and, indeed, everything that is wrong with human beings. They intend to save humanity and redeem the entire universe.
Along the way, they make sincere use high-sounding rhetoric, such as their commitment to “holistic” practices, especially “holistic” education at Waldorf schools. Don’t be misled, however. What they mean by “holistic” may be very different from what you mean. For instance, the “whole” human being, in their view, has many invisible parts, such as the “etheric body,” the “astral body,” and the “I.” True-blue Anthroposophical Waldorf teachers believe that at night, the astral body and the I separate from the physical body and the ether body. The higher two bodies depart for the spirit realm while the lower two members remain behind in the material world; then the higher bodies, reinvigorated by their visit to worlds far above, return to Earth in the morning. Maybe Anthroposophists are correct. Maybe this is exactly what happens. But you should send your child to a “holistic” Waldorf school only if you think that Anthroposophists are right about such things. Waldorf teachers are deeply committed to such ideas, and they will try to steer your children toward embracing Anthroposophical concepts — they may not explain many specific Anthroposophical doctrines to the kids, but they will try to open the kids' hearts and souls to occultism in general and Anthroposophy in particular. [The Waldorf conception of the whole human is far more complex than we have reviewed here. For more, see "Holistic Education" and "What We Are".]
“With many parents still reeling over a Eugene [Oregon, USA] School District budget-trimming proposal that includes closing and reconfiguring schools after this year, it’s impossible to know at this point how serious they might be about alternative options ... Among the concerns [Elliot Grey, headmaster at Oak Hill School] and administrators at other private schools have heard: rising class sizes, diminished offerings, school closures and [Superintendent George] Russell’s plan to convert some 6-8 [6th grade through 8th grade] middle schools into 4-8 “elemiddle” schools [4th through 8th grade]. Marina Taylor, enrollment coordinator at the Eugene Waldorf School, said she’s given six tours in November, a month when typically she gives none. She’s heard a good deal about reconfiguration, she said. Waldorf’s K-8 [kindergarten through 8th grade] model works “really beautifully,” she said, but parents have voiced worry about the transition from a K-3 [kindergarten through 3rd grade] to a 4-8 school.” [11-29-2010 http://www.registerguard.com/csp/cms/sites/web/updates/25558951-55/schools-district-parents-eugene-private.csp]
This may be an especially dangerous period for families with school-age children. Governments in many nations and regions are retrenching, reducing government-supplied services. Public schools are feeling the effect of these budgetary cutbacks, damaging the quality of the education they offer. But, parents, please look hard before you leap: Don't remove your children from a poor public school only to enroll them in a worse private school. Waldorf schools are fundamentally devoted to the religion known as Anthroposophy; providing a good education for children is not their primary goal. Before sending a child to a Waldorf school, be sure you understand — and approve — that school's agenda. [For more on this, see "Advice for Parents", "Clues", "Spiritual Agenda", "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?", and "Here's the Answer".]
Waldorf Teachers.com is a site that may repay occasional visits. It serves primarily as a Waldorf employment bulletin board: If you want to teach at a Waldorf school, the site will tell you what positions are open and where.
The site also offers other, more generally interesting features, such as a gallery of exceptional Waldorf student art, and a calendar of "awesome upcoming Waldorf happenings." As of today, 11-28-2010, the calendar is largely bare, but perhaps awesomeness will show up eventually.
“Bio-dynamic gardening, while embracing all the principles associated with organic gardening, is a philosophy first revealed by Dr Rudolf Steiner ... [It] involves planting crops according to lunar phases and has a parallel here in Bahrain, where the date palm and other crops are cultivated in accordance with what are known as ‘lunar mansions’ ... The ‘bio’ (biological) in bio-dynamic relates to organic practices ... The ‘dynamic’ part includes the cosmic dimension and clairvoyant perception of nature, involving communicating with non-physical forces expressed as elementals and nature spirits, a faculty Dr Steiner claimed was largely lost to humanity through the move away from the countryside to cities. Dr Steiner's philosophy, which has been developed considerably since he was excarnated (a burial practice where flesh and organs are removed from the dead, leaving only the bones), aims to restore that perception or awareness.” [10-27-2010 http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=292588]
Anthroposophical practices, including activities in Waldorf schools, depend heavily on astrology, clairvoyance, and other backward-looking fallacies. End of story. (I wish.)
“I experienced another delightful and informative parent evening in my daughter’s class at the Emerson Waldorf School [North Carolina, USA] ... Our teacher then shared with us some basic information ... She explained the 3 stages of development and the role we play as parents ... Ages 0-7 — Parents are like 'priests' in the sense that we make the decisions for the schedule, the routines, the meals, the clothes, when it is play time, when it is bedtime, etc. ... Once a child starts to lose their [baby] teeth [s/he enters] a new growth phase for ages 7-14. Our role now becomes that of benevolent Queens and Kings ... By the time hormonal changes take place — for some it will be earlier than later [sic] — they will begin the next phase of development — for ages 14-21. Your role is now that of a Shepherd.” [10-26-2010 http://thiswaldorflife.wordpress.com/2010/11/26/the-parents-role/]
There is no factual basis for the notion that childhood consists of three seven-year stages, but this is one of the handy fallacies Waldorf schools like to promote, and it is central to the Waldorf curriculum. (Steiner emphasized the number seven because of its occult significance — he taught that seven is the number of perfection. Thus, he spoke of seven planets in the solar system and seven stages of earthly evolution. Such bogus patterns excite Steiner’s followers.) You may also want to bear in mind that if you are a “priest” for your child, Waldorf teachers consider themselves higher priests (bishops, as it were), passing the Word to you. You supervise your child while Waldorf teachers supervise you. (Notice how the blogger refers to her child’s teacher as “our teacher” — one who instructs both child and parent.) The overriding Waldorf attitude toward parents is that, until they are fully sucked inside the Anthroposophical universe, parents are outsiders who should be told as little as possible about what really happens inside Waldorf schools. [See. e.g., “Faculty Meetings”.]
