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Peter Staudenmaier and Peter Zegers
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Reply to Peter Normann Waage, Humanism and Polemical Populism
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Anthroposophy and Ecofascism has sparked a debate within Scandinavian humanist circles, with some authors like Peter Normann Waage lining up to defend anthroposophy as a harmless variant of humanism.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> While we are encouraged by this long overdue debate, we are troubled by the degree of historical naiveté it has revealed. Waage’s perspective seems to represent a view that is fairly widespread among educated and well-intentioned people. We hope that we can contribute to a more accurate view of the political implications of anthroposophy by correcting several of the misconceptions exemplified by Waage’s reply. Although Waage has nothing to say about the article’s main topic, the systematic collusion between organized anthroposophy and the so-called “green wing” of German fascism, he does raise several issues that lie at the core of that collusion. Waage would have us believe that Rudolf Steiner was a principled anti-racist, that he opposed private property, rejected militarism and nationalism, and was a staunch adversary of Nazism. These claims are not simply untrue; they betray a surprising unfamiliarity with Steiner’s published work and a profound misunderstanding of anthroposophy’s political history.
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Let us begin, as Waage does, with the question of nationalism. To the end of his life, Steiner was forthright in acknowledging his early and enthusiastic participation in pan-German agitation. In the autobiography he published shortly before his death, he had this to say about his years in Vienna before the turn of the century: “Now, I took an interested part in the struggle which the Germans in Austria were then carrying on in behalf of their national existence.” (Rudolf Steiner, The Course of My Life, New York 1951, p. 142)<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Steiner’s autobiography provides ample testimony to his German nationalist convictions. The paragraph following the one quoted above refers to Steiner’s “friends from the national struggle,” and two pages prior he discusses the impact of Julius Langbehn’s infamous book Rembrandt als Erzieher on his thinking.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Steiner also notes that he briefly worked as editor of the Deutsche Wochenschrift, one of the leading German nationalist publications of the time.
But Waage need not have searched through Steiner’s autobiography for evidence of his early pan-German engagement, as Steiner’s collected works contain several dozen articles published in the German nationalist press between 1884 and 1890, with titles like “Die deutschnationale Sache in Österreich” (“The Pan-German Cause in Austria”).<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The hard-line nationalist stance that Steiner adopts in these articles is extremist even by the standards of the 1880s; he attacks the mainstream nationalist parties as “un-German” and rejects any compromise with them.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Nor was this a mere youthful aberration; Steiner never disowned or regretted these writings. On the contrary, he emphatically re-affirmed his pan-German views in a series of articles at the turn of the century.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
The striking thing about Steiner’s proud avowal of his nationalist activities is how utterly divorced from reality those activities were. There was, of course, no real “struggle for national existence” among Germans in the Habsburg empire – much less in Vienna itself – because there was never any serious threat to German predominance under the monarchy, and certainly not to their national existence. On the contrary, ethnic Germans were the undisputed administrative, economic, and cultural elite throughout the Austrian half of the far-flung multinational empire. Steiner’s involvement in pan-German efforts was based on chauvinism and ethnic prejudice. In light of Steiner’s long-standing attachment to a particularly virulent form of Great German nationalism, it is hardly surprising to see his attitude descend into outright national contempt with the advent of World War One.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
Steiner gave dozens of lectures during the war (collected in the two volume Zeitgeschichtliche Betrachtungen) condemning what he termed “British, French, and Russian imperialism,” never for a moment mentioning German imperialism. These lectures portray Germany and Austria as innocent victims of the “West” and the “East” and are filled with indignant rejections of any criticism of German nationalism and militarism. They recycle the hoary myth of Mitteleuropa familiar to students of the German right. Steiner sketched in the details of this myth in his postwar writings; one might consult, for example, the lecture cycle Bewußtseins-Notwendigkeiten für Gegenwart und Zukunft (Dornach, 1967), where Steiner repeats the standard nationalist line about the special spiritual mission of the German people and warns that this unique “German essence” is being “alienated” by “Americanism” on the one side and “Russiandom” on the other (p. 408). Steiner goes on to explain that “fear of the spiritual is the characteristic element of Americanism” (p. 405), while describing the threat from “the East” as “socialism” and “bolshevism” (p. 407). This is a classic instance of the reactionary German paranoia of being trapped between the soulless West and the collectivist East, dressed up as spiritual insight. The same paranoia formed a crucial component of German fascism.
Waage notes that Steiner was a fervent opponent of Wilsonian self-determination, a fact which the article had already pointed out. This position, in itself, by no means indicates a fundamental hostility to nationalism; several of the leading lights of extremist German nationalism, such as Count Reventlow and Adolf Bartels, shared Steiner’s dim view of Wilson’s proposals.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> More importantly, Waage fails to grasp why Steiner took this stance. Steiner held that the doctrine of national self-determination “is opposed to the divinely ordered course of evolution.” (Steiner, From Symptom to Reality in Modern History, London 1976, p. 12)<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> He considered this doctrine, in concert with the triumph of “British, French, and Russian imperialism” in World War One, responsible for the dismantling of the Habsburg empire, which Steiner evidently viewed as a great loss for European civilization. Again and again Steiner argued that unlike other “national characters,” which are stuck in particularity, the German national character strives toward universalism, which in his eyes legitimated the German claim to predominance in Central Europe. For Steiner, Germany’s supposed spiritual advancement was the perfect excuse for imperialist expansion: “If one national civilization spreads more readily, and has greater spiritual fertility than another, then it is quite right that it should spread.” (Steiner, The Threefold Commonwealth, New York 1922, p. 183)<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
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Waage reminds readers of Humanist that Steiner “at the end of the century was involved in ‘the Association Against Anti-Semitism’.” Indeed, Steiner was a friend of Ludwig Jacobowski, an employee of the Verein zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus (Society for Protection Against Antisemitism). The association with Jacobowski, however, does not speak well for Steiner’s confused attitude toward antisemitism. In fact, a look at Jacobowski’s writings on Jewish affairs shows that it was a familiar appeal to German nationalism which drew Steiner’s attention. Jacobowski advocated the “complete assimilation” of Jews to what he called the “German spirit,” and his best-known work, Werther der Jude, could be read as “an antisemitic text” (Ritchie Robertson, The ‘Jewish Question’ in German Literature 1749-1939, Oxford 1999, p. 279). In a much-discussed pamphlet attacking a prominent antisemitic agitator, Hermann Ahlwardt, Jacobowski called Ahlwardt “un-German” (and also accused him of being a Social Democrat); the same pamphlet spoke of “an honorable anti-Semitism” in contrast to Ahlwardt’s variety, and declared in assimilationist-patriotic style that “a young Jewish generation is being prepared which is German and feels German.” (All quotes from Sanford Ragins, Jewish Responses to Anti-Semitism in Germany, 1870-1914, Cincinnati 1980, pp. 43-44) Jacobowski also referred to some of the anti-Jewish arguments put forth by pan-German antisemites as “important and correct” (Jacobowski quoted in Fred Stern, Ludwig Jacobowski, Darmstadt 1966, p. 159). One of the leading scholars on the topic, Ismar Schorsch, describes Jacobowski’s position thus: “Anti-Semitism is indeed based upon fact and can only be overcome by a drastic ethical reformation of the entire Jewish community.” Schorsch comments: “The response to anti-Semitism of this alienated Jew [Jacobowski] was thus marked by extreme vacillation between criticism of his coreligionists and defiant reaffirmation of Judaism.” (Schorsch, Jewish Reactions to German Anti-Semitism, 1870-1914, New York 1972, pp. 47 and 95). Steiner himself emphasized Jacobowski’s exclusive commitment to German culture and believed that his friend had “long since outgrown Jewishness” (Steiner quoted in Moses and Schöne, editors, Juden in der deutschen Literatur, Frankfurt 1986, p. 200). This is hardly a convincing testament to Steiner’s pro-Jewish sympathies.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
What Waage doesn’t mention is that throughout his life Steiner consorted with notoriously bitter antisemites and was by his own account on entirely friendly terms with them. The passages in Mein Lebensgang on his relationship with Heinrich von Treitschke, for example, are straightforwardly admiring of this towering figure on the German right, who was the foremost intellectual ally of militant antisemitism (Treitschke coined the Nazi slogan “The Jews are our misfortune”). Steiner never so much as mentions Treitschke’s infamous stance on the “Jewish question.”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The same is true of Steiner’s appraisals of other figures, whether positive or negative, including Haeckel and Karl Lueger, among others. In fact it is abundantly clear from Steiner’s own writings on the subject that he had an extremely rudimentary understanding of antisemitism and that he was himself beholden to a wide variety of antisemitic stereotypes, which he frequently broadcast to his followers.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> On more than one occasion he expressed the wish “that Jewry as a people would simply cease to exist” (Steiner, Geschichte der Menschheit, Dornach 1968, p. 189 and elsewhere). This wish was consistent with Steiner’s categorical rejection of the Jewish people’s right to existence: "Jewry as such has long since outlived its time; it has no more justification within the modern life of peoples, and the fact that it continues to exist is a mistake of world history whose consequences are unavoidable. We do not mean the forms of the Jewish religion alone, but above all the spirit of Jewry, the Jewish way of thinking." (Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Literatur, GA 32, p. 152) It would seem that Waage’s portrait of Steiner as a consistent opponent of nationalism and antisemitism is at odds with the facts.
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Waage believes that Steiner “cannot justly be called a racist” and that anthroposophy’s peculiar philosophy of root-races constitutes “a sound anti-racist view.” To support these claims Waage tells us that “already in 1909” Steiner “stopped using” the terms “root race” and “Aryan.” Waage’s chronology is confused. 1909 is the year that Steiner published the collection Aus der Akasha-Chronik, his most thorough presentation of the root race doctrine in all its fantastic detail. This book, available in English under the title Cosmic Memory, remains to the present day a primary source for anthroposophy’s worldview, with no distancing whatsoever toward its racist elements. The editor’s foreword to the current edition, published in Dornach, doesn’t so much as mention the book’s racist content, much less try to explain it, contextualize it, or minimize it; and the Anthroposophical Society continues to officially designate the book one of the “fundamental anthroposophist texts” (Wolfram Groddeck, Eine Wegleitung durch die Rudolf Steiner Gesamtausgabe, Dornach 1979, p. 16). Nor did Steiner himself ever renounce it; on the contrary, in 1925 he called Aus der Akasha-Chronik the “basis of anthroposophist cosmology” (Mein Lebensgang, original ed., p. 301). Today the book is still officially recommended for use by Waldorf teachers.
