Astounding hypocrisy

I have been told by several people in no uncertain terms, that I am not qualified to criticise the Steiner movement because I don’t know enough about it.

Some of these are students who reject my criticisms because they cannot see that their Steiner education operates in such a way that they are indoctrinated without their knowledge.

I understand their confusion.

Some (like Geoff) do not argue with the fact that anthroposophy is indeed part of the fabric of Steiner education, and maintain that this is no bad thing – they even say that it has a positive effect, making the students confident and giving them “relational and emotional intelligence”.

This I suppose is positive thinking – when you have invested years in supporting your children through Waldorf, you need to convince yourself you have done the right thing. I wonder how those same children, from the same families, would have turned out having gone to a normal school? Also, I am afraid that it is common for some parents to be indoctrinated themselves and drawn in to the cult of Steiner, with the result that they cannot see clearly.

And then there are the “dyed in the wool anthroposophists” – to borrow a phrase from MarkH. These are the people who really want to keep me quiet, and their argument, alongside the personal attacks, is that I don’t understand anthroposophy/occultism.

If we think about this for a moment, it is a huge insult to the parents of kindergarten and Steiner Waldorf school children, who have been shelling out for a Steiner education, many of whom know very little, if anything, about anthroposophy.

The people who run these institutions are quite happy to take the money and welcome the families into their schools, without telling them anything about their creed!

Any parent who asks about the reasons for some of the oddities they encounter in their child’s Steiner school, are told that there is a “higher purpose” that they do not understand.

As MarkH said, if anthroposophy is so great, why isn’t it promoted? Why are parents left to find out by chance, or not at all? Why is it in fact hidden away, or even denied?

Steiner defenders are contemptuous of me for what they see as my lack of understanding of anthroposophy, therefore we have to wonder what they think about the parents of the children they are indoctrinating.



  1. Chris

    I think you have hit the nub of the argument with, as MarkH says, if anthroposophy is so great, why isn’t it promoted? That really lays down the gauntlet from our point of view.
    Steiner claimed that he wanted to lay open for all the learning, the philosophy, that many occult groups of his era kept hidden for themselves and their initiates. If the founder wanted that, then why are his present day followers keeping the core beliefs hidden? Indeed we have every right to be suspicious of them if they feel they need to keep things hidden. Why????


    • Helen

      Anthroposophists will say that Steiner’s work is available for anyone to read, and of course it is, if you have the stomach for it. Steiner himself was not always open about anthroposophy however.
      In his “Conferences with teachers”, Steiner said “Never call the verse a “prayer” but a “school opening verse.” Do see to it that people do not hear the expression “prayer” used by a teacher. This will go a long way towards overcoming the prejudice that this is an anthroposophical school. ”
      This came from the critics site in a report called “Are …Waldorf Schools non-sectarian?” taken from the Plans site.

  2. eyesbeingopened

    Evangelical Christians and other subgroups of Christianity do not hide their beliefs – only yesterday some Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on my door. I find these organisations are open about what hey believe, and open about the recruitment of followers. Steiner is secretive, and that is what is so shocking. It makes me mistrust them completely, and colours my view on anything identifying with Steiner, which is sad as I do really feel that it’s a fairly harmless cult as cults go.

    • Helen

      The Mormons, Jehovah’s witnesses and others are open yes, and will answer questions. I don’t suppose they would be very successful if they started collecting signatures to open a Free School :)

  3. eyesbeingopened

    I am very disappointed actually, with the whole thing. Lots of my friends are interested in or actively involved in Steiner, and I don’t know how much they know about its secret and sinister background. I am almost afraid to ask – I don’t want to shatter anyone’s illusions or get into an awkward conversation where we discover we are fundamentally at odds in our views. Tricky.

