Author: Peter Staudenmaier

Anthroposophical Spiritual Racism

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.

Anthroposophist Spiritual Racism: Uehli

Anthroposophist Spiritual Racism: Uehli

by Peter Staudenmaier

Building on Steiner’s work, anthroposophists have made significant contributions to the unfortunate tradition of spiritual racism. One of the most important examples is Ernst Uehli (1875-1959), a Swiss theosophist and anthroposophist and student of Steiner from 1905 onward.

Uehli was one of the foremost figures in the first generation of anthroposophists. He was the founding editor (appointed by Steiner personally) of the anthroposophist periodicals Die Drei and Anthroposophie, the premier German anthroposophical publications of the 1920s and 1930s; he was a prominent leader of the ‘social threefolding’ movement; and he taught at the original Waldorf school from 1924 to 1937. Steiner considered him one of the leading personalities in the entire anthroposophical movement, on the same level as Marie Steiner and Albert Steffen, and he was one of the most prominent anthroposophist authors and public speakers in the final years of Steiner’s life, as well as one of the three members of the Central Council of the German Anthroposophical Society in the 1920s. At the original Waldorf school he taught religion, literature, German, and history, and according to anthroposophist accounts he profoundly shaped the curriculum and pedagogical practice. (Those interested can consult Gisbert Husemann and Johannes Tautz, Der Lehrerkreis um Rudolf Steiner in der ersten Waldorfschule 1919-1925, Stuttgart 1977, 227-240, and Hans Reichert and Jakob Hugentobler, Ernst Uehli: Leben und Gestaltung, Bern 1945, among others.)

Uehli’s work continues to play a role in Waldorf contexts today; a heavily abridged English translation of one of the books discussed below is published and distributed by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America under the tile Norse Mythology and the Modern Human Being. It is one of the recommended “Waldorf curriculum guides” on “history, myth, culture” and was part of the original Waldorf curriculum program as well. The role of Uehli’s works in the officially recommended curriculum for German Waldorf teachers sparked a public scandal twelve years ago, when the German government examined the works’ racist content. The excerpts below will give a sense of the concerns.

Though his main point of reference was Steiner, Uehli’s racial publications were also influenced by the works of Edouard Schure and Annie Besant. His 1921 book on the the mystery of the Holy Grail (Ernst Uehli, Eine neue Gralsuche, Stuttgart: Der Kommende Tag, 1921), written in personal consultation with Steiner, focuses on “Aryan” and “Nordic-Germanic” themes while contrasting Germans and Jews. According to Uehli, the Jews are the only people who refuse the present evolutionary trend and do not strive toward Universal Humanity. (141) This, says Uehli, explains the “rage of the Jews against Christ.” (147)

In 1926 Uehli published a lengthy anthroposophist book on Nordic-Germanic mythology: Ernst Uehli, Nordisch-Germanische Mythologie als Mysteriengeschichte (Basel: Geering, 1926), dedicating the book to Steiner. It was re-published in 1965 and again in 1984 by anthroposophist publishing houses. Amidst long passages about Thule and Atlantis and proclamations about the deep connection between “language and blood,” Uehli’s book underscores the evolutionary differences between “the southern and northern peoples, the Semitic and Aryan peoples.” (139)

Celebrating the special qualities of the northern “Aryan peoples,” Uehli emphasizes “the blood of the Germanic peoples” which rendered them uniquely close to nature. (110) Uehli also claims that the spiritual mission of the Jews was completed two millennia ago. While “the early Germans were a people of nature,” he explains, “the Jews succumbed to Ahriman and could not recognize Christ in the flesh.” (142) Uehli further announces that “certain primitive peoples that are currently dying out” are “the decadent remnants of the Hyperboreans.” (129) In contrast, the “Aryan race” consists of “the most gifted and the most evolutionarily capable people.” (39)

Uehli’s 1936 book on Atlantis, published in Nazi Germany, highlights the spiritual facets of race and the divinely ordained nature of racial evolution: Ernst Uehli, Atlantis und das Rätsel der Eiszeitkunst: Versuch einer Mysteriengeschichte der Urzeit Europas (Stuttgart: Hoffmann, 1936). The book was republished in 1957 and again in 1980. It recounts a racial-spiritual selection process overseen by divine beings, beginning in Atlantis and continuing through subsequent stages of racial evolution, based closely on Steiner’s model. Uehli cites Steiner’s racial works throughout the book.

Offering a cosmic explanation for racial differences, Uehli emphasizes that the origin of race lies in the spiritual realm and is expressed in the physical realm. The leading protagonist in this unfolding racial drama is the “Aryan race,” whose members were carefully selected by their cosmically appointed guide. A sharp contrast between racial groups with exceptional biological and spiritual traits, like the specially advanced Aryans, and the large mass of people who do not share these superior traits, runs throughout the text. This fundamental contrast is coupled with the distinction between racial and ethnic groups that “lead” and those that “follow” and the divergence between “more advanced” groups and those that have failed to evolve. (see e.g. 100-02, 114-16)

Following Steiner’s model, Uehli held that while other races had devolved and were incapable of further progress, the “Aryan race” or the “Caucasian race” continued to evolve higher. The “red race” of the “American Indians” is “incapable of further evolution” and thus “dying out.” The “black race” is “unable to develop further,” hence its physiological and spiritual “symptoms of racial decline.” (66) In contrast, “the Aryan race, and with it the Germanic peoples, were born from spiritual foundations,” the basis of the “mission of the Germanic peoples in the cultural development of Europe.” (77) These racial characteristics are based on “cosmically anchored laws of evolution.” (66)

Uehli’s book received a warm welcome in the anthroposophist press, and his Aryan arguments re-appeared in a number of his other works: cf. Wolfgang Moldenhauer, “Ernst Uehlis Atlantis-Arbeit” Das Goetheanum August 9, 1936, 252-54; Ernst Uehli, Kultur und Kunst Ägyptens: Ein Isisgeheimnis (Dornach: Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag, 1955); Uehli, “Die heilige Urschrift der Menschheit” Das Goetheanum July 16, 1933, 226-29; Uehli, “Ein Beitrag zu den Mysterien des Zeichens” Das Goetheanum July 23, 1933, 233-35; Uehli, “Eiszeitkunst II” Das Goetheanum, November 12, 1933, 363. Similar claims could be found in anthroposophist journals as late as 1943: see e.g. Ernst Uehli, “Kosmologische Betrachtungen” Das Goetheanum, May 23, 1943, 165.

Uehli was by no means alone in these views. Subsequent posts will provide additional material from a variety of other anthroposophist authors.

Anthroposophists and Antisemitism in Fascist Italy

Anthroposophists and Antisemitism in Fascist Italy

By Peter Staudenmaier

Posted to the waldorf-critics list June 8, 2008

Here’s a quick overview of my recent research. I spent last week in the state archive in Trieste, Italy to work through the surviving documents from an important antisemitic institute during the Fascist period, the “Center for the Study of the Jewish Problem” based in Trieste from 1942 to 1943, which was renamed “The Center for Race” from 1943 to 1945, when Fascism was finally defeated. The founding director of the Trieste Center was Ettore Martinoli (1895-1958). In 1944 Martinoli became the head of the national bureau for press and propaganda in Fascist Italy’s General Inspectorate for Race, a position he held up to the bitter end.

Martinoli was also one of the most prominent Italian Anthroposophists during the Fascist period, indeed during the twentieth century. He was co-founder of the Anthroposophical Society in Italy, which was founded in Trieste in 1931, and he served as its Secretary for many years. At the same time he was also a committed Fascist, from the very beginnings of Mussolini’s movement (he joined the Fascist party already in 1919), and played a leading role in the persecution of Italian Jews under the Fascist regime, particularly in his hometown of Trieste, which was the site of Italy’s third largest Jewish community.

Martinoli’s participation in the Fascist antisemitic campaign has been thoroughly discussed in the standard historical literature on the topic, in Italian as well as German. For interested readers: Silva Bon’s 1972 study La persecuzione antiebraica a Trieste (1938-1945) — the title means The Antisemitic Persecution in Trieste, 1938-1945 — contains an entire chapter on Martinoli’s Center for the Study of the Jewish Problem. Bon’s later work Gli ebrei a Trieste 1930-1945 (The Jews of Trieste 1930-1945, published in 2000) covers much of the same material, with lots of information on Martinoli. Michael Wedekind’s thorough study Nationalsozialistische Besatzungs- und Annexionspolitik in Norditalien 1943 bis 1945 (Munich 2003; the title means Nazi Occupation and Annexation Policies in Northern Italy 1943 to 1945) also discusses Martinoli’s role in the “persecution, deportation and annihilation of racial and political enemies” (pp. 358-361). Further references can be found in Rosella Ropa, L’antisemitismo nella Repubblica Sociale Italiano (Bologna 2000) and in Liliana Picciotto, Il libro della
memoria: Gli ebrei deportati dall’Italia 1943-1945 (Milan 1991). This is by no means a comprehensive list.

Martinoli founded the Trieste Center for the Study of the Jewish Problem in June 1942, and it quickly became a crucial organizational focus of the most hardcore antisemites within the Fascist movement, and especially of those who like Martinoli himself were particularly close to the Nazis. Thanks in part to Martinoli’s agitation, already in 1942 (more than a year before the occupation by Nazi forces) there were violent antisemitic outbursts in Trieste.

In addition to producing antisemitic propaganda, Martinoli’s Center carried
out a census of Trieste’s Jewish population, compiling names and addresses
which the Center later handed over to the Nazi military forces in late 1943
for use in the rounding up and deportation of the city’s Jews. This service
earned Martinoli the praise of his colleagues in the SS, who particularly
commended his role in the “struggle against Jewry and Freemasonry”. In 1944
the various Fascist racial bureaucracies were combined into a new office,
the Inspector General for Race, and Martinoli was named head of the
propaganda division. In this capacity he co-authored the Inspectorate’s
handbook on race, which was dedicated to ferreting out “the clandestine
emissaries of Judeo-Masonry.”

In 1943, meanwhile, Martinoli also published a paean to Rudolf Steiner as a devoted antisemite and spiritual forebear of Fascism and Nazism, and he published a lot of other antisemitic material during the same period as well. Here are some quick excerpts:

In 1942 Martinoli warned against “international Jewry” in the pages of the Trieste journal La Porta Orientale, a crucial outlet for radical antisemites and a gathering point for hardline racist and pro-Nazi elements within Fascist ranks. According to Silva Bon, the journal tended to support “the German model for solving the Jewish question” (Bon, La persecuzione antiebraica a Trieste, p. 148). One of Martinoli’s articles in this journal was Ettore Martinoli, “L’importanza di Trieste per l’ebraismo internazionale” (The importance of Trieste for international Jewry), La Porta Orientale, December 1942, pp. 106-110. Martinoli begins by
describing in detail what he calls “the global Jewish conspiracy”:

“Jewry does not carry out its Judaic conquests solely because of its innate
love of money or its greed for profit and its subtle Hebraic commercial
cunning, but really in order to fulfill its conscious age-old plan for
global conquest and domination. Every Jew has in his blood the conviction,
cultivated for millennia, that the Jewish people is entitled to and will one
day be given dominion over the whole world and all of mankind.” (p. 106)

He continues:

“The conscience of our Aryan world, our European world, must truly rouse
itself in the face of these facts and not remain in its state of slumber
regarding the Jewish problem, a slumber that allows Jewry to achieve its
goals.” (p. 107) Martinoli goes on to praise Mussolini as “the true
historical adversary, conscious and deliberate, of the international Jewish
conspiracy.” (p. 109)

A few months later Martinoli fleshed out this argument in the journal La Vita Italiana, another crucial antisemitic and radical fascist outlet which published many of his fellow anthroposophist Massimo Scaligero’s racist and antisemitic essays. Martinoli’s article, written and published in the midst of World War II, carries the title “Gli impulsi storici della nuova Europa e l’azione dell’ebraismo internazionale” (The historical impulses of the new Europe and the actions of international Jewry), La Vita Italiana, April 1943, pp. 355-364. In this article Martinoli rants against “the Jewish plutocratic oligarchy” (359), five years after the passage of the racial laws in Italy, and blames “the liberal democratic regimes”, the enemies of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, for giving shelter to the insidious Jewish threat: “under the guise of democratic liberty the most despotic domination imaginable is developing, the domination of plutocracy and of Jewry.” (p. 358) In a section on “Judaism and Freemasonry” Martinoli invokes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and ridicules egalitarianism as a tool of the Jewish-Masonic conspiracy; social equality is turning “the civilization of our race” into “a servant of Israel.” (p. 360) But all is not lost:

“If it had not been for the providential arrival of those towering and, one
may say, superhuman personalities, the Duce and the Fuhrer, who succeeded in
saving from the abyss the two great peoples of Aryan civilization, the
Jewish plan would surely have been achieved.” (p. 360)

According to Martinoli, “it is perfectly true that Jewry and Masonry are
behind all of the liberal, democratic, egalitarian, and leveling movements,
behind everything that is subverting the traditional European world and
dragging both Europe and America into the present chaos.” (p. 361)

The article concludes with a discussion of the “struggle between Fascism and Jewry for the new Europe”; Martinoli says that Fascism holds the key to
“purification from Jewish servitude” (p. 362). But the strongest defense against Jewish corruption is “a new historical impulse,” namely “racism, which
opposes itself to Judaism.” He continues:

“Racism has by now placed itself clearly in the center of the political,
cultural, and ethical development of our century. With the achievement of
Aryan racial consciousness, to an extent not seen before now, racism is
establishing a barrier against Jewish oppression, a barrier that is even
more spiritual than political. Racism is also beginning to shape a
continental European conscience, the only possible basis for an orderly and
harmonious coming together of the peoples of Europe towards a unified
civilization.” (p. 363)

Then in June 1943, just before the fall of Mussolini’s first regime, Martinoli published another long article in La Vita Italiana, this one praising Rudolf Steiner: Ettore Martinoli, “Un preannunziatore della nuova Europa: Rudolf Steiner” (A Herald of the New Europe: Rudolf Steiner), La Vita Italiana, June 1943, pp. 555-566.

This article includes very lengthy quotes from Steiner, in the pages of the
major mouthpiece for radical racism and antisemitism within the Italian
Fascist movement, presenting anthroposophy as the way of the future and the
continuation of Fascism in spiritual form. Martinoli also quotes his fellow
anthroposophist Massimo Scaligero, and gives particular emphasis to
Steiner’s rejection of democracy. This is followed by a section on Steiner’s
“critique of British policy, of Judaism, and of Masonic-plutocratic
influence”, where Martinoli reports that Steiner “became well-known as an
antisemite” during his Vienna period, because of his 1880s articles on “the
Jewish question”, and continues: “In numerous lectures in the years 1917 and
1918 he also directly confronted the influence of Jewish intellectualism
within European civilization” (p. 562).

(Some of the lectures Martinoli refers to here are, by the way, available in English in Rudolf Steiner, The Challenge of the Times, published by the Anthroposophic Press in 1941; the antisemitic elements are even more pronounced in the German original: Rudolf Steiner, Die soziale Grundforderung unserer Zeit, Dornach 2000, originally published in 1921.)

Martinoli goes on to celebrate Steiner’s dedicated German nationalism (p. 565), and he even enlists Julius Evola, the major promoter of “spiritual racism” in Fascist Italy, as a supporter of Steiner, noting that Evola chose Rudolf Steiner as a primary example of the Aryan racial type in his 1941 book Synthesis of the Doctrine of Race (p. 556). (This is indeed the case; see pp. 275-276 of Evola, Sintesi di dottrina della razza.) Martinoli’s article concludes with the following paragraph:

“Rudolf Steiner was a true ideal precursor of the new Europe of Mussolini
and of Hitler. The aim of this essay has been to reclaim the spirit and the
character of this great modern German mystic for the movement — a movement
that is not only political but spiritual — introduced into the world by the
two parallel revolutions, the Fascist revolution and the National Socialist
revolution, to which Steiner ideally belongs as a true predecessor and
spiritual pioneer.” (p. 566)

In 1940 Martinoli published a booklet under the title Funzione della mistica
nella rivoluzione fascista (The Function of Mysticism in the Fascist
Revolution, Trieste 1940). Martinoli begins the book by declaring in its
very first sentence: “The mysticism of Fascism was born when the Duce, in
the immediate aftermath of the war, took into his hands the rebirth of Italy
and with it the fate of the new history of Europe.” (p. 7) Martinoli quotes
Mussolini copiously throughout the book. The introductory chapter discusses
“Fascism as a spiritual fact”, explaining that “Fascism is a counterattack
of the spirit against the materialism of the nineteenth century.” (p. 13)

Martinoli continues: “the Fascist revolution not only brought a new
political-social order into the world, it also ushered in the beginning of a
new civilization, one which the white race, having exhausted its previous
historical cycle, necessarily had to take to heart if it did not want to
die.” (p. 14) Martinoli invokes the white race (“la razza bianca”) at
several other points in the book as well, e.g. pp. 18, 32. He also decries
“Jewish-Masonic demo-plutocracy” (p. 19). Characterizing fascism as a truly
spiritual movement, Martinoli proclaims: “The impulse of renewal at work
within Fascism demonstrates that the white race still has for the future the
task of guiding human civilization toward its further goals.” (p. 32)

Italian anthroposophists continue to honor Martinoli today as one of their chief forebears.

I think it would be good if someday some anthroposophist could explain the ongoing presence of figures like Martinoli, Scaligero, Enzo Erra and others within the anthroposophical movement, and perhaps indicate what anthroposophists think this tells us about the legacy of Steiner’s racial teachings.

Antisemitism: A Very Short Introduction

Antisemitism: A Very Short Introduction


Peter Staudenmaier

March 8, 2011

Below is an extended excerpt from a very good basic text explaining the history of antisemitism, a short and accessible book which I recommend highly to anybody interested in informing themselves about the subject. The book is Steven Beller, Antisemitism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2007). I’ve chosen an excerpt that is particularly relevant to widespread anthroposophical myths about Jews. Beller writes:

The region where modern antisemitism arose, and where the plans for the Holocaust were hatched, was also the region where the ‘Jewish Question’ was both asked and yet also waited interminably for an answer: Central Europe. The ‘Jewish Question’ remained potent in German-dominated Central Europe due to the way in which the initial argument for the integration of Jews, and their emancipation from pre-modern discriminations, was framed. Whereas in Western Europe, emancipation was based mainly on the principle of individual human rights, which were deemed to be inherently due to Jews as citizens and human beings, in Central Europe Jewish emancipation came early on to be seen in terms of what David Sorkin has described as a grand quid pro quo: Jews would be given their rights once they had proven they could earn them. That is to say, Jews would have to deserve their claim to equal treatment by giving up their ‘Jewish’ ways which Christian Germans found so repellent. Indeed, the implicit bargain of Jewish emancipation, from the viewpoint of the non-Jewish, still Christian state at the turn of the 19th century, was that full Jewish integration into society would involve total assimilation. Jews would, in leaving behind their negative ‘Jewish’ particularities, leave behind all markers of Jewish difference, and become indistinguishable from their Christian German counterparts. C. W. Dohm was actually an advocate for emancipating the Jews as their right, but in describing the beneficial consequences of that action he summed up the implicit promise that was to dominate the rationale for Jewish emancipation when he declared: ‘Let them cease to be Jews!’

From the state’s viewpoint, the integration of Jews into society and the economy was justified because of the needs of the state: for administrative uniformity and to encourage economic growth. Individual Jews were to be freed from some of the most oppressive restrictions against them, but in return were expected to contribute directly to the state, in the form of military service, surrender their right to communal autonomy, and give up their separate cultural identity. Hence the most famous advance in Jewish policy in Central Europe before 1789, the set of Toleration Edicts of Emperor Joseph II for the Habsburg lands from 1781 onwards, was as much an attack on Jewish communal rights as it was an alleviation of restrictions on Jews. It was, moreover, explicitly intended ‘to make the totality of Jewry harmless, but the individual useful’. In this regard, it is important to note that many very inhumane restrictions on Jews, such as the Familiant Laws that limited marriage to the eldest sons of Jewish families in Bohemia, were not abolished by Joseph II and remained on the books until the mid-19th century. Meanwhile, the tutelary state was to remake the Jews in its own image. The new German-language schools for Jews that Joseph II’s policies instituted in Bohemia were intended to make the Jews more useful, because more easy to integrate into non-Jewish society and the economy, but they were also intended to make Jews less ‘Jewish’ and more like model, ethnically neutral, ‘Austrian’ citizens – theoretically like everyone else.

Policy in Prussia and most other German states was similar. The French revolutionary conquest and reorganization of Germany in the 1800s provided a temporary anticipation of a full, French-style emancipation of Jews on the basis of individual rights, but the expulsion of the French invader meant in the case of most German states a rescinding of newly gained Jewish rights (and an identification of the Jewish beneficiaries of French policy with the French national enemy). Prussia conferred citizenship on Prussian Jews in 1812, but this did not mean full civic equality, and the promise of full emancipation was repeatedly deferred after 1815, as the authorities remained unconvinced that Jews deserved what appeared to them the privilege of equality. Civic equality was eventually granted in Prussia in April 1848 (after the 1848 revolution) and other German states followed suit, some faster than others. It was only with the formation of the North German Confederation in 1869 and the German Empire in 1871 that German Jews gained full legal emancipation. Meanwhile, in the Habsburg Monarchy, Jews similarly gained their emancipation in the wake of the 1848 revolution, only to have it snatched away again when Emperor Francis Joseph decided not to confirm it as part of the absolutist Sylvester Patent of 1851–2. Jews had to wait until 1860 to gain such rights as the right to real property ownership, and full legal emancipation of Jews in Cisleithania (the Austrian half of the Dual Austro-Hungarian Monarchy) had to wait until 1867.

Moses Mendelssohn, the leader in Berlin of the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment, had initially argued for Jewish equality as a matter of right and, while advocating acculturation and integration into German culture and society, was wary of more comprehensive assimilation. His successors in the leadership of the emancipation movement in German Central Europe, however, appeared, on one level, to accept the states’ quid pro quo of emancipation in return for total assimilation and the disappearance of Jewish difference. David Friedländer explicitly argued that emancipation would lead to the regeneration of German Jewry, and their speedy integration into German society. Disappointed at the failure of Prussia to grant immediate emancipation, Friedländer even proposed in 1799 that the family heads of Berlin Jewry give up their separate Jewish faith and convert to Protestantism, albeit with the proviso that the Protestants not insist on the irrational belief in the Trinity.

This radical measure was rejected out of hand, by Jew and Christian alike, and would be a mere historical oddity if it did not reveal the gulf that remained between the Jewish and Christian perspectives of what emancipation and integration, even assimilation, entailed. Both Mendelssohn and Friedländer continued to insist on Jews having a prior right to emancipation, and saw integration as a two-way process, in which Jews and Christians could share values common to both religions. Later ideologues of emancipation, ever more desperate to achieve equal civil rights for Jews, did come to accept the quid pro quo set by the German states. Campaigners such as Gabriel Riesser, intent on disarming non-Jews’ suspicions that Jews still constituted a ‘state within a state’, proclaimed any separate Jewish national identity long deceased, and argued for rights for Jews as patriotic Germans who differed from their co-nationals only in the private matter of religious confession. The leadership of German Central Europe’s Jewish communities established many organizations to achieve the cultural and moral regeneration of Jews through the tenets of German humanist Bildung (roughly translatable as ‘educative development of the self ’). Societies were established to persuade Jews to follow ‘respectable’ trades, and even engage in agriculture. The clear assumption was that by Jews fulfilling their side of the bargain by acculturating and assimilating into German society, they would eventually be rewarded by being officially accepted as full citizens, because they had in reality become fully German, indistinguishable in manner, culture, and appearance from other Germans. Yet Jews remained different, they remained an identifiable group within German society, and this was partly because of the very effort, sustained for almost a century, to overcome their difference.

In many respects, the drive for emancipation and the ideology of self-improvement that informed it were remarkably successful. Jews in Germany in 1780, apart from the group of wealthy financiers and war contractors, went from being a mainly economically deprived and culturally isolated set of outcasts, to by 1880, apart from the group of very wealthy financiers and industrialists, consisting mainly of a respectable and prosperous bourgeoisie, with a far higher degree of education than the general German populace. In Austria-Hungary it is arguable that the social transformation was not quite so radical, given the Galician circumstances, and there appears to have been many poor, even destitute Jews in Vienna around 1900, for instance. At the same time, a large sector of Austrian Jewry had also made remarkable social and economic strides, which the family history of Sigmund Freud exemplifies. German Central European Jewry espoused the apparent social values of the rest of the German propertied and educated middle classes (Bildungs- und Besitzbürgertum) and were ardent patriots of their respective states (the German Empire and Austria-Hungary), albeit under a liberal, constitutional interpretation. In other words, the social and economic identity of German Central European Jewry changed radically, and in many ways there was a large degree of successful integration. Yet Jews did not cease to be different as the advocates of emancipation had predicted.

If Jews went from being beggars and pedlars to being merchants and businessmen, itinerant Talmudic scholars to journalists and writers, this represented an increase in respectability and integration, perhaps, but it still left the Jewish occupational structure, and hence its socio-economic ‘identity’, looking quite different from that of society at large. Partly this was because of continuing de facto limits on Jewish career options, most notoriously an informal bar on the higher posts within the various state bureaucracies without the ‘necessary’ baptismal certificate. Efforts to create a large cadre of Jewish artisans also petered out due to resistance from the Christian artisans and their guild organizations, and efforts to attract Jews to agrarian pursuits were also largely fruitless. Jewish traditions and attitudes, however, also played a large role, especially the traditional stress among Jewish families on the importance of education. The new modern Jewish dispensation simply transferred this high valuation from the religious to the secular sphere. The result was that there was a large ‘over-representation’ of Jews in finance, commerce, many export-oriented and innovation-based branches of industry, the professions, modern literature, and modern culture generally.

Moreover, Jews continued to maintain their own religious identity, and the newly prosperous, integrated, and acculturated modern Jewish communities, in Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Breslau, and elsewhere reconfirmed this religious identity in dramatic, concrete terms, in majestic ‘temples’, often in ‘Orientalist’ Moorish style that looked back to the idyllic age of medieval Sephardic Jewry, that dominated their immediate urban landscape. Religious identity was thus not merely a ‘private’ matter, and even if Jews were attending services reformed along Protestant lines, as good German bourgeois, they were attending their own separate and different ‘church’. This was a quite dramatically different outcome from that envisaged by many non-Jewish advocates of emancipation, at its inception and also much later in the century, who had assumed that Jewish acculturation and integration would inevitably lead also to a giving up of the ‘atavistic’ Jewish religion in favour of modern Christianity, in Germany especially the ‘cultural Protestantism’ of the academic elite. There were many conversions away from Judaism, and especially in the elite economic and cultural circles, with figures such as Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and Heinrich Heine leading a stellar cast of such Jewish converts in German and Austrian culture, yet the vast bulk of Central European Jewry did not convert and remained Jews in whatever form, even if it was, as in Sigmund Freud’s case, as a ‘godless Jew’.

To some extent a distinct politico-cultural Jewish identity also persisted. The very struggle for emancipation, over almost a century, had created a large panoply of organizations to ‘reform’ Jewish society, and these social bodies and networks continued to exist after emancipation was achieved, producing a Jewish form of civil society and hence a Jewish social identity. The long fight for emancipation had also produced its own ideology, centred on the concept of Bildung, both as a form of intellectual and moral development. It also, logically, held a faith in the universal benefit of emancipation, of liberation of the individual human being from the constraints of irrational past oppression and superstition. Jews in Germany and Austria therefore tended very much to vote for the upholders of ‘emancipation’, whether Jewish or otherwise, which usually meant the progressive Left, in other words usually the Liberals or their equivalent, and later the Social Democrats. Culturally and politically, this emancipatory tradition provided Jews with an overall profile that differed quite markedly from the non-Jewish part of German and Austrian society, and produced an identifiable Jewish ‘sub-culture’ in German Central European society. Jews did not ‘disappear’ into German and Austrian society as had been predicted.

In retrospect, this Jewish ‘difference’, socially, culturally, and economically, might have been expected, and somewhat similar social and economic patterns were evident in Western European countries as well. Yet in Central Europe the emancipation of Jews had come to be predicated on the promise of total absorption of those Jews into the larger society. When the persistence of Jewish difference showed that the promise had not been met, this allowed the liberal project of Jewish emancipation to be labelled a failure by conservatives. The perpetuation of this mindset of having total assimilation of Jews, their effective disappearance, as the ultimate goal of their emancipation, also led to a continued insistence by emancipation’s defenders, whether liberals, progressives, or socialists, Jews or non-Jews, on the idea that Jews were no different from other Germans and Austrians. Jews were not defended for what they were, but for what they were not. This defence on the basis of denial drastically hobbled attempts to combat antisemitism, for conservatives, and antisemites could point very persuasively to evidence that Jews were in fact different in many ways, despite what Jews and their emancipationist allies might claim. The irony was that the very ideology of emancipation, with its claims to a universal humanity, was a major reason why emancipatory Jews, seeing themselves in those universalist terms, could not see, or admit, their own difference.

The framing of emancipation as a quid pro quo with total assimilation, and the persistence of the ‘Jewish Question’ for almost a century, clearly paved the way for the effectiveness of antisemitic counter-arguments against Jewish emancipation. In effect, the framing of the ‘Question’ meant that even one of the most successful and productive integrations of an ethno-religious minority in all of history could nevertheless be labelled a dismal failure, and believed to have been as such. In itself, however, the persistence of Jewish difference, and the recognition of this, even in the form of ethnic hostility, does not necessarily explain the flourishing of antisemitism as a political force. It helps to explain, but it is not sufficient. It also does not explain why Jewish difference was still seen as quite so deleterious and even threatening by so many Germans and Central Europeans. Perhaps if we look at what the protagonists of emancipation were up against in terms of Central European society and culture, we will get a stage further.

Chapter 4: The culture of irrationalism

Antisemitism has been defined by many scholars as irrational hostility to Jews. This definition’s adequacy is debatable, but it is quite clear that antisemitism has usually been seen as linked to the irrational, non-rational, or anti-rational in some way. The emergence of political and ideological antisemitism in German Central Europe in the late 19th century has often been linked by historians to the culture of ‘irrationalism’. This cultural approach was not in itself irrational, rather it was a reaction against the rationalist claim that all of human experience and endeavour could be reduced to rational, calculable objects and relations, and should be. Irrationalists, in contrast, asserted that there was a place for ‘irrational’ emotions and imagination in art and life, that these indeed were part of a realm superior to mere reason. Starting with Romanticism, the ‘irrationalist’ revolt against rationalist modernity was influential throughout European culture and thought from the late 18th century onwards. In Britain, William Blake, in his hatred of unfeeling ‘Urizen’, the god of abstract reason, was clearly part of this cultural movement, and even an august liberal such as John Stuart Mill rebelled against the equating of poetry and pushpin, as rationalist utilitarianism prescribed; but irrationalism was particularly influential in German culture.

There was a quite strong link between German cultural ‘irrationalism’ and antisemitism. Many of the representative figures of cultural ‘irrationalism’ in Germany, such as Arthur Schopenhauer and Richard Wagner, disliked Jews, and many antisemites were followers of ‘irrationalist’ culture. In retrospect, it is quite easy to see how this linkage developed, and how it became so effective: it originated from the view that Jews were connected to detested rationalist modernity, and there was plenty of evidence for this idea. As we have seen, the movement for Jewish emancipation, in itself a response to the rationalization and modernization of European states, meant that Jews in German Central Europe did indeed become closely allied to the goals of rationalist modernity; but not in the way in which antisemites claimed.

Jews had accepted the quid pro quo of integration into the rational modern state in return for emancipation, and had therefore striven to become rationally ‘useful’ members of society. Their support for rationalist modernity was thus based on the acceptance of their side of the bargain with the non-Jewish state and, they thought, society. Once the new, modernized Jewish identity had been formed, however, German society had moved on from the Enlightened model of the rational state, and many Germans had indeed revolted against this ‘soulless’ version of social organization. Antisemites and ‘irrationalists’ thus came to assert, with some foundation, that there was still a Jewish ‘difference’, and they characterized this by emphasizing the Jews’ continued allegiance to rationalist modernity. Some saw the irony of this as a result of the Jews’ very attempt to integrate into German society; however, many antisemites attributed rationalist modernity itself to the Jews, seeing it as the product of an essentially rational and abstract ‘Jewishness’ (Judentum) that was, in its analytically critical approach, undermining and destroying traditional, ‘organic’ native (i.e. national) society. From being prompted, even coerced, into becoming part of rational, modern society and state in Central Europe, Jews came, partly as a result of their very success in this effort at modernizing, to be regarded as in the ‘vanguard’ of rationalist modernity; and then, when this ceased to be a popular cause, as the instigators of that rationalist modernity.

Romanticism in Germany was a revolt against what was seen as the immorality, superficiality, and lack of profundity of the (French) Enlightenment, and a protest against the soulless and Nature-destroying character of (English) industrialization. From early on it was also closely linked with German nationalism, and this relationship became even closer in the wake of the French Revolution and the French invasion and conquest of the German states in the early 19th century. The traumatic collapse of the German states system of the Holy Roman Empire and radical French-induced reform did not last long. Napoleon’s defeat meant that by 1815 a quasi-traditional states system, the German Confederation, had substituted for the pre-revolutionary German polity. Yet the intervening years had a substantial effect on the character of Romantic German nationalism, making it both much more radically anti-French, and, because Jews had been one of the most prominent beneficiaries of French liberalization, more anti-Jewish. Moses Mendelssohn and the Berlin Jewish elite had initially succeeded at being accepted by the Prussian cultural elite, on rationalist lines, as civilized human beings and German civic ‘patriots’. This was undermined by the Romantic notion that Jews, not being part of the German national body, could never become fully German, and would always, therefore, be a foreign entity within the nation. A notorious instance of this kind of thought was that of the idealist philosopher, and German nationalist, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, and his hostility to Jews as an alien entity was shared by the father of multiculturalism, Johann Gottlieb von Herder, although in a milder form.

The main German advance in thought, the idealism founded by Immanuel Kant, also developed in ways deleterious to full acceptance of Jews. Kant himself had displayed his own prejudiced understanding of the Jewish religion by classifying it as a heteronomous religion, which consisted of the individual only obeying laws imposed on him, not those he recognized by the light of his own reason through the categorical imperative. Yet many Jewish thinkers dismissed this as a travesty of Jewish religion and ethics, based on Kant’s ignorance of Judaism. They concentrated instead on the great similarities between Kantian and Jewish thought, and the possibilities that the idea of an ethics of the autonomous will opened up for a rational organization of society, in which Jewish individuals would be equal with all other autonomous individual citizens. Kant became a guiding light for many of the greatest German Jewish thinkers, including Hermann Cohen.

Yet philosophical idealism after Kant left its Enlightened, rationalist moorings and developed in parallel to Romanticism’s emphasis on the irrational and the emotional, on the concept of the will, first in figures such as Fichte and later in the work of Arthur Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer’s pessimism set the world of cause and effect, and of the purposive pursuit of self-interest, the world of mere empirical ‘representation’, against the noumenal world of pure will. He identified the latter with the purely spiritual, the real natural world beyond the perverse perspective of rationalism. The noumenal world could only be realized by self-abnegation in the sordid world of empirical reality and an ethics of compassion. As with Kant, Schopenhauer saw Judaism as an example of the heteronomous obedience to external entities, the reverse of his ideal of compassion, and as indeed the prime cause for the artificial division between Man and Nature that he saw as the fundamental, tragic dichotomy in the Western view of reality. Apart from holding a host of traditional prejudices against Jews, Schopenhauer thus held to a strong theoretical anti-Judaism, as he understood Jewish religion. In many ways, as with Kant and Fichte, Schopenhauer’s hostility to Jews derived from the Christian doctrine of Jewish blindness in the face of Christ’s divinity and the traditional theological concept of Judaism being a religion of mere obedience to law, lacking Christian ‘love’, but it was also a protest against both the results of economic and social modernization and a rejection of traditional Christianity.

The ultimate figure of mid-to-late 19th-century German culture, of a nationalist, irrationalist, neo-Romantic kind, but also simultaneously ‘modern’ and antisemitic, was Richard Wagner. It is clear that Wagner was antisemitic in his thought. As early as 1850 he anonymously published a long pamphlet, Das Judentum in der Musik, in which he attacked the artificiality of the music of successful Jewish composers of the time such as Giacomo Meyerbeer. Wagner claimed that Jews, born outside the German nation, could never learn to express themselves authentically, either linguistically or musically, because art was not something that could be learned mechanically, but came from the national spirit. He also bewailed the commercialization of the modern German music world, and attributed this to both the sickness of modern German culture and society, and the materialistic nature of Jews, who were simply interested in selling their ‘artistic wares’ rather than expressing true art.

Wagner was, in other words, expressing Schopenhauerian, anti-Jewish thought in a social theory about music. Wagner’s antisemitism, expressed anonymously, was not immediately known to the public, and it was only when he published his antisemitic pamphlet in 1869 under his own name that his views became known as his to that public. Wagner published several subsequent articles with an antisemitic component. Today, as in his own day, many admirers of Wagner’s music insist that his great musical works, such as the Ring cycle and Parsifal, are not in themselves antisemitic. Yet figures such as Alberich, the dwarf who steals the Ring of the Nibelungs, appear to fit all too easily in the context of Wagner’s Romantic, Schopenhauerian mindset as ‘Jewish’ stereotypes. In this world view, greed and selfishness, the drive of the sub-human to dominion over the world, and a lack of understanding of higher spirituality, are all attributed to the distorted world of Western ‘representation’ that has its origins in the Old Testament and finds its modern embodiment in the profit-obsessed world of ‘Jewish’ modern capitalism. Wagner did not detest Jewish commercialization only: after a trip along the Thames between London and Greenwich, Wagner remarked that what he had seen was ‘Alberich’s dream’. The English obsession with material gain, however, was for Wagner yet another instance of the ‘Judaization’ (Verjudung) of the world.

