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Anthroposophy

Disclaimer

Trying to describe Anthroposophy in a single web page is an irresponsible task. A single web page cannot do it justice. If compressing Anthroposophy to a web page is irresponsible, describing it out of naivete (as is done here), is riskier yet. This page will simply introduce some of the core teachings of Anthropsophy and link to primary works by Rudolf Steiner so you can explore them for yourself.

Keep in mind, this is a relatively UNINFORMED view on Anthroposophy, sometimes from questionable sources. This article contains several links to other web pages about Anthroposophy. Remember: don't believe anything you read on the Internet, including at OpenWaldorf.com!

The best way to understand Anthroposophy is to read Steiner's own words in context for yourself in the Reading Room, the Steiner says page, and the pre-made Google searches that search the web. After you are more familiar with Anthroposophy, and have formed your own opinion, your school can answer any questions you have about Anthroposophy.

Before You Keep Reading!

This information is in no way a complete presentation of Anthroposophy. Rather, it focuses on some core teachings that you may not be aware of. Before you read this page, you should read some introductory literature by Steiner on Anthroposophy:

Introductory Books and Lectures on Anthroposophy

An means teachers read this in Waldorf Teacher Training
An means this is essential reading for parents.
A means this is highly recommended reading for parents.
An means this was recently removed from the Waldorf Teacher Training reading list

Other Online Resources on Anthroposophy

On Anthroposophy's Role In Life

In Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts, Steiner says:

Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge, to guide the Spiritual in the human being to the Spiritual in the universe.

Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts (Letters to Members, 1924)

Everything Rudolf Steiner created, including Waldorf education is an intentional byproduct of Anthroposophy. As such, everything in Waldorf is faithful to Rudolf Steiner, and faithful to Anthroposophy. You can explore the link between Waldorf education and Anthroposophy at Google: Waldorf Anthroposophy

In Waldorf Teacher Training, Waldorf Teachers read that Anthroposophy is not simply a philosophy or science. In fact, Steiner says anthroposophy bestows forces that provide inner strength, grows in the soul, and even helps human beings between death and rebirth during the cycle of reincarnation:


Read
online!

...[Anthroposophy] should not be considered a theory or mere science, nor as knowledge in the ordinary sense. It is rather something that grows in our souls from mere knowledge and theory into immediate life, into an elixir of life. In this way, anthroposophy not only provides us with knowledge, but we receive forces that help us in our ordinary lives during physical existence as well as in the total life that we spend during physical existence and the non-physical existence between death and a new birth. The more we experience anthroposophy as bringing to us strength, support and life renewing energies, the more do we understand it.

Steiner, Rudolf. Facing Karma

Reincarnation and Karma

Every Waldorf Teacher reads A Western Approach to Reincarnation and Karma in Waldorf Teacher Training. It is an essential subject for acquiring a Waldorf teaching credential. You may ask yourself how this subject is relevant to your child's education. But when you remember that Waldorf schools are run by Anthroposophists, it's easy to understand why every Waldorf teacher needs to learn about reincarnation and karma. After all, reincarnation and karma are core teachings of Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy. Waldorf teachers learn how to lead their students through the process of reincarnation. Why else would they need to study reincarnation in a teaching credential program?

Not only do Waldorf teachers need to learn how to be a positive influence on your reincarnating child, they need to learn how to avoid injuring your child's journey of reincarnation. Steiner says:


Read
online!

In the sphere of education, if through our own short-comings as teachers we are incapable of helping the child to think properly, we may leave undeveloped much that by virtue of his previous incarnations he could have brought to expression. If, however, we are unable to work on the child's life of feeling and of will through our natural authority and our example as teachers, then we fail to impart to him what he ought to receive in the physical world, and thus we do injury to his subsequent life after death.

Steiner, Rudolf. Cosmic Forces in Man
III. The Mission of the Scandanavian Peoples

For a closer examination of what Rudolf Steiner teaches about reincarnation, you can read this commentary on Steiner's book, The Evolution of Conciousness:


"One of the valuable insights which Steiner gives us pertains to the nature of time in the spiritual world. He asserts that time is reversed in the spiritual world, and the bodies of light possessed by the beings there move from the most distant future towards the past. During the time between death and rebirth human beings also acquire such bodies, and live through their lives backwards until they reach a new conception."

