Collateral Damage

ICSA Conference, Sweden, 25-27 June 2015

In 2015, ICSA (International Cultic Studies Association) chose as their focus the subject of “Children in High Control Groups” for their conference in Sweden. The obvious relevance to Steiner education, together with a request to anonymise the organisation involved, led Angel to create the image of “Collateral Damage”.

This "restriction" turned out to be quite liberating, leading to a piece of work illustrating general Cultic tendencies which Diana Pletts, organiser of ICSA’s Phoenix Project, praised as being “representative of any cult”.

It was the subject of numerous conversations throughout the conference, such as when a Swedish visitor who works in psychology said “it’s a very strong image”, pointed to the way the leafy tree was so glaringly cut off from its roots, remarked that trees are often used to represent human beings in his field, and concluded that such disjointment was “not good!” Indeed!

A cult survivor told us he was “blown away” by our artwork. Others said it was an “excellent idea”, that it was “beautiful, really powerful”, “incredible, absolutely amazing”, and “fantastic”.

The image depicted is informed by personal experience, followed by several years of research into the many stories and types of collateral damage in the form of children and their families.

It explores the incongruity in the expressed desire to “make sure that the ideals are also lived” (as one head of that pedagogy told us), placed next to the collateral damage caused to children and families by the lack of true and honest grounding of those ideals.

The floating tree-top of touchy-feely sound-bites depicts the phenomenon of “floating buck syndrome”, achieved by use of a convoluted three-handed school structure which makes it hard to identify where, if anywhere, the buck actually stops.

Further, this picture shows the unhappy consequence of advertising transparency and progressiveness while actually being steeped in occult dogma and judgements, requiring obfuscation and misrepresentation to continually spin the shiny surface image, whilst inevitably tending towards sectarianism and victimisation of children, often with the willing collusion of the institution’s community.

The poster came with an accompanying paper which is reproduced below. The quotes are either from the founder, the institution, members, survivors or the media; those in blue are peppered in the tree’s branches, leaves, and roots.

Branches and Leaves - The Ideals

The Founder

• “Live through deeds of love and let others live with tolerance for their unique intentions

• “To be free is to be capable of thinking one’s own thoughts – not the thoughts merely of the body, or of society, but thoughts generated by one’s deepest, most original, most essential and spiritual self, one’s individuality.

The Institution

• “Recognise every child is different and devote ourselves to inspiring each and every pupil to achieve and be all they can. Not only in an academic sense, but to equip them with the life skills they need”

• “A safe, peaceful, natural learning haven

• “Work as strongly as possible to make sure that the ideals are also lived

The Media

• “This school is trying its best to stay unplugged. Its teachers think technology is a distraction and overhyped. They believe children are better taught through real-world experiences in the school’s vegetable garden and woodwork shop. Educators here fear that the immediate gratification of texts and Wikipedia threatens face-to-face communication and original thinking, so they ban cellphones, laptops and tablets and require students to hand-write papers until high school.”

• “There’s something undeniably wholesome about the educational approach. In an age when toddlers are adept at using iPhones, the idea of children building shelters in the woods is profoundly attractive to parents. Access to television is restricted – under the homeschool agreement with parents, children are not meant to watch TV before the age of eight.”

• “Educators at the School in Seattle take a lot of pride in showing off just how handy, athletic and artistic their students are. The high school students are, after all, on the last leg of their movement experience – a culmination of 12 years of education almost entirely free of television, video games, computers and smartphones. The movement's philosophy is simple: Students do not benefit from using computer devices before the age of 12.

• “Parents are heavily involved with the school and are encouraged to form tight friendships and help each other out; for example, by organising meal rosters for families with newborns. Teachers take it upon themselves to love and nurture their students as a parent would.”

• “It was this image of “happy and inspired students,” so foreign to the popular conception of school, that brought me to the school. I wanted to see for myself this miracle of happy, boat- building, onion-caramelising teenagers."

• “The movement's approach to education emphasizes the use of practical, artistic and conceptual elements into education. This method of education was established by the founder’s underlying philosophy. The approach is based on the fact that the role of imagination in learning is integral for the development of creative and analytical thinking. This educational approach is aimed at providing an environment where young people can develop free thinking, which can be a basis for developing their own personalities as responsible individuals by fulfilling their destiny.”