    • Helen

      Well, you could always direct them here….
      I know what you mean though, it is very disappointing, and here in Stroud it is difficult to avoid Steiner if you are at all interested in arts, Green issues or just have friends or acquaintances who have become involved in some way.
      With regard to your friends, surely it is better to find out earlier in their child’s life than later, if people are considering a Steiner education. If they know all about it and still don’t mind then there is no problem.
      I have friends (and family) who are religious and we know each other’s views, but we still manage to remain friends.

    • Helen

      Steiner having lots of obvious cultural baggage (MarkH again) does mean it can be a lifestyle choice, more than a religion. So I guess it is harder to ignore.
      The Mormons in my family don’t drink tea, coffee or alcohol; apart from that and the odd picture of Jesus on their wall you wouldn’t really know their creed.

    • Helen

      I have a feeling that understanding the tenets of a cult is one of the ways to get sucked in – so maybe they are right!
      One of the ways to become influential within a cult – say anthroposophy – is to be very knowledgeable about it, which encourages people to try to learn more and more, if they see their future within it.
      With Steiner, there is certainly plenty of material to work with.

  4. Geoff

    I’m wondering if you actually allowed my quote (“relational and emotional intelligence”) through onto your site.
    Maybe you find that my comments challenge your view too much? I am amused
    Also, I still haven’t found anything here to actually give your views any credibility – have you posted about what qualifies you to such a strong set of views. I would lke to read it.

    Incidentally, are you aware that one of the courts on the continent delved into the question of Steiner and cults and it was cleared of the accusation.

    Would you be willing to allow anything about that on your site? Doubt it.

    • Helen

      Yes, I allowed your quote, it was one of the first 10 comments you sent in one night, if you remember.
      What qualifications does one need to criticise Steiner?
      I think the cult case was referred to in Chris’s comment.

      • Geoff

        I have asked the question a few times now because you speak with an authority (read certainty) about Anthroposophy and Steiner schools. I feel that such certainty can only come from having been involved within the heart of things.

        Anthroposophy offers a different paradigm; a wholly diferent way of viewing what it is to be a human being and how a human being develops through childhood and adulthood. Steiner schools (and every other practical development of Anthroposophy) cannot be understood from outside that paradigm. It’s like trying to understand the Theory of Relativity or Quantumn Theory with the mindset of early ninteenth century science. Those theories exist outside of that mindset. If a scientist is commited to that Newtonian/Reductionist/Mechanistic way of thinking then there is no way that (s)he will be able to comprehend or even accept Quantumn Physics. At best, such a person would dismiss it all as rubbish.

        If you were to demonstrate that you have a deep understanding of Anthroposophy, then I would be able to accept your views as having some validity. I have yet to see that in your writings so far – all I see is a reaction to what you see that is causing pain to some who read this.
        Even if you were show that you have an ability to understand different paradigms outside of the current mainstream, I would be interested in what you have to say.

        So, I ask again:
        What is the experience that leads you to such a strong reactive stance?

        • Helen

          Geoff reply
          I have to be honest with you and say I find this comment tiresome. Having spent over 18 months now interesting myself in this matter, it is so boring to keep reading the same arguments from people like you over and over again. The repeated strain is “You don’t understand Anthroposophy”.
          At least you have commented on the right post, and I reiterate; it is so hypocritical to recruit families into Steiner schools without telling them about the doctrine they are founded on, as if it is not important, and then turn to someone like me who has spent time finding out about it, and even spent weeks working in a Steiner school, and say that I don’t know enough to have opinions.
          Perhaps you should check with the parents before they sign up “Are you ok with spiritual/occult paradigms? Because if not, maybe this isn’t the right choice for you.”
          I am not relying on my own knowledge for this blog, and have included references left, right and centre to other websites, to local facts and to evidence from Mr Perra who suffered the trauma of being taken to court for daring to be honest about Steiner.
          Reading your comments it is as though you are swimming in some kind of lake where the water is all churned up and you don’t have your goggles on. Haven’t you read any of the links I posted to, or done any research yourself about the bullying?
          One of the most surprising things about Steiner is the apparent lack of curiosity of those involved on the fringes, like you, to learn about problems with Waldorf Steiner schools, and why the same problems are occurring time and again.
          I have come to the conclusion it is simple denial and the inability to accept that you have made a mistake in participating in the miserable fantasy world of Steiner.
          I already said most of this in the post, but you seem to want to carry on the discussion.
          By the way, just as an aside, there are buzzwords used continually be people who defend Steiner, and “paradigm” is one of them. Richard Dawkins asked the other day “what is a paradigm, anyway?”

