Posted by: Ticktock | June 10, 2008

Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy, and Waldorf Woo

Rudolf Steiner was a pseudo-scientific philosopher who created the imaginative theory of anthroposophy.  His beliefs share the inherent racism of mormonism and the spiritual fantasies of L Ron Hubbard’s scientology.

So why are Waldorf schools still teaching his methods?

Rudolf Steiner was a likable, yet controversial, fellow.  He graduated from an Austrian technical university in 1883, where he studied math, philosophy, and physics, but it wasn’t until he met the spiritual mentor of an herb gatherer named Felix Okutsgi that he started developing his esoteric side.  He went on to get a doctorate of philosophy in Rockstock Germany, but it was his fascination with the phenomenological writings of Goethe and Fichte that further shaped his thoughts.  This background led to his first book The Philosophy of Freedom, which theorized that spiritual freedom occurs when we bypass our social prisons and allow access to the intuitive experience of each spontaneous moment.

Anthroposophy, Steiner’s religiously inspired philoso-theory, says that man can overcome sensory experience to access an objective spiritual realm.  My understanding of anthroposophy is that it’s a method of understanding the spiritual nature of the universe through intuitive experience, just as science is a method of describing the physical reality of the universe through logical observation.

This was all well and good until Steiner started funneling his ideas into fictional translations of the imaginary Akashic Records.  Like Joseph Smith’s angel Moroni and Hubbard’s thetans, Steiner adopts his own sham origins by claiming to have checked out a book from God’s library (the Akashic) while he was astrally projecting himself into the spiritual realm.  Steiner lifted many of his theories from Goerthe and eastern religion.

He used mysticism as an excuse to repackage ideas such as reincarnation, karma, astrology and clairvoyance.  Steiner went so far as to rewrite the christian mythos, introducing modern satanic characters such as ahriman, the personification of materialism, whom he believed should be balanced with lucifer and Christ.  As if this wasn’t outrageous enough, Steiner invented an origin for humanity (and anatomy) that is beyond logic and science; he declared that humans existed in pre-Atlantean times as bodiless souls and that we’ve since evolved into our current form.  He believed that in the distant future, we will regain the clairvoyant powers we once lost.

Steiner adapted his brand of nonsense into a form of education that was later called the Waldorf method (after his first school for children of workers at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory).  One of his first schools was the Goetheanum, The School of Spiritual Science.  Steiner believed that humans experience reincarnation over several lives, the lowest of which are the colored races; the highest, of course, the white race.  He also said that humans pass through seven spiritual stages (which he lifted from the seven shakras), and that education should be compatible with these stages.

The first stage lasts until age seven and is based on adjusting to the material world by method of imitation.  Children in this stage are not allowed to read books or watch television.

The second stage occurs between the ages of seven and fourteen, and is meant to foster the imagination and submission to authority.

The third stage occurs between the ages of fourteen and twenty one, and is when the astral form inhabits the physical body via puberty. Hmmm…

Along the way, students are asked to pray every morning to God.  They’re also taught eurythmy, a type of intuitive dancing, but even this nice idea is corrupted with pseudo-science and proto-mythology – the kids are sometimes asked to dance with copper tubes or re-enact seasonal pagan rituals.  Steiner also objected to traditional forms of medicine such as inoculation because they interfere with the karmic cycle of reincarnation.  However, anthroposophic doctors have no trouble prescribing homeopathic remedies, herbal miracle drinks, and even drawing with colorful crayons to cure disease.  Steiner, himself, believed that mistletoe could cure cancer, and his followers believed that an allergic child should be force-fed the foods that make him sick to overcome the sins of his past life.

So, to sum up, Waldorf schools are just like Montessori, except for the paganism, the racism, the morning prayers, the quackery, the pseudo-science, the bastardization of world religions, the secrecy, and the elitist behaviors.  I seriously considered sending my kids to a nearby Waldorf school because they presented themselves as a progressive private institution.  Instead, I realize that these schools are antithetical to everything that I hold most dear.  It’s a shame because Steiner’s concepts stripped of their mysticism can be applied in useful ways; I plan on adapting some of his fundamental methods to teach acting.  But, on the whole, anthroposophy and Steiner education represent an amalgam of everything this blog opposes.

Check out PLANS (People for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools) at waldorfcritics.org! I tried my hardest to fit everything into this one post, but there is so much more Waldorf nonsense that I can’t possibly cover it all.