The association of Jews with money was also of centuries-old vintage, and fitted neatly into German irrationalism’s contempt for the self-interested, materialistic values of the modern capitalist economy. Jews were thus seen as being a demoralizing, amoral group, only interested in their own advancement, regardless of the problems this might cause for the upstanding native German population, whose nation was ‘too young’ to resist this perverting, despiritualizing influence of alien Jews, ‘multitudes of assiduous pant-selling youths’ from Poland, and literary ‘Semitic hustlers’, as Heinrich Treitschke put it in 1879. A few years earlier, in 1875, another august professor, Theodor Billroth, had made a very similar argument in Vienna about the bad influence of too many alien and poor Jews flooding in from Galicia with the aim to earn money from medicine, rather than adopting medicine as a vocation. In both instances, a prime audience was the very nationalistic student body, who put the nation above the sordid reality of industrializing society and political deal-making, as something spiritually pure and beyond mere rationalist, empirical modernity, and hence as something from which Jews, as the embodiment of such things in the irrationalist canon, should be excluded.

Even irrationalist thinkers who opposed antisemitism, and nationalism, such as Friedrich Nietzsche, also contributed, almost against their will, to the antisemitic thrust of German irrationalist culture. While his real target of opprobrium was organized Christianity for perpetuating a ‘slave morality’ against the ‘natural’ value system of ancient Greece that valued strength, youth, beauty, and ‘power’, Nietzsche inevitably followed his irrationalist predecessors in seeing the origins of this ‘slave morality’ in the ‘heteronomous’ religion of Old Testament Judaism. Nietzsche often praised modern emancipated Jews as a beneficial influence on European civilization. Yet his fulminations against the originally Jewish ‘slave morality’ that was resisting his proposed transvaluation of values could easily be abused to target modern Jews as the obstacle to human liberation, a liberation that could also be seen as one from the oppressive morality of the heteronomous, rationalist modernity of capitalism’s deferred gratification and its reining in of humanity’s more ‘animal’ feelings and instincts. Whether as amoral, immoral, or too moral, Jews were despised by German irrationalist culture, because their ‘rationalism’ made them blind to the truly spiritual nature of the German essence, or so it seemed.

The problem for Jews with this broad irrationalist critique, supported by some of the central figures of 19th-century German national culture, was twofold. First, it struck at the heart of the rationale of their emancipation. This had depended on the idea of Man as a rational, moral, and educable agent, who would act in his own self-interest and by the light of reason, hence recognizing the inherent humanity of other peoples, such as Jews. At least this viewpoint allowed those others (Jews) to improve themselves to the level of rationality and culture sufficient to merit being full members of society. Religious and ethnic differences would ultimately be ironed out by rational debate and empirical evidence, as the Ring Fable in Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s Nathan the Wise suggested. In the German case, this was assumed to mean that Jews would acculturate as Germans and as such be indistinguishable from other rational, German-speaking citizens of the rational state. The irrationalist critique completely undermined this rationale, because it denied that Man was primarily a rational being, and it made full membership of society dependent on things beyond mere rational, empirical actions, such as adherence to the laws and education in the mores, language, and culture. Rather, membership now required belonging in a national community that at times took on mystical overtones, and often was defined in terms of shared ‘blood and soil’. Following Romanticism, German nationality was something inherited rather than learned, given not acquirable, a matter of feeling rather than rationality. Although the terminology came later, irrationalist culture from the early 19th century defined German nationality in terms of a ‘community’ (Gemeinschaft) rather than a ‘society’ (Gesellschaft); Jews, having been the traditional outsiders of German society for centuries, found it nigh impossible to enter the former, whereas as rational individuals their way into the latter had seemed wide open.

Second, the irrationalist critique was difficult for Jews to refute because it mirrored, albeit distortedly, enough of social and cultural reality to be at least partly credible, especially in German Central Europe. Emancipated Jews not only were identified with Enlightenment, liberalism, and the modern, rational capitalist economy by non-Jewish society; they themselves identified with these ideals. The very ideology of emancipation made such an identification virtually inevitable, given its goal of making Jews suitable for integration into modern society. Adolf Jellinek, Vienna’s leading rabbi in the Liberal Era and a prominent spokesman for emancipation, stressed in 1861 the compatibility of Jews and the Jewish religion with the ‘new time’ of modernity. He compared the Jewish character to that of the English, with a firm foundation of tradition allowing greater opportunity to change and evolve. Jellinek particularly emphasized the Jews’ combination of an analytic mind and a very purposive individualism, and asserted that modern society ought to be just to Jews because it was taking on Jewish ‘qualities’. This sort of ethnic triumphalism was perhaps understandable as an exercise in emancipationist apologetics, but it all too easily fed into anti-Jewish paranoia. One of Wagner’s most vitriolic anti-Jewish tracts, ‘Modern’, appears to have been a direct response to an article by a Jewish apologist making the same kind of positive connection between Jews and modernity. An ironic echo of this identification can be seen in Theodor Herzl’s Zionist diary, when he says that his aim is to make a ‘modern people’, the Jews, into the most modern in the world.

There was, moreover, circumstantial economic and cultural evidence that by the second half of the 19th century bolstered this claim to a special relationship of Jews to modernity. Jews were indeed very prominent in the German Central European modern economy and modern culture. The claim by many antisemites that Jews had invented this economy and culture was false. Although court Jews had played their part as financiers and war contractors in Central Europe’s early modern economy, the origins of the modern, capitalist economy lay primarily elsewhere. That Jews were so well placed and so ready to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the new economy was ironically at least partly due to their marginalization by anti-Jewish discrimination in the traditional, agrarian economy. The fact remains that for such a small minority (less than 1% of Germany’s population, and less than 5% of Austria-Hungary’s), Jews had a remarkably large role in many leading fields of the 19th century’s modern industrial economy. These included finance (a traditional area, admittedly), development of the railway system, textile manufacturing, and later electrical machinery, transatlantic shipping, and large-scale clothing retail, especially that symbol of modern commercialism, the department store. Similarly, a pantheon of cultural and intellectual figures – from Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Heinrich Heine, and Ludwig Börne at one end, to Arnold Schoenberg, Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, and Albert Einstein at the other – provided an immense Jewish participation in modern culture in German Central Europe. A cultural irrationalist or conservative nationalist in late 19th-century Central Europe, opposed to and threatened by rationalist modernity, would easily have associated Jews with what he feared and detested, because most Jews in German Central Europe, the products of the movement for emancipation, were in reality upholders of the ideals of the Enlightenment, liberalism, and progress, in other words of rationalist modernity.

When, therefore, the protest against rationalist modernity gained momentum in the later 19th century, Jews were an obvious candidate for scapegoating.

Steiner & Krishnamurti

Steiner & Krishnamurti

By Peter Staudenmaier

Posted to the Waldorf Critics discussion list January 23, 2009

Pete and Stephen had an interesting exchange on Steiner’s reaction to the Theosophical Society’s anointment of Krishnamurti as the new World Teacher and reincarnation of Christ. There is ample evidence that race did play a role in the affair, though I agree with Stephen that Steiner rejected the very possibility of another incarnation of Christ in the physical realm, in any kind of body. But the standard anthroposophical position that Krishnamurti’s “racial” background played no role in Steiner’s rejection of his status as the next messiah is historically naïve.

The fact that Krishnamurti was not white was a stumbling block for many people at the time who took theosophical race theory at face value; for very revealing background on precisely this question, see Jill Roe’s study Beyond Belief: Theosophy in Australia 1879-1939. Steiner’s own stated position on the racial-spiritual status of Asians, including South Asians, explains much about his own stance, though his rivalry with Annie Besant and the India-based leadership of the Theosophical Society played a crucial role as well. Making sense of Steiner’s indignant attitude toward the Krishnamurti affair requires taking seriously Steiner’s statements about the racial character of Asians, the future direction of racial evolution, the spiritual significance of skin color, the obsolete and inferior nature of Eastern spiritual traditions, and other factors.

While Steiner did hold that no living person could be the reincarnation of Christ, he did not leave the matter at that. He pointedly ridiculed the notion that this “Hindu lad,” as Steiner called Krishnamurti, could embody the Christ. According to Steiner, Hindus had long since played out their evolutionary function and were now leftovers of former spiritual grandeur, an anachronism trapped in decline. Krishnamurti was neither white, European, nor Christian, and thus failed Steiner’s test of adequacy for cosmic leadership. At the same time, according to reports from his theosophical associates, Steiner may have encouraged his own followers to think of Steiner himself as the new appearance of Christ.

More important still, the Krishnamurti affair was the occasion for Steiner’s final break from the mainstream theosophical movement, which was headquartered in India, and this break, the founding moment of the anthroposophical movement as such, did indeed involve racial ideology. In the midst of the acrimonious split, in 1911, a close colleague of Steiner, anthroposophist Günther Wagner, wrote that both Steiner himself and his followers believed that ìsince we are the most advanced race, we have the most advanced religionî (1911 letter fom Wagner quoted in Norbert Klatt, Theosophie und Anthroposophie: Neue Aspekte zu ihrer Geschichte102). That is an important part of why it was such an affront to the anthroposophist mindset when the rest of the theosophical movement cast its lot with Krishnamurti, who was neither racially nor religiously suited to the role, in their eyes.

Steiner’s general statements on the significance of race can also help illuminate the incident. His basic stance was straightforward enough: “One can only understand history and all of social life, including today’s social life, if one pays attention to people’s racial characteristics. And one can only understand all that is spiritual in the correct sense if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin.” (Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde52) This criterion was of particular importance when Steiner addressed the ostensible spiritual-racial contrast between Europeans and Asians.

Steiner claimed that it was the special destiny of the Germanic peoples to fulfill the “mission of white humanity” by integrating the spiritual and the physical, and that this integration of the physical and spiritual is what accounts for white skin. This integration has failed in non-white peoples, Steiner explained, referring specifically to “the Asian peoples.” In Asians and other non-whites, according to Steiner, the spirit “takes a demonic character and does not completely permeate the flesh, there white skin does not appear. Atavistic forces are present which do not let the spirit come into complete harmony with the flesh.” (Steiner, The Christ-Impulse as Bearer of the Union of the Spiritual and the Bodily, 8)

Steiner was explicit about this fundamental contrast: “How could one fail to be struck by the profound differences in spiritual culture between, let us say, the peoples of Europe and Asia! How indeed could one not be struck by the differences connected with the colour of the skin?” The purportedly different levels of development were central to this contrast: “How can we fail to realise that the Asiatic peoples have retained certain cultural impulses of past earthly epochs, whereas the Euro-American peoples have advanced beyond them?” (ibid., 6)

Steiner further held that it is the task of “the German people” to spread “spiritual life,” which “the Oriental” has lost; the Oriental must now receive spiritual guidance from the Germans (Steiner, Gedankenfreiheit und soziale Kräfte141). Steiner taught that “the soul life of the Orient” is not fully part of “normal human life,” explicitly equating “normal human life” with “our own, in the West”; the spirituality of the East in contrast is “decadent” and “certainly in decline” (126). He faulted English-speaking Theosophists for looking to India for “ancient oriental wisdom” and for “borrowing completely from the oriental Indians,” whose springs of wisdom had long since run dry (130).

The problem, in Steiner’s eyes, was not merely an Asian lack of originality and creativity; for Steiner, “the Oriental thinker” is not at the same level of development as “European spiritual culture”; it is only in the West that the seeds of the future are to be found. (132) The decadent and declining features of Indian spiritual life, he insisted, are wholly inappropriate for Europeans. (133) “And it is an example of decadence in the West, of abandonment of all the good spirits of European humankind, that there are many people today who seek to shore up their European spiritual life by absorbing the Oriental essence.” (137) Steiner attributed “the purest and cleanest form of thinking” to “the Germans,” who are indeed the carriers of “the future of humanity” (142); but this future can only be realized by “our own spiritual striving, not by borrowing from the Oriental” (141).

Steiner sharply contrasted “the Eastern school” from his own “western school” of esotericism, presenting the difference in racial terms: “But this oriental form of truth is worthless for us western peoples. It could only obstruct us and hold us back from our goal. Here in the West are the peoples who shall constitute the core of the future races.” (Steiner, Aus den Inhalten der esoterischen Schulen221) “The dying races of the East still need the Oriental school. The Western school is for the races of the future.” (ibid. 227)

In his book Christus und die menschliche SeeleSteiner discusses the role of “racial evolution” at length, particularly the cosmic differentiation of humankind into racial groups representing varying stages of spiritual progress. The book’s second chapter, a lecture from May 1912 (in the midst of the heated intra-theosophical dispute over Krishnamurti), includes a three-page disquisition on the relationship between “race development” and “soul development,” explaining that more advanced souls incarnate in “higher races,” while less developed souls incarnate in “subordinate races.” This process of continual racial-spiritual progress eventually results in “the dying out of the worse elements in the population” (93). Steiner then segues into a comparison of Indian and European spiritual traditions, emphasizing the differences in the “physical incarnation” between these two streams; the “Christ impulse,” he explains, played the central role in differentiating the European from the Indian orientation (98).

Then there’s Steiner’s lecture “The peoples of the earth in the light of spiritual science,” published shortly after Steiner’s death in the anthroposophical journal Die Drei, vol. 5 no. 9 (December 1925). Here Steiner has quite a bit to say about “the Oriental peoples” and their spiritual practices, which pale in comparison to the spiritual culture brought forth by “the German nation” (651). According to Steiner, the Germans already possess, as part of their “ordinary characteristics,” those spiritual achievements that “the Indian strives toward as his ideal of the superhuman.” Hence “the European,” with his “natural endowment,” stands “a stage higher” than “the Oriental” (652).

Taken together, such sources and the numerous others of comparable content carry a consistent message. This lengthy list of assumptions about Indian spiritual traditions, combined with the presumption of European superiority, helps explain anthroposophy’s origins in the dispute concerning Krishnamurti and the proper direction of the worldwide theosophical movement. These teachings, which Steiner repeated many times, indicate that aside from his reservations about a physical reincarnation of Christ, he could not conceive of a new “World Teacher” who did not emerge from the German people, heralds of the new age.

In Steiner’s view, Krishnamurti was racially, culturally, and spiritually ineligible for the role assigned to him by Besant et al. When it came to discerning the appropriate form for advancing the Christ Impulse, anthroposophical race doctrine was a decisive factor. For further examples of Steiner’s negative assessment of Asian spiritual traditions in European contexts, see among others Steiner, Luzifer-Gnosis370-71, Steiner, Grundelemente der Esoterik108-115, and Steiner, Westliche und östliche Weltgegensätzlichkeit226-39.

Steiner’s Early Nationalism

Steiner’s Early Nationalism

By Peter Staudenmaier

Posted to the Waldorf Critics discussion list January 21, 2009

A while ago I told Volker that I’d get back to the topic of Steiner’s early nationalism in the Austrian context. Here is my analysis of that subject.

In early 20th century Germany, anthroposophy promised a thoroughgoing spiritual renewal that would bring salvation not only to the German people but to the rest of the world as well. What was necessary to reach this goal, according to Steiner, was a return to Germany’s authentic spiritual mission. For a fuller understanding of how these ideas functioned within Steiner’s mature worldview, it can help to examine Steiner’s early German nationalist period before his turn to esotericism. Steiner’s involvement in the German nationalist movement in Austria in the 1880s revealed a number of themes that re-appeared in spiritualized form after 1900 and powerfully shaped his later teachings.

Foremost among these themes was an abiding commitment to the notion of a German ‘Kulturmission’, a cultural and civilizational mission. To appreciate the full extent of this fundamental conviction, a review of its origins in the ethnic German communities of Austria-Hungary is in order. Steiner described himself as “German by descent and racial affiliation” and as a “true-born German-Austrian,” emphasizing the crucial importance of this German identity within the threatening multinational environment of the Habsburg empire in his youth. (Steiner, From Symptom to Reality in Modern History, 162-63) This retrospective self-assessment is consistent with Steiner’s activities during his Vienna period.

Throughout the 1880s, Steiner participated actively in the somewhat nebulously defined ‘deutschnational’ movement in Austria, a tendency that is usually rendered in English as ‘pan-German.’ These youthful pan-German sympathies are attested in Steiner’s early correspondence as well as in his student activities, and are recalled in his autobiography. Christoph Lindenberg’s biography of Steiner notes that already in the early 1880s Steiner considered himself a member of the pan-German movement and that his involvement in pan-German organizations went well beyond the usual level of commitment typical for Austro-German university students at the time (Lindenberg, Rudolf Steiner: Eine Biographie, 61-62).

Above all, Steiner’s nationalist convictions are displayed in the dozens of articles that he wrote for the pan-German press in Austria between 1882 and 1891. Steiner’s pan-German journalism from the 1880s and 1890s is collected in volumes 29, 30, 31 and 32 of the Rudolf Steiner Gesamtausgabe, his Complete Works. Among other outlets, Steiner contributed articles to the Deutsche Zeitung, the Nationale Blätter, and the Freie Schlesische Presse. Steiner first published in the Deutsche Zeitung in 1884, and may have published in the Freie Schlesische Presse as early as 1882 and 1883.

The Nationale Blätter were the organ of the “Deutscher Verein” in Vienna, while the Freie Schlesische Presse was the organ of the “Deutscher Verein” in Troppau, a city in the Sudetenland. By the mid-1880s the Deutscher Verein was one of the major political organizations within the German nationalist movement in Austria, alongside parliamentary factions such as the Deutscher Klub and the Deutschnationale Vereinigung, both of which Steiner wrote about positively. (On the political development of the Deutscher Verein see William McGrath, Dionysian Art and Populist Politics in Austria, 199-202; McGrath notes that during the period of Steiner’s association with the group, the Deutscher Verein “placed the strongest emphasis on German nationalism,” which was the major unifying factor of the group.)

The Deutsche Zeitung was originally founded by the German Liberals and came to be considered “the organ of German nationalism in Austria” (Kurt Paupié Handbuch der österreichischen Pressegeschichte 1848-1959, 158). It was among the most prominent voices of German nationalist politics in the Habsburg empire until the rise of Schönerer and Lueger in the 1890s. For background on the Deutsche Zeitung see among others Pieter Judson, Exclusive Revolutionaries: Liberal Politics, Social Experience, and National Identity in the Austrian Empire 1848-1914, 169, and Hildegard Kernmayer, Judentum im Wiener Feuilleton 1848-1903, 284-86. Extensive information on each of these papers, and on others to which Steiner contributed, is also available in Lothar Höbelt, Kornblume und Kaiseradler: Die deutschfreiheitlichen Parteien Altösterreichs 1882-1918.

While Steiner’s writings in these newspapers are forthrightly German nationalist, they do not espouse a state-centered power politics or call for authoritarian solutions to the interethnic conflicts of the Habsburg realm; instead they preach a kind of cultural supremacy in which non-German communities are urged to embrace purportedly German standards of civilization. The culmination of Steiner’s pan-German journalism came in 1888, when he took over editorship of the Deutsche Wochenschrift for six months. This weekly paper, which carried the subtitle “organ for the national interests of the German people,” was a major mouthpiece of radical German nationalism.

(On the central role of the Deutsche Wochenschrift in promoting the “sharper-key politics” of radicalized German nationalism in Austria see McGrath, Dionysian Art and Populist Politics in Austria, 201-06. For further background on the Deutsche Wochenschrift see also Helmut Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland, 1242-45. Other scholars have emphasized the paper’s German nationalist radicalism as well; see e.g. Jacob Toury, “Josef Samuel Bloch und die jüdische Identität im Österreichischen Kaiserreich” in Walter Grab, ed., Jüdische Integration und Identität in Deutschland und Österreich 1848-1918, 55. Steiner first wrote for the Deutsche Wochenschrift in 1885.)

In addition to writing a weekly column on politics and current affairs for the Deutsche Wochenschrift, Steiner contributed substantial programmatic essays with titles such as “The Pan-German cause in Austria.” (Rudolf Steiner, “Die deutschnationale Sache in Österreich” originally in Deutsche Wochenschrift: Organ für die nationalen Interessen des deutschen Volkes, Vienna, 1888 vol. VI nos. 22 and 25; reprinted in Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte, 111-20) Steiner’s 1888 articles for the Deutsche Wochenschrift portray the Germans in Austria as threatened by an “onslaught from all sides,” referring in particular to “Czech agitators” and “the evil Russian influence” along with Poles, Magyars, and other non-German ethnic groups, while at the same time celebrating “the cultural mission that is the duty of the German people in Austria.” (Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte, 112, 85, 69)

According to Steiner in 1888, “modern culture” has been “chiefly produced by the Germans.” He thus condemns not only any accommodation to non-German ethnic groups but indeed any cooperation with ethnically German parties that are insufficiently nationalist, calling these parties “un-German.” (ibid., 119) Steiner blames the Austro-German Liberals in particular for failing to insist strongly enough that the Slavs must subordinate their own cultures to German culture; this failure “forced the German people to form a party in which the national idea is paramount” (113), namely the German nationalist party. But even the forthrightly nationalist party, in Steiner’s eyes, did not do enough “for the national cause” (114).

Contrary to Steiner’s implication, Austro-German liberalism itself had become thoroughly nationalist by the late 1880s; his polemics against it indicate an especially zealous stance on his part at this time. Indeed Steiner’s harsh denunciations of the German Liberals for betraying their people reveal a firmly ethnocentric intransigence: “If we must be ruled in an un-German fashion, at least our tribal brothers ought not to take care of this business. Our hands should remain clean.” (ibid., 143) Steiner similarly rejected liberalism as un-German in an 1891 article (see Steiner, Methodische Grundlagen der Anthroposophie, 298). For further context see Pieter Judson, “”Whether Race or Conviction Should Be the Standard”: National Identity and Liberal Politics in Nineteenth-Century Austria” Austrian History Yearbook 22 (1991), 76-95.

In the young Steiner’s view, “the Slavic enemy” both within and outside of Austria-Hungary is marked by an “empty national ego” and “spiritual barrenness,” which is why the Slavs “would like nothing more than to annihilate the achievements of our European culture.” (Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte, 117) Steiner also fulminates against “the culture-hating Russian colossus” and condemns the abuse of the Austrian state “for un-German purposes” (140). Portraying Czech demands for political participation as a direct threat to German cultural superiority, Steiner’s pan-German essays exclaim:

“The Slavs will have to live a very long time before they understand the tasks which are the duty of the German people, and it is an outrageous offense against civilization to throw down the gauntlet at every opportunity to a people [i.e. the Germans] from whom one receives the spiritual light, a light without which European culture and education must remain a closed book.” (ibid., 141-42)

In contrast, Steiner exalts “what the German is capable of, when he depends completely on his Germanness, and solely on his Germanness.” (ibid., 113) Finally, Steiner’s 1888 articles demand that the Habsburg empire’s political agenda be set by “the exclusively national elements of the German people in Austria,” namely “the pan-Germans.” (143) These arguments did not cease with the end of Steiner’s Vienna period, however. In Berlin in 1897 Steiner repeated the same refrain: “The Slavs and the Magyars are a danger to the mission of the Germans; they are forcing German culture to retreat.” (214) The same 1897 article rails against the “non-German elements” in Austria and regrets the Austro-Germans’ ostensible loss of their “privileged position within the monarchy” while looking forward to the day when “the Germans of Austria regain the position of power which corresponds to their cultural level.” (215-26)

Similarly, Steiner’s 1898 essay “On Pan-German Poets of Struggle in Austria” describes for his Berlin-based readership “the essence of the German national soul from the viewpoint of the German nationalist-minded Austrian.” (Rudolf Steiner, “Über deutschnationale Kampfdichter in Österreich” originally in Magazin für Litteratur 1898, vol. 67, no. 34, reprinted in Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Literatur, 448-49)

Steiner’s early German nationalist essays do not merely celebrate the wonders of the German national soul; they develop a specific theory of the relationship between German national capacities and objectives and those of other ethnic groups. This distinction between Germans and non-Germans is central to Steiner’s later works on the spiritual significance of race and nation. An 1890 article, for example, extols “the world-historical mission of the Germans” (Rudolf Steiner, “Zwei nationale Dichter Österreichs” from Nationale Blätter 1890, in Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsäze zur Literatur, 127). In the same article Steiner unflatteringly contrasts “the Jewish people” to “the Germans,” claiming that the Jews have no appreciation for the “religion of love,” in stark contrast to the German people, who “unselfishly live for the ideal.” (ibid.)

In 1888, Steiner strongly emphasized “the deep contrast” between “the national idea of the Germans and that of the non-German nationalities,” defining this difference as a struggle between a cultural duty incumbent upon the Germans because of their history, and the merely chauvinist strivings of the Slavic peoples: “The Germans are fighting for a cultural obligation which has been granted them by virtue of their national development, and their opponent in this struggle is national chauvinism.” (Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte, 116; Steiner refers here explicitly to “the Slavic enemy,” which he also terms simply “our national enemy,” as the bearers of this national chauvinism.)

This position has sometimes been construed as a principled opposition to nationalism as such. Even non-anthroposophist accounts occasionally deny that the young Steiner’s stance was German nationalist. Such analyses may be based in part on a foreshortened understanding of the late nineteenth-century Austrian context. The distinctive Habsburg ethnic-political crucible within which Steiner’s national views were formed was undoubtedly complex, with numerous rival parties and national groups vying for influence. Within this Byzantine multinational landscape, however, the Austro-Germans enjoyed overwhelming hegemony during Steiner’s era. Despite widespread perceptions among ethnic Germans of a ‘national’ peril from non-German groups within the state, there was no real “struggle for national existence” among the Germans in the Habsburg empire in the 1880s, as Steiner held; on the contrary, ethnic Germans formed the administrative, economic, and cultural elite throughout the Austrian half of the far-flung multiethnic empire.

Germans were not only the largest single ethnic group in the empire, they had successfully established and defended a paramount position across Austrian society. John Mason observes that the Austro-Germans were “the leading national group in the Empire and exercised an influence out of all proportion to their numbers.” (Mason, The Dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire 1867-1918, 10) Mason further notes that “the modern centralized administration” of the country was “thoroughly German in character” (ibid.). “The official language of the Empire was German and the civil servants were overwhelmingly German […] Not only was the cultural life of Vienna almost exclusively German, but the capitalist class, the Catholic hierarchy and the press were also the preserve of the Austro-Germans.” (11) Robert Kann notes that German nationalism in Austria sought “the preservation and enhancement of a privileged position.” (Kann, The Habsburg Empire, 19) For further background see among others Jörg Kirchhoff, Die Deutschen in der österreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie; Emil Franzel, Der Donauraum im Zeitalter des Nationalitätenprinzips; and Robert Kann, The Multinational Empire.

Slav efforts toward greater access to political participation in the Habsburg framework were indeed perceived as a disconcerting challenge by German nationalists, but these efforts did not pose an immediate threat to widespread German predominance under the monarchy in this period. The Germans had not lost their privileged position within the Habsburg system, and by the late 1880s, moreover, virtually all German political parties and social organizations, with the partial exception of the clerical parties that Steiner despised, had gone through a process of intense nationalist radicalization such that figures who a decade earlier had counted as strident nationalists were now seen as ineffectual moderates. (For a penetrating study of the dynamics of increasing nationalist radicalization among Austro-Germans at the time see Pieter Judson’s chapter “From Liberalism to Nationalism: Inventing a German Community, 1880-85” in Judson, Exclusive Revolutionaries, 193-222.)

The context for Steiner’s early nationalism was thus a shifting situation in Austria-Hungary that thoroughly unsettled inherited notions of German superiority while giving rise to rival national movements among non-German communities. Many of these inter-ethnic struggles concerned disputes over language politics, particularly challenges to German as the sole official language in a variety of administrative contexts. German anxieties over their predominance within the Austrian half of the empire were exacerbated by the conservative ‘Iron Ring’ government of Count Taafe, which pursued a policy of mollifying Slav constituencies, particularly Czechs and Poles, thus antagonizing both the German liberal and pan-German opposition. (For a relatively balanced account see William Jenks, Austria under the Iron Ring, 1879-1893.)

Even if the ambitions of the Habsburgs’ Slav subjects did not constitute a genuine danger to the privileged position of the Germans at the time, Slav campaigns for increased representation and greater autonomy did appear to be a potential menace to the stability of German hegemony. One outcome of this dynamic was that originally universalist visions of Germanness, seemingly embattled and undoubtedly embittered by non-German resistance to their assumed right to cultural pre-eminence, gave way to increasingly intolerant variants of nationalist defensiveness. Steiner’s early works partook of this broader transformation, and his emphasis on the German cultural mission thereby conjoined elements of cosmopolitanism with obstinate avowals of ethnic superiority.

When viewed within this context, Steiner’s early foray into national politics takes on a different significance. Much of the impetus for the middle-class variety of nationalism which Steiner adopted came from a deep sense of cultural superiority and entitlement: Germans in Austria often perceived themselves as the bearers of civilization to their supposedly backward neighbors and fellow citizens. Rather than either condemning or defending the young Steiner’s views, however, a more fruitful approach may be to re-examine the particular contours of his conception of the nation. Here the Austrian origins of Steiner’s national thinking are once again decisive.

But even across the broader framework of German-speaking Europe as a whole, the protean phenomenon of nationalism assumed a remarkable variety of forms. In order to comprehend Steiner’s conception of the nation, both before and after his turn to esoteric spirituality, it will be helpful to keep in mind the “wide spectrum of nationalisms” that existed in Germany in the decades surrounding 1900. (Geoff Eley, Reshaping the German Right: Radical Nationalism and Political Change after Bismarck, 168) Steiner’s particular version of German nationalist thought may be considered an instance of “informal nationalism” in the terms of Thomas Hylland Eriksen, “Formal and informal nationalism” Ethnic and Racial Studies 16 (1993), 1-25; while formal nationalism focuses primarily on the state, informal nationalism concentrates on civil society, collective events, rituals, beliefs, etc. George Mosse analyzes a similar variety of nationalism as a ‘secular religion’ in Mosse, The Nationalization of the Masses. Also worth consulting are Jost Hermand and James Steakley, eds., Heimat, Nation, Fatherland: The German Sense of Belonging; Reinhart Koselleck, “Volk, Nation, Nationalismus” in Koselleck, Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe vol. 7, 141-431; and Dominic Boyer, “The Bildungsbürgertum and the Dialectics of Germanness in the Long Nineteenth Century” in Boyer, Spirit and System: Media, Intellectuals, and the Dialectic in Modern German Culture, 46-98.

Steiner’s interpretation of German national identity and national destiny can perhaps best be understood as a variant of what historian Michael Steinberg has termed “nationalist cosmopolitanism.” (See the chapter “Nationalist Cosmopolitanism” in Michael P. Steinberg, The Meaning of the Salzburg Festival: Austria as Theater and Ideology, 1890-1938) This notion is based on “the principle that enlightenment and even more specifically cosmopolitanism are German virtues.” (ibid., 86) According to Steinberg, nationalist cosmopolitanism “assumed the cultural superiority of the Austro-Germans” and was intimately bound up with the concomitant conception of a “German mission” in Austria, in Europe, and in the world at large. (ibid., 90, 113) “German culture,” in this view, “is superior to other European cultures precisely because it is the only national culture to be possessed of a true spirit of cosmopolitanism. In other words, it is a German cultural virtue to understand foreign nations and cultures.” (ibid., 108)

In many ways, this diagnosis coincides with Pieter Judson’s examination of the “universalist rhetoric of German nationalism” that came to the fore among Germans in Austria in the 1880s. (Judson, Exclusive Revolutionaries, 270) Judson observes that German nationalists in Austria demanded “a strict assimilation to cosmopolitan German values” by other ethnic communities within the empire. (ibid., 269) Such an analysis can help account for the contradictory aspects of anthroposophical thinking on ethnicity and on national questions, contradictions which are already manifest in Steiner’s early works. What emerges clearly from these early essays is that Steiner’s espousal of a unique cultural mission for the German people – a thread that runs throughout his mature anthroposophical teachings – was a prominent presence in his public career from its very beginnings.

For further historical context on the ‘deutschnational’ movement in Austria in Steiner’s day, I recommend the following: McGrath, Dionysian Art and Populist Politics in Austria; Höbelt, Kornblume und Kaiseradler; Andrew Whiteside, The Socialism of Fools: Georg von Schönerer and Austrian Pan-Germanism; the chapter on “Deutschnationalismus” in Albert Fuchs, Geistige Strömungen in Österreich 1867-1918; Donald Daviau, “Hermann Bahr and the Radical Politics of Austria in the 1880s” German Studies Review 5 (1982), 163-85; Günter Schödl, “Alldeutsch-deutschnationale Politik in der Habsburgermonarchie und im Deutschen Reich” in Schödl, Formen und Grenzen des Nationalen, 49-89; Kann, A History of the Habsburg Empire 1526-1918, 432-35; Kann, The Multinational Empire: Nationalism and National Reform in the Habsburg Monarchy 1848-1918, 98-101; Arthur May, The Hapsburg Monarchy 1867-1914, 210-12; Carl Schorske, Fin-de-siécle Vienna, 120-33; and the massive recent study by Michael Wladika, Hitlers Vätergeneration: Die Ursprünge des Nationalsozialismus in der k.u.k. Monarchie (Vienna 2005).

Anthroposophy and Ecofascism

Anthroposophy and Ecofascism

Peter Staudenmaier (revised 2008)


 In June, 1910, Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy, began a speaking tour of Norway with a lecture to a large and attentive audience in Oslo. The lecture series was titled “The Mission of National Souls in Relation to Nordic-Germanic Mythology.” In the Oslo lectures Steiner presented his theory of “folk souls” or “national souls” (Volksseelen in German, Steiner’s native tongue) and paid particular attention to the mysterious wonders of the “Nordic spirit.” The “national souls” of Northern and Central Europe belonged, Steiner explained, to the “Germanic-Nordic” peoples, the world’s most spiritually advanced ethnic group, which was in turn the vanguard of the highest of five historical “root races.” This superior fifth root race, Steiner told his Oslo audience, was naturally the “Aryan” race.[1]

If this peculiar cosmology sounds eerily similar to the teutonic myths of Himmler and Hitler, the resemblance is no accident. Anthroposophy and National Socialism both have deep roots in the confluence of nationalism, right-wing populism, proto-environmentalist romanticism and esoteric spiritualism that characterized much of German and Austrian culture at the end of the nineteenth century. But the connection between Steiner’s racially stratified pseudo-religion and the rise of the Nazis goes beyond mere philosophical parallels. Anthroposophy had a powerful practical influence on the so-called “green wing” of German fascism. Moreover, the actual politics of Steiner and his followers have consistently displayed a profoundly reactionary streak.[2]

Why does anthroposophy, despite its patently racist elements and its compromised past, continue to enjoy a reputation as progressive, tolerant, enlightened and ecological? The details of Steiner’s teachings are not well known outside of the anthroposophist movement, and within that movement the lengthy history of ideological implication in fascism is mostly repressed or denied outright. In addition, many individual anthroposophists have earned respect for their work in alternative education, in organic farming, and within the environmental movement. Nevertheless, it is an unfortunate fact that the record of anthroposophist collaboration with a specifically “environmentalist” strain of fascism continues into the twenty-first century.

Organized anthroposophist groups are often best known through their far-flung network of public institutions. The most popular of these is probably the Waldorf school movement, with hundreds of branches worldwide, followed by the biodynamic agriculture movement, which is especially active in Germany and the United States. Other well-known anthroposophist projects include Weleda cosmetics and pharmaceuticals and the Demeter brand of health food products. The new age Findhorn community in Scotland also has a strong anthroposophist component. Anthroposophists played an important role in the formation of the German Greens, and Germany’s former Interior Minister, Otto Schily, one of the most prominent founders of the Greens, is an anthroposophist.

In light of this broad public exposure, it is perhaps surprising that the ideological underpinnings of anthroposophy are not better known.[3] Anthroposophists themselves, however, view their highly esoteric doctrine as an “occult science” suitable to a spiritually enlightened elite. The very name “anthroposophy” suggests to many outsiders a humanist orientation. But anthroposophy is in many respects a deeply anti-humanist worldview, and humanists like Theodor Adorno and Ernst Bloch opposed it from the beginning.[4] Its rejection of reason in favor of mystical experience, its subordination of human action to supernatural forces, and its thoroughly hierarchical model of spiritual development all mark anthroposophy as inimical to humanist values.

Who was Rudolf Steiner?

Like many quasi-religious groups, anthroposophists have a reverential attitude toward their founder. Born in 1861, Steiner grew up in a provincial Austrian town, the son of a mid-level railway official. His intellectually formative years were spent in Vienna, capital of the aging Habsburg empire, and in Berlin. By all accounts an intense personality and a prolific writer and lecturer, Steiner dabbled in a number of unusual causes. Around the turn of the century, he underwent a profound spiritual transformation, after which he claimed to be able to see the spirit world and communicate with celestial beings. These ostensible supernatural powers are the origin of most anthroposophist beliefs and rituals. Steiner changed his mind on many topics in the course of his life; his early hostility toward Christianity, for example, later gave way to a neo-christian version of spiritualism codified in anthroposophy; and his viewpoint on theosophy reversed itself several times. But a preoccupation with mysticism, occult legends and the esoteric marked his mature career from 1900 onward.[5]

In 1902 Steiner joined the Theosophical Society and almost immediately became General Secretary of its German section. Theosophy was a curious amalgam of esoteric precepts drawn from various traditions, above all Hinduism and Buddhism, refracted through a European occult lens.[6] Its originator, Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891), was the inventor of the “root races” idea; she declared the extinction of indigenous peoples by European colonialism to be a matter of “karmic necessity.” Theosophy is built around the purported teachings of a coterie of “spiritual masters,” otherworldly beings who secretly direct human events. These teachings were interpreted and presented by Blavatsky and her successor Annie Besant (1847-1933) to their theosophist followers as special wisdom from divine sources, thus establishing the authoritarian pattern that was later carried over to anthroposophy.

Steiner dedicated ten years of his life to the theosophical movement, becoming one of its best-known spokespeople and honing his supernatural skills. He broke from mainstream theosophy in 1912, taking most of the German-speaking sections with him, when Besant and her colleagues declared the young Krishnamurti, a boy they “discovered” in India, to be the reincarnation of Christ. Steiner was unwilling to accept a brown-skinned Hindu lad as the next “spiritual master.” What had separated Steiner all along from Blavatsky, Besant, and the other India-oriented theosophists was his insistence on the superiority of European esoteric traditions.

