This is an alphabetized guide to significant topics in Anthroposophy, especially those that bear on Waldorf or Steiner education. In addition, some important individuals — Anthroposophists, proponents of Waldorf education, critics of Waldorf education, and others — are identified.

The Encyclopedia overlaps the Semi-Steiner Dictionary and the Waldorf Watch Index. The Encyclopedia attempts to concisely explain Anthroposophical/Waldorf subjects. The Dictionary defines terms but does not provide explanations or examples. The Index indicates pages at Waldorf Watch that touch on various topics.

Encyclopedia entries consist of a term, such as Anthroposophy, in bold letters, generally followed by a listing of related terms, then a definition and commentary. In many cases, links are provided to pages at Waldorf Watch where the term is used and developed.

Please note that the lengths of the entries do not always reflect the relative significance of the topics. The number of words needed to explain a topic — whether that topic is highly important or relatively unimportant — will often determine the length of an entry.

A-An  Ap-Av  B  C-Ch  Ci-Cu  D  E-El  Em-Ey  F  G  H  I  J-L  M-Me  Mi-My  N-O  P-Pi  Pl-Q  R  S-Sn  So-Sp  Sq-Sy  T-V  W-Z

Here are a few sample helpings of the truth, 

entries that virtually all first-time visitors to this website will likely find helpful:

Anthroposophy - also see Anthroposophical Society; biodynamic gardening and farming; Christian Community; "doing" Anthroposophy; General Anthroposophical Society; historical narrative of Anthroposophy; medicine; occult science; polytheism; Rosicrucianism; School of Michael; Steiner, Rudolf; spiritual science; Theosophy; Waldorf schools

The word "Anthroposophy" (pronounced an-throw-POSS-o-fee) comes from Greek, meaning human ("anthropo") wisdom ("sophy"), or knowledge of the human being. Generally described as "spiritual science" by its adherents, Anthroposophy is a polytheistic religion entailing meditations, observances, and prayers. A variant of Theosophy developed by Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy assigns tremendous significance to human beings, placing them at the center of the created universe. The faith’s cosmology is essentially a set of reassurances for the frail human ego. The principles and practices of Waldorf education derive from Anthroposophy. [1]

The "human wisdom" embodied in Anthroposophy is esoteric and fundamentally unsupported by verifiable knowledge or information. Critics contend that there is no real knowledge or wisdom in Steiner's Anthroposophy. According to Anthroposophical belief, human beings have both souls and spirits, they have three invisible bodies, they have 12 senses, they exhibit four classical temperaments, their racial identities reflect their degree of spiritual evolution, their hearts do not pump blood, their brains do not think, they have karmas, they are heavily influenced by astrological forces, they have hidden inner doubles, and so on. None of this is demonstrably true. [2]

The "science" in Anthroposophy is the use of clairvoyance to study the spirit realm. [3] Rudolf Steiner laid out spiritual exercises, meditations, prayers, and other practices intended to assist his followers in developing precise or exact powers of clairvoyance. [4] The process, he taught, is a modern form of occult initiation. [5] He claimed that he himself was a high initiate whose clairvoyant findings — being "exact" — are very nearly undeniable. [6]

Anthroposophists believe that there are invisible worlds both above and below us, populated by powerful, invisible beings. The beings below us have no true spirits, while those above us are, for the most part, beneficent gods. There are many ranks of gods. [7] The gods have evolved, much as we evolve, and we ourselves will ultimately rise to the highest divine rank. Our evolution began during a period called Old Saturn, followed by Old Sun and Old Moon. [8] After our present existence during Present Earth, we will evolve through the phases Future Jupiter, Future Venus, and Future Vulcan. [9] This is the central narrative of Anthroposophy. [10]

While most of the gods are good and merciful, there are also evil gods, demons, and other forces of evil. The intended trajectory of human development is upward, but not all humans participate properly in evolution as intended by the good gods. Some people descend, taking the "black path" toward perdition. [11] It is possible, indeed, that only a small band (in effect, only Anthroposophists) will persevere in the ways of righteousness. The coming War of All Against All will winnow humanity, just as previous catastrophes have done. [12]

