Category: Articles

Anthroposophical Spiritual Racism

Anthroposophical Spiritual Racism

The foremost anthroposophical race theorist in Germany after Steiner’s death was Richard Karutz (1867-1945), a prominent Waldorf spokesman and supporter of Nazism. He participated in a seminar at the Goetheanum in 1920, moved from Lübeck to Stuttgart in 1921 to be closer to the center of anthroposophical activity in Germany, and moved again to Dresden in 1938 so that his children could continue attending Waldorf school. Karutz was an ethnologist and contributed more than any other author to elaborating anthroposophy’s racial teachings. He was also the most outspoken proponent of spiritual racism among German anthroposophists both before and during the Nazi era.

In 1929 Karutz published a book on esoteric anthropology, forcefully rejecting what he called “materialist” approaches to anthropology as incapable of grasping the meaning of race (Richard Karutz, Von Goethe zur Völkerkunde der Zukunft, Stuttgart 1929). Karutz ridiculed “materialist” versions of anthropology because they “place today’s Australian, American Indian, and Negroid savage tribes at the same level as the ancient Celts and Teutons” (126). Painting a complex panorama of “lower races” and “higher races,” Karutz depicted Europeans as the highest racial group while characterizing non-European peoples as “debased” and “decadent.” (115)

Like Steiner, Karutz portrayed the various racial groups as rungs on the ladder of spiritual progress, with white people at the top. (120-22) Racial traits, according to Karutz, are both “physiological features” and “spiritual facts”; light skin indicates spiritual development and dark skin indicates spiritual debility. (117) Karutz explained that in the ongoing process of racial evolution, the “lower races” are destined to die out, because “the so-called natural peoples or primitive peoples that survive today are merely the debased remnants of earlier stages.” (127)

From 1930 onward, Karutz published a long series of pamphlets on ‘moral ethnology’ with the official approval of the Anthroposophical Society, co-published by the Goetheanum in Dornach: Richard Karutz, Vorlesungen über moralische Völkerkunde (Stuttgart, 1930–1934). The series comprised fifty installments of varying size, generally between 40 and 80 pages each, and were enthusiastically reviewed in the anthroposophist press at the time (see e.g. Hermann Poppelbaum, “Hinweis auf die Vorlesungen über moralische Völkerkunde von Richard Karutz,” Anthroposophie, July 1932, 489-90).

Calling his approach “ethno-anthroposophy” and citing Steiner throughout, Karutz declared that “today’s ethnology must once again acknowledge the idea of degeneration.” (Karutz, Vorlesungen über moralische Völkerkunde 5, “Vom Werden und vom Wege der Völkerkunde” (1930), 22) Emphasizing the profound spiritual and racial differences between Europeans and “lower peoples,” he explained that the fate of many non-European peoples was extinction rather than evolution. (ibid., 3) Karutz recapitulated Steiner’s narrative of racial evolution, centered on the migrations of various racial groups out of Atlantis and the contrast between Aryan and non-Aryan populations.

In the seventh installment of his “lectures on moral ethnology” in 1930, Karutz referred to indigenous peoples as “crippled branches” on the “genealogical tree” of human evolution, “who after a brief existence have stopped developing further.” (21) Today the “colored peoples” are spiritually and culturally “stagnant and degenerated, because the soul of the colored peoples has not received the I impulse and has therefore failed to take part in the transformation of the human soul.” (34) This, he explains, is why colored peoples are colored in the first place: their external physical appearance reflects their internal spiritual backwardness.

According to Karutz, the ‘I’ or true individuality has fully developed “so far only in the European races.” (Karutz, Vorlesungen über moralische Völkerkunde 13, “Herkunft und Wesenheit des Menschen” (1931), 41) Thus the “colored peoples” are unable to participate in the development of culture and civilization because of their “spiritual-bodily constitution” and are destined to stagnate or die out. This seeming tragedy served a higher spiritual purpose; racial evolution, for Karutz, was properly understood as a process of growth for individual souls, extending over multiple incarnations. He presented similar claims in a variety of articles in the official anthroposophist periodical, such as Richard Karutz, “Über Rassenkunde” Das Goetheanum January 11, 1931, 13-14, and Richard Karutz, “Zur Rassenkunde” Das Goetheanum January 3, 1932, 3-6.

In 1930 Karutz published a stark warning against “race mixing” in the journal of the Anthroposophical Society in Germany: Richard Karutz, “Zur Frage von Rassebildung und Mischehe” Die Drei: Monatsschrift für Anthroposophie, May 1930, 94-102. His argument employed classic esoteric ideas in order to make a forceful case against interracial marriage, by which Karutz meant both marriages between white people and non-white people as well as marriages between gentiles and Jews.

If there were no spiritually significant racial differences, Karutz reasoned, then there would be nothing wrong with racially mixed marriages. Since profound racial differences are a spiritual fact, however, interracial marriage represents a major threat to spiritual-racial evolution and the unfolding of humanity’s cosmic potential. Starting from the premise that “race is spiritually determined,” he explained that different races and peoples embodied different stages in the process of soul development. Karutz rejected the principle that “there are no inferior races” as materialistic and shortsighted, because it ignored the direct spiritual correlation between physiology and the development of consciousness. The proper maturation of the ‘I’ required firm measures in order to avoid a “mish-mash of blood,” and this task called for an “internal racial struggle” to resist harmful admixture with other races. (97) If this mish-mash is not prevented, it will mean regressing to earlier evolutionary stages and racial-spiritual stagnation. Racial mixture, he explained, brings spiritual disharmony.

Karutz offered detailed examples of this process, arguing that through the dynamics of spiritual race development blacks will eventually disappear in America, while whites increase. As with the disappearance of Jews from Germany, Karutz held that this gradual disappearance of black people represented significant evolutionary progress, and that intermarriage between black people and white people hindered this progress. He maintained the same position in 1939: Richard Karutz, “Mysterienschatten über Afrika” Das Goetheanum August 27, 1939, 276-77, rejects “race mixing” between “the black and white races” as a “biological mistake” that disrupts the proper course of incarnations.

With articulated views like these years before 1933, Karutz unsurprisingly found much to admire when Nazism came to power. His racial writings during the Nazi era combined fervent commitment to anthroposophy with adulation for the new regime.  His chief statement on race was his 1934 book “Rassenfragen,” which carried the imprimatur of the Goetheanum. Here Karutz outlined a racially based anthroposophist ethnology as an alternative to existing ‘materialist’ approaches.

The book began by charging that mainstream anthropology did not take race seriously, by focusing on merely cultural and psychological factors while ignoring physical ones. According to Karutz, this was a profound mistake; ethnology cannot be understood correctly if its racial facets are not given their due. Characterizing the ostensibly prevailing non-racial view as “materialist,” Karutz posited his own esoteric approach to anthropology as the necessary antidote to such race-blind materialism. Only a racial ethnology, he explained, could perceive “the true cosmic spirit” that lies behind external appearances; a non-racial view was like “describing the outer shell without reaching the inner core.” (Karutz, Rassenfragen, 14)

In place of the wrongheaded ‘materialist’ framework which failed to take heed of the crucial importance of race, Karutz proposed an esoteric ethnology, insisting that “Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy” was the only source for the proper understanding of race. (9) An anthroposophical account of race was not merely spiritual, he explained, but combined body, soul, and spirit into a unity. This approach gave central attention to “heredity” as “the indispensable mark of race.” (21) He described the physically and spiritually debilitated state of “the lower colored peoples” (22) and claimed that the great differences in physical race characteristics between “Europeans” and “Negroes” are due to “real spiritual forces” (32).

Karutz argued that Nazi guidelines for racial instruction in schools did not go far enough in rejecting materialism; in his view these theories missed the special spiritual qualities of “our race.” Spiritual principles must inform “the political doctrine of race” if it is to be effective, and this could only happen through “the spiritual science of Rudolf Steiner.” (38) These remarks introduced a full-blown endorsement of Nazi racial policy as anchored in spiritual reality: for Karutz, Nazism represented a promising synthesis of the biological and spiritual components of race, and the Nazi regime had put this synthesis into practice through its eugenic policies. He underscored this conclusion by quoting Steiner and Hitler side by side. (32-33) Karutz considered his own anthroposophical conception of the relation between soul and race confirmed by National Socialist racial ideology.

Drawing on Steiner’s work as well as that of Nazi thinkers, Karutz elaborated an esoteric view of the “racial soul” and “racial destiny,” highlighting in particular the heroic character of the “Aryans” and the “Nordic race.” Since race represents the connection between the physical and spiritual, he argued, eugenic measures must be based on spiritual insight. In an extended argument against “race mixing,” Karutz maintained that mixture is only acceptable between peoples of similar soul and spiritual quality; hence Germans could intermarry among themselves, but intermarriage between Germans and non-Germans or between Europeans and “colored races” was highly detrimental. (49-55) Even intermarriage between Germans and French was suspect, because the “national spirits” governing the two peoples would be evolutionarily at odds. (52)

In anthroposophical terms, Karutz’s logic was that mixture between Europeans and ‘colored races’ would produce a soul so full of discrepancies and disharmonies that it would be useless for the formation of the ‘I’ and contribute nothing to evolutionary progress. In addition, souls cannot obtain the proper racial education if they are incarnated in a mixed-race body, as they will not receive a full experience of either of the races. If such mixtures nonetheless sometimes occurred, they could provide the possibility for a higher soul to forego an incarnation in a higher race and instead incarnate in a lower race in order to take on a leadership role and help the group move forward evolutionarily.

Quoting Hitler again, Karutz went on to condemn mixture between Aryans and Jews, and then quoted both Hitler and Steiner again in support of a vigilant defense of the German Volk from foreign spiritual and physical influences. He emphasized that anthroposophy’s ‘spiritual science’ and the new worldview of the Third Reich complemented and mutually reinforced one another. (63-64) For Karutz in 1934, the Nazi ‘revolution’ was a “popular uprising” in which the German people followed the call of their “national spirit.” (68) He resoundingly endorsed the new regime’s race principles, providing an extended anthroposophical justification of them. But eugenic measures and racial policies were not enough, he concluded; not only the “racial elements of the nation” must be protected, but also its spiritual qualities, the “soul of the race.” (83) Based on an esoteric principle of racial inequality, Karutz found far-reaching common ground with Nazi racial theorists. He praised National Socialism as a spiritual movement, and avowed that Hitler and Steiner offered similar racial teachings.

Karutz was not alone in his views. His works garnered very appreciative reviews in the anthroposophist press and were cited by other anthroposophical authors addressing racial questions. Examples include the extremely positive review of Karutz’s 1938 book on ‘the African soul,’ Die afrikanische Seele, in Das Goetheanum June 5, 1938, 181-82; Ernst von Hippel, Mensch und Gemeinschaft, Leipzig 1935, 25-26, and Karl Heyer, Von der Atlantis bis Rom, Breslau 1939, 58-59, both of which quote Karutz’ racial writings at length; Arnold Wadler, Der Turm von Babel: Urgemeinschaft der Sprachen (Basel: Geering, 1935), with quotations from and advertisements for Karutz’s works; and Guenther Wachsmuth, Bilder und Beiträge zur Mysterien- und Geistesgeschichte der Menschheit (Dresden: Weise, 1938), which quotes Karutz throughout.

In addition to his prolific publications on race, Karutz took an active role in the Waldorf movement in Nazi Germany. A 1934 essay he wrote on behalf of the parents at the Stuttgart Waldorf school offers a striking example of Waldorf advocates’ thinking on the new political situation under the Nazi regime. Referring to the Nazi ‘revolution’ of 1933 as the “national uprising,” the first page announced:

“Since the national uprising of 1933, the launching of the nation toward the National Socialist unified people’s state and the most profound transformation of every political and social course of life, the school is committed to participation in the rebuilding of the Reich, along with every other cell of German life and every individual German person. Toward this goal, the school is committed to active collaboration, putting itself at the service of the leaders of the school system of the new Reich and showing them what positive values the school has to offer from its pedagogical experience.” (Richard Karutz, “Erklärung aus dem Kreise der Elternschaft der Freien Waldorfschule Stuttgart”).

The leadership of the Stuttgart Waldorf school association endorsed the Karutz text and distributed it to the association’s membership in March 1934. Karutz continued:

“We declare, on the foundation of the New State, that we recognize the Free Waldorf School as an outstanding and reliable institution in accord with the New State. […] For fifteen years Waldorf pedagogy has been pursuing methodological paths and striving toward practical goals that point in the spiritual direction of the National Socialist uprising. Waldorf schooling anticipated demands of the New State and is well positioned to produce students who are thoroughly prepared in body, soul and spirit, who are capable and determined to serve the New State with personal dedication.”

The text went on to emphasize that all of the Waldorf teachers at the Stuttgart school share the same “national convictions,” a “unified worldview” centered on “the spiritual-cultural mission of the German Volk.” As a result of this commitment, and what Karutz called the “authoritarian” methods of Waldorf pedagogy, many Waldorf graduates have “enthusiastically joined the National Socialist movement.” Karutz underscored the school’s devotion to the “national community,” boasted of the military background of the Waldorf faculty, and quoted Hitler repeatedly to demonstrate the proximity of Waldorf’s objectives to the premises of National Socialism.

Waldorf Teacher Training Requirements: Second Year

Waldorf Teacher Training Requirements: Second Year

This text was given to applicants for the Waldorf teacher training program at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, California, 1993-1994. It is evidence for my allegation that the Waldorf “teacher training” programs are actually seminary programs for the Anthroposophical ministry.

Note that since some schools require a Waldorf teaching certificate, this could be viewed as a religious test for employment. Note that a letter of recommendation is required, not from a professor or master teacher, but from “a senior person in the anthroposophical community”!

-Dan Dugan

For students who have not completed the Foundation Year program at Rudolf Steiner College or another comparable study center, in addition to the procedures listed on the Teacher Training application form, the following are also required:

1. A statement from yourself concerning your relationship to Anthroposophy.

2. A letter of recommendation from a senior person in the anthroposophical community who knows you well and could comment on you in the light of your relationship to Anthroposophy.

3. A paper giving an overview of the knowledge you have gained from a study of the following books by Rudolf Steiner:

Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment
Occult Science
Philosophy of Freedom (Philosophy of Spiritual Activity)
Christianity as Mystical Fact

4. Evidence of some work in Eurythmy in the form of a letter describing the extent and quality of what you have done and with whom.

5. Letters describing the extent and quality of your past work in painting, music or other artistic fields. It is of particular interest if this artistic work has been based on anthroposophical thought.

6. A statement outlining your experiences participating in celebration of seasonal festivals and your study of the spiritual foundation of those festivals.

Waldorf Teacher Training Reading List: First Year

Waldorf Teacher Training Reading List: First Year

This text is evidence for my allegation that Waldorf “teacher training” is actually training for a religious missionary ministry rather than for teaching.

Note how some of the Anthroposophical content is disguised behind conventional course titles, e.g. Rudolf Steiner’s biography as “History 102.”



The following books will be read and discussed during the year. You will
need to have your own copy of the books marked *. The rest, and others the
faculty will suggest, may be purchased or borrowed from the library.

Psych 101 The Nature of the Human Being: Microcosm/Macrocosm

Rudolf Steiner, Theosophy*
Rudolf Steiner, Calendar of the Soul*
Rudolf Steiner, The Younger Generation

Lit 100 Parsifal

W. von Eschenbach. Parzival (Mustard and Passage translation)*
Rene Querido, The Mystery of the Holy Grail: A Modern Path of Initiation*
Steven Roboz, ed., The Holy Grail
Rudolf Steiner, The Search for the Holy Grail

SS 101 Biography, Life Cycles and the Meaning of Existence

Bernard Lievegoed, Phases*
Beredene Jocelyn. Citizens of the Cosmos
Gisela and George O’Neil, The Human Life

SS 104 The Festivals

Rudolf Steiner. The Cycle of the Year as a Breathing Process
Rudolf Steiner, The Festivals and Their Meaning
Rudolf Steiner. The Four Seasons and the Archangels

Hist 102 Rudolf Steiner: His Life and Work

Rudolf Steiner. The Course of My Life
Robert A. McDermott. ed.. The Essential Steiner
Stewart Easton, Man and World in the Light of Anthroposophy
Stewart Easton, Rudolf Steiner: Herald of a Modern Consciousness

Hist 103 Evolution of Consciousness through Art

Gottfried Richter, Art and Human Consciousness*

Psych 100 Knowledge of the Higher Worlds

Rudolf Steiner, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment*
Rudolf Steiner, Foundation Stone*
F.W. Zeylemans, The Foundation Stone

Phil 103 World Evolution and Spiritual Development

Rudolf Steiner, Occult Science*
Rudolf Steiner, The Spiritual Hierarchies*

Lit 160 English and American Literature

An anthology of readings is provided for the class.

Phil 102 Christology

Rudolf Steiner, Spiritual Guidance of Man*
Rudolf Steiner, Christianity as Mystical Fact

Phil 100 Philosophy of Freedom

Rudolf Steiner. Philosophy of Freedom*

FA 100 Eurythmy

Rudolf Steiner, A Lecture on Eurythmy
Rudolf Steiner, An Introduction to Eurythmy
Marjorie Spock, Eurythmy

Ed 100 Introduction to Waldorf Education

Rudolf Steiner, Kingdom of Childhood*
Rudolf Steiner, Education of the Child in the Light of Spiritual Science*

Hist 110 America in the Light of Spiritual Science

An anthology of readings is provided for the class.

Psych 102 Karma and Reincarnation

Rudolf Steiner, Manifestations of Karma*
Rudolf Steiner, Reincarnation and Karma*
Rudolf Steiner, Karmic Relationships, Volumes 1-8
Rene Querido, Questions and Answers on Reincarnation and Karma*

Anthroposophist Spiritual Racism: Uehli

Anthroposophist Spiritual Racism: Uehli

by Peter Staudenmaier

Building on Steiner’s work, anthroposophists have made significant contributions to the unfortunate tradition of spiritual racism. One of the most important examples is Ernst Uehli (1875-1959), a Swiss theosophist and anthroposophist and student of Steiner from 1905 onward.

Uehli was one of the foremost figures in the first generation of anthroposophists. He was the founding editor (appointed by Steiner personally) of the anthroposophist periodicals Die Drei and Anthroposophie, the premier German anthroposophical publications of the 1920s and 1930s; he was a prominent leader of the ‘social threefolding’ movement; and he taught at the original Waldorf school from 1924 to 1937. Steiner considered him one of the leading personalities in the entire anthroposophical movement, on the same level as Marie Steiner and Albert Steffen, and he was one of the most prominent anthroposophist authors and public speakers in the final years of Steiner’s life, as well as one of the three members of the Central Council of the German Anthroposophical Society in the 1920s. At the original Waldorf school he taught religion, literature, German, and history, and according to anthroposophist accounts he profoundly shaped the curriculum and pedagogical practice. (Those interested can consult Gisbert Husemann and Johannes Tautz, Der Lehrerkreis um Rudolf Steiner in der ersten Waldorfschule 1919-1925, Stuttgart 1977, 227-240, and Hans Reichert and Jakob Hugentobler, Ernst Uehli: Leben und Gestaltung, Bern 1945, among others.)

Uehli’s work continues to play a role in Waldorf contexts today; a heavily abridged English translation of one of the books discussed below is published and distributed by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America under the tile Norse Mythology and the Modern Human Being. It is one of the recommended “Waldorf curriculum guides” on “history, myth, culture” and was part of the original Waldorf curriculum program as well. The role of Uehli’s works in the officially recommended curriculum for German Waldorf teachers sparked a public scandal twelve years ago, when the German government examined the works’ racist content. The excerpts below will give a sense of the concerns.