In 1910 – that is, after Waage claims Steiner had “stopped using” the terminology of root races and Aryans – Steiner gave the lectures in Oslo which served as the opening device for Anthroposophy and Ecofascism. The Norway lecture cycle on “national souls” was revised and edited by Steiner in 1918 and published in book form that same year. The term “root race” is used throughout this book. The fifth chapter, Steiner’s lecture in Oslo from June 12, 1910, is titled “The Five Root Races of Mankind”, and refers to the racial superiority of “the Aryans” (Steiner, The Mission of the Individual Folk Souls in Relation to Teutonic Mythology, London 1970, p. 106).<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> But Waage would no doubt complain that we have taken Steiner’s unequivocal words “out of context” if we did not go on to mention that the book also contains these curious sentences: “Since all men in their different incarnations pass through the various races the claim that the European is superior to the black and yellow races has no real validity. In such cases the truth is sometimes veiled, but you see that with the help of Spiritual Science we do after all light upon remarkable truths.” (ibid. p. 76)
Aside from the vexing question of just what that ominous reference to “veiled truth” is supposed to mean – do black and yellow skins “veil” an inner truth? – this passage can only be interpreted as anti-racist if one accepts the anthroposophist version of “Spiritual Science,” and the sentence makes no sense at all unless one believes in reincarnation. Moreover, any anti-racist interpretation of this passage is immediately contradicted by the context which Waage thinks Anthroposophy and Ecofascism systematically obscured. On the page directly before the above quote, Steiner prints a diagram showing Africa on the bottom, Asia in the middle, and Europe on top, and on the same page he explains that the “Negro race” is tied to humanity’s childhood, “the yellow and brown races” to adolescence, and Europeans to adulthood and maturity. Steiner then insists that this racially stratified hierarchy “is simply a universal law” and indeed a product of inescapable destiny: “The forces which determine man’s racial character follow this cosmic pattern. The American Indians died out, not because of European persecutions, but because they were destined to succumb to those forces which hastened their extinction.” (ibid. p. 76 — the very same page as the quote which to Waage represents “a sound anti-racist view.”)
Even setting aside Waage’s incomprehension of this particular text, he has simply misunderstood Steiner’s racial theory overall. For reasons he never explains, Waage believes that Steiner’s theory of reincarnation makes race peripheral. He is quite mistaken. In reality, Steiner taught that each individual soul must in the course of its spiritual evolution climb up the ladder of racial progress, from “lower races” to “higher races.” This racist nonsense is noxious enough, but Steiner exacerbated it by pointing out very explicitly which groups belonged to the “lower racial forms” and the “backward races” (Jews, Chinese, and blacks, for example) and which groups belonged to the “higher racial forms” and the “advanced races” (above all Germans, Nordic peoples, and “the great Aryan Root Race”). Steiner repeats these repugnant notions throughout his work.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> According to anthroposophy, a soul that is unfortunate enough to incarnate in a “backward race” has only itself to blame. Very little effort is required to locate dozens of such passages within Steiner’s published writings.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
Thus we can see that Waage’s claim that Steiner definitively rejected the ideology of root races and Aryan supremacy is inaccurate, and that Steiner’s occasional trite phrases about the spiritual insignificance of race are disingenuous.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> But have his anthroposophist followers managed to free themselves from their master’s xenophobic prejudices?<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The article already offered numerous examples of the continuing virulence of racist thinking within contemporary anthroposophy, but let us examine one further instance which highlights Waage’s indefensible claims. One of Steiner’s early devout followers was Ernst Uehli, a teacher at the original Waldorf school and an officer of the Anthroposophical Society. In anthroposophist circles Uehli is regarded as an outstanding anti-fascist; Uwe Werner makes special mention of him as having been “extremely critical” of National Socialism (Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, Munich 1999, 97).
In reality Uehli propounded an ugly version of anthroposophical racism, Aryan supremacism and antisemitism with a marked penchant for blood-and-soil ideology. In 1926 he published a book on “Nordic-Germanic Mythology” and dedicated it to the recently deceased Steiner, who is quoted and referred to constantly throughout the book. Uehli uses the terms “root races” and “Aryan” repeatedly (Ernst Uehli, Nordisch-Germanische Mythologie als Mysteriengeschichte, Stuttgart 1965, 134-144). Why would a close follower of Steiner continue to promote ideas that the master had supposedly renounced? But Uehli doesn’t content himself with simply repeating the anthroposophist orthodoxy on root races and Aryan superiority; he constructs a grand historical-evolutionary-racial narrative in which the two rival forces, separated throughout the millennia by their fundamentally different racial makeup, are “the Semitic and the Aryan peoples” (ibid. 144). Whereas “the early Germans were a people of nature” and thus pure and strong, “the Jews succumbed to Ahriman” (ibid. 147; “Ahriman” is the anthroposophist term for demonic forces that promote materialism). Alongside the world-historical struggle between the nature-loving Aryans and the materialistic and diabolical Jews, Uehli notes that there are still a few “primitive peoples that are dying out” as a result of cosmic necessity, since they are nothing more than the “decadent remnants” of an earlier root race (ibid. 135).<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
One might think that latter-day anthroposophists would be sensible enough to quietly ignore such repellent racist nonsense from their not so distant past. But in the year 2000 Uehli’s works were still part of the officially recommended curriculum for Waldorf teachers in both Germany and the United States. This fact sparked yet another public scandal around anthroposophist racism when a book of Uehli’s about Atlantis, evidently even more offensive than the one we’ve quoted, was brought to public attention in the spring of 2000. The German youth ministry responded by putting the book on its index of racist literature. If even German government bureaucrats have no trouble recognizing anthroposophy’s racist content, why does Waage stubbornly deny it? Anthroposophy’s ongoing racist legacy has led to public investigations in the Netherlands, Switzerland, France and Belgium as well. Limits of space prevent us from elaborating on this crucial topic, but interested readers can consult the outstanding treatment of the German case by Peter Bierl in his Wurzelrassen, Erzengel und Volksgeister. Die Anthroposophie Rudolf Steiners und die Waldorfpädagogik (Konkret Literatur Verlag, Hamburg 1999; 2nd ed. 2005).
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Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of Waage’s reply is his emphatic contention that Steiner “was an opponent of the right to private property.” Indeed Waage is adamant that the article’s depiction of Steiner’s pro-capitalist views is “sloppy at best, untruthful at worst.” Curiously, Waage offers no supporting quotes from Steiner and cites no other literature to back up his interpretation, and some of his own paraphrases of Steiner’s views actually contradict his interpretation.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Steiner’s voluminous writings on economic subjects are often vague and occasionally opaque, and his position shifted multiple times; here as elsewhere, contradictions are the one consistent element. It is nonetheless possible to decipher his attitude toward private property. What Steiner opposed was the misuse of private property, not the institution itself.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> He favored a peculiar mixture of private ownership and social conscience, whereby both individual capitalists and small groups of especially “talented” executives would manage private capital as a sort of trust for the ostensible good of the whole community (readers familiar with the disjointed economic doctrines of classical fascism will notice the parallels to the ideology of the Volksgemeinschaft or people’s community). Steiner insisted that the notion of abolishing capitalism was simply impossible and would mean abolishing social life as such; for him, “capitalism is a necessary component of modern life.”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The anthroposophist Walter Kugler, who works for the Rudolf Steiner Nachlaßverwaltung in Dornach (the administrators of Steiner’s published and unpublished works), describes Steiner’s position thus: “Each entrepreneur, that is each individual who wants to make use of his talents to satisfy the needs of others, will obtain capital for as long as he is able to make productive use of his talents.” (Kugler, Rudolf Steiner und die Anthroposophie, Cologne 1978, p. 165) Steiner himself wrote: “The entire ownership of capital must be arranged so that the especially talented individual or the especially talented group of individuals comes to possess capital in a way which arises solely from their own personal initiative.” (ibid.)
A central tenet of the Dreigliederung or ‘social threefolding’ doctrine, which Steiner emphasized again and again, was that the economic sphere must never be organized or managed democratically.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Accordingly, Steiner polemicized against socialism (not just its marxist variants) and explicitly rejected the socialization of property (not just nationalization).<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> He also opposed labor unions. Within a full-fledged “threefold commonwealth” Steiner foresaw a spiritual meritocracy in which the “most capable” would be given effective control over economic resources, and he vehemently rejected the notion of tempering this arrangement through any kind of community oversight. He derided the idea of “transferring the means of production from private ownership into communal property,” as well as of socializing “the management of concentrated masses of capital,” and insisted that “the management of the means of production must be left in the hands of the individual.” (Steiner in ibid. 199, 200) Steiner was insistent on this point: “No-one can be allowed to return to economic forms in which the individual is tied to or limited by the community. We must strive instead for the very opposite.” (ibid. p. 201) In one work alone, the 1919 book Kernpunkte der sozialen Frage, he expressly and forcefully dismissed “communal property” more than a dozen times; nearly every chapter contains at least one denunciation of “common ownership.”
Steiner’s interest in economic affairs arose as a reaction to the wave of working-class revolt that swept across Europe in the immediate aftermath of World War One. During this period numerous grassroots demands for socializing the factories were put forward in city after city. Steiner ridiculed all such proposals – “as if one could really socialize the various factories.” (ibid. p. 209) His own counterproposals were meant precisely to thwart this economic democratization from below.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In Steiner’s utopia, the economy was not to be run by the “hand-workers,” but rather by “the spiritual workers, who direct production.” (Threefold Commonwealth, p. xxxii; this is the original authorized English translation of Kernpunkte der sozialen Frage.)<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> And just how are these privileged spiritual workers to be chosen? “The spiritual organization will rest on a healthy basis of individual initiative, exercised in free competition amongst the private individuals suited to spiritual work.” (ibid. p. 158) Within this framework, “the spiritual life should be set free, and given control of the employment of capital” – indeed, an “absolutely free use of capital” (ibid. pp. 117, 126). “Private property,” for Steiner, “is an outcome of the social creativeness which is associated with individual human ability.” (ibid. p. 126) Shared ownership, in contrast, is an obstruction to this all-important creative unfolding of individual talent: “The individual cannot make his abilities effective in business, if he is tied down in his work and decisions to the will of the community.” (Steiner, Rudolf Steiner: Essential Readings, ed. Richard Seddon, Wellingborough 1988, p. 106) Given these thoroughly capitalist assumptions, Steiner’s conclusion comes as no surprise: “Really practical thought, therefore, will not look to find the cure for social ills in a reshaping of economic life that would substitute communal for private management of the means of production. The endeavor should rather be to forestall the ills that can arise through management by individual initiative and personal worth, without impairing this management itself.” (ibid.)
