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Rudolf Steiner, founder of Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education.
Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925)

Rudolf Steiner Rudolf Steiner is the founder of the anthroposophical movement besides Waldorf Education and its educational philosophy. [Steiner Biography and Timeline]

The Waldorf approach emphasises imagination in learning. The main goal is to provide young people the basis for developing by stages into free, moral and integrated individuals. There are over a thousand independent Waldorf schools and 1400 independent Waldorf kindergartens in about sixty countries. It is one of the world's largest independent educational systems.

There is also Waldorf-based homeschooling. Besides, Waldorf methods have been adopted by numerous educators in state and private schools. For example, In Israel, the Harduf Kibbutz Waldorf school includes both Jewish and Arab faculty and students and has extensive contact with the surrounding Arab communities.

Steiner Education

Unesco, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, states that the Waldorf movement's ideals and ethical principles correspond to those of Unesco.

A UK Department for Education and Skills report noted significant differences in curriculum and pedagogical approach between Waldorf and mainstream schools and found that schools in the state sector could benefit from elements of Waldorf education, such as the emphasis on child development guiding the curriculum and examinations; the attention given to teachers' reflective activity and heightened awareness (in collective child study for example); and collegial structure of leadership and management. A 2008 report by the Cambridge-based Primary Review found that Steiner/Waldorf schools achieved superior academic results to English state schools.

An Australian study compared the academic performance of students at university level. It was found that students who had been at Waldorf schools significantly outperformed their peers from non-Waldorf schools in both the humanities and the sciences.

A Canadian study found that Waldorf-educated students scored significantly higher on a test of moral reasoning than students in public high schools and students in a religiously-affiliated high school.

A 1995 survey of U.S. Waldorf schools found that parents overall experienced the Waldorf schools as achieving their major aims for students, and described the education as one that "integrates the aesthetic, spiritual and interpersonal development of the child with rigorous intellectual development", preserving students' enthusiasm for learning so that they develop a better sense of self-confidence and self-direction.

Studies comparing students' performance on college-entrance examinations in Germany found that as a group, Waldorf graduates passed the exam at double to triple the rate of students graduating from the state education system, and that students who had attended Waldorf schools for their entire education passed at a much higher rate (40% vs. 26%) than those who only had part of their education at a Waldorf school.

Waldorf pupils have been tested and found more creative than state-school students.

A study of 6,600 children from five European countries, ages 5 to 13, showed a lower incidence of allergies amongst children attending Waldorf schools.

Waldorf Education Endorsed by Educators

Thomas Nielsen of the University of Canberra considers the imaginative teaching approaches used in Waldorf education (drama, exploration, storytelling, routine, arts, discussion and empathy) to be effective stimulators of spiritual-aesthetic, intellectual and physical development and recommends these to mainstream educators.

Dr. Ernest Boyer has recommended Waldorf education's unique integration of the arts into traditional content as a model for other schools.

Thomas Armstrong sees Waldorf education curriculum as organically embodying Howard Gardner's seven intelligences.

Professor Robert Peterkin considers Waldorf education a healing education whose underlying principles are appropriate for educating all children.

UK educational evaluators see the Waldorf approach conforming to the principal direction of educational theory based upon Comenius and Pestalozzi.

First He Was a Theosophy Lecturer

The Theosophical Society was founded in 1875 in New York by H. P. Blavatsky and H. S. Olcott. Steiner writes, "I found it necessary to join the Theosophical Society." [21] The German Section of the Theosophical Society was founded in 1902, with Steiner as General Secretary. He lectured extensively. In 1913, he founded the Anthroposophical Society in Berlin (February 2-3).

Parts of Steiner's teachings correspond to Theosophy teachings.

Steiner's Anthroposophy

While anthroposophy is not generally taught as a subject, Waldorf education grows out of anthroposophy's view of child development, which stands as the basis for the educational theory, methodology of teaching and curriculum. Anthroposophy teaches there is an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world accessible to direct experience through inner development. [Training]

Festivals play an important role in Waldorf schools.