"We saw the writing on the wall when the Bowral Steiner school closed 2007 and it is coming to fruition. No one is safe when it comes to what they think are secure assets and funds. Look how quickly this school has gone from being a thriving place committed to ensuring children of Armenian descent don't end up in lives of poverty or crime to a deregistered, liquidated school. Makes you wonder if the Powers That Be (PTB) want those children to end up in lives of poverty or crime, doesn't it????" [10-26-2010 http://britanniaradio.blogspot.com/2010/11/spain-portugal-and-belgium-set-to_27.html]
Steiner urged his followers to think they are surrounded by demonic enemies and evil conspiracies. Many Anthroposophists accept this view. Steiner spoke of secret organizations, dark brotherhoods, hidden doubles, evil gods, malicious goblins, black magicians, etc. In general, Anthroposophists — including Waldorf teachers — consider themselves to be holy warriors, working on the side of the angels. Anyone who opposes them is demonic, and anything that goes wrong at a Waldorf school is the work of foul conspirators. If a Waldorf school fails, the failure was caused by monsters who want children to become impoverished criminals. The possibility that a Waldorf school might destroy itself, or that the school might be victimized by random circumstances, is ruled out. Indeed, the presumption is that Waldorf schools and Anthroposophy come under attack precisely because they are so wonderfully good. When the first Goetheanum — the Anthroposophical headquarters — burned to the ground, Steiner's followers immediately decided the cause was arson committed by hateful enemies, even though no evidence supporting this claim was ever produced. "[T]he Anthroposophical Movement is of a nature that attracts enemies ... [W]hat was cast in the mould of love has called forth bitter enmity. Our misfortune has unleashed a veritable hailstorm of ridicule, contempt and hatred, and the willful distortion of truth that has always characterized so large a part of our opposition is especially typical of the situation now, with enemies creeping out of every corner and spreading deliberate untruth...." — Rudolf Steiner, AWAKENING TO COMMUNITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1974), lecture 1, January 23, 1923. [For more on Steiner's conspiracy theories, see "Double Trouble".]
Student art displayed at the Waldorf Academy, Toronto, Canada.
Although Waldorf schools generally claim to respect each child's individuality,
in fact the students are usually required to copy — as faithfully as possible —
work assigned by their teachers. Note how these paintings are all essentially the same.
“The flaws in the traditional Toronto Montessori school is [sic] corrected in these kinds of teaching approaches. The basic essence of Waldorf teaching includes the use of systematic and pictorial learning styles which the students can grasp without forming illusions about the concepts that are being taught to them [sic]. Most [sic] often than not, traditional approaches provide learning through demonstration which does not impart any form of creative instincts in [sic] the child. But with advanced Waldorf education methodology students absorb the learning through pictorial presentations which can make them to think on their own.” [11-26-2010 http://anothai.net/finding-the-best-alternative-for-toronto-montessori-schools/]
Waldorf and Montessori schools may be seen as direct competitors. The methods of these two types of schools bear some superficial similarities, and the physical plants are often similar, placing the children in beautiful surroundings. The greatest difference is that Waldorf schools are infused with occultism and Montessori schools are not.
Most fundamentally, the failure of Waldorf schools to explicitly inform parents of their occult goals is deceitful — parents who thought they were selecting an arts-intensive alternative education for their children actually have enrolled their kids in occult academies. [See, e.g., "Soul School", "Our Experience", and "Coming Undone".]
"How to Develop Your Clairvoyance - On Audio CD - A Rare Lecture by Rudolf Steiner (Audio CD), 1 used and new from $15.95." [11-26-2010 http://www.neuroscienceforums.com/psychology-books/24734-how-develop-your-clairvoyance-audio-cd-rare-lecture-rudolf-steiner-au.html]
Don't get too excited. The voice you will hear is not Steiner's but Rick Mansell's. Published by the Rosenkreutz Institute, this CD is available, e.g., at Amazon. [http://www.amazon.com/How-Develop-Your-Clairvoyance-lecture/dp/B004DB2BWC/ref=tag_rsn_rs_edpp_url?ie=UTF8&tag=neuroscienceforums-20&creative=381421] "Product Description: A Study of the Development of Clairvoyance by the master teacher Dr. Rudolf Steiner. An invaluable tool for students of the spirit. Audio CDs are wonder [sic] study material for their affect [sic] on the soul is superior over the written notes (transcribed lectures of Dr.Steiner)."
Steiner claimed to exercise "exact clairvoyance" [see "Exactly"], which means that his teachings are essentially indisputable (according to himself). Waldorf educators such as Eugene Schwartz have written that the use of clairvoyance is necessary for Waldorf teachers [see, e.g., "Today — Waldorf for the 21st Century"].
As for the Rosenkreutz Institute: Christian Rosenkreutz was the legendary, fictional founder of Rosicrucianism. Steiner taught that Rosenkreutz really existed (Steiner generally affirmed that all manner of myths, fables, and fantasies are true), and he identified Rosicrucianism (as reworked by himself) as the correct spiritual path for modern humanity. [See "Rosy Cross".]
"The community chamber orchestra, now in its sixth year, will be joined by Pine Hill Waldorf School’s middle school chorus to perform the opening Gloria of Vivaldi’s 12 movements of the same name and Mozart’s Ave Verum." [10-25-2010 http://www.hippopress.com/101125/CVR.html]
Waldorf students sing a lot of religious songs. THE WALDORF SONG BOOK and THE SECOND WALDORF SONG BOOK are full of hymns and prayers. Maybe you approve. But before you send a child to a Waldorf school, acquaint yourself with the religion that undergirds Waldorf education: Anthroposophy. [See, e.g., "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"] This is the religion Waldorf schools try to lead students toward.
Waldorf classrooms are sometimes kept dim, especially kindergarten rooms.
The effect is eerily mystical, meant to produce an atmosphere of spirituality.
"This weekend, I attended an open house at Kimberton Waldorf school...the 2nd oldest waldorf school in North America ... There was a lump in my throat much of the day. Listening to teachers speak about the promises of Waldorf education...learning about the organic hot lunch program...seeing the success and happiness of alumni...walking through the dimly lit kindergarten rooms and understanding the thoughtful intention of everything.” [10-23-2010 http://bendingbirches2010.blogspot.com/2010/11/rainbow-stackers-for-good-cause.html]
Waldorf or Steiner schools can be extremely attractive. Perhaps “seductive” is a better word. Waldorf faculty work hard to recruit new families. At many of the schools, they need the tuition income. But at a deeper level, the faculty members are missionaries, seeking to spread their occult religion. Before consigning your child to a Waldorf school, be sure you really do understand the school's "thoughtful intention." Carefully consider the statements the faculty make to you, and also look for clues that may indicate what is being left unsaid. Why, for instance, are Waldorf kindergartens often dimly lit? Why are Waldorf dolls usually faceless? Why are there gnome figurines here and there? More is going on than meets the eye. And bear in mind, of course, that promises are worthless unless they are fulfilled; and on visiting days, schools put on their best faces — you will see only what the faculty wants you to see, hear only what they want you to hear, and meet only the people they want you to meet. [See, e.g., “Clues”, “Here’s the Answer”, "Coming Undone", and “Gnomes”.]