• “The movement's approach to education is based on scientific study of the development of children’s learning capabilities


“Since the establishment of the first school at the beginning of the twentieth century the numbers of schools have been increasing exponentially worldwide. This is the world’s largest independent educational system. The idea behind this approach to education resonates with the modern idea of homeschooling. Both emphasise on an environment where a child learns on his or her own capabilities. Both philosophies emphasize that children shouldn't be forced to study before they're ready to learn. The curriculum in both can be varied to according to specific needs. Both the methods stress the importance of teachers engaging with each child individually to ensure they're treated as individuals.”

Roots - The Realities

The Founder

• “We have to remember that an institution like our school with its [underlying] character, has goals that, of course, coincide with [our specific philosophical] desires. At the moment, though, if that connection were made official, people would break the school’s neck

A Member

• “Not every child or family is a good fit

The Media

• “One parent told the government inspector they had investigated the characteristics of a cult and were distressed to find that the underlying philosophy met many of the criteria, including having an iconic, charismatic leader, a prescription about the afterlife, rituals to enforce membership, secrecy, exclusivity of membership and being ostracised if you leave.”

• “The school promotes the idea that they have a special and secret knowledge of child development, and that if you take your child anywhere else you will be exposing them to risk. This is powerful for many parents and plays on parents’ insecurities.”

Former Members / Survivors

• “It’s a very closed system and they feel very defensive and very threatened if anyone questions anything.

• “The worst things are said concerning the person about to be fired, to the point that the picture being drawn of them is sometimes akin to that of being possessed, capable of spiritually damaging the school’s entity.”

• “Maternal and paternal affection, should be provided by the family, not teachers! Otherwise everything will end up in a muddle. It’s dangerous to try and take the place of the family.

“When I did my training, the trainee Kindy teachers told us that they were often told to be very maternal with the children, to initiate cuddles, to take the children onto their knees etc., Those are pedagogical indications, not spontaneous gestures. It was ceaselessly drummed into them that the Kindy teacher should be ‘like a mother’ for the children in her care. In her passionate work called “psychological bullying”, Marie-France Hirigoyen explains that this kind of developed manipulation is like some sort of hypnosis used to put the future victim to sleep. 80% of it takes place in non- verbal communication like gestures, looks, etc., which slowly control people.

• “The masks of the underlying philosophy or those of its institutions are only hiding "clones", artificial beings born out of deceit and lies. If we were to remove the masks, the clones would perish, just as the schools would perish if their true nature was revealed to the general public. ...

“Behind the masks presented by The underlying philosophy through its various branches, there are always lies, deceit, seduction, immorality, concealments of legally reprehensible behaviour, etc. And that is true in all institutions run on that philosophy that I have encountered.


“Lies, contradictions, and the lies used to mask contradictions, inevitably lead to manipulative practices. Because you cannot sustain a lie without relying on manipulation! Without it, the lie would crumble in an instant. Manipulation is present everywhere, in everything that is based on the underlying philosophy


“What is told is sometimes so compromising that if it were ever written down and it ended up in the wrong hands, the school would close down.


“If you're a parent and you have children at the school, you will notice: "but this doesn't correspond to my child's classes! What's written here is odd!" Thankfully there's always a teacher who'll respond: "Ah! no, no, this timetable is for the inspectors; the real timetable is in the reception by the photocopying machine. Don't refer to this one!"


“The underlying philosophy always wears a mask when it deals with those outside the movement. It even does so for those within it. The mask changes depending on who is in front of it, that is all. The mask, is a mask of seduction, a mask of deceit, a mask of control. It is the mask of a cult!”

Founder’s View on Races

• “So you see, gentlemen, we are not justified in thinking that human beings were originally like the savages of today. The savages have developed into what they now are — with their superstitions, their magical practices and their unclean appearance-from states originally more perfect. The only superiority we have over them is that, while starting from the same conditions, we did not degenerate as they did. I might therefore say: The evolution of man has taken two paths. It is not true that the savages of today represent the original condition of mankind. Mankind, though to begin with it looked more animal-like, was highly civilized.”