In the wake of the split, Steiner founded the Anthroposophical Society in Germany. Shortly before the outbreak of world war one he moved the fledgling organization’s international headquarters to Switzerland. Under the protection of Swiss neutrality he was able to build up a permanent center in the village of Dornach. Blending theosophical wisdom with his own “occult research,” Steiner continued to develop the theory and practice of anthroposophy, along with a steadily growing circle of followers, until his death in 1925.

The centerpiece of anthroposophical belief is spiritual advancement through karma and reincarnation, supplemented by the access to esoteric knowledge available to a privileged few. According to anthroposophy, the spiritual dimension suffuses every aspect of life. For anthroposophists, illnesses are karmically determined and play a role in the soul’s development. Natural processes, historical events, and technological mechanisms are all explained through the action of spiritual forces. Such beliefs continue to mark the curriculum in many Waldorf schools.

Steiner’s doctrine of reincarnation, embraced by latter-day anthroposophists the world over, holds that individuals choose their parents before birth, and indeed that we plan out our lives before beginning them to insure that we receive the necessary spiritual lessons. If a disembodied soul balks at its own chosen life prospects just before incarnation, it fails to incarnate fully—the source, according to anthroposophists, of prenatal “defects” and congenital disabilities. In addition, “the various parts of our body will be formed with the aid of certain planetary beings as we pass through particular constellations of the zodiac.”[7]

Anthroposophists maintain that Steiner’s familiarity with the “astral plane,” with the workings of various “archangels,” with daily life on the lost continent of Atlantis (all central tenets of anthroposophic belief) came from his special powers of clairvoyance. Steiner claimed to have access to the “Akashic Chronicle,” a supernatural scripture containing knowledge of higher realms of existence as well as of the distant past and future. Steiner “interpreted” much of this chronicle and shared it with his followers. He insisted that such “occult experience,” as he called it, was not subject to the usual criteria of reason, logic, or scientific inquiry. Modern anthroposophy is thus founded on unverifiable belief in Steiner’s teachings. Those teachings deserve closer examination.

Anthroposophy’s Racialist Ideology

Building on theosophy’s postulate of root races, Steiner and his anthroposophist disciples elaborated a systematic racial classification system for human beings and tied it directly to their paradigm of spiritual advancement. The particulars of this racial theory are so extraordinary, even bizarre, that it is difficult for non-anthroposophists to take it seriously, but it is important to understand the pernicious and lasting effects the doctrine has had on anthroposophists and those they’ve influenced.[8]

Steiner asserted that “root races” follow one another in chronological succession over epochs lasting hundreds of thousands of years, and each root race is further divided into “sub-races” which are also arranged hierarchically. By chance, as it were, the root race which happened to be paramount at the time Steiner made these momentous discoveries was the Aryan race, a term which anthroposophists use to this day. All racial categories are arbitrary social constructs, but the notion of an Aryan race is an especially preposterous invention. A favorite of reactionaries in the early years of the twentieth century, the Aryan concept was based on a conflation of linguistic and biological terminology backed up by spurious “research.” In other words, it was an amalgamation of errors which served to provide a pseudo-scientific veneer to racist fantasies.[9]

Anthroposophy’s promotion of this ridiculous doctrine is disturbing enough. But it is compounded by Steiner’s further claim that—in yet another remarkable coincidence—the most advanced group within the Aryan root race is currently the nordic-germanic sub-race or people. Above all, anthroposophy’s conception of spiritual development is inextricable from its evolutionary narrative of racial decline and racial advance: a select few enlightened members evolve into a new “race” while their spiritually inferior neighbors degenerate. Anthroposophy is thus structured around a hierarchy of biological and psychological as well as “spiritual” capacities and characteristics, all of them correlated to race. The affinities with Nazi discourse are unmistakable.[10]

Steiner did not shy away from describing the fate of those left behind by the forward march of racial and spiritual progress. He taught that these unfortunates would “degenerate” and eventually die out. Like his teacher Madame Blavatsky, Steiner rejected the notion that Native Americans, for example, were nearly exterminated by the actions of European settlers. Instead he held that Indians were “dying out of their own nature.”[11] Steiner also taught that “lower races” of humans are closer to animals than to “higher races” of humans. Aboriginal peoples, according to anthroposophy, are descended from the already “degenerate” remnants of the third root race, the Lemurians, and are devolving into apes. Steiner referred to them as “stunted men, whose descendants still inhabit certain parts of the earth today as so-called savage tribes.”[12]

The fourth root race which emerged between the Lemurians and the Aryans were the inhabitants of the lost continent of Atlantis, the existence of which anthroposophists take as literal fact. Direct descendants of the Atlanteans include the Japanese, Mongolians, and Eskimos. Steiner also believed that each people or Volk has its own “etheric aura” which corresponds to its geographic homeland, as well as its own “Volksgeist” or national spirit, an archangel that provides spiritual leadership to its respective people.

Steiner propagated a host of racist myths about “negroes.” He taught that black people are sensual, instinct-driven, primitive creatures, ruled by their brainstem. He denounced the immigration of blacks to Europe as “terrible” and “brutal” and decried its effects on “blood and race.” He warned that white women shouldn’t read “negro novels” during pregnancy, otherwise they’d have “mulatto children.” In 1922 he declared, “The negro race does not belong in Europe, and the fact that this race is now playing such a large role in Europe is of course nothing but a nuisance.”[13]

But the worst insult, from an anthroposophical point of view, is Steiner’s dictum that people of color can’t develop spiritually on their own; they must either be “educated” by whites or reincarnated in white skin. Europeans, in contrast, are the most highly developed humans. Indeed “Europe has always been the origin of all human development.” For Steiner and for anthroposophy, there is no doubt that “whites are the ones who develop humanity in themselves. [ . . . ] The white race is the race of the future, the spiritually creative race.”[14]

Anthroposophists today often attempt to excuse or explain away such outrageous utterances by contending that Steiner was merely a product of his times.[15] This apologia is triply unconvincing. First, Steiner claimed for himself an unprecedented degree of spiritual enlightenment which, by his own account, completely transcended his own time and place; he also claimed, and anthroposophists believe that he had, detailed knowledge of the distant past and future. Second, this argument ignores the many dedicated members of Steiner’s generation who actively opposed racism and ethnocentrism. Third, and most telling, anthroposophists continue to recycle Steiner’s racist imaginings to this day.

In 1995 there was a scandal in the Netherlands when it became publicly known that Dutch Waldorf schools were teaching “racial ethnography,” where children learn that the “black race” has thick lips and a sense of rhythm and that the “yellow race” hides its emotions behind a permanent smile. In 1994 the Steinerite lecturer Rainer Schnurre, at one of his frequent seminars for the anthroposophist adult school in Berlin, gave a talk with the rather baffling title “Overcoming Racism and Nationalism through Rudolf Steiner.” According to a contemporary account, Schnurre emphasized the essential differences between races, noted the “infantile” nature of blacks, and alleged that due to immutable racial disparities “no equal and global system can be created for all people on earth” and that “because of the differences between races, sending aid to the developing world is useless.”[16]

Incidents such as these are distressingly common in the world of anthroposophy. The racial mindset that Steiner bestowed on his faithful followers has yet to be repudiated. And it may well never be repudiated, since anthroposophy lacks the sort of critical social consciousness that could counteract its flagrantly regressive core beliefs. Indeed anthroposophy’s political outlook has had a decidedly reactionary cast from the beginning.

The Social Vision of Anthroposophy

Steiner’s political perspective was shaped by a variety of influences. Foremost among these was Romanticism, a literary and political movement that had a lasting impact on German culture in the nineteenth century. Like all broad cultural phenomena, Romanticism was politically complex, inspiring both left and right. But the leading political Romantics were explicit reactionaries and vehement nationalists who excluded Jews, even baptized ones, from their forums; they became bitter opponents of political reform and favored a strictly hierarchical, semi-feudal social order. The Romantic revulsion for nascent “modernity,” hostility toward rationality and enlightenment, and mystical relation to nature all left their mark on Steiner’s thought.

Early in his career Steiner also fell under the sway of Nietzsche, the outstanding anti-democratic thinker of the era, whose elitism made a powerful impression. The radical individualism of Max Stirner further contributed to the young Steiner’s political outlook, yielding a potent philosophical melange that was waiting to be catalyzed by some dynamic reactionary force.[17] The latter appeared to Steiner soon enough in the form of Ernst Haeckel and his Social Darwinist creed of Monism.[18] Haeckel (1834-1919) was the founder of modern ecology and the major popularizer of evolutionary theory in Germany. Steiner became a partisan of Haeckel’s views, and from him anthroposophy inherited its environmentalist predilections, its hierarchical model of human development, and its tendency to interpret social phenomena in biological terms.

Haeckel’s elitist worldview extended beyond the realm of biology. He was also “a prophet of the national and racial regeneration of Germany” and exponent of an “intensely mystical and romantic nationalism,” as well as “a direct ancestor” of Nazi eugenics.[19] Monism, which Steiner for a time vigorously defended, rejected “Western rationalism, humanism, and cosmopolitanism,” and was “opposed to any fundamental social change. What was needed for Germany, it argued categorically, was a far-reaching cultural and not a social revolution.”[20] This attitude was to become a hallmark of anthroposophy.

In the heady turn-of-the-century atmosphere, Steiner flirted for a while with left politics, and even shared a podium with revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg at a workers’ meeting in 1902. But Steiner consistently rejected any materialist or social analysis of capitalist society in favor of “looking into the soul” of fellow humans to divine the roots of the modern malaise. This facile approach to social reality was to reach fruition in his mature political vision, elaborated during the first world war. Steiner’s response to the war was determined by the final, decisive component in his intellectual temperament: chauvinist nationalism.

By his own account, Steiner actively took part in Viennese pan-German circles in the late nineteenth century.[21] He saw World War One as part of an international “conspiracy against German spiritual life.”[22] In Steiner’s preferred explanation, it wasn’t imperialist rivalry among colonial powers or national myopia or unbounded militarism or the competition for markets which caused the war, but British freemasons and their striving for world domination. Steiner was a personal acquaintance of General Helmuth von Moltke, chief of staff of the German high command; after Moltke’s death in 1916 Steiner claimed to be in contact with his spirit and channeled the general’s views on the war from the nether world. After the war Steiner had high praise for German militarism, and continued to rail against France, French culture, and the French language in rhetoric which matched that of Mein Kampf. In the 1990’s anthroposophists were still defending Steiner’s jingoist historical denial, insisting that Germany bore no responsibility for World War One and was a victim of the “West.”

In the midst of the war’s senseless savagery, Steiner used his military and industrial connections to try to persuade German and Austrian elites of a new social theory of his, which he hoped to see implemented in conquered territories in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately for Steiner’s plans, Germany and Austria-Hungary lost the war, and his dream went unrealized. But the new doctrine he had begun preaching serves to this day as the social vision of anthroposophy. Its economic and political principles represent an unsteady combination of individualist and corporatist elements. Conceived as an alternative to both Woodrow Wilson’s self-determination program and the bolshevik revolution, Steiner gave this theory the unwieldy name “the tripartite structuring of the social organism” (Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, often referred to in English-language anthroposophist literature as “social threefolding” or “the threefold commonwealth,” phrases which obscure Steiner’s biologistic view of the social realm as an actual organism).[23] The three branches of this scheme, which resembles both fascist and semi-feudal corporatist models, are the state (political, military, and police functions), the economy, and the cultural sphere.[24] This last sphere encompasses “all judicial, educational, intellectual and spiritual matters,” which are to be administered by “corporations,” with individuals free to choose their school, church, court, etc.[25]

Anthroposophists consider this threefold structure to be “naturally ordained.”[26] Its central axiom is that the modern integration of politics, economy and culture into an ostensibly democratic framework must falter because, according to Steiner, neither the economy nor cultural life can or should be structured democratically. The cultural sphere, which Steiner defined very broadly, is a realm of individual achievement where the most talented and capable should predominate. And the economy must never be subject to democratic public control because it would then collapse. Steiner’s economic and political naiveté are encapsulated in his claim that capitalism “will become a legitimate capitalism if it is spiritualized.”[27]

In the aftermath of the bloody world war, at the very moment of great upheavals against the violence, misery, and exploitation of capitalism, Steiner emerged as an ardent defender of private profit, the concentration of property and wealth, and the unfettered market. Arguing vehemently against any effort to replace anti-social institutions with humane ones, Steiner proposed adapting his “threefold commonwealth” to the existing system of class domination. He could scarcely deny that the coarse economic despotism of his day was enormously damaging to human lives, but insisted that “private capitalism as such is not the cause of the damage”:

“The fact that individual people or groups of people administer huge masses of capital is not what makes life anti-social, but rather the fact that these people or groups exploit the products of their administrative labor in an anti-social manner.

[ . . . ] If management by capable individuals were replaced with management by the whole community, the productivity of management would be undermined. Free initiative, individual capabilities and willingness to work cannot be fully realized within such a community. [ . . .] The attempt to structure economic life in a social manner destroys productivity.”[28]

Though Steiner tried to make inroads within working class institutions, his outlook was understandably not very popular among workers. The revolutionaries of the 1919 Munich council republic derided him as “the soul-doctor of decaying capitalism.”[29] Otto Neurath condemned ‘social threefolding’ as small-scale capitalism. Industrialists, on the other hand, showed a keen interest in Steiner’s notions. Soon after the revolutionary upsurge of workers across Germany was crushed, Steiner was invited by the director of the Waldorf-Astoria tobacco factory to establish a company school in Stuttgart. Thus were Waldorf schools born.

Anthroposophy in Practice: Waldorf Schools and Biodynamic Farming

The school in Stuttgart turned out to be the anthroposophists’ biggest success, along with the nearby pharmaceutical factory that they named after the mythical Norse oracle Weleda. Waldorf schools are now represented in many countries and generally project a solidly progressive image. There are undoubtedly progressive aspects to Waldorf education, many of them absorbed from the intense ferment of alternative pedagogical theories prevalent in the first decades of the twentieth century. But there is more to Waldorf schooling than holistic learning, musical expression, and eurythmy.

Classical anthroposophy, with its root races and its national souls, is the “covert curriculum” of Waldorf schools.[30] Anthroposophists themselves avow in internal forums that the idea of karma and reincarnation is the “basis of all true education.”[31] They believe that each class of students chooses one another and their teacher before birth. The task of a Waldorf teacher is to assist each pupil in fully incarnating. Steiner himself demanded that Waldorf schools be staffed by “teachers with a knowledge of man originating in a spiritual world.”[32] Later anthroposophists express the Waldorf vision thus:

“This education is essentially grounded on the recognition of the child as a spiritual being, with a varying number of incarnations behind him, who is returning at birth into the physical world, into a body that will be slowly moulded into a usable instrument by the soul-spiritual forces he brings with him. He has chosen his parents for himself because of what they can provide for him that he needs in order to fulfill his karma, and, conversely, they too need their relationship with him in order to fulfill their own karma.”[33]

The curriculum at Waldorf schools is structured around the stages of spiritual maturation posited by anthroposophy: from one to seven years a child develops her or his physical body, from seven to fourteen years the etheric body, and from fourteen to twenty-one the astral body. These stages are supposed to be marked by physical changes; thus kindergartners at Waldorf schools can’t enter first grade until they’ve begun to lose their baby teeth. In addition, each pupil is classified according to the medieval theory of humors: a Waldorf child is either melancholic, choleric, sanguine, or phlegmatic, and is treated accordingly by the teachers.

Along with privileging ostensibly “spiritual” considerations over cognitive and psycho-social ones, the static uniformity of this scheme is pedagogically suspect. It also suggests that Waldorf schools’ reputation for fostering a spontaneous, child-centered and individually oriented educational atmosphere is undeserved.[34] In fact Steiner’s model of instruction is downright authoritarian: he emphasized repetition and rote learning, and insisted that the teacher should be the center of the classroom and that students’ role was not to judge or even discuss the teacher’s pronouncements. In practice many Waldorf schools implement strict discipline, with public punishment for perceived transgressions.

Anthroposophy’s peculiar predilections also shape the Waldorf curriculum. Jazz and popular music are often scorned at European Waldorf schools, and recorded music in general is frowned upon; these phenomena are considered to harbor demonic forces. Instead students read fairy tales, a staple of Waldorf education. Many sports, too, are forbidden, and art instruction often rigidly follows Steiner’s eccentric theories of color and form. Taken together with the pervasive anti-technological and anti-scientific bias, the suspicion toward rational thought, and the occasional outbreaks of racist gibberish, these factors indicate that Waldorf schooling is as questionable as the other aspects of the anthroposophist enterprise.

Next to Waldorf schools, the most widespread and apparently progressive version of applied anthroposophy is biodynamic agriculture. In Germany and North America, at least, biodynamics is an established part of the alternative agriculture scene. Many small growers use biodynamic methods on their farms or gardens; there are biodynamic vineyards and the Demeter line of biodynamic food products, as well as a profusion of pamphlets, periodicals and conferences on the theory and practice of biodynamic farming.

Although not a farmer himself, Steiner introduced the fundamental outlines of biodynamics near the end of his life and produced a substantial body of literature on the topic, which anthroposophists and biodynamic growers follow more or less faithfully. Biodynamics in practice often converges with the broader principles of organic farming. Its focus on maintaining soil fertility rather than on crop yield, its rejection of artificial chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and its view of the whole farm or plot as an ecosystem all mark the biodynamic approach as an eminently sensible and ecologically sound method of cultivation. But there is more to the story than that.

Biodynamic farming is based on Steiner’s revelation of invisible cosmic forces and their effects on soil and flora. Anthroposophy teaches that the earth is an organism that breathes twice a day, that etheric beings act upon the land, and that celestial bodies and their movements directly influence the growth of plants. Hence biodynamic farmers time their sowing to coincide with the proper planetary constellations, all a part of what they consider “the spiritual natural processes of the earth.”[35] Sometimes this “spiritual” approach takes unusual forms, as in the case of “preparation 500.”

To make preparation 500, an integral component of anthroposophist agriculture, biodynamic farmers pack cow manure into a steer’s horn and bury it in the ground. After leaving it there for one whole winter, they dig up the horn and mix the manure with water (it must be stirred for a full hour in a specific rhythm) to make a spray which is applied to the topsoil. All of this serves to channel “radiations which tend to etherealize and astralize” and thus “gather up and attract from the surrounding earth all that is etheric and life-giving.”[36]

Non-anthroposophist organic growers are often inclined to dismiss such fanciful aspects of biodynamics as pointless but harmless appurtenances to an otherwise congenial cultivation technique. While this attitude has some merit, it is not reciprocated by biodynamic adherents, who emphasize that “The ‘organic’ farmer may well farm ‘biologically’ but he does not have the knowledge of how to work with dynamic forces—a knowledge that was given for the first time by Rudolf Steiner.”[37] For better or worse, biodynamic farming is inseparable from its anthroposophic context.

Enthusiasm for biodynamics, however, has historically extended well beyond the boundaries of anthroposophy proper. For a time it also held a strong appeal for others who shared anthroposophists’ nationalist background and occult interests. Indeed it was through biodynamic farming that anthroposophy most directly influenced the course of German fascism.

Anthroposophy and the “Green Wing” of the Nazi Party

The mix of mysticism, romanticism, and pseudo-environmentalist concerns propagated by Steiner and his cohorts brought anthroposophy into close ideological contact with a grouping that has been described as the green wing of National Socialism.[38] This group, which included several of the Third Reich’s most powerful leaders, were active proponents of biodynamic agriculture and other anthroposophist causes. The history of this relationship has been the subject of some controversy, with anthroposophists typically denying any connection whatsoever to the Nazis. To understand the matter fully, it is perhaps best to set it in the context of anthroposophy’s attitude toward the rise of fascism.

As the extremely thorough research of independent scholar Peter Bierl demonstrates, there was considerable admiration within the ranks of anthroposophists for Mussolini and Italian fascism, the precursor to Hitler’s dictatorship.[39] Moreover, several leading Italian anthroposophists were vocal Fascists and actively involved in promoting Fascist racial policy.[40] But it was the German variety of fascism which most prominently shared anthroposophy’s preoccupation with race. During the 1920’s and 1930’s the leading anthroposophist writer on racial issues was Dr. Richard Karutz, director of the anthropological museum in Lübeck.[41] Karutz wanted to protect anthropology as a discipline from what he termed “the sociological flood of materialist thinking,” favoring instead a “spiritual” ethnology based on anthroposophical race doctrine.[42] Flatly denying the anthropological research of his own time, he insisted on the cultural and spiritual superiority of the “Aryan race.”

Karutz was more openly antisemitic than many of his anthroposophist colleagues. He denounced the “spirit of Jewry,” which he described as “cliquish, petty, narrow-minded, rigidly tied to the past, devoted to dead conceptual knowledge and hungry for world power.”[43] During the last decade of the Weimar republic, Karutz and other anthroposophists had to contend with the growing notoriety of Nazi “racial science.” Karutz criticized the Nazis’ eugenic theories for their biological, as opposed to “spiritual,” emphasis, and for neglecting the role of reincarnation. But he agreed with their proscription against “racial mixing,” especially between whites and non-whites.

In 1931 the foremost anthroposophist journal published a positive review by Karutz of Walther Darré’s book Neuadel aus Blut und Boden (‘A New Nobility out of Blood and Soil’). Darré, a leading “racial theorist” and pre-eminent figure in the Nazis’ green wing, was soon to become Minister of Agriculture under Hitler.[44] This cozy relationship with major Nazi officials paid off for Steiner’s followers once the party took command of Germany. According to numerous anthroposophist accounts of this period, the Nazis hounded the Steinerites from the beginning of the Third Reich. But this self-serving tale is much too simple; the historical record reveals a considerably more complicated reality.

Immediately after the Nazi movement attained state power in early 1933, the leaders of organized anthroposophy took the initiative in extending their support to the new government. In June of that year a Danish newspaper asked Günther Wachsmuth, Secretary of the International Anthroposophic Society in Switzerland, about anthroposophy’s attitude toward the Nazi regime. He replied, “We can’t complain. We’ve been treated with the utmost consideration and have complete freedom to promote our doctrine.” Speaking for anthroposophists generally, Wachsmuth went on to express his “sympathy” and “admiration” for National Socialism.[45]

Wachsmuth, one of three top officers at anthroposophy’s world headquarters in Dornach, was hardly alone among Steiner’s followers in his vocal support for the Hitler dictatorship. The homeopathic physician Hanns Rascher, for example, proudly proclaimed himself “just as much an anthroposophist as a National Socialist.”[46] In 1934 the German Anthroposophic Society sent Hitler an official letter pointing out anthroposophy’s compatibility with National Socialist values and emphasizing Steiner’s “Aryan origins” and his pro-German activism.[47]

At the time Wachsmuth gave his interview, thousands of socialists, communists, anarchists, union members, and other dissidents had been interned or exiled, the Dachau and Oranienburg concentration camps had been established, and independent political life in Germany had been obliterated. But for years most anthroposophists suffered no official harassment; they were accepted into the compulsory Nazi cultural associations and continued to pursue their activities. The exception, of course, was Jewish members of anthroposophist organizations. They were forced, under pressure from the state, to leave these institutions. There is no record of their gentile anthroposophist comrades protesting this “racial” exclusion, much less putting up any internal resistance to it. In fact some anthroposophists, like the law professor Ernst von Hippel, endorsed the expulsion of Jews from German universities.

Despite this extensive public support by anthroposophists for the nazification of Germany, a power struggle was going on within the byzantine apparatus of the Nazi state over whether to ban anthroposophy or co-opt the movement and its institutions. This struggle was primarily conducted between Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy and a personal sympathizer with anthroposophical practices, and Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS and devotee of the esoteric and occult who viewed anthroposophy as ideological and organizational competition to his own pseudo-religion of Nazi paganism.[48] It was not until November 1935, long after most other independent cultural institutions had been destroyed, that the German Anthroposophic Society was dissolved on Himmler’s orders.

The ban, signed by Himmler’s lieutenant Reinhard Heydrich, cited anthroposophy’s “international orientation” and Waldorf schools’ “individualistic” education. Nazi opponents of the party’s green wing, such as Heydrich, disliked anthroposophy because of its “oriental” origins; there was also a certain populist resentment of anthroposophy’s elitism involved. But even after the ban there was no general persecution of anthroposophists. The anthroposophical doctors’ association received official recognition and support, joining the Nazi organization for ‘natural healing.’ Many anthroposophical publishing activities continued uninterrupted; anthroposophist professors, teachers and civil servants kept their jobs; Waldorf schools and biodynamic farms continued to operate. Most Waldorf schools were eventually shut down in the course of the later 1930’s, despite the pro-anthroposophist intervention of influential Nazis like SS war criminal Otto Ohlendorf.[49] But the final blow didn’t come until 1941 when Hess, anthroposophy’s protector, flew to Britain. After that point the last Waldorf school was closed for good, biodynamic farming lost its official support, and several leading anthroposophists were imprisoned for a time.

The Weleda factories, on the other hand, continued to operate throughout the war and even received state contracts. In fact Weleda supplied naturopathic materials for ‘medical experiments’ (i.e. torture) on prisoners at Dachau.[50] Weleda’s longtime head gardener, Franz Lippert, asked to be transferred to Dachau in 1941 to oversee the biodynamic plantation that Himmler had established at the concentration camp.[51] Lippert became an SS officer, as did his fellow biodynamic leader, anthroposophist Carl Grund. Thus anthroposophist collaboration with the Nazi vision of a new Europe persisted until the bitter end of the Third Reich.

Much of this sordid history is substantiated, albeit with a very different interpretive accent, in the massive 1999 book on anthroposophists and National Socialism by Uwe Werner, chief archivist at anthroposophy’s world headquarters in Switzerland.[52] But even this revealing work presents anthroposophist behavior under the Nazis as merely defensive and thus absolves Steiner’s followers of any measure of responsibility for Nazi Germany’s myriad crimes. Many other postwar attempts by anthroposophists to come to terms with their history of compromise and complicity with the Third Reich are embarrassingly evasive and repeat the underlying racism which united them with the Nazis in the first place. The prevailing explanations are thoroughly esoteric, portraying the Nazis as manipulated by demonic powers or even as a necessary stage in the spiritual development of the Aryan race.[53]

The Biodynamic movement and its Nazi admirers

More striking still than such mystifications of Nazism is the refusal within anthroposophic circles to acknowledge their doctrine’s influence on the Nazis’ green wing. The anthroposophist inflection of German ecofascism extended well beyond high-profile figures such as Darré and Hess.[54] Powerful Steinerite Nazi functionaries and supporters of biodynamic agriculture included SS officer and anthroposophist Hans Merkel, a leading figure in the SS Main Office for Race and Settlement; anthroposophist Georg Halbe, an influential official in the Nazi agricultural apparatus; Merkel’s and Halbe’s colleague Wilhelm Rauber; and Nazi party Reichstag member Hermann Schneider.[55] Other regional and local officials of the biodynamic farmers league belonged to the Nazi party, including Albert Friehe and Harald Kabisch. A further central member of the green wing with strong ties to anthroposophy was Alwin Seifert, whose official title was Reich Advocate for the Landscape.[56] Leading figures in the biodynamic movement, meanwhile, such as Franz Dreidax and Max Karl Schwarz, worked closely with various Nazi organizations.

What distinguished the motley band of fascist functionaries known collectively as the green wing of the Nazi movement was their allegiance to the anti-humanist “religion of nature” preached by National Socialism.[57] Reviving Haeckel’s blend of Social Darwinism and ecology, they embodied a historically unique and politically disastrous convergence of otherworldly ideology with worldly authority. In the green wing of the Nazi party, nationalism, spiritualism, esoteric racism and eco-mysticism acceded to state power.[58]

The green wing’s guiding slogan was ‘Blood and Soil,’ an infamous Nazi phrase which referred to the mystical relationship between the German people and its sacred land. Adherents of Blood and Soil held that environmental purity was inseparable from racial purity. This dual concern made them natural consociates of anthroposophy. The principal intermediary between organized anthroposophy and the Nazi green wing was Erhard Bartsch, the chief anthroposophist official responsible for biodynamic agriculture. Bartsch was on friendly personal terms with Seifert and Hess and played a crucial role in persuading the Nazi leadership of the virtues of biodynamics. He constantly emphasized the philosophical affinities between anthroposophy and National Socialism. Bartsch edited the journal Demeter, official organ of German biodynamic growers, which praised the Nazis and their courageous Führer even after the start of the war. Bartsch also offered his services to the SS in their plan to settle the conquered territories of Eastern Europe with pure Aryan farmers. His early and wholehearted engagement for the Nazi cause is testimony to the political precariousness of the biodynamic model.

Many other powerful Nazi authorities supported biodynamic farming. These included, in addition to Ohlendorf, Hess, and Darré, the Nazi Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick, Nazi leader of the German Labor Front Robert Ley, and chief Nazi ideologist Alfred Rosenberg, all of whom were visitors to Bartsch’s biodynamic estate, the headquarters of the biodynamic farmers league, and expressed their encouragement for the undertaking. Two further extremely important figures, especially after 1941, were the high SS commanders Günther Pancke and Oswald Pohl. Pancke was Darré’s successor as head of the SS Race and Settlement Main Office and drew on Bartsch’s assistance in planning a biodynamic component to the Nazi settlement of ethnically cleansed territories in Eastern Europe. Pohl, a friend of Seifert’s, was the administrator of the concentration camp system. He took a special interest in biodynamics and had his own estate farmed biodynamically. He established and maintained the ring of biodynamic farms at concentration camps, which continued to operate until the final defeat of Nazism in 1945.

Alongside these figures stood lesser-known Nazi leaders who actively supported the biodynamic cause, including a variety of other SS officers such as Heinrich Vogel, who coordinated the SS network of biodynamic plantations at concentration camps. Hanns G. Müller, the principal advocate of Lebensreform or ‘lifestyle reform’ views within the Nazi movement, was another longstanding sponsor of biodynamic agriculture. In 1935 the biodynamic farmers league officially joined Müller’s Nazi organization, the “Deutsche Gesellschaft für Lebensreform,” a collection of ‘alternative’ cultural groups dedicated to alternative health, nutrition, farming, and so forth, with an explicitly and fervently Nazi commitment. The organization’s journalLeib und Leben published dozens of articles by biodynamic enthusiasts as late as mid-1943. Müller’s Nazi party colleague Herman Polzer, another leading figure in Nazi Lebensreform circles, was a particularly vocal proponent of biodynamic agriculture. The coterie of “landscape advocates” working under Seifert, a long-time practitioner and advocate of biodynamics, also included a number of active anthroposophists, most prominently Max Karl Schwarz, a major leader in the biodynamic movement.[59]

Nazi Minister of Agriculture and “Reich Peasant Leader” Walther Darré was initially skeptical toward biodynamic farming but became an enthusiastic convert in the late 1930’s.[60] He bestowed on Steiner’s version of organic cultivation the official label “farming according to the laws of life,” a term which highlights the natural order ideology common to all forms of reactionary ecology. In mid-1941 Darré was still heavily promoting state support for biodynamics, and his biographer claims that “one third of the top Nazi leadership supported Darré’s campaign” on behalf of biodynamics at a time when all varieties of anthroposophy were officially out of favor.[61] Indeed Nazi government encouragement of biodynamic farming had a long history: “There were two thousand bio-dynamic farmers registered in the Nazi ‘Battle for Production’, probably an understatement of the real figure.”[62]

The green wing of the Nazis represents the historical fulfillment of the dreams of reactionary ecology: ecofascism in power. The extensive intertwinement of anthroposophic belief and practice with actually existing ecofascism should not be judged as an instance of guilt by association. Rather it ought to be occasion to reflect on the political susceptibilities of esoteric environmentalism. Even the anthroposophist author Arfst Wagner, who spent years compiling documentation on anthroposophy in the Third Reich, came to the uncomfortable conclusion that “a strong latent tendency toward extreme right-wing politics” is common among anthroposophists both past and present.[63]

The Continuing Legacy of Steinerite Reactionary Ecology

The calamitous experience of Nazism failed to exorcise the right-wing spirits that haunt anthroposophy. Steiner’s dictum that social change could only be the result of spiritual transformation on an individual level lead to a marginalization of sober political analysis among his followers. This left anthroposophy wide open to the same regressive forces that had surreptitiously animated it all along.

Of course there were also personal continuities between the Nazi green wing and post-war anthroposophy. While Hess was inaccessible in Spandau prison, Darré’s judges at Nuremberg imposed a relatively short sentence, with the help of Merkel, his anthroposophist attorney. Darré studied Steiner’s writings during his imprisonment, and after his release from prison resumed his friendly contacts with anthroposophists until his death in 1953. Seifert returned to his professorship of landscape architecture in Munich and in 1964 was elected honorary chair of the Bavarian League for Nature Conservation. Darré’s biographer also notes admiringly “the brave handful of top Nazis” who had refused to cooperate with the 1941 purge of anthroposophists and “had their children educated and cared for by Anthroposophists after the Second World War.”[64]

The second generation of radical right-wing anthroposophists was represented above all by Werner Georg Haverbeck, a leader of the Nazi youth movement during the Third Reich and an associate of Hess. After the war he became pastor of an anthroposophist congregation and founded the far-right World League for the Protection of Life (WSL in its German acronym).[65] The WSL, which has played an influential role in the German environmental movement, is anti-abortion, anti-immigration, and pro-eugenics. It promotes a “natural order of life” and opposes racial “degeneration.” As aggressive nationalism gained ever more ground in German public discourse through the 1980’s and 1990’s, Haverbeck and the WSL were instrumental in linking it to ecological issues.[66]

In 1989 Haverbeck authored a biography of anthroposophy’s founder under the title Rudolf Steiner – Advocate for Germany.[67] The book portrays Steiner, accurately enough, as a staunch nationalist, and even uses Steiner’s work to deny the facts of the holocaust. Haverbeck’s fellow long-time anthroposophist and WSL leader Ernst Otto Cohrs is another active holocaust denier. Cohrs, who made his living in the 1980’s and 1990’s selling biodynamic products, has also published works such as “There Were No Gas Chambers” and “The Auschwitz Myth.” A further prominent Steinerite on Germany’s extreme right is Günther Bartsch, who describes himself as a “national revolutionary.” Along with his neo-Nazi comrade Baldur Springmann, an organic farmer, WSL member, and founder of the Greens, Bartsch developed the doctrine of ‘Ecosophy.’ A mixture of anthroposophy with reactionary ecology and teutonic mysticism, ecosophy is yet another vehicle for promoting far right politics within the esoteric scene.

The persistent connection between Steiner’s worldview and neofascist politics is not restricted to a few fringe figures. Throughout the past two decades, well-known anthroposophists have been a common presence in Germany’s far right press, while the anthroposophist press often enough opens its pages to right-wing extremists. One anti-fascist researcher reports that “leading figures in the extreme right and neofascist camp are ideological proponents of biodynamic agriculture.”[68] Anthroposophists themselves occasionally admit that within their own organizations a “right-wing conservative consensus” remains “absolute.”[69] In Italy, meanwhile, the foremost post-war anthroposophist, Massimo Scaligero, was also a leading figure in neo-fascist circles, and Steiner’s work has numerous far-right Italian fans.[70]

Many contemporary anthroposophists nonetheless maintain that figures like Haverbeck are marginal to their movement. This argument overlooks the fact that several of Haverbeck’s books are published by the largest anthroposophist publisher in Germany, and ignores the substantial overlap between Haverbeck’s positions and those of Steiner and classical anthroposophy. More important, mainstream anthroposophists continue to repeat the mistakes of the past, as if Nazi tyranny and genocide had never taken place. Günther Wachsmuth, for example – as mainstream an anthroposophist as one might find – published a purportedly scientific book in the 1950’s called The Development of Humanity which recapitulated the racist nonsense of pre-war anthroposophy.[71] Even more aggressively racist post-war anthroposophical works are not difficult to find.[72] In 1991, in the midst of an intense debate within Germany about restricting immigration laws, an anthroposophist journal ran an article with the title “Deutschendämmerung” (‘Twilight of the Germans’) which offered an ‘ecological’ version of neo-malthusian propaganda and anti-immigrant hysteria.

Mainstream anthroposophy also still has a Jewish problem. Perhaps this is not surprising in a movement whose founder blamed the historical persecution of Jews on their own “inner destiny” and proclaimed that “the Jews have contributed immensely to their own separate status.”[73] In 1992 a Swiss Waldorf teacher published a book claiming there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz; a leading Russian anthroposophist followed suit in 1996 with another book denying the holocaust; in 1995 a prominent anthroposophist periodical carried an article on “Jewish-Christian Hostility” which recycled the old myth of Jews as Christ-killers; in 1998 an anthroposophist from Hamburg wrote to another Steinerite journal claiming that “from 1933 to 1942 any Jew could leave the Nazi dictatorship with all of his property, and even be released from a concentration camp, as long as he went to Palestine.”[74] In 1991 and again in 1997 Swiss and German anthroposophists re-issued the 1931 book Das Rätsel des Judentums (‘The Mystery of Jewry’) by Ludwig Thieben, one of Austria’s leading anthroposophists in Steiner’s day. Jewish organizations and civil rights groups protested this ugly tract, which decries the “far-reaching negative influence of the Jewish essence,” alleges that Jews have “an anti-christian predisposition in their blood,” and holds Jews responsible for the “decline of the West.”[75] The anthroposophist publisher threatened the protesting organizations with a lawsuit.

The repeated occurrence of incidents such as these ought to be of considerable concern to humanists and people who envision a world free of racist ignorance. Even when approached with skepticism, anthroposophy’s consistent pattern of regressive political stances raises troubling questions about participation in anthroposophist projects and collaboration with anthroposophists on social initiatives. Those anthroposophists who are actively involved in contemporary environmental and social change movements frequently personify the most reactionary aspects of those movements: they hold technology, science, the enlightenment and abstract thought responsible for environmental destruction and social dislocation; they rail against finance capital and the loss of traditional values, denounce atheism and secularism, and call for renewed spiritual awareness and personal growth as the solution to ecological catastrophe and capitalist alienation. Conspiracy theory is their coin in trade, esoteric insight their preferred answer, obscurantism their primary function.