“The declaration below was filed in Van Nuys Superior Court [California, USA]. After I filed the declaration below, the judge...realized what had been going on... FINALLY! ... Petitioner [my ex-wife] comes from an abusive family that were teachers at Highland Hall [a Waldorf school] almost at the time the school was founded. Petitioner went to Highland Hall and suffered verbal abuse from her father growing up. Highland Hall, like all Waldorf schools, is problematic and controversial with regard to honesty and disclosure. Petitioner is part of Highland Hall’s leadership ... [My daughter] Alicia has had a life-long history of abuse at the hands of teachers and other community members at Highland Hall ... Time and time again, Alicia’s abuse was covered up by Highland Hall, by Petitioner specifically, and all information about it withheld from me. I found out about it from other parents ... Alicia began having eating disorders by sixth grade. By eighth grade, she was heavily into cutting herself and self-destructive behavior. Abuse at Highland Hall was continuing ... By 9th grade, Alicia was in regular therapy ... Alicia was either raped or experienced some type of trauma on New Year’s Eve, 2007 (age 14). She reported the incident to her mother and to her therapist ... Petitioner neither stopped this relationship [with the presumptive rapist, Mark Bailey] nor reported Mr. Bailey to authorities. She has never issued a restraining order on Mr. Bailey. Reports from neighbors indicate Mr. Bailey came freely in and out of Petitioner’s home. Mr. Bailey’s neighbors reported Alicia at Mr. Bailey’s home at all hours of the night and early morning ... Alicia began overdosing on crystal meth starting in October of 2009.” [11-21-2010 http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/2010/11/declaration-of-pete-karaiskos.html]
This horrific story, among the worst of the many Waldorf horror stories I’ve heard and read, may possibly be headed for a just resolution, although some of the damage done may prove irreparable. We cannot know for sure what happened — who was right, who was wrong. But a Waldorf school has become entangled in — and may have contributed to — a family tragedy. If I am to maintain a page presenting news about Waldorf schools, I cannot ignore this story.
Naturally, most families who become involved with Waldorf schools do not suffer nightmarish abuse. But the Waldorf system, established with high and noble intentions, has harmed individuals and families in far too many instances. [See, e.g., “Slaps”, “Our Experience”, “Coming Undone”, etc.]
“Holywood Steiner School [UK] - Class Four: I was interested to see that the kids are given exercises from the 10 - 11 years age group, demonstrating that despite having started their maths three years after mainstream schools, they had already caught up by Class Four - or P6 ... Donna [their teacher] gives them exercises and then marks them, awarding them goldstars [sic], as recognition for the hardwork [sic]. Another myth busted — that they don't mark the work ... I wanted to take more photos of the main lesson books because they are all so beautiful and so different from each other.” [10-22-2010 http://holywoodsteiner-classfour.blogspot.com/2010/11/more-mapsand-exercise-papers.html]
Many Waldorf teachers have become aware of the criticisms aimed at Waldorf schooling, and some are taking steps to try to disarm such criticism (i.e., they try to “bust” these “myths”). The changes they have undertaken are largely at the surface; the underlying core of occult, Anthroposophical belief is essentially sacrosanct.
In the blog entry quoted above, several criticisms are addressed.
• Waldorf schools usually do not begin teaching reading, spelling, and math until the students are seven years old. The schools claim that their students catch up eventually, and this is sometimes true. But think carefully. If you dislike your local public schools, should you choose an alternative that will eventually enable your child to catch up with — and, perhaps, eventually surpass — students at a school that you consider lousy? This sets the bar very low.
• Some critics of Waldorf education say that Waldorf schools do not grade the students’ work. In some Waldorf schools, the charge is true. In others, it is not. (As I have written, grades and report cards were issued at the Waldorf school I attended.) There are almost 1,000 Waldorf schools in the world. The schools are much alike in most ways, but not in all ways. Neither critics nor defenders should make sweeping generalizations without carefully checking the facts first.
• Critics of Waldorf education often say that Waldorf students copy work and statements put before them by their teachers. Thus, the criticism goes, Waldorf students do not learn to think for themselves. One sign of this: all the kids in the class will tend to create identical paintings, drawings, and notebooks. To a large extent, this is all true. (Waldorf schools claim that intellect and individuality are unleashed in the upper grades, having been kept on hold in the lower grades. There is a little truth in this.) The notebook pages reproduced in the blog do seem to differ from one another (although it is hard to judge unless we see the notebooks in their entirety). On the other hand, note that many of the paintings reproduced are virtually identical.
“[I]nterest in colour therapy only began to resurface in the 19th century in Europe ... [Edwin] Babbit prescribed, for example, red as a treatment for physical exhaustion; yellow as a laxative; and blue for inflammation ... Babbit’s theories started a trend; practitioners called ‘chromopaths’ set up shop in Europe prescribing colours to treat a host of ailments, from smallpox scars to tuberculosis. Mainstream doctors remained sceptical, however, and even the advocacy of Rudolph [sic] Steiner (who founded the Waldorf school system and inspired the idea of painting classrooms different colours to influence the mood of children), were unable to persuade the scientific establishment to look at colour seriously.” [10-23-2010 http://lifestyle.iafrica.com/sunnysummer/688742.html]
Rudolf Steiner’s followers as well as his critics sometimes fail to see him in his historical context. Steiner’s ideas did not come out of the air (although he claimed they did: He claimed his knowledge came from the spirit worlds via his superb clairvoyant powers). Steiner leaned heavily on Theosophy, Gnostic Christianity, and other sources available to a scholar at the end of the 19th century and early in the 20th century. Since much of the “information” found in such sources was later disproved or revised, much of Steiner’s work is now badly dated and clearly erroneous. However, he tossed out so many ideas (he wrote many books and delivered thousands of lectures) that some of them, more of less by chance, occasionally hit the mark, or at least came close.
“Can we teach wisdom or does it only come with age and world experience? This debate was sparked by an announcement from Macquarie University [Australia] that it would introduce an undergraduate course entitled "Practical Wisdom", which elicited strong, mostly negative, responses in the mainstream press such as Elizabeth Farrelly's article, which concluded that wisdom does indeed only come with experience and age ... The debate about wisdom in education has a sense of great futurity about it and very many issues will doubtless need to be wrestled with. The process of bringing these new forms of education into being will itself call for a measure of wisdom.” [11-19-2010 http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/wisdom-classes-can-complement-experience-20101119-180ig.html]
This opinion piece, by a Waldorf teacher, argues that wisdom should be taught. For Waldorf teachers, wisdom is Anthroposophy (the word literally means “human wisdom”). As Steiner assured us, “Anthroposophy will be in the school [i.e., any real Waldorf school]”. — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 495. To see what this “wisdom” includes, see “Steiner’s Blunders”. Here is a portion of the long list of Steiner’s blunders:
Fire-breathing dragons really existed in the past
Goblins (aka gnomes) really exist now
dwarfs (not short people: dwarfs,
as in Snow White: or, specifically,
as in Norse myths),
giants (not tall people: giants,
as in Jack and the Beanstalk: or, specifically,
as in Norse myths),
Norse gods (they really exist,
just as do the dwarfs and giants; myths tell us
the truth: see below),
spirit salamanders (aka fire-spirits),
(You name it, Steiner probably said it existed or exists:
This was his spiritual theory of everything,
his attempt to explain everything through his marvelous,
clairvoyant "spiritual science.")