Though his main point of reference was Steiner, Uehli’s racial publications were also influenced by the works of Edouard Schure and Annie Besant. His 1921 book on the the mystery of the Holy Grail (Ernst Uehli, Eine neue Gralsuche, Stuttgart: Der Kommende Tag, 1921), written in personal consultation with Steiner, focuses on “Aryan” and “Nordic-Germanic” themes while contrasting Germans and Jews. According to Uehli, the Jews are the only people who refuse the present evolutionary trend and do not strive toward Universal Humanity. (141) This, says Uehli, explains the “rage of the Jews against Christ.” (147)

In 1926 Uehli published a lengthy anthroposophist book on Nordic-Germanic mythology: Ernst Uehli, Nordisch-Germanische Mythologie als Mysteriengeschichte (Basel: Geering, 1926), dedicating the book to Steiner. It was re-published in 1965 and again in 1984 by anthroposophist publishing houses. Amidst long passages about Thule and Atlantis and proclamations about the deep connection between “language and blood,” Uehli’s book underscores the evolutionary differences between “the southern and northern peoples, the Semitic and Aryan peoples.” (139)

Celebrating the special qualities of the northern “Aryan peoples,” Uehli emphasizes “the blood of the Germanic peoples” which rendered them uniquely close to nature. (110) Uehli also claims that the spiritual mission of the Jews was completed two millennia ago. While “the early Germans were a people of nature,” he explains, “the Jews succumbed to Ahriman and could not recognize Christ in the flesh.” (142) Uehli further announces that “certain primitive peoples that are currently dying out” are “the decadent remnants of the Hyperboreans.” (129) In contrast, the “Aryan race” consists of “the most gifted and the most evolutionarily capable people.” (39)

Uehli’s 1936 book on Atlantis, published in Nazi Germany, highlights the spiritual facets of race and the divinely ordained nature of racial evolution: Ernst Uehli, Atlantis und das Rätsel der Eiszeitkunst: Versuch einer Mysteriengeschichte der Urzeit Europas (Stuttgart: Hoffmann, 1936). The book was republished in 1957 and again in 1980. It recounts a racial-spiritual selection process overseen by divine beings, beginning in Atlantis and continuing through subsequent stages of racial evolution, based closely on Steiner’s model. Uehli cites Steiner’s racial works throughout the book.

Offering a cosmic explanation for racial differences, Uehli emphasizes that the origin of race lies in the spiritual realm and is expressed in the physical realm. The leading protagonist in this unfolding racial drama is the “Aryan race,” whose members were carefully selected by their cosmically appointed guide. A sharp contrast between racial groups with exceptional biological and spiritual traits, like the specially advanced Aryans, and the large mass of people who do not share these superior traits, runs throughout the text. This fundamental contrast is coupled with the distinction between racial and ethnic groups that “lead” and those that “follow” and the divergence between “more advanced” groups and those that have failed to evolve. (see e.g. 100-02, 114-16)

Following Steiner’s model, Uehli held that while other races had devolved and were incapable of further progress, the “Aryan race” or the “Caucasian race” continued to evolve higher. The “red race” of the “American Indians” is “incapable of further evolution” and thus “dying out.” The “black race” is “unable to develop further,” hence its physiological and spiritual “symptoms of racial decline.” (66) In contrast, “the Aryan race, and with it the Germanic peoples, were born from spiritual foundations,” the basis of the “mission of the Germanic peoples in the cultural development of Europe.” (77) These racial characteristics are based on “cosmically anchored laws of evolution.” (66)

Uehli’s book received a warm welcome in the anthroposophist press, and his Aryan arguments re-appeared in a number of his other works: cf. Wolfgang Moldenhauer, “Ernst Uehlis Atlantis-Arbeit” Das Goetheanum August 9, 1936, 252-54; Ernst Uehli, Kultur und Kunst Ägyptens: Ein Isisgeheimnis (Dornach: Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag, 1955); Uehli, “Die heilige Urschrift der Menschheit” Das Goetheanum July 16, 1933, 226-29; Uehli, “Ein Beitrag zu den Mysterien des Zeichens” Das Goetheanum July 23, 1933, 233-35; Uehli, “Eiszeitkunst II” Das Goetheanum, November 12, 1933, 363. Similar claims could be found in anthroposophist journals as late as 1943: see e.g. Ernst Uehli, “Kosmologische Betrachtungen” Das Goetheanum, May 23, 1943, 165.

Uehli was by no means alone in these views. Subsequent posts will provide additional material from a variety of other anthroposophist authors.

Why Waldorf Programs are Unsuitable for Public Funding

Why Waldorf Programs are Unsuitable for Public Funding

Dan Dugan


The author tells the story of his experience as a Waldorf school parent, and his discovery that the school was a front for a cult-like sect called Anthroposophy. Waldorf education appears to combine artistic and academic learning and claims to be child-centered, but critical examination reveals that it is devoted to promulgating the ideology of its founder, Austrian mystic Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Penetration of Waldorf philosophy into public schools has raised legal issues of Establishment Clause violations and ethical concerns about racism inherent in the system. The author illustrates his discussion with examples from Waldorf and Anthroposophical publications.

Introduction: My Encounter with Anthroposophy

I enrolled my son in the San Francisco Waldorf School halfway through the sixth grade. I was very impressed with the school. I liked very much the way art is integrated into the curriculum in Waldorf. Drawing, calligraphy, music, dance, and drama aren’t separate subjects, but part of the regular lessons. Students hand-write and illustrate their own books for every subject. Subjects are taught in blocks that last several weeks. When Roman History is studied, for example, students will draw and paint Romans, write about them, sing, dance, and act out plays about them.

One day while visiting the school, I browsed through some books by Rudolf Steiner that they had for sale. I saw some very strange things about “astral bodies” and “root races.” I asked my son’s teacher whether these subjects were taught in the classroom. She assured me that though the teachers studied Steiner, only Steiner’s teaching methods were used in the classroom, and Steiner’s philosophy wasn’t taught to the children. I learned later that this is a standard disclaimer, and it is far from the truth. I should have known better, but I was so in love with the facade of the school that I looked the other way.

Over the year and a half my son was in the school, I became increasingly disturbed about three things:

  1. Weird science. In a chemistry lesson, the teacher burned different substances and the students drew and described the qualities of the flames, smoke, and ash. No mention was made of oxidation or, for that matter, any chemistry at all. In a lesson on the physics of light, they were taught that Newton was wrong about color and Goethe was right. White light is a unity and cannot be divided into the colors of the spectrum; the colors are merely an artifact of the prism. I thought perhaps these mistakes were due to the ignorance of particular teachers, but when I obtained Waldorf curriculum guides, I discovered that the inadequate and erroneous science was part of the Waldorf system.
  2. Racism. I was shocked to pick up a Steiner book for sale at the school and read: “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” (Steiner, 1981, p. 86).  Why would a school in San Francisco in 1988 be promoting 1920s German racism? They would, I thought, have to be some kind of cult to be so out of touch with reality.
  3. Quack medicine. An “Anthroposophical physician” gave a lecture to the parents on “Anthroposophical medicine.”  It was classic quackery, claiming to be scientific but ignoring science in favor of cult beliefs, namely, Steiner’s seemingly authoritative pronouncements. For example, Anthroposophical medicine doesn?t believe in germ theory, teaching instead that the real causes of infectious diseases are karmic or spiritual, and that the presence of microorganisms is only a symptom.

I started speaking up at meetings and lectures about these problems. I requested a meeting with the College of Teachers, the committee of senior teachers that ran the school. They were “too busy.” Instead, a committee of three teachers was delegated to give me an ultimatum: “You don’t have to believe what we believe, but if you are going to talk about your disagreements with the other parents, you will have to leave.” We left.

It was all a very strange experience for me, and I decided to express my concerns to the other parents at the school by writing a couple of articles and distributing them to the school address list. I wanted to be sure of what I was talking about, so I bought some Steiner books, did research in the library, and attended more Anthroposophical lectures. As I studied, I realized that the field was wide and deep, and what was really needed was a book looking at it from outside.

For years I studied Anthroposophy and Waldorf, accumulating a large library of books and periodicals. Just when I was at the point of telling myself that I shouldn’t do research forever, that it was time to get it down on paper, something new happened. Waldorf education started to move into public schools. A Waldorf school opened in the public school system in Milwaukee in 1991. Soon after, the charter school movement started up, and Waldorf charters started opening. My studies took on urgency. I felt obligated to use what I knew to oppose the use of public funds for this religious system that was violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because no one knew what they were really about.

Then the Internet appeared and changed everything. I was kicked out of the official Waldorf discussion list for being critical and bringing up embarrassing topics. Not one to be silenced, I started an alternative list called Waldorf-Critics. I co-wrote an article about Waldorf with Judy Daar that was published in the Secular Humanist magazine Free Inquiry (Dugan & Daar, 1994).  I began to organize a “Waldorf Critics Association.” At the same time, Debra Snell had experienced a similar conflict with a Waldorf charter school in Nevada City, California, and she had begun to organize “Parents for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools” to close the school that she had helped found. We joined forces, and PLANS, People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools, was incorporated in 1997. PLANS operates a popular web site, a public email discussion list, “waldorf-critics,” and a private email support list, “waldorf-survivors-only.” In 1998, PLANS filed a federal lawsuit against two Northern California school districts that operate a Waldorf magnet school and a Waldorf charter school, alleging violation of the Establishment Clause.

The History of Anthroposophy

Anthroposophy is a cult-like religious sect following the teachings of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). There is a thorough account of Steiner’s life, first as a leader of Theosophy and then as the head of his own sect, in Peter Washington’s entertaining Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon: A History of the Mystics, Mediums, and Misfits Who Brought Spiritualism to America (1995). Washington also covers the other popular gurus of the early 20th century, Besant, Ouspensky, Gurdjieff, Krishnamurti, and more. I recommend it highly. Steiner was appointed head of the German section of Theosophy by Annie Besant in 1902. He was a charismatic leader and the sect thrived. Around 1912 Charles Leadbeater, at Theosophy’s center in India, became enamored of a beautiful Indian boy. He convinced the other Theosophical leaders that the boy, Krishnamurti, was a reincarnation of Christ. Steiner couldn’t go along with that. He’d already integrated Christ into his cosmological system, and Krishnamurti wasn’t part of that system. Years later, when he grew up, Krishnamurti repudiated his role in Theosophy and became a spiritual teacher in his own right.

Steiner split with Theosophy, forming his own group, which he called Anthroposophy. He was a charismatic leader, and most of the German section came with him, forming an instant cult. Later he claimed to have been teaching Anthroposophy all along, and Anthroposophical presses went so far as to change “Theosophy” to “Anthroposophy” in some of his earlier books.

Anthroposophy cobbles together a hodge-podge of spiritual traditions, claiming to teach comprehensive truths which are only partially found in other religions. At its foundation are the concepts of reincarnation, karma, and polytheism, which derive from Hinduism. Steiner was something of a fundamentalist Platonist, saying that the real world was all illusion, that objects are reflections of eternal essences in the spiritual world; but for Steiner the essences weren’t abstractions, they were living beings. He also espoused Plato’s political philosophy and may well have imagined himself as the philosopher-king. From the ancient Persian religion Zoroastrianism he took dual gods of light and dark. He identified the light god as Lucifer, and created his own trinity of Lucifer, Ahriman (the dark god), and a Gnostic conception of Christ, usually referred to as “The Christ Spirit,” who dwelt in the body of Jesus for only three years.

As if this weren’t enough, Steiner stirred it all together with a liberal dose of European occult traditions: Cabbalism, numerology, Rosicrucianism and Masonry, and spiced it with vegetarianism and the pseudosciences of astrology, herbalism, and homeopathy. Steiner claimed to make “exact scientific observations” in the spiritual world, so nothing that he said could be discussed substantially by his followers without questioning the foundations of the faith.

Anthroposophy Today

A pamphlet of the Anthroposophical Society in America (1993) quotes Steiner’s statement of the purpose of the society given in 1923: “an association of people who would foster the life of the soul, both in the individual and in human society, on the basis of a true knowledge of the spiritual world.” This reveals the religious nature of Anthroposophy. “The life of the soul” is generally considered to be a religious matter, as is “the spiritual world.” His assertion of “true knowledge” marks Anthroposophy as a sect; it implies that other paths are not true.

Many common references identify Anthroposophy as a religious movement. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines it as “a 20th century religious system growing out of theosophy and centering on human development.” (, 12/1/02) The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy calls it “The Christian and occultist movement associated with Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) stressing the cultivation of spiritual nature and the way to gain spiritual awareness of a higher world” (Oxford, 1994, p. 75). Encyclopedia Britannica’s article on Steiner defines Anthroposophy as “a movement based on the notion that there is a spiritual world comprehensible to pure thought but accessible only to the highest faculties of mental knowledge” (Britannica, 2002).

More than any other sect of occultism, except perhaps Shrine, Anthroposophists apply themselves to activities in the outside world. The pamphlet lists the activities of “Anthroposophy at Work” as Waldorf education, adult education, healing dance, medical practice, elder care, biodynamic agriculture, the arts, banking and financial consulting, health and hygiene, publishing, a formal church called Christian Community, and the Anthroposophical Society itself.

These activities are usually referred to in Anthroposophical jargon as “initiatives.” This author observes that they are claimed as Anthroposophical activities when it is desired to glorify Anthroposophy, but denied and called independent free associations when outsiders question their connection to problematic Anthroposophical doctrines. They are wholly carried out under Anthroposophical direction, ultimately taking guidance from divisions of the Anthroposophical headquarters (the Goetheanum) in Dornach, Switzerland. Each activity will, of course, have its own local non-profit corporation.

Waldorf Schools

In 1919 Emil Molt, an admirer of Rudolf Steiner, asked Steiner to set up a school for the children of the workers of the Stuttgart Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory that Molt managed. The school also served the children of Steiner’s devotees, but, then as now, the great majority of the students were from outside Anthroposophy. The school was progressive for its time; boys and girls were taught together, there were no separate tracks for work- and college-bound students, and art was integrated into the curriculum. The school was successful, and Anthroposophists founded more, first in Germany, then in England and the United States. In the United States they are called Waldorf schools; in Europe Steiner schools or Free Schools. Steiner died in 1925.

Germany outlawed Anthroposophy in the second year of the Nazi period. In the author’s opinion, this wasn’t because Anthroposophic philosophy was incompatible with National Socialism; rather it was because Anthroposophists promoted a rival political system, Steiner’s “threefold social order.” According to education scholar Achim Leschinsky, The Waldorf schools were harassed by local authorities. The schools fired all their Jewish teachers, formed an association, and presented themselves to the government as supporting National Socialism while they continued to do things their own way. They were controversial within the Nazi party, but they survived for six years because of support from leading Nazis, most notably from Deputy Fuehrer Rudolf Hess. Nazi education official Alfred Baeumler argued that the Waldorf schools should be studied as a good example of a system of indoctrination. After Hess flew to Scotland, Hitler cracked down on occultists and the remaining schools were closed. (Leschinsky, 1983, p.  26). After the war the Waldorf movement continued to grow, and today there are over 500 schools worldwide, including at least 140 in North America (AWSNA, 2003).

In school brochures, Waldorf schools state that their purpose is to educate “the whole child,” “head, heart, and hands,” or “mind, heart, and will.” They often quote Steiner: “Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings, who are themselves able to impart purpose and direction to their lives.” These aspirations aren’t unique to Waldorf; did you ever see a school brochure that said they educate only part of the child?

Publications for insiders reveal other intentions: the advancement of Steiner’s “threefold social order” and missionary activity for Anthroposophy. During World War I, Steiner promoted his plan to reorganize society. He sent tracts to world leaders, but none bought his vague plan to divide society into three independent spheres, spiritual, economic, and rights. Disappointed, he told his followers that humanity’s opportunity to take up the threefold social order had passed, and the best that he could do would be to found a school to prepare souls who would meet up again when they were reincarnated in the sixth post-Atlantean epoch. A publication of AWSNA, the trademark holder of “Waldorf” in North America, describes their motives:

[I]t is important to bring out a point which is not often clearly realized. The spiritual life forces of a Waldorf school are twofold; or, we could also say, there are two motives for its existence. On the one hand, it is the starting-point for a renewal of education based on a spiritual knowledge of the whole man (the teacher’s vocation as such). On the other hand, and at the same time, it is the working model for a social community, it is an institution of the free life of spirit. Remember that the Waldorf School was founded in 1919 as part of the larger movement towards a threefold social order after World War I. When this large-scale effort to renew the social order, nourished as it was by Rudolf Steiner’s impulse, found itself thwarted, the Waldorf School itself remained, as a sort of “living relic” after the storm, but also as a seed bearing in itself the potential for the renewal of social life in our times. The school-with its various examples of cooperation among different segments of its community and with inhering self-determination as a faculty-run institution, since 1919-has been a full-working model for an organization rooted in the free life of spirit; and as such it stands as a continuing impulse to re-awaken awareness of the threefold social order and put it into practice. (Leist, 1987, p. 13)

Anthroposophy doesn’t proselytize directly; belief in karma and reincarnation leads Anthroposophists to believe that people who are destined for Anthroposophy will ask about it when they encounter it. Waldorf parents who show interest in Steiner are invited to join “study groups” that read and discuss Steiner. Often this leads to Waldorf teacher training.

As we have seen so many times, the school becomes a parent’s first introduction to anthroposophy, and this is happening in our greater community, as more people become interested in participating in festivals and attending study groups. (Leopold, 2001)

Waldorf brochures will claim that the school is based on child development. What isn’t explained is that Steiner’s theory of child development differs radically from other theories (see Steiner, 1960). Steiner’s child development theory is based on what he calls an understanding of the “true nature of man.” Reincarnation and karma are essential tenets of this doctrine. Humans have four interpenetrating bodies that incarnate in stages. The physical body is born at birth. The “etheric body” is born at age seven, signified by the change of teeth. The “astral body” is born at age fourteen (numerology dictates seven-year periods), and the “I,” the eternal part of the human that is reborn forever, is born at age 21. The web site of the Pedagogical Section of the Goetheanum, headquarters of Anthroposophy, describes what the child is ready for in each period, with reference to Steiner’s three-system physiology:

Let us now take a closer look at specific ages. To that end let us consider Rudolf Steiner’s discovery of three functional systems in the human being: Our motor activity happens in what can be called our metabolic/limb system. Every movement is a bodily expression of will. Our rhythmic system – breathing and circulation – is a bodily expression of experience and feeling. Fear, joy, pain, etc., affect the breath and pulse. Our nerve-sense aspect, the actual consciousness pole, which is centered in the region of the head (the brain), corresponds to the activity of knowing. A person is healthy only when these three systems work together and form a whole. Anyone can experience the benefit of taking a walk after doing strenuous computer work, which uses only the head. When we are digesting our lunch, we have to overcome a fair amount of resistance to do concentrated thinking. A person is healthy when none of these systems suppresses the others for too long.

We can relate these three systems to three phases of childhood development. Before the change of teeth the child lives chiefly in motor activity, as a being of emotion and will. During this phase its sense activity, speaking and thinking are all connected with its movement and are therefore linked to the body to a considerable degree. We can observe this in the four year-old child. When it sees or hears something, it immediately has the urge to convert what it has perceived into its own movement. This is how it learns to speak; this is how it begins to play. One cannot picture a child before the change of teeth that would wait for a meal with crossed arms. Perception causes direct will activity in the limbs. Inner and outer movement still belong entirely together.

With the change of teeth the child’s inner being begins to separate itself from its outer movement. Its own inner place of experience develops and its rhythmic system emancipates itself from its limb system. In this stage of life the harmonious 1:4 relationship between pulse and breath falls into place.

With puberty finally, thinking begins to become independent. The human being awakens to critical judgment. Simultaneously the voice deepens, the limbs become heavy, the young person has arrived on the earth, as it were, and is seeking its individual personality. (Goetheanum, 2002)

The consequence of this theory is what critics term an “infantilizing” educational plan. In recent years research has shown that children who don’t master reading in the primary grades are often left behind for the rest of their lives (Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998, p. 21). This has led to “pre-reading” activity being common in kindergarten. Today children entering first grade are expected to recognize letters and numbers, be able to read simple words, and count. Waldorf is vehemently opposed to what they call “pushing” children “too early.” Everyone would agree with that, but what is “too early”? Kindergartners in Waldorf are not only not taught letters and numbers, but many teachers make efforts to protect them from being exposed to print at all. Stories are told to them, not read. Parents have even been advised that questions about road signs and words on packages should be deflected, as too-early intellectual activity will damage the children (Ercolano, 2001).