• “Now perhaps you will ask: But were those original animal-like men the descendants of apes or of other animals? That is a natural question. You look at the apes as they are today and say: We are descended from those apes. Ah! but when human beings had their animal form, there were no such animals as our present apes! Men have not descended, therefore, from the apes. On the contrary! Just as the present savages have fallen from the level of the human beings of primeval times, so the apes are beings who have fallen still lower.

• “If we give these negro novels to pregnant women to read, then we don’t need to be worried about negroes coming to Europe and creating mulattos; Merely through the spiritual effect of reading such negro novels a good number of children in Europe will be all grey, have mulatto hair and will look like mulattos!


The Founder

• “When we build steam-engines, we provide the opportunity for the incarnation of demons.

• “We live in a time when people face the danger of losing their souls to materialistic impulses. That is a very serious matter.”

• “Ahriman has a hand in the development of mechanics, technology, anything that seeks to take the human intellect away from people and put it into machine tools and also the machinery of government.“

• “The exploitation of electric forces, which will assume quite different dimensions from those which they have assumed so far, will enable man to spread evil over the earth, and evil will invade the earth by coming in an immediate way out of the forces of electricity.”

A Member 

• “From the earth will arise a terrible race of beings, in character midway between the mineral and plant kingdoms, as robotic beings of extreme, intense and logical intellect. They will spread and take hold of the earth, overlaying it as with a web of terrible spiders ... These terrible spiders will interweave and intermesh with each other, imitating in their movement all that human beings have conceived with their shadowy intellect - The earth will be covered [...] with terrible, mineral-plant- type spiders, which will spin very rational interconnections with each other bit with malevolent intention. And the human being [...] will have to merge his being with these terrible mineral-plant spider creatures.

• “According to the occult teachings of the Kabala, all Hebrew letters have a numerical equivalent. [the founder] spoke about this in detail in his cycle on the Apocalypse in relation to deciphering the name of the sun demon ‘Sorat’. On this occasion [the founder] points out that the numeric equivalent of the letter W (Hebrew waw) is the number 6. If follows that the occult meaning of ‘www’ is ‘666’, the number of the beast”


The Founder

• “If we destroy the susceptibility to smallpox, we are concentrating only on the external side of karmic activity.”

• ”[A] man is urged to seek in the external world for compensating effects of karmic causes which he himself has incorporated within his organism. He may, for instance, be driven to a place where he will encounter an infection which will offer him the compensation sought for, or he may even be driven by this need for compensation to what might be termed a ‘fatal accident.’

Independent Research

• “These parents “prided themselves on being “independent thinkers” [...]. This shared sense of identity reinforces anti-vaccination attitudes, which gradually coalesce into a cultural norm parents are reluctant to deviate from.”

• “the percentage of kids who are vaccinated goes down the longer they have been at the school. [...] Opposition to vaccination becomes, for many, intertwined with their perception of themselves as intelligently skeptical parents.”

• “The desire to "fit in" with a group of self-defined free-thinkers in fact leads to a kind of groupthink, in which dissent is effectively silenced.”

A Former Member

• “Our doctor pretended to administer the vaccines. He added the serum to the needle, but he didn’t prick the child’s skin, and the serum merely trickled down their arm.


The Founder

Founder: “That little girl L.. in the first grade must have something very wrong inside. There is not much we can do. Such cases are increasing in which [some] children are born with a human form, but are not really human beings in relation to their highest I; instead, they are filled with beings that do not belong to the human class. Quite a number of people have been born since the [1890s] without an I, that is, they are not reincarnated, but are human forms filled with a sort of natural demon. There are quite a large number of older people going around who are actually not human beings, but only natural; they are human beings only in regard to their form. We cannot, however, create a school for demons.”

A teacher: “How is that possible?”

Founder: “Cosmic error is certainly not impossible. The relationships of individuals coming into earthly existence have long been determined. There are also generations in which individuals have no desire to come into earthly existence and be connected with physicality, or immediately leave at the very beginning. In such cases, other beings that are not quite suited step in.... They are also quite different from human beings in regard to everything spiritual. They can, for example, never remember such things as sentences; they have a memory only for words, not for sentences….”


A Former Member 

• “In the eyes of a teacher of that philosophy, a movement school isn't actually a movement school at all! It is the place for incarnating the spiritual forces who will save humanity! To such a teacher, this institution is a place where Spirits (Angels, Archangels and superior entities) incarnate within a community. So, if you close down a movement school, you shut off the possibility for these superior beings to incarnate on Earth and to progressively save humanity.”