Author unknown
from Experiences Between Death and Rebirth
a commentary on The Evolution of Consciousness

For an understanding of how your local Waldorf teacher might apply this philosophy in the classroom, you should read "Karma and Reincarnation for Teachers" from Taruna College.

To learn more about how reincarnation affects your child, you might want to read a book called Your Reincarnating Child by Gilbert Childs, a popular Waldorf author and anthroposophist. Childs says "One of the main purposes of this book is to demonstrate that human beings are primarily of spiritual nature, and only secondarily of bodily nature." The book explains how these two natures complement each other in the processes of maturation and development from the period before birth, or incarnation, to maturity.

Lucifer and Ahriman

There is a famous passage that critics of Waldorf love to cite:

Most of that which contributes to our work as teachers, preparation work, artistic work, even meditative work is under the guidance of Lucifer. We can become great teachers under his supervision, for he is responsible for much of what has blossomed in the unfolding of civilization and culture in the past.

Schwartz, Eugene. The Waldorf Teachers Survival Guide

There is a similar quote from the Research Institute for Waldorf Education:

Because class teachers work so intensively in the artistic realm, transforming the mundane into the extraordinary, infusing the material with the spiritual, they are subject to the influence of Luciferic beings who work through the imagination, inspiring flights of creativity and fantasy, bringing warmth and light to the art of teaching. Although some of our work takes place in Lucifer’s domain, we must be careful not to succumb to his temptations, and we must take active steps to combat his influence.

Balance in Teaching, Balance in Working, Balance in Living,
Roberto Trostli, Director of the Research Institute for Waldorf Education,
Editor of Waldorf Research Bulletin
Waldorf Research Bulletin

Taken out of context, these quotes conjur up images of a devilish being with horns and a pitchfork. In fact, nothing could be further from the Anthroposophical understanding of Lucifer.

In reality, Lucifer is a being of light who incarnated as a human being 3,000 years before Christ. Steiner says:

It is revealed to the retrospective clairvoyant gaze that this was an actual human incarnation of the Luciferic Power. And this incarnation of Lucifer in humanity, which in a certain way has been achieved, was the origin of the widely extended ancient wisdom based on the Third Post-Atlantean civilization.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Ahrimanic Deception

Ahriman



A bust of Ahriman
by Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf Founder

Lucifer's polar opposite is a being called Ahriman, who will incarnate sometime in the third millenium A.D. (any time now). Steiner says:

...the Ahrimanic influence has been at work since the middle of the fifteenth century and will increase in strength until an actual incarnation of Ahriman takes place among Western humanity.

Now it is characteristic of such things that they are prepared long in advance. Ahrimanic powers prepare the evolution of mankind in such a way that it can fall a prey to Ahriman when he appears in human form within Western civilization — hardly then to be called `civilization' in our sense — as once Lucifer appeared in human form in China , as once Christ appeared in human form in Asia Minor. It is of no avail to give oneself illusions today about these things. Ahriman will appear in human form and the only question is, how he will find humanity prepared.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Ahrimanic Deception

Ahriman and Television

Some members of the Waldorf community believe that Ahriman is especially present in electronic media such as computers and the Internet. This might help explain why Waldorf is so adamant about eliminating television for children, even when the American Association of Pediatrics says limited TV is OK for kids over 2 years of age.

You can familiarize yourself with this phenomenon at Google: Ahriman television waldorf OR steiner

Also, don't forget to check out OpenWaldorf's Media Restriction page.

What does Steiner Say?

You can read for yourself more of what Steiner says about Lucifer and Ahriman at the Rudolf Steiner archives:

You can research more about Waldorf and Ahriman at Google: Waldorf Ahriman

The Three-fold and Four-fold Human

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The Akasha Chronicle

In Theosophy of the Rosicrucian, Rudolf Steiner describes something called the "Akasha Chronicle," also known as the "Akashic Record." Steiner says:


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online!