          • Geoff

            So, I guess you don’t really have to answer the question!

            The short answer to your response would be that if you are tired of hearing “You don’t understand Anthroposophy” then you aren’t listening. Nobody can validly say “I have never made a mistake” and I think that you are making one here. The sad fact is that you are also diverting people away from the truth of Anthroposophy and in particular, Steiner Schools.

            Now for the longer response . . .

            You put forward such a strong reactive view based on an experience of a few weeks. I am curious to know what that experience is because it IS relevant to your argument. You still need to validate your view which an explanation of your experience.

            You are putting forward your argument, but you aren’t willing to answer the challenges head on.
            I have been involved in Steiner Schools as a parent for over 11 years and the thing that initially drew me WAS the spiritual aspect. The parent and toddler group that I attended with my daughter reeked of ‘reverence’. I had been in a number of parent and toddler groups and it was all chaos and noise. There was no appreciation of childhood that I could sense. At the Steiner school, I was having conversations with teachers and that met something in me that I now know to be a spiritual aspect. Whilst the question “Are you ok with spiritual/occult paradigms?” was never asked, to me it was written all over the school. For me the spiritual is simply that there is something going on that is so much bigger than us that I or anyone else or science can fully explain. I don’t care what religion you follow, some of those followers will have and see into the nature of being human. My doctrine had always been atheist, but now I’m not so sure.

            I’m afraid that I’m not one of those people who have not delved into the ‘doctrine’ as you call it. As well as doing a lot of listening and asking of questions I have done a year of the teacher training and studied the texts. I can’t say that I understand everything that Steiner was on about, but I have certainly gained a lot of insight and understanding of the phases of childhood and watch my children growing up with a sense of wonder. If we are measuring our authority to speak, then I would submit that I outrank you in longevity!

            I have actually looked at and read a lot of the links that you have posted and I haven’t found anything yet that is objective. I am curious, so I have been looking for some substance beyond opinion. I have seen a numer of ‘rants’ against something that appear to be by people with an axe to grind. And I have read some of the stories that give other people a rationale to have an axe to grind. I also believe that they are stuck within the Reductionist model of thinking that dominates todays world. Not only does that stuck ness mean that they lack the understanding – and I include you here – it also means that they don’t have the ability to understand what they are examining because the distinctions that allow them to ‘see’ haven’t been developed.

            I have also worked with hundreds of young people in schools and Young Offenders Institutes running workshops around conflict and leadership so I suppose I can justifiably say that I have more insight than most around the develpment of “relational and emotional intelligence”.

            For me, the inference of your writing is that you are anti-spiritual. There is a sense that you cannot see that there is anything outside of the mainstream mindset that has any validity. And when you run into that is outside you will ridicule and chastise it. So, it doesn’t surprise me that you have a negative experience of Steiner school. That is the behaviour that smacks of ‘cultism’ and I have yet to have any experience of that in the settings that I have been in around the school.

            To respond to another point of yours, of course bullying occurrs in Steiner schools! It is inherent to a culture that largely exists in the ‘power mode’. You use the power mode in censoring the posts that are allowed on your site. And that mode of being pervades our culture – there is nothing wrong with it or you for that – that’s just the way things seem to be at this point in time.

            And I would add that people have all sorts of reactions to bullying between children that clouds how they deal with those situations. Just because someone is a Steiner teacher or working within a Steiner setting it shouldn’t mean that they should be immune. There are many children in our school who have been bullied for being different in the state system that have not only found a place of refuge, but have found a place to develop themselves according to who they are without having to fit into to what others impose upon them or be broken.