Waldorf students learn letters in first grade, and basic reading in second and third grades. This is in accordance with Steiner, who said that in the best of all possible worlds, reading would be delayed until after puberty, but compromises had to be made with the demands of society. Since standardized testing is frowned upon, and slower students are expected to catch up in their own good time, children who still can’t read in fifth or sixth grade are not uncommon in Waldorf.

Steiner said over and over that children’s health later in life would be damaged if they were intellectually stimulated too early. Consequently, reasoning, the linking of cause and effect, is avoided till sixth or seventh grade. Science lessons, which begin in fourth grade, consist only of observations. No theories are taught until later.  But it is impossible to teach science without theory, so what is really happening is that by being protected from the “materialism” of modern thought, the pupils are left open to accept the magical world view expressed in the mythology in which they are immersed, that nature spirits and gods are behind the illusions that appear to be the physical universe. Whether this system is actually successful in turning out many Anthroposophists, however, is doubtful; sophisticated kids laugh at the more “anthropop” teachers behind their backs. Waldorf schools may convert more parents than children to Anthroposophy.

Teachers are supposed to start with a first-grade class, and stay with the class all the way through elementary and middle grades, through the eighth grade. This makes the Waldorf experience extremely variable, depending on the talents of the teacher. Since there is no standardized testing, and teachers are hired more on their ability to represent Anthroposophical devotion than their teaching ability, two successive classes graduating from the same school may have very different levels of competency.

Waldorf is very concerned with rhythm, and the schedule of the school day is carefully crafted. After a rigidly controlled circle ritual and prayer (students do not share news from home or discuss world events), two hours of morning “prime time” is given to the “main lesson.” Main lessons are of one subject, taught in a block of several weeks’ length. A history block might be followed by a block on geometry, followed by a block on botany, and so on. There are no textbooks. The teacher draws elaborate illustrations and writes text on the chalkboard, and the student makes a “lesson book” for each block by copying from the board.

After the main lesson, special subjects are rotated in a more conventional way, like math drills or foreign language classes twice a week. The special subjects include some very strange Anthroposophical exercises taught by specialty teachers. A great deal of time is spent doing strictly prescribed wet-on-wet watercolor painting. This is intended to be a spiritual exercise in which the students contact the spiritual world through color. The use of lines is forbidden in the early grades, except for “form drawing,” which consists of repetitive exercises that are purported to be therapeutic. All Waldorf students take eurythmy, a ritual dance that Steiner invented, claiming it was a new art form that carried on the ancient Greek temple dance tradition. It is more of a code than an art form. It consists of a prescribed vocabulary of gestures that symbolize speech sounds, musical intervals, the signs of the zodiac, and the planets. Parents can be very impressed when they see flowing gowns and graceful arm-waving reminiscent of Isadora Duncan, but the impression is only superficial. The world of dance takes no interest in the Steiner cult’s “new art form.”

The environment of Waldorf schools is unique. The architecture, following Steiner’s designs for the Goetheanum buildings, avoids right angles and rounds corners. Where an existing building is used, interiors are draped to soften the lines, and natural light is used as much as possible. Classrooms are noticeably less “busy” than any other school; only a few selected pieces of student art are displayed, perhaps a few pieces of art relating to the current lesson block or theme of the year, and a “nature table” (really an altar) that is redecorated for each season. Classroom walls are painted in pastel colors that Steiner prescribed for each grade, with a special transparent color technique called “lazuring.” The effect is peaceful and artistic.

Waldorf schools usually develop by founding a kindergarten first, then when enough support has been organized, a first grade. New classes will be added year by year as the first grade moves up. The standard Waldorf school has a kindergarten and eight grades. High schools are rare because they are more expensive. Very successful schools found high schools after years of being a full elementary school. Schools are monitored and licensed by national Waldorf school associations. In the United States the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) licenses use of the Waldorf and Steiner trademarks. In turn, the associations are coordinated by the Pedagogical Section of the Goetheanum in Switzerland. There are no general Waldorf colleges. Specialized institutions include teacher training colleges, art and eurythmy schools, and post-graduate medical schools.

Waldorf schools have a strict dress code, and elementary school students are not allowed to bring anything from home, especially toys, books, or popular music. The schools want to change the lifestyles of their students’ families to conform to Anthroposophical ideals. Stricter schools will insist that parents sign an agreement to eliminate television, movies, and recorded music from their homes. Teachers often request that children not be enrolled in any after-school activities like dance or sports so that the influence of the school won’t be diluted by popular culture. Parents are advised (or ordered, depending on the teacher) to put children to bed early and not to expose them to any stimulation before school. Some teachers inspect their students’ homes; parents joke with each other about hiding the TV and plastic toys. Because of this complex of restrictions, Waldorf families, trying to do their best for their children, tend to become isolated, socializing only with other Waldorf families.

You will have to take over children for their education and instruction-children who will have received already (as you must remember) the education, or mis-education given them by their parents. Indeed our intentions will only be fully accomplished when we, as humanity, will have reached the stage where parents, too, will understand that special tasks are set for mankind today. (Steiner,,p. 16)

The Waldorf Teacher

Waldorf teachers are different from teachers in any other kind of educational theory. It is expected that they will participate in a group spiritual life. “What is unique in these schools is the inner path of the teacher” wrote artist and Waldorf teacher Mary Richards. “The teacher’s personal path is to enter into a consciousness of the human being and universe and to enter into teaching as a practice of this consciousness. A community is thus created among the teachers by the fact that they are students together and are connected through a meditative life” (Richards, 1980, p. 16).

Norman Davidson, Director of Teacher Training at Sunbridge College, the principal Waldorf teacher training program on the East Coast, explained:

What we are offering is really a personal transformative experience. The student studies the world and human life fundamentally from an Anthroposophical point of view. He or she learns to experience things from a spiritual-scientific approach. At the same time, he or she is given the opportunities for artistic and practical activity that help effect an inner spiritual development. (Koetszch, 1996, p. 37)

The teacher training colleges are more like religious seminaries than teaching colleges. A letterhead from Rudolf Steiner College, the largest West Coast school, describes it as “A Center for Anthroposophical Endeavors.”

The full-time teacher training program is a two-year course. The first year, called the “Foundation Year,” is a survey of Anthroposophy, and is also offered to anyone interested in learning more about Steiner’s philosophy. A reading list for Foundation Year students reveals the nature of the curriculum. Note that almost every book is by Steiner; those few that aren’t by Steiner are by other Anthroposophical authors, with the exception of Parzival.

FOUNDATION YEAR BOOK LIST 1993-94. The following books will be read and discussed during the year. You will need to have your own copy of the books marked *. The rest, and others the faculty will suggest, may be purchased or borrowed from the library.

  • Psych 101 The Nature of the Human Being: Microcosm/Macrocosm
    • Rudolf Steiner, Theosophy*
    • Rudolf Steiner, Calendar of the Soul*
    • Rudolf Steiner, The Younger Generation
  • Lit 100 Parsifal
    • W. von Eschenbach. Parzival (Mustard and Passage translation)*
    • Rene Querido, The Mystery of the Holy Grail: A Modern Path of Initiation*
    • Steven Roboz, ed., The Holy Grail
    • Rudolf Steiner, The Search for the Holy Grail
  • SS 101 Biography, Life Cycles and the Meaning of Existence
    • Bernard Lievegoed, Phases*
    • Beredene Jocelyn. Citizens of the Cosmos
    • Gisela and George O’Neil, The Human Life
  • SS 104 The Festivals
    • Rudolf Steiner. The Cycle of the Year as a Breathing Process
    • Rudolf Steiner, The Festivals and Their Meaning
    • Rudolf Steiner. The Four Seasons and the Archangels
  • Hist 102 Rudolf Steiner: His Life and Work
    • Rudolf Steiner. The Course of My Life
    • Robert A. McDermott. Ed. The Essential Steiner
    • Stewart Easton, Man and World in the Light of Anthroposophy
    • Stewart Easton, Rudolf Steiner: Herald of a Modern Consciousness
  • Hist 103 Evolution of Consciousness through Art
    • Gottfried Richter, Art and Human Consciousness*
  • Psych 100 Knowledge of the Higher Worlds
    • Rudolf Steiner, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment*
    • Rudolf Steiner, Foundation Stone*
    • F.W. Zeylemans, The Foundation Stone
  • Phil 103 World Evolution and Spiritual Development
    • Rudolf Steiner, Occult Science*
    • Rudolf Steiner, The Spiritual Hierarchies*
  • Lit 160 English and American Literature
    • An anthology of readings is provided for the class.
  • Phil 102 Christology
    • Rudolf Steiner, Spiritual Guidance of Man*
    • Rudolf Steiner, Christianity as Mystical Fact
  • Phil 100 Philosophy of Freedom
    • Rudolf Steiner. Philosophy of Freedom*
  • FA 100 Eurythmy
    • Rudolf Steiner, A Lecture on Eurythmy
    • Rudolf Steiner, An Introduction to Eurythmy
    • Marjorie Spock, Eurythmy
  • Ed 100 Introduction to Waldorf Education
    • Rudolf Steiner, Kingdom of Childhood*
    • Rudolf Steiner, Education of the Child in the Light of Spiritual Science*
  • Hist 110 America in the Light of Spiritual Science
    • An anthology of readings is provided for the class.
  • Psych 102 Karma and Reincarnation
    • Rudolf Steiner, Manifestations of Karma*
    • Rudolf Steiner, Reincarnation and Karma*
    • Rudolf Steiner, Karmic Relationships, Volumes 1-8
    • Rene Querido, Questions and Answers on Reincarnation and Karma*

I can’t help noticing the conventional designations of the courses. “History 102” is the life and work of Rudolf Steiner. “Psych 102” is about karma and reincarnation. These course numbers would look like a real educational program on a transcript, as long as the actual course titles were omitted.

The second year of teacher training addresses education, but students are required to have taken the Foundation Year first, or to demonstrate that they have equivalent indoctrination in Anthroposophy. An instruction sheet from Rudolf Steiner College adds requirements to the Teacher Training Application form. Perhaps these requirements were considered to be sensitive, and the college did not want to publish them to strangers on the application form that is sent out “cold.”

For students who have not completed the Foundation Year program at Rudolf Steiner College or another comparable study center, in addition to the procedures listed on the Teacher Training application form, the following are also required:

  1. A statement from yourself concerning your relationship to Anthroposophy.
    • This amounts to a religious test for entry to the teacher training year.
  2. A letter of recommendation from a senior person in the anthroposophical community who knows you well and could comment on you in the light of your relationship to Anthroposophy.
    • Applicants aren’t asked for a recommendation from, say, an employer or professor concerning their suitability for teacher training, but from an Anthroposophist. One might expect this priority of Anthroposophy over educational values to be reflected in the Waldorf schools these teachers-to-be will be charged with creating.
  3. A paper giving an overview of the knowledge you have gained from a study of the following books by Rudolf Steiner:
    • Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment
    • Occult Science
    • Theosophy
    • Philosophy of Freedom (Philosophy of Spiritual Activity)
    • Christianity as Mystical Fact
  4. Evidence of some work in Eurythmy in the form of a letter describing the extent and quality of what you have done and with whom.
  5. Letters describing the extent and quality of your past work in painting, music or other artistic fields. It is of particular interest if this artistic work has been based on anthroposophical thought.
  6. A statement outlining your experiences participating in celebration of seasonal festivals and your study of the spiritual foundation of those festivals.

These questions are all about Anthroposophy. The reading list for the second year continues in the same vein. Again, almost all the books not written by Steiner are from Anthroposophic presses:

[Rudolf Steiner College]
Teacher Education Program Book List 1993-94

Students should read for the first day of class:

-three excerpts from lectures by Rudolf Steiner sent with summer information packet

-the first lecture of Study of Man

-the first lecture of Rudolf Steiner’s Three Lectures on the Curriculum

Required reading for the basic education courses include:

Rudolf Steiner, Study of Man

Rudolf Steiner, Practical Advice for Teachers

Rudolf Steiner, Discussions with Teachers

Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf Education for Adolescence

Rudolf Steiner, Balance in Teaching

Rudolf Steiner, Love and Its Meaning in the World

Rudolf Steiner, The Work of the Angels in Man’s Astral Body

Rudolf Steiner, The Education of the Child

C. von Heydebrand, The Curriculum

E.A. Karl Stockmeyer, Rudolf Steiner’s Curriculum for Waldorf Schools

Early Childhood Education students will also need:

Rudolf Steiner, Understanding Young Children

Karl K?nig, The First Three Years of the Child

Freya Jaffke, Toymaking with Children

It is assumed that anyone going into teaching work in the Waldorf schools will have a copy of each of the following and be familiar with the contents:

Rudolf Steiner, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment

Rudolf Steiner, Theosophy

Rudolf Steiner, Occult Science

Rudolf Steiner, Philosophy of Freedom

Rudolf Steiner, Christianity as Mystical Fact

Rudolf Steiner, The Spiritual Guidance of Man

Rudolf Steiner, The Younger Generation

Rudolf Steiner, Kingdom of Childhood

In addition, the following are strongly recommended as very useful references:

Rudolf Steiner, The Festivals and Their Meaning

Rudolf Steiner, The Cycle of the Year as a Breathing Process

Rudolf Steiner, Man as Symphony of the Creative Word

Rudolf Steiner, The Poetry and Meaning of Fairy Tales

Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Pantheon Edition)

Padraic Collum, Children of Odin

H. Baravalle, Teaching Mathematics in the Waldorf School Plan

D. Harrer, Mathematics for Elementary Grades

H. Niederhauser, Form Drawing

R. Kutzli, Creative Form Drawing, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2

Roy Wilkinson, Man and Animal

Ren? Querido, Man’s Responsibility for the Earth

J. Sterit, And There Was Light

D. Harrer, Chapters From Ancient History

D. Harrer, Roman Lives

C. Lindenberg, Teaching History

B. Zahlingen, Plays for Puppets and Marionettes

Nancy Foster, ed., Let Us Form a Ring: An Acorn Hill Anthology

Seasonal story and song books from Wynstones Kindergarten: Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring, Gateways, and Spindrift

Waldorf promoters have argued that there are special summer courses for public Waldorf school teachers that don’t include Anthroposophic content. A public school teacher who took one of those programs reported to me that there was a whole section of the Rudolf Steiner College library that was “off limits” to the trainees! That’s rather strange behavior for a teacher training college.

The argument is specious for two reasons. First, a public Waldorf school (“Waldorf Method” or “Waldorf-inspired”) will be likely to hire teachers who have had the full Waldorf training program; certified Waldorf teachers are more desirable than partly-trained teachers; indeed, some public Waldorf schools advertise that their teachers have both Waldorf and State certifications. Second, the “sanitized” courses actually contain a lot of Anthroposophy, i.e., things that only Anthroposophists believe. One example will suffice for this presentation. Teachers who took the public school teachers program at Rudolf Steiner College in the summer of 1996 gave the author this handout:

The mood of the fairy tale, even in a quite superficial sense, is truly the means to prepare human souls, such as they are today, for the experience of what can shine into them from higher, supersensible worlds. The simple fairy tale, approaching modestly with no pretension of copying everyday reality but leaping grandly over all its laws, provides a preparation in human souls for once more accepting the divine, spiritual worlds. Rudolf Steiner 1911 [sic]

Understanding this sheds quite a different light on what Waldorf teachers are up to when fairy tales are the primary literature (recited by the teacher, not read) in kindergarten and first grade.

What’s remarkable about the Waldorf teacher training is what’s missing. Waldorf teachers don’t study any of the other educational theorists in more than a cursory fashion. They aren’t given any training in core academic subjects at all. They don’t study classroom management. In Waldorf, devotion to Anthroposophy is all. Everything else is supposed to take care of itself-somehow.

Concealing Anthroposophy: Prayer and Ritual

Waldorf schools use various denials and subterfuges to conceal Anthroposophy. Here’s a particularly interesting one from the parent handbook of a publicly-funded Waldorf school:

A prominent aspect of the Novato Charter School’s educational community is a nature-based philosophy. As parents, educators, and administrators of this community, we believe that humans have a connection with all life forms on our planet, and with the universe that sustains us. We believe that nature serves as a common ground for all cultures. Observation and acknowledgement of our natural environment allows us to more fully celebrate our likeness, appreciate our differences, and come together as one in learning about ourselves and the world around us. (Blue Oak Charter School, 1998, p. 8)

The high-sounding idealistic language covers the crucial issue, which is, just what is a “nature-based philosophy?” Perhaps they’re talking about a world view, the business of religions. The handbook states further:

“The Earth, the universe, and the natural elements are acknowledged and celebrated in a variety of ways…” (ibid.)

In Waldorf schools, “the elements” are earth, air, fire and water. These ancient “elements” are illusions concealing the activity of “elemental spirits,” respectively, gnomes, sylphs, salamanders, and undines. “Acknowledging” and “celebrating” are acts of worship. We’re not talking about ecological science here. The writer is trying to appeal to New Age spirituality, popular in Marin County where the school is located. I think it’s good for a Waldorf school to appeal to New Agers, they are its obvious constituency, but Novato Charter School is a public school! A grace before meals is suggested:

Earth who gives to us this food, sun who makes it ripe and good, sun above, earth below, our loving thanks to you we show. (ibid.)

This prayer is by Christian Morgenstern, a friend of Rudolf Steiner, and is used in Waldorf schools worldwide. Thanks can only be given to a person or a deity. Here the earth and the sun are personified, as is done in a nature-worshipping religion. All the mentions of the sun should be seen with the understanding that in Anthroposophy, Christ is a “sun being.”

Who should kindergartners thank for their snack? It would be appropriate in a public school to thank the teacher who gave them the food, the grocer who made it available, the trucker who brought it to the market, the farm workers who picked it, and the farmer who grew it. If they did that, they would be learning real gratitude, not a religious relationship to cosmic bodies.

Waldorf students pray at the opening of every school day. This tradition continues in public Waldorf schools, despite the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Back in 1919 Steiner knew that praying would be problematic, even in private schools, and told his teachers to cover it up:

A teacher: Would it be a good thing to let the children speak a kind of morning prayer?

Dr. Steiner: That is something that can be done. I had also had it in mind. I will say something about it tomorrow. We will also talk about a prayer. But there is just one thing I should like to ask you. You know, with these things the outer form is of the utmost importance. Never call the verse a “prayer” but a “school opening verse”. Do see to it that people do not hear the expression “prayer” used by a teacher. This will go a long way towards overcoming the prejudice that this is an anthroposophical school.

The biggest mistakes we make are with words. People will not get out of the habit of using words that are detrimental to us. (Steiner, 1986, p. 45)

Below is an eyewitness report of a traditional opening ritual for the lower grades. The wording of the prayer will be slightly different in different schools because they are translations of Steiner’s original in German:

Clock time registers 8:50. Miss Bronte [2nd grade teacher] sweeps to the back of the room to turn off the lights and then she says, “Let’s have a golden tone this morning. Who has never done this?” A few students raise their hands. Miss Bronte chooses Ariana to ring the golden tone. With great enthusiasm and anticipation, acting as though she has never done this before, Miss Bronte holds the xylophone for Ariana, who with a flick of the wrist creates the golden tone. The class listens quietly in the darkened room.

Next, Miss Bronte strikes a match against the grey rock on the nature table. In unison the class says, “Candle, candle, burning bright, thank you for your loving light.” The students stand and cross their arms in front of their chests and recite a verse by Rodolf Steiner that I am told is the one verse said, with some variation, in every Waldorf classroom between first and fourth grades:

The sun, with loving light,
Makes bright for me each day.
The soul, with spirit power,
Gives strength unto my limbs.
In sunlight, shining clear,
I reverence, O God,
The strength of humankind
Which thou so graciously
Has planted in my soul,
That I with all my might
May love to work and learn
From thee come light and strength
To thee rise love and thanks.