What is the Akasha Chronicle? We can form the truest conception of it by realising that what comes to pass on our earth makes a lasting impression upon certain delicate essences, an impression which can be discovered by a seer who has attained Initiation. It is not an ordinary but a living Chronicle . Suppose a human being lived in the first century after Christ; what he thought, felt and willed in those days, what passed into deeds — this is not obliterated but preserved in this delicate essence. The seer can behold it-not as if it were recorded in a history book, but as it actually happened. How a man moved, what he did, a journey he took-it can all be seen in these spiritual pictures; the impulses of will, the feelings, the thoughts, can also be seen.

Steiner, Rudolf. Theosophy of the Rosicrucian, IV: The Descent to a New Birth

Steiner warns that our language is insufficient for describing the Akasha Chronicle. To paraphrase Capon, a human trying to describe the Akasha Chronicle is like an oyster trying to describe a ballerina! Still, Steiner indicates that the chronical is of non-transitory history that is not perceptible to the senses. Steiner says:


Read
online!

[At] a certain high level of his cognitive power, man can penetrate to the eternal origins of the things which vanish with time. A man broadens his power of cognition in this way if he is no longer limited to external evidence where knowledge of the past is concerned. Then he can see in events what is not perceptible to the senses, that part which time cannot destroy. He penetrates from transitory to non-transitory history. It is a fact that this history is written in other characters than is ordinary history. In gnosis and in theosophy it is called the “Akasha Chronicle.” Only a faint conception of this chronicle can be given in our language.

Steiner, Rudolf. Cosmic Memory, Preface: From the Akasha Chronicle

Much of the knowlege in Anthropsophy is a result of Steiner's clairvoyant research of the Akasha Record. For example, Steiner used clairvoyant powers to study the Akashic record for insight on the Gospel of St. John. Steiner says:


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online!

We have attempted in the last few days to gain an understanding of the Christ-impulse on the basis of a clairvoyant study of the Akashic record, and to establish that impulse as an actual fact in the evolution of mankind. Moreover we referred only to those parts of the Gospels which appear to confirm the facts previously ascertained and verified by clairvoyant research.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Gospel of St. John, Chapter IX

Imagine the excitement of actually being there when Rudolf Steiner conducted this kind of clairvoyant research for the sake of Anthroposophy and humankind!

What's in the Akasha Chronicle?

If you are curious about some of the things that are in the Akasha Chronicle, the best book to read is Cosmic Memory, by Rudolf Steiner. In this book you will read about many subjects that inform Waldorf education. Steiner richly describes:

At the very least, every Waldorf parent should read the chapter called "The Fourfold Man of Earth," which forms the basis for Steiner's child development theory.

If you want to learn more about Steiner's clairvoyant research of the Akasha Chronicle, you can search the Rudolf Steiner Archive with Google: akasha OR akashic site:elib.com

Finally, if you are interested in reading your own Akashic Record, you might want to contact Akashic Record Consultants.

Anthroposophy and Polytheism

Anthroposophy and Christianity

The person of Jesus Christ is the fulcrum of Christianity. Without Jesus, Christianity falls apart. Rudolf Steiner takes an esoteric view with regards to Christ. Steiner says:


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online!

The Christos [Christ] is the Sun Hero who has transplanted all the strength of the Sun upon the Earth. Now you will be able to understand with what deep intuition esoteric Christianity conceived of the fish form, because it signifies the outer symbol of the Sun power, of the forces of the Christ.

Steiner, Rudolf. Occult Signs and Symbols,
Lecture 2: The Symbolic Meaning of Noah's Ark and the Gothic Churches

While this perspective may not seem familiar from the bible, keep in mind that it's not supposed to. In addition to biblical study, Rudolf Steiner also used clairvoyant research to develop his own unique Christology. For a better understanding of how clairvoyance is used to understand Jesus, you can search the Rudolf Steiner archive with Google: Jesus clairvoyant OR clairvoyance

If you self-identify as a Christian, and are interested in learning more about Steiner's unique Christology, there are many works freely available online for you to explore:

Sampling of Works by Rudolf Steiner on Christianity

Work by Steiner Exerpt

Anthroposophy and Christianity

"Spiritual science is reproached for saying that Jesus was not always the Christ, but that Christ's life on earth began only when Jesus was thirty years old. Prejudiced humanity confronts spiritual science with one superficiality after another. The mere stating of the fact instantly invites prejudice. And the same holds true of almost everything that our opponents say regarding the position spiritual science takes on Christianity.