Optical illusions are useful investigative tools
(e.g., they allow you to see
some of the above — because they are not really illusions)
The shapes of clouds are also meaningful —
they are formed by truthful spirits
And of course dreams can be accurate tools
Witchcraft is for real
Islands float in the sea
Blood circulates on its own
Hearts aren't pumps
(there's nothing more absurd than believing
they are pumps)
Real thinking doesn't occur in the brain
Real thinking is clairvoyance
(In all other stages of our evolution, clairvoyance
has been and will be much more obviously real
than it is today; we just happen to live in the epoch
when clairvoyance is muted, so — sadly —
we cannot immediately see that Steiner was right
about everything; in the future, we’ll know)
Telepathy is for real
Real people can develop organs of clairvoyance
But some people aren't real people:
they aren't really human
Human consciousness is less evolved
than that of bees, sort of
To know what happens on the Sun or Venus,
you must enter bee consciousness
Bees have an aura:
they are accompanied by fire-spirits
Auras are for real
The whole list in much, much longer.]
Waldorf teachers do not usually explicitly teach their students such things. But then again, sometimes they do. At a Waldorf school where one astonished young teacher had a job, "[S]cience, social studies, and history theoretically were all explored and integrated into the curriculum, but always on a 'Waldorf' timeline and scale, and never in-depth. Additionally, the information imparted was often not accurate. For example, the children were taught that there were 4 elements — Earth, wind, fire and air, and that the continents were islands floating on the ocean...." [See "Ex-Teacher 5".]
“This blog is intended to be a window into the life of the seveth [sic] grade classroom ... I will post dates, photos, and descriptions of the important work that takes place in seventh grade ... We in the seventh grade are in our last week of the Geometry main lesson block. Ratios have been the new material that we have been covering ... The other elevated plane of existence that we have been experiencing is that of beauty.” [11-21-2010 http://ows2012.blogspot.com/2010/11/1121.html]
Following this blog might be interesting; it is by a Waldorf teacher in Washington, USA. Anthroposophists are torn between their desire to spread the word about their occult “truths” and the need to maintain occult secrecy. Bear this in mind when considering statements made by Waldorf teachers, and bring your own knowledge of Anthroposophy to bear. Note, for instance, that the quote, above, refers to “elevated planes of existence.” This means higher spirit realms such as those discussed by Rudolf Steiner in KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT, one of his key texts. According to Steiner, at Waldorf schools all subjects can be made religious. "It is possible to introduce a religious element into every subject, even into math lessons. Anyone who has some knowledge of Waldorf teaching will know that this statement is true." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD's CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 94.
Biodynamics is the form of magical organic gardening invented by Rudolf Steiner. It is often practiced in and around Waldorf schools. From the good, wise, and true website "Biodynamics Is a Hoax":
“In the summer of 1917, two young girls in England, cousins Frances age 10, and Elsie age 16, liked playing by a stream ... The girls said they played by the stream because of fairies, and to prove it, they borrowed a camera and made five photographs of cardboard cutouts of fairies ... Edward Gardner, a prominent member of the Theosophical Society, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (yes, the creator of Sherlock Holmes) became convinced that the photos were real ... On one of his many visits with the girls Edward Gardner brought Geoffrey Hodson, a clairvoyant who saw many, many fairies. Both Gardner and Conan Doyle went on to write books supporting their belief in the Cottingley fairies....” [11-22-2010 http://biodynamicshoax.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/what-do-fairies-and-biodynamics-have-in-common/]
Anthroposophists, including most Waldorf teachers, believe that fairies are real. To see fairies, however, you need to become clairvoyant. If you aren't clairvoyant, you just have to take the word of someone (such as Steiner) who is. "Although there may be fairies or nature spirits assigned to this or that special feature using a variety of names, the usual classification is to consider four types, corresponding to the four elements — earth, water, air and fire. The names of the spirits are gnomes, undines, sylphs and salamanders. To be aware of them, the special faculty of spiritual vision is necessary; otherwise we must accept the information given to us by one who has this faculty." — Waldorf educator Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION - The Waldorf School Approach (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 90.
P.S. Look at the photo again. Notice that the dancing fairies — presumably moving rather fast — are sharply defined. Note that nothing else in the picture is as sharp and two-dimensional as the paper cut-out fairies.
"I really don’t think that Waldorf and unschooling are quite analogous ... I like the Waldorf-inspired toys, I like the wide array of art forms Waldorf schools teach to their students, I like that nature is valued, and I like the cool way they paint their walls ... Waldorf education does have some specific aspects that greatly put me off, such as: • No technology ... • Intentionally delaying reading ... • It’s more than a little bit cultish - I was unaware of how much of Waldorf education is wrapped up in anthroposophy. They call it a ‘spiritual science,’ a term I have difficulty even dignifying, as there is absolutely no evidence for their supposed scientific claims. What teachers are taught to teach is sometimes just plain bizarre. The more I read, the more cult-like Steiner’s foundations of Waldorf education seem. The fixation with ‘demons’ (like Lucifer and especially this ‘Ahriman’), the strange melding of eastern philosophies with European mythologies in order to create a magical world that — of course — only a Waldorf-education person could contact and understand, the encouragement of Waldorf families to associate with only other Waldorf families (I’ve seen this one first-hand), Steiner’s beliefs about racial superiority. Though Steiner’s defenders like to claim his quotes are taken out of context, I’m not sure what context, exactly, would justify statements like, ‘If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense if men do not arrive at a form of intelligence that is independent of blondness.’” [11-16-2010 http://smrtlernins.com/tag/anthroposophy/]
"Steiner Education is the fastest growing independent educational movement with over 2,000 schools and Kindergartens worldwide. There are now seventy countries that offer this form of education. Its goal when the first school was initiated by Dr. Rudolf Steiner in 1919 was to work with both the social and antisocial impulses of the human being towards a healthy and meaningful social life relevant to needs of the time. Child development and the balance between a healthy, enquiring intellect, a loving and caring heart and a strong physical body could be reflected in a new social order and art of education." [11-21-2010 http://www.joydeberkerchildhood.com/what-is-steiner-education.html]
This statement, riddled with errors and half-truths, is by a "Steiner Early Years Specialist." We needn't rake over all these faults, but let's quickly review a few. • There are approximately 1000 Waldorf schools in the world, not 2000. (And many of the schools are vanishingly small. Waldorf schools tend to flicker into and out of existence with alarming speed.) • No countries offer Waldorf education, if by this term we mean providing such education as a national goal. Many countries allow Waldorf schools to function, but this is a different kettle of fish. • The "needs of the time" are absolutely the antithesis of Waldorf education. What we need are rationality and truth. What Waldorf offers is irrationality and falsehood. • Far from encouraging an "enquiring intellect," Waldorf schools hold an essentially anti-intellectual (and antiscientific, and indeed anti-factual) bias.