Steiner became a Theosophist in 1902. In 1913, he broke away to establish Anthroposophy as a separate occult movement. However, he had described his own teachings as Anthroposophy even while he was nominally a Theosophist, and his teachings changed little after the break. In 1919, Steiner oversaw the creation of the first Waldorf school. Waldorf schools are rooted in Anthroposophy, and Waldorf faculties are typically guided by Anthroposophists. Indeed, the chief purpose of Waldorf education is to spread Anthroposophy and its purported benefits, although the effort is often covert and subtle. [13]

Like many of the sources from which it draws [14], Anthroposophy is a complex, multi-layered body of teachings. Such complexity can be alluring. A single falsehood, standing alone, may be readily pierced and rejected; it has little power to sway us. But a rich tapestry of untruths, multicolored and vibrant, may exert a powerful, persistent attraction. Anthroposophy offers an intricately detailed alternative reality. The susceptible may lose themselves within it — they may plunge into its fabulous landscapes and remain for the rest of their days in a world that is far removed from what other people would call reality.


The best guide to Anthroposophy is Steiner's magnum opus, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE. 

It has been published in many editions. 

This is one of the most recent (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2009).

[1] See “Everything”, “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?”, “Here’s the Answer”, and "Spiritual Agenda".

[2] See, e.g., "What We're Made Of", "Our Parts", "Oh Humanity", "Races", "Karma", "Waldorf Astrology", and "Double Trouble".

[3] See "Clairvoyance".

[4] See "Knowing the Worlds".

[5] See "Occultism" and "Inside Scoop".

[6] See "Exactly".

[7] See "Polytheism".

[8] See "Old Saturn", "Old Sun", and "Old Moon, Etc."

[9] See "Present Earth" and "Future Stages".

[10] See "Everything", "Higher Worlds", "Matters of Form" and "Steiner Static I".

[11] See "Evil", "Evil Ones", "Hell", and "Sin".

[12] See "All v. All" and "Steiner Static II".

[13] See "Here's the Answer", "Oh Humanity", and "Sneaking It In".

[14] See, e.g., "Basics".

Steiner, Rudolf (1861-1925) - also see admirers of Rudolf Steiner; Anthroposophy; biodynamic gardening and farming; books by Rudolf Steiner; Christian Community; medicine; Steiner, Anna; Steiner, Marie; Waldorf schools

Rudolf Steiner was an Austrian/German lecturer and author; a professed initiate, clairvoyant, and occultist. Originally a secular intellectual, widely known in Germany, Steiner shifted into occultism, became a Theosophist, and later founded his own occult system, Anthroposophy. He was the originator of Waldorf education, Anthroposophical medicine, and biodynamic agriculture, among other pursuits. [See, e.g., Here’s the Answer”, "Steiner's Quackery", and "Biodynamics".]  Steiner was a genuine polymath, but his followers often credit him with contributions in fields where he had scant influence, such as architecture. Steiner claimed to be a scientist, but he did no real science — he claimed to use clairvoyance "scientifically" in order  to study the spirit realm. He produced some writings of a philosophical nature, but following his conversion to occultism, his work shifted accordingly, and he revised some of his early writings to make them consistent with his later, esoteric teachings. [See, e.g., "Exactly", "Philosophy", and "Occultism".]

Encyclopedists have generally been lax in their presentations of Steiner. Until recently, Steiner's influence has been so minor that there seemed little point in delving deeply into his work. The worldwide spread of Waldorf schools is changing this, however. In the field of education, Steiner's influence has been significant and is increasing. Partly as a result, Steiner is now coming under the scrutiny of serious scholars such as Geoffrey Ahern and Peter Staudenmaier. In addition to examining Steiner's work in education, medicine, and agriculture, such scholars have shone light on Steiner's occultism, his racism, his political efforts, and his German nationalism.