With a public face that is seemingly of the left, anthroposophy frequently acts as a magnet for the right. Loyal to an unreconstructed racist and elitist philosophy, built on a foundation of anti-democratic politics and pro-capitalist economics, purveying mystical panaceas rather than social alternatives, Steiner’s ideology offers only disorientation in an already disoriented world. Anthroposophy’s enduring legacy of collusion with ecofascism makes it plainly unacceptable for those working toward a humane and ecological society.


[1] See Rudolf Steiner, Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen im Zusammenhang mit der germanisch-nordischen Mythologie, Dornach, Switzerland 1994. These lectures are available in English under the title The Mission of the Individual Folk Souls in Relation to Teutonic Mythology, London 1970, republished 2005. The “Nordic spirit” of Scandinavia continues to fascinate European anthroposophists; see, for example, Hans Mändl, Vom Geist des Nordens, Stuttgart 1966.

[2] For more thorough discussion of anthroposophical race doctrines see Sven Ove Hansson, “The Racial Teachings of Rudolf Steiner”: as well as Helmut Zander, “Anthroposophische Rassentheorie: Der Geist auf dem Weg durch die Rassengeschichte” in Stefanie von Schnurbein and Justus Ulbricht, Völkische Religion und Krisen der Moderne, Würzburg 2001, and Peter Staudenmaier, “Race and Redemption: Racial and Ethnic Evolution in Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy” Nova Religio vol. 11 no. 3 (2008), pp. 4-36.

[3] One crucial stumbling block for English language readers is the anthroposophical tendency to delete racist and antisemitic passages from translated editions of Steiner’s publications. For examples see and for context see

[4] See the incisive passages on Steiner and anthroposophy in Bloch, Heritage of Our Times, Berkeley 1991, as well as Adorno’s “Theses against occultism” in Adorno, Minima Moralia, London 1974.

[5] Readers of German can now consult a superb account of Steiner’s intellectual development and a comprehensive history of anthroposophy’s early years: Helmut Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland: Theosophische Weltanschauung und gesellschaftliche Praxis 1884–1945, Göttingen 2007.

[6] On the connections between theosophy and the Nazis, see George Mosse, “The Occult Origins of National Socialism” in Mosse, The Fascist Revolution: Toward a General Theory of Fascism, New York 1999.

[7] Stewart Easton, Man and World in the Light of Anthroposophy, New York 1975, p. 164.

[8] Steiner’s racial teachings, a crucial element of the anthroposophic worldview, are spread throughout his work. For a concise overview in English see Janet Biehl’s section on Steiner in Biehl and Staudenmaier, Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience, San Francisco 1995, pp. 42-43 (Norwegian edition: Økofascisme: Lærdom fra Tysklands erfaringer, Porsgrunn 1997). Major statements by Steiner himself include Rudolf Steiner, Cosmic Memory: Prehistory of Earth and Man, New York 1987; Steiner, Universe, Earth and Man, London 1987; Steiner, “The Manifestation of the Ego in the Different Races of Men” in Steiner, The Being of Man and His Future Evolution,London 1981; Steiner, “Die Grundbegriffe der Theosophie. Menschenrassen” (Basic concepts of Theosophy: The races of humankind) in Steiner, Die Welträtsel und die Anthroposophie, Dornach 1985; Steiner, “Farbe und Menschenrassen” (Color and the races of humankind) in Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde, Dornach 1993. Although this latter book, a collection of Steiner’s lectures from 1923, has been published in English, the translation omits the chapter on race.

[9] For background on the notion of an “Aryan race” see Leon Poliakov, The Aryan Myth, New York 1974; Stefan Arvidsson, Aryan Idols: Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science, Chicago 2006; and Colin Kidd, “The Aryan Moment: Racialising Religion in the Nineteenth Century” in Kidd, The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600-2000, Cambridge 2006.

[10] Wolfgang Treher makes a compelling case that Steiner’s racial theories, especially the repeated scheme of a small minority evolving further while a large mass declines, bear striking similarities even in detail to Hitler’s own theories. He concludes: “Concentration camps, slave labor and the murder of Jews constitute a praxis whose key is perhaps to be found in the ‘theories’ of Rudolf Steiner.” Wolfgang Treher, Hitler Steiner Schreber, Emmingden 1966, p. 70.

[11] Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde, p. 61. Elsewhere Steiner writes that the decimation of American Indians was due to their “racial character” (The Mission of the Folk Souls p. 76).

[12] Rudolf Steiner, Cosmic Memory, New York 1987, p. 45.

[13] Rudolf Steiner, Faculty Meetings With Rudolf Steiner pp. 58-59; Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde p. 53; Gesundheit und Krankheit p. 189. Steiner’s typical remarks on Asian mental passivity, French decadence, and Slavic primitiveness are of similar caliber.

[14] Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde 59, 62, 67.

[15] Anthroposophical race thinking was hardly a personal idiosyncrasy of Rudolf Steiner. Racist theories abound within twentieth-century anthroposophical literature. Among many other examples see the following: Guenther Wachsmuth, editor, Gäa-Sophia: Jahrbuch der Naturwissenschaftlichen Sektion der Freien Hochschule für Geisteswissenschaft am Goetheanum Dornach, Stuttgart 1929, volume III: Völkerkunde; Wolfgang Moldenhauer, “Der Mensch vor und neben den grossen Kulturen”, Das Goetheanum February 13, 1938; Karl Heise, “Ein paar Worte zum Dunkelhaar und Braunauge der Germanen”, Zentralblatt für Okkultismus July-November 1914; Hans Heinrich Frei, “In Vererbung wiederholte Menschenleibes-Form und in Schicksalsgestaltung wiederholte Geisteswesens-Form”, Anthroposophie August 14 1927; Valentin Tomberg, “Mongolentum in Osteuropa”, Anthroposophie February 22 1931; Harry Köhler, “Menschheits-Entwickelung und Völkerschicksale im Spiegel der Historie”, Das Goetheanum August 21 1932; Wolfgang Moldenhauer, “Die Wanderungs-Atlantier und das Gesetz des Manu”, Das Goetheanum June 26 1938; Elise Wolfram, Die germanischen Heldensagen als Entwicklungsgeschichte der Rasse, Stuttgart 1922; Elisabeth Dank, “Die Neger in den Vereinigten Staaten” Die Christengemeinschaft September 1933; Ernst von Hippel, Afrika als Erlebnis des Menschen, Breslau 1938; as well as the substantial works on racial themes by leading anthroposophists Ernst Uehli and Richard Karutz. Italian anthroposophists also made significant contributions to the canon of racist publications; see e.g. Massimo Scaligero, “Razzismo spirituale e razzismo biologico”, La Vita Italiana July 1941; Scaligero, “Per un razzismo integrale” La Vita Italiana May 1942; Ettore Martinoli, “L’importanza di Trieste per l’ebraismo internazionale”, La Porta Orientale December 1942; Ettore Martinoli, “Gli impulsi storici della nuova Europa e l’azione dell’ebraismo internazionale”, La Vita Italiana April 1943.

[16] Schnurre quoted in Oliver Geden, Rechte ökologie, Berlin 1996, p. 144

[17] For a fine critical study of Stirner’s influence on Steiner and others see Hans Helms, Die Ideologie der anonymen Gesellschaft, Cologne 1966.

[18] On Steiner’s correspondence with Haeckel and his intense commitment to Monism around the turn of the century, see Anthroposophie vol. 16 no. 2 (January 1934), pp. 137-148.

[19] First two quotes from Daniel Gasman, The Scientific Origins of National Socialism: Social Darwinism in Ernst Haeckel and the German Monist League, New York 1971, pp. 16-17; third quote from George Mosse, Toward the Final Solution, Madison 1985, p. 87. Haeckel’s virulent racism is also extensively documented in Richard Lerner, Final Solutions: Biology, Prejudice, and Genocide, Philadelphia 1992; cf. also Jürgen Sandmann, Der Bruch mit der humanitären Tradition: die Biologisierung der Ethik bei Ernst Haeckel und anderen Darwinisten seiner Zeit, Stuttgart 1990.

[20] Gasman, p. 31 and 23. See also the classic account from an anthroposophist perspective: Johannes Hemleben, Rudolf Steiner und Ernst Haeckel, Stuttgart 1965. For context see Gasman, Haeckel’s Monism and the Birth of Fascist Ideology, New York 1998, and for critical views on Gasman’s work see Richard Evans, “In Search of German Social Darwinism: The History and Historiography of a Concept” in Manfred Berg and Geoffrey Cocks, Medicine and Modernity: Public Health and Medical Care in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Germany, Cambridge 1997.

[21] Rudolf Steiner, The Course of my Life, New York 1951, p. 142.

[22] Rudolf Steiner, Die geistigen Hintergründe des Ersten Weltkrieges, Dornach 1974, p. 27. For context see Ulrich Linse, “Universale Bruderschaft oder nationaler Rassenkrieg – die deutschen Theosophen im Ersten Weltkrieg” in Heinz-Gerhard Haupt and Dieter Langewiesche, eds., Nation und Religion in der deutschen Geschichte (Frankfurt 2001); and 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), pp. 156-160.

[23] Steiner wrote that “the social organism is structured like the natural organism” in his nationalist pamphlet from 1919, “Aufruf an das deutsche Volk und an die Kulturwelt.” The pamphlet is quoted extensively in Walter Abendroth, Rudolf Steiner und die heutige Welt, Munich 1969, pp.122-123. Consider also this passage: “Every person must find the place where his work may be articulated in the most fruitful way into his people’s organism. It must not be left to chance to determine whether he shall find this place. The state constitution has no other goal than to ensure that everyone shall find his appropriate place. The state is the form in which the organism of a people expresses itself.” Steiner, Goethe the Scientist, New York 1950, 164.

[24] For background see Ralph Bowen, German Theories of the Corporate State, New York 1947.

[25] Quotes from Steiner as cited in Christoph Lindenberg, Rudolf Steiner, Hamburg 1992, pp. 111-112. For a comprehensive critique of ‘social threefolding’ see Ilas Körner-Wellershaus,Sozialer Heilsweg Anthroposophie: eine Studie zur Geschichte der sozialen Dreigliederung Rudolf Steiners unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der anthroposophischen Geisteswissenschaft (Bonn 1993).

[26] Abendroth, Rudolf Steiner und die heutige Welt, p. 120.

[27] Steiner quoted in Thomas Divis, “Rudolf Steiner und die Anthroposophie” in ÖkoLinx #13 (February 1994), p. 27.

[28] From a Steiner lecture manuscript reproduced in Walter Kugler, Rudolf Steiner und die Anthroposophie, Cologne 1978, pp. 199-200.

[29] Cited in Peter Bierl, Wurzelrassen, Erzengel und Volksgeister: Die Anthroposophie Rudolf Steiners und die Waldorfpädagogik, Hamburg 1999, p. 107. A revised and expanded edition of Bierl’s excellent book was published in 2005.

[30] See Charlotte Rudolph, Waldorf-Erziehung: Wege zur Versteinerung, Darmstadt 1987. Cf. Sybille-Christin Jacob and Detlef Drewes, Aus der Waldorf-Schule geplaudert: Warum die Steiner-Pädagogik keine Alternative ist, Aschaffenburg 2001; Susanne Lippert, Steiner und die Waldorfpädagogik. Mythos und Wirklichkeit, Berlin 2001; Paul-Albert Wagemann und Martina Kayser: Wie frei ist die Waldorfschule? Munich 1996; Peter Bierl, “Der braune Geist der Waldorfpädagogik” in Ganzheitlich und ohne Sorgen in die Republik von Morgen: Dokumentation zum Kongress gegen Irrationalismus, Esoterik und Antisemitismus, Aschaffenburg 2001.

[31] From an international Waldorf teachers conference in 1996, cited in Bierl, Wurzelrassen, Erzengel und Volksgeister p. 204.

[32] Rudolf Steiner, The Spiritual Ground of Education, London 1947, p. 40.

[33] Easton, Man and World in the Light of Anthroposophy, p. 388.

[34] For thorough critical studies of Waldorf pedagogy see Heiner Ullrich, Waldorfpädagogik und okkulte Weltanschauung, Munich 1991, and Klaus Prange, Erziehung zur Anthroposophie: Darstellung und Kritik der Waldorfpädagogik, Bad Heilbrunn 2000.

[35] Lindenberg, Rudolf Steiner, p. 134.

[36] Steiner, Lecture Four from the 1924 Course on Agriculture.

[37] Easton, Man and World in the Light of Anthroposophy, p. 444.

[38] I have borrowed the phrase “green wing of the NSDAP” (the German acronym for the Nazi party) from Jost Hermand; see his Grüne Utopien in Deutschland, Frankfurt 1991, especially pp. 112-118. The term is not meant to suggest an identifiable faction within the party; rather it refers to a tendency or shared ideological and practical orientation, common to many activists and leading figures in the Nazi movement, the main outlines of which are recognizably environmentalist by today’s standards. For a much fuller treatment of this tendency see my “Fascist Ecology: The “Green Wing” of the Nazi Party and Its Historical Antecedents” in Biehl and Staudenmaier, Ecofascism. For critical discussion of the concept see Franz-Josef Brüggemeier, Mark Cioc, and Thomas Zeller, eds., How Green were the Nazis?: Nature, Environment, and Nation in the Third Reich, Athens 2005; Frank Uekoetter, The Green and the Brown: A History of Conservation in Nazi Germany, Cambridge 2006; and Joachim Radkau and Frank Uekötter, eds., Naturschutz und Nationalsozialismus, Frankfurt 2003.

[39] See Bierl, Wurzelrassen, Erzengel und Volksgeister pp. 135-138. For a sympathetic overview of the Italian anthroposophical movement in the Fascist era see Michele Beraldo, “Il movimento antroposofico italiano durante il regime fascista” in Dimensioni e problemi della ricerca storica no. 1, 2002.

[40] For extensive examples see and On the collaborationist role of the Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society in Italy and fervent Fascist Ettore Martinoli in antisemitic measures see Michael Wedekind, Nationalsozialistische Besatzungs- und Annexionspolitik in Norditalien 1943 bis 1945, Munich 2003, pp. 358-360, 385-386; and Silva Bon, La persecuzione antiebraica a Trieste (1938-1945), Udine 1972.

[41] For examples of Karutz’s anthroposophical racial theories, see Richard Karutz, Rassenfragen, Stuttgart 1934; Karutz, “Zur Rassenkunde” Das Goetheanum January 3, 1932: Karutz, Von Goethe zur Völkerkunde der Zukunft, Stuttgart 1929.

[42] Karutz quoted in Bierl, Wurzelrassen, Erzengel und Volksgeister p. 129.

[43] Karutz, Von Goethe zur Völkerkunde der Zukunft, p. 57. Steiner himself was ambivalent toward Jews. In an 1897 polemic against zionism he compared antisemites – at the time a well-organized, active and very popular presence in Central Europe – to harmless children, and argued that zionists and “the heartless leaders of the Jews who are tired of Europe” were “much worse” than the antisemites (Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte p. 199). On the other hand he actively supported the right side in the Dreyfus affair, albeit largely out of hostility toward the French republic. Steiner publicly rejected antisemitism, aligning himself instead with what he called the “idealistic German nationalist tendency” which opposed the “materialist” antisemitism of other pan-German agitators. For a detailed analysis see Peter Staudenmaier, “Rudolf Steiner and the Jewish Question,” Leo Baeck Institute Year Book vol. 50 (2005), pp. 127-147.

[44] Darré was himself influenced by Steiner’s ideas; see Heinz Haushofer, Ideengeschichte der Agrarwirtschaft und Agrarpolitik im deutschen Sprachgebiet, volume II, Munich 1958, pp. 269-271.

[45] The Wachsmuth interview is reprinted in Dokumente und Briefe zur Geschichte der anthroposophischen Bewegung und Gesellschaft in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, edited by Arfst Wagner, Rendsburg 1993, vol. I pp. 40-41.

[46] Rascher quoted in Bierl, Wurzelrassen, Erzengel und Volksgeister p. 140.

[47] For a partial list of anthroposophists who were members of the Nazi party, the SS, and the SA, see Peter Staudenmaier, “Anthroposophen und Nationalsozialismus – Neue Erkenntnisse” Info3 July 2007, pp. 42-43. The article is available online at: An English version is available at:

[48] In an earlier version of this article I characterized Hess as an anthroposophist, based on the extent to which he structured his personal dietary and health choices around anthroposophical beliefs. I now think that description was mistaken. My current view is that Hess’s occult interests were too nebulous to be specifically identified as anthroposophical, and that he is better seen as a sympathizer of anthroposophy and the major sponsor of anthroposophical activities during the Nazi era, but not as an anthroposophist himself.

[49] For a detailed overview of Waldorf schools in Nazi Germany see Achim Leschinsky, “Waldorfschulen im Nationalsozialismus,” Neue Sammlung: Zeitschrift für Erziehung und Gesellschaft 23 (1983).

[50] See Geden, p. 140. Weleda maintains that their staff was unaware of how its products were used.

[51] On the network of SS biodynamic plantations at various concentration camps, see Wolfgang Jacobeit and Christoph Kopke, Die Biologisch-dynamische Wirtschaftsweise im KZ, Berlin 1999.

[52] Uwe Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus 1933-1945, Munich 1999. The book is based in part on internal anthroposophist records not available to other scholars.

[53] See, for example, Jesaiah Ben-Aharon, The Spiritual Event of the Twentieth Century, London 1996.

[54] The most extensive study of Darré’s support for biodynamic agriculture is the work of historian Anna Bramwell. See Bramwell, Ecology in the 20th Century, London 1989, chapter ten on the green wing of the Nazis, entitled “The Steiner Connection,” as well as her earlier book Blood and Soil: Walther Darré and Hitler’s ‘Green Party’. Both are important sources of material on the topic. Bramwell’s work, however, is often unreliable and always tendentious and should be consulted with caution.

[55] In an earlier version of this article, I named two further Nazi officials as supporters of biodynamics: Antony Ludovici and Ludolf Haase. This claim was based on Anna Bramwell’s statements about both men. In addition to archival sources, Bramwell’s work cites her own interviews with unnamed “Anthroposophist members of Darré’s staff” as a source on “relations between followers of Steiner and the regime” (Bramwell, Ecology in the 20th Century, p. 270), and I adopted her claims about Ludovici and Haase despite my expressed reservations about her work. I now think those claims are mistaken. After an extensive search of both archival documents (including those cited by Bramwell) and contemporary published sources from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, I have been unable to find any corroboration for sympathies toward biodynamic agriculture on the part of either figure. Bramwell furthermore appears to have confused Ludovici with Nazi agricultural specialist J. W. Ludowici.

[56] On Seifert’s relationship to anthroposophy see especially Charlotte Reitsam, Das Konzept der “bodenständigen Gartenkunst” Alwin Seiferts, Frankfurt 2001.

[57] See Robert Pois, National Socialism and the Religion of Nature, London 1985.

[58] On the continuing reverberations of this political tradition within North American contexts today see Rajani Bhatia, “Green or Brown? White Nativist Environmental Movements” in Abby Ferber, editor, Home-Grown Hate: Gender and Organized Racism, New York 2004.

[59] The initiator of the Italian wing of the biodynamic movement, Luigi Chimelli, was an effusive admirer of Mussolini and of Fascism, particularly its environmental and programs. See for example Chimelli’s introduction to his translation of a major work on biodynamic agriculture: Giovanni Schomerus, Il metodo di coltivazione biologico-dinamico, Pergine 1934, particularly pp. xvii-xx.

[60] For a perceptive examination of Darré’s evolving relationship to the biodynamic movement, and a compelling counterargument to Bramwell’s work, see Gesine Gerhard, “Richard Walther Darré – Naturschützer oder ‘Rassenzüchter’?” in Radkau and Uekötter, Naturschutz und Nationalsozialismus. Gerhard’s legitimate and welcome critique of Bramwell sometimes leads her to overemphasize Darré’s skepticism toward anthroposophy, and she gives relatively little attention to the extensive support for biodynamics provided by members of Darré’s staff, including not only figures such as Merkel and Halbe but even more powerful Nazi agricultural officials such as Hermann Reischle, Karl August Rust, and Rudi Peuckert.

[61] Anna Bramwell, Ecology in the 20th Century, London 1989, p. 204.

[62] Ibid., p. 197. The ‘Battle for Production’ wasDarré’s state-sponsored program to increase agricultural productivity. Initiated in 1934, its leading principle was “Keep the soil healthy!”

[63] Wagner quoted in Bierl, p. 162.

[64] Bramwell, Blood and Soil, Bourne End 1985, p. 179.

[65] For more extensive discussion of the WSL and ultra-right anthroposophy see Janet Biehl’s “‘Ecology’ and the Modernization of Fascism in the German Ultra-right” in Biehl and Staudenmaier, Ecofascism, especially pp. 44-48.

[66] Further information on Haverbeck and his milieu is available in two fine studies: Jonathan Olsen, Nature and Nationalism: Right-Wing Ecology and the Politics of Identity in Contemporary Germany, New York 1999; and Volkmar Wölk, Natur und Mythos: Ökologiekonzeptionen der ‘Neuen’ Rechten im Spannungsfeld zwischen Blut und Boden und New Age, Duisburg 1992.

[67] Haverbeck, Rudolf Steiner – Anwalt für Deutschland, Munich 1989.

[68] Volkmar Wölk, “Neue Trends im ökofaschistischen Netzwerk” in Raimund Hethey and Peter Kratz, In Bester Gesellschaft, Göttingen 1991, p. 119.

[69] Anthroposophist author Henning Köhler quoted in Bierl, p. 9.

[70] See e.g. these sympathetic accounts: Arianna Streccioni, A destra della destra, Rome 2000, pp. 63-64, 209; Luciano Lanna and Filippo Rossi, Fascisti immaginari: Tutto quello che c’è da sapere sulla destra, Florence 2003, pp. 20, 153-55; Enzo Erra, Steiner e Scaligero, Rome 2006.

[71] Wachsmuth, Werdegang der Menschheit, Dornach 1953; Wachsmuth, The Evolution of Mankind, Dornach 1961.

[72] See for example Ernst Uehli, Nordisch-Germanische Mythologie als Mysteriengeschichte, Stuttgart 1965; Uehli, Atlantis und das Rätsel der Eiszeitkunst, Stuttgart 1957; Sigismund von Gleich, Der Mensch der Eiszeit und Atlantis, Stuttgart 1990; Gleich, Siebentausend Jahre Urgeschichte der Menschheit, Stuttgart 1987; Fred Poeppig, Das Zeitalter der Atlantis und die Eiszeit, Freiburg 1962.

[73] Rudolf Steiner, Die Geschichte der Menschheit und die Weltanschauungen der Kulturvölker, p. 192.

[74] Quoted in Bierl, p. 185. Bierl’s chapter on anthroposophist antisemitism includes many more examples of a similar nature.

[75] Ludwig Thieben, Das Rätsel des Judentums, Basel 1991, pp. 164 and 174.

The Janus Face of Anthroposophy

The Janus Face of Anthroposophy

Peter Zegers and Peter Staudenmaier

Reply to Peter Normann Waage, New Myths About Rudolf Steiner

“The Steiner I know,” writes Peter Normann Waage, was the nicest guy you ever met.[1] He couldn’t possibly have said and done all those nasty things Staudenmaier and Zegers say he did. It’s just not like him. Why, look at all the other nice things he said! Look at all the wonderful work his followers do! Look at all the nice friends he had!

As frivolous as Waage’s arguments are, they point to a serious issue: the Janus face of anthroposophy. Steiner’s writings are an incoherent mix of contradictory ideas, which allows his epigones to pick and choose those elements that foster the progressive and enlightened image they wish to project. The Janus face of anthroposophy also allows its partisans to deflect any criticism, no matter how copiously substantiated, via the simple method of counter-presentation: when you show them all of the works Steiner produced outlining his esoteric theory of Aryan supremacy, they simply ignore them and point instead to other passages where Steiner preaches brotherhood and tolerance.[2] Although it requires a certain amount of willful naiveté, it is indeed possible to construct a universalist and ‘humanist’ Steiner out of bits and pieces of his pre-anthroposophist works like Philosophie der Freiheit, while ignoring all of the occultist and racist mature works like Aus der Akasha-Chronik, the book which Steiner designated as the “basis of anthroposophist cosmology”.[3]

This method of counter-presentation has the unfortunate effect of reducing rational argument to a mere trading of isolated quotations back and forth.[4] Based on a combination of wishful thinking and denial, it leads to a primitive form of argument-by-definition: real anthroposophy is whatever Waage says it is. Myopically fixated on one side of the Janus face, he insists that the dozens of works by Steiner we cited, as well as the numerous other anthroposophist works we drew on, are somehow “atypical and eccentric”. By offering anthroposophists’ own words to readers, we have supposedly obscured “the whole tendency of the movement”. We gladly admit that we are unable to explain Steiner’s incoherence, and we have yet to encounter a defense of anthroposophy that tries to show how the several sides of the Janus face relate to one another. Our task all along has been to analyze and understand the frightening side of anthroposophy’s Janus face, the side which Steiner’s admirers desperately want to keep hidden. Our topic is not, of course, “the Steiner Waage knows,” but rather the Steiner he ought to get to know if he wants to be taken seriously in public discussions of anthroposophy’s politics.

That, after all, has been the subject of our exchange from the beginning. What is at issue is not the Steiner Waage knows, or indeed the romanticized versions of Steiner and his ideas that any given individual anthroposophist knows or imagines. What is at issue is the history of actually existing anthroposophy. Without adding unnecessarily to the rancor of this exchange, it is important to point out that Waage’s competence on this subject is limited – not because of his profession as a journalist and not because of his personal predilections as an anthroposophist, but simply because he has not taken the time to review the available sources. Heedless of this basic disparity between his position and ours, Waage reverses the reality and asserts that, as non-anthroposophists, we are unacquainted with ‘real’ anthroposophy based on the Steiner he knows. What he appears to mean is that we are insufficiently familiar with, not to mention insufficiently respectful toward, an idealized construct of “anthroposophy” as Waage himself envisions it. This may well be true, and is obviously irrelevant. Our arguments are not about Waage’s private conception of what anthroposophy ought to be; they are about what anthroposophy has actually been, as seen from the world outside its own narrow borders. He seems remarkably unwilling to step beyond those borders and look at anthroposophy as a historical phenomenon and an object of study. Waage’s role is that of a Believer railing against external inquiry into his cherished belief system.

Thus Waage, comfortable in his own anthroposophical certitudes and unaccustomed to non-anthroposophical perspectives on anthroposophy, repeats the same old refrain. He insists that we are spreading “myths” about Steiner. In order to tell myths from facts, one needs a basic familiarity with the published works of the figure in question (in this case, the writings and speeches of Rudolf Steiner), a knowledge of their historical context (the occult subculture and the Lebensreform or alternative lifestyles movement), and an understanding of their political affiliations (Austrian and German nationalism). Waage meets none of these requirements. He is ignorant of much of Steiner’s written work, as his peculiar claims about that work attest. He appears to know little about either the occult revival or the left-right crossover that characterized ‘alternative’ circles in turn of the century Central Europe. And he is completely oblivious to the history of German nationalism; Waage believes that the pan-German movement was engaged in “nation building” and that it uniformly advocated “a concentration of all German speaking people in one state”.[5] But Waage is not one to be deterred by historical facts; he is simply convinced, as an article of faith, that Steiner rejected nationalism.[6]

This wishful thinking leads Waage to compound the already embarrassing errors from his first reply. He originally claimed that the passage from Steiner’s autobiography recalling his pan-German engagement didn’t exist. Now that he has finally managed to find this passage, he complains that we have mistranslated it.[7] This complaint is childish; our translation is, of course, entirely accurate, as anyone with access to a German-Norwegian dictionary can readily ascertain.[8] If Waage is still confused on this matter, he might wish to consult other passages where Steiner reminisces about his early pan-German activism, for example this one from 1900: “With even greater enthusiasm we dedicated ourselves to the rising pan-German movement.”[9] Or he could consult sympathetic anthroposophical biographies of Steiner which note that he became editor of one of the most militant Viennese pan-German journals, the Deutsche Wochenschrift, in 1888.[10] Or he could simply look up the several dozen articles Steiner published in the radical pan-German press in the 1880’s, which are collected in volumes 29, 30, 31 and 32 of the Gesamtausgabe (Waage repeatedly cites the latter two volumes, evidently without having bothered to read them). No-one familiar with these articles could possibly doubt Steiner’s wholehearted devotion to what he called “the pan-German cause in Austria.” (GA 31, p. 111.) Even if all of these sources had for some mysterious reason been unavailable to Waage, he could simply take a look at the very same sources he himself quotes, for example anthroposophist Christoph Lindenberg’s biography of Steiner, which discusses Steiner’s pan-German activism at length, provides extensive details and citations, and notes that “Steiner himself counted himself a member of this movement,” the pan-German movement in Austria.[11]

Unaware of these basic facts about Steiner’s political background, Waage asks: “Is it a crime to be interested in the ‘national existence’ of a people?” — referring to the Austro-Germans. We recommend he peek inside a history book to determine whether the German community in Austria actually faced a “struggle for national existence” in the late nineteenth century. Robert Kann, for example, observes that German nationalism in Austria sought “the preservation and enhancement of a privileged position.” (Kann, The Habsburg Empire, New York 1973, p. 19)[12] John Mason writes that the Austro-Germans were “the leading national group in the Empire and exercised an influence out of all proportion to their numbers.” He notes that the Habsburg state “was thoroughly German in character”, that “[t]he official language of the Empire was German and the civil servants were overwhelmingly German”, and concludes: “Not only was the cultural life of Vienna almost exclusively German, but the capitalist class, the Catholic hierarchy and the press were also the preserve of the Austro-Germans.” (Mason, The Dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire 1867-1918,London 1997, pp. 10-11)[13] The young Steiner and his pan-German comrades were not engaged in “nation building,” as Waage imagines; they were engaged in an aggressively xenophobic defense of privilege and ethnic purity.[14] While there had been significant democratic impulses in 1848-era Great German nationalism, by the 1880’s in Austria these had given way to simple national self-interest and antagonism toward other ethnic groups, particularly the Slav peoples of the empire. Much of the impetus for the middle-class variety of nationalism which Steiner adopted came from a deep sense of cultural superiority and entitlement: Germans in Austria often perceived themselves as the bearers of civilization to their supposedly backward neighbors and fellow citizens. It was this potent sense of the “German mission” which drew Steiner so enthusiastically into pan-German nationalist circles.

Waage is also woefully uninformed about the history of German antisemitism and the variety of responses to it.[15] He thinks that Steiner’s friend Jacobowski was the “leader” of the Verein zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus. In fact Jacobowski was merely an employee of the Verein; his work there was “no doubt more administrative and journalistic, and above all performed in order to support himself.”[16] His personal commitment was quite explicitly and emphatically not to Jewish concerns, but to German nationalism.[17] That is precisely what aroused Steiner’s admiration; in Steiner’s words, Jacobowski had “long since outgrown Jewishness”.[18] Waage also believes that a pro-assimilationist viewpoint was incompatible with outspoken antisemitism.[19] He would do well to acquaint himself with figures such as Stöcker, Treitschke, and Vacher de Lapouge, all of whom were both proponents of Jewish assimilation and vehement antisemites.[20] Unaware of this crucial background, Waage thoroughly misunderstands Steiner’s stance on the “Jewish question.” Indeed he flatly denies that Steiner wished to see the Jewish people disappear, simply ignoring Steiner’s unequivocal, repeated, and very explicit statements throughout his career. Steiner insisted quite emphatically that “the only proper thing would be for the Jews to blend in with the other peoples and disappear into the other peoples.”[21] His position was entirely clear: “the best thing that the Jews could do would be to disappear into the rest of humankind, to blend in with the rest of humankind, so that Jewry as a people would simply cease to exist.”[22] Before his turn to theosophy, Steiner demanded that Austrian and German Jews completely repudiate their Jewish identity in favor of a purely “German spirit” and “German culture,” which he considered superior to all others. In his mature anthroposophist phase, Steiner held that modern Jews were an obsolete remnant of a spiritually superceded race, the descendants of those hapless inhabitants of Atlantis who did not evolve into “Aryans.” He consistently singled out the Jews as his prime example of a people anachronistically attached to ethnic particularity, a stumbling block on the path of spiritual progress toward the “universal human”.[23]

In both of his replies, Waage assiduously avoids mentioning Steiner’s theory of root races. This is a striking omission, and makes us wonder whether Waage is defending anthroposophy at all, as opposed to Steiner’s pre-anthroposophist individualism. Steiner’s esoteric racial doctrine is an essential element in the conceptual foundation upon which the entire edifice of anthroposophy is built, and latter-day anthroposophists have so far refused to confront it honestly. In particular, Waage seems to have missed the rather central fact that after his theosophical turn, Steiner relegated his earlier individualist position in favor of a comprehensive racial-ethnic-national classification system wherein each individual’s spiritual and cultural capacities are determined by and/or directly correlated to their “root race,” “people,” and “national soul.”

In his pivotal 1909 work Wie erlangt man Erkenntnisse der höheren Welten? Steiner wrote: “The human individual belongs to a family, a nation, a race; his actions in this world depend on his belonging to such a totality. [. . .] Indeed, in a certain sense individuals are only the executive organs of these family souls, racial spirits, and so forth. [. . .] Every individual gets his tasks, in the truest sense of the word, assigned by the family soul, the national soul, or the racial soul.” (Steiner, GA 10, Dornach 1961, pp. 199-200)[24] Toward the end of his life, Steiner again emphasized this crucial facet of anthroposophic thought: “One can only understand history and all of social life, including today’s social life, if one pays attention to people’s racial characteristics. And one can only understand all that is spiritual in the correct sense if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin.”[25] Waage might consider taking at the very least a brief look at the existing scholarship on anthroposophical race theory; he will be surprised at what he’ll find there.[26]

But let us return to the theme that sparked this debate in the first place: anthroposophy’s ambivalent disposition toward German fascism. In his last installment in this exchange, Waage finally comes right out and admits that he simply didn’t realize what the topic of the debate was. He writes: “Staudenmaier/Zegers ask for my comments on the connection between anthroposophy and the “green wing” of German fascism. This is one among many topics I have had to leave out.” Leave out? The connection between anthroposophy and the “green wing” of German fascism was after all the subject of Anthroposophy and Ecofascism, the article to which Waage was ostensibly replying. Was he genuinely confused about this all along? If so, what does it tell us about his obtuse apologia for anthroposophy’s fascist past? More unsettling still, what does it tell us about his vision of anthroposophy’s future?

Instead of addressing in even a cursory way the subject under discussion, Waage likes to keep referring to “the many anthroposophists who resisted Nazism.” In the course of his two replies he has yet to name a single example of an anthroposophist who joined the resistance to Hitler. The historical literature on anthroposophy’s relationship to National Socialism contains no such examples. Anthroposophy’s in-house historian Uwe Werner, who goes to great lengths to excuse anthroposophist collaboration with the Nazi regime, was unable to come up with a single instance of anthroposophists joining the resistance. Jens Heisterkamp, a prominent German anthroposophist, writes that “the anthroposophist movement did not produce any members of the Resistance.”[27] Undeterred by his limited knowledge of the historical context, Waage goes on to reject our characterization of Rudolf Hess as anthroposophy’s chief ally in the Third Reich. But there is no serious dispute on this point even among anthroposophist commentators. Werner’s book itself, which strenuously denies that Hess had any personal interest in anthroposophy, makes perfectly clear that Hess was the foremost protector and patron of anthroposophist activities.[28]

In a last-ditch effort to show that Steiner’s political ideas were “directly opposed” to Hitler’s, Waage points to Steiner’s engagement in Upper Silesia. He couldn’t have chosen a worse example to make his case. Far from revealing Steiner’s universalist side, the anthroposophical intervention in Upper Silesia places Steiner and his followers squarely in the German nationalist camp. What Steiner advocated was temporary autonomy for the ethnically mixed province. While latter-day anthroposophists like to portray this as an anti-nationalist position, both the historical evidence and Steiner’s own pronouncements on the topic show that the very opposite was the case. Historians of the Upper Silesian conflict have long recognized that calls for “autonomy” were merely a smokescreen for nationalist agitation. Hans-Ake Persson writes: “A notion prevalent among both German and Polish nationals was that Upper Silesia should remain intact, since it was quite prosperous and was seen as an economic unit. Both groups were prepared to grant autonomy to the area. Up to this point the national groups were in agreement, yet they became unyielding when Upper Silesia’s state affiliation was to be determined. The historical region was to be preserved, while the decisive question was whether Silesia should answer to Berlin or Warsaw.” (Persson in Sven Tägil, Regions in Central Europe: The Legacy of History, London 1999, p. 223) And Elizabeth Wiskemann writes: “Many Germans hoped to save Upper Silesia from Poland by granting it autonomy within Germany.” However, she continues, “the Allies quickly rejected the autonomy idea — it would but create a German dependency, they considered.” (Wiskemann, Germany’s Eastern Neighbours, London 1956, p. 27)[29]

In Steiner’s case, the plea for autonomy was intended to prevent the League of Nations from partitioning the province between Poland and Germany, which would have meant a loss of German territory. His public treatises appealed plaintively to “true German convictions” in Upper Silesia (see the pamphlet Aufruf zur Rettung Oberschlesiens, reproduced in GA 338, pp. 264-5), and his private sessions with Silesian anthroposophists emphasized that the very notion of a Polish state was “impossible” and “an illusion.”[30] Rejecting the internationally sponsored plebiscite as an affront to “the German essence,” Steiner argued that the situation demanded a spiritual solution, not a political solution. And the proper spiritual solution, of course, required “spiritual leaders” (geistige Führer), who could only come from Germany and Austria.[31] It is thus hardly surprising that anthroposophists involved in the Upper Silesian agitation simply assumed a natural German right to the province and lamented the eventual absorption of part of the territory by Poland.[32] In the words of the anthroposophist Karl Heyer, referring to the 1921 plebiscite on the future of Upper Silesia, “for the German there could be no other position than to vote in favor of Germany”.[33] This stance was repeatedly emphasized by anthroposophists and advocates of ‘social threefolding’ at the time.[34]

Waage seems utterly unaware of this rather crucial fact. Once the plebiscite itself was no longer to be averted, Steiner and his followers adopted a very emphatic and forthright position in favor of voting for Germany in the referendum. In the days surrounding the League of Nations plebiscite, the editors of the threefolding newspaper declared unambiguously: “Now that the vote is taking place, the League for Social Threefolding needless to say takes the view that for every German there can be no other position than to vote for Germany.”[35] Two weeks later, the paper’s editors explained that their stance all along was to vote for Germany: “In light of the fact of the plebiscite, the League for Social Threefolding firmly adopted the position of voting for Germany when possible, and the leadership of the League answered categorically every time it was asked that every person eligible to vote in the plebiscite was of course duty-bound to vote and had to vote for Germany.”[36] In the eyes of Steiner and his followers, the anthroposophical approach of social threefolding was most appropriate to maintaining German hegemony in the region. Karl Heyer, for example, wrote in advance of the referendum: “The threefold solution to the Upper Silesian problem is better suited than any other for protecting Germany’s true interests in economic terms as well as in national terms and in state-political terms.”[37] An official statement from the League for Social Threefolding declared that social threefolding was the only way “to make it possible for Germany to escape from being strangled by the West, and to return to Germany its historical prestige.”[38] Similar statements abound within the anthroposophical literature from the period.[39] The League for Social Threefolding even published an announcement in the Frankfurter Zeitung, probably the most prominent newspaper in Germany at the time, on March 12, 1921 under the title “Social Threefolding and Upper Silesia” stating very explicitly that their position was to vote for Germany in the upcoming plebiscite.