 

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Responses

  1. Rudolf Steiner owes many of his racist ideas to Helena Blavatsky, the founder of theosophy. Racist pseudoscience, occultism, and proto-fascist ideologies such as Ariosophy flourished in Europe during the second half of the 19th century, and would be a source of inspiration to high-ranking Nazis such as Heinrich Himmler and Rudolf Hess.

    I’m not saying that Steiner was some sort of proto-Nazi – after all, anthroposophy was ultimately outlawed by Hitler – but some of his ideas about race seem to stem from the same sources.

    The more I learn about anthroposophy, the more it sickens me. Many run-of-the mill anthroposophists (is that a word?) are nice people, but their belief system is scary.

    I could point you to some interesting sources on racism and anthroposophy, but unfortunately, these are in Dutch!

    BTW, I attended a Montessory school in Holland and I can assure you it was just like a ‘regular’ school in many ways. We all had to work equally hard to prepare ourselves for the upcoming exams, which included reading 75 novels in four languages (25 in Dutch, 15 in English, 15 in German and 15 in French). That was back in 1978.

  2. For more than two years I was fascinating with Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy and I liked the beautiful picture he created. but the deeper I was going in philosophy and science’s clues the worse the picture of Rudolf Steiner became. until I found most of his Work is fake and full of critical mistakes..
    Most of his ideas are stolen from old sources, secret old religions, old and modern philosophical schools.
    And for sure he put all these ideas together to form his picture upon his own fantasy.
    And after all what I read about him, it is clear that he used spirituality to broadcast Nazi’s thoughts and racism wings.
    It is enough stupid to judge people in groups and to give all the souls in a nation one character, Although I am German.
    and who was Rudolf Steiner to judge all people and give them classifications ?
    I think he was looking for the God’s job but he died before realizing his dreams

  3. A bit late in the day, I’ve just read this great post. Anthroposophy is the guiding core of steiner waldorf schools, and the greatest scandal is that the schools deceive parents about it. There is rarely any information or mention of this pseudo relion in any of their promotional material. I hazard a guess that most parents haven’t read Steiner- ( you mention his pre atlantean theory- did you read the bit about jelly like humans floating around planets with a surface like boiled lettuce? BOILED LETTUCE)
    The schools will feed a few choice comments about freedom( Steiner translates that as “spiritual activity of course) and imagination (anthroposophical translation- clairvoyance) and the parents buy it all, hook line and sinker.
    The anthroposophists also babysit wikepedia, to make sure no negative stuff goes onand threaten discussion forums where parents discuss their negative experiences, with totally unfounded legal action.
    Hereford steiner school has just opened as an academy- reciving millions and millions of government money , funding what is essentially a faith school- but not admitted as such. The Woods report, on steiner education, seems to be written apparently by a husband and wife team who are very biased towards anthroposophy.
    Somethng needs to be done to force them to be honest about anthroposophy.

  4. There is a new article on Steiner education on counterknowledge.com and a lively blog.
    Or you can see it at butterfliesandwheels.com under latest news.

    great article here skeptic dad, fair and accurate.

  5. Here’s a great new article about anthroposophical medicine which has me reaching for my medicaments. It’s a UK based blog as you can see: http://ukanthroposophy.wordpress.com/ but anyone in the US can also enjoy anthroposophy’s ‘spiritual and alchemistic’ understanding of small children.

    Here is also an article by an American Montessori teacher which explains just why Steiner education is not like Montessori:
    http://www.montessorianswers.com/my-experiences-with-waldorf.html
    Which a lot of parents (like me) might wish they’d been able to read a bit earlier.

  6. […] The Rogues’ Gallery — Gorillas In The Midst Science-​​Based Parenting — Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy, and Waldorf Woo Skepfeeds — You’re Wrong Skeptico — Psychic Joe Power Wrong Suburban […]

  7. […] Gallery — Remembering the Holocaust and its Deniers Science-​​​​Based Parenting — Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy, and Waldorf Woo Science-​​Based Parenting — Dateline’s Dose of Controversy is an Opportunity Missed […]

  8. […] Gallery — Remembering the Holocaust and its Deniers Science-​​Based Parenting — Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy, and Waldorf Woo Science-​​Based Parenting — Dateline’s Dose of Controversy is an Opportunity Missed […]

  9. I had no idea! I briefly considered sending my daughter to a neighborhood Waldorf school but it was too expensive and the “NO TV!” and control of what books I read to her seemed militant. In the end, our neighborhood free public school has worked out great. I had no idea about its history. That is disturbing that I had even considered subjecting my child to that.