Steiner's works and influences are discussed on virtually every page here at Waldorf Watch. Some pages, however, are particularly focused on Steiner. These include "What a Guy", "Guru", "Steiner and the Warlord", "Steiner Static", "Steiner's Bile", "Steiner's Blunders", "Steiner's Quackery", "Steiner's Racism", "Steiner's 'Science'", "Steiner's Specific", and "Top Ten Jokes Told by R. Steiner". "Say What?" and "Wise Words" consist mainly of quotations from Steiner. "Everything" summarizes Steiner's major book, OCCULT SCIENCE, and "Knowing the Worlds" examines KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT, the book in which Steiner outlines procedures his followers should undertake in their quest to attain clairvoyant knowledge of the spirit realm. "Faculty Meetings" summarizes the book FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, and "Oh Humanity" deals with THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, which is the foundational work for Waldorf schooling. "Philosophy" includes a look at Steiner's PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM. Other pages extend these discussions; they include: "Advice for Teachers", "Discussions", "Foundations", "Underpinnings", "Basement", and "Oh Man". "Lecture" takes an in-depth, paragraph-by-paragraph look at one of Steiner's occult lectures. "Biodynamics" considers Steiner's agricultural teachings. "Best", "Love and the Universal Human", "Most Significant", and "Nutshell" consider some elements of Steiner's work that have drawn particular praise from his followers and/or the versions of his work that they wish to present to the public.

Rudolf Steiner.

[Public domain photo; color added.]

Here is a brief summary of Rudolf Steiner’s life [see "What a Guy"]:

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

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

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

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

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

◊ 1876  Rudolf begins tutoring classmates and others.

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

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

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

◊ 1888  Steiner becomes editor of Deutsche Wochenschriftt {German Weekly} magazine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

◊ 1921  Steiner founds the first Anthroposophic medical clinic.

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

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

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

◊ Rudolf Steiner dies on March 30, 1925.

Steiner schools - see Waldorf schools

Waldorf education: goals - also see Anthroposophy; clairvoyance; curative education; divine cosmic plan; education; festivals; freedom; gods; "head, heart, and hands"; imagination; incarnation; karma; knowledge; life force; messianism; nonphysical bodies; prayers; rite; soul; spirit; spiritualistic agenda; Sun God; Waldorf curriculum; Waldorf schools; worship in Waldorf schools

Conveying knowledge to children, and preparing children for productive lives in the real world, are low on the list of Waldorf goals. Instead, Waldorf schools have occult, spiritual purposes. These can be described in various ways. Here are a few such descriptions, all coming from within the Waldorf movement: 

◊ “One question that is often asked is: ‘Is a Waldorf school a religious school?’ ... It is not a religious school in the way that we commonly think of religion ... And yet, in a broad and universal way, the Waldorf school is essentially religious.” — Waldorf teacher J. Petrash, UNDERSTANDING WALDORF EDUCATION  (Nova Institute, 2002), p. 134.

◊ “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...are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods ... [W]e are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” — R. Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55.

◊ “Waldorf education strives to create a place in which the highest beings [i.e., the gods], including the Christ, can find their home.” — Anthroposophist J. Almon, WHAT IS A WALDORF KINDERGARTEN? (SteinerBooks, 2007), p. 53.

◊ "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." — R. Steiner, THE CHILD's CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 94.

◊ “A Waldorf school organization that seeks to allow the spiritual impulses of our time to manifest on earth in order to transform society ... [I]t strives to bring the soul-spiritual [i.e., the combined effects of soul and spirit] into the realm of human life.” — Waldorf teacher R. Trostli, “On Earth as It Is in Heaven”, Research Bulletin, Vol. 16 (Waldorf Research Institute), Fall 2011, pp. 21-24.

◊ “[Waldorf] education is essentially grounded on the recognition of the child as a spiritual being, with a varying number of incarnations behind him ... [I]t is [the faculty's] task to help the child to make use of his body, to help his soul-spiritual forces to find expression through it, rather than regarding it as their duty to cram him with information.” — Anthroposophist S. C. Easton, MAN AND WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1989), pp. 388-389. 