Moreover, when Steiner’s economic ideas were put into practice in the early 1920s by the Threefold Commonwealth League (Bund für Dreigliederung des Sozialen Organismus) in southwest Germany, it was very clear that he opposed a democratic organization of the affiliated factories - the Waldorf tobacco factory being the best known. The anthroposophist Hans Kühn wrote: “Democratization of the factories was something he [Steiner] opposed on principle. The manager had to be able to make his own arrangements without interference.” (Hans Kühn, Dreigliederungszeit. Rudolf Steiners Kampf für die Gesellschaftsordnung der Zukunft, Dornach, 1978 p. 52). Since leading anthroposophists had no trouble grasping this point, it is difficult to understand how Waage could mistake Steiner for an opponent of private ownership and capitalism. Steiner’s scheme was nothing more than an ‘enlightened’ version of private property under the benevolent control of a spiritual aristocracy. As such it forms the perfect economic counterpart to his mixture of radical individualism and elitism. It would be hard to explain the appeal of Steiner’s economic doctrines to aristocrats and industrialists – and these, after all, are the ones who responded most favorably to his proposals – if those doctrines had contained anything that threatened the profits of the powerful.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
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Waage seems to have misunderstood Anthroposophy and Ecofascism as a version of the guilt by association argument: if some anthroposophists were Nazis and some Nazis were anthroposophists, this simpleminded reasoning goes, then the two groups must be identical. At the very least it should have been clear that the article dealt with one specific wing of the Nazi movement, the ecofascist tendency, a grouping which was controversial within the party as a whole. Waage’s failure to recognize this crucial distinction marks the very beginning of his reply, where he invents a “quotation” that never appeared in the article. Nowhere does the article assert “that Steiner was a Nazi,” much less that “anthroposophy is Nazism,” as Waage pretends.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> He goes on to make several untenable claims about anthroposophy’s relationship to National Socialism: that there were no significant ideological parallels between the two worldviews, that the Nazis tried to kill Steiner in 1922 because he was a principled opponent of their political outlook, and that anthroposophist collaborators with the Third Reich were repudiated by organized anthroposophy after World War Two. Let us examine each of these claims in turn.
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1. Ideological parallels. In addition to casting doubt on the article’s comparison of Steiner’s anti-French diatribes to Mein Kampf (we urge readers who share Waage’s skepticism on this point to read Hitler’s passages on France as Germany’s “mortal enemy” alongside Steiner’s passages on the same theme), Waage says that the description of similarities between the anthroposophist and the Nazi racial mythologies is “obviously unreasonable.”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> This view is not shared by scholars of the topic. In the words of anti-fascist researcher Volkmar Wölk, “It is a short conceptual step from this position [Steiner’s root-race theory] to the racial doctrine of the Nazis.”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> If Waage finds such politically conscious scholarship too critical, he may want to consult instead the work of historian Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, who wrote the entirely approving preface to Rudolf Steiner: Essential Writings and can hardly be suspected of harboring any bias against Steiner. Goodrick-Clarke’s respected work The Occult Roots of Nazism, one of the few books by a responsible scholar on a topic which is otherwise a playground for conspiracy theorists and amateur occultists, is a thorough analysis of “ariosophy,” another turn of the century Viennese offshoot of theosophy which took the Aryan myth even further than Steiner did and which had a direct influence on Hitler.
Goodrick-Clarke notes that in the late nineteenth century Steiner was involved in the Vienna theosophist circles which were the source of “the particular kind of theosophy which the Ariosophists adopted to their völkisch ideas.” (Occult Roots of Nazism, Wellingborough 1985, p. 29) He also emphasizes that “the very structure of theosophical thought lent itself to völkisch adoption.” (ibid. p. 31) In 1908, midway through Steiner’s tenure as the head of German theosophy, a German theosophist named Harald Grävell published a significant article in the major Viennese ariosophist journal. There Grävell “outlined a thoroughly theosophical conception of race and a programme for the restoration of Aryan authority in the world. His quoted occult sources were texts by Annie Besant, Blavatsky’s successor as leader of the international Theosophical Society at London, and Rudolf Steiner, the Secretary General of its German branch in Berlin.” (ibid. p. 101) In particular Grävell cited Steiner’s 1907 text Blut ist ein ganz besonderer Saft, “which reflected the theosophical interest in racist ideas.” (ibid. p. 242; Steiner’s text is available in English under the title “The Occult Significance of Blood.”) Goodrick-Clarke also shows that the ariosophists were influenced by nineteenth century Romanticism, Haeckel and Monism, just as Steiner was.
Does all this prove that Rudolf Steiner was personally responsible for shaping Hitler’s perverse worldview? Of course not, and the article made no such argument. What Goodrick-Clarke’s painstaking research does show is that the borders between anthroposophy proper and other versions of race mysticism and occult nationalism were exceedingly porous. Many of the far-right esotericist groupings of the interwar period drew on the root race doctrine which Steiner had done so much to promote, and this obscure body of ideas had an undeniable impact on Nazi thought. This point is borne out by numerous other scholars. James Webb writes: “there is absolutely no doubt that Hitler believed in a theory of occult evolution of a Theosophical type.” (Webb, The Occult Establishment, Chicago 1976, p. 313) Webb also documents, in detail, several important areas of overlap – race theory, Atlantis, Aryans, among others – between anthroposophy and theosophy on the one hand and the belief systems of the Nazi leadership, particularly Hitler, Himmler, and Rosenberg, on the other.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
If such scholarship is still too “biased” for Waage, he might prefer to consult the work of Eduard Gugenberger and Roman Schweidlenka, who have many nice things to say about Steiner and in general present him as an honorable exception to the otherwise dismal political record of esotericist thinkers (see Gugenberger & Schweidlenka, Mutter Erde – Magie und Politik, Vienna 1987, pp. 135-145). But even these sympathetic commentators emphasize that “Steiner posited a strictly hierarchical evolutionary chain” based on the root race model, with “Germanic-Nordic” peoples at the top (ibid. p. 144). They go on to remark that in Steiner’s anthroposophy, his “own race and own culture appear as the currently highest stage of humanity’s spiritual development” (ibid. p. 145). Gugenberger and Schweidlenka themselves point out the obvious racism and justification of social injustice which anthroposophy thereby propagates under the guise of spiritual enlightenment. It is hence only to be expected that contemporary neo-Nazis draw substantially on Steiner’s teachings.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
Ignoring all of this evidence, Waage nonetheless categorically denies the ideological parallels between anthroposophy and National Socialism, particularly its esoteric and environmentalist variants. To reassure readers of Humanist that we have not cited historical sources selectively, we urge those curious about this philosophical affinity to check our interpretation against the standard historiography on the Nazi worldview and its ideological origins. Even those works which mention Steiner merely in passing, as one among many contributors to right-wing authoritarian demagoguery, will serve to correct Waage’s impression that Steiner was simply “a rational humanist.”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
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2. The 1922 incident. Waage writes that “Steiner himself was the victim of an attempted assassination by the Nazi movement in 1922” as proof that Steiner was a conscientious opponent of Nazism. Before reviewing this very revealing 1922 event, we must remark on the peculiar logic invoked here. If Waage thinks that the identity of a public figure’s assassin tells us something definitive about the victim’s identity, then he must conclude that Trotsky was not a Bolshevik and Rabin was not a Jew. Perhaps Waage also believes that Nazi leaders Ernst Röhm and Gregor Strasser were really anti-Nazi, since Hitler had them killed in 1934. But in fact this point is moot, because Waage gets the relevant details of the 1922 incident wrong in the first place. What actually happened in Munich in May, 1922, was that a group of right-wing thugs disrupted a large public lecture by Steiner and apparently tried to physically assault him after he had finished speaking, but were beaten back by Steiner’s supporters. To call this lecture-hall brawl an “attempted assassination” is unsubstantiated hyperbole, as there is no evidence that Steiner’s attackers intended to kill him.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Nor was there any direct involvement by “the Nazi movement”; anthroposophist sources indicate instead that Steiner’s would-be assailants belonged to a rival far-right outfit.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> These facts are easily available in standard anthroposophist descriptions of the incident.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Waage’s overwrought version of the event is also flatly contradicted by anthroposophical eyewitness accounts.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
Although anthroposophists frequently try to recast Steiner as an anti-Hitler martyr by pointing to the 1922 incident, the facts of the event do not support this interpretation. The confrontation took place at the Vier Jahreszeiten hotel, where Steiner chose to give his Munich speech. From 1919 onward this hotel was a notorious gathering point for Munich’s ultranationalist far right; it housed the headquarters of the Thule Society, one of the most militant völkisch groups, and was indeed owned by Thule members.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Some contemporary anthroposophists even claim that Steiner’s attackers belonged to the Thule Society.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> But no matter who was in fact responsible for the aborted disruption of Steiner’s lecture, his own choice of venue is difficult to explain if one views Steiner simply as an anti-nationalist who abjured far right politics. Furthermore, several prominent Thule Society members had direct ties to Steiner and anthroposophy, including Rudolf Hess, anthroposophy’s chief ally during the Third Reich.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
How are we to make sense of this convoluted situation? As we have already indicated, in the interwar period the organizational outlines of the reactionary nationalist-occult spectrum were thoroughly porous, with competing groups displaying a substantial overlap in membership and ideology. Anthroposophy was a part of this spectrum, as were several of the direct precursors to the Nazis. Goodrick-Clarke offers an illuminating example of this crossover: In 1923, immediately after moving to Germany, the Russian antisemitic conspiracy theorist and occultist Gregor Schwartz-Bostunitsch “became an enthusiastic Anthroposophist” (Occult Roots of Nazism, p. 170). By the end of the decade Schwartz-Bostunitsch had turned on anthroposophy, seeing it as yet another cog in the international occult conspiracy; he later became an officer in the SS.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
Such examples are anything but isolated, as the literature on German esoteric politics shows. The constant intermingling of right-wing and esoteric groups is a major theme of Webb’s Occult Establishment, and the book includes a thoughtful exploration of both the overlaps and the mutual hostilities between Steiner and his followers and the militant völkisch forces. Webb concludes that “Steiner was not really alien to völkisch thought,” and shows that “the völkisch reaction [against Steiner] was an admission that both camps were operating on the same level. And a proportion of the völkisch rage came from the realization that here [in anthroposophy] was another vision of the universe which claimed to be ‘spiritual’.” (p. 290) The outbreak of hostilities between völkisch groups and anthroposophy was not due to fundamental differences between the two currents, but on the contrary to their marked ideological proximity – indeed it was precisely these basic ideological affinities which made them rivals in the first place.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Thus the lessons to be drawn from the 1922 incident point toward, not away from, the thesis of mutual influence by early Nazis and anthroposophists.
In addition to misrepresenting and misunderstanding the 1922 incident, Waage makes two further points about Steiner and the Nazis which he thinks are proof of Steiner’s anti-Nazi credentials: Steiner’s 1920 criticism of the misuse of the swastika, and Hitler’s 1921 criticism of Steiner’s harmful spiritual influence. Both of these claims rest on a basic incomprehension of the historical context. Waage quotes a brief remark by Steiner, made “already in 1920,” about “the beastliness that goes on in Germany under the swastika banners.” Waage gives an erroneous date for this quote; Steiner actually said these words on 10 September 1923 (see Rhythmen im Kosmos und in Menschenwesen. Wie kommt man zum Schauen der geistigen Welt? GA 350, p. 276), although he did make another revealing remark about the Swastika in 1920.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> But mixed-up citations aside, it is unlikely that any comment on the use of the swastika in 1920 was directed against the Nazi party as such. That party was not officially formed until April, 1920, and remained minuscule and largely unknown for some time. Moreover, the Nazis did not adopt the swastika emblem until the summer of 1920, and the distinctive swastika banners were not designed until two years later (William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, New York 1960, 43-44).