On the other hand, the statement that Waldorf schools aim to promote "a new social order" is absolutely true. Waldorf schools are part of the messianic mission of Anthroposophy designed to overturn all existing institutions and replace them with benighted, superstition-laden, backward Anthroposophical institutions. (Anthroposophists would describe their aims using somewhat different terms than I have used here.)
“Cult Not Religion, OK to be Taught in School - Two public schools in Sacramento use the Waldorf teaching method, which is based on anthroposophy. That was inspired by 19th century Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, who formulated his own teachings and cult-like following by mixing religions. But a judge has ruled that anthroposophy is not a religion, so public schools can continue to utilize its methodology. Pacific Justice Institute was involved in the lawsuit that originated in 1998. Chief Counsel Kevin Snider tells OneNewsNow the ruling illustrates the double standard seen too often in public education in which widely-held beliefs like Christianity and Judaism are excluded, while unusual beliefs like anthroposophy are promoted. ‘We don't believe that a separation of church and state requires [an] eradication or censorship of historical realities,’ he explains. ‘What we are against is to have religious practice and indoctrination, and that's exactly what anthroposophy is calculated to do. We think that there is a heightened level of state scrutiny when you're dealing with children.’ But Snider says the judge excluded nearly all the evidence presented against Anthroposophy, and his group thinks that ‘was an error of law.’ So there will be an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.” [11-19-2010 http://www.onenewsnow.com/Legal/Default.aspx?id=1235478]
This item essentially reiterates news covered here previously, but it adds some wrinkles worth noting. Most interesting is the idea that it is okay to promote the cult of Anthroposophy in public schools.
Waldorf student artwork,
courtesy of PLANS.
“Both Halloween and Martinmas came and went since my last post ... I've been sort of reflecting on the Martinmas celebrations gone by ... The Steiner school families celebrate it [i.e., Halloween] as one with Martinmas, but the regular folks, they just carve their turnip lanterns and sing songs without all the St. Martin references.” [11-20-2010 http://twiningoaks.blogspot.com/2010/11/still-here.html]
Halloween, today a popular celebration of candy, was originally an important religious holiday. [http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/252875/Halloween] Martinmas celebrates Saint Martin of Tours, a Roman solider who converted to Christianity. [http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/366997/Saint-Martin-of-Tours]
A surprising number of religious holidays are observed at “nonsectarian, nondenominational” Waldorf schools, along with the celebration of numerous saints.
“Read up on St. Martin. I like to read the School of the Seasons calendar as well as just Googling 'St. Martin Waldorf' to get Martinmas ideas with a Waldorf flavor. It's nice to know the basic story — Martin was a Roman soldier who one cold November night shared a piece of his warm cloak with a beggar. That night, he dreamed that the beggar's face was really Christ, and he learned that by helping others, he was really in service to God and the betterment of Man. He quit the army and devoted his life to service, eventually becoming the Bishop of Tours. As a Pagan, I adapt this to my own beliefs and path, as the story of sharing with others is really what shines through for me — that and sharing light and tending light during the dark time of the year.” [http://faeriedust2001.blogspot.com/2006/11/how-to-have-waldorf-lantern-walk.html]
“Martinmas is coming! Our family is hosting the Lantern Walk for our Waldorf homeschooling group for the third year in the row ... Martinmas is on November 11th, and is a wonderful festival ... Martin drew his sword and cut his own cloak in two and gave one half to [a] beggar. Legend has it that Christ appeared to Martin in a dream the following night dressed in the piece of cloak Martin had cut ... Here in Italy we don’t celebrate St. Martin. We do as a family because we got to know the celebration through the Waldorf community....” [http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/10/29/martinmas-in-the-waldorf-home/]
"Q: Is waldorf Education a Cult? I would like to become a Waldorf Teacher, but haven't started my training. Is Waldorf Education culty?
"A: I would say that it was. I student taught and taught in one. I also lived in a house that was used as a Waldorf training site, so I have a very good understanding of the philosophy and techniques. Here is a link to a web page I wrote on my experiences. http://www.montessorianswers.com/my-experiences-with-waldorf.html
"What sort of things make it 'culty'? Well, to begin with, everything is based on the 'visions' that a man named Rudolf Steiner had at the turn of the last century. Everything he 'saw', no matter how scientifically or historically inaccurate, is taught at fact. His beliefs on 'how to help the soul "incarnate"' are used to determine curriculum, activities, knowledge imparted, and the place students sit in the classroom. Even the color crayon children use at each age is directed by Steiner's visions and belief that the purpose of school is not to educate children, but to help their soul fully incarnate into their earthly body." [http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100906234750AAXYla9 I’m inexcusably late finding this, but better late than...]
"The Pasadena Waldorf School [California, USA] hosts the 25th Annual Elves' Faire Saturday, providing fun for the entire family. Live music, food, games, a children's tea garden, puppet shows, and plays will be held in a medieval fair atmosphere. 'Tis the perfect opportunity to get your holiday shopping done for your little fairies, elves, and minstrels at the Doll Room, King Arthur's Market, and the Wishing Well. A silent auction will also be held. This is a zero-waste event, so bring a cup for free water." [11-29-2010 http://altadena.patch.com/articles/weekend-in-altadena-5]
I cannot possibly reprint all announcements of such events at all Waldorf schools, so take the ones I reprint as representative samples. And please know that Waldorf teachers believe that elves and fairies really exist, and King Arthur really existed, and returning to Medieval times (otherwise known a the Dark Ages) is a good idea.
As for the free water: You could also go to a drinking fountain at your local public school.