◊ “The success of Waldorf Education, Rudolf Steiner [said], can be measured in the life force attained. Not acquisition of knowledge and qualifications, but the life force is the ultimate goal of this school.” — Anthroposophist P. Selg, THE ESSENCE OF WALDORF EDUCATION (SteinerBooks, 2010)‚ p. 30.

◊  "Waldorf education is based upon the recognition that the four bodies of the human being [the physical, etheric, astral, and ego bodies] develop and mature at different times.” — Waldorf teacher R. Trostli, Introduction to RHYTHMS OF LEARNING: What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents, and Teachers (SteinerBooks, 2017), p. 4.

◊ “[F]rom a spiritual-scientific [i.e., Anthroposophical] point of view child education consists mainly in integrating the soul-spiritual members with the corporeal members [i.e., integrating the invisible bodies with the physical body].” — Waldorf teacher G. Childs, STEINER EDUCATION IN THEORY AND PRACTICE (Floris Books, 1998), p. 68.

◊ “This is precisely the task of school. If it is a true school, it should bring to unfoldment [i.e., incarnation and development]...what [the child] has brought with him from spiritual worlds into this physical life on earth.” — R. Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS , Vol. 1 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 5, GA 235.

◊ “[T]he purpose of [Waldorf] education is to help the individual fulfill his karma.” — Waldorf teacher R. Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 52.

◊ "Waldorf education is a form of practical anthroposophy." — Waldorf teacher K. Francis, THE EDUCATION OF A WALDORF TEACHER (iUniverse, 2004), p. xii.

◊ "[The] special contribution, the unique substance, mission, and intention of the independent Waldorf School, is the spiritual-scientific view of human nature [i.e., Anthroposophy].” — Anthroposophist P. Selg, THE ESSENCE OF WALDORF EDUCATION (SteinerBooks, 2010)‚ p. 4.

◊ "The reason many [Waldorf] schools exist is because of Anthroposophy, period. It's not because of the children. It's because a group of Anthroposophists have it in their minds to promote Anthroposophy in the world ... Educating children is secondary in these schools." — Former Waldorf teacher "Baandje". [See "Ex-Teacher 7".]

◊ “In the child we have before us a being who has only recently left the divine world. In due course, still at a tender age, he comes to school and it is the teacher’s task to help guide him into earthly existence. The teacher is therefore performing a priestly office.” — R. Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 23.

◊ "I think we owe it to our [students'] parents to let them know that the child is going to go through one religious experience after another ... [W]hen we deny that Waldorf schools are giving children religious experiences, we are denying the whole basis of Waldorf education." — Waldorf teacher E. Schwartz, "Waldorf Education - For Our Times Or Against Them?" (transcript of talk given at Sunbridge College, 1999).

◊ "Waldorf teachers must be anthroposophists first and teachers second." — Waldorf teacher G. Childs, STEINER EDUCATION IN THEORY AND PRACTICE (Floris Books, 1991), p. 166.

◊ "We certainly may not go to the...extreme, where people say that anthroposophy may not be brought into the school. Anthroposophy will be in the school when it is objectively justified, that is, when it is called for by the material itself.” — R. Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 495.

Waldorf schools are on a messianic mission in service to their religion, Anthroposophy. This — not conveying information about the real world to their students — is their chief purpose. [See "Mission".] The schools attempt to cooperate with the gods, seeking to apply Anthroposophy so that the students can incarnate properly and fulfill their karmas. Educating the students in any normal sense is, at best, a secondary goal.

[See "Spiritual Agenda" and "Soul School".]