A Member

• “This school has been targeted by spirit to help change the way children are been taught & we will NOT sit back & watch you all destroy the higher plan that the Angels of the seventh Realm are working with”

Bullying and Karma

The Founder

• “The karma of this child was such that the ego, to put it bluntly, had ordered the van and the van overturned to fulfil the child's karma.”

• “Thus we may say that nothing can happen to the human being in life for which he has not himself created the conditions. Only through insight into the law of destiny - karma - does it become comprehensible why “the good man has often to suffer, while the evil one may experience happiness.” This seeming disharmony of the one life disappears when the view is extended upon many lives.”

• “Mental picturing is an image of all the experiences we go through before birth, or rather conception. You cannot arrive at a true understanding of it unless it is clear to you that you have gone through a life before birth, before conception”.

The Institution

• “One of the marked characteristics of a school in this movement is that “pedagogical methods [will be] used in dealing with discipline”.”

• “Children who are regularly victimized by bullies may also be engaging in addictive behavior.”

• “Can a child's karma or destiny be that of a victim or bully? Is it a child's destiny to seek certain experiences to build his or her self-esteem and inner self? Should a potentially abusive situation be stopped, and if so, at what point?”

• “It was important to have these understandings with the whole community of teachers and parents, and also the children, but only from year 7 or 8.

Since class 1 starts when children are seven years old, it means they would be fourteen or fifteen when that process was to start! Before that, it implies that they would be too young to understand that they need to respect differences and the boundaries of other people.”

The Media

• “Repeated complaints from parents over bullying of their son, which resulted in the boy being withdrawn from school after he twice came home with physical marks.”

”Physical and verbal bullying of one girl by a male pupil over a number of years.” “Concerns by a member of staff over the physical treatment of pupils by a classmate.” ”The exit of another pupil because of parental concerns over behavioural problems.”

“One parent who contacted regulators said she had been "disgusted" by bullying at the school, which operates a "no-blame" policy when behavioural issues arise among pupils. A further letter documents the "distress" of a former staff member over a colleague's approach to children.”

A Former Member / Survivor

• "In most cases they were stories of a bullied child who could not get help because the schools blamed the child's "karma" for their victimisation which is a way for a school or teacher to shirk responsibility and make it the parents' problem."

Vilification of Families & Former Members

Former Members / Survivors

• “Understand that you will be lied to, and some people at that school believe that they know more about your child and what is best for him/her than you do. Many (parents) are referred to in negative terms behind their backs”.

• “A kind of collective madness takes hold of the College of Accusers, in a way similar to a scene from Arthur Miller's The Crucible.”

• “At times, the aim of this repeated psychological torture isn't to get the teacher to resign: it simply becomes a means for the Internal College to reassert its authority when it feels challenged.”

• “You would get conflicting testimony because you would get the lies spread around the school to counteract the damage that could be done if people knew the truth.”


“Truth and integrity — things I value — were not valued at our school. Since then, I've heard many, many stories from parents around the world that indicate deception and lack of integrity are systemic in this educational movement.”


“It seems not to matter how bad the wrongdoing of the teachers; they typically circle the wagons and defend their fellow adepts of the underlying philosophy at the expense of innocent children.

• “They turn the victim and victim's family into criminals worthy of expulsion. They literally demonize the whole family and create gossip and injury to the children.”

• “I was one of those people who thought the school was wonderful and could not believe that any school could be capable of some of the things parents claimed had happened. Then it happened to my family, and then I heard the lies that were going around the school.

• “You might get intimidating messages or threats (to life and limb, sanity and health; yes, even threats of violence occur); you might either get threatened with a lawsuit (and significant loss of money, some thug might claim — erroneously, but what does it matter? how do people know, unless they spend money on a lawyer?) or you are actually sued (it happens, as we all know) and the intention might not even be to win, but to scare other potential critics and to destroy your life; you might find yourself the subject of frivolous reports to police or social services; your property might be destroyed; your children might no longer be welcome to see their old friends; your employer might get phone calls or mail with accusations or insinuations about various things; if the rest of your family is still involved in the movement or with the underlying philosophy, you risk losing contact with them (example of an actual threat: if you complain to the media, your children won’t ever see their grandparents again); you will be called a wide variety of ugly names; then, of course, there is general smearing and defamation of character — in private and in public you will risk being dragged into the gutter: you are not only ignorant or hateful or bitter or vengeful or a darned materialist, which speak to your lowly character, perhaps you are also some kind of crazed sex maniac or you are debilitated or you are mentally disturbed or you are guilty of criminal acts or you suffer some other moral or mental decrepitude or derangement.”

