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Anthroposophical Medicine

William T. Jarvis, Ph.D.

The international Anthroposophical Society was created by Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925,) who had led the German section of Theosophy but had split off to form a group that would follow his personal revelations of the "spirit world." Anthroposophy was derived from anthropos "man" and sophia "wisdom," in reference to the wisdom that comes to humans when they are able to perceive the spiritual as well as the material world.

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 Zoroastrian gods of light and darkness, Lucifer and Ahriman. Steiner's revelations typically blurred 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." Employing the occultist doctrine of correspondences expressed in the formula as above, so below, humanity is positioned below nine classes of supernatural beings in a cosmic hierarchy. Seven planets correspond to seven epochs of history, twelve constellations of the zodiac to parts of the body, four elements to human temperaments, and so forth. Steiner's mystical worldview is deeply pessimistic. Steiner foretold the reincarnation of the dark god Ahriman early in the 21st Century. Steiner was a dogmatist stating emphatically that his revelation is the only truth [1] Steiner called for a rejection of materialism as a basis for scientific research; he believed that the concept of God and that the "the divine element in nature" should be introduced into the scientific enterprise. Steiner's published works are said to be over 300 volumes that cover art, religion, science and agriculture. His concept of biodynamic farming involves composting manure to enrich the soil; a method to produce foodstuffs that would nourish the spirit as well as the body.

Anthroposophy is taught in Waldorf Centers (named for the first such school created in 1919 for the children of the workers at a Waldorf-Astoria factory), six of which are in the United States. The Green Meadow School in Spring Valley, NY, is the largest Waldorf School in North America (300 students in 12 grades). Rudolph Steiner College, located at Fair Oaks, California, is an unaccredited school approved to grant degrees by the state [1]. Waldorf teachers do not go to colleges or enroll in national or regional teacher organizations, they train only a Waldorf institutes. Instructions are based upon Steiner's worldview. Physiology classes teach that "the 12 senses" correspond with signs of the zodiac, that the heart does not pump the blood [2], that Newton was wrong: light cannot be divided into colors because it is pure spirit, and other of Steiner's crackpot ideas (see Dugan & Daar's "Are Rudolph Steiner's Waldorf schools 'non-sectarian'?" Free Inquiry, Spring, 1994, for details of the bizarre educational program).

In Europe, the absence of laws separating church and state enables Steiner schools to appear legitimate. James Randi complained that "In Sweden the private, expensive and government accredited Rudolph Steiner schools teach children to cast horoscopes and believe that sprites inhabit trees and rocks." [3]

The Weleda Company of Spring Valley, NY, manufactures body care products inspired by Steiner's teachings.

There are about 25,000 members of the Society [5]. The greatest concentrations are in Germany, Holland, and in Switzerland where the Goetheanum and other facilities in Dornach still constitute an international center. There are about 2,000 members in North America. There are some 300 Waldorf Schools in 21 countries, with about 19 in North America. There are about 1,500 biodynamic farms and gardening enterprises in the world; about 19 of which are in the United States. There are about 200 centers in 20 countries for the care of the mentally retarded.

"Anthroposophical Medicine" (AM) refers to medical practitioners who adhere to Steiner's teachings. An undated monograph Medicine Today by Leviton states, "While in the 1950s there were only a handful of American MDs practicing AM, by the late 1980s that number has grown to nearly 50, and continues to increase as the demand for spiritual holism in health care also grows." He also says that Anthroposophical medicine has flourished in Europe, particularly in Germany, Holland, and Switzerland, and that today over 1,000 trained MDs are in formal practice, while another 2,000 routinely prescribe Anthropsophical medicines."

The most visible uniquely AM medical remedy is Iscador, a mistletoe (ie, Viscum album) extract, first proposed as a cancer treatment by Steiner in 1920. Iscador is promoted by the Society for Cancer Research, Arlesheim, Switzerland (founded by Steiner). Iscador is listed by the American Cancer Society as a unproven cancer remedy [6]. AM practitioners frequently prescribe homeopathic remedies.


  1. Bear J. Bears Guide to Earning College Degrees Nontraditionally, 12th Edition, Beneica, CA:C&B Publishing, 1995.
  2. "The heart is not a pump: A refutation of the pressure propulsion premise of heart function," Frontier Perspectives, Fall/Winter, 1995;5(1):15-24 (Frontier Perspectives is published by The Center For Frontier Sciences at Temple University in Philadelphia. It is an "anything goes" forum for crank science. A paper by a group of Steiner disciples. The lead author is listed as being from the Rudolph Steiner Research Center at Royal Oak, Michigan. Others are from various medical schools. This paper seems to be crank science based upon the fact that "in 1920, Steiner, of the Goetheanum in Switzerland had pointed out in lectures to medical doctors that the heart was not a pump...but that the blood was propelled with its own biological momentum.")
  3. Randi J. "Help stamp out absurd beliefs," Time, April 3, 1992, p.80.
  4. Dugan D, Daar J. "Are Rudolph Steiner's Waldorf schools 'non-sectarian'?" Free Inquiry, Spring, 1994, pp.44-7. (Describes how Waldorf schools carry out Steiner's teachings, and explain why nonmembers enroll their children. Of major concern to the authors is that Waldorf schools are publicly funded in Milwaukee and Detroit. This is seen as a crack in the wall of the separation between church and state because the curriculum includes a heavy dose of Steiner's religious dogma.)
  5. Kotzsch T. "The legacy of Rudolph Steiner," East/West Journal, 3/84, p.14+.
  6. Unproven Methods of Cancer Management: "Iscador," Ca--A Cancer J for Clinicians 1983;33:186-8.

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This article was posted on January 15, 2001.