In fact, when we checked the citation Waage gives, we found this: “This symbol [the swastika] which the Indian or old Egyptian once looked to when he spoke of his sacred Brahman, this symbol is now to be seen on the [Russian] ten thousand ruble note! Those who are making grand politics there know how to influence the human soul. They know what the triumphal procession of the swastika means – this swastika that a large number of people in Europe are already wearing – but they do not want to listen to that which strives to understand, out of the most important symptoms, the secrets of today’s historical development." (Steiner, Geisteswissenschaft als Erkenntnis der Grundimpulse sozialer Gestaltung GA 199, p. 161; speech 27.08.1920) On the basis of Waage’s own citation, Steiner opposed the ostensible use of the swastika by the Bolsheviks; he makes no mention at all of the Nazis.
Still, is it not possible that Steiner was expressing a general hostility to the racist thinking associated even then with the swastika? That is similarly unlikely. Consider another of Steiner’s critical comments on the misuse of the swastika as a political symbol, this one from a lecture in Dornach in 1924: “The Asian cannot understand concepts like the European has; instead the Asians wants images. These abstractions, these concepts which the European has, the Asian does not want those, they hurt his brain, he does not want them. And a symbol like, for example, the swastika, this symbol – it was an ancient sun symbol – was present all throughout Asia. The old Asians still remember this. Certain Bolshevik politicians were clever enough, just like the German Völkischen, to use this ancient swastika as their symbol. This makes a much bigger impression on Asians than all of Marxism does. Marxism consists of concepts for thinking; that doesn’t make an impression on these people. But such a symbol, that makes an impression on these people.” (Steiner, Geschichte der Menschheit, p. 261)<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> It would be obtuse to describe a passage like this as an admonition against racist politics.
What of Hitler’s early criticism of Steiner? Waage quotes a 1921 article by Hitler which, in Waage’s rendering, accuses Steiner of “ruining people’s normal spiritual basis.” To take this brief remark as a considered rejection of Steiner’s philosophy is to misunderstand both the quotation and its broader context. Waage’s truncated quote gives the impression that the passage is a general denunciation of the deleterious effects of Steiner’s spiritual doctrines. In fact Hitler’s article from March 15, 1921 – the only recorded reference to Steiner in Hitler’s writings during Steiner’s lifetime – is directed not against Steiner, but against the German foreign minister Walter Simons. (See Adolf Hitler, Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen 1905-1924, Stuttgart 1980, 348-353) Hitler mentions Steiner merely as a “friend” of Simons, evidently convinced that Simons was somehow influenced by Steiner.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> As one might expect from a practiced demagogue, Hitler’s criticism of the foreign minister, and by extension of Steiner, bears little relationship to either figure’s actual politics.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Indeed anthroposophists at the time leveled the same charges at Simons as Hitler did.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Steiner himself, for that matter, unequivocally condemned Simons in extremely strong terms for the very same actions as Hitler did.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> While Hitler’s rhetorical jibe shows contempt for Steiner, it tells us nothing about the conceptual continuities and discontinuities between their respective belief systems.
Hitler was generally impatient with would-be spiritual reformers like Steiner because he thought they distracted attention from the real struggle in the political realm. This scarcely indicates a fundamental philosophical hostility toward Steiner’s teachings; indeed Hitler frequently made similar criticisms of loyal Nazi party members. Consider distinguished historian George Mosse’s discussion of an analogous case, that of Steiner’s fellow cosmic spiritualist Artur Dinter: “Even as early as Mein Kampf Hitler severely criticised Volkish ‘religious reformers.’ Considering Hitler’s own view of nature mysticism and the ‘secret science,’ this might seem contradictory. However, his reasons for such criticism are illuminating. The Volkish leaders in general were in his eyes ‘sectarians’ who must be crushed by the true ‘movement,’ but specifically these reformers weakened the fight against the common enemy: Jewry. They scattered the forces that were needed to wage this battle. Basically, Hitler’s criticism of such men as Dinter was that they failed to focus their ideology on the Jews. This leads once more to our thesis that Hitler transformed the German revolution, of which many Volkish adherents dreamt, into an anti-Jewish revolution, and thereby concretized and objectified an ideology that had been too vague for the purposes of a mass movement. The spiritualist and theosophical ideas were thus relegated to the background and their adherents silenced or ignored.” (Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology, New York 1964, pp. 306-307)<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The historical record simply does not support Waage’s interpretation of the passing insults traded between Steiner and Hitler, and Waage’s interpretation is utterly incompatible with Steiner’s own quite explicit statements. When understood in their historical context, the sometimes nasty exchanges between Steiner and völkisch leaders, far from exonerating Steiner, actually provide further evidence of the extent to which he contributed to that “vague ideology” which Hitler later put into practice.
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3. Repudiation of anthroposophist collaborators. Waage informs us that “the leader of the Steiner schools in Germany who held the schools open until 1941 with the approval of the regime, was after the war expelled from all Steiner schools.” Waage does not name this person, but the context makes clear that he must mean either René Maikowski or Elisabeth Klein, who led the negotiations with Nazi education officials to keep the Waldorf schools operating as long as possible. The notion that Klein or Maikowski were expelled from the Waldorf movement after the war is preposterous. Maikowski was the central figure in re-establishing the Hannover Waldorf school after the war, and Klein taught at the school from 1950 until 1965.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Both were very active in the broader Waldorf movement after 1945, publishing in its journals, helping establish new schools, and training other teachers. Both received emphatic support from anthroposophy’s headquarters in Dornach.
Waage would have his readers believe that open Nazi collaborators were unwelcome within organized anthroposophy after the war. The very opposite was the case. Günther Wachsmuth continued without interruption to occupy the highest office in international anthroposophy, despite his expressed admiration for the Nazis. Nor is there any record of measures against Erhard Bartsch, chief promoter of biodynamic agriculture, SS collaborator and Hitler fan. Many former Nazis went on to renowned anthroposophical careers after 1945, including Friedrich Benesch, Ernst Harmstorf, Heimo Rau, Gotthold Hegele, Werner Voigt, and Udo Renzenbrink. Even Uwe Werner, with his access to internal documents and his evident eagerness to include every last exculpatory detail imaginable, concedes that anthroposophists undertook no collective soul-searching after 1945: “Curiously, the anthroposophists did not discuss or describe in detail their behavior during the Nazi period directly after the year 1945.” (Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, p. 2) Indeed he emphasizes that after the war anthroposophists “more or less consciously refused to revive controversies about the behavior of some anthroposophists during the Nazi period.” (ibid.) Werner does not note a single exception to this policy. He explicitly states that the only postwar recriminations of any kind “were certain barely expressed reservations about individuals.” (ibid. p. 364)
Far from pursuing a general reckoning with the Nazis in their midst, postwar anthroposophists got back to business as usual and stifled any discussion of the more sordid aspects of their past. To this day the vast majority of anthroposophists completely deny their extensive record of collusion with the Nazis. Nor is this record, as Waage suggests, a matter of a few wayward figures like Maikowski or Klein.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Werner’s work alone – quite against its author’s intentions – provides copious evidence of just how widespread this collusion was; in the course of the book he lists a range of named individuals who were both active anthroposophists and Nazi party members. He also inadvertently shows that the extent of the organizational and personnel overlap between the Anthroposophical Society and the Nazi party was significant enough to concern the anti-esoteric faction of the Nazis, and reveals that the anthroposophist leadership was willing to go to great lengths to protect the party members in its ranks (see, e.g., Werner p. 72). Obviously not a few anthroposophists wanted to remain Nazis in good standing. Moreover, anthroposophist loyalty to their Nazi comrades continued after the defeat of the Third Reich. Walter Darré’s lawyer at Nuremberg was the anthroposophist Hans Merkel; he remained a close confidante of the notorious racial theorist and former minister in Hitler’s cabinet until the end of Darré’s life. Merkel was also the attorney for Nazi war criminal Otto Ohlendorf. And after Ohlendorf was hanged for the murder of 90,000 Jews, the anthroposophist pastor Haverbeck presided at his funeral. Neither repentant nor rueful, postwar anthroposophists were at least consistent in their political allegiances.
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Alas, mistakes such as these are not the worst of Waage’s errors. He appears to be entirely unfamiliar with even well-known aspects of the history of the anthroposophical movement during the Third Reich. Waage writes that “there was allegedly supposed to be a bio-dynamic garden” at the Dachau concentration camp. Allegedly? Supposed to be? We hope that Waage is not one of those anthroposophists who believes that there were ‘allegedly supposed to be’ gas chambers at Auschwitz. The biodynamic garden at Dachau was hardly “alleged,” it was very real, and it was overseen by an anthroposophist, Franz Lippert. It is discussed extensively in a very wide array of both anthroposophical and scholarly sources.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Indeed it is described at length in one of the sources Waage himself touts.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Waage’s complete ignorance of all of this easily accessible information is nothing short of astonishing. Waage has somehow managed to convince himself that Anthroposophy and Ecofascism presented a “simple” version of the history of anthroposophical entwinement with Nazism; this misunderstanding of the article appears to be based on Waage’s own starkly simplistic and startlingly uninformed conception of history. In reality, the history recounted in the article is highly complex and contradictory, and anthroposophists and their defenders would do well to recognize at long last the complexities and contradictions in their own past.
