Rudolph Steiner’s followers are scientific illiterates who believe in various of his pseudo-science and even pseudo-history, from the heart not actually being a pump and and continents floating in the ocean, to superior souls reincarnating as members of the Aryan race.
“Blond hair actually bestows intelligence” he pronounces.
The dangers are exemplified in such teachings having helped spawn someone like Keith Raniere.
The faulty underlying premise is much the same as in any cult like NXIVM (founded by a former Waldorf kid) or Scientology (founded by someone with much of the same background as Steiner, such as Theosophy).
There is a man (it almost always is a male authority figure) who was supposedly one of the world’s smartest men and top problem solvers, whose theories – developed in the absence of actual training, expertise or research – about everything from how we should live our lives, to educating our children and appreciating music, represent timeless truths not subject to question or scientific verification.
Because the approach is ideological and dogmatic, they can never adapt or evolve to focus more on whatever is “good” or “works,” and abandon bad ideas or outright counter-factual nonsense.
Depending on how hardcore the organization is, there may be some compromise around the margins (such as US Waldorf schools trying to ignore Steiner’s odious German-Aryan racism), while they typically dance around opening the can of worms of openly admitting that any of their guru’s teachings were actually wrong.
Scientology, like NXIVM’s inner circle, is known for having higher reported incidences of cancer deaths, and shorter lifespans, probably due to a combination of avoiding modern medical care, and the mixing of dangerous supposedly “natural” practices along with some relatively healthier ones, plus added risks like food and sleep deprivation in some cases.
The same is likely true of the followers of Steiner, who himself suffered from ill health and died at the relatively young age of 64.
There’s no research specific to the group that I’m aware of, but they probably run typical risks of dogmatic adherence to, and reliance on, failed and even dangerous pseudo-medicine like homeopathy.
“Use of ineffective CAMs as direct alternatives to potentially more effective forms of conventional treatment not only poses substantial risk to the patient, but research also suggests this risk is the primary concern related to CAM use amongst conventional medical practitioners”
Here’s a classic example of Steiner’s pseudo-scientific and pseudo-historic, racist mush, much in the same vein as Raniere’s word salad and his “modules” about rape, polygamy, and pedophilia:
“Because the earth has less vitality, only the black and brown peoples attain sufficient driving force; blonds and blue-eyed people are already marked for extinction because they can no longer drive nourishment with the necessary force through their bodies.”
“You see, when we really study science and history, we must conclude that if people become increasingly strong, they will also become increasingly stupid. If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense if men do not arrive at a form of intelligence that is independent of blondness. Blond hair actually bestows intelligence.”
The credulous, uncritical acceptance of people – usually men – holding themselves out as authorities on some topic that they pose as crucial to our existence, is just what caused people to also fall for Raniere and NXIVM.
Here are a couple of reminders that NXIVM was very intertwined with the local Waldorf school – including Karen Abney, who was Kristin Snyder’s coach in Anchorage, and appears to still be on staff at the school in Saratoga Springs, NY:
Waldorf School of Saratoga issued a letter to calm parents’ fears about NXIVM
September 20, 2018
NXIVM problems at Waldorf School of Saratoga
September 21, 2018
It probably says something about Keith Raniere’s parents – and thus his upbringing in general – that they sent their child to such a school.
However, it should be noted that Steiner’s followers, like many culty groups, are fairly careful about hiding their more esoteric and even embarrassing beliefs and teachings from their public-facing Waldorf schools.
They attract parents who tend to want their kids treated specially, and who are lured by appealing-sounding theories and willing to accept things that sound a little quirky, but not usually ones who actually understand just how strangely alternative the educational concepts really are.
Also, in fairness, I should have noted that I don’t think Waldorf schools teach that things like gnomes are real, though it’s the sort of underlying belief of teachers who are real Steinerian Anthrosophists.
Kids’ education in the Steiner system seems to depend a lot on which teachers they get.