Anthroposophical Spiritual Racism

The foremost anthroposophical race theorist in Germany after Steiner’s death was Richard Karutz (1867-1945), a prominent Waldorf spokesman and supporter of Nazism. He participated in a seminar at the Goetheanum in 1920, moved from Lübeck to Stuttgart in 1921 to be closer to the center of anthroposophical activity in Germany, and moved again to Dresden in 1938 so that his children could continue attending Waldorf school. Karutz was an ethnologist and contributed more than any other author to elaborating anthroposophy’s racial teachings. He was also the most outspoken proponent of spiritual racism among German anthroposophists both before and during the Nazi era.

In 1929 Karutz published a book on esoteric anthropology, forcefully rejecting what he called “materialist” approaches to anthropology as incapable of grasping the meaning of race (Richard Karutz, Von Goethe zur Völkerkunde der Zukunft, Stuttgart 1929). Karutz ridiculed “materialist” versions of anthropology because they “place today’s Australian, American Indian, and Negroid savage tribes at the same level as the ancient Celts and Teutons” (126). Painting a complex panorama of “lower races” and “higher races,” Karutz depicted Europeans as the highest racial group while characterizing non-European peoples as “debased” and “decadent.” (115)

Like Steiner, Karutz portrayed the various racial groups as rungs on the ladder of spiritual progress, with white people at the top. (120-22) Racial traits, according to Karutz, are both “physiological features” and “spiritual facts”; light skin indicates spiritual development and dark skin indicates spiritual debility. (117) Karutz explained that in the ongoing process of racial evolution, the “lower races” are destined to die out, because “the so-called natural peoples or primitive peoples that survive today are merely the debased remnants of earlier stages.” (127)

From 1930 onward, Karutz published a long series of pamphlets on ‘moral ethnology’ with the official approval of the Anthroposophical Society, co-published by the Goetheanum in Dornach: Richard Karutz, Vorlesungen über moralische Völkerkunde (Stuttgart, 1930–1934). The series comprised fifty installments of varying size, generally between 40 and 80 pages each, and were enthusiastically reviewed in the anthroposophist press at the time (see e.g. Hermann Poppelbaum, “Hinweis auf die Vorlesungen über moralische Völkerkunde von Richard Karutz,” Anthroposophie, July 1932, 489-90).

Calling his approach “ethno-anthroposophy” and citing Steiner throughout, Karutz declared that “today’s ethnology must once again acknowledge the idea of degeneration.” (Karutz, Vorlesungen über moralische Völkerkunde 5, “Vom Werden und vom Wege der Völkerkunde” (1930), 22) Emphasizing the profound spiritual and racial differences between Europeans and “lower peoples,” he explained that the fate of many non-European peoples was extinction rather than evolution. (ibid., 3) Karutz recapitulated Steiner’s narrative of racial evolution, centered on the migrations of various racial groups out of Atlantis and the contrast between Aryan and non-Aryan populations.

In the seventh installment of his “lectures on moral ethnology” in 1930, Karutz referred to indigenous peoples as “crippled branches” on the “genealogical tree” of human evolution, “who after a brief existence have stopped developing further.” (21) Today the “colored peoples” are spiritually and culturally “stagnant and degenerated, because the soul of the colored peoples has not received the I impulse and has therefore failed to take part in the transformation of the human soul.” (34) This, he explains, is why colored peoples are colored in the first place: their external physical appearance reflects their internal spiritual backwardness.

According to Karutz, the ‘I’ or true individuality has fully developed “so far only in the European races.” (Karutz, Vorlesungen über moralische Völkerkunde 13, “Herkunft und Wesenheit des Menschen” (1931), 41) Thus the “colored peoples” are unable to participate in the development of culture and civilization because of their “spiritual-bodily constitution” and are destined to stagnate or die out. This seeming tragedy served a higher spiritual purpose; racial evolution, for Karutz, was properly understood as a process of growth for individual souls, extending over multiple incarnations. He presented similar claims in a variety of articles in the official anthroposophist periodical, such as Richard Karutz, “Über Rassenkunde” Das Goetheanum January 11, 1931, 13-14, and Richard Karutz, “Zur Rassenkunde” Das Goetheanum January 3, 1932, 3-6.

In 1930 Karutz published a stark warning against “race mixing” in the journal of the Anthroposophical Society in Germany: Richard Karutz, “Zur Frage von Rassebildung und Mischehe” Die Drei: Monatsschrift für Anthroposophie, May 1930, 94-102. His argument employed classic esoteric ideas in order to make a forceful case against interracial marriage, by which Karutz meant both marriages between white people and non-white people as well as marriages between gentiles and Jews.