    • Hey, I looked at your blog, and I live in the same area! I bet you looked at the same Waldorf school that which had a Christmas fair that I took my boys to years, years and years ago (not far from Lake City Way and Ravenna).

      While I liked the kids doing crafts, I was disturbed by the astrology activity. Um, no.

      At the public school that my son went to for his disability, I met another family who had started there. It turned out their son had delayed gross motor skills and was unable to do the exercises at the school, and was unwilling to work with them. Their son did get OT/PT at that local public school. (then then they moved when they finally found a house they could afford in Bothell).

  10. oh. So disappointing. I went to a fantastic public school, and the various little random things I heard about Waldorf education made me think that it was a Waldorf school without the label. The crafts, the extensive exploration of natural materials, the working at your own pace, incorporating physical activity and singing with academic, not much segregation of subjects, grades taught together. So I had a positive idea of Waldorf schools as like the one I went to. Sort of sad to hear that they’re not.

    (My school had no prayers, reading as early as you liked, no racism, no quackery- we did science experiments with real results.)

  11. […] around the more I found.  Articles by former Waldorf students warning parents.  Articles by secular parents.  Strings on the Berkeley Parents […]

  12. “We no longer want merely to believe; we want to know. Belief demands the acceptance of blind truths which we do not fully comprehend.”

    -Rudolf Steiner, The Philosophy of Freedom, Preface

    I am disappointed to read these comments–I am an American college graduate living abroad in Germany right now, and have been studying Steiner for five years.

    From what I can gather, this thread is organized around the idea of “rational thinking” and parenting interests. I find it incredible that one of the clearest thinkers I have ever come across (I studied philosophy in school and have read Kant, Hegel, Marx, etc.), emphasizing the need for authentic individual understanding as opposed to the easy and blind acceptance of “truths of whatever variety;” one so vocal about importance of every individual regardless of race, about the need to transcend identification along racial and political lines, (and so completely against Anti-Semetism, look up his support Emile Zola in the Dreyfus affair); and one who has done such an incredible amount of pedagogical research in the last century is attacked on the grounds of pseudoscience and irrationality, racism, and poor education of children.

    I will be the last to deny that many of Steiner’s thoughts sound odd to our assumptions of what is and is not plausible–for instance, reincarnation, the spiritual world, reincarnation, etc.–but these topics are at least claimed by Steiner to be discovered just as scientifically and objectively as any other scientific observation. Steiner claimed that anyone could observe what he observed and validate it for themselves–either by using normal logic to “test” the concept or by investigating it with “spiritual research” which he claimed required the development of the spiritual senses, which he stated were spiritual organs corresponding to the physical senses on a higher level. The point isn’t that such things can sound strange to our cultural norms (dare I say presuppositions or even prejudices?), the point is that Steiner’s whole project was about self-discovery and the scientific method. If you wish to disagree, fine, no one will stop you (including a good Anthroposophist), but be prepared to defend your opinion with actual sources–to which any responsible representative of Steiner’s ideas would be happy to provide your access.

    Pseudoscience. Where to begin? The first question becomes, what constitutes rationality? How do we know that something is true? If the only answer is what most people around us think, that’s a pretty pathetic criterion in my opinion (regardless of the subject matter, which is of course the whole point of what we call impartiality). If anyone is interested in exploring Steiner’s dissertation on empiricism and epistemology it can be found on this website in English: rsarchive.com It is titled Warheit und Wissenshaft, or “Truth and Science” in the English translation. Critical of both Kantianism and Fichte’s “spiritualist idealism,” Steiner seeks to provide an epistemological method containing free of presuppositions (of whatever kind, as we can see from his criticism of both of the preceding figures).

    Steiner also wrote two other works dealing with this theme: “the Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World-Conception” and “the Philosophy of Freedom. I hope that they will be at least idly perused before this man and his Doctorate degree are dismissed as rubbish. I have provided below some of Steiner’s quotes in response to various allegations made above and elsewhere.

    “Man makes himself free from what is generic. For the generic features of the human race, when rightly understood, do not restrict man’s freedom, and should not artificially be made to do so. A man develops qualities and activities of his own, and the basis for these we can seek only in the man himself….We are concerned with something purely individual which can be explained only in terms of itself…It is impossible to to understand a human being completely if one takes the concept of genus as the basis of one’s judgement.”