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Waage devotes much of his reply to Anthroposophy and Ecofascism to issues that the article did not address, such as the benevolent activities of Waldorf schools in various countries around the globe. While it is difficult to see what these matters have to do with the relationship between anthroposophy and ecofascism, Waage seems to think they count as refutations of the article. He says that its “perfidious accusations” against anthroposophy are harmful to “teachers, pupils and parents” of Waldorf schools. We don’t understand how questioning the ideology of an ideologically oriented school can be harmful to anyone; surely it would be more harmful to leave the ideology unquestioned.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> We hope that the lesson Waage learned at his Waldorf school is not that anthroposophists are always right and their critics always wrong. Our own experience, at any rate, is rather different. <![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
Waage also makes much of the recent report by Dutch anthroposophists which purports to exonerate Steiner of the charge of racism. Incredibly, he takes this report as an example of anthroposophists grappling candidly with their compromised past. Waage himself admits that Steiner said a number of “absurdly grotesque and outrageous” things about blacks, Asians, native people, etc., but discounts these utterances because they were supposedly “marginal” to Steiner’s core beliefs. Waage does not seem to have reflected on the fundamental divergence between his own position, which is ethically incoherent, and the position staked out in the Dutch report, which is empirically incoherent. It would be one thing if the Dutch commission had concluded that, on balance, anthroposophy is not necessarily a racist doctrine. But this is not the conclusion the Dutch commission came to. Instead their report, as Waage himself notes, determined that “no race theory or racist views can be attributed to Steiner.” We repeat: in the commission’s opinion, which Waage appears to endorse, Rudolf Steiner held no racist views whatsoever, and his writings do not contain any race theory.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
Let us note, first, that this is a bold departure from previous anthroposophist apologetics, which imagined that Steiner’s racism was forgivable because it was a “product of its time” – an interesting argument in itself, since it can be used to justify so many twentieth century atrocities.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Until now, the anthroposophist attitude toward Steiner’s racism was: ignore it and it will go away. But with the Dutch report this stance of silent complicity has given way to one of pure and absolute denial. Rudolf Steiner, we are now told, never uttered a racist word in his life. We are dismayed that humanists would join in such a specious pretense. To claim that Steiner held no racist views is simply a sign of dishonesty, ignorance, or bad faith. A person who is free of racist views cannot possibly say things like “the Negro race does not belong in Europe,” “transplanting black people to Europe is horrible,” “the white race is the spiritually creative race,” and “concepts hurt the Asian’s brain,” and cannot conceivably call aboriginal peoples “degenerate,” “decadent,” and “stunted”. These statements admit of no non-racist interpretation. Steiner made each of these statements, and expressed similar sentiments over and over again, from a position of professed moral authority. To absolve such a practice is incompatible with humanist values.
But even this dismal instance of willful ignorance is surpassed by the belief that Steiner’s written works contain no racial theory. To appreciate just how intellectually threadbare this posture is, let us briefly recapitulate: Steiner was the chief public spokesperson for one of the largest branches of theosophy for a full decade. One of the primary original contributions theosophy made to the occult canon was the doctrine of root races. Steiner adopted the root race doctrine wholesale into anthroposophy. That comprehensive doctrine divides the human family into five root races (Wurzelrassen, sometimes also named Hauptrassen or Grundrassen, principal or primary races), with two more root races to appear in the distant future. Each root race is further stratified into sub-races (Unterrassen). These categories are biological (Steiner calls them “hereditary”) as well as spiritual. The racial classifications are not normatively neutral; they are arranged in ascending order of spiritual development, with the fifth root race, the “Aryan race,” and within that root race the “Germanic-Nordic sub-race,” at the top of the hierarchy. This hierarchy, in turn, is an integral component of the cosmic order. These ideas are explicitly laid out in great detail and with emphatic repetition in numerous books, pamphlets, articles and lectures written and published by Rudolf Steiner. Yet somehow, Waage assures us, they do not constitute a race theory.
To anyone who has tried to engage anthroposophists and their defenders in dialogue and critique, such dubious apologetics are all too recognizable. There is a growing group of voices that have raised challenging questions about anthroposophy’s political heritage, and these voices have for the most part not been met with an honest response. When faced with logic and fact, anthroposophy and its defenders have nowhere to turn but denial of what everyone else knows to be true. When confronted with public scrutiny and scholarly inquiry, anthroposophy and its defenders have no reply but derision and evasion. These are the familiar habits of sectarians and cultists, and they threaten to turn every attempt at critical debate into a travesty of reason. To participate in such a travesty is a form of self-deception and self-debasement unworthy of any humanist. Our hope is that a sober assessment of the historical entwinement of anthroposophy and ecofascism will challenge anthroposophists and their defenders to ask themselves if the belief system they admire can be extricated from this poisonous legacy. If it cannot, we hope they will have the courage to leave anthroposophy behind.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Peter Staudenmaier, “Anthroposophy and Ecofascism”, Humanist (Oslo) 2/2000; Peter Normann Waage, “Humanism and Polemical Populism”, Humanist 3/2000. Waage’s essay may be found here:
http://uncletaz.com/waage/waagenglish1.html Readers unfamiliar with the context of this exchange may wish to consult Peter Zegers, “The Dark Side of Political Ecology”, Humanist 2/2000, and Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier, Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience, Edinburgh and San Francisco 1995 (Norwegian edition: Økofascisme: Lærdom fra Tysklands erfaringer, Porsgrunn 1997). In the context of the exchange with Waage in the journal Humanist, Peter Staudenmaier and Peter Zegers agreed to refer to Waage as a non-anthroposophist. Waage is in fact a longstanding and prominent Norwegian anthroposophist, writing for anthroposophical journals, editing anthroposophical periodicals, publishing books on anthroposophists with anthroposophical presses, translating Steiner’s work into Norwegian, and so forth. Readers surprised by this may wish to consult the celebratory profile of Waage in Das Goetheanum, June 2005.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In our original exchange, Waage claimed to be unable to find this passage in the Norwegian translation of Steiner’s autobiography. The sentence above is from the authorized English translation of the book. In the original the sentence reads: “Nun nahm ich damals an den nationalen Kämpfen lebhaften Anteil, welche die Deutschen in Österreich um ihre nationale Existenz führten.” (Rudolf Steiner, Mein Lebensgang, original edition Dornach 1925, p. 132) We offered our own translation thus: “At this time I was enthusiastically active in the struggles of the Germans in Austria for their national existence.” We also noted that the central phrase could be alternatively translated as “deeply sympathetic”. Existing anthroposophist translations support our reading and contradict Waage’s reading. The Italian edition of the book, for example, renders the passage as follows: “in quel tempo, prendendo io parte viva alla lotta che i Tedeschi avevano da sostenere in Austria per la loro esistenza nazionale” (Steiner, La Mia Vita, Milan 1937, p. 147). Since the original article cited the German edition of the book, and since Waage reads German and has access to Steiner’s collected works in the original, his insinuation that this quote was concocted strikes us as peculiar, to say the least.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Langbehn’s book was the bible of the right-wing nationalist völkisch movement, a forerunner to the Nazis, during the period of Steiner’s active involvement in pan-German circles. Steiner offers, of all things, a stylistic critique of the book, never once mentioning its aggressive antisemitism or its baleful political and cultural influence within German-speaking Europe. For Steiner’s further comments on the book, many of them remarkably positive, see Steiner, Kunstgeschichte als Abbild innerer geistiger Impulse, pp. 141-144. See also Steiner’s extremely positive remarks on Paul de Lagarde: Steiner, Aus schicksaltragender Zeit, pp. 224-225, and Steiner, Unsere Toten, pp. 82-92. For an overview of Langbehn’s impact see Peter Pulzer, The Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria, New York 1964, chapter 25; for an extraordinarily insightful analysis of both Langbehn and Lagarde see Fritz Stern, The Politics of Cultural Despair, Berkeley 1961; cf. also Doris Mendlewitsch, Volk und Heil: Vordenker des Nationalsozialismus im 19. Jahrhundert, Rheda 1988, pp. 74-115 on Langbehn and pp. 116-155 on Lagarde, as well as Ulrich Sieg, Deutschlands Prophet: Paul de Lagarde und die Ursprünge des modernen Antisemitismus, Munich 2007.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Rudolf Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte 1887-1901, Dornach 1966 (GA volume 31; “GA” refers to the Gesamtausgabe, Steiner’s collected works published by the Rudolf Steiner Nachlaßverwaltung in Dornach, Switzerland), pp. 111-120. These early nationalist articles from Steiner’s Vienna period are filled with prejudice against what Steiner called “the Slavic enemy” (GA 31, p. 116), and they demand that the political agenda of the Habsburg empire be set by “the exclusively national elements of the German people in Austria,” namely “the pan-Germans” (GA 31, p. 143). Waage cited this very same volume in his reply to the article; its contents seem to have escaped his notice.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See GA 31, pp. 118-119 and 143-144, among others.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See, for example, GA 31 pp. 214-216 and 361-362, as well as the 1898 essay “Über deutschnationale Kampfdichter in Österreich” (“On Pan-German Poets of the Struggle in Austria”) in Rudolf Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Literatur1884-1902, Dornach 1971 (GA 32), pp. 448-449.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Waage claims that Steiner’s 1916 book Gedanken während der Zeit des Krieges (“Thoughts During Wartime”) does not advocate German militarism. In fact this book endorses the belligerent Central Powers in unambiguous terms: “The Germans could foresee that this war would one day be fought against them. It was their duty to arm themselves for it.” (GA 24, p. 321) On several occasions Steiner also spoke on the conspiracy against Germany by international Freemasonry and Theosophy: “I have drawn your attention to the demonstrable fact that in the 1890’s certain occult brotherhoods in the West discussed the current world war, and that moreover the disciples of these occult brotherhoods were instructed with maps which showed how Europe was to be changed by this war. English occult brotherhoods in particular pointed to a war that had to come, that they positively steered toward, that they set the stage for.” (Zeitgeschichtliche Betrachtungen. Das Karma der Unwahrhaftigkeit. Erster Teil. GA 173, p. 22). During the war, Steiner sought to establish a public relations operation in Switzerland to promote the cause of the Central Powers; see Christoph Lindenberg, Rudolf Steiner: Eine Biographie, Stuttgart 1997, p. 574.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Ernst zu Reventlow, Politische Vorgeschichte des Großen Krieges, Berlin 1919; and Adolf Bartels, Rasse und Volkstum, Weimar 1920, chapter 25: “Die Ideale Mr. Wilsons”. This hostility is not surprising, since Wilson’s self-determination program presented a serious threat to German territorial claims; the break-up of the Habsburg lands along national lines was the death knell for ethnic German predominance in Eastern Europe. Contrary to Waage’s implication, Steiner’s invective against Wilson did not put him in pleasant political company.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The quoted passage is from the unsigned synopsis of the book which precedes Steiner’s text; even if these words are not directly Steiner’s own, they clearly express his thinking on the matter.