The collected works of Rudolf Steiner consists of (1) books he wrote, including letters; (2) public lectures, lectures for members, and lectures for some professions; and (3) reproductions. His collected works (in German) consists of 354 volumes. Many of his works are translated into English. Here are some - I could easily add dozens more: [On-line Steiner Works]

Professor Robert McDermott on Steiner

The Essential Steiner by Professor Robert A. McDermott at Baruch College, The City University of New York, is said to cull the best of some sixty of Steiner's published works. McDermott explains Steiner's methods and contributions in many fields, and describes Steiner's writing as vast, his thought as complex and deep, and "Steiner's teachings seem to me well grounded." [McDermott 1984, xi-xii]

Such a view surely ignores the vast vistas and many details about Steiner's Atlantis and Steiner's version of the making of the moon, and of milk animals on the moon and planets, to name a few things.

Be that as it may for now, McDermott describes Steiner as "a genius in twelve fields". [1]

"Steiner himself urged that his readers and others interested in his works look to the mode of spiritual perception that made both his knowledge and his work possible." [3]

"A closer look at Spiritual Science, or Anthroposophy, shows that its purpose is to bring to humanity an entirely new capability - knowledge of the spiritual world by conscious sense-free thinking." [3]

About development: "It is necessary to begin with more ordinary, frankly selfish, means and ends." [3]

"Practical application of Steiner's teachings can be helpful." [4]

This site's Steiner studies are here: [Steiner pages]


Aiming for the Mystic Other Shore

There are good reasons to reserve oneself. A little "well-well" training could help some. And Buddha's Kalama Sutta can help against being swayed from rational, helpful handling also.

Steiner says, "When we try to impose an idea upon another person, we are trying to implant our own concept into another person; this concept we have implanted into another person is the blunted weapon that Cain plunged into Abel." [Steiner 1997, The Effects of Esoteric Development, 1997:164]

Steiner's quite drastic simile about implanted concepts might need some elaboration. Here is one: In another lecture Dr Steiner suggests how concepts should be introduced to growing persons - not like small shoes to feet that keep growing, but ideas that go well with the "assimilation levels" of persons at different stages of development. The stages range from imitation through imagination or imagery to intellectual kernels or ideas, for example. Waldorf education is to a great extent founded on that view.

We may compare the first stages of Steiner's developmental scheme with those of Jean Piaget, which Steiner's findings predate by decades. To adapt a school's curriculum to the levels one assimilates ideas from through life, is more than talk is the fit idea at the bottom of schooling through fables, fairy tales, myths and other artistic presentations in Steiner education (Waldorf Education). In time, more abstract kernels in them may be extracted from the fables other tales and activities the children have been introduced to and worked on by artistic means. And later, when the growing person has got more intellectually awakened, ideas embedded in story forms, are grasped intellectually too, and in this way they can be further "digested" in one's mind in a very common process of developing abstractions.

For those who would like to develop still more and make good use of one's life, there are further stages delineated and worth contemplation. In his book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment (1947), Steiner advocates training of one's imagination, followed by inspiration and intuition. These three may be worked on until they serve as quality guides. Steiner's book delineates his anthroposophical path: he posits that in human consciousness, faculties are sleeping (dormant), and that if they get (nurtured and) awakened, they lead to life-giving wisdom. Steiner also mentions moral qualities to be cultivated on the path. The "I" (egohood) may be vitalised as well. Good meditation is fit for that.

"The proof of the pudding is in the eating": The value of a teaching is how well and how far it fits. So it is wise not to forget a bit testing. Shall we? Dare we? Some of the many, many things Dr Steiner said, do not seem to hold water. Atlantis, for example - where was it? Steiner says it lay where the Atlantic Ocean is now. However, the movements of the earth mantle's drifting plates under the Atlantic Ocean does not support it. To study the facts is good. Steiner advocates that sort of training too! Steiner's Atlantis.

And then see what Dr. Steiner says in his ten Hague lectures from early 1913 about meat, coffee, alcohol, milk, chocolate, and the life on other planets: [From the far side of Steiner]

In the Hague Lectures (GA 145 and 350), Steiner spoke for the first time to an anthroposophical audience in a detailed, intimate way of milk animals on other planets - Steiner is for (ecological, sound) milk products.

For us not to become eccentrics who onesidedly strive for soul development and get estranged from human feeling and human activity on Earth, it's good that we as earthlings to a certain extent get weight (heaviness) by the use of milk and milk products in the diet.