If there were no spiritually significant racial differences, Karutz reasoned, then there would be nothing wrong with racially mixed marriages. Since profound racial differences are a spiritual fact, however, interracial marriage represents a major threat to spiritual-racial evolution and the unfolding of humanity’s cosmic potential. Starting from the premise that “race is spiritually determined,” he explained that different races and peoples embodied different stages in the process of soul development. Karutz rejected the principle that “there are no inferior races” as materialistic and shortsighted, because it ignored the direct spiritual correlation between physiology and the development of consciousness. The proper maturation of the ‘I’ required firm measures in order to avoid a “mish-mash of blood,” and this task called for an “internal racial struggle” to resist harmful admixture with other races. (97) If this mish-mash is not prevented, it will mean regressing to earlier evolutionary stages and racial-spiritual stagnation. Racial mixture, he explained, brings spiritual disharmony.

Karutz offered detailed examples of this process, arguing that through the dynamics of spiritual race development blacks will eventually disappear in America, while whites increase. As with the disappearance of Jews from Germany, Karutz held that this gradual disappearance of black people represented significant evolutionary progress, and that intermarriage between black people and white people hindered this progress. He maintained the same position in 1939: Richard Karutz, “Mysterienschatten über Afrika” Das Goetheanum August 27, 1939, 276-77, rejects “race mixing” between “the black and white races” as a “biological mistake” that disrupts the proper course of incarnations.

With articulated views like these years before 1933, Karutz unsurprisingly found much to admire when Nazism came to power. His racial writings during the Nazi era combined fervent commitment to anthroposophy with adulation for the new regime.  His chief statement on race was his 1934 book “Rassenfragen,” which carried the imprimatur of the Goetheanum. Here Karutz outlined a racially based anthroposophist ethnology as an alternative to existing ‘materialist’ approaches.

The book began by charging that mainstream anthropology did not take race seriously, by focusing on merely cultural and psychological factors while ignoring physical ones. According to Karutz, this was a profound mistake; ethnology cannot be understood correctly if its racial facets are not given their due. Characterizing the ostensibly prevailing non-racial view as “materialist,” Karutz posited his own esoteric approach to anthropology as the necessary antidote to such race-blind materialism. Only a racial ethnology, he explained, could perceive “the true cosmic spirit” that lies behind external appearances; a non-racial view was like “describing the outer shell without reaching the inner core.” (Karutz, Rassenfragen, 14)

In place of the wrongheaded ‘materialist’ framework which failed to take heed of the crucial importance of race, Karutz proposed an esoteric ethnology, insisting that “Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy” was the only source for the proper understanding of race. (9) An anthroposophical account of race was not merely spiritual, he explained, but combined body, soul, and spirit into a unity. This approach gave central attention to “heredity” as “the indispensable mark of race.” (21) He described the physically and spiritually debilitated state of “the lower colored peoples” (22) and claimed that the great differences in physical race characteristics between “Europeans” and “Negroes” are due to “real spiritual forces” (32).

Karutz argued that Nazi guidelines for racial instruction in schools did not go far enough in rejecting materialism; in his view these theories missed the special spiritual qualities of “our race.” Spiritual principles must inform “the political doctrine of race” if it is to be effective, and this could only happen through “the spiritual science of Rudolf Steiner.” (38) These remarks introduced a full-blown endorsement of Nazi racial policy as anchored in spiritual reality: for Karutz, Nazism represented a promising synthesis of the biological and spiritual components of race, and the Nazi regime had put this synthesis into practice through its eugenic policies. He underscored this conclusion by quoting Steiner and Hitler side by side. (32-33) Karutz considered his own anthroposophical conception of the relation between soul and race confirmed by National Socialist racial ideology.