            • Geoff

              PS I do try to coment on the correct posts, but it doesn’t help when you edit and put them in the wrong place and call them spam as you did with my “10 comments”! But it is your site I guess

            • Helen

              I am tempted to just refer you to Jim’s comment above about the “cultist view”, for MY short answer, as this really says it all.
              But as I have some time I will elaborate. To everyone else, this must be boring, so just ignore us…
              “You don’t understand anthroposophy” is continually thrown at all critics of Steiner. Yes, we hear what you say, but we dispute your assertion that this means our criticisms are invalid.
              We are not criticising anthroposophy per se, but the way it is used in schools and the way it is not acknowledged to parents – even denied. If we appear to ridicule it, it is as a result of highlighting the more interesting and important aspects, in the interests of educating those who want to be informed.
              You say we are diverting people away from the truth of anthroposophy, I say we are informing them of it!
              In some ways you are a reasonable man so must admit that anthroposophy, the specific “brand” of the spirituality and reverence you say your parent and toddler group “reeked of”, is extremely relevant to Steiner schools. So why not advertise it?
              It is interesting you say the spirituality was what attracted you – did you know it was anthroposophy at the time, or did that dawn on you later?
              Kindergartens do not give out leaflets on anthroposophy and ask parents to read carefully in order to understand their philosophy on child development, do they?
              Professional teaching qualifications, by the way require a considerable formal understanding of child development, not the imaginings of Steiner the mystic, which you seem to think are valid.
              What a happy coincidence that you went to that particular toddler group, otherwise you would never have known the “truth” as you put it, of anthroposophy. Or maybe it was “Karma…”
              I now have to categorise you in with all the other religious believers who think they are superior to others because only their own particular creed is on the one true path. You alone have the correct “insights” and the ability to “see into the nature of being human”. (Don’t get me started on “fully human” one of the most insulting phrases in Steinerspeak.)
              There are none so blind as those who will not see.
              For whatever reason, you have decided anthroposophy, your particular religious brand, is true and anyone who can’t agree is unfit to opine.
              Your comments on bullying are quite revealing. Do you acknowledge that the particular problems in Steiner schools are a result of the way karmic destiny is used by teachers when they decide how (not) to deal with it? You have already said you accept reincarnation as a nice idea.
              Instances of bullying at my children’s school were dealt with swiftly and decisively, to the satisfaction of all parents. There is no excuse for any other outcome in a school.
              As for me personally, this blog is not about me, but I will tell you a bit.
              I do not base my views entirely on my experience, in fact it is a minor factor in my criticisms. I only refer to it because the more I learn about Steiner and anthroposophy the more I remember of my time as an employee, and realise how true the accounts are.
              What I thought of at the time as oddities of that particular place, turn out to be universal, and it is interesting to look back on it now I understand more.
              Yes, I am an atheist, but first I am a secularist. If people have religious beliefs, all I ask is that they don’t inflict them on others.
              Parents can decide where to send their child to school, and there is a choice of religious education.If we have to have a religious free school in Stroud, I would honestly rather it was a Catholic school – and that is saying something for me!
              At least I could look at my child’s work, or hear what they have been learning, and know how to counter the indoctrination which takes place.
              In a Steiner school, as has been said by Gregoire Perra, (and I have seen myself) the indoctrination is so subtle, it is almost impossible to counter. On top of that, the continual mantra “we do not teach anthroposophy” is used to deflect questions.
              The way anthroposophical doctrine is woven into lessons alongside factual information is insidious.
              The result is adolescents who in addition to receiving what could often be a substandard education, are brainwashed to a point where they have no idea what is reality and what is spiritual. To me that in itself is frightening, and to have groups of children leaving school in Stroud after experiences similar to those of the student whose piece I linked to in the “misconceptions” post, will be nothing short of tragic.