Waage apparently believes that Steiner himself opposed this forthright advocacy of a German right to Upper Silesia. He is mistaken. Steiner’s stand on Upper Silesia confirmed his life-long conviction that German spiritual superiority entitled the Germans to territorial hegemony in eastern Europe. The anthroposophical editors of Steiner’s collected works spell this position out clearly, and verify with ample evidence that the position of the threefolding movement during the Upper Silesian campaign was indeed to vote for Germany.[40] Steiner’s followers themselves said the very same thing, quite unequivocally, about Steiner’s own stance at the time.[41] Many of Steiner’s own statements on the matter fully support this. Consider Steiner’s public lecture in Stuttgart about anthroposophy and social threefolding on May 25, 1921, where he once again countered the claims of critics of anthroposophy. Here Steiner said: “When things like this are put forth, it is no surprise to find people claiming that anthroposophy had shown its un-German and un-national aspect in its stance on the Upper Silesian question. Everybody who asked us for advice in that situation was told that whoever stands in our ranks should vote for Germany if the plebiscite comes. We never said anything different. We also said that the point is not this plebiscite, but rather establishing Upper Silesia as an integral territory that is inwardly united with the German spiritual essence.”[42]

All of these facts are accessible to anyone who is willing to take the time to delve into Steiner’s works and place them into their historical context. For better or worse this task has largely been left to non-anthroposophists like us. And the further we explore Steiner’s teachings, the more insidious those teachings become. In the course of looking into Steiner’s paranoid views on World War I as a “conspiracy against German spiritual life,” for example, we came across an astonishing lecture on “the mission of white humankind” in which Steiner predicts “a violent battle of white people against colored people”. In this 1915 lecture to an anthroposophist audience in Stuttgart, Steiner explains that spiritual characteristics are tied to skin color and that non-white skin is a sign of spiritual defects that will be expunged in the coming race war.[43]

Here Steiner contrasts “the European-American essence and the Asian essence,” asking: “How could people fail to notice the profound differences, in terms of spiritual culture, between the European and the Asian peoples. How could they fail to notice this differentiation, which is tied to external skin color!” (p. 35) He goes on to observe that “the Asian peoples” are beholden to the “cultural impulses of past epochs” while “the European-American peoples have advanced beyond these cultural impulses.” He then declares that it is a sign of “an unhealthy soul-life” when Europeans partake of these “lower” Asian impulses (p. 36). Steiner continues that the special role of the “Germanic peoples” is to integrate the spiritual and the physical through a “carrying down of the spiritual impulses” onto the physical plane and into the human body. “This carrying down, this thorough impregnation of the flesh by the spirit, this is characteristic of the mission, the whole mission of white humanity. People have white skin color because the spirit works within the skin when it wants to descend to the physical plane. That the external physical body will become a container for the spirit, that is the task of our fifth cultural epoch.” (p. 37) But when this task is imperfectly fulfilled, it leads to a spiritual defect which is marked by non-white skin. Steiner explains that “when the spirit is held back, when it takes on a demonic character and does not fully penetrate the flesh, then white skin color does not appear, because atavistic powers are present that do not allow the spirit to achieve complete harmony with the flesh.” (p. 38)

In order to prevent the victory of these demonic and atavistic powers that people of color embody, there will have to be a cosmic showdown between white people and non-white people. “But these things will never take place in the world without the most violent struggle. White humankind is still on the path of absorbing the spirit deeper and deeper into its own essence. Yellow humankind is on the path of conserving the era when the spirit will be kept away from the body, when the spirit will only be sought outside of the human-physical organization. But the result will have to be that the transition from the fifth cultural epoch to the sixth cultural epoch cannot happen in any other way than as a violent battle of white humankind against colored humankind in myriad areas. And that which precedes these battles between white and colored humankind will occupy world history until the completion of the great battles between white and colored humankind. Future events are frequently reflected in prior events. You see, we stand before something colossal that – when we understand it through spiritual science – we will in the future be able to recognize as a necessary occurrence.” (p. 38)

But Waage is unconcerned with breathtaking passages such as this, which show that anthroposophy’s racism is not a marginal afterthought but is intimately tied to its pretensions to “spiritual science.” Blissful in his ignorance, Waage continues to pretend that the evidence of Steiner’s racism is “thinner than air.” Instead of grappling with these obviously racist elements of Steiner’s doctrine himself, Waage attempts to shift the burden onto non-anthroposophists.[44] His plaintive remarks about misunderstanding Anthroposophy and Ecofascism, pointless as they may be, raise a genuine concern, one that has bedeviled any number of anthroposophists outraged by our research. Waage writes of us: “If I have misunderstood them, they have to accept the responsibility.” We are glad to accept this responsibility. Anthroposophy and Ecofascism was not written for readers like Waage.[45] It was not written for anthroposophists. It was not written for readers with limited interest in historical context or readers who are easily swayed by appeals to sentiment. It was not written for those who feel compelled to defend Nazi collaborators or who have dedicated their efforts to whitewashing racism and exonerating antisemitism. Those sorts of readers are bound to misunderstand critical arguments about anthroposophy. The article was written instead for other readers. Above all, it was rather obviously written for non-anthroposophists. It was written for readers who understand what racism is and how it functions, who have an interest in informing themselves about the history of Nazism, and who do not find complex analysis of political ideas excessively difficult to follow.

Waage, for whatever reason, has had a notably hard time following our analysis. He thinks we have dismissed Steiner as a racist, and nothing more. He thinks we have labeled Steiner simply an antisemite, and nothing more. He thinks we have collapsed all anthroposophists into Nazis, and all Nazis into proto-environmentalists, and perhaps all environmentalists into esotericists. He thinks we have made claims about topics we have not addressed. He thinks we have failed to address topics on which we have written extensively. For example, he takes us to task for failing to comment on the report of the Dutch anthroposophist commission on Steiner and racism. We did in fact devote several pages to this topic in our original rejoinder, although they were cut from the version printed in Humanist. We very much hope readers will consult the full version of our earlier article for our views on this report and Waage’s reliance on it. But since Waage seems quite fond of the Dutch commission’s report, we are glad to comment further on its findings.[46]

The Dutch report simply asserts that those anthroposophists who have interpreted Steiner’s teachings in a racist fashion have misunderstood Steiner – a convenient excuse which sheds no light whatsoever on the underlying reasons for the ongoing racism within organized anthroposophy. Aside from the irrelevant sections on contemporary discrimination law, the commission’s methodology is purely esoteric, and its annotations of the quotes from Steiner demand of the reader a suspension of critical faculties. Steiner’s supposed clairvoyance and his ideas about karma and reincarnation play an overwhelming part in their appraisal. This should come as no surprise, since all of the members of the commission belong to the Dutch Anthroposophical Society.

What is more seriously troubling is the commission’s insistence on purveying a race theory of their own. According to the Dutch report there are different human races with different physical, mental, cultural and spiritual capacities. The authors posit “great differences between the human races” (p. 206) and state that “people of below average development” must incarnate in “lower races” (p. 207). They also claim, for example, that technology was developed by the “Caucasian race” (p. 210). Moreover, the commission declares more than once that non-anthroposophists and people who do not share a spiritual conception of reality (“materialists” in their vocabulary) are simply incapable of judging Steiner’s work. This absurd stance obviously cancels whatever worth the study might have had for those outside the cult of Rudolf Steiner.

The commission’s own epistemological framework is astonishingly primitive, even by anthroposophist standards. In an effort to turn Steiner’s frequent unintelligibility into a virtue, they inform us that when Steiner contradicted himself over and over again he was simply trying to get at the truth from different angles. This is a foolish pretext for the commission’s failure to do any hermeneutic work of its own. A sympathetic reading of Steiner’s work is one thing, willful ignorance quite another – especially in light of the commission’s notorious ‘argument’ (really a mere assumption) that Steiner’s scattered anti-racist comments both absolve and negate his much more numerous racist remarks. To make this implausible claim stick, they would need to advance some interpretive agenda, some explanatory model for making sense of Steiner’s incoherence. But they never do so, leaving the Janus face entirely intact while simply avoiding one of its several sides.

Nor does the commission fare any better in its examination of the historical context. The Dutch report discusses both Blavatsky and Haeckel, the latter in some detail, and notes that Steiner’s theory of evolution was an amalgam of these two disconcerting pedigrees, but never says a word about either Blavatsky’s or Haeckel’s shameful politics. The continuities between Haeckel’s acute racism and nationalism and Steiner’s variations on the same theme are never addressed. Despite Haeckel’s acknowledged status as Germany’s foremost Social Darwinist of Steiner’s era, the commission claims that Steiner’s own theory is not a form of Social Darwinism because it does not posit a natural mechanism of evolution. Instead Steiner held that racial groups die out because, in the commission’s words, “a further development of the soul was no longer possible.” (p. 98) Why this repugnant version of spiritualized racism should be preferable to Haeckel’s ‘materialist’ version is a question the commission declines to consider. Having endorsed Steiner’s spiritual schema of racial decline and advance, the Dutch report makes various pathetic attempts to explain away even Steiner’s most obviously offensive rantings about “racial odors” or the link between blondeness and intelligence: anyone who considers such abysmal nonsense to be racist, the commission tells us, is simply trapped in materialist thinking.

Undoubtedly the most celebrated of the commission’s findings is that “only” eighty-three quotes by Steiner, out of a total output of 350 volumes, are potentially racist.[47] It goes without saying that a crudely quantitative approach is completely out of place here, but that is hardly the worst of the report’s troubles.[48] Contrary to the repeated implication that these excerpts represent insignificant marginalia, the quotes in question are central passages from Steiner’s principal works, on a crucial aspect of anthroposophy’s cosmology: racial categories as a reflection of spiritual hierarchies. They are also substantial and lengthy passages; a full third of the 147 Steiner quotes that the commission examines in detail are multiple paragraphs or multiple pages. But the most amazing thing about the Dutch report is what it omits. Whereas the commission evidently included every last supposedly anti-racist fragment from Steiner that they could dig up, they deliberately excluded all of his writings on the root-race theory. They justify this incredible step with the absurd presumption that when Steiner wrote about “root races” he really meant chronological epochs, not racial groups, a claim which is immediately belied, on grammatical grounds alone, by every sentence Steiner wrote on the topic.

More striking still is the omission of Steiner’s assorted antisemitic diatribes and his comparable fulminations against the French, English, Slavs, and so on.[49] And although the Dutch report reviews the development of Austrian pan-Germanism, and in the same chapter cites volume 31 of Steiner’s collected works, it never so much as mentions Steiner’s own pan-German propaganda that is so copiously represented in the same volume. Categorically ignoring this unequivocal and massive textual evidence, the commission repeats the ridiculous refrain that Steiner “rejected every form of nationalism.” (p. 93) This sort of conspicuous hypocrisy cannot possibly be due to mere sloppiness or selective reading; it is unmistakable evidence of bad faith and conscious deception. Last but scarcely least, the Dutch report miraculously fails to make any mention of several indisputably racist statements by Steiner that we have stumbled across in our own reading of his collected works, for example his crazed assertion that “concepts hurt the Asian’s brain” or his shocking discourse on non-white skin as a sign of spiritual imperfection and the consequent “violent battle of white humanity against colored humanity” that we quoted above. In both cases the report quotes, several times, the same volumes that contain these extraordinary sentences. How did such unambiguous passages manage to escape the learned commission’s attention?

The net result is a report that is both incomplete and incoherent: it excludes an enormous proportion of Steiner’s racist writings, while nevertheless reproducing dozens of other racist passages from his works, and still denies that a single racist statement ever issued from Steiner’s pen. In light of all of these easily recognizable shortcomings, whose severity is such that they cumulatively form a devastating indictment of the both the Dutch report and its authors, Waage’s esteem for this document is decidedly misplaced. To anyone who has tried to come to terms with Steiner’s teachings on race, Waage’s enthusiasm for the Dutch report merely confirms his hopelessly naïve approach to the subject. Despite the unabashedly exculpatory thrust of the tendentious study that Waage respects so highly, the report has led to a split in the Dutch Anthroposophical Society; the more fundamentalist faction has left the Society and is now trying to start a new one. This is hardly the sort of critical self-examination that the report was supposed to spark. Perhaps someday the closed world of anthroposophy will open itself up to honest scrutiny.

Until that day arrives, newcomers to anthroposophy will have to settle for the evasions and equivocations of those like Waage who hope to protect anthroposophist orthodoxy by sticking their heads in the sand. Waage’s apologetics perfectly embody the uncritical, unreflective and ahistorical approach to Steiner’s doctrines that we have unfortunately come to expect from anthroposophists and their defenders. Mistaking credulousness for respectfulness, Waage has done a distinct disservice to anthroposophists and non-anthroposophists alike. Although our exchange with Waage is finished, the debate on anthroposophy’s past and present is far from over. We are gratified to see that this debate has spread to Sweden, the United States, and beyond, and are also disappointed that it has frequently proven impossible to involve anthroposophists in a genuine dialogue because our arguments are so often met only with angry accusations and indignant denials. We hope that by illuminating the hidden sides of anthroposophy’s Janus face, we have given non-anthroposophists reason to question anthroposophy’s “progressive” credentials. And as independent critical inquiry into Steiner’s political legacy continues, we hope that interested readers will begin their own examination of that legacy.


[1] Waage’s “New Myths about Rudolf Steiner” can be found here:

[2] Many of the issues Waage raises in his latest reply have already been answered in the full version of our first response to him, “Anthroposophy and its Defenders,” as well as in the greatly shortened version of that essay published in Humanist 4/2000. We would once again like to urge readers to consult that essay for a much more detailed refutation of Waage’s arguments.

[3] Steiner, Mein Lebensgang, Dornach 1925, p. 301. We can certainly understand that Waage would prefer to discuss The Philosophy of Freedom, but his contention that this early work is more central to anthroposophy than the mature anthroposophist works is clearly wide of the mark. The Philosophy of Freedom was published in 1893, eight years before Steiner’s turn to theosophy and nearly twenty years before the founding of the Anthroposophical Society. Steiner’s attitude toward theosophy in the 1890s was scathingly critical; see e.g. his 1897 essay “Theosophen” in Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Literatur (GA 32), pp. 194-6, or the very similar essays from 1891 and 1892 in Steiner, Methodische Grundlagen der Anthroposophie (GA 30), pp. 493-495 and 510-511. A decade later, Steiner made these very same ideas, which in the 1890s he had so harshly criticized, the centerpiece of his mature anthroposophical teachings.

[4] Consider, for example, Waage’s own preferred Steiner text, The Philosophy of Freedom, which Waage imagines to be the very foundation of “anti-racist engagement.” The book contains the following remarkable passage: “Each member of a totality is determined, as regards its characteristics and functions, by the whole totality. A racial group is a totality and all the people belonging to it bear the characteristic features that are inherent in the nature of the group. How the single member is constituted, and how he will behave, are determined by the character of the racial group.” Rather than digging around for some other Steiner quote that sounds nicer to Waage’s ear, why not simply deal straightforwardly with the problematic facets of Steiner’s thought?

[5] The 1882 Linz Program, the founding manifesto of Austrian pan-Germanism, did not call for unification of Germany and Austria but for closer economic and political ties, including a customs union and a strengthened military alliance. One of the foremost divisions within the late nineteenth century pan-German movement was the rivalry between großdeutsch and kleindeutsch (greater German and lesser German) nationalists; this basic divide was further complicated by the fact that these two terms often had divergent meanings for pan-Germanists in Austria and in Germany. Although he was Austrian and thus a Habsburg subject, Steiner’s maudlin paeans to the Hohenzollern dynasty seem to indicate that his own sympathies were pro-Prussian. For historical context see the chapter on “Deutschnationalismus” in Albert Fuchs, Geistige Strömungen in Österreich 1867-1918, Vienna 1949; for a brief overview in English see Arthur May, The Hapsburg Monarchy 1867-1914, New York 1968, pp. 210-212.

[6] This quixotic conviction appears to be, once again, anchored in a remarkable level of political naiveté. Regarding what he calls “the third way,” for example, Waage writes: “Do you become a fascist by searching for an alternative to American commercialism and Russian/Soviet collectivism?” He has evidently never even heard of the “Third Position,” one of the most potent streams within the contemporary neo-fascist scene. We would likely to gently suggest that he acquaint himself with it.

[7] Without belaboring the point, or questioning Waage’s comprehension of German, it must be noted that several of his readings are simply inscrutable. Consider the passage from Steiner’s autobiography which refers, in Waage’s rendering, to Steiner’s “friends who, in connection with the national struggle, had come under the influence of anti-Semitism.” Is this something other than Steiner’s “friends from the national struggle”? If so, why is Waage unable to explain what that difference might be? To put the matter bluntly: Why did he waste a paragraph confirming our translation, apparently convinced that he was refuting it?

[8] According to the Tysk blå ordbok (Third edition, Gerd Paulsen, Kunnskapsforlaget, Oslo 1998), “Anteil nehmen” means “ta del i” (to take part in). Our correct translation is confirmed by the authorized English translation of Steiner’s autobiography, which renders the passage thus: “I took an interested part in the struggle which the Germans in Austria were then carrying on in behalf of their national existence.” (Steiner, The Course of My Life, New York 1951, p. 142.) The Italian translation fully confirms this as well: “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); “prendere parte,” particularly with the modifier “viva,” means direct involvement and active participation. Moreover, the full version of our first reply to Waage clearly noted the possibility of alternative translations of this passage, so his suggestion that our translation was intentionally misleading is quite preposterous. Waage is also very confused about the edition of Steiner’s book cited in our reply; he now thinks that we quoted the “German pocketbook edition”. In fact, as anyone who cares to consult our original reply can plainly see, we cited the original 1925 edition of Mein Lebensgang. This is quite obviously not the same edition as the pocketbook version published sixty-five years later. We must ask again: How could Waage possibly have been befuddled about this?

[9]  “Mit um so grösserer Begeisterung verschrieben wir uns der aufstrebenden deutsch-nationalen Bewegung.” Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte 1887-1901 (GA 31), p. 361.

[10] Gerhard Wehr, Rudolf Steiner, Freiburg 1982, p. 68; Wehr also notes somewhat laconically that Steiner’s “essays from this period betray certain sympathies for the pan-German movement in the Danube monarchy” (p. 82). For the historical context see the excellent treatment by Pieter Judson, “When is a diaspora not a diaspora? Rethinking nation-centered narratives about Germans in Habsburg East Central Europe” in Krista O’Donnell, Renate Bridenthal, and Nancy Reagin, editors, The Heimat Abroad: The Boundaries of Germanness (University of Michigan Press 2005).

[11] Christoph Lindenberg, Rudolf Steiner: Eine Biographie, Stuttgart 1997, p. 61: “Steiner selbst rechnete sich zu dieser Bewegung,” namely the “deutsch-national” movement. Lindenberg further notes that “Steiner was active in this movement well beyond the usual level of involvement,” observing that Steiner served in a variety of official positions in a pan-German student organization (p. 62). Lindenberg’s biography also devotes an entire chapter to Steiner’s stint as editor of the pan-German newspaper Deutsche Wochenschrift; see chapter 9, “Der Redakteur — Ein Ausflug in die Politik”. For a description of the crucial role of the Deutsche Wochenschrift as the mouthpiece of radical German nationalism in Austria, see William McGrath, Dionysian Art and Populist Politics in Austria, New Haven 1974, pp. 201-206.

[12] In another work, Kann traces the “tremendous ideological influence” of Austrian pan-Germanism on National Socialism (Kann, The Multinational Empire: Nationalism and National Reform in the Habsburg Monarchy 1848-1918, New York 1964, vol. 1 p. 98), and points to the pan-Germans’ “policy of national raving, charging any moderate national policy with betrayal of the cause of the German people” (p. 100). That description perfectly fits much of Steiner’s journalism in the 1880’s. Roger Chickering also describes one of the main ideological motifs of pan-Germanism: “Pan-Germans embraced the belief that the Aryans had stood at the top in the natural hierarchy of races and that the distinction of being the least polluted survivor of the Aryans belonged to the Germanic (or Nordic) race, of which the Germans made up the principal part.” (Chickering, We Men Who Feel Most German: A Cultural Study of the Pan-German League 1886-1914, London 1984, p. 242)

[13] These facts are very easy to find throughout the existing historical literature; for further examples see among others Jörg Kirchhoff, Die Deutschen in der österreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie, Berlin 2001.

[14] Waage also puts in a good word for Steiner’s reactionary mythology of Mitteleuropa, rather incongruously comparing it to the trans-European “third way” movements during the cold war. The historically nonsensical comparison aside, Waage has misunderstood Steiner’s stance. The ideology of Mitteleuropa took various forms, but Steiner’s position clearly fit the criteria of what one historian calls “the nationalistic perspective of a German historical mission” (Lonnie Johnson, Central Europe: Enemies, Neighbors, Friends, Oxford 1996, p. 169). Johnson remarks: “Frequently based upon the idea of German ‘colonization’ on the Continent, this version of Mitteleuropa appealed to a broad spectrum of radical conservatives, romantic Pan-Germans, and antimodern agrarianists in Wilhelmine Germany.” (ibid. p. 170) There is a substantial literature on this very question, and Waage would do well to familiarize himself with it; among other discussions of the political ramifications of Mitteleuropa ideology see Henry Meyer, Mitteleuropa in German thought and action 1815-1945 (The Hague 1955); Jörg Brechtefeld, Mitteleuropa and German politics: 1848 to the present (New York 1996); Fritz Fischer, Weltmacht oder Niedergang: Deutschland im ersten Weltkrieg (Frankfurt 1965), pp. 14-19, 45-49, 70-73; Roger Chickering, Imperial Germany and the Great War, 1914-1918 (Cambridge 2004), pp. 86-87; David Blackbourn, The Long Nineteenth Century: A History of Germany, 1780-1918 (Cambridge 1998), pp. 362-63; Jürgen Elvert, Mitteleuropa: Deutsche Pläne zur europäischen Neuordnung 1918-1954 (Stuttgart 1999).

[15] Once again, Waage has had an extraordinarily difficult time comprehending our argument on this point. He thinks we wrote simply that “Steiner was an antisemite.” In reality, from the beginning we have emphasized Steiner’s ambivalence toward Jews and his confused attitude toward antisemitism. Steiner’s stance on the “Jewish question” did not directly align him with Hitler, who sought the biological elimination of Jews, but with the mainstream of German antisemitism, which sought the cultural, ethnic, and spiritual elimination of Jews.

[16] Itta Shedletzky, “Ludwig Jacobowski und Jakob Loewenberg” in Stephane Moses and Albrecht Schöne (ed.), Juden in der deutschen Literatur, Frankfurt 1986, p. 197. Emphasizing the same point, Jacobowski’s friend Anselma Heine wrote: “In order to earn a living, he [Jacobowski] continued to work in the office of a society dedicated to the preservation of Jewry. There as well he had long since been a mere assistant, no longer a believer.” (Heine quoted in Shedletzky, p. 200) This is fully confirmed by anthroposophist sources as well; see Walter Stoll, “Zur hundersten Wiederkehr des Geburtstages von Ludwig Jacobowski” Die Drei January 1968, p. 29. In the version of our earlier reply to Waage that was printed in Humanist 4/2000, we mistakenly reported that Jacobowski worked for the Vienna branch of the Verein. In fact, he worked for the parent organization in Berlin. For extensive background on the Verein and its attitudes toward Jewishness and antisemitism see Barbara Suchy, “The Verein zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus” in Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 28 (1983) pp. 205-239 (see pp. 214-215 in particular on Jacobowski and Steiner), and Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 30 (1985), pp. 67-103; and Ismar Schorsch, Jewish Reactions to German Anti-Semitism 1870-1914, New York 1972, particularly chapter 3.

[17] On Jacobowski’s passionate German nationalism, see Shedletzky, op. cit., and from a perspective sympathetic to Steiner, see Fred Stern, Ludwig Jacobowski, Darmstadt 1966. Both Shedletzky and Stern give ample evidence of Jacobowski’s super-patriotic rejection of his own Jewishness. Cf. also the superb article 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.

[18] Steiner quoted in Shedletzky, p. 200. Neither of Steiner’s lengthy obituaries of Jacobowski mentions his Jewish origins (see Steiner, GA 32, pp. 92-104); instead they emphasize his devotion to “German spiritual life” (p. 92).

[19] Indeed Waage’s whole understanding of assimilationism is historically oblivious, and as a consequence he has totally misunderstood the perspective of liberal assimilationist Jews, which was the exact opposite of Steiner’s stance. Liberal assimilationist Jews in Steiner’s era worked toward the preservation of Jewish identity within German society, while Steiner advocated the elimination of Jewish identity from German society. For basic treatments of the issue see among others David Sorkin, “Emancipation and Assimilation: Two Concepts and their Application to German-Jewish History” in Leo Baeck Institute Year Book, vol. 35 (1990), pp. 17-33; Michael Meyer, “German Jewry’s Path to Normality and Assimilation” in Rainer Liedtke and David Rechter (ed.), Towards Normality? Acculturation and Modern German Jewry, Tübingen 2003; Jehuda Reinharz, Fatherland or Promised Land: The Dilemma of the German Jew, 1893-1914, Ann Arbor 1975; Uriel Tal, Christians and Jews in Germany, London 1975; Alfred Low, Jews in the Eyes of the Germans, Philadelphia 1979; Donald Niewyk, The Jews in Weimar Germany, Baton Rouge 1980; Paul Mendes-Flohr, German Jews: A Dual Identity, New Haven 1999; Hans-Joachim Salecker, Der Liberalismus und die Erfahrung der Differenz: Über die Bedingungen der Integration der Juden in Deutschland, Berlin 1999; Michael Marrus, “European Jewry and the Politics of Assimilation” Journal of Modern History vol. 49 (1977), pp. 89-109; Reinhard Rürup, “German Liberalism and the Emancipation of the Jews” Leo Baeck Institute Year Book, vol. 20 (1975), pp. 59-68.

[20] See Bruce Pauley, From Prejudice to Persecution: A History of Austrian Anti-Semitism, Chapel Hill 1992, pp. 29-30, and George Mosse, Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism, Madison 1985, p. 61. On the general contours of assimilationist antisemitism see among others Paul Massing, Rehearsal for Destruction, New York 1967, pp. 76-77; Kurt Lenk, ‘Der Antisemitismusstreit oder Antisemitismus der gebildeten Leute’, in Hans Horch (ed.), Judentum, Antisemitismus und europäische Kultur, Tübingen 1988; George Mosse, Germans and Jews, Detroit 1987, chapter 3; Roderick Stackelberg, Idealism Debased: From Völkisch Ideology to National Socialism, pp. 90-91; and Donald Niewyk, “Solving the “Jewish Problem”: Continuity and Change in German Antisemitism, 1871-1945”, Leo Baeck Institute Year Book, vol. 35 (1990), pp. 335-370.

[21] Steiner, “Vom Wesen des Judentums” in Steiner, Die Geschichte der Menschheit und die Weltanschauungen der Kulturvölker, Dornach 1968,p. 190.

[22] Ibid., p. 189.

[23] In a further striking instance of Steiner’s Janus face, his early and late antisemitic periods were separated by a brief phase in which he sincerely struggled to comprehend antisemitism as a social force and forthrightly condemned it. The half-dozen articles he published on the topic in the wake of Jacobowski’s death reveal a crude and confused approach to the problem; overall they constitute a well-intentioned but failed attempt to understand antisemitism. And while they criticize antisemitism, these articles simultaneously celebrate “the great cultural mission” of “the German people” (Steiner, GA 31, p. 418). These essays, which apologists like to seize on as if they represented Steiner’s considered views on the matter, were all published within a four month period in 1901. It is, once again, quite understandable that Waage prefers to focus on this aspect of Steiner, but such a skewed perspective is of no help in understanding Steiner’s biography or intellectual development. The handful of articles that he wrote during this time must be contrasted with his straightforwardly antisemitic works, such as this infamous declaration from 1888: “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.” (Steiner, GA 32, p. 152) Remarkably, Waage himself quotes from this very same essay, Steiner’s adulatory review of Robert Hamerling’s antisemitic satire Homunkulus. Steiner’s essay concludes with a five-page attack on unnamed Jewish critics of Hamerling who are, according to Steiner, “necessarily prejudiced” and incapable of “an objective evaluation of the book” (p. 153). We suggest that any effort to fathom Steiner’s conflicted views on the “Jewish question” must take account of both sides of the Janus face.

[24] In the authorized English translation of the book, the passage reads as follows: “The person belongs to a family, a nation, a race; his activity in this world depends upon his belonging to some such community. […] Indeed, in a certain sense the separate individuals are merely the executive organs of these family group souls, racial spirits, and so on. […] In the truest sense, everyone receives his allotted task from his family, national, or racial group soul.” Steiner, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment, New York 1961, pp. 239-241.

[25] Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde (GA 349), Dornach 1980, p. 52. The quote is from 1923.

[26] We recommend, once again, above all Helmut Zander, “Sozialdarwinistische Rassentheorien aus dem okkulten Untergrund des Kaiserreichs” in Uwe Puschner, Walter Schmitz & Justus H. Ulbricht (eds.), Handbuch zur “Völkischen Bewegung” 1871-1918, Munich 1996. The patently racist aspects of Steiner’s teachings do not necessarily mean that all varieties of anthroposophy must be racist; instead they mean that contemporary anthroposophists need to come to terms with the unpleasant side of the Janus face if they want to avoid adopting racist assumptions into their belief system. Zander writes: “Steiner’s work is, in the final analysis, marked by an unsystematized ambivalence in which incompatible and contradictory elements remain side by side. Whether or not anthroposophy is interpreted in a racist manner thereby depends on the interests of the reader. The reception history offers evidence for both readings.” (p. 246) We have, of course, noted anthroposophy’s political ambiguity all along. Although Waage charges us with “extreme ill will” toward Steiner, our ill will is directed solely against the reactionary political implications of Steiner’s anthroposophy.

[27] See Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, Munich 1999, and Heisterkamp’s review of Werner’s book in Info3 April 1999. Since Waage’s field is journalism, not history, it would be unfair of us to hold him personally accountable for his unfamiliarity with the scholarship on anthroposophy during the Third Reich. But we do think he ought to take some responsibility for the numerous factual errors in his first reply. To choose just one example, Waage originally claimed that the Nazis tried to assassinate Steiner in 1922. After we showed this claim to be wildly inaccurate, Waage now retreats into quibbling with our description of the hotel where the 1922 incident took place. It is difficult to take his shifting position on this point seriously, since Waage plainly had no idea what he was talking about in the first place. We think it would make a genuine debate easier and more fruitful if anthroposophists and their defenders would take a moment to examine the historical evidence for our arguments before dismissing them.

[28] For a fuller discussion of Hess’s personal relationship to anthroposophy, see Peter Staudenmaier, “The Art of Denying History” in Communalism 2008. Waage’s laughable contention that J. W. Hauer was the source of our arguments regarding Hess indicates that his grasp of the research on Hess is tenuous at best. Hauer spent his time harassing not just anthroposophists, but all religious groupings other than his own marginal sect. Not one of the numerous scholars who have confirmed Hess’s pronounced anthroposophist predilections draws on Hauer’s primitive propaganda in any way. On the 1941 campaign by Hess’s Nazi rivals to blame his unexpected flight to Britain on anthroposophical and other occult influences, see Kurt Pätzold and Manfred Weißbecker, Rudolf Hess: Der Mann an Hitlers Seite, Leipzig 1999, pp. 269-71; Hauer is not mentioned anywhere. Similarly, Rainer Schmidt’s account of the same events makes no mention of Hauer; see Schmidt, Rudolf Hess, Düsseldorf 1997. Himmler’s official log covering the Hess crisis does not refer to Hauer either; see Der Dienstkalender Heinrich Himmlers 1941/42, Hamburg 1999. For a thorough examination of Hauer’s relationship with anthroposophy see the fine study by Horst Junginger, Von der philologischen zur völkischen Religionswissenschaft: Das Fach Religionswissenschaft an der Universität Tübingen von der Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts bis zum Ende des Dritten Reiches, Stuttgart 1999.

[29] Such basic historical information is not difficult to locate. Readers who find Waage’s version of events plausible may wish to consult the following studies: F. Gregory Campbell, “The Struggle for Upper Silesia, 1919-1922” Journal of Modern History vol. 42 no. 3 (1970), 361-385; T. Hunt Tooley, National Identity and Weimar Germany: Upper Silesia and the Eastern Border, 1918 – 1922 (University of Nebraska Press 1997); Tooley, “The Polish-German Ethnic Dispute and the 1921 Upper Silesian Plebiscite” Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism 24 (1997), 13-20; Tooley, “German Political Violence and the Border Plebiscite in Upper Silesia, 1919-1921” Central European History vol. 21 no. 1 (1988), 56-98; Richard Blanke, “Upper Silesia 1921: The Case for Subjective Nationality” Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism 2 (1975), 241-260; Richard Tims, Germanizing Prussian Poland (Columbia University Press 1941); Ralph Schattkowsky, Deutschland und Polen von 1918/19 bis 1925, Frankfurt 1994, 48-94; Kai Struve, ed., Oberschlesien nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg: Studien zum nationalen Konflikt und seiner Erinnerung (Marburg 2003); Günther Doose, Die separatistische Bewegung in Oberschlesien nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg (Wiesbaden 1987); Waldemar Grosch, Deutsche und polnische Propaganda während der Volksabstimmung in Oberschlesien 1919 – 1921 (Dortmund 2002); Roland Baier, Der deutsche Osten als soziale Frage (Cologne 1980), 127-147.

[30] Steiner, Wie wirkt man für den Impuls der Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus?, GA 338, Dornach 1986, p. 213.

[31] ibid. pp. 226 and 234. These same 1921 lectures to Silesian anthroposophists, by the way, controvert Waage’s foolish claim that Steiner repudiated his 1916 work Gedanken während der Zeit des Krieges. For Steiner’s wholehearted re-affirmation of his earlier nationalist screed, see GA 338, pp. 228-9. We must also note, unfortunately, that Waage has misrepresented his own stated source on this point. Christoph Lindenberg’s 1997 biography Rudolf Steiner, p. 581, says more or less the opposite of what Waage claims it says. Here we read that after the war Steiner forcefully rejected criticism of his 1916 tract and insisted that the pamphlet had been correct; his post-war embarrassment at the possibility of it being republished stemmed solely, Lindenberg tells us, from the fact that in 1916 Steiner fully expected Germany to win the war. It is very difficult to see how Waage might have misunderstood Lindenberg’s account on this score. Steiner’s followers continued to promote Gedanken während der Zeit des Krieges after Steiner’s death; it is listed, for example, as one of the “basic works of Rudolf Steiner” in Karl Heyer, Wie man gegen Rudolf Steiner kämpft, Stuttgart 1932.

[32] See, for example, Hans Kühn, Dreigliederungs-Zeit. Rudolf Steiners Kampf für die Gesellschaftsordnung der Zukunft, Dornach 1978, pp. 125-127.

[33] Karl Heyer, Wie man gegen Rudolf Steiner kämpft, Stuttgart 1932, p. 84.

[34] The Upper Silesian campaign brought to the fore the German cultural nationalist emphasis that had been part of Steiner’s social threefolding all along. Throughout 1920 and 1921 the threefolding newspaper Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus routinely carried articles with titles like “Der Ausverkauf Deutschlands” declaring that threefolding is the only path to “the salvation of the German Volk” and warning against allowing “our German Volk” to “fall prey to foreign influences” while emphasizing the spiritual differences between Slavs and Germans and propounding the German mission of bringing true enlightenment to Eastern European peoples and so on. The 1921 reporting on Upper Silesia in Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, meanwhile, constantly ridiculed Polish claims in the territory and condemned German politicians for failing to take a hard line in the negotiations over the province. Once partition was decided, the threefolders thundered against its specifics, pointing out that the League of Nations plan meant the loss of significant German economic resources to Poland, all part of the West’s strategy of strangling Germany, in anthroposophists’ eyes. This is what Steiner’s theory looked like in practice.

[35] “Zusatz der Schriftleitung”, Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 38 (March 22, 1921) p. 3.

[36] Die Schriftleitung, “Dreigliederung und Oberschlesien” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 40 (April 5, 1921), p. 3.