"Our souls incarnated in times before Christ united with the earth, and they will continue to be reborn into further earth-lives in which the Christ is joined with the earth. From now on, Christ lives in each human soul. If our souls acquire ever greater depth as they live through successive earth-lives, they become increasingly independent and inwardly ever more free. " more...

Jesus and Christ

"In the event we are now considering, the contact with the spiritual-divine essence of the cosmos happened in such a way that within the man Jesus, Christ entered the stream of earthly life for a period of three years. Then, at the Mystery of Golgotha, a force that formerly lived outside the earth poured itself out into the world. All the events through which Christ passed while living in the body of Jesus brought about the existence of this power in the earthly world, in the earthly part of the cosmos. " more...
The Gospel of St. John "The Being revered by the Holy Rishis as Vishva Karman, by Zarathustra as Ahura Mazdao of the Sun, by Moses as `Ejeh asher ejeh' — this Being appeared in one distinct man, Jesus of Nazareth, in limited earthly humanity. But before the point was reached when this sublime Being could dwell in a man such as Jesus of Nazareth, manifold preparations were necessary. To this end Jesus of Nazareth must himself have risen to a high stage of evolution. " more...
The Birth of Christ Within Us "But this insight will dawn in those who understand the secret of the two Jesus boys. In the one boy there was present the power of the wisest of all men in pre-Christian times, namely Zarathustra. This boy represents the flower of the previous stages of human evolution; the aura of the other boy was illumined by the forces of the great Buddha. The body of the one boy springs from the noblest blood of the ancient Hebrew peoples; the soul of the Jesus boy described in the Gospel of St. Luke leads back to the earth's beginning. The soul of this Jesus boy was kept back, when, in the age of Lemuria, man came to the earth; this soul was guarded by the Mysteries until it was sent into the body of the Jesus whose birth is described in the Gospel of St. Luke. " more...
The Christ Impulse and the Development of the Ego Conciousness "That is the manner of Christ's return in our own age, for in this 20th century men must work their way up out of the Kali-Yuga into a century of clairvoyance. They must ascend to Christ by means of the capacities which they will develop; they must ascend to the Christ where He is and where He can be seen, at first sight, by those in the vanguard, those who through the teachings of Anthroposophy can be guided to what in the course of the next 2,500 years will be experienced to a greater or less degree by every human soul." more...

More Works by Rudolf Steiner on Christianity

You also might want to read an essay from AWNSA called Is Waldorf Education Christian?

You should also check out a rich site with lots of information on Anthroposophy and Christianity: The Bible and Anthroposophy

Finally, a small minority of Christians are critical of Steiner's Christology. Here is one example of criticism of Steiner's esoteric Christianity.

Is Anthroposophy a religion? Is Waldorf religious?

Prayers and Verses in the Classroom

Historically, Waldorf teachers led prayers in the classroom at the early Waldorf school. However, publicly these prayers were called "verses," for external appearances to overcome prejudice. Steiner says:


We also need to speak about a prayer. I ask only one thing of you. You see, in such things everything depends upon the external appearances. Never call a verse a prayer, call it an opening verse before school. Avoid allowing anyone to hear you, as a faculty member, using the word "prayer." In doing that, you will have overcome a good part of the prejudice that this is an anthroposophical thing.

Steiner, Rudolf. Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner

In contrast to the early years of Waldorf, "verses" in today's Waldorf schools may look like "prayer," and sound like "prayer," but they are "verses." If you are concerned that your child is praying at Waldorf school, you can be assured they are not. Proof of this is that you will never hear a faculty member at Waldorf using the word "prayer" when talking about "verses."

The best way to understand the distinction between Waldorf "verses" and "prayers" is to compare a Steiner "verse" with a Steiner "prayer:"

Morning Verse,
Grades One through Four

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
Hast planted in my soul
That I, with all my might,
May strive to work and learn.
From Thee flow light and strength,
To Thee rise love and thanks.