(From a temporary Waldorf school teacher: "[A] sixth grader asked me how the copy machine in the office worked. Before I could even open my mouth, a [longtime Waldorf] teacher ran over to the child, and told him that there was a gnome asleep in the box and that when you pushed the button, a light went on, woke him up, and then he quickly copied the paper placed in front of him and pushed the copy out of the little hole. After the child left, I was told that we couldn’t 'poison' the child’s mind with 'stone cold facts.'” [http://www.montessorianswers.com/my-experiences-with-waldorf.html])
Virtually all Waldorf or Steiner schools celebrate seasonal festivals. The description given in this item is more revealing than most public statements made by the schools. The "Advent Spiral" is clearly a semi-Christian, pagan religious observance. If you have any doubts about this, listen to Steiner himself on the subject of "pagan Christianity":
"A sublime and wonderful phenomenon was unfolding here behind the scenes of world history. From the west, pagan Christianity, Arthur Christianity, which also appeared under other names and in different guises, was advancing. And from the east, Christ was passing westward in human hearts. These two converged: the actual Christ who had descended to earth encountered his image flowing toward him from west to east. This convergence and encounter occurred in 869. Until this point we have clearly differentiated a stream in the north, and passing through central Europe, that bore the Christ within as sun hero — whether called Baldur or some other name. Under the blazon of Christ as sun hero, the Arthurian knights spread their culture.
"The other stream, inwardly rooted in the heart and later becoming the Grail stream, can be found in the south and coming from the east, and bears the true and actual Christ within. The stream coming from the west bears towards him what one can call a cosmic picture." — Rudolf Steiner, THE KARMA OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2009), pp. 158-159.
The "Christ" celebrated by Anthroposophy is the Sun God. According to Steiner, Christ was apprehended — imperfectly — by early peoples as Apollo, or Ra, or Baldur, aka the "sun hero." Arthur is King Arthur. According to Steiner, Arthur's knights of the round table pursued occult wisdom — this is what the Holy Grail represented. The wisdom came to them from Christ himself, moving toward them from the east. "Pagan Christianity" merged with "true" Christianity and became the path to salvation: the path that Steiner obligingly lays out for us. According to Steiner, true understanding of Christ today, and indeed all true occult wisdom today, comes from a specific source: Steiner himself.
Children lighting candles at a single, central source are symbolically receiving the light of the Sun God. They walk "the path" (symbolically the evolutionary path outlined by Steiner), which is a spiral because we constantly recapitulate previous stages as we advance, according to Anthroposophical doctrines. See, e.g., "Evil": “This age in fact recapitulates the Persian (Gemini) age, especially its experience of the polarities between light and dark, good and evil, which is now an actual division between good and evil races.” — Richard Seddon, THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY AND THE EARTH AS FORESEEN BY RUDOLF STEINER (Temple Lodge, 2002), p. 53. Note the astrological reference "(Gemini)" — the path walked by Waldorf teachers and students is a path of ancient, occult, astrological superstition.
The "understanding" offered in a ceremony such as the one described here is gnostic or occult — it is Anthroposophical dogma. Of course, children cannot grasp the doctrines of Anthroposophy, and they may not even be exposed to such doctrines in explicit, spoken form. But a child who goes into a dark room, carries a candle, walks a spiral path — a child who participates in such a spooky ceremony will be deeply affected, perhaps for life. If this is what you want for your child, you will find it at a Waldorf or Steiner school.
For more on festivals and Advent, see the item concerning York Steiner School, below.
Rudolf Steiner and
Dr. Ida Wegman
“The charity arm of Camphill Medical Practice [Scotland] has changed its name ... The charity will now be known as Camphill Wellbeing Trust ... Explaining the reasons for the name change, Dr Stefan Geider, a GP with Camphill Medical Practice says: ‘The new name is to help clarify that there are two aspects to Camphill Medical Practice ... The new Camphill Wellbeing Trust name should make it quite clear that this part of practice is run as a charity. We hope that this will help our fundraising efforts for our charitable work, providing anthroposophic therapies and medical services to patients — no matter what their financial circumstances.’” [11-17-2010 http://www.allmediascotland.com/media_releases/27903/new-name-for-camphill-medical-charity]
Anthroposophical doctors — who often treat Waldorf students — mean well, but they may inflict tremendous harm. [See, e.g., “Steiner’s Quackery”.] Camphill Medical Practice offers “Anthroposophical Therapeutic Arts, Eurythmy Therapy, Anthroposophical Therapeutic Speech (ATS), Rhythmical Massage Therapy, and Mistletoe Therapy “. [http://www.camphillmedical.org.uk/index.php?page=education_research].
“Camphill” is a name often used by Anthroposophical communities, many of which offer “aid” to the mentally challenged. [See, e.g., “Waldorf Now” — scroll down to “The Camphill Communities”.]
“With a whopping 91% of surveyed parents [www.safetotell.net/STT/Results.html] agreeing with the Law Commission that private schools should be required by law to provide ‘a safe and supportive environment’...[www.lawcom.govt.nz/project/review-law-relating-private-schools] the Government's statement that ‘no evidence exists of any problems’ ... needs some analysis at the very least ... One particular ‘problem’, the expulsion of three small children from a private school in West Auckland [New Zealand], has magically morphed into an issue about the school failing to look after one child ... [T]wo of the children involved in this complaint have completely disappeared ... Yet [Ministry of Education Regional Manager] Bruce Adin's correspondence with the family clearly shows the true nature of the October complaint. Writing by email to the parents...he said: ‘The Ministry is not empowered to undertake a judicial or review process and cannot review nor amend the decisions of The Rudolph Steiner School, Titirangi regarding the enrolments of your children ... The Education Act does not require private schools to follow any particular practices when ending an enrolment.’" [11-17-2010 http://www.indymedia.org.nz/article/79129/proof-anne-tolley-hiding-evidence-mistre]
The long-running dispute between a family and a Steiner school in New Zealand — mentioned here previously — has become part of a larger national debate. The school's Web site is http://www.titirangi.steiner.school.nz/. To consider the family's side of the story, go to http://titirangisteinerbullying.com/TSB/Welcome.html: "This site aims to represent parents who are interested to know that there are unacceptable levels of bullying, harassment and uncontrolled aggression taking place at the Titirangi Steiner School. Those parents may have left, may be at the school or may be thinking of sending their children there. It also aims to keep children safe, by bringing the safety issues into the public arena so that people will be properly informed. Some of what we will have to put up here is quite shocking and we wouldn’t have believed it if we had not experienced it ourselves."
Bullying and other forms of abuse are certainly not unknown in Waldorf or Steiner schools. See, e.g., "Slaps".