[37] Heyer, “Der Weg zur Lösung der oberschlesischen Frage” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 31 (January 1921), p. 3.Heyer says nothing similar about Polish interests.

[38] Bund für Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, “Die Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus und die oberschlesische Frage”, Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 36 (March 8, 1921), p. 4. The threefolders go on to write: “In the current situation, the Upper Silesian economy with its raw materials that are essential to the German economy can only be saved for German economic life if they are separated from political factors and made autonomous.” This was the driving force behind Steiner’s stance.

[39] Prominent anthroposophist Roman Boos, for example, insisted that critics of social threefolding efforts in Upper Silesia were simply tools of the Entente promoting the anti-German spirit of the Versailles treaty. See Boos, “Wer verrät das Deutschtum?” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 38 (March 22, 1921), pp. 2-3. After the partition plan was put into effect, Ernst Uehli bemoaned the fact that failure to adopt a threefold solution had led to Germany’s loss of the economically precious portions of Upper Silesia: “Instead of threefolding, which would have meant saving Upper Silesia for Germany, the opposite is now taking place.” Uehli, “Ereignisse der Woche” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 49 (June 7, 1921), p. 2. Germany’s loss of part of Upper Silesia to Poland continued to agitate Uehli, who viewed this unfortunate outcome as a ruse by the “Western powers” to create for themselves a “mighty economic position” in Eastern Europe and thus stifle Germany’s rightful role there. Months after the League of Nations plebiscite, Uehli was still complaining: “A crucially significant part of German industry and raw materials is being given politically to bankrupt Poland.” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 3 no. 18 (3 Nov 1921). A decade after the Upper Silesian campaign, Ernst von Hippel, a well-known anthroposophist, advocate of social threefolding, and fan of Nazism, looked back on the events of 1921, still outraged that a portion of the province went to Poland rather than Germany. After ranting about the Entente, Versailles, Wilson, the League of Nations, and especially the French, von Hippel characterized Poland as “an Asiatic despotism” and deplored the tragic fact that German populations were now forced to live under Polish rule. Ernst von Hippel, Oberschlesien, Königsberg 1931.

[40] The anthroposophical editors write: “Silesian friends of Rudolf Steiner’s threefolding idea had tried to advocate social threefolding to a broad audience as a solution to the problem, in order to save Upper Silesia from the disastrous consequences of the plebiscite they had been forced into in 1921, but with the additional recommendation that in case the plebiscite occurred, the only possible vote was a vote for Germany.” (Rudolf Steiner, Die Verantwortung des Menschen für die Weltentwickelung, GA 203, Dornach 1989, p. 337) In another volume dedicated to the charges raised by various opponents of anthroposophy during Steiner’s lifetime, the editors provide a thorough summary of the Upper Silesian threefolding campaign. Here is what they write: “The threefolding league sought to postpone the decision about the final status of Upper Silesia and thus hoped to annul the plebiscite. With this step it hoped to create the possibility of realizing threefolding on a limited scale.” They then quote extensively from Steiner’s “Call to Save Upper Silesia,” and continue: “In case this ideal solution [full-scale social threefolding according to anthroposophist terms] should turn out to be unrealizable, and in case the plebiscite was thus to be carried out anyway, the representatives of the Threefolding League adopted a pro-German position, one which they naturally did not propagate to the outside world, for the sake of their preferred solution.” (Rudolf Steiner, Die Anthroposophie und ihre Gegner, GA 255b, Dornach 2003, pp. 555-556)

[41] Two years after the plebiscite, anthroposophists returned to the topic. In a February 1923 discussion with Steiner and other anthroposophists and threefolding activists, including those involved in the Upper Silesian campaign, anthroposophist Hans Büchenbacher reported: “During the struggles around the plebiscite in Upper Silesia, many anthroposophist public speakers in Germany presented threefolding as the peaceful solution and the only healthy solution to the problem, whereupon accusations of treason appeared in the press. Our speakers were able to rebuff these accusations. After all, they could simply point to the fact that if it came to a plebiscite, the threefolders would of course vote for Germany, and that Dr. Steiner himself said this clearly.” (Rudolf Steiner, Das Schicksalsjahr 1923 in der Geschichte der Anthroposophischen Gesellschaft, GA 259, Dornach 1991, p. 389) Steiner was one of the next participants to speak and did not in any way modify or correct or deny Büchenbacher’s unambiguous description, nor did any of the Silesian anthroposophist participants.

[42] Rudolf Steiner, Die Anthroposophie und ihre Gegner, p. 328.

[43] The lecture can be found in Rudolf Steiner, Die geistigen Hintergründe des Ersten Weltkrieges, Dornach, 1974 (GA 174b) pp. 30-54. As far as we have been able to determine, no English translation of this book has been published. The lecture in question, however, has been translated under anthroposophical auspices, but not made public; it circulates instead among anthroposophists in typescript form. A copy of the typescript can be found at the Rudolf Steiner Library in Ghent, New York, under the following title: Rudolf Steiner, “The Christ-Impulse as Bearer of the Union of the Spiritual and the Bodily”, typescript marked “For Members of the Anthroposophical Society”, translated by M. Cotterell. In order for readers to be able to assess our translation of Steiner’s words in this instance, here is the central relevant passage as it appears in this anthroposophical translation: “And what is the characteristic that must particularly develop in this fifth culture-epoch? It is one that was kindled through the Mystery of Golgotha, namely that spiritual impulses have been led down right into the directly physically-human, that as it were the flesh must be laid hold of by the spirit. It has not yet happened. It will not happen till Spiritual Science has one day spread more widely over the earth and many more men bring it to expression in direct life, until, one could say, the spirit comes to expression in every movement of hand, of finger, in the most everyday affairs. But it was for the sake of bringing down the spiritual impulse that Christ became flesh in a human body. And the characteristic of the mission of white humanity in general is to carry down the spirit, to impregnate the flesh with the spirit. Man has his white skin that the spirit may work in the skin when it descends to the physical plane. The task of our fifth culture-epoch, prepared through the preceding four epochs, is to make the outer physical body a shrine for the spirit. We must acquaint ourselves with those cultural impulses which show the tendency to bring the spirit into the flesh, into everyday matters. When we quite recognise this, then we shall also be clear that where the spirit has still to work as spirit, where in a certain way it has to stay behind in its development — because in our time it should descend into the flesh — where it stays behind, takes a demonic character and does not completely permeate the flesh, there the white skin does not appear. Atavistic forces are present which do not let the spirit come into complete harmony with the flesh. In the sixth post-Atlantean Culture epoch the task will be to know the spirit as something hovering in the surroundings, to recognise the spirit more in the elemental world, because that epoch must prepare the knowledge of the spirit in the physical environment. That could not easily come about if ancient atavistic forces were not preserved which recognise the spirit in its purely elemental life. But these things do not enter the world without the most violent struggles. White humanity is still on the way to take the spirit more and more deeply into its own being. Yellow humanity is on the way to conserve that age in which the spirit is held away from the body, is sought purely outside the human physical organisation. This makes it inevitable that the transition from the fifth culture epoch to the sixth will bring about a violent struggle of the white and yellow races in the most varied domains. What precedes these struggles will occupy world-history up to the decisive events of the great contests between the white world and the coloured world.”

[44] Waage’s peculiar insistence that critics of anthroposophy must adopt a properly reverential attitude toward Steiner before they dare to assess his public activities is typical of anthroposophist beliefs. This basic misunderstanding of the function of public debate is the reason Waage finds the notion of political critique so utterly foreign; witness in particular his dilettantish musings on the question of ecofascism. Waage is simply unable to imagine that an ecological activist could “confront the excrescences of the movement that he himself belongs to.” In authentic and intellectually vibrant social movements like the ecology movement, serious issues are discussed and debated openly, passionately, and honestly. Many ecological activists recognize that while topics such as ecofascism may be uncomfortable, a sincere dialogue on contentious matters is essential to any open civic endeavor. The anthroposophist movement, in contrast, seems nearly incapable of sustaining any informed debate on its own history. The various well-founded and historically researched political criticisms of anthroposophy that have been brought forward in the past decade and a half have provoked little more than defensiveness and denial, as if hiding from the facts would somehow make them go away. This is, indeed, the cardinal difference between a genuine social movement and a sectarian club based on cult-like devotion to its dubious guru: while the former thrives on open disputes over controversial issues, the latter dismisses any external political critique as malicious attacks by enemies of anthroposophy.

[45] We are moreover taken aback by Waage’s evident contempt for his own readers, as expressed for example in his penultimate paragraph. He apparently believes that his readers are incapable of holding two ideas in their heads at once, that they cannot make rudimentary sense out of historically complex situations, and that they think a movement which contains some racists must consist of nothing but racists, and vice-versa. Unlike Waage, we expect more from our readers.  We believe that readers can comprehend complexity, ambiguity, and contradictory evidence. We also recognize that readers inclined to sympathize with anthroposophy will not welcome the task we ask of them.

[46] The final report has yet to be translated into German or English. Since Waage only had access to the interim report, we will confine our remarks to that version. Our citations refer to the published German translation of the interim report, Anthroposophie und die Frage der Rassen, third printing, Frankfurt 2000.

[47] Anthroposophie und die Frage der Rassen, p. 347. That leaves only 79 quotes from Steiner which the commission examined and judged unproblematic. According to the peculiar calculus of the Dutch Commission, 83 “potentially” racist passages alongside 79 “unproblematic” passages adds up to no racism whatsoever, indeed no race theory of any kind, in Rudolf Steiner’s work.

[48] The Dutch commission’s “criticism” of the “potentially” racist quotes is sometimes just as disturbing as the quotes themselves. Of Steiner’s line “the white race is the race of the future, the spiritually creative race,” for example, they have only this to say: “The accuracy of these claims can be questioned.” (p. 323)

[49] At least one of Steiner’s antisemitic passages was apparently included in the final version of the report.

The Art of Avoiding History

The Art of Avoiding History

by Peter Staudenmaier

Reply to Göran Fant, “The Art of Turning White into Black”

Göran Fant says that he is unable
to recognize the portrait of anthroposophy that I painted in my article Anthroposophy
and Ecofascism
I am not surprised that he found my portrait hard to swallow, since Fant is
convinced that anthroposophy is by definition anti-racist and opposed to
nationalist and right-wing politics. I cannot argue with Fant’s personal
beliefs, but they are unfortunately incompatible with anthroposophy’s actual
historical record. In the course of the several debates that have ensued since
my article was first published, I have become increasingly aware that
contemporary anthroposophists are often woefully uninformed about the history
of their own doctrine. As odd as it may seem to admirers of Steiner, who are
inclined to view adherents of anthroposophy as authorities on anthroposophy, many
anthroposophists simply do not know very much about Steiner’s teachings or
about the development of the movement he founded. Like Fant, they thus find critical
descriptions of anthroposophy’s history to be unbelievable, indeed virtually
unintelligible. I would like to contribute to a more accurate view by
responding to some of Fant’s claims.[2]

Fant says that anthroposophy is
anti-authoritarian, anti-elitist, anti-racist, and apolitical. He complains
about my article’s supposedly unorthodox method, and offers an alternative
interpretation of the relationship between anthroposophy and Nazism. Let us examine
each of these arguments in turn.

Authoritarianism. Fant’s statements about the character of
anthroposophy are at odds with Rudolf Steiner’s precepts. In order to continue
along the path of spiritual and racial advancement, Steiner taught, individuals
must subordinate themselves to “the great leaders of humankind” (die
großen Führer der Menschheit
). If they fail
to obey these leaders, their souls are condemned to spiritual and racial
stagnation.[3] Anthroposophy
is moreover based on an authoritarian epistemology which explicitly denigrates
“criticism” and “judgement” while celebrating “reverent veneration” of
ostensible spiritual virtues, and rejects “intellectual effort” in favor of
“immediate spiritual perception.”[4]
Contemporary anthroposophists’ uncritical attitude toward Steiner’s writings is
further testament to this authoritarian framework. Fant is much too optimistic
about the possibilities for “adapting Steiner’s texts to our time”; short of
schism or apostasy, anthroposophy simply offers no grounds on which its
adherents might coherently revise or refute its inherited doctrines.
Furthermore, what Fant calls “the great, inspiring wholeness” of Steiner’s
teachings depends entirely on anthroposophist credulity toward Steiner’s
methods of occult revelation. Whatever the charms of this version of
esotericism, such methods are irreconcilable with rational evaluation and
independent confirmation.[5]
In a judicious assessment of the anti-rational and authoritarian implications
of the anthroposophic worldview, Sven Ove Hansson writes: “Steiner’s
pronouncements are in practice never questioned in the anthroposophical
movement, and very little of substance has been added to the doctrine after his
An authoritarian disposition is unavoidable in a movement that considers itself
to be preserving a “secret science” (Geheimwissenschaft), one of Steiner’s original terms for anthroposophy.[7]

Elitism. Anthroposophy’s very
nature as an esoteric worldview is predicated on the distinction between
initiates and non-initiates, as well as on the notion of a ladder of knowledge
which all initiates must climb step by step. These are the characteristic marks
of an elitist mindset. Steiner also held that the German cultural elite,
as the most spiritually advanced segment of the “Aryan race,” had a special
mission to redeem the world from materialism. In his own words,
“If one national civilization spreads more readily, and has
greater spiritual fertility than another, then it is quite right that it should
His theory of the unique cultural mission of the German people was matched by
an elitist social doctrine. In his economic writings, Steiner emphasized that
all decisions must be made by “the most capable”; his “threefold society” was
to be run not by the “hand-workers” but by “the spiritual workers, who direct
[9] And his
racial theories, needless to say, were rigidly hierarchical and tied to
anthroposophy’s elitist conception of spiritual progress: “Nations and races
are merely the various stages of development toward pure humanity. A nation or
a race stands higher the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal
human type, the more they have worked their way through from the transitory
physical to the immortal supernatural. The development of humankind through
reincarnation in ever higher national and racial forms is therefore a process
of liberation.”
[10] Even
sympathetic observers note that Steiner’s anthroposophy aimed to create a “new
spiritual elite”.

Racism. I do not doubt that many anthroposophists today are
opposed to racist prejudice. But this admirable orientation does not justify
their refusal to confront honestly their doctrine’s thoroughly racist origins.
The entire edifice of anthroposophy is built on the comprehensive
historical-evolutionary-racial typology Steiner laid out in Cosmic
and elsewhere. The key to this
typology is the root-race doctrine, which 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), a term which eventually gave way, in Steiner’s
writings, to the more recognizable unit of the people or nation (Volk). 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” peoples, at the top of the hierarchy. This
hierarchy, according to Steiner, is an integral component of the cosmic order.

Steiner’s book Cosmic Memory remains to the present day the primary
source for anthroposophy’s cosmology, 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 or minimize it; and the Anthroposophical Society continues to
officially designate the book one of the “fundamental anthroposophist texts.”
Nor did Steiner himself ever renounce it; on the contrary, at the end of his
life he called
Cosmic Memory the “basis of anthroposophist cosmology.”[13]
Today the book is still officially recommended for use by Waldorf teachers. Its
racial mythology is elaborated in extravagant detail in many other works by
Steiner published by anthroposophical presses.

according to both Steiner and his latter-day followers, humanity’s very
existence is structured around the stratified scheme of higher and lower races.
Nor is it the case, as Fant would have us believe, that in Steiner’s view these
racial divisions “will soon totally disappear.” Steiner taught that the “Aryan
race” will reign until the year 7893, six thousand years in the future.
Occasionally he indicated that the final transcendence of racial categories
would happen sooner, in roughly 1500 years – still an extraordinarily long time
to wait for anthroposophy to shed its racial obsessions. The Dutch
anthroposophist commission on “anthroposophy and the race question,” on the
other hand, reports that “according to Steiner, the word ‘race’ will no longer
have meaning in 5,500 years.”

It is also inaccurate and
simplistic to say that Steiner gave the Aryan concept “quite another meaning
than it later acquired in the Nazi era.” From the moment it was invented by
European racial theorists in the nineteenth century, the preposterous notion of
an “Aryan race” was inextricably bound up in the repugnant ideology of racial
superiority. That Steiner himself shared this ideology is obvious from his
contemptuous references to blacks, Asians, aboriginal peoples, Jews, and other
non-“Aryans.” Steiner’s version of Aryanism was in fact strikingly similar,
even in detail, to that of leading Nazi racial theorists. Steiner divided the
Aryan root race into five sub-races: Ancient Indian, Persian,
Egyptian-Chaldean, Greco-Roman, and Germanic-Nordic. By comparison, Nazi ideologist
Alfred Rosenberg included the Indians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Germans and
Scandinavians in the “Aryan race.”[17]
Similarly, Arthur de Gobineau’s version of the “Aryan race” comprised Indians,
Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Chinese, and Germans.[18]
Richard Wagner held that the principal “Aryan” peoples were the Indians,
Persians, Greeks, and Germans, and Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s conception of
“the Aryans” was substantially similar to Steiner’s as well. Enthusiasts of
anthroposophy would do well to familiarize themselves with the history of the
Aryan myth.[19] Above all,
they would do well to examine more closely the considerable continuities
between Steiner’s description of the “Aryan race” and those put forward by the
leading racists of the nineteenth century and their Nazi inheritors.[20]

In spite of all this evidence and
context, Fant insists that “Steiner’s texts do not express any racism.” The
only conclusions the rest of us can draw are that Fant has not read Steiner’s
writings, or that he has a remarkably limited understanding of racism. The
latter possibility is strongly suggested by Fant’s foolish example of “going
out in the streets and slaughtering immigrants” as somehow typical of a racist
mindset. He appears to believe that “well-meaning” people cannot be racist.[21]
Fant has evidently never examined racism as a belief system or body of ideas.
That these ideas continue to exert a powerful and pernicious influence in
modern societies, without for the most part yielding directly murderous
consequences, seems to have escaped his notice. Today’s naïve anthroposophists
are the kinder, gentler counterpart to xenophobic thugs: not violent, not
overtly discriminatory or prejudiced, indeed seemingly the opposite. That is
why their potential role is so baleful: to make ‘soft’ racism and ‘soft’
nationalism socially acceptable in the heart of a materially comfortable but
ideologically insecure middle class.

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

. Even if Fant’s claim that
“anthroposophy is apolitical” were believable, it would hardly be reassuring;
it is precisely this sort of naiveté toward the political implications of an
all-encompassing quasi-religious worldview that is most worrisome about
contemporary anthroposophists. Historically speaking, moreover, many of
Steiner’s followers, including prominent and institutionally central
anthroposophists, have been actively involved in fascist politics.
In any case, my article did not argue that all anthroposophists are
enthusiastic activists of the radical right, but that the consistent
connections between anthroposophic beliefs and far-right politics have been
unmistakable since the doctrine first emerged a century ago. This persistent
connection is a mainstay of current research on the European far right. In
addition to the many sources cited in my article, interested readers may
consult the following discussions of Steiner’s radical right followers:
Jonathan Olsen,
Nature and Nationalism;
Volkmar Wölk, Natur und Mythos; Peter Kratz, Die Götter des New Age; Reinalter, Petri, and Kaufmann, Das Weltbild des
; Bernice Rosenthal, The
Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture
; Jahn
and Wehling,
Ökologie von rechts; Udo
Normalisierung von Rechts; Gugenberger
and Schweidlenka,
Die Fäden der
Nornen: zur Macht der Mythen in politischen Bewegungen
; Franz Wegener, Das
atlantidische Weltbild: Nationalsozialismus und Neue Rechte auf der Suche nach
der versunkenen Atlantis
; Arn Strohmeyer, Von
Hyperborea nach Auschwitz
; Joscelyn Godwin,
Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival; Gugenberger, Petri, and Schweidlenka, Weltverschwörungstheorien:
die neue Gefahr von rechts
; Eduard Heller
and Maegerle,
Thule: Vom völkischen
Okkultismus bis zur Neuen Rechten
; Klaus
Bellmund and Kaarel Siniveer,
Kulte, Führer, Lichtgestalten: Esoterik als Mittel rechtsradikaler
; Harald
Die Gnosis und der Nationalsozialismus; Jutta Ditfurth, Entspannt in die Barbarei: Esoterik, (Öko-)Faschismus
und Biozentrismus
; Gerhard Kern and Lee
Die esoterische Verführung;
Claudia Barth,

alles in der Welt – Esoterik und Leitkultur; and Christiansen, Fromm, and Zinser, Brennpunkt

Esoterik.[23] It is unacceptable to dismiss the virulent, widespread,
and ongoing extreme right variant of anthroposophy as “some Germans from the
thirties” and “a handful of ghosts of modern times.”

also tries to turn the recently deceased anthroposophist and right-wing
extremist Werner Haverbeck into an enemy of anthroposophy, calling his
adulatory biography of Steiner “a severe attack on anthroposophy” and a “total
rejection of the anthroposophist movement.” This is a purely terminological
argument; Fant presents no evidence for this nonsensical claim, but simply
asserts that since Haverbeck’s views on anthroposophy differ from his own,
Haverbeck must by definition be anti-anthroposophy. More telling still, Fant
claims that Haverbeck’s portrait of Steiner as a committed German nationalist
is “an absurd distortion.” Haverbeck’s book
Rudolf Steiner – Anwalt für
is indeed politically and
morally appalling, but its depiction of Steiner’s nationalism is entirely
accurate, as the briefest familiarity with Steiner’s published writings plainly

During his Vienna years, Steiner was an active member of the deutschnational or pan-German movement in Austria. In the last two decades
of the nineteenth century he wrote dozens of articles for the German
nationalist press, which are reprinted in volumes 29, 30, 31 and 32 of his
Collected Works (above all
Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und
and Gesammelte Aufsätze
zur Literatur
These pan-German publications are politically unambiguous, and they make a
mockery of Fant’s naive assertion that nationalism always “bothered Steiner.”
Steiner’s German cultural nationalism, based on a chauvinist conviction of
superiority and a sense of national mission as well as simple ethnic prejudice,
became frantic with the onset of World War One, as his blustery wartime
lectures testify (collected in
Zeitgeschichtliche Betrachtungen and Die geistigen Hintergründe des Ersten Weltkrieges and elsewhere); and he re-affirmed his German nationalist
line in his post-war lectures as well (see, for example,
Bewußtseins-Notwendigkeiten für Gegenwart und
). Steiner remained unapologetic
about his nationalist engagement to the end of his life, recalling his
pan-German activism in his 1925 autobiography. It may be an uncomfortable fact
for progressive anthroposophists to acknowledge, but the far-right Haverbeck
had a much more accurate understanding of Steiner on this question than the
liberal Fant.

In the period since my original
exchange with Fant, anthroposophy’s politics have not, alas, been clarified.
The far-right inflection of Steiner’s teachings continues to gain adherents and
publicity.[27] The case of Andreas Molau is particularly instructive in
this regard. In the 1990s Molau was a prominent publicist on Germany’s
far-right fringe, and after 2000 became active in the NDP, the major neo-Nazi
party in Germany today. Molau also worked as a history teacher at a Waldorf
school in the city of Braunschweig for eight years. He was fired (or, by some
accounts, resigned) in 2004 when Molau’s official position in the NPD became
The chief concern for the administration of Molau’s Waldorf school was the
possible impact of Molau’s party work on the school’s reputation; as the
school’s principal told the media at the time: “This is a catastrophe for our
image.” Molau’s Waldorf colleagues, meanwhile, claimed to have been unaware of
his political involvements.
Assuming this claim is true, it raises the obvious question of just how Molau’s
fellow Waldorf teachers and staff managed
notto know about his far-right affiliations for so long. Molau taught
history and German (not, for example, math or music) at the same Waldorf school
for eight years, and even after the NPD episode erupted into a public scandal,
his Waldorf colleagues said they had viewed him as “left-liberal” and “a
sympathetic oddball”; they were unanimously surprised to learn of his far-right
political activities. But Molau had been a prominent figure on the radical
right for a very long time, since the beginning of the 1990s, writing for a
range of far-right publications under his real name; for several years he was even
culture editor of
Junge Freiheit,
one of the most notorious of Germany’s extreme right wing journals (where among
other things he published an article denying the holocaust).
Molau’s openly apologetic biography of Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg was
published in 1993.
Molau was moreover mentioned in readily available sources on the far right,
such as the
Handbuch deutscher Rechtsextremismus (handbook on German right-wing extremism) published
in 1996. Yet none of Molau’s fellow Waldorf faculty, staff, or parents was
aware of any of this information whatsoever. The incident speaks volumes about
the level of political obliviousness that is apparently endemic at Waldorf
schools today.

Even after leaving Waldorf
employment, Molau continues to support Waldorf education strongly. In the
immediate aftermath of his departure from the Braunschweig Waldorf school, he forcefully
re-affirmed his ongoing esteem for Steiner and his own unchanged commitment to
Waldorf pedagogy. He has since run in several campaigns as one of the NPD’s
better-known politicians, and his election materials consistently highlight his
experience as a Waldorf teacher. Within the NPD executive, Molau is responsible
for educational policy. In 2005, as an NPD candidate, Molau was invited to speak
at a Waldorf school in Berlin, where he quoted from Steiner’s book on the
Mission of the Folk Souls, and declared that Waldorf pupils are “the ideal
target audience for the NPD, because of Waldorf schools’ natural feeling for
living authority and their cultivated inner connection with German culture.”
The NPD put out a press release celebrating this Waldorf event as a breakthrough
with youth. In 2007, Molau announced his plan to open a Waldorf educational
center under NPD auspices. With this new Waldorf project, the neo-Nazi politician
hopes to show “the connection between the nationalist NPD ideology and the
teachings of the founder of anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner.”

Fant presumably still believes that
such incidents – repeated over and over again in the world of Waldorf, biodynamics,
and anthroposophy – are merely isolated, marginal, insignificant anomalies that
tell us nothing important about the ostensibly “apolitical” nature of anthroposophy.
This is nothing but a pretense, and serves quite simply to protect and promote
the ongoing infiltration of the far right within the anthroposophical milieu.
The Molau case was not a fluke. In late 2004, in the wake of the controversy
over Molau’s Waldorf career, the editor of the anthroposophical journal Info3 reported that “a whole array of private voices”
within German anthroposophical circles had spoken up in support of Molau. In
November 2004, a leading far-right newspaper, the National-Zeitung, published a very sympathetic interview with Molau
conducted by an even more famous right-wing extremist, Gerhard Frey.[32]
Here Molau emphasized the conceptual affinities between anthroposophy and the
contemporary German far right, while citing Steiner’s book The
Philosophy of Freedom
and touting the wonders
of Waldorf education. Molau also noted the support and solidarity he had
received from like-minded associates within the Waldorf movement. Molau’s
parting of ways with the Braunschweig Waldorf school, in other words, has
scarcely solved the problem.[33]
Such incidents will continue to recur until anthroposophists finally face their
far-right affiliations head-on.

. Fant is particularly exercised
about what he calls my article’s method, suggesting several times that I
misquoted my sources and complaining that I focused on topics he considers to
be “peripheral” aspects of anthroposophy. I will gladly let readers draw their
own conclusions about whether anthroposophy’s racial doctrines and its extensive
history of collusion with fascist and neo-fascist politics constitute “peripheral
phenomena.” Fant’s remarks on my use of sources, on the other hand, are nothing
but innuendo; he never once challenges any of my actual citations or quotes.
Indeed, his preoccupation with method is somewhat puzzling, since my article
is, if anything, methodologically boring and conservative.
Anthroposophy and
follows the standard procedure
of providing historical background, quoting abundantly from anthroposophist
sources, citing some of the critical literature on anthroposophy, and offering
my own interpretations of the material while noting alternative
interpretations. Readers familiar with these sources will easily recognize that
my article, despite its polemical tone, is notably restrained in its argument.
I deliberately avoided, for example, making extensive use of historian Anna
Bramwell’s prodigious research on anthroposophy’s pro-fascist history, and I
completely excluded all occult sources, including those that are damning toward
anthroposophy. I also explicitly warned against the sort of guilt by
association argument that Fant thinks I have indulged in. Fant’s evident
discomfort with my research stems from its content, not from its polemical

Fant appears to be troubled by the very phenomenon of historical analysis itself.
He cannot understand that non-anthroposophists might assess anthroposophist
actions according to criteria different from the anthroposophists’ own
preferred standards. He seems quite unaware of how textual evidence functions
outside of an esoteric framework – yes, Mr. Fant, historians really do need to choose
sources that are “typical and representative,” no matter how
uncomfortable this may be for occultists
– and he
cannot fathom how external observers could possibly reach conclusions that
diverge from his own. Fant thus insists that a critical appraisal of
anthroposophy, no matter how copiously substantiated, is automatically suspect.
He says, for instance, that my brief summary of Steiner’s lectures on “
Volksseelen” is an “astonishingly unserious distortion.” According to
Fant, these lectures are thoroughly anti-racist and intended to “inspire mutual
understanding between the peoples.” It is difficult to see how any
non-anthroposophist reader of Steiner’s text could agree with this simpleminded
[35] The book is
an openly ethnocentric argument for all peoples to accept the superiority of
Steiner’s peculiar version of Christianity, refracted through a ‘Nordic’ lens,
and to acknowledge the “future mission of [the] Teutonic Archangel.”
The theme of chapter three is “Formation of the Races,” while the theme of
chapter four is “The Evolution of Races.” But the heart of the book is chapter
six, titled “The Five Root Races of Mankind” (Steiner’s lecture in Oslo from
June 12, 1910). Here Steiner reminds his audience of the racial superiority of
“the Aryans,” helpfully explaining that
he means “the peoples of Asia Minor and Europe whom we regard as members
of the Caucasian race”
(p. 106) before going
on to discuss “the Caucasian race” for several more paragraphs (p. 107). For
some reason Fant calls this two-page disquisition a “parenthetical passage.”

For anyone who has the opportunity to read the text
itself, with its unsettling references to “the peculiar character of the
Semitic people” and so forth, Fant’s clumsy attempts to distract attention from
the actual content of Steiner’s book are easy to expose. But whatever sense anthroposophists might make of these murky
lectures on “the mission of national souls,” contemporary far-right racists do
not concur with Fant’s reading.
They continue to promote Steiner’s book alongside other Aryan supremacist

Fant’s insinuations about
my article’s use of sources are especially fatuous in light of his own careless
use of sources. He writes: “Steiner warned already in 1920 about Nazism (GA 199
p. 161).” Here is the quote Fant cites: “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 denounces the use of the swastika by the Bolsheviks; he makes no
mention at all of Nazism. That is not surprising, since the Nazi party was only
formed a few months before Steiner’s speech, and had at the time a tiny
membership; moreover, the distinctive Nazi swastika banners were not designed
until two years later.
Only in the fertile anthroposophist imagination could this passage count as a
“warning against Nazism.”

Fant employs similar
tactics of avoidance in his discussion of anthroposophist Rainer Schnurre’s
racist statements. He claims that I have presented “false quotations” from
Schnurre, and somehow deduces that my source for these quotations must have
been Jutta Ditfurth. The usual procedure in such cases is to provide accurate
quotes from the figure in question so that readers may judge for themselves.
But Fant gives us no quotes from Schnurre, only his own fanciful aspersions.
Moreover, a brief glance at my article will show that I do not quote or cite
Ditfurth’s excellent work anywhere in connection with Schnurre; rather, as
clearly noted in my article, I quoted Schnurre’s racist nonsense from Oliver
Geden’s fine book
Rechte Ökologie.
Fant’s attempt to dismiss Geden as a “critic of anthroposophy” is frivolous;
Geden is in fact a critic of right-wing ecology, and he can hardly be expected
to ignore anthroposophy’s massive contribution to this unfortunate tendency.
His book otherwise has no axe to grind with Steiner. Fant furthermore appears
to believe that anyone who voices concern about the less savory aspects of
anthroposophist politics must be a tool of sinister forces. The conspiratorial paranoia
so typical of anthroposophy has gotten the better of him in this instance; the
suggestion that leftists like Ditfurth and Bierl are secretly in league with
the far-right EAP is laughable. For someone so preoccupied with “method,”
Fant’s own approach is dubious indeed.

Anthroposophy and Nazism. Fant is convinced that “anthroposophy thinks
radically opposite Nazism.” Not only was this view not shared by
anthroposophist Nazis, it is not shared by scholars of the topic. Volkmar Wölk,
for example, writes of Steiner’s root-race theory: “It is a short conceptual
step from this position to the racial doctrine of the Nazis.”[43]
Wölk’s thesis is borne out in detail by James Webb’s pioneering research on
anthroposophy’s relationship to other denizens of the occult-racist underground.[44]
If Fant finds this sort of scholarship too “critical,” he may prefer to consult
the work of historian Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, who can hardly be suspected of
harboring any bias against Steiner. His respected book The Occult
Roots of Nazism
provides significant
evidence of the mutual influence between early anthroposophists and early
Similarly, the critical esotericists Eduard Gugenberger and Roman Schweidlenka,
who are respectful and admiring of Steiner, point out the “decisive influence”
of the root-race doctrine on National Socialism.[46]
Allow me to emphasize again: these are not the conclusions of “critics of
anthroposophy,” but of fair-minded researchers who have carefully examined the
historical record. To deny the ideological parallels between anthroposophy and
National Socialism, particularly its esoteric and environmentalist variants,
can only contribute to ignorance about fascism’s intellectual origins.[47]

recognize that Fant’s expertise in the cultural history of the German right is
limited, and I do not mean to reject his views as merely the product of a lack
of familiarity with the relevant scholarship. I think that his perspective is,
rather, the product of a specifically anthroposophist avoidance of
uncomfortable historical facts. Much of what he has to say on the topic of
anthroposophy and Nazism is a caricatured version of the current accepted
wisdom in anthroposophical circles. He appears to have relied exclusively on a
single source, Uwe Werner’s extended apologia for anthroposophist collaborators
with the Third Reich, for all of his concrete assertions. But even Werner’s
patently tendentious volume provides unambiguous evidence that directly
contradicts Fant’s claims.

writes, for example: “In 1922 the Nazis made an attempt to take [Steiner’s]
life.” No part of that sentence is true. The incident Fant refers to was hardly
an assassination attempt, and the Nazis were not involved in any way. But Fant
need not take my word on the matter; he only needs to consult Werner’s book, which
describes the incident thus: “On May 15, 1922, followers of Ludendorff 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.”
The Ludendorffers were not Nazis, they were rivals to the Nazis.
And a disrupted lecture is a far cry from attempted murder.

further contends that Werner’s book “shows that the absolute majority of
anthroposophists radically opposed Nazism,” and that those who believed in “a
combination of Nazism and anthroposophy” were “an utterly small number.” In
fact Werner’s book demonstrates the opposite. It lists a range of named
individuals who were both active anthroposophists and members of the Nazi party
and related Nazi organizations, and describes frequent instances of voluntary
collusion with and ardent support for the Nazi regime.
Fant also claims that anthroposophist leaders who “compromised” with Nazi
authorities “were ostracized by their colleagues after the war.” Werner’s book
refutes this claim as well, noting that the most notorious of these figures
continued to be actively involved in anthroposophist institutions, particularly
the Waldorf movement, for decades after the war. Indeed Werner states outright
that post-war anthroposophists, both internally and publicly, “consciously
refused to revive controversies about the behavior of some anthroposophists
during the Nazi period.”

 So much for Fant’s reliance on his fellow anthroposophist
Werner. For some reason Fant accuses me of having “read Werner utterly
selectively”; judging from his own arguments, Fant appears not to have read the
book at all. This troubling lack of attention to historical detail is coupled
with an equally troubling lack of concern with the ethical issues involved.
Fant thinks it is “too simple” to say that collaboration with the Nazis was
wrong. He prefers to view the actions of pro-Nazi anthroposophists as a
“survival strategy.” If this is the best Fant can say for his forebears, that
under Hitler they devoted themselves solely to their own survival and that of
their doctrine, then I can add nothing to his verdict.

Fant is also skeptical of my
argument that a section of the Nazi leadership harbored strong sympathies for
anthroposophy. My brief mention of Rudolf Hess seems to have particularly
aroused his ire. He writes: “To describe Hess as a ‘practicing anthroposophist’
is of course absurd. The sources show clearly that even if he encouraged
biodynamic agriculture, he at the same time strongly rejected its
anthroposophical background.” Once again, Fant’s own chosen source provides
evidence to the contrary. Werner’s book reproduces a 1937 memo from Hess’s
associate Lotar Eickhoff (who joined the Anthroposophical Society after the
war) which explicitly states Hess’s conviction that biodynamic farming cannot
be separated from its anthroposophist foundations: “The Deputy of the Führer
[i.e. Hess] is of the opinion that if one wants to preserve one aspect – like
biodynamic agriculture – one cannot in any way separate it from its scientific
basis and its scientific reinforcements, that is, from the work set down in
Rudolf Steiner’s books and the Rudolf Steiner schools.”[54]
Since Hess’s vigorous efforts on behalf of biodynamic agriculture are not in
dispute, Fant’s conclusion that Hess nevertheless “strongly rejected its
anthroposophical background” remains unsupported.