- by Rudolf Steiner

EVENING PRAYER
(for the parent, to say it with the child after age three)

From my head to my feet,
I'm the image of God
From my heart to my hands,
His own breath do I feel.
When I speak with my mouth
I shall follow God's will
When I see and know God
In Father and Mother
In all loving people, in beats and flower,
in trees, plants, and stones,
Then no fear shall I feel,
only love then fills me
for all that is around me.

- by Rudolf Steiner

(From the "Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter" for teachers, Spring 1978 PDF)

When you compare the above texts, the differences between a "verse" and "prayer" should be clearly obvious. If you can't yet tell the difference, you can find many more examples of Waldorf verses at Google: verse OR verses "waldorf school "

Waldorf students usually say "grace" before eating lunch. Here is an example table grace from the Waldorf journal "Education as an Art":

Sun who makes it ripe and good,
Dear Earth, dear Sun, by you we live,
Our loving thanks to you we give.

You can review more examples of Waldorf blessings at Waldorfhomeschoolers.com.

You can also explore more about Waldorf and prayer at Google: prayer "waldorf school"

Questions for Parent's Night or School Tour

Verses and Prayer

  1. Why do children recite verses at Waldorf?
  2. What are the verses like? What is their purpose?
  3. Do children address God in the first person in Waldorf verses? If so, are they talking to God? Would a child think they are talking to God in Waldorf verses? Which God are they talking too?
  4. Is talking to God considered prayer? Is talking to God a religious practice?
  5. Are the verses also prayers? What is the difference between a "prayer" and a "verse?"
  6. Do children petition God in Waldorf verses? Is petitioning God considered prayer?
  7. Did Steiner talk to Waldorf teachers about the difference between calling something a "verse," and calling it a "prayer?" What was the difference?
  8. When do parents get a copy of the verses their children are learning at Waldorf?

You can print out the Master Checklist for parents, and bring it with you to school.

Many Points of View

There are many points of view with regards to the question of religion and Waldorf. Here are examples of a "pro" and "con" view as to the religious nature of Waldorf:

Pro: The Religious Basis of Waldorf Education

Con: Waldorf Education is Non-Sectarian

Anthroposophical Objects of Faith

Whether or not Anthroposophy is a religion, it takes many things for granted that other people might consider a leap of faith:

The issue of the religiosity of Waldorf could be debated from all sides, for all eternity. There is no right answer to this question. The only important question is "What do you think?" Does this really sound like a religion to you?

Questions for Parent's Night or School Tour

Anthroposophy and Waldorf

  1. What are the core teachings of Anthroposophy?
  2. Does this world view have unique implications for educating children? How does Anthoposophy's world view inform Waldorf education? Does the work at this school reflect Rudolf Steiner's world view?
  3. Can you assure me that the faculty at the school are committed to applying the core teachings of Steiner's philosophy here at Waldorf?
  4. Are reincarnation and karma core teachings of Steiner's Anthroposophy? Where is this discussed in the school literature? What are some other core teachings of Anthroposophy?
  5. Are Lucifer and Ahriman core teachings of Anthroposophy? Where is this discussed in the school literature?
  6. What is the difference between Anthroposophy and "Spiritual Science"
  7. Did Steiner suggest that there are certain ways that children need to be taught in order to be better prepared for reincarnation? Where would an Anthroposophist send their child to school for this preparation?
  8. Are there times that you might be concerned about spiritual aspects of my child, but not discuss the complete nature of your concern with me?
  9. Is it OK to talk to my child about world religions? Christianity? Judaism? Islam? Buddhism? Is it OK to talk to my child about Anthroposophy?
  10. Is it OK to talk to my child about Jesus? Is it OK to talk to my child about George Washington? Is it OK to talk to my child about Rudolf Steiner?
  11. Is it OK if our family does not believe in reincarnation and karma?
  12. Is it OK if our family does not believe in Lucifer and Ahriman?
  13. Is it OK if our family does not believe in anthroposophy?

You can print out the Master Checklist for parents, and bring it with you to school.

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