"A film that suggests students in elementary through high school are under too much pressure to succeed in school will screen for free at 7 p.m. Thursday Nov. 18 at Lafayette College's Limburg Theater ... 'The Race to Nowhere' is being presented by River Valley Waldorf School in Upper Black Eddy [Pennsylvania, USA] and The Community Based Teaching Program at Lafayette College in Easton." [10-17-2010 http://blogs.mcall.com/parents/2010/11/race-to-nowhere-asks-if-students-are-under-too-much-pressure-to-succeed-will-screen-in-easton.html#tp]
Waldorf schools are flogging "Race to Nowhere" as if it justifies their own educational system. It does not. The film makes some good points; certainly children can be put under too much academic pressure, and sometimes not enough thought is given to the ultimate purpose of pushing kids to "succeed." But the opposite error can also be made. Waldorf schools do not participate in the high-pressure race to nowhere, but they embody a mystic sleepwalk to nowhere. Waldorf education is marked by delusions and emptiness. See, e.g., "Academic Standards at Waldorf", "Thinking Cap", "Oh My Word", "Oh My Stars", etc. Regular schools attempt — with varying degrees of success and compassion — to prepare children for life in the real world. Waldorf schools attempt to prepare students for life in an imaginary universe. See, e.g., "Everything".
"Children at York Steiner School [UK] are getting ready for their annual Advent Fair on Saturday. There will be more than 40 gift stalls selling everything from felt clothing to Tibetan crafts and homemade hats. Children will have the chance to make snow-shakers, mosaic leaf masks and peg doll gnome gardens, while adults will be able to try their hand at creating Advent wreaths and willow stars." [10-17- 2010 http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/education/8670910.Steiner_School_ready_for_annual_Advent_Fair_fun/]
Festivals at Waldorf or Steiner schools serve several functions. In part, they are fund-raising events. In part, they are pleasant communal gatherings meant to secure the allegiance of students and their parents. In part, they are recruitment tools: Outsiders are invited, often to be dazzled by the beauty and "magic" of Medieval (or ancient Greek or Roman or...) celebrations brought to life. But fundamentally, these festivals are religious observances. Note that the festival announced here is an "Advent Fair." Advent is the celebration of the coming (or second coming) of Christ. Why is such an observance made part of a Steiner school's calendar? Because Steiner schools are religious institutions. Superficially, the schools seem to be Christian. But, in fact, Steiner theology diverges far from the Bible, Christian teachings, and even Western thought.
There are a couple of small, innocuous-seeming clues in the item I've quoted. We should not make too much of them. But if you are to see Steiner schools with clear eyes, you may need to develop your sleuthing instincts. So: Why, in Britain today, would an apparently Christian festival include "Tibetan crafts?" At Steiner schools, gestures that might seem pleasantly multicultural or ecumenical (Tibet is overwhelmingly Buddhist) often have a very different purpose: They are aimed at weaning students and their families from traditional Judeo-Christian views and nudging them toward the occult pastiche of beliefs that constitute Anthroposophy. Or consider this: Why are "gnome gardens" included in an Advent observance in Britain today? Most gnome gardens are pretty little fantasy spaces, perhaps occupied by garden gnomes. But Rudolf Steiner taught that gnomes really exist. They are "nature spirits" or "elemental beings" that dwell within the Earth. Gnomes, Steiner said, are very sharp. “No being is a more attentive observer on earth than a gnome. It takes note of everything, for it must know everything, grasp everything, in order to preserve its existence.” — Rudolf Steiner HARMONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD: The Human Being and the Elemental, Animal, Plant and Mineral Kingdoms (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), p. 129. [For more, see "Neutered Nature".] It may seem preposterous (and indeed it is preposterous), but this is the sort of thing that Steiner's followers believe and that they want to lead others — including Steiner students — to believe. [See the Afterword by Diana Winters and the Addendum by Margaret Sachs, at "Top Ten Jokes by R. Steiner".]
In sum, what we find in the announcement concerning York Steiner School are small but recognizable indications of the occult agenda embraced, usually covertly, by all dedicated Waldorf or Steiner schools. [See "Spiritual Agenda".] The religion that infuses the activities at these schools is not Christianity, at least not Christianity as practiced in any mainstream denomination. The Steiner religion is Anthroposophy, which Rudolf Steiner invented. Anthroposophy stitches together doctrines from Gnostic Christianity, pagan belief systems, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Norse mythology, and many forms of occultism and superstition, including astrology. Perhaps there are other, completely innocent reasons for the mention of Tibet and gnomes in the York announcement, but if you are considering a Steiner school, these are the sorts of signals you should investigate. [See, e.g., "Magical Arts" (scroll down to the discussion of festivals), "Clues", "Gnosis", "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?", and "Was He Christian?"]
The lecture "The Gospel of St. John (Basel)", by Rudolf Steiner, is now available on the Internet: http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/Dates/19071117p01.html. (I'm not quite sure why this lecture was announced today, 11-17-2010, or whether the lecture was available at the Rudolf Steiner Archive previously. Nonetheless, the announcement reached me today, so I now pass along this bit of "news.")
The lecture seems to have little or nothing to do with Christianity as it is practiced in any major Christian denomination, although at the end Steiner tosses out references to the members of the Trinity. A quick re-reading of the Gospel of John doesn't turn up much about clairvoyance, etheric bodies (the first of our three invisible bodies, according to Steiner), pentagrams (the occult symbol of man, according to Steiner), occult schools, astral bodies (the second of our three invisible bodies), or Atma (a Hindu concept: the spiritual life principle within oneself). If you'd like to go to John 1:1, here's a link: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+1&version=NIV
Touching on the question, whether Anthroposophy is Christian: The content of the lecture may surprise you, given the lecture's title. Here are two excerpts, along with a diagram (color added):
"Each organ of the physical body has behind it this etheric body. Man has an etheric heart, an etheric brain, etc., which holds together the corresponding physical organ. One is naturally tempted to picture the etheric body in a material way, somewhat like a thin cloud, but in reality the etheric body consists of a number of currents of force. The clairvoyant sees in the etheric body of man certain currents that are exceedingly important.
"Thus, for example, there is a stream which rises from the left foot to the forehead (see diagram), to a point which lies between the eyes, about half an inch down within the brain; it then returns to the other foot; from there it passes to the hand on the opposite side; from thence through the heart into the other hand, and from there back to its starting-point. In this way it forms a pentagram of currents of force."
"It requires the very greatest strength to change the physical body consciously. The means for this are only given in the occult school. We can only indicate here that the regulation of the breathing forms the beginning of this transformation. The physical body that has been consciously transformed by the ego is called Spirit Man or Atma. The force for the transformation of the astral body flows to us from the world of the Holy Spirit; the force for the transformation of the etheric body flows to us from the world of the Son or the Word; the force for the transformation of the physical body flows to us from the world of the Father Spirit or the Divine Father." — Rudolf Steiner, "The Gospel of St. John (Basel)"
Bear in mind, when Steiner tells us what clairvoyance reveals, he is telling us what he claims to perceive through his own "exact" clairvoyance [see "Exactly"], and when he talks about occult schools, he means centers where hidden knowledge is acquired, and he certainly includes himself as a key lecturer in such a school [see "Occultism"], specifically his school of "spiritual science." Steiner spent much of his life delivering occult lectures outlining his clairvoyant "perceptions."