• “I expressed my displeasure at the way the school had handled both the initial problem and my complaint but for a brief minute felt we were getting somewhere. Then at the end of this meeting I was informed that the school had raised a child protection issue against me concerning improper sexual conduct with my daughter.”

• “These schools have a “tendency to ignore problems instead of dealing with them. Hoping they’ll just go away. Or that nobody will notice. Or that you can bluff yourself out of a crisis. These schools have these fantastic communities that everyone has to believe are fantastic, or the image crumbles. Bad things happening detracts from the feeling of being blessed.”

• “Basically, anything — invented, half-true or whatever, it doesn’t really matter — that can be used against you might be used against you, in any distorted shape or form; anything to preserve the movement and to rubbish you. It will not be about the validity or the substance of your experiences, claims or arguments — it will be about you.”

• “Do not accept the school's version at face value. Ask questions. See if your questions are encouraged or discouraged. See if the answers really make sense in the context of the real world, not just the secretive murky world of this movement, where everything has meaning that you don't necessarily fully understand.”

• “Many educators in this movement -- including those who make videos, including those who seem a bit more enlightened (or have humour) -- feel that anyone who complains or anyone who is or feels hurt must have something wrong with their heads. Either they’re disturbed, or they’re hysterical, or... in any case, the ‘fault’ is with them”

• “I have since this become aware of several other people who have been treated in a similar manner, people who have been ignored, had their characters attacked and been reported to Social Services by the school at the slightest hint of criticising the school."

• “They made us feel we were the problem when it was our child who was the victim!"

• “Verbal bullying of students could even occur during class, with a teacher present who wouldn’t intervene.”

• “In order to try and understand what happened I have spoken with many families worldwide over the last few years. What is striking is when a family complains and begins to ask too many questions there appears to be a pattern:

1. When the parents complain and request a meeting, the school deliberately procrastinates delaying the parent alerting the authorities.

2. A meeting is finally arranged where a very different [based on the school’s pedagogical philosophy] interpretation is given by the teachers/trustees in an attempt to manipulate the parents into thinking there is no problem.

3. The parents become so frustrated they make contact with the authorities.

4. The school may expel the child at this point and start a smear campaign telling the community (including the children) there is something wrong with the parents/child who has filed the complaint.

5. The authorities request the notes, the school 'loses' the notes

6. In order to further suggest the parents/child are at fault a trespass notice is issued.

7. When all else fails the schools have been known to make anonymous calls to social services.

The Media

• “Those raising [concerns] were vilified to the point where their continued involvement with the school became untenable for them and for many others.”

Related Articles

School Closure Amid Bullying Complaints

Aberdeen Waldorf School

Titirangi Rudolf Steiner Messenger


Waldorf and the Media

The Lure and Appeal of a Low-Tech Steiner-Waldorf Education

Vilifying Parents - Te Ra Waldorf School

Witch-Hunts & Excommunications

How Steiner-Waldorf Communities Sever Ties

An Almost Imperceptible Manipulation and Indoctrination

Masks, Misrepresentations and Manipulations

Within Steiner-Waldorf Schools and Anthroposophy

The Myth of the Top of the Tree

Evolving Along Hierarchical Races

The Karmic Burden of Vaccination

Communing with an Archangel

A Duty of Care

An Open Letter to the British Humanist Association

Frailties and Limitations

Bullying, Karma and Parental Involvement

Steiner School Accused of Being a Violent Cult

Rudolf Steiner Schule Aargau

Lies, Damned Lies, and Steiner Education

Threatened Family Leaves School

The Problem Child - Dealing with Dyslexia

Ecole Rudolf Steiner de Lausanne

Four Years On

The Steiner Waldorf Approach to Education

1861-2011 : 150 years of Rudolf Steiner

Welcome    Steinerific     Steinerleaks     Luciferosity     Steinerlens     Steinermentary     Contribute