Anthroposophy 101

By Ronald Koetzsh

Posted to the waldorf-critics list 9/3/06, as published in Renewal, Spring/Summer 2006

Text posted to w-c 9/3/06:

The current issue of Renewal: A Journal for Waldorf Education
[Spring/Summer 2006, Vol. 15 No. 1] includes an extraordinary
editorial column by Ronald Koetzsch, PhD. He tells about his stand-up
comedy routine “The Beeswax Conspiracy” that he performs at Waldorf
schools. His show includes his “five-minute introduction to the basic
ideas of Spiritual Science” that he calls “Anthroposophy 101.” He
publishes it for the first time in the column.

Anthroposophy is notoriously difficult to pin down. You won’t find a
creed anywhere. Everything is in 40 books and 6000 lectures by Rudolf
Steiner, but it isn’t organized, and in any given lecture Steiner
jumps around from topic to topic. Anthroposophists are rarely able to
give a short or even truthful answer to a direct question about their

Koetzsch has done the public a great service by summarizing the
doctrine succinctly. With the exception of one contradictory sentence
(see below), this summary should be given to every parent who
expresses interest in Waldorf.

*** quoted text follows

1) Behind every material phenomenon and process, even those that
appear inert and lifeless, is a spiritual reality with consciousness,
thought, and intention. We live in a conscious universe. This
spiritual dimension of reality is primary and creative and the
material manifestation derivative. Spirit survives the transformation
and disappearance of the material. This is a counterpoise to the
materialistic view of the primacy of matter.

2) The invisible, spiritual world comprises a multiplicity of beings.
These include: the elemental spirits that ensoul the phenomena and
processes of the natural world; the group souls of the minerals,
plants, and animals; the souls of the so-called dead–human beings
who are in the life between death and rebirth; the folk souls of
different ethnic and national groups; and the nine celestial
heirarchies–from the angels and archangels up through the cherubim
and seraphim. The hierarchies are manifestations of attributes of a
single creator God, but are also independent beings.

3) The human being is a creation of the celestial hierarchies. With
conscious intent and out of self-sacrificial love, they have created
the human being and the world as a manifestation of cosmic wisdom.
The human being is the crowning jewel of the creation. The entire
universe has been brought into being so that the human being might
come into existence. We are not the chance product of an impersonal,
mechanistic evolutionary process.

4) The human being, in fact the entire cosmos, is a work in progress.
The aeons-long, divinely guided process of creation and development
is still going on and will go on indefinitely into the future.

5) Each individual human being is going through his own unique
history and spiritual development. This individual destiny is
realized over multiple earthly incarnations. Each human individuality
has an undying spiritual essence that incarnates or takes on human
form in different cultures at successive points in history. One’s
circumstances and personality in one life are largely determined by
one’s karma, the carried-over effects of one’s decisions and deeds in
former lives.

6) Part of our individual and collective human task at this stage in
history is to rediscover, as something intimately experienced and
known, the spiritual dimension of reality. Every human being has the
potential, though conscious striving and self-discipline, to directly
perceive and experience the spiritual world.

7) Another part of our task is to become able to act in freedom and
out of selfless love for other beings.

8) Human culture needs to be transformed according to a spiritual
vision of the human being. Every domain of human thought and
activity–education, medicine, agriculture, social, economic and
political life, art, architecture, religious life, care for the
elderly, and so on–must be renewed on the basis of a spiritual
understanding of the human being. Only if we do this will the
development of humanity and of the Earth continue in a positive way.

9) Among the myriad spiritual beings, there are certain powerful
entities who oppose the divine plan. In other words, there are “bad
guys” out there as well as “good guys,” and the former are very
skilled at drawing people away from the path of development intended
by the higher spiritual beings, away from the realization of freedom
and love. These adversarial powers are necessary, however, because
without evil there would be no choice for human beings and hence no
true freedom.

10) The incarnation of the Christ, a divine being intimately
connected to the Father God, in the human being, Jesus of Nazareth,
in Palestine 2000 years ago, was a unique and pivotal event in human
history. At a point when the adversarial forces threatened to
overwhelm humanity, the suffering, death on the cross, resurrection,
and ascension of Christ Jesus made possible the continued spiritual
development of the human being and of the Earth. Despite this
important Christological element, however, Anthroposophy is not a
church, a religious sect or denomination, and is not connected to
any. The resurrection forces of the cosmic Christ have been and are
still today available to all human beings, regardless of culture,
religion, nationality, or ethnic group.

*** end quoted text

Koetzsch comments that these ideas are “part of the foundation of
Waldorf Education.” “One need not subscribe to this view, but
understanding it will perhaps help one comprehend Waldorf Education
within its larger context.”

The ringer sentence is in No. 10: “Despite this important
Christological element, however, Anthroposophy is not a church, a
religious sect or denomination, and is not connected to any.” After
the refreshingly clear explanation of the beliefs of a group that
couldn’t, after reading the above, be categorized as anything other
than a religious sect, why was it necessary to make a flat-out
contradiction? It’s unfortunate that Koetzsch felt he had to repeat
the traditional Anthroposophical denial.

“Before the cock crows, you shall deny me thrice.” [Matt. 26:34]

Koetzsch is close to joining Eugene Schwartz in a pantheon of heroes
of the coming-out of Anthroposophy in the 21st century.

-Dan Dugan