Fant’s view that Hess was not an
anthroposophist himself, however, is one that I have come to share since the
original exchange with Fant. I now think that Fant was right and that I was
wrong on this question. The matter is worth examining in detail. At the time of
the original exchange, I held that Rudolf Hess clearly fulfilled the criteria
of a practicing anthroposophist, according to any but the narrowest definition.
To support this contention, I noted the following points: Hess’s parents
reportedly belonged to the anthroposophist Christian Community.[55]
He structured intimate aspects of his personal life, including his diet and
health care, around anthroposophist beliefs.[56]
He told the British doctor who examined him after his flight to Scotland “that
he had for years been interested in Steiner’s anthroposophy.”[57]
Reports from the German intelligence services described Hess as a “silent
patron and follower of the anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner.”[58]
Above all, Hess consistently used his public position to promote
anthroposophist endeavors, as detailed at length in Werner’s book. A remarkable
range of scholars have explicitly confirmed Hess’s anthroposophist

My current view is that these
factors indicate considerable sympathy on Hess’s part toward anthroposophy, and
a more than passing personal interest in and active engagement with
anthroposophical practices. Nevertheless, I now think that Hess’s personal
preoccupations within the broad spectrum of occult beliefs and practices were
inconsistent and incoherent to such a degree that there is little sense in
affirmatively associating him with one particular esoteric tradition.[60]
Hess’s dedication to biodynamic agriculture, on the other hand, was both
enthusiastic and enduring. Several high-level members of his staff, moreover, had
significant personal connections with anthroposophy. Hess himself is perhaps
better viewed as more or less indiscriminately susceptible to the full range of
Lebensreform, occultist, and völkisch predilections, which is exactly why he found
biodynamics, Waldorf, and anthroposophy so congenial. Quite apart from whatever
personal stake they may believe they have in the matter, I think that
anthroposophists today would do well to acquaint themselves with the historical
research on Hess and his decidedly sympathetic attitude toward anthroposophy.[61]

Overall, however, Fant has avoided
the primary subject of my article almost entirely, and thus he simply ignores
the record of anthroposophist collusion with both National Socialism and
Italian Fascism. History, it seems, has not yet caught up with him. I think our
exchange would have been more productive if Fant had addressed this central
topic. It is scarcely one that concerns only “peripheral” figures within the
anthroposophical movement. Aside from the Italian fascist anthroposophists I
have mentioned above, from Martinoli to Calabrini to Scaligero and so forth, a
remarkable variety of German anthroposophists were both active Nazis and
well-known in anthroposophical circles. Ernst Harmstorf, for example, was an
early and active participant in the anthroposophical movement, since the
beginning of the 1920s (he took part in the famous “Christmas
Conference” in 1923, for example), and a prominent spokesman for anthroposophical
medicine, particularly after 1945. Harmstorf joined both the Nazi party and the
SA in 1933. Heimo Rau was the son of anthroposophists, a Waldorf teacher from
1946 onward, and a respected anthroposophist after WWII. He was also a Nazi
party member. Gotthold Hegele was a prominent anthroposophical physician after
1945. During his time as a medical student in the late 1930s, Hegele was a
high-profile student leader and an active anthroposophist, as well as a Nazi
student official and a member of the SA; in 1937-1938 Hegele was the head of
the Office of Political Education of the National Socialist Student League in
Tübingen. As with Hanns Rascher, Friedrich Benesch, and others, these figures
are celebrated in standard anthroposophical reference works (which do not
mention their Nazi affiliations), and are decidedly not peripheral to anthroposophists’ own self-portrait of
their movement’s history.[62]

But there are many further
examples. For instance, Max Babl was the head of the Anthroposophical Society
branch in the city of Erfurt; he joined the Nazi party in 1933. Hermann Pöschel
was the head of the Anthroposophical Society branch in the city of Plauen; he
also joined the Nazi party in 1933. Otto Feyh was the head of the
Anthroposophical Society branch in the city of Schweinfurt; he joined the Nazi
party in 1940. Otto Thorwirth was head of the Anthroposophical Society branch
in the city of Gotha; he remained a member of the Nazi party throughout the
Third Reich. Hans Pohlmann was a longstanding anthroposophist who had known
Steiner personally; he founded the second Waldorf school in Germany in 1922 in
Hamburg and was also head of the Anthroposophical Society branch in Hamburg and
chairman of the local Waldorf school association. Pohlmann was also a Nazi party
member. Hermann Mahle was a prominent Waldorf official in the 1930s and a
member of the anthroposophical Christian Community. Mahle was also a Nazi party
member, and headed the “National Socialist Parents Group” at the Stuttgart
Waldorf school, which included 53 party members and 22 members of other Nazi
organizations. Carl Grund was an anthroposophist since the 1920s and a
prominent activist in the biodynamic movement. In the 1930s he worked as an
official of the biodynamic farmers league and was one of the foremost spokesmen
for biodynamic agriculture in Germany. Grund joined the Nazi party in May 1933
and joined the SA in November 1933. In 1942 he was made an SS officer, and was
promoted to SS-Obersturmführer in 1943.

These are merely some of the more noteworthy
examples. It is important to keep in mind that Nazi party membership alone is
by no means the sole indication of active and enthusiastic participation in the
Nazi movement. One of the more striking instances is the case of Georg Halbe.
Halbe was a member of the Anthroposophical Society who did not join the Nazi
party, as far as can be determined from the available documents. He was
nevertheless a dedicated Nazi. From 1935 to 1942 Halbe belonged to Minister Darre’s
staff in the Nazi agricultural apparatus, where he was particularly active in
promoting biodynamic agriculture. His tasks included overseeing the “Blut und
Boden” publishing house and helping produce the Nazi journal Odal, the chief mouthpiece for Darre’s blood and soil
ideology. Halbe wrote extensively for other Nazi publications as well,
including the Nationalsozialistische Landpost (National Socialist Rural Press), the journal Wille
und Macht: Führerorgan der nationalsozialistischenJugend
(Will and Power,
a periodical of the Nazi youth movement), and the SS journal Das
schwarze Korps
. After Darre fell from power
in 1942, Halbe transferred to the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern
Territories, and then in March 1944 he moved to Goebbel’s Propaganda Ministry,
where he continued to work until the end of the war and the destruction of the
Nazi state. It seems to me that anthroposophists today who do not harbor
sympathies for Nazism would be wise to acquaint themselves with this troubled

One final, truly disconcerting note
is Fant’s egregious attempt to rehabilitate the SS functionary Franz Lippert as
a “humanitarian.” I can only attribute this whitewash of Lippert’s activities
at Dachau to a deeply misguided notion of “good Nazis.” Fant quotes several
positive reports about Lippert’s conduct in order to absolve him, but fails to
mention that the sole source for these reports is Lippert’s family. Fant also believes,
incredibly enough, that Lippert was exonerated by “an allied de-Nazification
commission.” This is an astounding misunderstanding, and reveals that Fant is
not only unaware of the facts about Lippert, but even of the most basic facts
about post-war evaluations of Nazi collaborators overall.[63]
Lippert’s post-war hearing, which ended in acquittal in 1948, was not conducted
by an Allied de-Nazification commission. It was instead part of the German
civilian court system, the very same system that produced thousands of
acquittals and absolved an entire generation of Nazi officials and
collaborators.[64] A thorough
and perceptive study of this system is now available: historian Harold
Marcuse’s book Legacies of Dachau: The Uses and Abuses of a Concentration Camp (Cambridge 2001), the best single source on the
post-war rehabilitation of Dachau guards and SS staff. Fant would do well to
peruse chapter 3, “Good Nazis”, in particular.[65]

Marcuse describes the ways in which
SS criminals were re-cast as “rescuers” after the war by the exact same
court system that acquitted Lippert (89-94, 104-5). He sharply contrasts these
German civilian courts to the very different de-Nazification courts established
and staffed by the allied authorities. The German civilian juries, known as
“Spruchkammer,” routinely invoked the notion that SS officers who treated
prisoners well were thereby less guilty, and on this basis these courts on
several occasions acquitted defendants who were complicit in multiple murders.
Indeed Marcuse provides an extensive and thoughtful contrast of the two
markedly different de-Nazification procedures on exactly this point: whereas
the Allied-sponsored trials on the Nuremberg model explicitly rejected the
notion that having treated prisoners nicely reduced the guilt of concentration
camp officers, the German civilian courts embraced this notion wholeheartedly.
In the appeals chamber that handled Lippert’s case, SS officers and other Nazi
camp personnel got off very easily. According to Marcuse, “most of them
were let off without so much as a verbal reprimand.” (93) He continues:
“by late 1947 the denazification program was no longer taken seriously
[…] the chambers began rubber-stamping the remaining cases, releasing
thousands of the heavily suspect internees without hearings in early spring
1948.” Marcuse characterizes this as “the wholesale release of
heavily compromised Nazi activists.” (94)[66]

Marcuse’s thorough study of Dachau,
Lippert’s own camp, is hardly the only useful source on the topic Fant chose to
address. Consider the fine analysis by Karin Orth, “The Concentration Camp SS
as a Functional Elite” in Ulrich Herbert, ed., National Socialist
Extermination Policies
(New York 2000), pp.
306-336. Orth examines the post-war trials of mid-level SS officers from
various concentration camps, particularly those in Germany proper, mentioning
Dachau specifically (p. 328). Orth perceptively describes “the nimbus of the
“decent” and “correct” SS officer, which was sworn to in
numerous court statements” (328). She continues: “Many surviving inmate
functionaries testified on behalf of the SS men in order to divert attention
from their own involvement in the crimes of the SS.” (328) According to Orth’s
study, some former inmates “believed that a subjective sense of justice
demanded they testify that the indicted commander […] was relatively
“decent” and “correct” in his treatment of them and in
comparison with their respective predecessors” (328). Of the post-war trials of
these SS officers from regular concentration camps, she writes: “only a
fraction concluded with an official conviction.” (329) This sort of basic
historical context is crucial to understanding the case of Franz Lippert.

But perhaps Lippert’s admirer Fant
would prefer to focus on the evidence about conditions for the prisoners forced
to work on Lippert’s biodynamic plantation? There is a wide variety of sources
on this subject as well, many of them first-hand. While these sources do not
tell us anything about Lippert’s personal comportment one way or the other,
they do provide a broader perspective on conditions at the biodynamic
plantation he oversaw. The official history of the Dachau concentration camp
describes the plantation as a place “where so many thousands of prisoners
labored in all weathers, and where a great many of them were shot or drowned in
the ditches” – hardly a “humanitarian” enterprise.[67]
Another thorough source describes the inmates as “slowly wasting away” on the
plantation, and notes their high death rate.[68]
Yet another historical analysis observes that “several hundred prisoners” died
at the Dachau plantation.[69]
Still another recalls the numerous prisoners who “labored and died under the
supervision of brutal SS officers” at the plantation.[70]

Eyewitness testimony from former Dachau
prisoners amply confirms this dire portrait of Lippert’s biodynamic plantation.
These reports are detailed and credible. One memoir by a former Dachau inmate
offers a first-hand and quite harrowing account of work on the plantation.[71]
Another memoir by a former inmate provides an even bleaker depiction of the
plantation, noting that hundreds of prisoners “worked, suffered, and died”
on the “fields of the notorious plantation”.[72]
Yet another calls the plantation a “murder-pit” and “the terror of all the
inmates.”[73] Such
accounts are corroborated by further eyewitness testimony. A representative
memoir by another former inmate states: “In Dachau the clergy were assigned to
one of the hardest commandos, the plantation. Most of those who died in 1942/43
perished from the work methods that were required there.”[74]
Similar conclusions are supported by ex post facto studies as well.[75]

evidence against Fant’s version of events, and against his imprudent defense of
Lippert, is simply massive. But the very foundation of Fant’s stance on this
matter is utterly wrongheaded. The desperate search for some sort of excuse for
this anthroposophist SS officer and concentration camp guard is all too
revealing about anthroposophical attitudes toward their own compromised history
during the Third Reich. Contrary to Fant’s imaginative depiction of him as a
selfless protector of Nazism’s victims, Lippert was in fact personally
committed to Nazism. He produced biodynamic pamphlets for the SS.
Even his anthroposophist friends were taken aback by Lippert’s fervent devotion
to the Hitler movement and its ideals.
Since anthroposophists are unable to point to a single figure from their ranks
who actually joined the resistance to Hitler’s regime,
they are reduced to pleading, a half-century after the liberation of the
concentration camps, that at least the anthroposophist Lippert was nice to his
prisoners. Scattered individual testimonies may salve the post-war
anthroposophist conscience, but they cannot distract attention from the central
fact that Lippert’s work was an integral part of the SS’s use of slave labor in
promoting biodynamic agriculture.
Fant’s grievous misjudgement of Lippert is a case study in anthroposophy’s
evasion of its own history.

Much of the rest of Fant’s reply
to my article consists of unconfirmable assertions about the nature of Waldorf
education and the role of various ethnic groups within contemporary
anthroposophy. I do not consider myself competent to judge these claims, but
they strike me as both irrelevant and implausible.[81]
I must on the other hand agree with Fant that, compared to him, I have a
“broad” definition of racism. Fant avers, for example, that “the word negro was
quite neutral” in Steiner’s day. Racial terms are never neutral; when used in
racist contexts, such as Steiner’s diatribes against blacks and other
non-whites, they are terms of abuse and denigration. This is not a matter of
“overinterpreting” Steiner’s unequivocal pronouncements, as Fant thinks, but of
situating them within their historical and ideological context. While much of
Steiner’s writing on racial themes is merely obscurantist pseudo-spiritual
pablum, there is no point in denying that he occasionally reverted to the most
vulgar racism.

Astonishingly, Fant also repeats
as fact the long discredited racist propaganda about “outrages of black
soldiers against German women in the Ruhr.” Aside from mixing up the Rhine and
Ruhr occupations (there were no French colonial troops stationed in the Ruhr),
Fant has been hoodwinked by an eighty-year-old misinformation campaign.[82]
These rumors of “outrages” were not merely “exaggeratedly described,” as Fant
would have it, they were an invention of German nationalist demagogues and were
just as racist as the stories of similar “outrages” in the American South
during the same period.[83]
The patently spurious reports were already exposed in 1921 by German opponents
of the racist propaganda (including feminists, socialists, and others) as well
as by anti-racist journalists in other countries who simultaneously opposed the
occupation.[84] The reports
were investigated thoroughly by the Allied authorities at the time and
explicitly and unequivocally repudiated.[85]
If it is true, as Fant suggests, that the primitive German nationalist propaganda
was the source for Steiner’s unconscionable statements about French colonial
troops, it would scarcely mitigate Steiner’s racism. The most infamous of these
propaganda pamphlets begins by decrying “the defilement of the white woman as
such” and claims that “young girls have been dragged from the street in order
to satisfy the bestial lust of African savages.” The pamphlet appeals to “women
and men of the white race” to protest this “deepest disgrace that can befall a
white woman.” It describes the colonial troops as “colored barbarians” with
“animalistic instincts,” “blacks from the Ivory Coast of Africa whose language
no-one can understand, who have barely learned a few scraps of French, savages
from darkest Africa . . .”[86]
This is the sort of thing that Rudolf Steiner evidently took at face value. It
is doubly disconcerting that his followers continue to do so today.[87]

This last misstep on Fant’s part
encapsulates our entire exchange. Innocent of any historical perspective on the
events he describes, Fant is susceptible to the comforting myths propagated by
his fellow anthroposophists. From his gullible point of view, a skeptical
approach like mine appears as a frontal assault on anthroposophy as a whole.
Yet my article was not an attack on anthroposophy in general, but an inquiry
into the sinister side of its political consequences. The very same historical
arguments that I have put forward about the relationship between anthroposophy
and ecofascism could just as well be advanced from a standpoint sympathetic to
Steiner. Anthroposophy can, after all, be viewed as an attempt to bridge
occultism and rationalism, the esoteric and the practical, mysticism and
humanism. This attempt failed in interwar Germany because it ignored its own
political context, and was consequently drawn into the orbit of mass barbarism.
Anthroposophy’s failure, from this perspective, is an object lesson in the
perils of spiritualized politics. Its latter-day practitioners would do well to
heed this lesson.[88]

For now, however, the lesson
remains unlearned. In historical terms, anthroposophy is a relatively young
body of ideas, one that still jealously guards its cherished self-understanding
as an esoteric doctrine. If anthroposophy is to continue developing as a
worldview and as a movement, then its practitioners will at some point
inevitably have to engage in substantial re-interpretation of its founding
texts. Once this process gets underway, anthroposophists will at last begin
more or less systematically to filter out and neutralize the racism in
Steiner’s works, in the same way that Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and
others have attempted to re-interpret and defang the various narratives of
divinely sanctioned ethnocentric violence that mar so many sacred scriptures.
But anthroposophy has not yet reached this point; it is still in the stage of
simple denial, of self-absorption, of circling the wagons against external
scrutiny. This may be inevitable for esoteric doctrines; perhaps the transition
to a mature, responsible engagement with anthroposophy’s own origins and assumptions
can only take place once the esoteric gives way to the exoteric. In any case,
anthroposophists who sincerely oppose racism would do well to lift their heads
out of the sand and start wrestling with the unpleasant aspects of Steiner’s

Göran Fant is so taken with “the
great, inspiring wholeness” of Steiner’s teachings that he has allowed his
critical faculties to be incapacitated. For him, criticism of Steiner or of
anthroposophy is simply a “smear campaign.” His unwillingness to come to terms
with anthroposophy’s racist, nationalist, and pro-fascist legacy is typical of
far too many contemporary anthroposophists. Indeed this defensive and evasive
attitude seems to be most common among relatively liberal anthroposophists.
There are many readily available sources that describe and analyze
anthroposophy’s reactionary heritage; progressive anthroposophists have no
excuse for continuing to ignore them. Fant’s reply exemplifies not so much the
denial of history as the avoidance of history, the refusal to engage with a
compromised past in a dignified and honest way. Until anthroposophists overcome
this self-exculpatory abdication of moral responsibility, their claims to
represent an enlightened and tolerant doctrine will remain insincere.


[1]Fant’s essay “The Art of Turning White into Black,” a
reply to my article “Anthroposophy and Ecofascism,” can be found here:  This exchange originally appeared in
2001. I revised the text of both “Anthroposophy and Ecofascism” and the present
article in 2007.

[2] Fant raises
a number of issues that I cannot address here for reasons of space. A more
thorough discussion of some of these issues may be found in Peter Staudenmaier
and Peter Zegers, “Anthroposophy and Its Defenders,” as well as Zegers and Staudenmaier,
“The Janus Face of Anthroposophy.” For an extremely thorough historical
contextualization of anthroposophy, I highly recommend Helmut Zander’s
comprehensive study Anthroposophie in Deutschland: Theosophische
Weltanschauung und gesellschaftliche Praxis 1884 – 1945
(Göttingen 2007).

[3] “People who
listen to the great leaders of humankind, and protect their soul with its
eternal essence, reincarnate in an advanced race. But he who ignores the great
teacher, who rejects the great leader of humankind, will always reincarnate in
the same race [. . .] Thus people have the opportunity either to reject the
leader of humankind and become caught up in the being of a single incarnation,
or to undergo the transformation into higher races, toward ever higher perfection.”
(Steiner, Das Hereinwirken geistiger Wesenheiten in den Menschen, GA 102, p. 174) Steiner preached the same message
of spiritual submission on more than one occasion: “We know, after all, that
each person proceeds further on the course of the earth mission by following
the great leaders of humankind, who decree the goals of humankind.” (Die
Apokalypse des Johannes
, GA 104, p. 90)

[4] Steiner, Wie
erlangt man Erkenntnisse der höheren Welten?

(GA 10) pp. 21 and 46; and Aus der Akasha-Chronik (GA 11) p. 3. The first book is published in English
under the title Knowledge of Higher Worlds, the second under the title Cosmic Memory. Here is an excerpt from the former book: “Our
civilization tends more toward critique, judgement, and assessment, and less
toward devotion, toward reverent veneration. Even our children criticize much
more than they devotedly revere. But all criticism, all passing of judgement
repels the powers of the soul to attain higher knowledge, just as devotional
reverence develops these powers.” (GA 10 p. 21) Steiner rejected criticism in
his very first book; see Steiner, A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in
Goethe’s World Conception
, New York 1978,

[5] For
background on occult approaches to knowledge see among others Wouter
Hanegraaff, New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror
of Secular Thought
(Leiden: Brill, 1996),
and Olav Hammer, Claiming Knowledge: Strategies of Epistemology from
Theosophy to the New Age
(Leiden 2001). For
historical overviews see Kocku von Stuckrad, Western Esotericism: A
Brief History of Secret Knowledge
2005); Corinna Treitel, A Science for the Soul: Occultism and the
Genesis of the German Modern
2004); and Wouter Hanegraaff et al., Dictionary of Gnosis and Western
(Leiden 2005).

[6] Hansson, “Is
Anthroposophy Science?” Conceptus XXV
no. 64 (1991), p. 37. One of the earliest observers of the anthroposophist
movement noted already in 1921 that “the followers of ‘anthroposophically
oriented spiritual science’ swear by the teachings of their lord and master
with blind fanaticism.” (Siegfried Kracauer, Aufsätze 1915-1926, Frankfurt 1990, p. 113) For first-hand confirmation
of this observation see the remarkably similar 1908 comments by theosophist and
later anthroposophist Ludwig Deinhard in Norbert Klatt, Theosophie
und Anthroposophie: Neue Aspekte zu ihrer Geschichte
, Göttingen 1993, p. 42.

[7] This does
not by any means indicate that anthroposophists are a monolithic group; they
are on the contrary a notably fractious bunch, like the broader theosophical
milieu overall. There are as many interpretations of anthroposophy as there are
anthroposophists. Indeed anthroposophists can’t seem to agree on anything
except denial of Steiner’s racism.

[8] Steiner, The Threefold Commonwealth, New York 1922, p. 183.

[9] ibid. p.

[10]Steiner, Wie erlangt man Erkenntnisse der höheren Welten?pp. 209-210. Here is how the passage appears in the authorized English translation: “For peoples and races are but steps leading to pure humanity. A race or a nation stands so much the higher, the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal human  type, the further they have worked their way from the physical and perishable to the supersensible and imperishable. The evolution of man through the incarnations in ever higher national and racial forms is thus a process of liberation. Man must finally appear in harmonious perfection.” Steiner, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, New York 1961, p. 252. Terms like “higher racial forms” occur throughout Steiner’s writings, always linked to higher spiritual forms. This elitist racial scheme has frequently been adopted wholesale by later anthroposophists. A.P Shepherd, for example, writes that humankind has been “differentiated into races, at different cultural and moral levels.” (Shepherd, A Scientist of the Invisible. An Introduction to the Life and Work of Rudolf Steiner, London 1954, p. 103)

[11] Perry
Myers, The double-edged Sword: The
cult of Bildung, its downfall and reconstitution in fin-de-siècle Germany
(Rudolf Steiner and Max Weber)
Oxford 2004, p. 97.

[12] Wolfram Groddeck, Eine Wegleitung durch die Rudolf
Steiner Gesamtausgabe
, Dornach 1979, p.

[13] Steiner, Mein Lebensgang,
Dornach 1925, p. 301.

[14] For further
detailed statements of Steiner’s racial doctrines see for example 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 Manifestation of the Ego in the
Different Races of Men” in Steiner, The Being of Man and His Future
; Steiner, The
Apocalypse of St. John
; Steiner, Grundelemente
der Esoterik
; Steiner, The Occult
Significance of Blood
; Steiner, Menschengeschichte
im Lichte der Geistesforschung
, 480-87; Steiner,
Die okkulten Wahrheiten alter Mythen und Sagen, 37-39; Steiner, Kosmogonie, 246-48; Steiner, Menschheitsentwickelung
und Christus-Erkenntnis
, 244-246; Steiner, Aus
den Inhalten der esoterischen Stunden
115-116, 124-125, 169-170, 217-221; Steiner, At the Gates of
Spiritual Science
, 65-74, 96-103; Steiner, The
Mission of the Individual Folk Souls in Relation to Teutonic Mythology
, London 2005. Does Fant genuinely believe that all
of these texts, and the dozens of others like them, published with the official
anthroposophist imprimatur, are merely “falsified statements”?

[15]A number of scholarly
analyses of anthroposophical racial doctrine are readily available to
interested readers. See above all Helmut Zander, “Sozialdarwinistische
Rassentheorien aus dem okkulten Untergrund des Kaiserreichs” in Uwe Puschner,
Walter Schmitz, and Justus Ulbricht,
Handbuch zur ‘Völkischen
Bewegung’ 1871-1918
unich 1996; Zander, “Anthroposophische
Rassentheorie: Der Geist auf dem Weg durch die Rassengeschichte” in Stefanie
von Schnurbein and Justus Ulbricht,
Völkische Religion und Krisen der
, Würzburg 2001; Georg Schmid,
“Die Anthroposophie und die Rassenlehre Rudolf Steiners zwischen
Universalismus, Eurozentrik und Germanophilie” in Joachim Müller,
und Christentum: Eine kritisch-konstruktive Auseinandersetzung
, Freiburg 1995; Peter Staudenmaier, “Race and
Redemption: Racial and Ethnic Evolution in Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy”
vol. 11 no. 3 (2008), 4-36.

[16] Anthroposophie
und die Frage der Rassen
, Frankfurt 2000,
p. 132. Fant’s repeated reliance on this dissembling Dutch document is
embarrassing; the commission’s work is nothing more than a whitewash, an
exercise in unabashed hypocrisy. Only someone unacquainted with Steiner’s
writings could be taken in by its transparent mendacity. The fact that this
report has gained the endorsement of a talented and respected historian like
Jörn Rüsen indicates the powerfully disorienting effect of Steiner’s charisma on
otherwise sober and informed minds. For a thorough review of the Dutch report,
see Peter Zegers and Peter Staudenmaier, “The Janus Face of Anthroposophy.”

[17] The only
difference between Rosenberg’s version and Steiner’s is the absence of the
“Egyptian-Chaldeans.” Rosenberg’s racial writings also refer to Ahriman, the
Fenris Wolf, and other figures prominent in Steiner’s texts. See Alfred
Rosenberg, Race and Race History, New
York 1970, especially pp. 42-84.

[18] See Gobineau:
Selected Political Writings
, New York 1970,
pp. 142-3.

[19]There is a very large literature on the topic. For
otherwise opposing viewpoints that both draw attention to the basic conflation
of philology and ethnology that lies at the root of the very notion of an
‘Aryan race’ see Madhav Deshpande, “Aryan Origins: Brief History of Linguistic
Arguments” in Romila Thapar, ed., India: Historical Beginnings and the
Concept of the Aryan
(New Delhi
2005), 98-156; and Jim Shaffer and Diane Lichtenstein, “South Asian Archaeology
and the Myth of Indo-Aryan Invasions” in Edwin Bryant and Laurie Patton, eds., The
Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History
(New York 2005), 75-104. For further context see
among others Thomas Trautmann, Aryans and British India(Berkeley 1997); Tony Ballantyne, Orientalism and
Race: Aryanism in the British Empire
York 2002); Vasant Kaiwar, “The Aryan Model of History and the Oriental
Renaissance” in Vasant Kaiwar and Sucheta Mazumdar, eds., Antinomies of
Modernity: Essays on Race, Orient, Nation
(Durham 2003); Romila Thapar, “The Theory of Aryan Race and India: History
and Politics”
Social Scientist24
(1996), 3-29; Peter van der Veer, “Aryan Origins” in van der Veer,
Encounters: Religion and Modernity in India and Britain
(Princeton 2001), 134-157; Dorothy Figueira, Aryans,
Jews, Brahmins: Theorizing Authority through Myths of Identity
2003); Neil Macmaster,
Racism in Europe 1870-2000 (New York 2001); George Hersey, “Aryanism in Victorian
Yale Review66 (1976),
104-113; Hans Hock, “Philology and the Historical Interpretation of the Vedic
Texts” in Bryant and Patton, eds.,
The Indo-Aryan Controversy, 282-308; Thomas Trautmann, “Constructing the Racial
Theory of Indian Civilization” in Trautmann, ed.,
The Aryan Debate(Oxford 2005), 84-105; Romila Thapar, “Some
Appropriations of the Theory of Aryan Race Relating to the Beginnings of Indian
History” in Trautmann, ed.,
The Aryan Debate, 106-128; Edwin Bryant, “Myths of Origin: Europe and
the Aryan Homeland Quest” in Bryant,
The Quest for the Origins of Vedic
(Oxford 2001), 13-45; J. P.
Mallory, “Epilogue: The Aryan Myth” in Mallory,
In Search of the
(London 1989); Maurice
The Languages of Paradise: Race, Religion, and Philology in the
Nineteenth Century
(Cambridge 1992);
Peter Becker,
Wege ins Dritte Reich: Sozialdarwinismus, Rassismus,
Antisemitismus und völkischer Gedanke
(Stuttgart 1988);  Ruth Römer, Sprachwissenschaft
und Rassenideologie in Deutschland
Patrik von zur Mühlen, Rassenideologien:

Geschichte und Hintergründe (Bonn 1979).

[20]For more of the substantial research on the history
of the Aryan myth, and its theosophical inflections in particular, see Joan
Leopold, “The Aryan Theory of Race”, Indian Economic and Social
History Review
, Vol. 7 (1970),
271-297; Joan Leopold, “British Applications of the Aryan Theory of Race to
India, 1850-1870” English Historical Review89 (1974), 578-603; Peter Pels, “Occult Truths:
Race, Conjecture, and Theosophy in Victorian Anthropology” in Richard
Handler ed., Excluded Ancestors, Inventible Traditions(Madison 2000), 11-41; Gauri Viswanathan,
“Conversion, Theosophy, and Race Theory” in Viswanathan, Outside
the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief
(Princeton 1998), 177-207; Carla Risseuw, “Thinking Culture
Through Counter-culture: The Case of Theosophists in India and Ceylon and their
Ideas on Race and Hierarchy (1875-1947)” in Antony Copley, ed.,
and Their Followers: New Religious Reform Movements in Colonial India
(Oxford 2000), 180-205; George Mosse, “The Occult
Origins of National Socialism” in Mosse,
The Fascist Revolution(New York 1999); Jeffrey Goldstein, “On Racism and
Anti-Semitism in Occultism and Nazism,”
Yad Vashem Studies13 (1979), 53-72; Jackson Spielvogel and David Redles,
“Hitler’s Racial Ideology: Content and Occult Sources,”
Simon Wiesenthal
Center Annual
3 (1986), 227-246;
Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke,
The Occult Roots of Nazism(New York 1992); Stefan Arvidsson, “Aryan Mythology
As Science and Ideology,”
Journal of the American Academy of Religion 67, no. 2 (1999): 327-54; Romila Thapar, “The
Historiography of the Concept of ‘Aryan’” in Thapar, ed.,
India: Historical
Beginnings and the Concept of the Aryan
1-40; Bruce Lincoln,
Theorizing Myth(Chicago 1999), 76-95; Colin Kidd, “The Aryan Moment: Racialising Religion in
the Nineteenth Century” in Kidd,
The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in
the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600-2000
(Cambridge 2006), 168-202 and 237-246; Leon Poliakov, The Aryan Myth(New York 1974); Stefan Arvidsson, Aryan Idols:
Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science
(Chicago 2006). Strangely, Fant himself invokes the
latter book, apparently believing it absolves his own blind spots.

[21] Indeed Fant
appears to be utterly unaware of the lengthy legacy of paternalistic racism, as
if the ideologies of the White Man’s Burden and the Civilizing Mission had
never existed. He also believes that different peoples have “different folk
souls,” another bit of racial nonsense promoted by anthroposophists.

[22] The classic
case of Italian Fascism alone reveals quite a few notable examples. The
foremost anthroposophist in early twentieth century Italy was Giovanni Antonia
Colonna di Cesarò. Far from remaining “apolitical,” Colonna di Cesarò, a
mystically inclined nationalist aristocrat, became a minister in Mussolini’s
first cabinet, serving from 1922 to 1924, before turning against the Duce. The
co-founder and Secretary General of the Italian Anthroposophical Society,
Ettore Martinoli, was a militant Fascist throughout the entire Fascist era, and
was particularly instrumental in helping administer the antisemitic campaign
from 1938 onward. The Secretary of the Italian Group for Anthroposophical
Studies, Luigi Calabrini, also belonged to the Fascist party, which he joined
in May 1921, a year and a half before Mussolini came to power. The most
prominent anthroposophist publicist in Italy in the 1930s and 1940s, Rinaldo
Küfferle, was another outspoken fascist. And the best-known post-war Italian
anthroposophist, Massimo Scaligero, was a major spokesman for “spiritual
racism” within the fascist movement in the late 1930s and early 1940s,
remaining active in neo-fascist politics after 1945 as well. The most recent
proponent of anthroposophical ideas on the Italian right, finally, is Enzo Erra
(see above all his hagiographic 2006 book Steiner e Scaligero), who was a youthful blackshirt in the last-ditch
ultrafascist Italian Social Republic of 1943-45, and subsequently played a
leading role within neo-fascist circles for decades. Latter-day
anthroposophists like Fant, who would prefer to view fascism as anathema to
everything anthroposophy stands for, might devote a bit more effort to
contemplating this uncomfortable history soberly and taking its implications

[23] Most of
these works were available at the time of my original exchange with Fant; those
that have subsequently appeared amply confirm the point. Consider merely the
last work cited, by Ingolf Christiansen, Rainer Fromm and Hartmut Zinser, Brennpunkt
(Hamburg 2006). Section 3 of the
book, titled “Rechtsradikalismus in der Esoterik” and authored by Fromm (pp.
149-235), analyzes right-wing radicalism in the contemporary esoteric scene in
Germany. The chapter on the root-race theory is, aside from the discussion of
Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine as
the original source of the theory, almost entirely focused on anthroposophical
works – all three of Fromm’s chief examples of this form of esoteric influence
on the far right are anthroposophists. I very much encourage readers
sympathetic toward Fant’s position to consult studies such as these. For
further context, I highly recommend 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). Already in 1995, Fant’s fellow anthroposophist Arfst
Wagner noted the strong far-right current within the anthroposophical movement,
discussing for example a variety of anthroposophist seminars in the 1980s at
which “a whole series of radical right functionaries” spoke; see interview with
Wagner in die tageszeitung March
12, 1995, p. 12.

[24]Strikingly, Fant has literally nothing to say about
anthroposophist holocaust denial, a phenomenon he apparently does not find
troubling. For classic instances of anthroposophical holocaust denial,
interested readers may consult Bernhard Schaub, Adler und Rose: Wesen und
Schicksal Mitteleuropas
(Aargau 1992)
and Gennadij Bondarew, Anthroposophie auf der Kreuzung der
okkult-politischen Bewegungen der Gegenwart
(Basel 1996). This
unpleasant trend is by no means a thing of the past; the online writings of
anthroposophist Willy Lochmann are a very relevant current example. For further
recent instances see the posts on this topic from Robert Mason, Michael Howell,
Stephen Hale, and other anthroposophists to various publicly accessible email
lists such as the “Anthroposophy” list
(, the “Anthroposophy
Tomorrow” list (,
the “Waldorf Critics” list, etc. Anthroposophists’ repeatedly
expressed “doubts” about the holocaust are a significant example of the
“deflective negationism” diagnosed by scholarly analysts of the holocaust
denial movement such as Florin Lobont and Michael Shafir; for background see
Lobont, “Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial in Post-Communist Eastern Europe” in
Dan Stone, ed.,
The Historiography of the Holocaust, New York 2004, and Shafir, “Denying the Holocaust
where it Happened” in Ronit Lentin, ed.,
Re-Presenting the Shoah for the 21st
, Oxford 2004. The ongoing
open propagation of aggressively antisemitic conspiracy theories and holocaust
denial propaganda under anthroposophist auspices demonstrates the futility of
Fant’s head-in-the-sand approach: Simply ignoring the most disturbing aspects
of the contemporary anthroposophical movement will not magically make them go

[25] Steiner
contributed numerous articles between 1884 and 1890 to the pan-German press in
Austria, including the Deutsche Zeitung,
the Nationale Blätter, the Freie
Schlesische Presse
, and the Deutsche
. The Nationale
was the organ of the “Deutscher
Verein” in Vienna, while the Freie Schlesische Presse was the organ of the “Deutscher Verein” in Troppau,
a city in the Sudetenland. The Deutscher Verein was, by the 1880’s, one of the
three major political organizations within the German nationalist movement in
Austria (the other two were the Deutscher Klub and the Deutschnationaler
Verein, both of which Steiner wrote about positively). Readers may consult
William McGrath, Dionysian Art and Populist Politics in Austria (New Haven 1974) pp. 199-202 on the political
development of the Deutscher Verein; McGrath notes that by the mid-1880’s the Deutscher
Verein “placed the strongest emphasis on German nationalism” (p. 201),
which was the major unifying factor of the group. The Deutsche
was “the organ of German
nationalism in Austria” according to the standard history of the Austrian press:
Kurt Paupie, Handbuch der österreichischen Pressegeschichte 1848-1959, Vienna 1960, p. 158. It was arguably the most
prominent voice of German nationalist politics in the Habsburg empire until the
rise of Schönerer and Lueger in the 1890’s. For background see among others
Pieter Judson, Exclusive Revolutionaries: Liberal Politics, Social
Experience, and National Identity in the Austrian Empire 1848-1914
, Ann Arbor 1996, p. 169, and Hildegard Kernmayer, Judentum
im Wiener Feuilleton 1848-1903
, Tübingen
1998, pp. 284-86. Steiner also spent half a year as editor of the Deutsche
in Vienna (subtitle: “organ
for the national interests of the German people”), one of the major
Austro-German radical nationalist papers of the era. On the crucial role of the
Deutsche Wochenschrift as the
mouthpiece of radical German nationalism, see McGrath, Dionysian Art
and Populist Politics in Austria
, pp.
201-206; cf. Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland, pp. 1242-1245.