Drawing on Steiner’s work as well as that of Nazi thinkers, Karutz elaborated an esoteric view of the “racial soul” and “racial destiny,” highlighting in particular the heroic character of the “Aryans” and the “Nordic race.” Since race represents the connection between the physical and spiritual, he argued, eugenic measures must be based on spiritual insight. In an extended argument against “race mixing,” Karutz maintained that mixture is only acceptable between peoples of similar soul and spiritual quality; hence Germans could intermarry among themselves, but intermarriage between Germans and non-Germans or between Europeans and “colored races” was highly detrimental. (49-55) Even intermarriage between Germans and French was suspect, because the “national spirits” governing the two peoples would be evolutionarily at odds. (52)

In anthroposophical terms, Karutz’s logic was that mixture between Europeans and ‘colored races’ would produce a soul so full of discrepancies and disharmonies that it would be useless for the formation of the ‘I’ and contribute nothing to evolutionary progress. In addition, souls cannot obtain the proper racial education if they are incarnated in a mixed-race body, as they will not receive a full experience of either of the races. If such mixtures nonetheless sometimes occurred, they could provide the possibility for a higher soul to forego an incarnation in a higher race and instead incarnate in a lower race in order to take on a leadership role and help the group move forward evolutionarily.

Quoting Hitler again, Karutz went on to condemn mixture between Aryans and Jews, and then quoted both Hitler and Steiner again in support of a vigilant defense of the German Volk from foreign spiritual and physical influences. He emphasized that anthroposophy’s ‘spiritual science’ and the new worldview of the Third Reich complemented and mutually reinforced one another. (63-64) For Karutz in 1934, the Nazi ‘revolution’ was a “popular uprising” in which the German people followed the call of their “national spirit.” (68) He resoundingly endorsed the new regime’s race principles, providing an extended anthroposophical justification of them. But eugenic measures and racial policies were not enough, he concluded; not only the “racial elements of the nation” must be protected, but also its spiritual qualities, the “soul of the race.” (83) Based on an esoteric principle of racial inequality, Karutz found far-reaching common ground with Nazi racial theorists. He praised National Socialism as a spiritual movement, and avowed that Hitler and Steiner offered similar racial teachings.

Karutz was not alone in his views. His works garnered very appreciative reviews in the anthroposophist press and were cited by other anthroposophical authors addressing racial questions. Examples include the extremely positive review of Karutz’s 1938 book on ‘the African soul,’ Die afrikanische Seele, in Das Goetheanum June 5, 1938, 181-82; Ernst von Hippel, Mensch und Gemeinschaft, Leipzig 1935, 25-26, and Karl Heyer, Von der Atlantis bis Rom, Breslau 1939, 58-59, both of which quote Karutz’ racial writings at length; Arnold Wadler, Der Turm von Babel: Urgemeinschaft der Sprachen (Basel: Geering, 1935), with quotations from and advertisements for Karutz’s works; and Guenther Wachsmuth, Bilder und Beiträge zur Mysterien- und Geistesgeschichte der Menschheit (Dresden: Weise, 1938), which quotes Karutz throughout.

In addition to his prolific publications on race, Karutz took an active role in the Waldorf movement in Nazi Germany. A 1934 essay he wrote on behalf of the parents at the Stuttgart Waldorf school offers a striking example of Waldorf advocates’ thinking on the new political situation under the Nazi regime. Referring to the Nazi ‘revolution’ of 1933 as the “national uprising,” the first page announced:

“Since the national uprising of 1933, the launching of the nation toward the National Socialist unified people’s state and the most profound transformation of every political and social course of life, the school is committed to participation in the rebuilding of the Reich, along with every other cell of German life and every individual German person. Toward this goal, the school is committed to active collaboration, putting itself at the service of the leaders of the school system of the new Reich and showing them what positive values the school has to offer from its pedagogical experience.” (Richard Karutz, “Erklärung aus dem Kreise der Elternschaft der Freien Waldorfschule Stuttgart”).

The leadership of the Stuttgart Waldorf school association endorsed the Karutz text and distributed it to the association’s membership in March 1934. Karutz continued:

“We declare, on the foundation of the New State, that we recognize the Free Waldorf School as an outstanding and reliable institution in accord with the New State. […] For fifteen years Waldorf pedagogy has been pursuing methodological paths and striving toward practical goals that point in the spiritual direction of the National Socialist uprising. Waldorf schooling anticipated demands of the New State and is well positioned to produce students who are thoroughly prepared in body, soul and spirit, who are capable and determined to serve the New State with personal dedication.”

The text went on to emphasize that all of the Waldorf teachers at the Stuttgart school share the same “national convictions,” a “unified worldview” centered on “the spiritual-cultural mission of the German Volk.” As a result of this commitment, and what Karutz called the “authoritarian” methods of Waldorf pedagogy, many Waldorf graduates have “enthusiastically joined the National Socialist movement.” Karutz underscored the school’s devotion to the “national community,” boasted of the military background of the Waldorf faculty, and quoted Hitler repeatedly to demonstrate the proximity of Waldorf’s objectives to the premises of National Socialism.