Waldorf schools, Steiner schools - also see academic standards; alternative education; Anthroposophy; anti-intellectualism; anti-scientific bias; astrology; block teaching; certificates; early-childhood education; education; FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER; THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE; holistic education; karma; knowledge; media policies; nonphysical bodies; life force; progressive education; rhythm; secrecy; spiritualistic agenda; thinking; Waldorf curriculum; Waldorf education: goals; Waldorf parents; Waldorf students; Waldorf teachers; Waldorf-inspired schools; whole child; wisdom; worship in Waldorf schools

Broadly speaking, Waldorf schools are institutions that, to one degree or another, are run in compliance with the ideology of Rudolf Steiner. [1] They typically identify themselves as Waldorf schools, Steiner schools, or Steiner Waldorf schools, but in some instances they use wholly different names. Efforts are made to protect the Waldorf trademark, so that only genuine Waldorf schools can call themselves such, but on the other hand some Waldorf authorities argue that their movement is so amorphous as to defy definition. See, e.g., the rhetorical argument made by a Waldorf faculty chairperson: "'Waldorf education' does not exist" [2] — the point being that Waldorf schools vary greatly. [3] Still, Waldorf education certainly does exist as a distinct phenomenon that can be defined with considerable precision.

Generally, Waldorf schools follow a set curriculum that derives from the program established by Rudolf Steiner and his colleagues at the first Waldorf school, although variations can be found. [4] The common curriculum is geared toward the incarnation of three invisible, nonphysical bodies: the etheric body, astral body, and "I." [5] Each child's presumed karma and temperament are deemed crucially important, and the faculty's beliefs about these help steer the educational process. [6] There is heavy emphasis on myths, fairy tales, legends, and other spiritualistic stories, especially in the early grades. [7] Art is emphasized for its supposed spiritual effects. [8] Emphasis is placed on beauty, and there is usually an anti-intellectual, antiscientific ethos as promoted by Rudolf Steiner. [9] Subjects are taught at the "correct" time or developmental stage in children's lives: The students are thought to recapitulate human spiritual development, so that fourth graders, for instance, stand at about the level of ancient Egyptians, fifth graders at the level of ancient Greeks, sixth graders at the level of ancient Romans, and so on. [10] Studies are planned so that the children understand the world essentially as it was understood in the relevant ancient period.

Subjects are often taught using the "block" system: A subject will be taken up, studied for a few weeks, then set aside for many weeks or months. The most important class of the day is usually the "main lesson" — a long class focusing on the subject constituting the "block" of the moment. The main lesson usually comes at the beginning of the school day. Other classes and activities during the day are often keyed to the main lesson. Usually, main lessons are taught by "class teachers" — that is, teachers who take primary responsibility for a group of children and stay with them for several years, first grade through fifth, for example, or first grade through eighth, etc. This means each class teacher must present a great number of subjects at a great number of grade levels as the students pass from grade to grade. [11]

The schools do not, as a rule, explicitly teach students the tenets of Steiner's occult system, Anthroposophy. But there are numerous exceptions to this rule, and the schools subtly steer students toward an Anthroposophical perception of reality. [12] Students are encouraged to feel about things as Anthroposophists feel about them, while factual knowledge about the world is minimized — emotion is a truer path than thought, Steiner said. According to Steiner, Waldorf teachers should be devoted Anthroposophists and Waldorf classes should reflect Anthroposophical teachings when the subjects being studied call for this. [13]

The key truth about genuine Waldorf schools (those that remain true to Steiner's vision) is that they are disguised religious institutions, whose purpose is to enact Anthroposophy in the world and thus spread Anthroposophy. [14] The Waldorf approach is built on the occult doctrines of Rudolf Steiner, especially his mystical conception of human nature. [15] Steiner's religious teachings find their way into many classes as well as such activities as festivals that are, at root, religious observances. [16] Teachers and students usually begin each day by reciting, in unison, prayers written by Rudolf Steiner (these invocations are usually disguised as "morning verses"). [17]

This brief summary cannot do full justice to the subject of Waldorf schools. In effect, all of Waldorf Watch is devoted to producing a complete answer to the question, What are Waldorf schools? To dig further into the answer, see, e.g., "Soul School", "Academic Standards at Waldorf", "Foundations", "Clues", "Waldorf Now", "Teacher Training", "Today", "Report Card", etc. Also see the entries for "Waldorf curriculum", "Waldorf education: goals", "Waldorf students", "Waldorf teachers", etc., in this encyclopedia.


