What is the philosophical foundation of Waldorf Education? Let’s get to know Anthroposophy!

Anthroposophy is the philosophical foundation of Waldorf's concept of education in Rudolf Steiner's work. The best way to understand Waldorf Education is to understand Anthroposophy[4][6][7] because Anthroposophy is the basis for curriculum, aesthetic foundation, pedagogical methods, evaluation, school structure, and educational goals in the Waldorf educational concept.

Anthroposophy - Waldorf Education

Definition of Anthroposophy

Anthroposophy comes from "Anthropos" (human) and "Sophia" (wisdom) which means anthroposophy is a science of human wisdom or science to become a wise human being.

It seems similar to the definition of philosophy in general. However, Steiner emphasized that Anthroposophy is part of a science about humans. Anthroposophy examines things that are visible (phenomena), as well as those that are not physically visible, such as the human spirit and soul. The implication is that anthroposophy provides knowledge on spiritual and social values in humanity.

Steiner builds anthroposophy with the hope that Anthroposophy can guide humans to understand the true spiritual life[5]. Spirituality does not only study matters of a faith nature, such as spirituality from a religious perspective. However, it includes matters of willing and feeling.

Even though they think Anthroposophy is impressive, McGrath and Aulthaus[7] state that Steiner's thoughts in Anthropology are only a mixture of various thoughts and beliefs, including romanticism, Christianity, Eastern spirituality, and other nations, and is a synthesis of Indic (teachings/beliefs in India), gnostics, and mystical elements.

Amrine[1] denies that Anthroposophy is not based on or reduced from religious traditions. According to him, anthroposophy has its roots in idealistic philosophers, such as Schiller, Hegel, Fichte, and Goethe. Anthropology does not have a tendency to certain religious teachings, so it is believed that Waldorf Education can be applied in various cultural and religious contexts.

Scope of Anthroposophy

Steiner states that Anthroposophy was developed because of the need to understand humans holistically, from their physical, emotional, and mental essence. Anthropology seeks to complement human understanding of humans. 

Not only do we understand human behavior that can be done by the senses, but Anthroposophy also seeks to understand humans to spiritual understanding. Anthroposophy not only wants to influence intellectual understanding but also feeling and willing[5].

At the time Steiner developed Anthroposophy, feeling and willing tended to have not been sufficiently reached by other sciences. Anthroposophy is different from the natural sciences which tend to use the human senses. Anthroposophy tries to study human feeling and willing without prejudice[6]

This is what really distinguishes Anthroposophy and the natural sciences, namely through an understanding of human nature and a sense of inner fulfillment that is strong enough to bring out the stimuli that exist in the soul into public life. Anthroposophy is expected to be able to expand and continue scientific thinking so that in-depth knowledge of the mind and soul can be obtained.

The knowledge provided is not only in the form of abstract theory, but develops it into an artistic understanding; first on the human body and then on the potential of the human soul and spirit[6].

Steiner's desired achievement is to develop a method of gaining insight into a reality of the spiritual world that relates to natural science in its integrity. Anthroposophy not only supports individuals to develop an independent spiritual orientation, but also provides stimulation in all areas of culture, and allows opening new horizons in cultural work and ideas[3].

For Steiner, Anthroposophy is life, not just a theory. Anthroposophy is a map of life for the future of humans[2]. Anthroposophy is not just to be studied and understood. However, the essence of Anthroposophy must live within, so what Steiner states is a 'map of life', which directs the path of humans to achieve their goals in life.

This is quite controversial. When we say that Anthroposophy is a 'map of life'. Humans have beliefs in various 'maps of life', including aspects of religion, culture, and the basis of the state. However, it is undeniable that Steiner's beliefs about trying to understand humans from their various dimensions are essential.

Anthroposophical thinking produces three main things, namely knowledge of Steiner's cosmology, understanding of humans, and stages of child development according to Steiner[7]. These three things greatly influenced Waldorf's concept of education in the work of Rudolf Steiner.

The Development of Anthroposophy

Querido[6] suggests that 1921 was the most eventful time for the Anthroposophical movement. Initially, Steiner only gave lectures on Anthroposophy in Switzerland and Germany. However, after the first world war ended, Steiner gave lectures to the Hague, Oslo, and England. 

Anthroposophy is based in Goetheanum, located in Dornach, 10 km south of Basel in the Jura Mountains, Switzerland[3] where more than 800 events have been held, including lectures, eurythmic performances, international conferences, theater, and exhibitions. 

The Goetheanum attracts more than 150,000 visitors a year. Apart from being the center of Anthroposophy, Goetheanum is also the home of the School of Spiritual Science and the Anthroposophy Society. 

The School of Spiritual Science is at the heart of Anthroposophy founded by Rudolf Steiner in 1924 and based on the understanding that the world will become as we think it is; transformation, sensitization, and thought development holds a central position[3]

After Steiner's death, the Anthroposophical movement was still growing. This is because the Anthroposophical movement offers a bridge between self and others, and is active in discussions where somatic experience is taken seriously[7]. This is still considered very meaningful to this day for his followers.


[1] Amrine, F. (2011). Discovering a Genius: Rudolf Steiner at 150. Being HUman: Personal & Cultural Renewal in the 21st Century, pp. 6-17.

[2] Beck, J. (2011). Keeping Faith with The Human Being. Being Human: A Personal and Cultural Renewal in the 21st Century, pp. 1-2.

[3] Goetheanum. (2013). Anthroposophy and the Goetheanum: An Introduction. Dornach: General Anthroposophical Society.

[4] Saliyeva, Z. (2014). Using Waldorf Pedagogy Opportunities in The Formation of Spiritual Culture of The Youth. The Advance Science Journal, Vol. 2014, Issue 8, 141-143.

[5] Steiner, R. (1995a). The Spirit of The Waldorf School. New York: Anthroposophic Press.

[6] Steiner, R. (1995b). Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy 1. New York: Anthroposophic Press.

[7] Uhrmacher, P. B. (1995). Uncommon Schooling: A Historical Look at Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy, and Waldorf Education. Curriculum Inquiry Vol. 25, No. 4 Winter 1995, 381-406.

Edited from Thesis entitled "Konsep Pendidikan Waldorf dalam Karya Rudolf Steiner dan Relevansinya dengan Konsep Pendidikan Nasional Republik Indonesia (Waldorf's Concept of Education in Rudolf Steiner's Work and Its Relevance to the Concept of National Education of the Republic of Indonesia"

The thesis was written by Rianita Puspita Sari, M.Pd, and supervised by Dr. Mamat Supriatna, M.Pd., as a thesis to obtain a master's in education from Pedagogy Study Program, Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia, in 2018.

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