  5. Helen

    Geoff I’ll reply t0 your last short comment first, and tackle the longer one after breakfast!
    I wasn’t really picking you out for commenting on the wrong posts, but some other hostile commenters have done so before, deliberately.
    Yes, I have edited a comment, when I do not want people or institutions named.
    Yes, I think sending in 10 comments all at once counts as spam.
    I have not put any comments in the wrong place.
    I do not approve comments which are abusive, or which are from people who have been abusive in the past – they have lost their right to comment, in my opinion.
    To your credit, you have not resorted to abuse, and despite some tunnel vision, seem willing to have a civilised discussion.

  6. Helen

    One of Geoff’s tactics throughout has been to clog up the comments list with his own numerous, lengthy comments, and I see this attempt to derail the blog as spamming.
    Sometimes bloggers ban certain authors completely if they are a nuisance. I hope it won’t come to that.

    • Geoff

      I think you are requesting me to comment less and more briefly. Is that right?
      I am happy to do so if that is your wish Helen

    • Geoff

      And, for the record, my intention has never been to clog up your blog. Just to engage with you and the readers of this site.

      • Geoff

        I was going to comment above, but there is no link to do so in the correct place. Please accept my apologies (maybe I am feeling a little paranoid now!)
        Firstly, I am not an Anthroposophist and I am not a member or follower of any particular faith. And at the same time, I do acknowledge that there is a spiritual aspect to my experience of life.
        Secondly, I experienced no hiding or denials of anything when I first started asking questions and when I asked people about where the whole thing was sourced, they talked of anthroposophy. My experience of Steiner was obviously so different to yours and I am sorry that you had a bad one.
        Thirdly, I stand by my opinion that you inhabit a paradigm that you do not see. And therefore, you don’t have the capacity acknowledge the existence of any other. (I don’t use the word ‘paradigm’ as a buzzword or bandy it lightly – I mean what I ‘say’). In order to see into another paradigm, one has to let go of the paradigm that one is standing in – it is not possible to see into one through the lens of the other.

  7. Helen

    Geoff You have already talked about the “truth” of anthroposophy. This particular brand is not just any old brand of spirituality, is it? It is quite specific.
    I told my husband about my paradigm that I “do not see”. He fixed me with a stare and said “I suppose Geoff has been commenting again”.
    Do I have an angel as well?
    You make it sound like I have told you about a bad experience. I have told you nothing of the sort. I worked as an uninitiate in a Steiner environment, and I am sure most people will be able to imagine how bewildering that would be.
    I was very incurious back then – but I am much more curious now.
    I think it would be bad manners of you to keep on asking me about it.

  8. Geoff

    It is interesting that to turn to ridiculing when you don’t understand something rather than asking questions.
    You say that you were incurious when working within a Steiner environment when you could have sought understanding, but you became curious once you decided that your mission is to undermine.

    I think your readers may now see what I was wanting to highlight – that you you have no conception of where you are coming from and your tendency to reject what you don’t understand.

    I guess that you will think of me as just plain rude, though I prefer to think that I am merely making observations.

    I am now tired of being ridiculed and threatened within your environment, so I will now desist from bothering you and boring your readers.
    Good bye Helen
    May Peace be with you.

    • Helen

      I certainly do find the idea of a “paradigm I can’t see” ridiculous.
      I don’t know whether the fact you took offense from my asking about an angel means you do believe in them, or you don’t. Since you believe anthroposophy is “true”, I have to assume you do. If so, why not just agree that I do have an angel? Or would that be ridiculous?
      I am used to feeling I am being ridiculed, and also patronised, by people saying because I am not spiritual I have no understanding.
      I still find the whole issue interesting however, and I hope you will read David Webster’s book for a better understanding of my “paradigm.”
      I have written a draft post about how my curiosity about Steiner began, and I had no idea of undermining it at that time.

      You have a t least one fan on this blog, and I suspect a few more too.

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