The truth about Waldorf schools is often hidden; but sometimes it surfaces plainly, as in these books. [R. Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION - The Waldorf School Approach (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996); R. M. Querido, THE ESOTERIC BACKGROUND OF WALDORF EDUCATION: The Cosmic Christ Impulse (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1995).]

[1] The ideology is Anthroposophy, an occult religion founded by Rudolf Steiner, who also founded Waldorf education. [See the entry in this encyclopedia for "Anthroposophy"; also see "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"]

[2] S. K. Sagarin, THE STORY OF WALDORF EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES (SteinerBooks, 2011), p. 147.

[3] See, e.g., "Non-Waldorf Waldorfs".

[4] See "The Waldorf Curriculum".

[5] See the entries for these terms in this encyclopedia; also see "Incarnation".

[6] See "Karma" and "Temperaments".

[7] See, e.g., "The Gods" and "Sneaking It In".

[8] See "Magical Arts".

[9] See "Steiner's 'Science'", "Science", and "Steiner's Specific".

[10] See, e.g., "Oh My Stars".

[11] For an overview of Waldorf methodology, see "Methods".

[12] See "Here's the Answer", "Spiritual Agenda", and "Sneaking It In".


"We certainly may not go to the...extreme, where people say that anthroposophy may not be brought into the school. Anthroposophy will be in the school when it is objectively justified, that is, when it is called for by the material itself.” — R. Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 495.

[14] See "Here's the Answer".

[15] See "Oh Humanity".

[16] See "Magical Arts".

[17] See "Prayers".


In compiling this encyclopedia, I have drawn on such sources at ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z by Henk van Oort, THE SUN AT MIDNIGHT by Geoffrey Ahern, THE NEW ESSENTIAL STEINER by Robert McDermott, MAN AND WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY by Stewart C. Easton, RUDOLF STEINER by Roy Wilkinson, and other texts. I believe that the result is the most thorough review of Anthroposophy and Waldorf education currently available. (All of the sources I consulted have been helpful, but some are surprisingly cursory. ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z, for instance, is a mere 140 pages long and omits many important topics.) My chief sources — as will become evident as you delve into the encyclopedia — are Steiner's own books and lectures. Most entries in the encyclopedia include quotations from Steiner. 

The encyclopedia includes numerous links you can use if you want to explore topics further. The Index and Table of Contents — both of which provide links — may also prove helpful if you want to pursue the discussion of various topics as they appear on the pages of Waldorf Watch. The Dictionary does not provide links.


A general word of caution is in order. Any effort such as this Encyclopedia to systematically summarize the doctrines of Anthroposophy may make those doctrines seem more coherent than in fact they are. Do not be misled. Rudolf Steiner frequently contradicted himself, and such contradictions run throughout the beliefs espoused by his followers today. In truth, Anthroposophy may be so fundamentally incoherent as to defy rational comprehension. Former Anthroposophical insider Grégoire Perra has argued that quite possibly no one has ever truly comprehended Anthroposophy, not even the founder of the faith. 

◊ "Who really [has understood Anthroposophy]? Maybe not even Steiner himself! Anthroposophy is so huge, complex, and confused." [See "Mistreating Kids Lovingly."] 

◊ "[Anthroposophists] usually do not seek to impose a complete set of beliefs on those they capture in their web. Indeed, it is very rare that they themselves know Anthroposophical doctrine in its entirety. I do not think even Steiner himself truly cared about achieving deep coherence in his esoteric teachings. Jose Dupré, in his book ANTHROPOSOPHY AND LIBERTY, showed the complete intellectual corruption in the founder of Anthroposophy, extending back to 1900." [See "My Life Among the Anthroposophists, Part IV".]

THE BRIEF WALDORF / STEINER ENCYCLOPEDIA lays out Anthroposophical beliefs and practices, so far as they may be known. But if at any point while reading the Encyclopedia you think that you now "get" Anthroposophy — Steiner's teachings are now clear to you — pause and step back. Anthroposophy does not make sense. Hence, no one thinking rationally can "get" it. Anthroposophy can be explored, described, and analyzed. But, in the end, it is without substance.

— Roger Rawlings