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> It is strange that Waage chooses to see Steiner’s myopic emphasis on German national concerns as an attempt “to preserve a multicultural Central Europe,” since Steiner’s explicit model was an Austria-Hungary under German domination. Steiner himself was not the least bit shy about his personal allegiance, within the threatening “multicultural” milieu of the Habsburg empire, to what he called his “folk community.” He described himself as “German by descent and racial affiliation” and as a “true-born German-Austrian,” and explained: “In these decades it was of decisive importance for the Austro-German with spiritual aspirations that – living outside the folk community to which Lessing, Goethe, Herder etcetera belonged, and transplanted into a wholly alien environment over the frontier – he imbibed there the spiritual perception of Goethe, Schiller, Lessing and Herder.” (Symptom to Reality pp. 162, 163, 168) This is a conspicuously monocultural viewpoint, indeed a forthrightly ethnocentric one. Comparable passages abound throughout Steiner’s works; see e.g. his description of how the “German character” of Vienna was ruined by an unfortunate influx of Slavs (“das eindringende Slawentum”), which regrettably turned Vienna into an “international” and “cosmopolitan” city: Steiner, Soziale Ideen - Soziale Wirklichkeit - Soziale Praxis, GA 337a, pp. 240-241.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> For further discussion of Jacobowski see the fine analysis by Jonathan Hess, “Fictions of a German-Jewish Public: Ludwig Jacobowski's Werther the Jew and Its Readers” Jewish Social Studies Vol. 11, No. 2, Winter 2005, pp. 202-230. Cf. also Sander Gilman, Jewish Self-Hatred, Baltimore 1986, p. 224; and Katherine Roper, German Encounters with Modernity, London 1991, pp. 153-157.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See also Steiner’s effusive passages about Treitschke in Steiner, Zeitgeschichtliche Betrachtungen, 109-118; as well as Steiner, Aufsätze über die Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus und zur Zeitlage, pp. 283-287; Steiner, Erziehungskunst (GA 295), pp. 74-75 and 83; and Steiner, Konferenzen mit den Lehrern der Freien Waldorfschule vol. 3 (GA 300c), pp. 31-32.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In our estimation, this is also true of the handful of articles that Steiner wrote for the Verein zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus in 1901, in the aftermath of Jacobowski’s unexpected death. See GA 31, pp. 382-420.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In a second series of lectures in Oslo in 1921, collected under the title “The Future Spiritual Mission of Norway and Sweden,” Steiner explicitly re-affirmed his lectures on “national souls” from eleven years before. He did not in any way modify or repudiate their racist content; on the contrary, he renewed his emphasis on the special mission of “the Nordic spirit” (see Steiner, Nordische und Mitteleuropäische Geistimpulse, Dornach 1968).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Consider, as one example among many, the following passage, where Steiner explains to his followers the crucial contrast between racial progress and racial decadence: “All of you were once Atlanteans, and these Atlantean bodies looked very different, as I have already described. The same soul that was once in an Atlantean body somewhere is now in your body. But not all bodies have been prepared, in the way yours have been, by a small number of colonists who long ago migrated from the West to the East. Those who remained behind, who bound themselves up with their race, they degenerated, while the advanced ones founded new civilizations. The last stragglers on the way to the east, the Mongols, still retain something of the culture of the Atlanteans. In the same way, the bodies of those people who do not develop themselves in a progressive fashion will continue into the next era and will constitute the Chinese of the future. There will once again be decadent peoples. After all, the souls that inhabit Chinese bodies are those that will once again have to incarnate in such races, because they had too strong an attraction to that race. The souls that are today within you will later incarnate in bodies that come from people who work in the way I have indicated, and who beget the bodies of the future, just as the first colonists from Atlantis once did. And those who cling to the ordinary, who do not want to join with the movement toward the future, they will become fused with their race. There are people who want to stick to the familiar, who want nothing to do with progress; they refuse to listen to those who lead the way beyond the race to newer and newer forms of humanity.” Rudolf Steiner, Menschheitsentwickelung und Christus-Erkenntnis, Dornach 1981, p. 186. This, then, is what Waage calls “a fundamentally anti-racist viewpoint”.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> For further examples see among many others Steiner, “The Manifestation of the Ego in the Different Races of Men” in Steiner, The Being of Man and His Future Evolution; Steiner, “Die Grundbegriffe der Theosophie: Menschenrassen” in Steiner, Die Welträtsel und die Anthroposophie; Steiner, “Farbe und Menschenrassen” in Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde; Steiner, The Apocalypse of St. John; Steiner, Grundelemente der Esoterik; Steiner, The Occult Significance of Blood; Steiner, Christus und die menschliche Seele, pp. 92-93; Steiner, Über Gesundheit und Krankheit, p. 189; Steiner, Das Hereinwirken geistiger Wesenheiten in den Menschen, pp. 174-195; Steiner, Menschheitsentwickelung und Christus-Erkenntnis, pp. 243-245.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> We suspect that this stubborn inability to recognize the plain meaning of Steiner’s words is related to Waage’s credulousness toward Steiner as a unique source of spiritual inspiration, rather than a historical figure. He even takes at face value Steiner’s patently insincere disapproval of his followers’ “blind obedience.” Every third-rate guru makes such cheerful disavowals of personal authority as a matter of course, because they are effective in disarming gullible recruits. More to the point, anthroposophists as a rule vehemently refuse to question their guru’s spiritual authority, and regard criticism of his unsavory political views as slander. That Waage should adopt this attitude himself is both unsettling and revealing.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Readers familiar with Steiner’s epistemology will find this question superfluous, as anthroposophy explicitly denigrates “criticism” and “judgement” while celebrating “reverent veneration” of ostensible spiritual virtues, and rejects “intellectual effort” in favor of “immediate spiritual perception.” (See Steiner, Wie erlangt man Erkenntnisse der höheren Welten? pp. 6, 32; and Aus der Akasha-Chronik p. 3) Short of schism or apostasy, anthroposophy simply offers no grounds on which its adherents might coherently revise or refute its inherited doctrines. For a judicious assessment of the anti-rational and authoritarian implications of Steiner’s teachings, see Sven Ove Hansson, “Is Anthroposophy Science?” Conceptus XXV no. 64 (1991). On Steiner’s contribution to the irrationalist cultural currents of his day, see Paul Forman, “Weimar Culture, Causality, and Quantum Theory” in Russell McCormmach, Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences volume 3, Philadelphia 1971, pp. 11-12 and 105.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> For similar passages see Ernst Uehli, Atlantis und das Rätsel der Eiszeitkunst, Stuttgart 1957; Uehli, Kultur und Kunst Ägyptens, Ein Isisgeheimnis, Dornach 1955; Uehli, Eine neue Gralsuche, Stuttgart 1921.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Much of this exceedingly odd aspect of Waage’s article seems to stem from his own political naiveté; Waage is in this respect a typical befuddled liberal-cum-‘progressive,’ unable to distinguish left from right. The high point of his confusion comes in his unintentionally hilarious comparison of Steiner and Bookchin. Bookchin, who had nothing but contempt for Steiner’s repellent social doctrines, would have had a fine time skewering Waage’s misapprehension of both populism and polemic, one of Bookchin’s favorite rhetorical devices. Polemic lays bare precisely the kind of hopelessly confused political vision which Waage proudly claims as his own.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> This fundamental aspect of Steiner’s social threefolding program is emphasized throughout the anthroposophical threefolding literature, a large body of work with which Waage appears to be entirely unfamiliar. For one especially revealing explanation see Albert Schmelzer, Die Dreigliederungsbewegung 1919, Stuttgart 1991, pp. 78-79.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Steiner, Westliche und östliche Weltgegensätzlichkeiten, GA 83, p. 302. Steiner’s followers have sometimes extended this analysis into a veritable celebration of capitalism under threefolding auspices; see e.g. Folkert Wilken, Das Kapital (1976), Wilken, The Liberation of Capital (1982); and for an illuminating earlier idiom see Folkert Wilken, Grundwahrheiten einer organischen Wirtschaft (1934). Equally telling examples can be found in Roman Boos’ musings on ‘social threefolding’ as “cooperative capitalism” and on “capital as an instrument of freedom” in Gegenwart March 1942; Boos, an early threefolding activist, attributes the same views to Steiner himself.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> This basic notion is trumpeted throughout Steiner’s work, so much so that it is virtually impossible to see how Waage could have missed it, assuming he has read any of Steiner’s publications on ‘social threefolding.’ Steiner’s followers faithfully repeat the same mantra throughout the anthroposophical literature on the topic; for one of numerous examples see Oskar Hermann, “Wirtschaftsdemokratie: Ein Zerrbild der Dreigliederung” Anthroposophie March 30, 1930, pp. 98-100. Steiner himself put it most succinctly: “Um Gottes willen keine Demokratie auf wirtschaftlichem Gebiet!” Steiner, Vom Einheitsstaat zum dreigliedrigen sozialen Organismus p. 165.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Steiner did on occasion speak derisively of “the old capitalism,” especially before proletarian audiences, and he sometimes promoted what he called “true socialism.” But he strictly distinguished his own ill-defined notions from the various practical proposals that grew out of the vigorous social struggle against capitalism after the war. Steiner considered such programs for a democratic transformation of economic life to be aberrant forms of “hyper-radicalism, which can only make people unhappy.” (Steiner quoted in Karl Heyer, Wer ist der deutsche Volksgeist?, Freiburg 1961, 187) He insisted that anthroposophy alone offered a viable basis for societal reconstruction; indeed “All knowledge, especially social knowledge, must be based on anthroposophical knowledge.” (Steiner in ibid. 188)
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Steiner firmly and repeatedly rejected the notion that the exploitation of labor arises “from the economic order of capitalism”; for him the problem “lies not in capitalism, but in the misuse of spiritual talents.” (Steiner, Der innere Aspekt des sozialen Rätsels, Dornach 1972, p. 82) His social vision was at times worthy of Thatcher or Reagan: “Individuals should gain advantage for themselves in the totally free struggle of competition.” (Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte GA 31, p. 285)
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> These ideas are repeated throughout the threefolding literature; see among many other examples Ernst Uehli’s pamphlet Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, Stuttgart 1922; Wilhelm Blume, “Vom organischen Aufbau der Volksgemeinschaft” in the journal Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, July 1919; Emil Leinhas, “Kapitalverwaltung im dreigliedrigen sozialen Organismus” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus February 1920.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> For better or worse, Waage is not alone in fundamentally misapprehending Steiner’s ‘social threefolding’ ideology. For a particularly egregious instance of left failure to understand Steiner, much less analyze his work and its political and economic significance, see the thoroughly credulous article by Guido Giacomo Preparata, “Perishable Money in a Threefold Commonwealth: Rudolf Steiner and the Social Economics of an Anarchist Utopia” Review of Radical Political Economics 38 (2006), 619-48. Preparata does at least manage to situate Steiner in the right gallery of economic charlatans, albeit backhandedly; not only is Preparata a fan of Steiner, but of Silvio Gesell as well, and even of the antisemitic theorist of “social credit,” C. H. Douglas. That this is what passes for radical economic thought in the twenty-first century is a dire sign indeed. For a very different view of both Steiner and Gesell see Robert Kurz, “Politische Ökonomie des Antisemitismus” Krisis 17 (1995), and for a critical analysis of Douglas see Derek Wall, “Social Credit: The Ecosocialism of Fools” Capitalism Nature Socialism 14 (2003). For an early instance of anthroposophist enthusiasm for Douglas and social credit see Owen Barfield, “The Relation between the Economics of C.H. Douglas and those of Rudolf Steiner” Anthroposophy: A Quarterly Review of Spiritual Science, vol. 8 no. 3 (1933), 272-285.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Waage fabricated another “quotation” by leaving out three essential words, without ellipsis, from the sentence in the original version of the article. Here is the complete quote with the three words in brackets: Anthroposophy is “en åpenlyst rasebasert lære som foregriper [viktige elementer i] det nazistiske verdensbilde med flere tiår.” (Humanist 2/00, p 38). (Anthroposophy is “a blatantly racist doctrine which anticipated [important elements of] the Nazi worldview by several decades”.)