Uhrmacher, 1991, pp. 108-109

Students recite the words clearly. Next, with accompanying hand movements, students sing another song. Then they snuff the candle with great attention and ritual. (Uhrmacher, 1991, pp. 108-109)

In the first public Waldorf school in Milwaukee the wording was changed to make it seem less religious:

The Sun with loving light
Makes bright for me each day
The light within myself
Gives strength unto my limbs
In sunlight, shining clear
I reverence the strength and power of humankind
That lives in you and me,
That I with all my might,
May love to work and learn.
To me comes strength and light,
From me rise love and thanks. 

McDermott, 1995, p. 38

This is still a prayer despite the removal of “God.” “Love and thanks” are due to some person or deity; the object seems obvious, the sun. In Anthroposophy, the “Christ Spirit” is a “sun being.” It requires no great stretch to construe this prayer as being directed to Steiner’s version of Christ.

In Northern California, a public school teacher who had taken Waldorf teacher training got permission from his school board to present “a simple, multi-cultural study of stories from six world religions.” In a Waldorf journal that he apparently figured his public school colleagues wouldn’t see, the teacher bragged to his Anthroposophical colleagues about how he managed to stage a full-fledged Anthroposophical ritual in his public school classroom:

On the last day before vacation, I led the children in a Winter Solstice Celebration. The room was cleared, except for a red covered table arranged with a wreath of evergreen branches and mistletoe. A few sprigs of holly, with its red berries, completed the circle which surrounded an angel holding a lighted candle. A few crystals and some winter animals complemented the arrangement. The children each had a candle and we spiraled into the center, each lighting our candle. All the while we sang a simple solstice song that goes, “Down with Darkness, Up with Light.” The simplicity and magic of the moment was very moving and powerful. Winter Solstice, with its obvious astronomical importance, is the easiest aspect of the Christmas season to emphasize in a public school. So, for a brief moment, we all felt like ancient Druids worshipping the sun. This celebration ended what was for this public school teacher a very special month. (Peterson, 1995, p. 22)

Concealing Anthroposophy: Cult Science

Beyond the explicit content of prayers and rituals, Anthroposophy is present implicitly in many Waldorf lessons. “[I]n the great tableau of the main lessons from Class 1 to 12, you teach the child/student in clear, separate terms, about all possible spiritual matters. The curriculum is indeed, in a veiled way of course, Anthroposophy” (Whitehead, 1993, p. 27). Anthroposophical influence is most obvious in Waldorf science teaching, which ranges from odd to bizarre. My son David was taught, in seventh-grade physics at the San Francisco Waldorf School, that Newton was wrong, and Goethe was right about color. The following example is from the lesson book of a high school senior in the flagship school associated with the West Coast teachers college:

Newton continued to elaborate on his Theory of Colors. He determined that specific colors came about because all the other colors were absorbed. For example, a blue shirt, is determined as blue because the shirt has absorbed every other color, and has emitted (reflected) only that blue. Though his theory has been proven incorrect, it is essential to learn about many of Newton’s theories in order for us to better understand the scientific frame of mind. . . . Just one of the many aspects of Newtonian physics that we have adopted is Newton’s Particular (particles) Theory of Light. (Charren, 1988, npn.)

This is totally backwards, yet there are no corrections by the teacher. Newton’s theory of why a blue shirt appears blue has not been proven incorrect; it is as valid today as it ever was. Newton’s theory of light particles was rejected by later science, and it didn’t have any influence on the development of today’s quantum theory. It is quite incorrect to say that it “has been adopted.”

Another place that Waldorf science differs radically from the rest of the world is in physiology. Anthroposophy has its own physiology. Steiner taught that the heart does not pump blood, blood moves itself. “Naturally, people began to think that the heart is really a pump that mechanically pumps the blood through the body, because they no longer knew that our inner fluids have their own life and therefore move on their own.  They never dreamed that the heart is only a sense organ that checks on the circulation of the fluids in its own way.” (Steiner, 1985, p. 112) The author, along with another PLANS board member, had the bizarre experience of hearing public school teachers defend this doctrine to the Twin Ridges school board in Nevada County, California. They sincerely believed what their Waldorf mentors had told them, namely, that this was cutting-edge science and the subject of current university research. To prevent parent revolts, this doctrine is usually skirted in Waldorf classes. The lesson block on circulation will be taught in an ambiguous way without mentioning the pumping function of the heart.

The following is from a seventh or eighth grade lesson book that was proudly put on display at the San Francisco Waldorf School.

Name:  Laurel
Organic Chemistry Test

[Teacher’s note] Excellent comprehension of the material, Laurel

I. Short Answer

1. Describe the nature of sugar in relationship to the four elements of nature. Use examples from our experiments to illustrate.
Sugar is always found in liquid form in NATURE. Sugar has a very strong relationship to fire as we saw in our experiment (the nature of sugar). We saw how when we placed some sugar into a crucible, it burst into flame (highly combustible after advancing [to] its middle form a caramel -like substance). It also has an affinity to air (as we saw from the smoke that arose) and water because we saw that it was highly soluble.  Not very strong relationship to earth.

[Teacher’s note] Perfect!

Parents might feel proud that their elementary school student had a class in organic chemistry. On the face of it, it sounds advanced. Who’d imagine the class would be about “the four elements?”


In the private Waldorf schools, it’s always been necessary to appeal to mainstream parents. There aren’t enough Anthroposophists to support the schools, so the majority of the students will be from “outside” the group. From the beginning, the schools have taken care to conceal and deny the Anthroposophical content of the education. In a brochure given to parents in San Francisco, where my son attended, and also used by some other schools, there is only one mention of Anthroposophy. Board of Directors member John Bloom wrote:

Anthroposophy informs the education, the curriculum, and the teacher training. It is the basis for the school’s values, priorities, and organization. However, it is not taught in the school. (Bloom, 1991, p. 2)

Let’s deconstruct this a bit. If A is “the basis for” B, then we can say that B is based on A. But when A “informs” B, what is that relationship? It’s an intentionally vague statement. It must mean that at least some of the content of B comes from A. Expanding Bloom’s statement, then:

The school’s values are based on Anthroposophy.

The school’s priorities are based on Anthroposophy.

The school’s organization is based on Anthroposophy.

Some of the teacher training is Anthroposophy

Some of the curriculum is Anthroposophy

Some of the education is Anthroposophy

Anthroposophy is not taught in the school.

At which point a loud clang of cognitive dissonance should sound. Regarding the aspect of church-state separation, would a public school be acceptable if it stated:

The school’s values are based on Catholicism.

The school’s priorities are based on Catholicism.

The school’s organization is based on Catholicism.

Some of the teacher training is Catholicism

Some of the curriculum is Catholicism

Some of the education is Catholicism

Catholicism is not taught in the school.

Indeed, a “Catholic Method” or “Catholic-inspired” public district school or public charter school describing itself thus would simply not be believed. Anthroposophy is getting away with it because people don’t know what it is.

A Racial Theory of History

Madame Blavatsky, drawing from Hindu traditions about events of history being predestined to occur in cycles, defined an elaborate system of wheels within wheels. In Theosophy’s cosmology, seven Planetary Conditions (Mantavaras) each contain seven Life Kingdoms; each Life Kingdom contains seven Global States; each Global State contains seven Root-Races; and each Root-Race contains seven Sub-Races. Sub-Race periods are 2160 years long, 1/12 of the astronomical period of the precession of the equinoxes, called the Platonic Year. Anthroposophy adopts this scheme directly. Anthroposophy’s Sub-Race periods are therefore “Platonic Months.”

According to Theosophy and Anthroposophy, the present time is in the “Earth” Planetary Condition, the “Mineral” Life Kingdom, the “Physical-Etheric” Global State, the “Aryan” Root-Race, and the “Aryan” Sub-Race. Why are the smaller time periods called “races?” Because, according to divine plan, humanity, which has always been present throughout cosmic history, is supposed to evolve through higher and higher racial forms. According to the plan, the races whose evolutionary tasks are done are supposed to die out. The actions of evil deities flawed the plan, however, and so “left behind” races still exist. Steiner taught:

We are within the great Root Race of humanity, which has peopled the earth, since the land on which we now live rose up out of the inundations of the ocean. Ever since the Atlantean Race began slowly to disappear, the great Aryan Race has been the dominant one on earth. If we contemplate ourselves, we here in Europe are thus the fifth Sub-Race of the great Aryan Root Race. The first Sub-Race lived in the distant past in Ancient India. And the present-day Indians are descendants of that first Sub-Race, whose spiritual life is still extant in the ancient Indian Vedas. The Vedas are indeed only echoes of the ancient culture of the Rishis. At that time there was of course no writing yet – there was only tradition. Then came the second, third and fourth Sub-Races. The fourth Sub-Race adopted Christianity. Then, halfway through the Middle Ages, we see that the fifth Sub-Race formed itself, to which we and the neighboring nations belong. (Steiner, 1985a, p. 220)

This mythology, of the Aryan race originating in Atlantis, migrating to Asia and then west to Europe, provided what was claimed as a scientific foundation for racism and anti-Semitism in Steiner’s time. The mythology can be traced from its origin in Blavatsky to Steiner and the Ariosophists, like List and Lanz in the next generation, and on to its tragic finale with Nazi theorist Rosenberg and the Holocaust (Goodrick-Clarke, 1992, Rosenberg, 1993). It’s difficult to believe that there are still people studying and promulgating this pseudo-historical theory today; they’d have to be Neo-Nazis or wearing cult blinders. There are neo-Nazis in Europe who follow Steiner (Staudenmaier, date unknown), but the overwhelming majority of Anthroposophical publications reject Naziism while at the same time defending a racial theory that formed part of the philosophical foundation of Naziism (e.g. Kerkvliet, 2000). The examples that follow are all from Anthroposophic presses.

Jewry as such has long since outlived its time; it has no more justification within the modern life of peoples, and the fact that it continues to exist is a mistake of world history whose consequences are unavoidable. We do not mean the forms of the Jewish religion alone, but above all the spirit of Jewry, the Jewish way of thinking. (Steiner, 1971, p. 152)

These blacks in Africa characteristically suck in, absorb, all light and all heat from the cosmos. And, humans being humans, this light and this heat from the cosmos cannot pass through the entire body. It does not flow through the entire body, but it stops at the skin. In this way, the complexion itself becomes black. Consequently, a black in Africa is a human who absorbs and assimilates as much light and heat from the cosmos as possible. As he does this, the forces of the cosmos work throughout that human. Everywhere, he absorbs light and heat, really everywhere. He assimilates them within himself. There really must be something which helps him in this assimilation. That something is mainly the cerebellum. This is why a Negro has an especially well developed cerebellum. This is linked to the spinal marrow; and they can assimilate all light and heat which a human contains. As a consequence, especially the aspects which pertain to the body and to metabolism are strongly developed in a Negro. He has a strong sexual urge as people call it, strong instincts. And as, with him, all which comes from the sun light and heat really is at the skin’s surface, all of his metabolism works as if the sun itself is boiling in his inside. This causes his passions. Within a Negro, cooking is going on all the time; and the cerebellum kindles the fire. … And we, Europeans, we poor Europeans, we have the thinking life, which resides in the head. … Therefore, Europe has always been the starting point of everything which develops the human entity in such a way that at the same time a relationship with the outside world arises. …

When Negroes go to the west, they cannot absorb as much light and heat any more as they were used to in their Africa. … That is why they turn copper red, they become Indians. That is because they are forced to reflect a part of the light and heat. They turn shiny copper red. They cannot keep up this copper red shining. That is why the Indians die out in the West, they die because of their own nature which does not get enough light and heat, they die because of the earthly factor. …

Really, it is the whites who develop the human factor within themselves. Therefore they have to rely on themselves. When whites do emigrate, they partly take on the characteristics of other areas, but they die more as individuals than as a race. The white race is the race of the future, the race that is working creatively with the spirit. (Steiner, 1980, p. 67)

White humankind is still on the path of absorbing the spirit deeper and deeper into its own essence. Yellow humankind is on the path of conserving the era when the spirit will be kept away from the body, when the spirit will only be sought outside of the human-physical organization. But the result will have to be that the transition from the fifth cultural epoch to the sixth cultural epoch cannot happen in any other way than as a violent battle of white humankind against colored humankind in myriad areas. And that which precedes these battles between white and colored humankind will occupy world history until the completion of the great battles between white and colored humankind. Future events are frequently reflected in prior events. You see, we stand before something colossal that’when we understand it through spiritual science we will in the future be able to recognize as a necessary occurrence. (Steiner, 1974, p. 38)

What relevance does this early-20th-century racism have to Waldorf schools today, especially to public Waldorf schools? There are three reasons to be concerned:  First, teachers study racist texts for their training, and consequently, racist materials will always be present in the schools. Second, the Theosophical theory of history is the framework for the history curriculum. Third, teachers may use racial criteria for treating students and teachers differently. Consider the following consequences:

1.      Much of the Steiner material that Waldorf teachers must study is from lectures in which Steiner free-associated from topic to topic. Discussions of his racial theory are scattered throughout his books. Some of the books that are required reading for Waldorf teacher training include racist material, for example, Knowledge of Higher Worlds, Theosophy, and Conferences with Teachers. In any Waldorf school, public or private, these books, and many more, will be used for reference by the teachers.

2.      The Waldorf curriculum was designed by Steiner in a “spiral” plan that cycles the students repeatedly, with increasing detail, through what Steiner called the “evolution of consciousness,” the development of the mythical Aryan race over time. The first cycle is the first and second grades. In the first grade, fairy tales are used. These contain, according to Steiner, the unwritten ancient wisdom of the Aryan race. In the second grade, the lives of saints are studied, bringing the students into the Christian era.

The next cycle is the third and fourth grades. In this cycle the students are immersed in what Steiner taught were the holy books of what he defined as the two “cultural streams” of humanity, Jewish and Aryan. In the third grade they study Bible stories. In the Fourth grade they are immersed in Norse mythology, believed by Germans of Steiner’s time to be the ancient scriptures of the Aryan race.

The third cycle is the fifth and sixth grades. In these grades the students are taken through the sequence of the sub-races of the Aryan root race. Here is how a group that proposed a Waldorf charter school to the school board in Chico, California, described this part of the curriculum:

The fifth grade language arts curriculum follows the development of human initiation and mythic consciousness from prehistoric times to the times of western history. This progression starts with Vedic India and the sense that all is illusion and needs to be renounced; the stories of ancient Persia deal with the polarities of light and darkness and the human responsibility for the earth. The ancient Babylonian, Chaldean and Egyptian myths present the beginning of human consciousness being anchored in external culture, physical existence and a declining knowledge of the spiritual worlds. In the ancient Greek myths, the roles of glorious heroes and their faults leads into historical biographies proper. (Blue Oak Charter School, 2000, p. 19)

This proposed public school curriculum is pure Anthroposophical theory. It’s usually covered up better than this. What could they have been thinking when they wrote “human initiation and mythic consciousness?” Either the proposing committee was so immersed in Anthroposophy that they didn’t realize that what they were writing was so revealing, or they figured the school board just wouldn’t notice. The sequence of ancient India, Persia, Babylon/Chaldea/Egypt, Greece and Rome is straight from Theosophical root-race theory. The “development of consciousness,” according to Anthroposophy, doesn’t involve Africa, Asia, the Americas, or Oceania.

3.      Waldorf teachers are trained to consider the past lives and racial backgrounds of their students. The director of teacher training at Rudolf Steiner College, the main West Coast Waldorf teacher training college, wrote:

In learning to understand a child, it is important to consider-in addition to hereditary factors, which include race, ethnic background, and the biological strands supplied by father and mother-what the soul has brought with it out of supersensible realms. If we deepen this line of thought, we shall take into account not only the prenatal “gesture,” but also the spiritual origins as they manifested themselves in previous incarnations. In other words, just as we have applied certain questions regarding our own spiritual origins, we should without jumping to quick conclusions also consider to which spiritual streams our students belonged. (Querido, 1995, p. 85)

When I asked teachers at my son’s school about the racism that I found in books we sold at the school, their answer was that “some of Steiner is difficult.” Anthroposophists think that they can’t be racists since they don’t hate anybody. They don’t realize that teaching racial stereotypes, and believing that different races have different “tasks” in human evolution, and ought to die out when those supposed tasks are done, is also racism.

Steiner taught that Africans represent a child-like stage of evolution. Consequently, Waldorf teachers may treat African-American children and teachers as though they have different potential than those of European ethnicity. One such incident is documented in a Waldorf supporter’s article about racism in Waldorf:

A white mother of a successful biracial (African American and white) child loved her son’s Waldorf school but had to work constantly against teachers who would tell her of the evolutionary limits of Black children. (McDermott, 1996, p. 4)

An African-American Waldorf teacher who was the first black teacher hired by the New York Steiner School (in 75 years!) is suing them for racial discrimination. The legal complaint is available here.

Cult-Like Characteristics of Anthroposophy

I describe Anthroposophy as a “cult-like religious sect.” In the U.S., the Waldorf teachers are the majority of the devotees. The major recruiting effort is towards the parents. Characteristics that make it cult-like include:

  • Clinging to rejected knowledge (weird science)
  • Teachers must commit to Anthroposophy for advancement to full status
  • Secrecy: some core doctrinal material is not published, but only delivered orally. Revelation of “difficult” doctrine like the racial theory of history, and the role of Lucifer, is guarded.
  • Exclusivity: only anthroposophic knowledge of man leads to right education
  • Closed system: almost all publications are from the group’s own presses and periodicals
  • Jargon redefines common language so public statements can be deceptive without being “lies”, e.g. “child development.”
  • Separation: “us vs. them”; frequent put-downs of the outside world as being “materialistic,” and public schools as being “damaging.”
  • Criticism is suppressed: No critical dialogue means elaboration, but no development, of theory. All writers refer back to Steiner.

Due to space limitations, in this presentation I will only illustrate the first three points of my list.

Clinging to Rejected Knowledge

In a book explaining the curriculum to parents, Cusick (1992) illustrates the correspondence of the parts of the plant to the alchemical processes as they might be presented in fifth grade botany. I’ve added the historic alchemical names in square brackets:

Flower: Centrifugal forces (expansion). Loosening and refining substances in scent. Optimal rarification and extension of substance (warmth process) [alchemical “sulfur”]

Leaf: Balance between above and below: watery substances and processes meet airy ones. In intake of water and transpiration, in uptake and elimination of gasses above and below tendencies meet (light process). [alchemical “mercury”]

Root: Centripetal forces (contraction). Consolidation of substance to the solid state. Consolidation of forms. Suctional, absorbtive forces (salt process). [alchemical “salt”]

It may be hard to believe, but this is quite possibly the content of a fifth-grade botany lesson. It’s far from what anyone outside Anthroposophy would call science. Cusick (p. 29) illustrates “the temperaments” with a diagram credited to Steiner. A circle is divided into four pie-slices, labeled:

Melancholic: Attention not easily aroused but strong quality present

Choleric: The greatest amount of attention and strength most easily aroused

Sanguine: Attention easily aroused but little strength present

Phlegmatic: The least amount of attention and strength the least easily aroused

This is a revival of the medieval “four humors” theory of personality. Waldorf teachers are instructed to classify students according to “the temperaments.”

Note that on this page Cusick simply talks about “the temperaments,” with no qualification that the use of this theory today is exclusive to Anthroposophists. This is a rhetorical trick that is used over and over with Waldorf parents. An Anthroposophical concept such as “the temperaments,” “the festivals,” or “the elements” is introduced by being referred to as a fact. The parent simply doesn’t have time to think through the implications of the purported fact, and is hooked into discussing the issue from an Anthroposophical perspective.

Teachers Must Commit to Anthroposophy

In most Waldorf schools there are two classes of teachers. The senior teachers form a group called the “college of teachers” that runs the school. Junior teachers aren’t invited to join the college until they are ready to commit themselves to Anthroposophy. Richards wrote (op. cit., p. 16):

A community is thus created among the teachers by the fact that they are students together and are connected through a meditative life. In almost every school, you will find some teachers who do not enter so fully into this consciousness, and they are met with flexibility. But the teachers who do commit themselves make up the “college of teachers,” who, by and large, govern the school’s affairs.