Well, during his long career it shows the great educator might have had some sleivskot, careless shots, shots amiss too - for example about milk and beings on other planets in the solar system, but that does not detract from his over-all extremely handy doctrines, does it?

Each one of us is an independent being. [Rudolf Steiner, Man's Relationship with the Surrounding World: Lecture Delivered at Nuremberg on the 1st of December, 1907. (Lecture 3 of 18 from the lecture series: The Working of Natural Substance and Spiritual Essence in the Visible World) Source]

Each one of us is his or her own self, an individual. With the exception of . . . differences in individual gifts and skills . . . we are all equal as human beings here in the physical world, specifically in that we all have the same human form and all manifest a human countenance . . . this makes us equal on this footing. We differ from one another in our individual gifts which, however, belong to our inner nature. [Rudolf Steiner, Geisteswissenschaftliche Behandlung sozialer und pädagogischer Fragen. Siebzehn Vorträge gehalten in Stuttgart. GA 192. Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1991. Zweiter Vortrag. S. 39.]

The one and only thing which matters for the healing of humanity, is the feeling and perceiving of one's own Self in the Spirit. [Rudolf Steiner, The Necessity for New Ways of Spiritual Knowledge, Lecture 1, Given in Stuttgart 8th September, 1919]


Rudolf Steiner on-site


Rudolf Steiner, Literature  

I have drawn on Wikipedia articles "Waldorf Education"; and "Anthroposophy"; and "Rudolf Steiner" for the summaries above. All references to the research gist above, are found in the first of them.

Very many of Steiners books and lectures are on-line at the Rudolf Steiner Archive, which is maintained by James Stewart. The Hague Lectures are there too, in Norwegian. []. Lectures and lecture series (Lecture Cycle Groups) that are part of some 350 works of Steiner in the Gesammelte Arbeiten, GA), are arranged according to a scheme:

GA Numbers and Types of Lectures
51- 84   Public Lectures
90-180   Lectures to Members
181-234   Lectures on Spiritual Essence/Being and Its Working
235-240   Lectures on Karmic Relationships
241-246   Lectures on Esoterica
250-264   Lectures on the History of the Anthroposophical Movement
271-276   Lectures on the Arts
277-279   Lectures on Eurythmy
280-282   Lectures on Speech and Drama
283   Lectures on Music
284-291   Lectures on Architecture
292   Lectures on the History of Art
293-311   Lectures on Pedagogy and Education
312-319   Lectures on Medicine
320-327   Lectures on Science
328-341   Lectures on Social Questions
342-346   Lectures for Clergy
347-354   Lectures for the Goetheanum Workmen

Steiner Lecture series and other works are online at the Rudolf Steiner Archive. Steiner books listed below are online there.

McDermott, Robert A., ed. The Essential Steiner: Basic Writings of Rudolf Steiner. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1984.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Effects of Esoteric Development. GA 350. Great Barrington, MA: Anthroposophic Press, 1997.


Easton, Stewart C. Rudolf Steiner: Herald of a New Epoch. Spring Valley, NY: Anthroposophie Press, 1980.

Mitchell, David, ed. Child Development and Pedagogical Issues. Waldorf Journal Project No. 2. Fair Oaks, CA: The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) Publications, 2003.

Nordlund, Carrie. Art Experiences in Waldorf Education: Graduates' Meaning Making Reflections. Dissertation. Columbia, MO: The Faculty of the Graduate School, University of Missouri–Columbia, 2006.

Poplawski, Completing the Circle. Fair Oaks, CA: AWSNA, 2006.

Ross, Rachel C. Adventures in Parenting: A Support Guide for Parents. Fair Oaks, CA: AWSNA, 2008.

Steiner, Rudolf. Cosmic Memory: Prehistory of Earth and Man. West Nyack, NY: Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959.

Steiner, Rudolf. Education as a Force for Social Change. Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1997.

Steiner, Rudolf. Geisteswissenschaftliche Behandlung sozialer und pädagogischer Fragen. Siebzehn Vorträge gehalten in Stuttgart zwischen dem 21. April und 28. September 1919. (GA 192), Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1991.

Steiner, Rudolf. Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: The Philosophy of Freedom. Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1995.

Steiner, Rudolf. Karmic Relationships: Esoteric Studies. Vol. 1. 2nd ed. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972.