    RS, “The Philosophy of Freedom,” pgs 203-205 Michael Wilson translation. (Referring to any type of genus or difference in group–race, nationality, gender, family, etc.) He continues about gender in the same vein if anyone is interested.

    As regards accusations of anti-semitism, Steiner called anti-semities “haters of culture.” Find the source in the footnote on the wikipedia page.

    To sum up, and to be honest, I have never personally remembered a past life. I have never attended a Waldorf School. I have never directly perceived the spiritual world. IT could be that Steiner was wrong about these things. Logically, yes logically, I think his thoughts on these matters make more sense than the alternatives. I reserve the final judgment for myself and my reason.

    One last quote to counter this patently untrue nonsense about Steiner’s philosophy as some kind of invented fantasy a la L. Ron Hubbard (a man about as different from Steiner as they come…):

    “All attempts to transcend the world are purely illusory, and the principals transplanted from this world into the Beyond do not explain the world any better than those which remain within it. If thinking understands itself it will not ask for any such transcendence at all, since every content of thought must look within the world and not outside it for a perceptual content, together with which it forms something real.”

    -RS “Philosophy of Freedom,” page 216

    I simply don’t have the time to respond to every one of this article’s half-truths, assumptions and pieces of misinformation. To take an example, though–Anthroposophical medicine is portrayed as ridiculous quackery, but does the author mention that every single Anthroposophical medicine practitioner has to have a certified medical PHD, as in a doctorate in order to practice? I see no quotes or references to Steiner’s alleged racism, in fact no references of any kind. Here is a recent report form the Netherlands about this subject:

    http://uncletaz.com/steinerrace.html I quote:

    The Commission finds again that any suggestion that racism is an inherent part of Anthroposophy, or that conceptually Steiner helped prepare the way for the holocaust, has proven to be categorically wrong. As a matter of fact, the investigation of the Commission shows that, beginning in the year 1900, he clearly spoke and wrote against the dangers of anti-Semitism, including in the periodical of a then existing German association against anti-Semitism existing at that time.
    The Commission emphasizes that Rudolf Steiner’s concept of man is based on the equality of all individuals, and not on some supposed superiority of one race over another. Anthroposophy is diametrically opposed to social Darwinism in which the idea of survival of the fittest leads to the domination of the strongest race. In Steiner’s view of society the central idea is a cosmopolitan striving for one humanity without distinctions as to races and peoples.

    As for connections with Blavatsky, Steiner was openly critical of its racial views, which can be seen in his lectures on the subject (See rsarchive.com and do a keyword search for “root races” a theosophical concept).

  13. To see references and quotes, you merely have to click on the provided links. But since you asked, here are some particularly racist comments that I’d like to see how you can dismiss with apologetics. If I’ve quoted him out of context, I’ll be happy to make changes.

    “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. Blond hair actually bestows intelligence. … It is indeed true that the more the fair individuals die out the more will the instinctive wisdom of humans vanish.” (Steiner, 1922, HI-1, p. 86)

    “That is a terrible thing the French people are doing to other people, the frightful cultural brutality of transplanting black people to Europe. It affects France itself worst of all. This has an incredibly strong effect on the blood, the race. This will substantially add to French decadence. The French nation will be weakened as a race.”

    I don’t believe I made any references to anti-antisemitism, so you’re arguing a straw man on that one. I will say that it’s very interesting that Steiner uses the term “aryan” so comfortably in his writings.

    That report from the Netherlands must be from a biased source. I don’t see how anyone could possibly say that Steiner doesn’t believe one race to be more pure than another based on the quotes that I’ve read.

    Having a PhD does not mean that you follow science-based medicine. You can get a PhD in homeopathy, you know? That’s like herbal medicine, except for the nonsensical dilutions and vibrations and law of similars. You should look it up.

    Steiner believed that we descended from an ancient Atlantean race. How is that “as different from L. Ron Hubbard as they come”? Please explain how you rationalize your cognitive dissonance.

    “How do we know that something is true?”

    We don’t, but I challenge you to come up with a better method for discovering provisional truth than science. Please take a look at what you wrote as a defense of Steiner’s thoughts on science, and then if you still don’t understand why it’s not science — go back to college and take some more courses in science.

    “Steiner claimed that anyone could observe what he observed and validate it for themselves–either by using normal logic to “test” the concept or by investigating it with “spiritual research” which he claimed required the development of the spiritual senses, which he stated were spiritual organs corresponding to the physical senses on a higher level.”

