Are Rudolf Steiner's Waldorf Schools 'Non-Sectarian?'

By Dugan, Dan; Daar, Judy | Free Inquiry, Spring 1994 | Go to article overview

Are Rudolf Steiner's Waldorf Schools 'Non-Sectarian?'


Dugan, Dan, Daar, Judy, Free Inquiry


Public funding of schools in Milwaukee and Detroit operated by a cultlike religious sect is a new crack in the wall of separation between church and state. The establishment in law of this separation was a great social innovation of the American Revolution, and publicly funded non-sectarian schools are the flesh and blood expression of this principle. The courts for the most part have stood firm against the general funding of openly sectarian schools. The "Lemon" test, referring to the Supreme Court ruling, Lemon v. Kurtzman (403 U.S. 602 1970), provides that, under the establishment clause of the First Amendment, the primary effect of a government action must not be to advance religion. The Supreme Court has also clearly ruled that a state may not design or modify the curriculum of its schools in order to further religion at the expense of non-religion or to further one set of religious beliefs over others.

The establishment of publicly funded Waldorf schools should be cause for alarm for anyone who is concerned with preserving the separation of church and state, because these schools are the missionary arm of a religious sect hiding behind a facade of propaganda and dissimulation. We do not make this assertion lightly: one of us had a child in a Waldorf school for a year and half; we have attended many open houses and lectures at four Waldorf schools, studied forty books by founder Rudolf Steiner and many by his followers, read Waldorf teacher training texts, and several academic theses, and monitored periodicals of the parent Anthroposophical Society for several years.

Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy

Waldorf schools are the most visible activity of the international Anthroposophical Society, which has been called "the most successful occult religion in Europe" by Sven Ove Hansson, a Swedish skeptic.(1) Other writers refer to it as "the most developed contemporary instance of Western esotericism"(2); and a "highly organized occult group."(3)

Anthroposophy emerged from the spiritual confusion of turn-of-the-century Germany, part of a burgeoning of exotic and occultist religious activity not unlike the 1960s' "New Age" explosion in America. The Anthroposophical Society was created by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), who had led the German section of Theosophy, but split off to form a group that would follow his personal revelations of the "spirit world." The sect developed to maturity during the social and political turmoil Germany suffered during and after World War I.

The group's activities include Anthroposophical Medicine (in Europe the sect has its own hospitals), Biodynamic Agriculture, Eurythmy (dance) schools, Camphill Villages for the developmentally disabled, and a church, Christian Community. Its most effective outreach program is the Waldorf schools.

Their numbers demonstrate the extent of their success. Over five hundred schools exist worldwide, including about 125 in the United States, and the number is growing steadily. Although they are called Waldorf schools here, in honor of the first such school created in 1919 for children of the workers at a Waldorf-Astoria factory, they are also known as Steiner schools, and in some parts of Europe simply as the Free Schools.

Doctrine

In Steiner's doctrine, Christ is a sun god come to earth, not to redeem humanity from sin, but to help the human race balance between the influences of the Zoroastrian gods of light and darkness, Lucifer and Ahriman. Steiner's revelations typically blur religious, scientific, and historical topics. His version of history includes epochs on the lost continents of Lemuria and Atlantis, which he claimed to have read with "clairvoyant vision" out of the mythical "akashic record."

Steiner derived some of his central concepts from Hinduism (via Theosophy): reincarnation, karma, and polytheism. He mixed in the dual gods of light and dark from Zoroastrianism, and fit it all into the geocentric cosmology of medieval Europe, where humanity is positioned in a cosmic hierarchy below nine classes of supernatural beings. …

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