Thus it is only through passing a religious test that a Waldorf teacher can achieve full status, with a voice in the government of the school.

Secrecy: Guarded Knowledge

There are many things in the Anthroposophical world-view that are too strange to be revealed unless the listeners have been properly prepared, i.e. sufficiently indoctrinated. For example, Waldorf teachers aren’t likely to tell new parents anything about the role of Lucifer in Anthroposophy. Steiner taught that there is a trinity of spirits concerned with the evolution of humanity. The trinity is composed of two opposites and a harmonizing spirit. The opposites are Lucifer and Ahriman, taken from the dual gods of Zoroastrianism, the ancient Persian religion. They are gods of light and darkness in conflict with each other. Lucifer leads humanity to develop art, beauty, flexibility, and religious fervor. Ahriman promotes science, hardening, and rigidity. Both are necessary for evolution, but either influence is evil in excess or at the wrong time. The two polar gods are balanced by the Christ Spirit, whose role is not to redeem humanity but to help it balance between the opposing tendencies.

Popular Waldorf master teacher Eugene Schwartz put it this way in his Waldorf Teacher’s Survival Guide:

Most of that which contributes to our work as teachers, preparation work, artistic work, even meditative work, is under the guardianship of Lucifer. We can become great teachers under his supervision, for he is responsible for much that has blossomed in the unfolding of civilization and culture in the past. However, if our goal is only to be a great teacher, if we look on everything else in the life of the school merely as a distraction from our pedagogical work, we are in danger of falling prey to Lucifer.

This is one of the reasons that Steiner wanted Waldorf teachers to assume responsibility for the administrative life of the school. Answering phone calls, writing memos and letters, etc. all those activities that compel us to meet the outside world on its own terms bring us into connection with Ahriman, who holds the secret of the future.

If, every day, we can do some administrative/office work as well as carry out our classroom responsibilities, we can go a long way towards balancing the activities of Lucifer and Ahriman. (Schwartz, 1992, p. 54)

A reading of this passage stimulated an interesting denial when David Alsop, then the head of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, was interviewed on a Baltimore radio talk show:

Well, it’s obviously problematic, um, ah, my feeling is that Eugene Schwartz has totally missed the boat here and the way that he has written this in his book, uh, is misleading and erroneous and causing a great deal of trouble. In our Waldorf schools, and as you know, there are over 650 of them around the world serving probably 100,000 students. I think you’d be hard pressed to find any parent in any Waldorf school and even any teacher in any Waldorf school say that they are under the guidance of Lucifer, and I cannot understand why Mr. Schwartz wrote this. I can’t understand why PLANS is picking this one quote out of this very obscure book and running with it like this, but it is just flat out wrong. (WCBM, 1999)

That “very obscure book” is a popular publication of the main West Coast teacher training college, where Alsop has his office. A posting to the Waldorf-critics discussion list corroborated the relevance of Lucifer to Waldorf education. A parent wrote:

Gosh, I was at a Waldorf PR meeting once, and all these gals there were saying how ridiculous it was that one parent had become offended when the faculty and staff did a “dance to Lucifer.” The parent, like me, was Christian. I said, “Well, I would be upset by such a dance, too.” And, they all stared at me, then said Lucifer is actually not Satan but the “light-bearer,” see, and basically that the parent was unenlightened…Sincerely, Patti M.  (M, 1999)


Often, when “difficult” tenets of Anthroposophy are brought up in connection with either private or public Waldorf schools, the defense is made that Anthroposophy is not taught in the schools. They claim that only Steiner’s teaching methods are used, and that they take what’s good and discard the nonsense. I believe Waldorf without Anthroposophy might be possible, but it would be so difficult that I would be surprised if it ever actually happened. Anthroposophy is so tightly interwoven into the Waldorf movement that removing it would leave little but a constellation of pedagogical techniques that, taken separately, aren’t unique to Waldorf.

If there is such a thing as “Waldorf Method” or “New Waldorf” without Anthroposophy, where are the teaching handbooks and curriculum resources? Everything available comes from Anthroposophy. Where are the periodicals? All the periodicals are Anthroposophical. Where are the associations, conferences, and conference proceedings? They are all Anthroposophical. Where is the teacher training? It’s all done by Anthroposophists. Everything in the Waldorf education movement comes from Anthroposophy.

In the United States this creates a legal problem if tax money is involved. Public funding of religious teacher training is illegal, but school districts send teachers to Rudolf Steiner College for Waldorf training. In hiring teachers, a publicly-funded Waldorf school can’t discriminate against Anthroposophists; teachers with more Waldorf training should be more desirable, not avoided. But asking Waldorf-trained teachers to omit Anthroposophical beliefs is a paradox. Violations are inevitable. It is impossible for a school board to monitor religious content in a public Waldorf school. What could they do, have philosophy police monitoring the school? It’s like having a “Catholic-inspired” charter school. Would that be allowed? Not likely.

People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools, Inc. (PLANS) respects the right of Anthroposophy to exist and to carry on its many activities, and the right of parents to choose Waldorf education for their children. However, PLANS wants to inform the public about the cult-like nature of Anthroposophy, to give warning about Anthroposophy’s deceptive practices, and to end violations of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. PLANS is demanding that publicly-funded Waldorf schools be closed or converted to private schools. PLANS is suing two Northern California school districts for violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The judge wrote:

. . . PLANS has presented evidence that SCUSD teachers received training in Anthroposophy and that Twin Ridges sought and employed teachers with Anthroposophical training. As observed by the Supreme Court, “[w]e cannot ignore the danger that a teacher under religious control and discipline poses to the separation of the religious from the purely secular aspects of precollege education.” Lemon, 403 U.S. at 617. Additionally, as noted above, PLANS presents evidence that state funds are expended in implementing the Waldorf teaching method, and that the Waldorf education methodology is directed by, and grounded in, assumptions about learning and child development that can only be understood with reference to Anthroposophy. Assuming, for purposes of this motion, that the Waldorf teaching method and Anthroposophy are in fact “inseparable in theory as practiced by defendants,” state surveillance of the Waldorf education will be necessary to ensure that no trespass occurs. These “prophylactic contacts” may well result in excessive and enduring entanglement between church and state. See Lemon, 403 U.S. at 619.

As is the case with all similar analyses, it is clear that entanglement “is a question of kind and degree.” Lynch, 465 U.S. at 684. Here, PLANS has raised a disputed issue of material fact concerning the degree of entanglement between church and state generated by the Waldorf teaching method.

3. California Constitution

Article XVI, section 5 of the California Constitution provides that “neither the Legislature, nor any…school district,…shall ever…pay from any public fund whatever, or grant anything to or in aid of any religious sect, church, creed, or sectarian purpose.” Article IX, ?8 of the California Constitution provides that no “sectarian or denominational doctrine [shall] be taught, or instruction thereon be permitted, directly or indirectly, in any of the common schools of this State.”

As discussed above, PLANS has raised a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Anthroposophy is so fundamental to Waldorf education as to be inseparable from it, thereby making public funding of Waldorf education methods a direct and substantial (if unintentional) endorsement of religion, and fostering excessive entanglement between church and state. (Damrell, 1999, pp. 23-25)

As of May, 2003, the case was waiting to be calendared again by the U.S. District Court, after a decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed PLANS standing, i.e., the right to sue on behalf of taxpayers.


Anthroposophical Society in America (1993). Toward a more human future: Anthroposophy at work [Pamphlet, 33 pp.]. Chicago: Author.

AWSNA, (2003). Web site of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America: Retrieved May 4, 2003, from

Bloom, J. (1991). Questions and answers on Waldorf Education [Pamphlet]. San Francisco: San Francisco Waldorf School.

Blue Oak Charter School (2000). Charter of the Blue Oak Charter School (Draft submitted to school board 12/6/2000). Chico, CA: Author.

Britannica (2002). Retrieved December 1, 2002, from

Charren, S. (1988). Physics IV: Quantum mechanics. Student lesson book, 12th grade, Sacramento Waldorf School, Teacher, Mr. Demarzi. Photocopy in PLANS library.

Cusick, L. (1992). Waldorf parenting handbook: Useful information on child development and education from anthroposophical sources. Fair Oaks, CA: Rudolf Steiner College/St. George Publications.

Damrell, Jr., F. C. (1999). Memorandum and order. United States District Court, Eastern District of California, No. CIV S 98-266 FCD PAN, Sept. 24, 1999. Retrieved May 4, 2003, from

Dugan, D., & Daar, J. (1994, Spring). Are Rudolf Steiner’s Waldorf schools “non-sectarian?” Free Inquiry. 14:2, 44. Retrieved January 19, 2003, from

Ercolano, L. (2001, Sept. 29). Discouraging reading. Message posted to Waldorf-critics discussion list, retrieved January 12, 2003:

Goetheanum (2002). How does the human being develop from birth to maturity? Goetheanum: Pedagogical Section: Education: Human Developement (sic): Retrieved December 27, 2002, from

Goodrick-C. N. (1992). The occult roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan cults and their influence on Nazi ideology?The Ariosophists of Austria and Germany, 1890-1935. New York: New York University Press.

Kerkvliet, G. (2000). Rudolf Steiner recognized as opponent of anti-Semitism and nationalism. Info3?das Monatsmagazin f?r Spiritualit?t und Zeitfragen. Retrieved January 13, 2003, from

Koetszch, R. (1996, Spring/Summer). Sunbridge College. Renewal: A Journal for Waldorf Education, 35-38.

Leist, M. (1987). Parent participation in the life of a Waldorf school. Great Barrington, MA: Association of Waldorf Schools of North America.

Leopold, S. (2001, September). Japan: Individuality flowers in community: Creating Hibiki-no-Mura. Anthroposophy Worldwide, 5.

Leschinsky, A. (1983). Waldorfschulen im Nationalsozialismus. Neue Sammlung, 13, 255-283.

M., Patti. (1999, Sept. 14). Re: Re: Re: Re: Digest Waldorf-critics. v001., n1441. Waldorf-critics discussion list. Retrieved January 13, 2003, from (search page for ?dance to Lucifer?).

McDermott, R. (1995, Fall/Winter). The Urban Waldorf School of Milwaukee: A summary report.? Renewal, 35.

McDermott, R. (1996, June). Racism and Waldorf Education. Research Bulletin, 1(2). Waldorf Education Research Institute, Sunbridge College. Retrieved January 19, 2003, from

Novato Charter School (1998). 1997-98 Parent Handbook. Novato, CA.

Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. (1994). London: Oxford University Press

Peterson, J. W. (1995, Autumn). Christmas Season in a Public School. The Waldorf Kindergarten Newsletter, 22. Silver Spring, MD: Waldorf Kindergarten Association of North America.

Querido, R. M. (1995). The esoteric background of Waldorf Education: The cosmic Christ impulse. Fair Oaks, CA: Rudolf Steiner College Press.

Rosenberg, A. (1993). The myth of the twentieth century: An evaluation of the spiritual-intellectual confrontations of our age (V. Bird, Trans.). Newport Beach, CA: The Noontide Press (Original work published 1931). (n.b. this is a neo-Nazi organization).

Schwartz, E. (1992). The Waldorf teacher?s survival guide. Fair Oaks, CA: Rudolf Steiner College Press.

Snow, C. E., Burns, M. S., & Griffin, P. (Eds.). (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children (Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children; Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; National Research Council). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Staudenmaier, P. (date unknown). Anthroposophy and Ecofascism. Retrieved January 13, 2003, from (search page for ?Haverbeck?).

Steiner, R. (1960). Study of Man: General education course (fourteen lectures given by Rudolf Steiner in Stuttgart 21st August?5th September 1919) (D. Harwood & H. Fox, Trans.). London: Rudolf Steiner Press.

Steiner, R. (1971). Robert Hamerling ?Homunculus’: Modernes Epos in 10 Ges?ngen. Gesammelte Aufs?tze zur Literatur, 1884-1902. Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag (GA 32). (Trans. Peter Zegers, retrieved from, search for ?Jewry as such?).

Steiner, R. (1974). Die geistigen Hintergr?nde des Ersten Weltkrieges. (Original work published 1915) Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag (GA 174b). (Trans. Benine Bloemen and Herman de Tollenaere, retrieved May 4, 2003, from )

Steiner, Rudolf (1980). Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde. (1923) Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag (GA 349), 1980. Trans. Peter Staudenmaier, waldorf-critics, 9/15/01.

Steiner, R. (1981). Health and illness, Volume I: Nine Lectures to the Workmen at the Goetheanum (Trans. M. St. Goar). Spring Valley, NY: Anthroposophic Press. (Original work published 1922, Dornach, Switzerland)

Steiner, R. (1985). The temple legend: Freemasonry and related occult movements: Twenty lectures given in Berlin between 23rd May 1904 and the 2nd January 1906. (J. M. Wood, Trans.; Edited by E.M. Lloyd). London: Rudolf Steiner Press.

Steiner, R. (1985). The origins of natural science (M. St. Goar, Trans.; Edited by N. Macbeth). Spring Valley, NY: Anthroposophic Press. (Original work published 1922)

Steiner, R. (1986). Conferences with the teachers of the Waldorf School in Stuttgart 1919 to 1920:  Volume One: The first and second years of the Waldorf School. Forest Row, United Kingdom: Steiner Schools Fellowship Publications. (Original work pubished 1920, Stuttgart, Germany)

Uhrmacher, P. B. (1991). Waldorf schools marching quietly unheard (Doctoral dissertation, School of Education, Stanford University, May 1991).

Washington, P. (1995). Madame Blavatsky?s baboon: A history of the mystics, mediums, and misfits who brought spiritualism to America. New York: Schocken Books.

WCBM (1999, October 7). Transcript of radio interview (?Uninhibited Radio?). Baltimore, MD: WCBM. Retrieved December 15, 2002 from

Whitehead, A. (1993). World within: Child without, science teaching?class 1 & 2. Brunswick Heads, NSW Australia: Golden Beetle Books.


This presentation includes excerpts from copyrighted works. All rights remain with the original owners. Excerpts are reproduced here for educational purposes only. Lecture and notes Copyright 1996-2003 People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools, Inc., which is wholly and solely responsible for its contents. Permission is granted to copy for educational purposes if the entire work including this notice is copied.


People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools
c/o Dan Dugan, Secretary
290 Napoleon St. Studio E
San Francisco, CA 94124-1017
(415) 821-9776
fax (415) 826-7699

This is a text version of the slide talk given at the American Family Foundation conference in Orlando, Florida, on June 14, 2002.

Review current news articles from Cultic Studies Review!
Author: Dugan, DanProduct ID: csr2003.02i
Publisher: AFFProduct type: CSR article
Address:P.O. Box 2265, Bonita Springs, FL 34133Format: Electronic
Reprint Status: Request from AFF
e-mail: aff@affcultinfoserve.comGroup
url: http://www.cultinfobooks.comGroup: Waldorf, Steiner, Waldorf Schools, Rudolf Steiner
Fax: 732.352.6818Founder: Rudolf Steiner
tel.: 239.514.3081Group category:
Review:Topics: legal, education
Excerpt:Inquirer type:
Wet-on-wet Painting As Talisman

Wet-on-wet Painting As Talisman

Collected waldorf-critics posts by Sharon Lombard

Sharon Lombard is a long time member of PLANS and our resident Waldorf scholar-in-the-making. In January 2001, she shared via successive posts to the waldorf-critics discussion group her research on the meaning behind Waldorf’s signature “wet-on-wet” painting technique used in the lower grades.

She also provided photos of actual Waldorf wet-on-wet paintings that her daughter painted. These can be viewed here.

—— Start of Forwarded Message ——
From: soma<>
Sent: Thu, 11 Jan 2001 15:27:02 -0800
Subject: Talismans</>

Hi every one, it’s Sharon here with 5 batches of talismans for you to look at. Missing from the pile are numbers 14-22 due to technical difficulty. The pictures that I’ve sent are not the best quality, but they are a start, and will help to illustrate a little of what I have found out about the Waldorf wet-on-wets.

I will share with the list an assortment of the clues that I’ve come across in my reading. I will slowly post information under the heading “Talismans”. Take a look at the attachments, all of them are occult moral exercises that my daughter produced / experienced, *except* the batch that depicts the lightning bolts and pyramids. Those talismans were made by an older child, but I’ve included them because I think they are interesting. This is just a beginning, obviously there are many grades and many school weeks.

The images by my daughter were made during Kindergarten through to the first part of 4th grade when she left the school. Missing from her stack are a small pile, approximately 8 or so talismans that I regrettably threw away in disgust right after we left the school. Had I understood what the color blobs were, and had I known that I would find PLANS and become fascinated with the pictures and want to study them, I would have “treasured” every single one.

Also missing from my daughter’s pile are the talismans from a 3 month period at the end of 3rd grade when she did not attend Waldorf. (We took her out of the increasingly religious curriculum thinking that the following year, 4th grade, would level off, which it did not). Instead she attended a little school in Jamaica where we have family. We all loved her Jamaican school but watched her struggle to catch up to the other children, by the end of the three months, she was thriving academically and very happy.) We put her back into Waldorf for 4th grade and ended up leaving for good after a couple of months. I still had not read Steiner or found the PLANS site at this point in time.

The talismans are not in a special order. I will repost certain attachments with specific information during the next couple of weeks. Hope you can open them without difficulty.

I’ll let you digest them.

Sincerely, Sharon

Talismans can be viewed [here].

—— End of Forwarded Message ——

—— Start of Forwarded Message ——
From: soma<>
Sent: Fri, 12 Jan 2001 20:04:41 -0800
Subject: Talismans</>

I will begin to share some of my findings on Waldorf talismans and the magic color exercises that children experience as pupils in Waldorf schools. I will slowly post this information under the heading of “Talismans” for those that are interested. I’ve attached some of my daughter’s talismans (numbers 5 – 13). Remember that young children in Waldorf are considered not fully reincarnated and the children can still see the spirit world. Let’s begin:

From the book: “Color”, by Rudolf Steiner, Rudolf Steiner Press, Sussex, C.1992. ISBN: 1 85584 111 8 (cloth) or 1 85584 1169 (paper).

Lecture from Dornach, 8th May 1921, “Colour In Matter – Painting out of Colour”, p 54-55:

Steiner: “…Colour can only be studied properly by taking into account the realm of soul. For it is sheer nonsense to say that colour is merely subjective. And if one goes on to maintain that there is some objective cause outside which works upon us, upon our ‘I’…this is nonsense – and implies an inadequate conception of the ‘I’. The ‘I’ itself is within the colour. The human ‘I’ and astral body are not to be separated at all from colour; they live in colour and inasmuch as they are united with the colour they have an existence outside the physical body. It is the ‘I’ and the astral body which reproduce colour in the physical and etheric bodies. That is the point……Colour actually bears the ‘I’ and astral body into the physical and etheric bodies. “

Same book p 68, Steiner: I have already stressed that one should not keep asking what things mean. Just as there is no sense in asking what the ‘meaning’ of the larynx is, for it is the living organ of speech, similarly we must learn to see that what lives in the forms and colours is the living organ of the spiritual world.”

P 9 Steiner: “When we paint the spiritual content of the world we are not dealing with figures illumined by a source of light, but with figures shining with their own light.”

Sharon: Let’s look at some of Steiner’s instructions for his disciples in “The Stages of Higher Knowledge”, Rudolf Steiner. Anthroposophic Press 1967.

p 48 Steiner: “….Imagination may be called a spiritual seeing….. Whoever tries to put a flower before his mind’s eye, and then separates off from his picture everything that does not represent color, so that an image of the colored surface, separate from the flower, is suspended before his soul, can gradually through such exercises arrive at an Imagination.”

Sharon: In other words, if one does exercises of looking at *color* one will gradually arrive at a spiritual seeing. Now, Listen to this:

P 50, Steiner: “When the observer in the higher worlds once knows what Imagination really is, he soon acquires the conviction that the pictures of the astral world are not merely pictures, but manifestations of spiritual beings. He comes to know that these imaginative pictures have reference to spirit or soul being just as do sensory colors to sensory things or beings. In particular, he will, of course, have yet much to learn. He must learn to discriminate between color formations that are opaque and those that are quite transparent and in their inner nature clear and radiant. In fact, he will perceive formations that seem to be continually producing their color-light anew from within, and that therefore are not only fully illuminated and transparent, but are forever radiating light from within. He will link the opaque formations to lower beings, the clear, luminous ones to intermediate entities; the inwardly radiant ones will be for him manifestations of higher spiritual beings.”

