Is Waldorf a cult?

10.11.12



“I feel like I've learned a lot about you today.”

“Why?”

“Well, I never really understood why getting fired from Waldorf was such a big deal for you. I only knew that you really liked that job. But now I get it, Waldorf is a cult. It messed with your head.”

I fought my reaction to say, “It’s not a cult.” Instead I replied, “Well, that is Waldorf’s biggest criticism. But I don’t know if it’s a cult…”

My friend stared at me, “You just told me you were criticized for being irreverent. You didn’t fit in to their dogma or beliefs. You didn't act the way they wanted you to. Somehow you must have slipped through the system, and when you didn't change, they fired you.”

Well, that was succinct.

“I suppose...I just think people associate cults with weak-minded people. And I'm not weak.”

“No, you're not. And I don't think that at all. I think a lot of people who get into cults are looking for something, for answers, they're seekers.”

***

It’s been about 10 years since my Waldorf experience, so I understand a little better, how folks would think Waldorf education is a cult. But what isn't a cult these days? According to the Wiki, "The word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a new religious movement or other group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre.The word originally denoted a system of ritual practices."

But when we look at these examples at Listverse, I want to laugh. I mean seriously. When I was immersed in the Waldorf world of fairy tales, watercolors and silk cloths, I’d say it was just magical. It was fun. It was as childhood should be. Gnomes are real dolls, and dolls with no faces were fine by me. Better no eyes, nose and mouth than one that I wished looked different.

Yet there is no denying, Rudolf Steiner advocates, and Waldorf educators fight any dogmatic leashes that the critics saddle upon them. I see it as they believe they are normal and other people think they are not, hence the word "cult" gets tossed around like a hot potato or a bill in Congress. So is Waldorf a cult? Up to you.

What do I think? It’s almost like Christianity pretending not to be a religion. Would Waldorf folks feel more comfortable it they were labeled as a culture or way of life? Because Waldorf cannot deny there are rules and ideals, and a set of practices and beliefs. Waldorf is a way of life, it’s a culture. This can be good or bad or neither.

I currently live in Thailand as an American Asian expat and have been wrestling with this culture question. And I don't think it would serve anybody to get into it here. But I think it's another way to look at this Waldorf as a cult question. And yes, I realize the word "cult" is in culture…

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