PLEASE SEE END OF BLOG FOR 2019 UPDATES
JM asks: “Can a Catholic take elements from Waldorf/Steiner/anthroposophy into a Christian home? How dangerous is it to implement some of the New Age elements within the home? This is a big problem with Catholic homeschoolers, but it isn’t addressed in other places. To me it’s completely obvious it’s New Age and stay clear, but I do know there is individual free consciences.”
Having a “free conscience” doesn’t mean deciding for ourselves what is right or wrong. Our consciences must be properly formed to the Truth as revealed in Scripture and the Catechism.
Having said that, I can now state without a moment’s hesitation that Catholic homeschoolers should have nothing to do with Rudolf Steiner, anthroposophy or the Waldorf education system.
For those of you who do not know, Rudolph Steiner was an Austrian mystagogue who died in 1925. This self-proclaimed clairvoyant and occult “scientist” founded a schismatic branch of Theosophy (an occult-based mysticism that has been condemned by the Church) known as Anthroposophy. Calling it a “spiritual science,” Steiner defined Anthroposophy as “a path of knowledge leading the Spiritual in the human being to the Spiritual in the universe.” Steiner believed people could be trained to allow their higher spiritual self to overcome the material world and come into direct contact with “higher spiritual truths” (the occult). He also believed in reincarnation, karma, gnomes, and a host of other esoteric philosophies.
Unfortunately, these occult-based concepts became woven into a new holistic and art-based education system he pioneered known as the Waldorf schools. These schools are supposed to be an alternative to public schools and to foster creativity, independent thinking, and “mind-body-spirit wholeness” in its students. At present, there are more than 900 Waldorf schools and 1,600 Waldorf early childhood education programs on five continents.
As JM informs, some Catholic homeschoolers are incorporating Waldorf methods into their curriculums and because the Vatican has not explicitly condemned Waldorf (it has condemned the theosophy from which anthroposophy emerged as well as the occultism which underlies Steiner’s belief system), these parents believe it’s okay to use some of these methods.
Here’s the problem with that assumption.
Steiner’s occultism informs everything about his Waldorf methods. For instance, in an article written by Sharon Lombard, whose child was once enrolled in a Waldorf school, Steiner’s belief that the human being is comprised of an etheric body, an astral body and an “I” body that supposedly enables us to leave our physical bodies during the day in order to commune with spiritual beings in the cosmos (I’m not making this up!), is the basis for his so-called “child development model.” This is why Steiner espouses a delay of first grade reading, supposedly to wait for the etheric body to enter. Intellectual thinking is delayed until after the age of fourteen “when the astral body supposedly incarnates.”
Another example are the occult-based theories that underlie his methods for teaching art, such as having children paint a sheet of wet watercolor paper with yellow or blue because it helps “the reincarnating soul connect with the physical body.”
However, what is even more disturbing is how insidiously Steiner’s occult beliefs are woven into his concepts, such as in his use of a veiled vocabulary that is largely unknown outside of the circle of anthroposophy and Waldorf educators. For example, “imagination” in Steiner’s vocabulary means “psychic sight”. “Art” means “the art of magic.” A “scientist” is actually an “occultist.” A “star” is a “pentagram” and “prayer” becomes “verse.”
Apply these new terms to the seemingly innocent scenario of a child coming home from school and saying “teacher encouraged me to use my imagination today” then produces a picture of a star. In Steiner’s language, the child was introduced to “psychic sight” through the art of magic which resulted in the drawing of a pentagram.
This subterfuge is only exacerbated by the fact that critical research studies on Anthroposophy and Waldorf in English are very much lacking. Most people have access only to what is being published from within the world of anthroposophy, which has contributed to widespread ignorance about Steiner and what ideas underlie the Waldorf education system.
And (of course) the schools can’t be counted upon to enlighten parents. They always present themselves as non-sectarian, leaving many to believe these are wonderful, scientifically-based and multi-cultural schools.
In addition to its condemnation of theosophy, from which anthroposophy is sourced, the Church also condemns the occult and any association with it (CCC 2116-2117). This includes the use of information gleaned from any non-Christian mystical experience (i.e., Steiner’s psychic experiences), which constitutes a use of knowledge obtained by divination.
Thinking we can “pick and choose” parts of Waldorf methods that seem “safe” is a perfect example of the trend among many Catholics to apply subjective reasoning to assumptions about whether or not something is okay (i.e., how they feel about it) rather than on objective realities (Church teaching, science, etc.). This problem has also resulted in many Catholics walking around with improperly-formed consciences even though they claim to “personally feel okay” about violating Church teaching in their personal lives.
Because Steiner’s Waldorf methods are based on the occult, it’s not possible to “pick and choose” from things that seem “safe” any more than it’s possible to use magic for good ends. Magic will always be sorcery no matter how you use it just like Steiner’s methods will always be occultic because this is their source.
2019 UPDATE: Since posting this blog in 2010, Waldorf schools have generated additional controversy. For example, this blog gives an indepth view of Waldorf schools from the eyes of a former student. This site contains articles written by mothers of children who attended Waldorf schools. The BBC also published a negative review of Waldorf or “Steiner” schools.