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Quite apart from Waage’s evident lack of familiarity with Steiner’s published works, his puzzling remarks on Mein Kampf strongly suggest that he has simply never read the book. It would be preferable to view this as an instance of differing interpretations of the same text, but his stylistic evaluation – Waage opines that Hitler’s tome is full of “agitatorial fury” and the opposite of Steiner’s own “somewhat dry, long-winded style” – indicates that Waage may have only heard about Mein Kampf second hand, and never bothered to actually look at the work itself. Hitler’s style in Mein Kampf is, if anything, dry and long-winded. Even the compact edition of the book current during the Third Reich totals nearly 800 pages. Paragraph after paragraph plods on without a spark of fury. Were there perhaps no copies of Mein Kampf to be found at any libraries in Norway?
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Volkmar Wölk, “Neue Trends im ökofaschistischen Netzwerk” in Hethey and Katz, In Bester Gesellschaft, Göttingen 1991, 121. See also Wölk’s thorough study Natur und Mythos, Duisburg 1992, which examines in detail the relationship between anthroposophy and contemporary neofascist politics in Germany. For additional evidence of the striking parallels between the theosophical root-race doctrine and Hitler’s racial views, see Jackson Spielvogel and David Redles, “Hitler’s Racial Ideology: Content and Occult Sources” in Friedlander and Milton, Simon Wiesenthal Center Annual volume 3, Los Angeles 1986, and Jeffrey Goldstein, “On Racism and Anti-Semitism in Occultism and Nazism” in Livia Rothkirchen, Yad Vashem Studies XIII, Jerusalem 1979.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The Atlantis myth in particular played a significant role in this ideological cross-pollination. For background on Steiner’s lost-continent narrative, a central element in anthroposophy’s racial cosmology, see among others Franz Wegener, Das atlantidische Weltbild: Nationalsozialismus und Neue Rechte auf der Suche nach der versunkenen Atlantis, Gladbeck 2001; Arn Strohmeyer, Von Hyperborea nach Auschwitz, Cologne 2005; Sumathi Ramaswamy, The Lost Land of Lemuria: Fabulous Geographies, Catastrophic Histories, Berkeley 2004; L. Sprague de Camp, Lost Continents: The Atlantis Theme in History, Science and Literature, New York 1954; Joscelyn Godwin, Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival, London 1993; Burchard Brentjes, Atlantis: Geschichte einer Utopie, Cologne 1993; Richard Ellis, Imagining Atlantis, New York 1998; Paul Jordan, The Atlantis Syndrome, Stroud 2001; Klaus von See, “Nord-Glaube und Atlantis-Sehnsucht” in von See, Ideologie und Philologie, Heidelberg 2006, 91-117; Pierre Vidal-Naquet, “Atlantis and the Nations” Critical Inquiry, vol. 18 no. 2 (1992), 300-326; and Vidal-Naquet, The Atlantis Story, Exeter 2007. A fine analysis of esoteric versions of the Atlantis myth and its intertwinement with the Aryan myth can be found in Roberto Pinotti, “Continenti perduti ed esoterismo: prospettive tradizionali oltre il mito” in Pinotti, I continenti perduti (Milan: Mondadori, 1995), 306-56. For a sense of just how seriously anthroposophists today continue to take the myth of Atlantis, which they insist is not at all a myth but quite real, see for example Andreas Delor, Kampf um Atlantis: Ein Beitrag zur anthroposophischen Atlantis-Diskussion, Frankfurt 2004.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Regarding Steiner’s influence on the present-day extreme right, see among others Gugenberger and Schweidlenka, p. 245; Stefanie von Schnurbein and Justus Ulbricht, Völkische Religion und Krisen der Moderne, Würzburg 2001, pp. 411-412; Peter Kratz, Die Götter des New Age, Berlin 1994, p. 288; and Helmut Reinalter, Franko Petri, and Rüdiger Kaufmann, Das Weltbild des Rechtsextremismus, Innsbruck 1998, p. 207. Alongside such neo-fascist and Aryan supremacist groups there is also the far right wing of contemporary anthroposophy around the recently deceased Werner Georg Haverbeck, for whom Steiner is of course the primary inspiration. For a detailed examination of this ultraright anthroposophist tendency, see Jutta Ditfurth, Feuer in die Herzen, Hamburg 1992, pp. 217-228, and Janet Biehl’s essay in Biehl and Staudenmaier, Ecofascism.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In addition to the numerous studies cited in the original article and the others quoted here, readers may consult the following: Kurt Sontheimer, Antidemokratisches Denken in der Weimarer Republik, p. 57; Ulrich Linse, Barfüssige Propheten, p. 84; Martin Geyer, Verkehrte Welt, pp. 311-312; Fritz Stern, The Politics of Cultural Despair, p. 86; Gary Stark, Entrepreneurs of Ideology, p. 74; Richard Noll, The Jung Cult, pp. 50, 65, 77, 230; Puschner, Schmitz, and Ulbricht, Handbuch zur ‘Völkischen Bewegung’, pp. 127, 608; Hans Helms, Die Ideologie der anonymen Gesellschaft, pp. 278, 333-339; and Uwe Ketelsen, Literatur und Drittes Reich, p. 105; Michael Burleigh, Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics from the Great War to the War on Terror, pp. 20-21, 29-30. For context see above all Herman de Tollenaere, The Politics of Divine Wisdom: Theosophy and Labour, National, and Women’s Movements in Indonesia and South Asia, 1875-1947 (Nijmegen 1996), and Joscelyn Godwin, The Theosophical Enlightenment, Albany 1994.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Waage’s fanciful version of this event is contradicted by a wide variety of anthroposophist sources. Guenther Wachsmuth’s biography of Steiner, for example, describes the incident as an attempt by “a few hotheads, who had been confused by the usual untrue propaganda of our opponents, to disrupt the lectures with noise, turning out the lights, even personal threats to the speaker – methods which had become typical in that period of political chaos. It was only because he was protected by brave friends, especially [the anthroposophists] Dr. Noll and Dr. Büchenbacher, that Rudolf Steiner was kept safe from physical attack by these nasty fellows at his Munich lecture on May 15.” (Guenther Wachsmuth, Rudolf Steiners Erdenleben und Wirken, Dornach 1964, 470) Wachsmuth says nothing about an attempted assassination, and does not associate Steiner’s antagonists with the Nazis.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In contrast to Waage’s account, Uwe Werner writes: “On May 15, 1922, followers of Ludendorff [former general and competitor to Hitler for leadership of the Munich far right] planned to disrupt a lecture by Steiner in the Munich hotel Vier Jahreszeiten and provoke a melee. But Munich anthroposophists became aware of the plans beforehand and were able to react. Steiner was able to finish his lecture, and only afterwards was there a physical confrontation, in which the anthroposophists prevailed.” (Uwe Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, Munich 1999, p. 8) Werner, chief archivist at the Anthroposophical Society’s world headquarters in Switzerland, makes no mention of an assassination attempt or of the Nazis.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Christoph Lindenberg’s massive biography of Steiner, for example, provides a thorough account of the incident: Lindenberg, Rudolf Steiner: Eine Biographie, p. 770. Lindenberg says absolutely nothing about Nazis (or even Ludendorffers or indeed any völkisch agitators), much less about any assassination attempt; in fact Lindenberg does not mention any attempted physical attack on Steiner of any sort. Waage’s bizarre version of the event does, however, accord with the version promoted by anthroposophist and antisemitic conspiracy theorist Karl Heise, one of the more prolific crackpots in the history of the anthroposophical movement; see Heise, Der katholische Ansturm wider den Okkultismus, Leipzig 1923, p. 94. We urge skeptical readers to consult this tome by Heise (or any of Heise’s numerous works, for that matter) for a classic example of anthroposophist conspiracism in all its florid absurdity. Is this the kind of company that Waage generally prefers to keep?
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See for example the memoir by Elisabeth Klein, who was not only present at the 1922 event but was on stage with Steiner; Klein’s thorough description says nothing about any attempted assassination or about Nazis or even right-wingers, merely reporting that a “hostile group” tried to “disrupt the lecture” (Elisabeth Klein, Begegnungen, Freiburg 1978, pp. 45-46). See also the comprehensive contemporary report by Paul Baumann, “Dr. Rudolf Steiners Vortrag in München,” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus May 25, 1922, pp. 4-5, which does not mention the Nazis and says nothing at all about an assassination attempt or even an attempted physical attack on Steiner himself. In light of this extremely extensive, detailed, and credible counter-evidence, all from sources with impeccable anthroposophical credentials, it would be very interesting indeed to learn how Waage managed to reach the unfounded and fantastic conclusions stated in his article. Did he think historians would somehow fail to check his facts? More interesting still: Why exactly did he fail to check his own facts himself?
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Aside from the Thule Society, other far-right groups that met at the Vier Jahreszeiten during this period include the pan-German Alldeutscher Verband and the antisemitic Hammerbund. (See Reginald Phelps, “‘Before Hitler Came’: Thule Society and Germanen Orden,” Journal of Modern History (Chicago) volume 25 number 3, p. 252.)