Steiner, Rudolf. Karmic Relationships: Esoteric Studies. Vol. 2. Sixteen Lectures Given at Dornach, Switzerland, between 6th April and 29th June, 1924. 2nd ed. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972.

Steiner, Rudolf. Karmic Relationships: Esoteric Studies. Vol. 3. Eleven Lectures Given at Dornach, Switzerland, between 1st July and 8th August, 1924. Reprint ed. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1977.

Steiner, Rudolf. Karmic Relationships: Esoteric Studies. Vol. 4. Ten Lectures Given at Dornach. Switzerland, between 5th and 23rd September, 1924. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1957.

Steiner, Rudolf. Karmic Relationships: Esoteric Studies. Vol.5. Seven Lectures Given in Prague and Paris between 29th March and 25th May, 1924. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966.

Steiner, Rudolf. Karmic Relationships: Esoteric Studies. Vol. 6. Nine Lectures Given in Berne, Zurich, Stuttgart and Arnhem, between 25th January and 20th July, 1924. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1971.

Steiner, Rudolf. Karmic Relationships: Esoteric Studies. Vol. 7. Nine Lectures Given in Breslau from June 7th to June 15th, 1924. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973.

Steiner, Rudolf. Karmic Relationships: Esoteric Studies. Vol. 8. Six Lectures Given in Torquay and London to members of the Anthroposophical Society between 12th and 27th August, during Rudolf Steiner's last visit to England in 1924. With an Appendix. (Previously published as Cosmic Christianity and the Impulse of Michael. Karma in the Life of Individuals and in the Evolution of the World by Anthroposophical Publishing Co., in 1953) London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1975.

Steiner, Rudolf. Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment. Herndon, VA: Anthroposophic Press, 1947.

Steiner, Rudolf. Manifestations of Karma: Eleven Lectures Given in Hamburg, 16th to 28th May, 1910. GA 120. London: The Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969.

Steiner, Rudolf. Reincarnation and Karma. Five Lectures Given during January to March 1912 in Berlin and Stuttgart. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1977.

Steiner, Rudolf. Reincarnation and Karma from the Point of View of Modern Scientific Thought: A Lecture Given in Berlin, March 26th, 1903. Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, nd.

Steiner, Rudolf. Reincarnation and Karma: How Karma Works. Spring Valley, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1962.

Steiner, Rudolf. Soul Economy: Body, Soul, and Spirit in Waldorf Education. Lectures Presented in Dornach, Switzerland December 23, 1921 – January 5, 1922. Rev. ed. Great Barrington, MA: Anthroposophic Press, 2003.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Case for Anthroposophy. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1970.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Effects of Esoteric Development. GA 350. Great Barrington, MA: Anthroposophic Press, 1997.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Effect of Occult Development Upon the Self and the Sheaths of Man. Ten Lectures Given in the Hague, 20th–29th March 1913. London: Rudolf Steiner Publishing, 1945. - The same work as Hvilken betydning har menneskets okkulte utvikling for dets vesensdeler og dets selv? 10 foredrag holdt i Haag 20–29 mars 1913. GA 145. ◦Link

Steiner, Rudolf. The Foundations of Human Experience. Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1996.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Influence of Spiritual Beings on Man: Eleven Lectures delivered in Berlin between January 6 and June 11, 1908. Spring Valley, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1961.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Karma of Vocation. Ten Lectures Given in Dornach, Switzerland, November 4 through 27,1916. 2nd ed. Spring Valley, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1984.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Necessity for New Ways of Spiritual Knowledge, Lecture 1, Given in Stuttgart 8th September, 1919. At Rudolf Steiner Archive and e.Lib.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Riddle of Humanity: The Spiritual Background of Human History. Fifteen Lectures Given in Dornach to Members of the Anthroposophical Society 29 July to 3 September, 1916. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1990.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and in the Kingdoms of Nature. Ten Lectures Given in Helsinki, 3rd-14th April, 1912. Vancouver: Steiner Book Centre, 1981.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Study of Man. 14 Lectures Given in Stuttgart 21st August–5th September 1919. 2nd ed. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception with Specific Reference to Schiller. West Nyack, NY: Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Threefold Commonwealth. New York: Anthropsophic Press, 1922.

Steiner, Rudolf. Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy 1: Nine Public Lectures. Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1995.

Steiner, Rudolf. Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy 2: Twelve Public Lectures. Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1996.

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