Sharon: The children’s pictures must be transparent, they must shine from within. Note that Steiner’s disciples must learn to discriminate between color formations that are opaque and those that are radiant and transparent. (Opaque formations are lower beings.) Now take a look at the color exercises by my daughter below. See how transparent they are? See how they shine from within?

Next time….colors heal!

Talismans can be viewed [here].

—— End of Forwarded Message ——

—— Start of Forwarded Message ——
From: soma<>
Sent: Sat, 13 Jan 2001 13:59:18 -0800
Subject: talismans</>

Sharon here with more about Waldorf wet-on-wets.

Colors Heal.

The following quote is from “The Cresset”, Journal of the Camphil Movement, Christmas, 1969, by Trude Amann:

“The healing power of colors and painting is more and more recognized. But only when the teacher has followed the development of a sequence of paintings does he become aware of the manifold difficulties on the way to achievement: to learn to guide the brush, to control the pressure,…….In our time much stress is laid on the young child’s “freedom” to choose his own materials for his first artistic ventures, out of a bewildering manifoldness. The child’s path to “free expression” is paved forcefully at an early age by modern teaching methods. This is done especially at the time when the school child is trying to find in his teacher one who “knows” – who knows what is beautiful, what is ugly.

Whether conscious of it or not, the child longs to be guided into color experiences by his teacher – to be told, for example, that a blue patch next to a yellow one is more beautiful than green put next to yellow. By providing the child with the right tools for his artistic work, the teacher’s guidance grows into the discipline of painting and drawing. After puberty, true “free expression” can develop, and individual judgment and taste unfold. It is the well-tried way from being a pupil, to becoming an apprentice, in order to achieve mastery in artistic work.

….The first seeds can be planted by the teacher in the first painting lesson he gives to his class. And thus we can divine the responsibility of teachers of today. What we first and foremost want to achieve is to open the mind of the child for the true quality of the colors, to give him the exciting experiences of red and blue and yellow and green, and to let him partake as fully as possible in the healing truth: “Color is a manifestation of life revealed by the spirit”.

—— End of Forwarded Message ——

—— Start of Forwarded Message ——
From: soma<>
Sent: Sat, 13 Jan 2001 14:31:39 -0800
Subject: Talismans</>

Colors heal at Waldorf schools. Take a look at the magic color exercises imposed on my daughter at her Waldorf school here. Pay special attention to numbers 24, 25, 27, 28, (the yellow and blue examples). I think it would be safe to say that these talismans were made in kindergarten before my child’s change of teeth, during the time that her teacher believed that she was still reincarnating.

“Sleep: An Unobserved Element In Education”, by Audrey E. Mc Allen, p 44:

“The colours which the child uses for the expression of the harmonious connection with his body before the change of teeth are blue and yellow; out of these colours the soul weaves its connection with the hereditary body and transforms it.

If we consider the colour-combination of this last exercise we see how the soul has been led to the moment when it can free itself from too strong an attachment to forces working in the physical body (violet-black), releasing itself from intellectuality (green), and regaining the first powers with which it entered life (yellow-blue). This youthful element has become captured or is unused; and with this free the soul can make further progress.”

Talismans can be viewed [here].

—— End of Forwarded Message ——

—— Start of Forwarded Message ——
From: soma<>
Sent: Sun, 14 Jan 2001 16:49:21 -0800
Subject: Talismans</>

It’s Sharon again with more information as we begin to examine the magic color exercises that pupils in Waldorf schools experience. I’ll slowly post information that I’ve found on color and Waldorf for you to digest. The following passage is not about wet-on-wets, but it helps to explain one way that color is used in Waldorf. My child was draped in colored silk by the curative eurythmist. The purpose of this magical practice was for its “healing” power, (as well as for veiling).

Colors Heal at Waldorf Schools.

“Art Inspired by Rudolf Steiner”, by John Fletcher, p 130: “The use of after-images to modify a child’s temperament is familiar practice in Rudolf Steiner schools. Teachers know that excitable children can be calmed by surrounding or clothing them with reds and that lethargic children can be aroused by green or blue tones. What occurs in blood and nerve is not restricted to the eye. A red, for instance, will influence the nervous system as a whole and the blood system reacts as a whole with a metabolic activity corresponding to the colour green. The child is still more asleep in the nervous system than is the adult, more awake than the adult in the blood system. So while he enjoys colour, he lives strongly in the calming or vitalising effect. The adult is conditioned by modern culture to the nerve, the death process; he brings his perceptions to consciousness in the astral body and is not aware of the life therein. “

Talismans can be viewed [here].

—— End of Forwarded Message ——

—— Start of Forwarded Message ——
From: soma<>
Sent: Mon, 15 Jan 2001 20:54:12 -0800
Subject: Talismans</>

It’s Sharon again with some more on color and Waldorf. Here’s a quote from anthroposophist, Audrey E. Mc Allen’s book, “Sleep: An Unobserved Element in Education”. p 40-43. (Steiner’s pupil, Hilda Boos-Hamburger, who painted the small cupola of the first Goetheanum, taught Audrey Mc Allen. Hilda, in her old age asked Audrey to complete the forms for the existing color sequences which supposedly help children accept their present reincarnations in their bodies). The color sequences and forms posted below will give you an idea of how these color exercises are experienced by children in a Waldorf classroom, as they are exposed to the healing influence of color.

Audrey Mc Allen: “I have found these colour exercises of great help to the pupils to whom they have been given. They work as a stimulus to creativity, the pupils asking during and after working with them, if they could paint or draw their own picture. They often brought some which they had done at home on their own initiative. The color sequence works as a cleansing re-orientation of soul, helping the individuality to accept the present incarnation in a physical body. This is clearly shown in the pictures which pupils make. For example, one pupil made a drawing of two dragon-like creatures breathing out fire and flying in the air, uncovering below an idyllic landscape in which three houses were set by a river with a group of trees by its bank. Other pictures have revealed nuances of disturbing memories coming from the past. In one instance one was able to follow the incarnating process in a series of soul pictures until the final one which the pupil said was ‘What I see from my window when I wake up’. During such a process the pupil improves in his whole bearing and outlook. Problems of soul are solved in sleep life and the individuality takes hold of his body with his whole will.

These exercises are not suitable until the twelfth year has been reached when the child is in Class 6 and chronological history has been introduced. It is at this time that the first awareness of the skeleton wakens into consciousness.

To prepare the first colour sequence which is vermilion with a magenta star form, let the pupil first experience his body as a star, standing with his feet apart, his arms raised horizontally from his sides, head erect. He could be reminded of the verse with its movements that he learnt in Class Four”.

(Snip verse and ritual of Solomon’s Key).

“The painting can now be made. There are two methods which may be used. First exercise. Cover the paper with vermilion red using long unbroken brush strokes across the paper from left to right, commencing at the top of the page……The star form can then be taken out of this colour-mass by brush or sponge. Alternatively, the vermilion wash may be made and the star form left uncolored. This is suitable when repetition of the colour sequence is repeated. Nothing is said about the quality of the vermilion red or its effect on the soul. “

(Sharon here: I will post Steiner’s explanation of the supposed effect of vermilion red on the soul sometime soon!!!)

Audrey continued: “In this first exercise…only, I ask the pupil what color he would choose for the star, so that the vermilion red is held back from the star and kept in balance. Most children immediately say – yellow- and therein lies the problem. Yellow is the colour which should not be confined, it needs to dissolve and fly away. The soul is ‘holding on’ to something which needs to be released. The vermilion is drawing out the ‘congealed’ yellow in the soul. I have allowed the pupil to paint-in the star with yellow, as I noted that it is these two colours which Fra Angelico used in his paintings for Mary Magdalene. I then ask my pupil if he likes the effect. If the answer is yes, I make no comment. We repeat the exercise at the next lesson, asking which colour the star should be. When he gives the answer that he does not like the effect, we discuss the relationship between the two colours, for example, the yellow makes the vermilion hot. Then comes the question, how shall we cool the vermilion red? There are some children who insist on the yellow, others will suggest different colours, and then realise they are not satisfactory. We can now tell them to paint the star in the pale peach-blossom-like magenta. This always brings great satisfaction. I have learned to dwell on this first combination for several weeks and then to proceed with the sequence in their order, telling the pupil which colours to use.”

Sharon: Audrey continues with other exercises in this particular series. For example, the second exercise requires the pupil to cover the paper in an orange wash, taking out or leaving out a six pointed star, painting it in “a tender prussian blue”. On p 42, after listing other magic color exercises, Audrey writes about how she sensed that a Greek incarnation in classical times is a central one for many souls, and since Greek is no longer taught, she began to teach the Greek letters of the alphabet as a rhythmic ball throwing game. Then she selected certain Greek letters, which the children painted in sequence using specific colours. Audrey claims their was a sense of release and satisfaction from these repetitive sequences. On p 43 she says: “Yellow with Orange Circle (form by H. B-H). The circle is the perfect form of the astral body. One carries one’s self awareness in yellow, into the stream of earth existence. The evolutionary sequence commences with the sound of B. Hence the choice of the letter Beta.”

Sharon: Pay special attention to “The circle is the perfect form of the astral body”. Also, I wonder if the letters Audrey chose had magical powers, similar to the ones used in Eurythmy?! Stay tuned for more on Waldorf-wet-on-wets to be posted over the next few days! Some of the talismans that my daughter made in kindergarten through to the beginning of 4th grade can be viewed [here].

—— End of Forwarded Message ——

—— Start of Forwarded Message ——
From: soma<>
Sent: Tue, 16 Jan 2001 20:54:44 -0800
Subject: Talismans</>

Hello, it’s Sharon with more information on Waldorf color exercises!

In my last post I shared a passage on color and Waldorf from anthroposophist Audrey Mc Allen who said: “The circle is the perfect form of the astral body”. Today I’d like you to think about astral bodies, color and thought-forms! I will quote from the book, “Secret Symbolism In Occult Art”, by Fred Gettings, Harmony Books, New York. C. 1987.

Gettings gives a quick glimpse into Annie Bessant and CW Leadbeater’s book entitled “Thought-Forms”. I have a copy of this book, published in 1909 and I will share from it at a later date. For right now I’ll just give you some background via Gettings. I’ll also quote from Steiner who uses the words “thought-forms” demonstrating that he knew about these ideas. I’d also like to point out that Steiner knew the occultist Leadbeater and of course, he knew Annie Bessant, who headed up the Theosophical Society with the help of her mentor, Charles W.Leadbeater. (Steiner split from the Theosophical society, taking about half of the members with him to found the Anthroposophical Society).

In James Webb’s, “The Occult Underground”, C. 1974, Open Court Publishing Company 1990, Webb introduces Leadbeater and on p 95 he says: “Charles Webster Leadbeater belonged to that type of mildly homosexual clergyman who is as familiar now as he was then. He had been won over by Madame Blavatsky, but he always maintained that his first contact with Theosophy had been in the year 540 BC when he had visited Pythagoras on Samos. Since that period he had spent his time in Devachan – the heaven-world – because of his exclusive devotion to higher thought.” Webb continues with the life of Leadbeater who ended up getting in trouble because of his weakness for young boys.

Fred Gettings, p 46-48: “One of the earliest attempts to portray the Astral body of man (as seen by a clairvoyant) emphasizes the beauty of the colour, and it is this which has been the keynote of the majority of astral illustrations ever since (figure 61).Many occultists point out that the Astral body differs according to whether or not man’s lower passions are controlled or tamed. Those people with chaotically arranged colours (especially those with large areas of dull red or violent movement) betray an emotional life which lacks discipline, while those with relatively harmonized areas of colour (figure 62) are themselves disciplined and well balanced”.

Sharon: (Figure 61 depicts astral bodies in red and black swirls with lightning bolts in red-orange. In figure 62, the astral bodies, seen by Leadbeater are softer , fuzzier swirls in white and red, and instead of chaotic lightning bolts, there are lines of zig zags).

Gettings: “One important group of occultists attempted a systematic program of research into the appearance and colour of the astral plane, and their findings profoundly influenced the theory of colour in modern art. This group worked at the end of the nineteenth century and was connected with the then recently formed Theosophical Society, which had been founded in the United States at the instigation of the great occultist Madame Blavatsky. Among this group was a clairvoyant called Leadbeater, who had free access to the astral plane. He made it his practice to look into the astral, by means of clairvoyant techniques, and to dictate to artists what he saw. These artists would then attempt to interpret his visions in colour; after detailed correction by Leadbeater, they would paint finished pictures to represent what he had seen.

A very large number of these curious paintings have survived and among the most remarkable are what Leadbeater called ‘thought forms’. These thought forms were described by him as being the forms produced on the astral plane by human thinking. He claimed that every human thought, no matter how slight or unimportant, created a pattern or image in the astral, and he attempted to portray the most interesting of them by dictating detailed descriptions of them to his artists. He even published commentaries on what these thought forms represented.”

Sharon: Now let’s here from dear Mr. Steiner! “Theosophy Of The Rosicrucian”, by Rudolf Steiner. Rudolf Steiner Press, London. Lectures from 1907. Reprint 1981.

Steiner p 60-61: “Everything that a man thinks and feels has its effects in the outer world and the seer can follow with great precision the effect of a loving thought that goes out to another man, and the very different effect that is produced by a thought filled with hatred. When you send out a loving thought to someone the seer perceives a form of light shaped like a sort of flower-calyx, playing around his etheric and astral bodies, thereby contributing something to his vitality and happiness…..

There is a tremendous difference in the astral world if one voices a thought that is true or a thought that is untrue. A thought is related to a thing and is true if it coincides with that thing. Every event that happens causes an effect in the higher worlds. If someone relates this event truly, an astral form rays out from the teller, unites with the form emanating from the event itself, and both are strengthened. These strengthened forms help to make our spiritual world richer and more full of content – which is necessary if humanity is to make progress. But if the event is related untruthfully, in a way that does not coincide with the facts, then the thought-form of the teller comes up against the though-form that has proceeded from the event; the two thought-forms collide, causing mutual destruction. These destructive “explosions” caused by lies work on the body like a tumour which destroys the organism. Thus do lies kill the astral forms which have arisen and must arise, and in this way they obstruct or paralyze a part of evolution. Everyone who tells the truth actually promotes the evolution of humanity and everyone who lies, obstructs it. Therefore there is this occult law: Seen with eyes of the Spirit, a lie is murder. Not only does it kill an astral form, but it is also self-murder.”

Sharon: Well, well, well, I love that bit of moralizing from dear Mr. Steiner. Makes me feel *good* to read that I’m helping to promote the evolution of humanity by telling the truth about Waldorf education! The important bit is Steiner’s use of the word “thought-form” in the context of the astral world.

If any of you are curious as to what Leadbeater’s “thought-forms” look like, look at the site posted below, and you will see astral forms that resemble some of Leadbeater’s paintings, (look at the blobs and swirls).

Talismans can be viewed [here].

—— End of Forwarded Message ——

—— Start of Forwarded Message ——
From: soma<>
Sent: Thu, 18 Jan 2001 22:09:42 -0800
Subject: Talismans</>

Sharon here with more on Steiner’s color ideas. If you are interested in the Waldorf wet-on-wet color exercises you shouldn’t miss this post because it is an important clue to the mystery. Steiner repetitively dictates that color must be inwardly shining, and that liquid paint should be used to create this in the right way.

In “Colour”, by Rudolf Steiner p 49, Steiner says that a painting of a wall will not be a wall, only the image of one, unless the color is made luminous inwardly. He says: “We must make the colours shine inwardly; they will then, in a certain sense, become mineralized. For this reason it would be good to give up painting from the palette, which leads merely to smearing colouring matter onto a surface and makes it impossible to evoke the inwardly shining quality in the right way. We should try to paint increasingly from pots of liquid paint with colour that is liquid and has a flowing, shining quality. Generally speaking, the introduction of the palette has brought an inartistic element into painting. The palette has brought a materialistic form of painting, a failure to understand the true nature of colour – for colour is never really absorbed by any material body but lives within it and emanates from it. Therefore, when I put my colours on to a surface I must make them shine inwardly”.

Here’s another quote from Steiner insisting that liquid paint be used. (In the quote he lets slip the fact that Waldorf color exercises are not artistic painting when he says, “That is wrong even in artistic painting.”)

“Painting with Children”, by Brunhild Muller, Floris Books, Edinburgh. Second reprint 1994.

p 26: “Rudolf Steiner gave special indications about the use of water-colours:

We should be specially careful not to let the children use paints straight out of a paintbox. That is wrong even in artistic painting. One should paint out of the dish where the paint has already been mixed with water or other fluid. You must develop an inward intimate relationship to the colour – and so must the child- and you do not have such an intimate relationship to the colour when you paint from the palette, but you develop this when you paint with the colour dissolved in the dish.”

Sharon: Now why on earth must you develop an inward relationship to the color? Why must color be mixed with water? Read on and it will start to become clearer!

In steiner’s evolution of the world, (before the fall when the spirit “fell into matter” /bodies, and Steiner’s sub race theory began), there were 4 stages. The first stage was one where Beings of the First Hierarchy existed. They were Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones. To cut a long story short, let’s just say they were Beings of warmth, Fire.

Then came the Second Hierarchy and its Beings took form in light. These light Beings worked together with the fire Beings to create air.

(Read Steiner’s book, “Rosicrucianism and Modern Initiation, Mystery Centres of the Middle Ages”, Rudolf Steiner Press London, second edition 1965, for details!)

Sharon: So you have Beings of fire in the beginning, then Beings of light which create air, next comes the Third Hierarchy of Archai, Archangels and Angels . This is VERY IMPORTANT for understanding Waldorf wet-on-wets.

Archai, Archangels, Angels bring…….you guessed it!!! COLOR! These color Beings create WATER (*and Beings that resemble Archai, Archangels and Angels live in water*). I will post a delightful passage from Steiner about Rainbows next time which you critics will just love! We will talk more about all of this coming up.

So remember that Archai, Archangels and Angels are BEINGS of color and make water. Also remember that Steiner dictates that only liquid paint should be used in order to make the color shine inwardly and he insists that children and adults must have an intimate relationship with color.

PS:(You don’t need to know this now, but in case you are wondering….The Fourth Hierarchy is man before he fell into matter and the EARTH stage of existence). Stay tuned for the Rainbow post and a bit about Albertus Magnus. I can’t wait!!!!

Talismans can be viewed [here].

—— End of Forwarded Message ——

—— Start of Forwarded Message ——
From: soma<>
Sent: Mon, 22 Jan 2001 09:06:11 -0800
Subject: Re: Talismans</>

Hello everyone, here’s the post I promised on “rainbows” from Steiner. Remember my last post? I pointed out Steiner’s 4 Hierarchies. Here is a quick summery straight from Steiner:

” Sun-born Man on Earth would have been in very truth the Fourth Hierarchy. If one were wanting to place Man, one would have had to say: First Hierarchy: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones; Second Hierarchy: Exusiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes; Third Hierarchy: Angels, Archangels, Archai; Fourth Hierarchy: Man – three different stages or gradations of the human, forming together the Fourth Hierarchy.” (p 53).

Keep in mind that the Angels, Archangels and Archai are color, and that they made water when they came. If you go to the bottom of this post, you can click on a site which will show you a series of color wet-on-wet images that my daughter made at her ex Waldorf school. (Click on the first batch of Talismans, number 1-4). In this group you will see the rainbow, the sun, the star and sun and moon. Remember that “imagination” is a veiled word meaning “spiritual sight”. Enjoy.

Steiner: “In the colours everything is alive. The colours are a world in themselves, and the soul element in the world of colour simply cannot exist without movement; we ourselves, if we follow the colours with soul-experience, must follow with movement.