    How exactly do you test reincarnation. If you or anyone claims with certainty that people are reincarnated, they’re not making this claim from a scientific perspective. Science is what can be universally tested, not tested in a meaningless spiritual way.

  14. You seem quite angry. I myself attended a Steiner school and the fundamental truth we worked with every day was to respect ourselves, to understand our own individual powers of learning and growth and become powerful and effective in our own lives. To this end I am now an intelligent adult, respected in my professional field, a great parent and wife, and a positive human being. What more could you want? If you are indeed teaching acting, an ancient art of storytelling, I suggest you relax and let go of resentment for particular institutions. Focus on how your teaching can further an art form and benefit it’s students.
    My children get a great deal out of Catholicism. Despite not being Catholic myself, I will never negate the good it has created for them.
    Think about an education that is right for the child, not the adult whose years of experience have built defences.

  15. JJStephenson: I too see so much angry stuff out there and scary stuff about Waldorf son is doing well, and only did well in local Waldorf school. My son doesn’t have any clue what anthroposophy is. He’s black like most of his school friends 12 of 19 in his class are.

    I am still embarrassed after 7 years, humiliated really, to admit that I have never had any problems with this school. I’m athiest but my son is Christian. I’m not teaching any religion to a child but believe ‘to each his own’. I don’t argue or try to tell Christians, Jewish people, Pagans, Mormons, or Anthroposophists that they are “wrong” or “naive” or push for not saying the pledge: all seem quirky to me and when I go somewhere they have me ‘swear to God’ (like when I was sworn in at my son’s adoption, I just swear to God). My kid has no idea who Steiner is or what anthroposophy is, he’s not learning it in school.

    My understanding is that Eurhymy class is to incarnate the spirit and open the child up to clairvoyance (or maybe open up the spirit world to viewing)—my son doesn’t know this, nobody told him why they do it. It is just a ‘special’ like those he had in public and private schools we tried like gym, yoga, sign language, lego robotics, and spanish. BTW, my son started Waldorf in 3rd grade but burned through 3 public, 1 private, and 1 public but self-contained special needs school in his first 4 years of education.

    Here is my anger/ disbelief: My son was KICKED OUT of Montessouri school in a report stating that due to ‘disruptive behaviors of excessive whining and crying in class and ‘inability to confirm with peer norms’ and ‘disrespect for authority’ we are denying re-enrollment. He experienced some of worst bullying ever and I am often mocked or told by other parents of Montessouri schools that I am lying because NOBODY ever seems to have problems at Montessouri other than my child. The point is everyone has things about certain schools.

    It seems that so many people have horrible times at Waldorf schools because they were lied to about how the school was formed or what underlies the philosophy/curriculum. And they insist those who don’t have problems are unenlightened or ‘hiding something like they must be an anthroposophist’.

    Honestly, I never had any issues with this school, they never tell me what to do in home, yes there is a dress code and no cartoon lunchboxes/backpacks, yes it says right there in their parent handbook to limit t.v. on school nights and not to have media inspired birthday themes, but they didn’t ask me to take down the toy story poster in my son’s room or about all the media toys strewn about during home visit. Even the religious festivals while discussed and planned all year/week long are held after school or on weekends and we don’t always go to them. My only gripe is that as working single parent 60 hours of volunteering a year is too much!! Usually I can only do about 40 on a good year then have to pay the fee of $20/hour not done (aka 400 dollars for not volunteering enough!).

    The other less selfish gripe I suppose would be that in general the atmosphere of Waldorf really seems kind of touchy, feely back to nature type of education that would appeal to small towns, organic farmers, voluntary simplicity, or frugal living folks but like myself ALL, 300 plus kids in the whole school, are from wealthy families (and not what people think of ‘wealthy’–doctors, lawyers, professors although there are a good deal of these —but this school is made up mainly of those of us who are top executives: CEOs, City Mayor, Vice Presidents, sport team owner kids, Directors of medical schools/hospitals, celebrities, etc… IT is just way to expensive to most families! If a CEO, MD, or such has a child who can get into the 3 academic prep schools, or is very religious they still don’t go here but those who don’t use the local Waldorf as a fall back school as tuition is the same as most college prep schools. I think many just pretend they chose this ‘lifestyle’, simplicity way but there kids are in local sports/learning centers/etc…

    Anyway the only other place my son met friends and made educational gains at was the local Jewish Community Center: I’m an athiest but seriously considered trying to raise my son/convince him to convert to Judiasm but my son was adamant since placement with me that he is Baptist (Christian).


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