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See, e.g., Gerhard Wehr, Rudolf Steiner, Freiburg 1982, 327. Wehr also reports a second-hand rumor that Steiner was “eighth or ninth” on a supposed right-wing hit list, but does not attribute these alleged assassination plans to any particular organization.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> A further Thule Society member who later used his position in the Nazi hierarchy to support anthroposophical endeavors was Hanns Georg Müller. On Müller’s role in the Thule Society see Hermann Gilbhard, Die Thule-Gesellschaft, Munich 1994, pp. 243-247. Müller went on to become a functionary in the Reichsleitung of the Nazi party, and after 1933 was the chief official in charge of Nazi Lebensreform efforts. In these positions he actively supported anthroposophists, and the biodynamic movement in particular, publishing anthroposophical works through his publishing house and vigorously promoting biodynamic agriculture in his Nazi journal Leib und Leben. He additionally headed the Nazi organization Deutsche Gesellschaft für Lebensreform, in which anthroposophists such as Erhard Bartsch and Franz Dreidax played leading roles.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> For further information on Schwartz-Bostunitsch and his relationship to anthroposophy see Michael Hagemeister, “Das Leben des Gregor Schwartz-Bostunitsch” in Karl Schlögel, ed., Russische Emigration in Deutschland 1918-1941, Berlin 1995, pp. 209-218.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Some historians view anthroposophy as virtually part of the völkisch movement. Helmut Zander, for example, makes a compelling case that anthroposophy represents one of the chief embodiments within the occult spectrum of “the continuity of völkisch thought” (Zander, “Sozialdarwinistische Rassentheorien aus dem okkulten Untergrund des Kaiserreichs” in Uwe Puschner, Walter Schmitz, and Justus Ulbricht, Handbuch zur ‘Völkischen Bewegung’ 1871-1918, München 1996, p. 226). We urge readers who find our own arguments too “polemical” to consult Zander’s work, a model of scholarly balance which reaches conclusions similar to our own.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The quote from 1923, which Waage mistakenly dates to 1920, reads: “On some mountain paths . . . one finds these symbols, swastikas, which are causing so much mischief in Germany these days [mit den heute in Deutschland so viel Unfug getrieben wird]. This swastika is worn by people who no longer have any idea that it was once a symbol which indicated to travelers: here are people who understand these things, who see not only with the physical eye but with the spiritual eye as well." (GA 350 p. 276; lecture 10.09.1923) Even if Steiner’s comment were directed at the Nazis, it would be at most an irritated complaint, not a principled criticism.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The passage appears as follows in the English translation of the book: “Asians do not care for the kind of thinking we have in Europe. They want images, like the images you see in the monasteries of Tibet. Asians want images. The abstract notions Europeans have are of no interest to them, they make their heads hurt, and they do not want them. A symbol such as the swastika, the ancient sun cross, was widely known in Asia, and the old Asians still remember it. Some Bolshevik government people had the clever idea of making the ancient swastika their symbol, juts like the nationalists in Germany. This makes much more of an impression on the Asians than any anything by way of Marxism. Marxism is a set of ideas that have to be thought, and this does not impress them. But such a sign, that does impress them.” Steiner, From Beetroot to Buddhism, London 1999, pp. 228-229.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Here is the full passage: Hitler calls Simons “an intimate friend of the Gnostic and Anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner, a supporter of the threefold structuring of the social organism and whatever they call all of these Jewish methods for destroying the normal frame of mind of the peoples” (Hitler, Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen 1905-1924, 350). Simons’ biographer has shown that the rumors of Steiner’s influence on Simons were based primarily on reports in the Berlin newspaper Vossische Zeitung; see Horst Gründer, Walter Simons als Staatsmann, Jurist und Kirchenpolitiker, Neustadt an der Aisch 1975, p. 64. These reports were officially denied at the time both by anthroposophists (statement by the Bund für Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus in Vossische Zeitung 3.5.1921) and by the Foreign Ministry (see Gründer, p. 64). In fact, Steiner’s disciples attacked Simons precisely for his ignorance of Steiner’s theories; see Ernst Boldt, Rudolf Steiner: Ein Kämpfer gegen seine Zeit, München 1921, p. 188.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Hitler’s article takes Simons to task for being insufficiently intransigent regarding post-war negotiations over the status of Upper Silesia. Despite Hitler’s typically exaggerated tone, his attack on Simons amounts to a disagreement over tactics, as the foreign minister was in fact the most hard-line member of the cabinet on the question of Upper Silesia (see Gründer, Walter Simons, pp. 153-156). Steiner’s own position was not at all inimical to German national interests in the province, as Peter Bierl’s analysis of Steiner’s engagement in Upper Silesia demonstrates (see Bierl, Wurzelrassen, Erzengel und Volksgeister, 125). Moreover, at the very same time as Hitler’s tirade against the foreign minister, anthroposophists assailed Simons in terms strikingly similar to Hitler’s own; see Boldt, Rudolf Steiner, p. 187. Thus Hitler’s sole public condemnation of Steiner is not only brief, parenthetical, and rather arcane, it is based entirely on a series of patently false assumptions about Steiner, his followers, and their politics. This does not, needless to say, constitute compelling evidence of either elementary incompatibility or enduring hostility between the Hitlerian and Steinerian visions of Germany’s mission.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In addition to the sources cited above, see e.g. Jürgen von Grone, “Mitteleuropäische Realpolitik” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus August 13, 1921, pp. 2-3, which harshly criticizes Simons for capitulating to “Wilsonism” in the negotiations over Upper Silesia; and Friedrich Engelmann, Ist die Dreigliederung undeutsch? Stuttgart 1921, p. 10, which denounces Simons as a pliable tool of the Entente.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Steiner, Die Anthroposophie und ihre Gegner (GA 255b), pp. 324-325; Steiner’s public lecture in Stuttgart from May 25, 1921. Here Steiner denies any influence on Simons and condemns his role in the Upper Silesia negotiations. See also the parallel passages in Steiner, Perspektiven der Menschheitsentwickelung (GA 204), pp. 123-124; lecture in Dornach, April 22, 1921. We cannot help wondering why Waage has completely ignored sources such as these.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> For further background on Dinter see George Kren and Rodler Morris, “Race and Spirituality: Arthur Dinter's Theosophical Antisemitism”, Holocaust and Genocide Studies vol. 6 (1991).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See e.g. René Maikowski, Schicksalswege auf der Suche nach dem lebendigen Geist, Freiburg 1980, pp. 167-188, and Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, p. 450. Klein’s prominent contributions to post-war anthroposophical publications can be readily discerned from anthroposophical reference works, e.g. Götz Deimann, ed., Die anthroposophischen Zeitschriften von 1903 bis 1985, Stuttgart 1987. On a side note: those inclined to doubt our characterization of Waage himself as an anthroposophist may wish to consult the several references in this volume to Waage as both contributor to and editor of anthroposophical periodicals.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In stark contrast to Waage’s evasiveness on the question of responsibility, one of the earliest analyses of Waldorf schools during the Third Reich warns against “dismissing the Waldorf movement’s deliberate proximity to National Socialism as a problem of personal mistakes and sympathies” (Achim Leschinsky, “Waldorfschulen im Nationalsozialismus”, Neue Sammlung: Zeitschrift für Erziehung und Gesellschaft vol. 23 no. 3, Stuttgart 1983, p. 272).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The biodynamic garden at Dachau was merely one of an entire network of biodynamic plantations established by the SS at various concentration camps. The scholarly literature on this topic extends back to the 1960s. Here is a sample: Enno Georg, Die wirtschaftlichen Unternehmungen der SS (Stuttgart 1963), for decades the standard historical work on SS economic enterprises, discusses the SS's biodynamic agriculture sites at the concentration camps on pp. 62-66, with special attention to the Dachau operation. Walter Wuttke-Groneberg’s work on alternative medicine in the Third Reich also covers the Dachau biodynamic plantation thoroughly; see e.g. Wuttke-Groneberg, “Von Heidelberg nach Dachau” in Gerhard Baader and Ulrich Schultz, eds, Medizin und Nationalsozialismus (Berlin 1980), pp. 113-138, particularly the section "Die Heilkräuterplantage im KZ Dachau" pp. 116-120. See also Walter Wuttke-Groneberg, “Nationalsozialistische Medizin: Volks- und Naturheilkunde auf "neuen Wegen"” in Heinz Abholz, ed, Alternative Medizin (Berlin 1983), which in addition to very useful information on the role of anthroposophical medicine in the Third Reich also examines the SS biodynamic plantations on pp. 43-44. Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn has thoroughly examined the topic in his work as well; see e.g. Wolschke-Bulmahn, “Biodynamischer Gartenbau, Landschaftsarchitektur und Nationalsozialismus,” Das Gartenamt 42 (1993), pp. 590-95 and 638-42. For yet another study see Robert Sigel, “Heilkräuterkulturen im KZ: Die Plantage in Dachau,” Dachauer Hefte 4 (1988). Last, there is a whole book on the SS biodynamic installations which discusses the Dachau garden at great length: Wolfgang Jacobeit and Christoph Kopke, Die biologisch-dynamische Wirtschaftsweise im KZ (Berlin 1999).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> For the standard anthroposophist perspective on the biodynamic farm at Dachau and Lippert’s role see Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, pp. 283-286 and 329-334. Another anthroposophical account is available in Arfst Wagner, “Franz Lippert und die Heilkräuterkulturen im KZ Dachau” Flensburger Hefte 32 (1991), pp. 54-55. For a much more historically informed account see Hermann Kaienburg, Die Wirtschaft der SS (Berlin 2003), pp. 771-855. On the biodynamic farm at the Ravensbrück concentration camp see Bernhard Strebel, Das KZ Ravensbrück: Geschichte eines Lagerkomplexes (Paderborn 2003), pp. 212-213.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> For a helpful summary on this issue see Klaus Prange, “Curriculum und Karma: Das anthroposophische Erziehungsmodell Rudolf Steiners” in Mission Klassenzimmer: Zum Einfluß von Religion und Esoterik auf Bildung und Erziehung (Aschaffenburg 2005), pp. 85-100.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> On a personal note, one of us, Peter Staudenmaier, was a student in Catholic schools for twelve years and has several priests in his family. Is he doing harm to himself or his relatives when he points out the various regressive, inhumane, and intolerant aspects of Roman Catholicism? If not, why can’t Waage bring himself to take the same simple and decent step?
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In an odd attempt to provide “objective” confirmation of the Dutch anthroposophists’ conclusions, Waage directs our attention to two articles in the anthropsophist periodical Info3. Waage describes the authors, Wolfgang Ullmann and Jörn Rüsen, as “non-anthroposophists.” This claim is questionable in the case of Rüsen, who serves on the Advisory Board of the anthroposophist Novalis Institute. But no matter what the ideological orientation of these two expert witnesses for anthroposophy, their analyses of the Dutch report are remarkably naive (both articles can be found in Info3 12/98). Rüsen, who believes that racism is fundamentally incompatible with “the political culture of modern societies” (the world would certainly be a nicer place if that were true), employs the well-worn argument that anthroposophy is “a product of its time.” This raises the obvious question of why Rüsen continues to promote an obsolete philosophy. He also praises anthroposophy’s “conception of universal-historical development” without mentioning that this conception is explicitly organized along racial lines. Ullmann, for his part, does mention Steiner’s root race theory, but nevertheless affirms the Dutch report’s claim that anthroposophy contains no racial doctrine. This defies logic; Ullmann must believe either that the root race theory is not a part of anthroposophy, or that it is not a racial doctrine. Ullmann also makes the bizarre accusation that Steiner’s critics are trying to prevent a public discussion of anthroposophy, pointing in particular to the Grandt brothers, authors of the ill-fated Schwarzbuch Anthroposophie (The Black Book of Anthroposophy). Ullmann’s hypocrisy is breathtaking; it is in fact Steiner’s critics who have forced a public discussion of anthroposophy, while anthroposophists have done everything in their power to stifle this discussion. In 1997 Austrian anthroposophists sued the publishers of Schwarzbuch Anthroposophie and succeeded in prohibiting distribution of the book, thus making it inaccessible to scholars and the public. This case is merely one of several recent attempts by anthroposophists to use the courts to suppress informed public debate and to intimidate potential critics by driving small publishers to bankruptcy; see the thorough recounting of the various suits by Austrian anthroposophists in Gunnar Schedel, “Die sanften Zensoren,” Schwarzer Faden 3/99.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> According to this reasoning, for example, the 1935 Norwegian sterilization law cannot be condemned, criticized, or lamented because, after all, it was a product of its time. American slavery would be similarly insulated from reproach on this view. Presumably the holocaust itself was merely a product of its time, so we should all just keep quiet about it.