People gaze open-eyed at the rainbow. But if you look at the rainbow with a little imagination, you may see there elemental beings. These elemental beings are full of activity, and they demonstrate their activity in a most remarkable manner.”

Sharon: There is an illustration of a section of a rainbow, it lists the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. Then there is another picture (circle) showing fear as closest to red, and courage closest to violet.

Steiner: “Here (at yellow) you see some of them streaming forth from the rainbow, continually coming out of it. They move across, and the moment they reach the lower end of the green they feel drawn to it. You see them disappear at this point (green). On the other side they come out again. To one who views it with imagination, the whole rainbow is a revelation of the spiritual – of the streaming out, and disappearing again within, of the spiritual. It is in fact like a spiritual cylinder, wonderful to behold. And you may observe too how these spiritual beings come forth from the rainbow with extreme fear, and then how they go in with an absolutely invincible courage. When you look at red-yellow, you see fear streaming out, and when you look at the blue-violet you have the feeling: there all is courage and bravery of heart.

Picture it to yourself: What I see before me is not just a rainbow! Here beings are coming out of it…there beings are disappearing into it. Here is anxiety and fear…there is courage…And now the courage disappears again. That is the way to look at the rainbow! But now, imagine it is there before you in all its colours: red, yellow, and so forth…and it receives a certain density! You can easily imagine how this will give rise to the element of water. And in this watery element spiritual beings live, beings that are actually a kind of copy of the Beings of the Third Hierarchy”. (P 13-15).

Sharon: Digest that, and I’ll continue from here next time. Steiner mentions the old occultist, Albertus Magnus who I will introduce to those of you who have never heard of him. Boy! I have so much to tell you re. the subject of Waldorf color wet-on-wets, so be prepared for many more posts on Talismans. All the quotes above come from “Rosicrucianism and Modern Initiation, Mystery Centres of the Middle Ages”, Rudolf Steiner. Lectures from Jan. 1924. Rudolf Steiner Press. London

Talismans can be viewed [here].

—— End of Forwarded Message ——

Steiner Quotes on Color and Art

Steiner Quotes on Color and Art

Collected by Sharon Lombard

Sharon Lombard is a long time PLANS member and our resident Waldorf/Steiner/Anthroposophy scholar-in-the-making. Below are some interesting quotes by Rudolf Steiner on color and art that Sharon has collected in the course of her research.

Introduction by Sharon Lombard

Anyone interested in why Waldorf classrooms are painted certain colors should pay special attention to the following Steiner sermon in which he teaches that those who devote themselves to wall color (applied with his technique called “lazuring”) will learn to see through walls, see neighborhood houses and spirit beings!


“You will best realize the significance of colour if we describe how it affects the occultist. For this it is necessary that a person should free himself completely from everything else and devote himself to the particular colour, immerse himself in it. If the person devoting himself to the colour which covers these physically dense walls were one who had made certain occult progress, it would come about that after a period of this complete devotion the walls would disappear from his clairvoyant vision; the consciousness that the walls shut off the outer world would vanish. Now, what appears first is not merely that he sees the neighboring houses outside, that the walls become like glass, but in the sphere which opens up there is a world of purely spiritual phenomena; spiritual facts and spiritual figures become visible. We need only reflect that behind everything around us physically there are spiritual beings and facts…The worlds which surround us spiritually are of many kinds, many different kinds of elementary beings are around us. These are not enclosed in boxes or in such a state that they live in various houses… But they cannot all be seen in the same way; according to the capacity of clairvoyant vision, there may be visible and invisible beings in the same space. What spiritual beings become visible in any particular instance depends on the colour to which we devote ourselves. In a red room, other beings become visible than in a blue room, when one penetrates to them by means of colour. We may now ask: what happens if one is not clairvoyant? That which the clairvoyant does consciously is done unconsciously by the etheric body of a person not clairvoyantly trained; it enters a certain relationship with the same beings.”

[Lecture given by Steiner in dedication of the Stuttgart House under which lay his Rosicrucian temple. 15 October 1911. Art Inspired by Rudolf Steiner, John Fletcher Mercury Arts Publications 1987]

“A nervous, that is to say excitable child should be treated differently as regards environment from one who is quiet and lethargic. everything comes into consideration, from the colour of the room and various objects that are generally around the child, to the colour of the clothes in which he is dressed…An excitable child should be surrounded by and dressed in red and reddish-yellow colours, whereas for a lethargic child one should have recourse to the blue or bluish-green shades of colour. For the important thing is the complimentary colour, which is created within the child. In the case of red it is green, and in the case of blue orange-yellow”

[Brunhild Muller,7-8. Painting with Children, Floris Books, Edinburgh 1994]


“To delight in art that is materialistic increases the difficulties of the Kamaloca state, whereas delight in spiritual art lightens them. Every noble, spiritual delight shortens the time in Kamaloca. Already during earthly life we must break ourselves of pleasures and desires which can be satisfied only by the physical instrument”

[Rudolf Steiner, 35. Theosophy of the Rosicrucian. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, reprint 1981. Lectures from 1907]

“WE MUST emphasize again and again that the anthroposophical world-conception fosters a consciousness of the common source of art, religion and science. During ancient periods of evolution these three were not separated; they existed in unity. The Mysteries which fostered that unity were a kind of combination art institute, church and school. For what they offered was not a one-sided sole dependence upon language. The words uttered by the initiate as both cognition and spiritual revelation were supported and illustrated by sacred rituals unfolding, before listening spectators, in mighty pictures”

[Rudolf Steiner, 83. The Arts and Their Mission. Anthroposophic Press. New York 1964, lectures from 1923]

“If you use a lot of abstractions with children, you will stimulate them to concentrate particularly intensively upon the formation of carbonic acid in the blood and upon the crystallization process in the body, upon dying. If you bring children as many living pictures as possible, if you educate them by speaking in pictures, then you sow the seed for a continuous retention of oxygen, for continuous development, because you direct the children toward the future, toward life after death”

[Rudolf Steiner, 62. The Foundations of Human Experience: Foundations of Waldorf Education. Anthroposophic Press 1996]

“Partial Vision” in Alternative Education

“Partial Vision” in Alternative Education

Author’s Note

The following article was published in Renewal: A Journal for Waldorf Education, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Fall, 1998). It originally appeared in SKOLE: The Journal of Alternative Education, Vol XIV, No. 3, Summer, 1997. The author would like to make it clear that by permitting it to be included on the PLANS website, he is seeking to support a better (if still critical) understanding of Waldorf education and does not share the view that the Waldorf method is a religious cult which should be barred from public schools. He writes that “We should be much more concerned about the dehumanization that is taking place in public schools across the country as a result of the corporate agenda of rigid standards, relentless testing, and tight control than about some unconventional practices that are at least attempting to educate whole human beings.” He also points out that the Waldorf journal’s willingness to print this article is evidence against simply labeling the movement a “cult.”

“Partial Vision” in Alternative Education
by Ron Miller,

Our oldest son, Justin, just started Waldorf school this fall. It is a lively school, with a wonderful sense of community among the families, and when Justin first visited the class he’ll be joining he quickly felt welcomed by the warm, gentle teacher and friendly, supportive children. He seems to really like it and will probably thrive there. However, I happen to be unusually fussy when it comes to education, and I have some philosophical reservations about several aspects of Waldorf education. How do I reconcile these with my own son’s positive experiences?

For the past fifteen years, I have been involved in alternative education as a Montessori teacher, as a doctoral student in the history and philosophy of education, as the founding editor of the journal Holistic Education Review and the book review publication Great Ideas in Education, and as author or editor of four books. Throughout this time I’ve maintained contacts with alternative educators of every stripe–Montessori and Waldorf educators, freeschoolers, homeschoolers, progressives, anarchists, ecologists, constructivists, reconstructionists, deconstructionists, and many others. From this uncommonly broad exposure I have concluded that there is no one best model or method of education. No single approach is ideal for all young people, all families, all communities, all social and historical conditions. In my view, good education–what I have been calling “holistic” education–is not a single definable technique or method but an attitude of openness, responsiveness, and caring that adapts to the complex needs of a given time and place.

I do not believe that any one perspective can encompass all possibilities of human growth or cultural renewal, because human existence is an unfolding adventure involving many layers of reality and meaning (biological, ecological, psychological, social, historical, mythological, spiritual…). Any educational vision that claims to be a complete, perfected, or final answer to the mysteries of human existence is neglecting, if not actively repressing, legitimate avenues of development. Australian education theorist Bernie Neville expressed this point poetically through the metaphors of Greek mythology, describing the various archetypal energies (such as the authoritarian Senex, the orderly Apollo, the freedom-loving Eros) that make up the psyche. He warned that honoring any one of these forces to the exclusion of others results in a “partial vision” that is blind “to much that is significant in human living” and that conceives education “in a way that impoverishes children rather than enriches them” (1989, p. 132).

In my view, the Waldorf approach is such a “partial vision” because it is based religiously on the teachings of one man–Rudolf Steiner–who, despite being a gifted mystic and a brilliant thinker, was clearly influenced and limited by his cultural and historical context–as he himself seemed to recognize at times. In its pervasive emphasis on Spirit and Beauty and Form and similar archetypes, Waldorf education faithfully expresses the worldview of nineteenth century German idealism and neglects other energies of the psyche that find more room for expression in other worldviews. Surely Waldorf does not “impoverish” children, because its spirituality is deeply nourishing in many ways. But its idealism does close off other avenues of human development. As the Unitarian leader William Ellery Channing, a deeply spiritual man himself, told the Transcendentalist educator Bronson Alcott, “the strong passion of the young for the outward is an indication of Nature to be respected. Spirituality may be too exclusive for its own good” (quoted in Tyler, 1944, p. 248). My primary complaint about the Waldorf movement is that it offers itself as the universal ideal of education and lacks the self-criticism and openness to other perspectives that would permit flexibility and responsiveness to diverse human situations.

Before I go further with this critique, I want to make it clear that I have been drawn to Rudolf Steiner’s thinking ever since I first encountered it. His spiritual idealism is such a vital and powerful antidote to the life-denying materialism of modern western culture that in my historical study of alternative education (Miller, 1990), I proposed that Waldorf education “is probably the most radically holistic approach ever attempted.” If I am now, on further reflection, calling it a “partial vision,” I still acknowledge that it supplies a tremendously important part that is missing, not only from mainstream public schooling, but from many alternative approaches as well. Holistic education is not whole without a spiritual foundation.

In addition, Steiner’s notion of the “threefold” society, in which the cultural sphere (including education) is protected from the demands of economic and political forces, is a brilliant analysis of modern society and particularly public schooling. There could be no alternatives without educational freedom, and Waldorf educators have stated this case more coherently than anyone. I agree with educational researcher Mary E. Henry, who also appreciates Steiner’s work from a critical scholarly perspective, that Waldorf education represents a concrete effort to build an entirely new culture rooted in a deeply spiritual, ecological, and organic understanding of life (Henry, 1993). We desperately need this perspective, which is often absent–or at least obscurely implicit–in alternative school movements that speak only of democracy or children’s freedom (see Miller, 1995). Libertarian ideology is a partial vision, too.

As parents, this is what attracts us most to the Waldorf school; even though the public school in our small Vermont town is extremely good by conventional standards and seems highly responsive to parents and students, we know that in most ways public education represents and reinforces the culture of consumerism, competition, and materialism. At a Waldorf school, our children will not be treated as future job seekers or savvy consumers or high tech warriors in the battle against foreign competition, but as evolving spiritual beings who seek lives of meaning and beauty and inspiration. The activities that fill children’s days at a Waldorf school–storytelling, art, music, creative movement, and much stimulation of the imagination–are rich and nourishing.

Still, my background in other alternative education movements informs me that the Waldorf methodology is not the only or necessarily the best expression of educational and social renewal. Alternative educational visions all reject the dominant modern conception of schooling which seeks to harness human energies to the mechanical requirements of the economic system and the state. All alternative visions are grounded in a genuine desire to support children’s natural ways of learning and growth; the differences between these visions reflect their different perspectives on the complex mystery of human development. For example, Maria Montessori was, like Steiner, sensitively attuned to the different cognitive and emotional stages of children’s growth, and like Steiner, she perceived that spiritual forces, not to be tampered with by modern ideologies, were at work in the unfolding of these stages. Yet her educational system reflected her cultural milieu and the circumstances of the children she worked with, and a Montessori classroom is consequently a very different environment.

Dee Joy Coulter, an educational psychologist who has worked closely with both Montessori and Waldorf educators in Boulder, Colorado, once wrote a brief but important essay comparing the two approaches (1991). Emphasizing that Montessori and Steiner had indeed developed their methods in response to specific cultural needs, she asserted that their pedagogies are not so much in opposition but complementary, expressing symmetrical dimensions of human life. Coulter suggested that educators today should attend to the “seed qualities” within these visions rather than simply mimic the historically and culturally conditioned forms they took. In other words, we can appreciate an educational method as an insightful response to a particular facet of human experience, without venerating it as complete, perfect, universal or final.

Probably the most obvious and irreconcilable difference between alternative education visions is in their conflicting attitudes toward freedom and structure. Educators such as Francisco Ferrer, Caroline Pratt, John Holt, A. S. Neill, and George Dennison, and psychologists such as Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow have argued that if we truly trust human nature, we will allow it to find expression in a free and supportive atmosphere. Whatever the source of human dreams, desires, and impulses (these theorists have tended not to invoke transcendent, spiritual sources), children can demonstrate genuine responsibility, initiative, compassion, and even wisdom when their personal selfhood is allowed to emerge and proclaim itself; according to this point of view, educational techniques are artificial, and are usually barriers to meaningful growth. Thousands of homeschoolers and the “democratic” schools such as Sudbury Valley in Massachusetts have proven that there is value in this libertarian vision.

Waldorf educators, however, insist that this sort of freedom is premature and actually hinders the development of genuine personal autonomy. In a Waldorf classroom, the teacher is solidly in command of students’ attention moment after moment after moment; children have little opportunity to engage in independent activities or conversations; younger children, in particular, are not encouraged to question the teacher but to imitate what he or she models. Steiner insisted that he did not advocate such discipline for the sheer sake of adult authority but because he truly believed, on the basis of his intuitive perception, that the natural development of the child’s spiritual being requires strong adult guidance. As John F. Gardner has explained this perspective (1995), the “organism” (the material, animal aspect of human life) needs to be “cancelled” through the strengthening of “universal reason”; the spiritual realm of Mind transcends the individual ego and the task of education is to cultivate the infusion of true spiritual knowledge into the child’s receptive soul.

Obviously, this is the voice of German idealism. I do not say that it is incorrect: Steiner certainly was tapping into some profound layer of reality, and the fact is that most graduates of Waldorf schools do appear to be highly creative, self-confident, autonomous and happy people. Something in their souls has most definitely been nurtured. However, given my experience with other forms of alternative education and my understanding of the social and political challenges of our culture at this time, the lockstep classroom is the aspect of Waldorf education that I find most difficult to accept. If Steiner’s intuition were universally valid, then all graduates of free schools, progressive schools, and even Montessori schools would end up as rather dysfunctional individuals, and yet this is most certainly not the case (Gardner claims that it is, but he provides no evidence). These children’s souls have also been nurtured, although in less explicit and perhaps less deeply “spiritual” ways. As I said above, Steiner’s insights into the inherent spirituality of the unfolding human being are as rare as they are valuable, but I still cannot believe that the Waldorf pedagogy so uniquely transcends all cultural/historical influence that it is the only possible way of nourishing genuinely spiritual experience.

Holistic educators such as Rachael Kessler, John P. Miller and Parker Palmer have written about the central importance of the relationship between teachers and students; it is not the method, not the degree of freedom or structure provided, but the qualities of openness, respect, integrity and caring that make education real and meaningful. A former Waldorf educator, Diana Cohn, expressed this view precisely in a conversation with Montessorians that I facilitated several years ago. She observed that students in alternative schools “have very loving adults working with them. The methods are very different, but the bottom line is that you have these very interested adults working with the children, and they feel that. They feel enlivened by the fact that there are these caring adults in their lives” (Cohn, et. al. 1990).

So I don’t think it is a mistake to send my son to a Waldorf school, where he will be taught by caring adults who are fully dedicated to nourishing his unfolding personality. But I wonder whether they could nourish him even more fully by not choreographing his every move and expecting quite so much imitation and recitation; I think they would nourish even more facets of his archetypal energies by allowing some initiative, some freedom of expression, some exploration of his own peculiar ideas and interests. If a Waldorf approach could incorporate these “seed qualities” from other alternatives without sacrificing its own, it would be even more radically holistic than I already find it to be. Most Waldorf educators, I am sure, would view the result as merely a watered-down and greatly diminished version of their pedagogy–just as libertarian educators would scoff at the idea of introducing guided activities for cultivating imagination. It is just this conflict of partial visions that holistic education seeks to reconcile.


Cohn, Diana, Ruth Gans, Bob Miller, Ruth Selman, and Ron Miller (1990). “Parallel Paths: A Conversation Among Montessori and Waldorf Educators” Holistic Education Review Vol. 3 no. 4 (Winter, 1990), pp. 40-50.

Coulter, Dee Joy (1991). “Montessori and Steiner: A Pattern of Reverse Symmetries” Holistic Education Review Vol. 4 No. 2 (Summer, 1991), pp. 30-32.

Gardner, John Fentress (1995). Education in Search of the Spirit: Essays on American Education. Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press. (Originally published in 1975 as The Experience of Knowledge)

Henry, Mary E. (1993). School Cultures: Universes of Meaning in Private Schools. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Miller, Ron (1990). What Are Schools For? Holistic Education in American Culture. Brandon, VT: Holistic Education Press.

Miller, Ron (1995). “A Holistic Philosophy of Educational Freedom” in Educational Freedom for a Democratic Society, pp. 258-276. Brandon, VT: Resource Center for Redesigning Education.

Neville, Bernie (1989). Educating Psyche: Emotion, Imagination, and the Unconscious in Learning. Blackburn (Australia): Collins Dove.

Tyler, Alice Felt (1944/1962). Freedom’s Ferment: Phases of American Social History from the Colonial Period to the Outbreak of the Civil War. New York: Harper & Row.

Ron Miller is President of the Foundation for Educational Renewal, which publishes the magazine Paths of Learning: Options for Families and Communities (P.O. Box 328, Brandon, VT 05733-0328; ph. (800) 639-4122; Previously he was founding editor of the journal Holistic Education Review. He is writing a book on the free school movement of the 1960s and teaches part time at Goddard College.

Warm and Woolly? An anthroposophical experiment

Warm and Woolly? An anthroposophical experiment

This article is copied, with permission, from the Nowegian Waldorf critics page Steinerkritikk.
By Kristin A. Sandberg and Trond K.O. Kristoffersen
Is Jrna the society of the future? asks A-magasinet (24.nov. 2006) presenting children joyfully playing outdoors, eating organic food. Wool for the children and apples for all. How romantic! It’s almost enough to make us wish we were there by the cosy fire in a community lost in the mists of time.

The Steiner movement appears ever so charming: Postman Pat’s Greendale meets the musical Hair. With its funny architecture, natural materials, soft colours and organic food they appear to be an important, valuable alternative for people who hold a child centred view of development and want only the best for their children. Green values and art! If only that were true!

However, all that glistens is not gold and it is not the case that Rudolf Steiner invented green values, antimaterialism, baking bread and joyful outdoor play. Hats off to all schools and nurseries offering children play based learning, indoors and out. The Steiner movement, in common with the Scientologists, offers a so-called scientific approach to the religious. Like the Adventists they care for healthy food, and have pictures of the Virgin Mary in the classroom as the Catholics do. For the anti-consumerist among us, the Steiner-movement is one of several religious communities with a focus on environmental issues. It is, however, most disturbing when A-Magasinet stands on the soapbox for a religious sect without revealing their spiritual worldview.

It is a human right to believe in angels, demons and the divine visions of one single person, but the way this was presented by A-magasinet could clearly leave one with the impression that J�rna is a political alternative for environmentally aware people. The Steiner-movement bases its experiment on Rudolf Steiner’s occult visions found in the passing phase from sleep to awakening. They choose to hold obscure their religious foundation and secure 85% state funding for an alternative science of education, even though their pedagogical methods and their whole worldview is faith-based.