An interesting discussion at the BBC has touched upon Waldorf/Steiner schools. [11-16-2010 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/haveyoursay/2010/11/what_is_the_best_way_to_teach.html?page=6]
A few samples (unedited and with no effort to fill in the gaps):
• “Starting school later is a big help, when the children are ready, have had lots of pre reading skills. Britain forces reading already in pre school, despite having the earliest school starting age. The latest-start countries are top academically, although they're behind for the first few years. I also like the Waldorf curriculum, so do many experts- I notice many University staff, teacher-trainers etc. send their children to Waldorf schools here (middle Europe). They, and Montessori etc. need to be state funded in UK are they mostly are elsewhere.“
• “As for not teaching children to read until 7, this is ridiculous and inhumane - why would you deprive a child of the joys of the written word prior to this age? Some of my earliest memories are of having my head in a book (reading it, and admittedly before that wearing it as a hat :P) and I would be a completely different person if you had had your way -spiritually poorer, if an atheist can use that phrase. Further to this, I have noticed a number of anthroposophists plugging their particularly unsavoury brand of educational snake oil. I would advice readers not to be misled by this; Waldorf schools and anthroposophy generally make good use of marketing (as seen in their wikipedia pages), but they are basically a cult formed around the scientifically ludicrous writings of a self-styled 'clairvoyant' in the 1920s named Rudolf Steiner.”
• “[T]he categories you mention are Hippocrates' temperaments, quite useful, in knowing how to deal with children and not at all the exclusive to Steiner. I know they're not creationists. PISA, the international testing, especially recommended their science curriculum. I'm not trying to push Waldorf, only the people I know /know of who recommend it are often very well researched and knowledgeable, (I'm not implying you aren't, that wouldn't be nice) and have no axe to grind. As are Waldorf teachers I know. It's funny you say they take advantage of publicity, I felt they were hopeless there, eg. several anti-Waldorf sites, mostly nonsense, up for years before they set up any replies- I'd say they hide their light under a bushel, obviously you'd disagree.”
PISA is the Program for International Student Assessment. A search of the PISA site turned up one reference to Steiner [http://www.pisa.oecd.org/dataoecd/53/20/33688267.doc] and one to Waldorf [http://www.pisa.oecd.org/dataoecd/5/45/35920726.pdf]. At first glance, neither seems informative, either pro- or anti-. It would indeed be interesting if any knowledgeable authority anywhere praised the Waldorf science curriculum. The thinking behind Waldorf schools is deeply opposed to real science. See, e.g., "Weird Science at Steiner School", "Waldorf Schools Teach Weird Science, Weird Evolution", and "Is Anthroposophy Science?"
"State Funding for the Cambridge Steiner School (Free School Application) - We need one more thing to complete phase 1 of our formal application for Free School Status. A petition/survey is needed to demonstrate demand for a Steiner School in Cambridgeshire. Please fill in this short web-form...." [11-16-2010 http://www.cambridge-steiner-school.co.uk/further_info/petition.html]
As in the US, Steiner schools in the UK are angling to receive taxpayer support. This adds another reason for Steiner schools to conceal their real agenda. [See "Secrets" and "Spiritual Agenda".]
Private schools that want to gain access to the public purse in the US apply to become "charter schools"; in the UK, they apply to become "free schools." Communities and education officials need to be made aware that Steiner schools are actually Anthroposophical religious institutions intended to implement the messianic goals of Anthroposophy. At least in the USA, where the Constitution bans the government from supporting any religion, this should automatically disallow Steiner schools from receiving state funding. In other lands, it should at least lead to second thoughts. [For more information on the concealed purpose of Steiner schools, see "Here's the Answer", "Soul School", "Prayers", and "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness".]
Finding clues as to the real nature of Steiner schools is not hard. Consider, for instance, the image that Cambridge Steiner School has chosen to accompany its petition drive. Reproduced above, it shows an angel or disembodied spirit flying through the night sky. But we don't need to rely on such hints. Here are some of the statements Rudolf Steiner made to Waldorf teachers about their role. The religious purpose is plain.
“We can accomplish our work only if we do not see it as simply a matter of intellect or feeling, but, in the highest sense, as a moral spiritual task. Therefore, you 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.
“Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods, that we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55.
"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.
"The Comedy of Errors runs at the Spier Amphitheatre, Stellenbosch [South Africa], from December 17 to 20. Shakespeare's comedy performed by Stellenbosch Waldorf School students. Tickets: R50 from 073 725 7381." [11-16-2010 http://www.tonight.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=5730821&fSectionId=377&fSetId=251]
Shakespeare's plays are often performed in Waldorf schools. In part, this is based on a misunderstanding. Steiner said that Shakespeare created characters that are actually alive today, transported (as it were) into spirit realms.
(This proves nothing, but to fill in some background: I once discussed this matter with an Anthroposophist. S/he said (I'll paraphrase) "Shakespeare is magical. His characters really live. Hamlet is alive! He comes off the page and is immortal in the empyrean [I had to look up the word]. Shakespeare stands alone." Shakespeare is indeed the greatest writer ever to work in the English language. But as to whether Hamlet is today walking around in the empyrean — I have my doubts.)
Leaping at any such "indication" provided by their guru [see "Guru"], Waldorf faculties often seem to think that Shakespeare was unique in this regard. But Steiner taught that all our words and thoughts actually proceed from and return to the higher worlds, where they all are spiritual beings. This is why, for instance, he taught that the larynx will eventually replace the womb as the human organ of reproduction.
“Our thoughts create spiritual beings who live, for real, in the spirit realm. We have evidence of this in the plays of Shakespeare. Shakespeare's thoughts created real beings who live in the spirit realm...." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998, Volumes 1 & 2), p. 336. [Those of you who have been paying attention will have seen this as a Quote of the Day some while back. You can always refresh your memories by going to "Daily Quotes".]
“The larynx is the future organ of procreation and birth. At present we give birth to words through it, but in future this seed will develop the capacity to give birth to the whole human being once we have become spiritualized.” — Rudolf Steiner, EVIL (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), p. 50.
Don't look at me. I just report this stuff. (But, indeed, at least in its lighter moments, Anthroposophy is a comedy of errors.)