The Steiner-school presents its pedagogy as independent of their religious views. This is, in fact, contrary to the actual praxis and the teachings of Rudolf Steiner himself:

It is obvious that knowledge of the human being must be the basis for a teacher’s work; that being so, he must acquire this knowledge for himself, and the natural thing will be that he acquires it through Anthroposophy. If, therefore, we are asked what the basis of a new method of education should be, our answer is:
Anthroposophy must be that basis. But how many people there are, even in our own circles, who try to disclaim Anthroposophy as much as possible, and to propagate an education without letting it be known that Anthroposophy is at the back of it. [1] 

A-magasinet’s article chose to present the facade of anthroposophical effects without questioning, not even explaining, concepts like reincarnation, archangels, anthroposophical medicine, eurhythmy, biodynamics and cosmic forces. Why on earth not?

R. Steiner made the soul a subject of research. His research, however, was by no means scientific, in the sense we know it. Steiner had, as far as we know, no children. He never undertook any educational scientific research and he never actually taught children. Steiner teachers call this Spiritual Science. R. Steiner maintained that there were people living at the same time as the dinosaurs, and that these people were incorporeal. These revelations underpin the teaching of Steiner teachers, implying that they have a conviction that the development of the child is a microcosm of the historical development of humankind. They believe the pupils have been reincarnated from previous lives. This entails the need for children to learn about historical events at the right time so that their subconscious recognizes them from their previous lives.

The Steiner Schools claim they bring up children to be free. According to R. Steiner, and Steiner teachers themselves, anthroposophy is the only way to obtain true freedom. The so-called “experiment” of the Steiner movement exists in a very hierarchical world of ideas. The true freedom will enable you to free yourself from the vices preventing your advancement in your earthly lives. Steiner’s thoughts about reincarnation imply also the rather interesting observation that European culture, funnily enough, is seen as more advanced than other cultures. African and Asian cultures have not, as yet, reached the higher evolvement of enlightenment. But beware! This is nobody’s fault; we’ve all been there. It’s just one of those things.

We shall not dwell upon what Steiner claims about the Indians and the Jews here and now. But according to Steiner’s spiritual science some races are more developed than others due to their geographical placement on earth.

The Steiner School’s idea of differentiated teaching rests upon the teacher’s analysis of the child’s process of incarnation. This can lead to most interesting experiences for the child and the parents. If, for instance, the child does not place their foot down firmly, it means the child probably was superficial in his/ her previous life. [2]

Steiner teachers refer to children with ADHD or Aspergers syndrome as children with difficulties incarnating. That is, somehow a beautiful image, but oh so open to analysis… The child with ADHD is a part of the millennium mythology and struggles with forces of death (Luciferic forces). Not so beautiful, perhaps? It is ever so possible Ritalin is not the ultimate answer for all these children, but as a parent you should know that eurythmy (magical movements stimulating body and soul) seek to help your child to incarnate, and that learning difficulties or Special Educational Needs are seen as difficulties inherited from a previous life. Why does the journalist not ask about these things?

The worldview of the Steiner movement is truly experimental! Orchards and organic food are far more mainstream. Anthroposophical medicine too bases itself on an epistemy that is an alternative to a Western biological outlook; holistically alluring. Therefore head lice, measles and whooping cough flower epidemically in these communities. All is part of the development of the soul. Freedom? Experiment? They speak of children as souls with different, but mapped personalities, as if the soul itself is in fact a scientific matter only the anthroposophists can truly understand.

The man guiding the journalist in J�rna states that the Steiner movement has more to offer curious people than simply psalms. Funny, isn’t it, that these Steiner Schools, unlike any other Norwegian or Swedish school, start each day with a religious prayer!

But is it always this religious? Always. Not outspoken, not declared, but always implied. In all the rituals, the celebrations, the decorations and in the teachers views on child development.

At the moment we are all looking forward to Christmas. In the Steiner nurseries and pre-schools the children bring their candle into the advent spiral, marking the end of the Atlantic and the beginning of the Aryan era. Easily confused with the lighting of advent candles in Nordic winter darkness. The anthroposophical kindergartens and schools are an offer to people wanting an anthroposophical upbringing of their child. In addition they offer their own church, food production and grocers, bank, doctors-even a whole little village in Sweden which the journalist from A-magasinet covered with seven pages of dreams of apples, star signs, breast-feeding and wool. Seduced by the appearance of spiritual pilgrims who already know where they’re headed.

[1] Steiner, Rudolf. The Kingdom of Childhood: Seven
lectures and answers to questions given in
Torquay, 12th-20th August, 1924. (GA 311) Trans.
Helen Fox. Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press,
1982-1988, pp. 19-20

[2] Steiner, Rudolf. The Kingdom of Childhood: Seven
lectures and answers to questions given in
Torquay, 12th-20th August, 1924

A Pedagogy for Aryans

A Pedagogy for Aryans

Small classes, no mad scramble for high marks, and a motivated teaching-staff—Waldorf schools have earned a good reputation for their feigned ability to benefit students on an individual level. Still, to this day, these disguised religious schools pursue the idea of the anti-modern.

By Peter Bierl[2]


The German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs[3] has asked the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons[4] to include two books by Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy and Waldorf schools, on a list of texts deemed to endanger the young on account of racist content of the books in question. The Federal Department will decide the matter in September. Scholar Helmut Zander, of Berlin’s Humboldt University, has published a two-volume work, wherein he dissects Steiner’s »spiritual vision« down to every detail, and demonstrates how the guru plagiarized other thinkers. On three occasions now, a Waldorf teacher has been sentenced by the district court of Kempten, in the province of Allgäu, to pay fines of 8000 Euro due to manhandling children when he was on duty as a teacher. Although that particular Waldorf school does not belong to the Association of Waldorf Schools,[5] it nevertheless operates according to the foundational tenets of anthroposophy. At the town of Rauen in Brandenburg, Andreas Molau, a leading official of the Nazi party NPD[6], is planning the establishment of a Waldorf school. The project already faces opposition from the Association of Waldorf Schools, invoking proprietary rights to the name. For years, Molau was a teacher at a Waldorf school in Braunschweig, until he gave his notice in the autumn of 2004, allegedly due to his desire to work for the new NPD faction in the state parliament of Saxony as well as with the NPD periodical »German Voice«.[7] On that account, the Waldorf school, in turn, discharged and banned him.

At the time, as a result of the above mentioned incidents, Waldorf schools made negative headlines,  but in general the press reports are positive and uncritical. In this context, the high esteem this type of schools recieves, and the authorities’ indifferent attitude towards them, are in fact curious. That being so, anyone who concerns himself with Waldorf pedagogy cannot overlook its obscure foundation—the occult worldview of anthroposophy, concocted by the clairvoyant Steiner out of fragments of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and contemporary European evolutionary and racial teachings. For this picture to emerge, a few lectures from Steiner’s works and some copies of the Waldorf School Association’s publication, »Art of Education«,[8] are enough.

Cartoons and Lego, soccer, sex education and lefthandedness are treated with disdain, and the children have to recite rhymes and verses with odd accentuations that make the recitations resemble mantra practices. There are no actual text books, and the children must copy the subject matter from the teacher’s blackboard writing. In 1998, the pedagogical research branch of the Waldorf Association published a brochure entitled »Literature assignments for the teachers’ work at free Waldorf schools«. The booklet contains an outline of literature that »can be turned to when preparing for the teaching of the first to the eighth grades of main lesson blocks«. There is not one single recommendation of a reliable non-fictional work on the Nazi period for history education; instead, the list includes predominantly anthroposophical works from the first half of the past century, some of which are filled with dubious stories of »root races« and the migrations of the »Aryans«. In the recommended books we read that Italians are merry and impulsive and lie out of courtesy; the Brit, on the other hand, is unaffected and materialistic. The Arab is depicted as hardy, passionate, callous and scheming. The Asian is considered to be decadent; he is either a choleric Mongol or a phlegmatic Malay. The Japanese lives in a light wooden house with straw roof, he always smiles enigmatically, and conceals a merciless rigour beneath the surface. Africans are childish, naïve and devout, and their origins and their instincts exert strong influences upon them. And because they are like children, they must be governed by white people. The Russian is described as quick-tempered, brutal, ruthless, violent, dominant, impatient, capricious, resigned to his fate, resistant to adversity, undependable and unpunctual.

Such nonsense rests upon the notion of »root races«, inherited by Steiner from the theosophists. According to the theosophists, all of the »root races« and all of the »sub races« have their own tasks during particular epochs. The members and descendants of those »races« and peoples whose missions already belong to the past are regarded as decadent and unfit for spiritual progress. Steiner passed this verdict upon the Jews, the French, the Italians, the Chinese and the Japanese, as well as upon the Australian Aborigines and American Indians. Concepts such as »root races« or »races« are avoided, these days, by Steiner’s adherents; they prefer to speak of »cultural epochs«. In anthroposophical circles, it has not yet been acknowledged that humanity cannot be divided into »races« and that human »races« exist only as figments in the minds of racists.

Hence, in the reading list of 1998, Waldorf teachers were recommended approximately 30 works by Steiner, in which the master not only presents himself as a clairvoyant and depicts anthroposophy as an occult spiritual science, but also fantasizes about »folk spirits«, divides humanity into races, and claims that the »Aryans« are predestined to develop spirituality. The lectures alone, given by Steiner between the years 1919 and 1924 for the benefit of the teachers at the first Waldorf school, fill up three volumes, and those are utilized by Waldorf teachers during their training. Therein, he characterizes French as a decadent, mendacious »corpse of a language«, spoken by a nation in decline.

Waldorf schools present themselves as aimed at a »holistic«, child-centred and age-appropriate education towards freedom. This depiction is misleading, since for anthroposophists, these words have very specific meanings that cannot be easily inferred by an outsider if he has not been initiated into Steiner’s occult teachings. Freedom means freedom for anthroposophy. Child-centred and age-appropriate refer to anthroposophical dogmas on childhood development, depending on mumbo-jumbo conceptions surrounding the number 7.

The guru asserted that the human being consists of a physical body, an »etheric body« and an »astral body« and a divine ego, which will not appear until after the 21st year of life. The childhood aura remains in contact with a higher spiritual world. Because of this, parents and educators may not harbour any »impure or unchaste or immoral thoughts«. Round shapes, rythmical movements and soft colours, in particular pink lazured walls, contribute to the development of a moral disposition of the brain and in the circulatory system. Steiner described the small child as a »clumsy sack« or a »bag of flour«, a child who shows no curiosity—an idea contradicted by modern day understanding of pedagogy and developmental psychology. It is rubbish to think that children only desire imitation until their seventh year of life. Early childhood obstinacy and the desire for »self-assertion« are explained by Steiner as the activities of demonic forces that cause premature development of the ego-consciousness.

In the second 7-year period, ranging from the seventh to the 14th year of life, the »etheric body« liberates itself from its sheath. The imitative instinct of the small child is superseded by »deliberate acceptance«. From the teacher, a student assimilates that which, »on a foundation of self-evident authority, makes an impression on the child«. Hence, the children in a Waldorf class must manage, from the first until the eighth grade, with one and the same teacher, who is seen as a »master of fate«[9], as a »pedagogical artist«, who teaches all the basic subjects.

Critical thinking poisons children and the young, according to Steiner. No sooner than puberty, when the »astral body« is being liberated, is the teacher allowed to develop the young students’ capacity of discernment; they may then »sharpen their critical faculties«. In any event, »head knowledge« and »intellectuality« are to be avoided. Repetition was Steiner’s didactic method of preference. He perceived intellectuality with suspicion: »Everything intellectual is old-fashioned volition, and the type of will manifested by old people.« Discussions on sexuality and eroticism are resented in Waldorf schools. Steiner recommended that the aestethic sense for the sublime and beautiful in nature is to be encouraged instead. Since 2002, Waldorf circles have witnessed an uptight debate on the issue of sex education.

Steiner’s conception of reincarnation and karma is considered the »foundation of all genuine education«. For this reason, »Waldorf pedagogy, in its entirety and all the way to its core, is built upon a perception of the human being that holds reincarnation and karma as central facts«, wrote Valentin Wember, a Waldorf pedagogue, in the journal »Art of Education« in 2004. Speculating on previous earth lives of other people is certainly viewed as a tactless intrusion into the private sphere; for Waldorf teachers, however, there is an exception—for them, »cautious speculation« is allowed. Anthroposophists believe that the child’s body is moulded by forces which derive from previous earth lives. He who has lied during an earlier life, his physical being will be affected by this in his subsequent incarnation, and he will be reborn with mental impairments. »These days, the human being is unable to really fathom the truth, and he becomes feeble-minded«, writes Weber. This connection is »a spiritual law, discovered by spiritual scientist Rudolf Steiner«. The educator should imagine himself as the person who had been lied to in the previous life. He must forgive the disabled child and into the child’s mind instil the truths of spiritual life. The educator is to work off the »karmic debt« of the children, too.

When Waldorf teachers force left-handed children to write with their right hands, their reasoning is based on the notion of bad karma. The predominant attitude of tolerance that reigns in modern public schools is not recognized in Waldorf schools. Michaela Glöckler, medical practitioner, bestselling anthroposophical author and director of the medical branch at the Goetheneaum, the international  headquarters of the anthroposophists, situated in Dornach, Switzerland, believes that writing with the right hand is »an exercise of will for any child«, and for the left-handed child this is ever so poignant. The child will learn »to pull himself together through continous mastering of the light sensation of discomfort«. According to Steiner, the left-handed have squandered their resources in their prior lives. Thus, in this life, they have to cultivate their »spiritual intensity«, for which the left half of the body is responsible.

A further element of Waldorf pedagogy is the ancient doctrine of human temperaments. Anthroposophists believe that every individual is characterized by one of the four temperaments, which is assumed to govern him: the choleric person is impassioned and strong-willed; the sanguine is lively, confident and fidgety. The melancholic is timid and gloomy, and an egoist and a recluse; the phlegmatic is indolent, he dreams with his mouth open, and pulls out his snack from the school bag at the first opportunity.

The class teacher determines the child’s temperament, and subsequently organizes the seating arrangements: to the left in front of him, he places the phlegmatics, then the melancholics and the sanguines, and to the right he seats the cholerics. Children of the same temperament are seated together, so that they will »mirror« each other. For every temperament, there are specific methods of narration and presentation, particular exercises, and even the four rules of arithmetic are learnt in temperamentally adapted ways. Waldorf pioneer Caroline von Heydebrand advises that the melancholic child ought not to be rinsed in cold water, but should be fed lettuce and light vegetables; the choleric should be made to cut wood, drive in nails and carry rocks, and the phlegmatic must not be allowed to »linger—out of pure delight—drowsily and half-asleep in the warmth of the feather bed« in the mornings. The sanguine requires variation.

The decisive factor, when it comes to the temperament of an individual, is karma. Although most Waldorf teachers are not thought to be among the great initiates and cannot use clairvoyance, they still resort to phrenology and physiognomy. These disciplines arose in the late 18th century, with the objective of dividing humanity into »races«. Anthroposophists believe that cholerics are short-necked and  short-legged, sanguines are slender and well-proportioned, melancholics are tall, thin, skinny and carry their bodies with a forward bent, phlegmatics are rounded and well-nourished. Musicians, painters and priests have large noses, according to the insights of anthroposophist Norbert Glas; ears placed high expose an eccentric intellectual, and pointed ears betray the kleptomaniac.

Karma and reincarnation, temperaments, phrenology, numerological magic and belief in the spiritual world complete the anthroposophical conception of human nature. This is an anthropology based on insight and on »moral conviction«—and for the teachers a »means to an education of the self«—to which every Waldorf school owes a debt of gratitude. The »loyalty to the truth, as it is perceived, binds together the conference of teachers in a community of fate and symbiosis«, proclaims Heinz Zimmermann, the leader of the pedagogical section at the Goetheanum. The assurance that Waldorf schools are not faith schools is nothing but a purely self-protective assertion.

Every Waldorf school is seen as a designated »karmic community«, because every teacher or student has been impelled in a specific direction by his or her karma. In German public schools, a very humble co-management of teachers, parents and pupils has been commonplace for decades; in the so called free Waldorf schools, this kind of democratic governance has not yet been implemented. Waldorf schools claim to be parts of a purpose-driven movement, similar to a religious community, whose undertakings are exempted from the usual requirements regarding co-management of regular employees through provisions made by German law. In practical terms, Waldorf pedagogy requires payments of school fees amounting to some hundred Euros a month, as well as conformity to the informal demands of the social élite which forms the school body. An investigation by the Criminological Institute of Lower Saxony[10] in the year 2006 indicates that, of the surveyed students in 9th grade, only 1,1 per cent of the parents had attended Hauptschule.[11] Only 0,3 per cent of the students are from immigrant families, in comparison to a 18,3 per cent of the students at Hauptschulen and the 2,9 per cent of the students at Gymnasien.

Waldorf schools are foreigner-free enclaves, as it were, and élitist institutions where the offspring of the upper class and the academic bourgeoisie stay at a safe distance from the children of the proleteriat. Waldorf pedagogy may comprise some positive aspects; no grades and no being held back, its orientation towards music and handicraft, or the block teaching. These ideas Steiner ripped off from other reform pedagogues, then infused in occult prattle. Children should be spared from such a covert religious education.


Author’s postscript, May 30, 2008:

This article was first published in »Jungle World«, a German weekly magazine, based in Berlin, in September 2007. A few weeks later the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons declared that the two books by Steiner contain passages »which are nowadays to be rated as racist«, but abstained from banning them because the administration of Rudolf Steiner’s estate, which is headquartered in Switzerland, promised to print annotated new editions.

In November 2007 the Hamburg-based magazine »Stern« reported that Andreas Molau, then front runner of NPD for the state elections in Lower Saxony, was writing a book together with Lorenzo Ravagli, former Waldorf teacher and instructor of Waldorf teachers, staff of the monthly Waldorf magazine »Art of Education« and anthroposophy’s main defender against criticism of antisemitism and racism within anthroposophy and Waldorf education. According to the article in »Stern«, Ravagli refused to authorize this book, which was to deal with nationalism, until a few weeks before the international book fair in Frankfurt. Ravagli published several pamphlets, denying the obvious fact that Steiner was a German nationalist, antisemite and racist. The collaboration between the anthroposophist Ravagli and Molau, one of Germany’s leading Nazi activists, is a scandal, but has obviously had no consequences. Ravagli’s works are still advertised on the homepage of the German Waldorf Federation (, May 26th 2008).

Return to PLANS articles page

[1]    A previous version of this article was published in the German magazine Jungle World No. 36, 6 October 2007. It can be accessed at (June 5th 2008).

[2]    Peter Bierl is an author and journalist, living with his family near Munich in Bavaria, Germany. His work deals with topics like anthroposophy, antisemitism, ecology, environmentalism, esotericism, fascism and racism. In 2005, a revised edition of his book »Wurzelrassen, Erzengel und Volksgeister. Die Anthroposophie Rudolf Steiners und die Waldorfpädagogik« [»Root races, Archangels and Folk Spirits. The Anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner and the Waldorf Pedagogy«] was published. Konkret Literatur Verlag, Hamburg, 17 Euro, ISBN 3-89458-242-1.

[3]    Bundesfamilienministerium.

[4]    Bundesprüfstelle (Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien).

[5]    Bund der freien Waldorfschulen.

[6]    Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands; National Democratic Party of Germany.

[7]    »Deutsche Stimme.«

[8]    »Erziehungskunst.«

[9]    »Schicksals- und Daseinsmacht« in German.

[10]  Kriminologisches Institut für Niedersachsen (KfN).

[11]  Transl. note: The German Hauptschule is the alternative to the Gymnasium. Upon completing 4th grade, students go either to the Hauptschule—for a practically oriented, basic education—or to the Gymnasium, which is theoretically oriented and a preparation for higher education. Attendance at a Gymnasium and a successful final examination (the Abitur) are requirements for further studies at university level.