[26] Steiner’s
early pan-German articles routinely portray the Germans in Austria as
threatened by “the onslaught from all sides” and denounce “Czech agitators” and
“the evil Russian influence” while celebrating “the unity and capacity for
resistance of the Germans” and insisting on “the cultural mission that is the
duty of the German people in Austria” (Steiner, Gesammelte
Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte

pp. 112, 85, 69). He refers to the non-German peoples of Austria as “the enemy”
(115) and asserts that “the non-German peoples of Austria must absorb into
themselves that which German spirit and German work have created, if they are
to reach the level of education which is a necessary prerequisite of the modern
era,” and indeed proclaims: “if the [non-German] peoples of Austria want to
compete with the Germans, they will above all have to make up for the developmental
process which the Germans have gone through; they will have to learn the German
culture in the German language” (112). Because the mainstream nationalist
Austro-German Liberals, in Steiner’s view, had not insisted strongly enough
that the Slavs subordinate their own cultures to German culture, “this forced
the German people to form a party in which the national idea is paramount” (113).
But even the new, more forthrightly nationalist party was a disappointment to
Steiner; it did not do enough “for the national cause” (114). Steiner thus
offers German nationalist politicians advice on how to struggle more
effectively “against the Slavic enemy” who are marked by an “empty national
ego” and “spiritual barrenness,” which is why the Slavs “would like nothing
more than to annihilate the achievements of our European culture” (117).
According to Steiner, “modern culture” has been “chiefly produced by the
Germans.” He condemns not only any accommodation to non-German ethnic groups
but indeed any cooperation with ethnically German parties that are not
sufficiently nationalist, calling these parties “un-German” (119). Steiner also
fulminates against “the culture-hating Russian colossus” and excoriates the
abuse of the Austrian state “for un-German purposes” (140). Portraying Czech
demands for political participation as a direct threat to German cultural
superiority, he exclaims: “The Slavs will have to live a very long time before
they understand the tasks which are the duty of the German people, and it is an
outrageous offense against civilization to throw down the gauntlet at every
opportunity to a people [i.e. the Germans] from whom one receives the spiritual
light, a light without which European culture and education must remain a
closed book.” (141-142) He demands that the country’s political agenda be set
by “the exclusively national elements of the German people in Austria,” namely
“the pan-Germans,” and denounces the German Liberals for betraying their
people: “If we must be ruled in an un-German fashion, at least our tribal
brothers ought not to take care of this business. Our hands should remain
clean.” (143) Instead of accepting ever more compromises with the uncultured
Slavs, “truly national men” must pull together “to organize the people in a
national manner” (144). As late as 1897 Steiner continued to repeat the same
hard-line German nationalist stance: “The Slavs and the Magyars are a danger to
the mission of the Germans; they are forcing German culture to retreat.” (214)
He rails against “non-German elements” in Austria and regrets the ostensible
loss of the Austro-Germans’ “privileged position within the monarchy” (215)
while looking forward to the day when “the Germans of Austria regain the
position of power which corresponds to their cultural level” (216). Such passages
make clear how impervious to reason Steiner’s nationalism remained even well
after his Vienna period. The Germans had hardly lost their privileged position
within the Habsburg monarchy, and by the late 1880s, moreover, nearly all
German political parties and social organizations, with the exception of the
clerical parties Steiner so despised, had gone through a process of intense
nationalist radicalization such that figures who a decade earlier had counted
as strident nationalists were now seen to be ineffectual moderates. The young Steiner’s
criticism of the Austro-German nationalist parties for not being nationalist
enough thus clearly reveals his own extremist stance.

[27]In 2000, for example, one of the chief
anthroposophical periodicals, Die Christengemeinschaft, published several articles by prolific far-right
author and holocaust denier Gustav Sichelschmidt, a prominent fixture in
hardline German nationalist circles for many years. Sichelschmidt also
published a number of articles in another central anthroposophist journal, Die
, in the 1960s and 1970s.
Sichelschmidt’s numerous books specialized in xenophobic polemics against
“foreigners” in Germany and vehemently rejected the idea of a multicultural
society, while trumpeting the “mission” of the German people. For examples see
among many others his 1981 book Deutschland in Gefahr, his 1992 book Der ewige Deutschenhaß, or
his 1996 book Tanz auf dem Vulkan.
The latter work, for instance, polemicizes against “obscure internationalists”
who are defiling Germany by promoting “a multiethnic society,” denounces
“foreign groups” and “one-world proponents” as “anti-German forces,” and
insists that “the true mission of the Germans” is to redeem the world. The book
also ridicules “the specter of the so-called holocaust,” which Sichelschmidt
dismisses as a “lie” and mere “anti-German propaganda.” He excoriates “materialism”
and cultural “decadence” in terms quite similar to Steiner’s own while
constantly invoking Goethe, rails against “the Jewish lobby” and the
Americanization of German life, and declares that supporters of western
democracy are “murdering the soul of the German people.” In the same book,
Sichelschmidt vehemently opposes allowing Germany to become a “multiethnic”
country, or even permitting “different ethnic groups” to live in Germany. In
light of all this, anthroposophists might consider asking themselves some
pertinent and long-overdue questions, such as: What is it that made
Sichelschmidt’s work appealing to anthroposophical editors and readers? And
what is it that made anthroposophy appealing to Sichelschmidt? For a helpful
overview in English of Sichelschmidt’s work see Jay Rosellini, Literary
Skinheads? Writing from the Right in Reunified Germany
(Purdue 2000), pp. 149-157 and 249.

[28] According
to some reports at the time, Molau quit his Waldorf job rather than being
fired; see e.g. Jochen Leffers, “Ex-Waldorflehrer arbeitet künftig für die
NPD”, Spiegel-Online, 29 October 2004.

[29] See Andreas
Speit, “Hätten wir seine Gesinnung erkennen können?” die tageszeitung October 1, 2005, p. 12.

[30] In addition
to educational issues, Molau’s specialty as far-right publicist, and in
particular at Junge Freiheit, was
ecology and environmental politics as viewed from a right-wing extremist
perspective. He is yet another example of an anthroposophically inclined
ecofascist. On a side note: Walter Hiller, the executive director of the League
of Waldorf Schools, published a brief article on educational policy in Junge
in 2001.

[31] Andreas
Molau, Alfred Rosenberg: Der Ideologe des Nationalsozialismus, Koblenz 1993, published by the far-right Verlag
Siegfried Bublies.

[32] The Molau
interview appeared in the November 26, 2004 issue of the National-Zeitung, alongside an outspokenly positive sidebar about
Steiner and Waldorf education.

[33] Similar
incidents revealing the same pattern, and pointing to the same still unlearned
lesson, are by no means confined to Germany. Consider the example of Swiss
anthroposophist Hans Krattiger. In Switzerland in 2002, the Anthroposophical Society
expelled Krattiger, an important figure in the Swiss biodynamic movement, when
his position as treasurer of the far-right party PNOS became public. Formal
expulsion may make for an improved public relations image, but it does not
address any of the underlying political, ideological, or historical factors.
Indeed organizational membership is scarcely the sole or even primary index of
ideological compatibility, much less practical cooperation. A mainstream
biodynamic coalition, for instance, the Forschungsring für Biologisch-Dynamische Wirtschaftsweise, promotes the work of
far-right biodynamic proponent and holocaust denier Ernst Otto Cohrs. Cohrs
also worked with leading neo-Nazi Horst Mahler and the widow of Werner
Haverbeck, Ursula Haverbeck-Wetzel, at the far-right para-anthroposophical
in 2004.

[34] Fant is
hardly alone in taking a dim view of polemic as a genre. I consider this
attitude fundamentally mistaken. Polemical argument has a very lengthy and very
honorable pedigree. As an approach to philosophical disputation, polemic is
traditionally understood as the contrary of apology; it is designed to unsettle
received opinion on a given topic. That is exactly why my article was
polemical. It was specifically calibrated to fit the existing state of public
debate on anthroposophical racism at the time I wrote it, and was quite
explicitly directed against the numerous apologies for Steiner’s racial
theories that abound within the contemporary anthroposophical movement. Fant
himself is a pertinent example of just this sort of apologia for
anthroposophical racism. In my judgement, a deliberately polemical approach is
exactly what a responsible public intellectual is obliged to provide in such
instances. In the context of debates like this, in popular forums and
publications for general audiences, polemic is very much the appropriate
critical framework and rhetorical choice.

[35] Indeed the
contents of this work have even spurred government action. In 2007, the German
federal ministry for families considered placing two of Steiner’s books, The
Mission of the Folk Souls
and The
Being of Man and His Future Evolution
, on its
list of “literature that could be damaging to young people,” on the grounds
that the content of the books is racially discriminatory. The commission
appointed by the ministry eventually decided that the books do indeed contain
racist material, but did not place the books on the index, because the
anthroposophist publisher agreed to re-publish new editions of both books with
critical commentary on the racist content. I might note that I am not in favor
of these sorts of censorship procedures, among other reasons because they can
make open public discussion of anthroposophical racism more difficult. As it
happens, the publicity in Germany around the ministry’s inquiry raised the
level of public discussion of anthroposophical racism, with extensive media
attention to the issue. What has so far been absent is any noticeable reflection
from anthroposophical quarters on the significance of this incident; and it
will be very interesting to see just what the “critical commentary”
looks like when the books are re-issued.

[36] Steiner, The Mission of the Individual Folk Souls in Relation to
Teutonic Mythology
, London 1970, 19. The
book was republished unaltered
and without commentary by the Rudolf Steiner Press in 2005. German edition: Steiner, Die Mission einzelner
Volksseelen im Zusammenhang mit der germanisch-nordischen Mythologie
(GA 121).

[37] For a
particularly germane example of the contemporary far-right appropriation of
anthroposophical ideas see Kerry Bolton, Rudolf Steiner & The Mystique
of Blood & Soil: The Volkisch Views of the Founder of Anthroposophy
, Paraparaumu 1999. This pamphlet, by a major conspiracy theorist and
leading figure on the radical right scene, perfectly illustrates the continuing
appeal of Steiner’s teachings to right-wing extremists. It received a very
favorable review by an even more prominent neo-fascist leader, Troy Southgate.
Along with Molau, Haverbeck, Sichelschmidt, Erra, and all the others mentioned
here, Bolton and Southgate and their companions are merely a “handful of
ghosts” in Fant’s eyes. This utter indifference toward the actually existing
far right does not inspire confidence in the political perspicacity of
progressive anthroposophists.

[38] See e.g. Franziska Hundseder, Wotans Jünger:
Neuheidnische Gruppen zwischen Esoterik und Rechtsradikalismus
, Munich 1998, pp. 126-129; Eduard Gugenberger and
Roman Schweidlenka,
Mutter Erde – Magie und Politik, Vienna 1987, p. 245; and Bolton, Rudolf
Steiner & The Mystique of Blood & Soil
as well as the case of neo-Nazi politician and Waldorf advocate Andreas Molau,
discussed above.

[39] Steiner, Geisteswissenschaft als Erkenntnis der Grundimpulse
sozialer Gestaltung
(GA 199), p. 161;
speech from August 27, 1920.

[40] See William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, New York 1960, p. 44.

[41]This facet of the article had a very illuminating epilogue. In 2005 – five years after Anthroposophy and Ecofascismoriginally appeared – Schnurre hired a Swedish attorney to threaten a libel lawsuit against the publishers of the Swedish translation of my article. The lawyer claimed he had “spoken to several persons who were present at the Schnurre seminar,” and they “did not recognize Schnurre’s words” as reported in my article. These supposed eyewitnesses were not only anonymous, their statements came eleven years after Schnurre’s 1994 seminar occurred. The incident is a classic example of anthroposophist attempts to intimidate critical scholars, and it provides among other things a fascinating instance of the gap between historical evidence and legal evidence: in stark contrast to these claimed ex post facto accounts by ostensible eyewitnesses, which suddenly emerged eleven years after the fact, I quoted from the extremely detailed minutes of Schnurre’s 1994 lecture taken directly by an audience member and published in Germany within a month of the lecture itself. Schnurre never challenged those minutes, nor did he challenge three separate books and at least one article subsequently published in Germany which excerpt the published minutes extensively. Thus quite apart from the transparently disingenuous nature of this legal ploy, there are excellent substantive reasons to prefer the minutes as a source to the supposed “witness statements.” Moreover, Fant’s inane notion that the quotes attributed to Schnurre are “quite contradictory to his conception of life” is entirely beside the point; even if this peculiar claim were both true and substantiated by Fant, or for that matter by Schnurre himself, it would plainly have nothing to do with whether Schnurre did in fact make the statements attributed to him, much less with whether those statements are racist. It is scarcely uncommon to find anthroposophists who take their own views to be fundamentally anti-racist, when many non-anthroposophists consider these very same views to be flatly racist. I recommended at the time that Schnurre simply write a brief piece explaining his actual views on race, and then let all readers decide whether they consider these views racist. This recommendation, tellingly, went unheeded.

[42] Fant’s
essay contains a number of further errors that in my judgement do not merit
extended consideration and have little to do with the substantive disagreements
between us. These mistakes do, however, indicate the kind of nonchalance toward
details and the level of disregard for basic factual accuracy that
unfortunately characterize Fant’s half of our exchange. I recognize that Fant
is a Waldorf music teacher, not a scholar. Nonetheless, it simply isn’t all
that hard to make elementary sense of the texts he invokes over and over again.
To choose one otherwise insignificant example: In response to an observation of
mine about Uwe Werner’s sources, Fant declares that only four of the archives
listed in Werner’s book are anthroposophical. Fant’s figure is completely
wrong; in reality, eight of the ten organizational archives and well over half
of the twenty-four private archives listed by Werner are anthroposophical.
These sorts of errors, many of them more or less inexplicable, are regrettably
typical of my debates with anthroposophists.

[43] Wölk, “Neue
Trends im ökofaschistischen Netzwerk” in Hethey and Katz, In Bester
, Göttingen 1991, p. 121.
Additional evidence of the striking parallels between the theosophical
root-race doctrine and Hitler’s racial views can be found in the works by
George Mosse, Jeffrey Goldstein, and Jackson Spielvogel and David Redles cited
above. I also recommend, to Fant in particular, the recent study by Mattias
Gardell, Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism, Duke 2003, as well as Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Black
Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity
, New York 2002.

[44] See James
Webb, The Occult Establishment, Chicago 1976, one of the first books to give serious
attention to this topic. Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke observes of this book: “By
focusing on the functional significance of occultism in political
irrationalism, Webb rescued the study of Nazi occultism for the history of
ideas.” (Goodrick-Clarke,
The Occult Roots of Nazism, New York 1992, p. 225)

[45] Goodrick-Clarke wrote the entirely approving preface to Rudolf
Steiner: Essential Writings
. His work on
the connections between occultism and fascism has set the standard for
responsible inquiry on the subject. In addition to the material on Steiner in
Occult Roots of Nazism
, see also the
references to Karl Heise, Gregor Schwartz-Bostunitsch, and Max Seiling, all
early anthroposophists, in the same book.

[46] Gugenberger
& Schweidlenka, Mutter Erde – Magie und Politik, Vienna 1987, p. 105.

[47]For much more extensive examination of these issues,
see Peter Staudenmaier, “Occultism, Race, and Politics in German-speaking
Europe, 1880-1940: A Survey of the Historical Literature” forthcoming in European
History Quarterly

[48] Uwe Werner,
Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, Munich 1999, p. 8.

[49] Throughout
the 1920s both the Ludendorffers and the National Socialists, along with a
plethora of other more or less marginal groups and tendencies, vied for leadership
of the heterogeneous far-right scene in Munich, sometimes competing and
sometimes coalescing in a shifting series of tactical alliances. On the
complicated relationships between Ludendorffers and Nazis during the period see
Bruno Thoss, “Ludendorff und Hitler 1920-1922” in Thoss, Der
Ludendorff-Kreis 1919-1923
, Munich 1978,
pp. 249-261.

[50] For an even
milder account of the 1922 incident see the comprehensive contemporary report
by anthroposophist 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.
Compare also the similar description of the event in Christoph Lindenberg, Rudolf
Steiner: Eine Biographie
, Stuttgart 1997,
p. 770.

[51]My own research has identified many further
anthroposophists who belonged to the Nazi party and its affiliated
organizations. A non-comprehensive list of active anthroposophists who were
members of the Nazi party, the SA, or the SS includes the following figures:
Hanns Rascher, Friedrich Benesch, Franz Lippert, Otto Julius Hartmann, Eugen
Link, Margarete Link, Wolfgang Schuchhardt, Werner Voigt, Udo Renzenbrink, Friedrich
Kipp, Rudolf Kreutzer, Oskar Franz Wienert, Carl Fritz, Hugo Kalbe, Leo Tölke,
Clara Remer, Heimo Rau, Gotthold Hegele, Otto Thorwirth, Ernst Harmstorf, Anni
Müller-Link, Harald Kabisch, Max Babl, Hermann Pöschel, Hermann Mahle, Otto
Feyh, Hans Pohlmann, Friedrich Mahling, Ernst Charrois, Alfred Köhler, Hans
Merkel, Carl Grund. (For archival citations see Peter Staudenmaier,
“Anthroposophen und Nationalsozialismus – Neue Erkenntnisse” Info3July 2007.) Alongside these figures stand a series of
more complicated cases such as Werner Georg Haverbeck, Johannes Werner Klein,
Georg Michaelis, Els Moll, Georg Halbe, Otto Ohlendorf, Alwin Seifert, Albert
Friehe, Renate Riemeck, Hermann Reischle, Werner Priever, Richard Karutz, Josef
Schulz, Lotar Eickhoff, Johannes Bertram-Pingel, Ernst Blümel, Herman
Weidelener, Paul Reiss, Friedrich Böhnlein, Gotthilf Ackermann, Max Rodi,
August Wegfraß, etc. This is not “an utterly small number” of people, and many
of these figures were anything but marginal to the twentieth century
anthroposophical movement.

[52] Werner, Anthroposophen
in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus
, p. 3.
This point is confirmed by the anthroposophist Christoph Lindenberg, who in
1991 observed that “after 1945 there was no public mention of these events.
Nowhere within anthroposophist publications can one find a serious voice of
self-examination on the part of those who were too deeply involved with
National Socialism.” (Lindenberg quoted in Arfst Wagner, “Anthroposophen in der
Zeit des Nationalsozialismus” Flensburger Hefte, Sonderheft 8 (1991), p. 74.)

[53] Fant also
challenged several further claims that appeared in the original version of Anthroposophy
and Ecofascism
and that I have removed from
the revised version, including my brief reference to Marie Steiner’s
sympathetic attitude toward Nazism. Unlike my perspective regarding Rudolf
Hess, for example, these instances do not reflect a change of mind on my part;
instead I have removed such personal references because they are
inconsequential to my argument and merely distract readers such as Fant from
the substantive issues at hand. I would like to note, however, that this
preoccupation with passing references to revered anthroposophical figures is
unfortunately characteristic of anthroposophical responses to historical
inquiry. Many anthroposophists appear to be much more concerned about the
personal reputation of individual anthroposophists and the present status of
esoteric celebrities such as Marie Steiner than with basic aspects of
historical accuracy and forthright engagement with the past. This is a
decidedly misplaced emphasis. In any case, Fant asks, indignantly, for a source
regarding Marie Steiner’s attitude toward Nazism. He may wish to consult the
memoirs of anthroposophist Hans Büchenbacher, for example, which characterize
Marie Steiner straightforwardly as “pro-Nazi”; see the excerpts from Büchenbacher
in Info3 4/1999, pp. 16-19; cf.
Helmut Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland, p. 249.

[54] Werner, op.
cit. pp. 214-215. Werner also notes that the written statement denouncing
anthroposophy, requested by the Gestapo, was not signed by Hess but by the
anti-anthroposophist Bormann. (p. 74)

[55] Christine
King, The Nazi State and the New Religions,
New York 1982, pp. 43 and 232.

[56] See Albert
Speer, Erinnerungen, Berlin 1969,
pp.133-134; Wulf Schwarzwäller, Rudolf Hess, London 1988, pp. 112-115; and Roger Manvell and
Heinrich Fraenkel, Hess: A Biography,
London 1971, pp. 64-66.

[57] J.R. Rees, The
Case of Rudolf Hess
, London 1947, p. 35.

[58] Walter
Schellenberg, Memoiren, Cologne 1956, p.

[59] A
comprehensive list would be too cumbersome for this forum, but interested
readers may consult the following cross-section: James Webb, The Harmonious
(“Rudolf Hess was a devotee of
Rudolf Steiner” p. 186); Anna Bramwell, Ecology in the 20th
(“Hess was a follower of Rudolf
Steiner” p. 197); Detlev Rose, Die Thule-Gesellschaft (“Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy also influenced him
[Hess]” p. 132); René Freund, Braune Magie? Okkultismus, New Age und
(Hess “admired
anthroposophy and was secretly a follower of Rudolf Steiner” p. 68); Jacques
Delarue, Geschichte der Gestapo
(“Hess was interested in the doctrine of the anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner” p.
265); Hans Hakl, “Nationalsozialismus und Okkultismus” in Goodrick-Clarke, Die
okkulten Wurzeln des Nationalsozialismus

(Hess was “devoted to Rudolf Steiner’s ideas” p. 199); Joscelyn Godwin, Arktos:
The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival
(Hess “ate biodynamic food and was interested in
Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy” p. 52); Peter Longerich, “Hitler’s Deputy: The
Role of Rudolf Hess in the Nazi Regime” in David Stafford, ed., Flight
from Reality: Rudolf Hess and his Mission to Scotland
(Hess was “profoundly interested in astrology, anthroposophy,
the occult and related areas” p. 114).

[60] The only
book-length scholarly biography of Hess denies that he had any significant
interest in the occult: Kurt Pätzold and Manfred Weißbecker, Rudolf Heß: Der
Mann an Hitlers Seite
, Leipzig 1999, p. 25.
This exaggerated conclusion is untenable, although the authors’ corresponding
reflections on race and the occult (pp. 469-470) are in many ways appropriate;
see also pp. 270-271 and 509 on the ambivalent attitude of the Nazi leadership
toward Waldorf schools and anthroposophy. In addition to the numerous sources
cited above on Hess’s interest in the occult, see also Rainer Schmidt, Rudolf
, Düsseldorf 1997, pp. 44, 46, 170, etc.
For brief mention of Hess’s sympathy toward biodynamics see Heinz Haushofer, Ideengeschichte
der Agrarwirtschaft
, Munich 1958, p. 270.

[61] Peter
Longerich, for example, discusses Hess’s occult and Lebensreform interests extensively (Longerich, Hitlers
, Munich 1992, pp. 111-113),
noting in particular Hess’s positive interest in anthroposophy (p. 111).

[62]For reasons I do not fully understand, this aspect of
my original article has been the source of a remarkable level of indignation
and vituperation on the part of anthroposophists, many of whom appear to
believe that if some anthroposophists were Fascists and Nazis, then all
anthroposophists must be Fascists and Nazis. I came to the topic of
anthroposophy via my research on the ‘green wing’ of Nazism, and this
connection was the subject of my article; it is scarcely surprising that
anthroposophist Nazis loom large in such an analysis. Even non-anthroposophist
readers have had difficulty making sense of this. Some took exception to my
claim that anthroposophy’s political outlook has had a decidedly reactionary
cast from the beginning, apparently finding that this claim sits uneasily alongside
the prominent presence of anthroposophists in the Green movement and other
progressive trends. Since this theme goes to the heart of my argument in
“Anthroposophy and Ecofascism,” I will try to re-state my point: I think very
many anthroposophists, today as in the past, are profoundly confused about
politics and routinely mix together left-wing and right-wing viewpoints, and
when they get involved in progressive efforts they often end up representing the
least emancipatory and most conservative elements within those milieus. I
further argue that this pattern is not accidental but flows from Steiner’s own
reactionary political assumptions, outlined at some length in the present
series of articles. Steiner himself is a classic example of the kind of
left-right crossover in modern German culture that I study, which is exactly
how I stumbled onto the topic of anthroposophy in the first place.

[63] There is a
considerable literature on the subject; see among others Joshua Greene, Justice
at Dachau
(New York 2003); Jörg Friedrich, Die
kalte Amnestie: NS-Täter in der Bundesrepublik

(Frankfurt 1984); and Harold Marcuse, Legacies of Dachau: The uses
and abuses of a concentration camp, 1933-2001

(Cambridge 2001).

[64]The fact that Lippert’s hearing was part of the German civilian court process rather than the Allied de-Nazification proceedings is perfectly clear from Fant’s own preferred source; Werner’s Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismusrefers repeatedly and unambiguously to a “Spruchkammerverfahren,” the term for the German civilian juries, not to an Allied de-Nazification commission. That Fant mixed up these two starkly contrasting venues is very telling indeed. The distinction is crucial to understanding the whole process of ‘denazification’ and its eventual failure. The Allies took an extremely skeptical view of the “Spruchkammer” and their notoriously lenient approach to figures like Lippert. For context see the chapter “Die deutschen Spruchkammern” in Clemens Vollnhals, Entnazifizierung(Munich 1999), pp. 259-338. For even more detail see the 700 page study by Lutz Niethammer, Entnazifizierung in Bayern(Frankfurt 1972), particularly chapter 5, “Das Spruchkammerverfahren und die Betroffenen”, pp. 538-652.

[65] While
Marcuse’s book appeared just after the original exchange with Fant, numerous
other sources cited here were accessible at the time, and anyone interested in
learning about the issues Fant himself raised cannot fail to have noticed them.
In light of all of this immense and easily available scholarship on the matter,
readers may well ask themselves if Fant perhaps really does believe after all
that the post-war process of ‘denazification’ actually succeeded, rather than
failed, and if he would extend the same admiration he expresses toward Lippert
to the thousands of other active Nazis who got off scot-free after the war as
well. Are anthroposophists generally in the habit of promoting SS officers to
the status of heroes? Does this have anything to do with anthroposophy’s
equivocal record during the Third Reich? It would be a major step forward if
progressive anthroposophists could bring themselves to grapple with such
questions at last.

[66] While
allied-sponsored court procedures were considerably more rigorous than the
German civilian hearings that exonerated Lippert and his fellow SS officers,
even the American military trials at Dachau, focused on higher levels of
responsibility, began to produce overwhelming acquittals, amnesties, and
dropped cases by the late 1940s; see Ute Stiepani, “Die Dachauer Prozesse und
ihre Bedeutung im Rahmen der alliierten Strafverfolgung von NS-Verbrechen” in
Gerd Ueberschär, ed., Der Nationalsozialismus vor Gericht (Frankfurt 1999), pp. 227-39, and Robert Sigel, Im Interesse der Gerechtigkeit: Die Dachauer
Kriegsverbrecherprozesse 1945–1948

(Frankfurt 1992).

[67] Paul
Berben, Dachau 1933-1945: The Official History, London 1975, p. 87.

[68] Robert
Sigel, “Heilkräuterkulturen im KZ: Die Plantage in Dachau”, Dachauer Hefte 4, 1988, p. 171.

[69]Walter Wuttke-Groneberg, “Von Heidelberg nach
Dachau,” in Gerhard Baader and Ulrich Schultz, eds, Medizin und
(Berlin 1980),
pp. 113-138; quote at p. 119. See especially the section “Die Heilkräuterplantage
im KZ Dachau” pp. 116-120.

[70] Anne
Harrington, Reenchanted Science
(Princeton 1996), p. 188.

Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz, Die Mächtigen und die
Hilflosen: als Häftling in Dachau
(Stuttgart 1957), pp. 105-108.

[72]Otto Pies, Stephanus Heute(Kevelaer 1951), p. 127.

[73]Jean Bernard, Pfarrerblock Dachau(Munich 1984), pp. 89-90.

[74] Hans Carls,
Dachau: Erinnerungen eines katholischen Geistlichen aus der Zeit seiner
Gefangenschaft 1941-1945
(Cologne 1946), p.
120. A few pages later Carls describes particular acts of sadism at the
plantation (123).

[75]For example, Reimund Schnabel’s book Die Frommen
in der Hölle: Geistliche in Dachau
(Frankfurt 1966) provides a study of clergy inmates at Dachau, who were
especially frequently assigned to the labor battalion at Lippert’s biodynamic
plantation. Schnabel describes the plantation on pp. 140-142. He notes that for
some inmates the plantation was a relatively preferred work detail, while for
others it was hellish, with dangerous and often deadly working conditions. In
light of conflicting testimony from former prisoners, Schnabel concludes that “both
the descriptions of extremely cruel working conditions and the reports of
relatively comfortable activity are correct.” (p. 141) This is consistent with
evidence from other concentration camps as well.

[76] See e.g.
Franz Lippert, Das Wichtigste in Kürze über Kräuter und Gewürze, Nordland Verlag, Berlin 1943.

[77] See the
testimony of Fritz Götte in Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des
, p. 285.

[78] In the
words of the anthroposophist Jens Heisterkamp, “the anthroposophist movement
did not produce any members of the Resistance.” (Heisterkamp’s review of Uwe
Werner’s book in Info3 April 1999)

[79] Indeed
Lippert’s biodynamic plantation at Dachau was the preeminent component in the
SS’s far-flung network of farms run along Steinerite lines, which also included
Auschwitz, Ravensbrück, and other concentration camps. The labor on these
biodynamic tracts was performed by camp inmates. For an overview of this
striking instance of the convergence of anthroposophy and Nazism, see the fine
study by Wolfgang Jacobeit and Christoph Kopke, Die
Biologisch-Dynamische Wirtschafstweise im KZ
1999, which emphasizes the crucial role of the Dachau plantation. For
further context on the SS biodynamic plantation system, the Dachau
installation, and Lippert’s role, see also Hermann Kaienburg,
Die Wirtschaft
der SS
(Berlin 2003), pp. 771-855.

[80] There are
many other examples of this very same anthroposophical avoidance of history.
Consider the case of Friedrich Benesch. Benesch (1907-1991) was a leading
figure in the Christian Community, the forthrightly religious arm of
anthroposophy, and one of the most prominent and influential anthroposophists
of the post-war period. For thirty years, beginning in the 1950s, he was the
head of the seminary in Stuttgart that trains the Christian Community’s
priests. Benesch was also a fervent Nazi from the late 1920s onward. He was
active in the radical nationalist and racist völkisch youth movement and belonged to the Artamanen, the infamous “blood and soil” group that produced
several later Nazi leaders, including Himmler, Darré, and Auschwitz commandant
Rudolf Höß. In his 1941 dissertation Benesch wrote: “Since 1928 I have been a
member of the National Socialist movement for renewal among the Germans in
Romania.” (Friedrich Benesch, “Lebenslauf,” Die Festung Hutberg: Eine
jungnordische Mischsiedlung
, Halle 1941)
From 1934 to 1945 Benesch was a leader in the extremist wing of the regional
Romanian-German Nazi party. His father-in-law and mentor was the well-known
Nazi theorist Hans Hahne. Benesch’s own teaching in the early 1940s strongly
emphasized racial theory and vigorously propagated National Socialist
principles. He joined the SS in 1939, and applied to work with the SS research
institute, the Ahnenerbe, on a
project about “Trees and forests in Aryan-Germanic spiritual and cultural
history.” In 1941 he was appointed head of the Nazi party organization in his
home county in Romania. Although this information was readily available for
decades via both archival and published sources, Benesch’s anthroposophical
colleagues never inquired into his biographical background, instead celebrating
him as a greatly admired anthroposophical figure. It was not until 2004 that
parts of the anthroposophical movement began at last to acknowledge Benesch’s
Nazi past, after they were forced to confront the subject by a
non-anthroposophist historian, Johan Böhm. Even today, efforts to downplay and
deny Benesch’s lengthy activity as a committed Nazi militant continue within
anthroposophical circles, a stunning instance of anthroposophy’s ongoing
inability to come to terms with its own past. For background see Johan Böhm, Das
nationalsozialistische Deutschland und die deutsche Volksgruppe in Rumänien
(Frankfurt 1985), pp. 41-42, 53,
138-139; Böhm, Die Deutschen in Rumänien und das Dritte Reich
(Frankfurt 1999), pp. 149,
272-273; Böhm, “Friedrich Benesch: Naturwissenschaftler, Anthropologe, Theologe
und Politiker” Halbjahresschrift für südosteuropäische Geschichte,
Literatur und Politik
, vol. 16 no. 1 (May
2004), pp. 108-119.    In
light of the astoundingly long time it took for any of this information to
penetrate anthroposophical consciousness, the obvious question that ought to
concern Göran Fant and his associates is: How many other Friedrich Benesches
are lurking within the ranks of twentieth century anthroposophy?

[81] Things may,
of course, be different in Sweden. Hakan Lejon’s book Historien om den
antroposofiska humanismen
(Stockholm 1997)
argues that the Swedish anthroposophical movement has developed in tension
between an esoteric pole and a humanist pole, with the latter taking precedence
in recent decades. If this is true, it may help explain Fant’s quaintly naïve
perspective on anthroposophy in other places and other times.

[82] Fant is by
no means the only anthroposophist to fall for this easily debunked racist
propaganda. For a particularly striking early example, see anthroposophist Karl
Heyer’s racist reminiscences of the Rhineland occupation in Anthroposophie July 13, 1930; cf. also the remarkable racist
imagery in the very same context in anthroposophist author Andrej Belyj’s work
from the 1920s: Belyj, Im Reich der Schatten, Frankfurt 1987, pp. 48-64. 

[83]For an overview of the campaign to circulate these stories see Keith Nelson, “The ‘Black Horror on the Rhine’: Race as a Factor in Post-World War I Diplomacy” Journal of Modern Historyvol. 42 no. 4 (1970), pp. 606-627; Peter Martin, “Die Kampagne gegen die ‘Schwarze Schmach’ als Ausdruck konservativer Visionen vom Untergang des Abendlandes” in Gerhard Höpp, ed., Fremde Erfahrungen, Berlin 1996, pp. 211-224; Gisela Lebzelter, “Die “Schwarze Schmach”: Vourteile – Propaganda – Mythos” Geschichte und Gesellschaft11 (1985), pp. 37-58; Robert Reinders, “Racialism on the Left: E.D. Morel and the Black Horror on the Rhine“” International Review of Social History 13 (1968), pp. 1-28; Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink, ““Tirailleurs Sénégalais” und “Schwarze Schande” – Verlaufsformen und Konsequenzen einer deutsch-französischen Auseinandersetzung (1910-1926)” in Janos Riesz and Joachim Schultz, eds., Tirailleurs Sénégalais, Frankfurt 1989, pp. 57-73; Joachim Schultz, “Die “Utschebebbes” am Rhein – Zur Darstellung schwarzer Soldaten während der französischen Rheinlandbesetzung (1918-1930)” in Riesz and Schultz, Tirailleurs Sénégalais, pp. 75-100; Clarence Lusane, “Black Troops and the Race Question in Pre-Nazi Germany” in Lusane, Hitler’s Black Victims, New York 2002. The definitive study of the topic is Christian Koller, “Von Wilden aller Rassen niedergemetzelt”: die Diskussion um die Verwendung von Kolonialtruppen in Europa zwischen Rassismus, Kolonial- und Militärpolitik (1914-1930), Stuttgart 2001. See also the recent volume by Iris Wigger, Die “Schwarze Schmach am Rhein”: Rassistische Diskriminierung zwischen Geschlecht, Klasse, Nation und Rasse, Münster 2007.

[84] See, for
example, “The Black Troops on the Rhine” The Nation March 9, 1921, p. 365; “Is the Black Horror on the
Rhine Fact or Propaganda?” The NationJuly 13, 1921, pp. 44-45. For an Afro-German women’s perspective see
Oguntye, Opitz, and Schultz, Farbe Bekennen, Frankfurt 1992, pp. 49-52. See also B.T. Reynolds, Prelude
to Hitler
, London 1933, pp. 85 and 106, and
J.E. Barker, “The Colored French Troops in Germany” Current History July 1921.

[85] The
official report on the matter by General Henry Allen was published in Germany
in 1925; it dismantles the notion that non-white troops committed
disproportionate crimes and exposes the German propaganda claims as false. The
extremely few incidents of actual wrongdoing by non-white troops were in
reality scrupulously investigated and punished by the French authorities. See
Schultz, “Zur Darstellung schwarzer Soldaten während der französischen Rheinlandbesetzung” pp.
79-80; cf. Keith Reynolds, Victors Divided: America and the Allies in
Germany, 1918-1923
, Berkeley 1975, p. 64;
and Royal Schmidt, Versailles and the Ruhr, The Hague 1968, 58, 118.

[86] Quotes from
Rheinische Frauenliga, Farbige Franzosen am Rhein: Ein Notschrei deutscher
, Berlin 1920.

[87] While all
of the sources cited here make a mockery of Fant’s startlingly credulous
claims, perhaps the most effective antidote to this ongoing anthroposophist
avoidance of history is available in Christian Koller’s comprehensive study
from 2001: “Von Wilden aller Rassen niedergemetzelt”: Die Diskussion um die
Verwendung von Kolonialtruppen in Europa zwischen Rassismus, Kolonial- und
Militärpolitik (1914-1930)
. I urge any
reader who is inclined to give Fant’s assertions the benefit of the doubt to
consult Koller’s book. On the supposed “outrages” by non-white soldiers see
e.g. pp. 203-205, 253-254, 292, 295-298; on the racist character of the
propaganda Fant takes as fact see pp. 229-231, 244-245, 338-339; on German
opposition against this propaganda at the same time that Steiner endorsed it,
see pp. 231-235; on opposition by other anti-racists at the time see pp.
291-295, 298-300, 307; for racist endorsements of the German propaganda from
outside Germany see pp. 301, 308, etc. Even setting aside this extraordinarily
thorough new research, and the myriad additional sources that were available
well before Fant wrote his essay, and assuming that Fant knew nothing
whatsoever about the history of this matter, an uncomfortably blunt question
must be posed: Does Göran Fant believe that non-white soldiers are somehow more
likely to commit “outrages” than white soldiers? Does such a belief have
anything to do with anthroposophical views on race?

[88]Some readers of Anthroposophy and Ecofascismhave found its lessons difficult to learn because
they apparently mistook it for a scholarly article meant for other historians
rather than a popular treatment written for a lay audience. A word on this peculiar
confusion may be in order here. The difference between scholarly publications
and popular publications can sometimes be decisive, not just in terms of tone but
in terms of content. That a number of anthroposophists took my article to be a
scholarly publication indicates among other things just how far removed
contemporary anthroposophy is from the world of scholarship. The distinctions
between scholarly and popular approaches are central to the purposes my article
was designed to fulfill. Consider a contrasting case: When my students hand in
papers that refer, for example, to “nineteenth century misconceptions about
race,” I will circle such phrases and recommend replacing them with something
along the lines of “the conceptions about race that were predominant at the
time.” This kind of circumspection is important from a historian’s perspective;
it avoids making judgements about the past based on the standards of the
present, and reminds us that present standards are just as open to revision as
past ones were. In popular treatments, in contrast, there is nothing wrong with
offering penetrating criticism of past figures and actions and ideas,
particularly those with some significant connection to present debates; indeed
this sort of criticism is one of the crucial strengths of popular writing. The
widespread allergic reaction to my article among anthroposophists – who were,
after all, hardly its intended audience – indicates that such criticism remains
very much necessary.

English Summary of Peter Bierl’s “Pädagogik der runden Ecken”

English Summary of Peter Bierl’s “Pädagogik der runden Ecken”

By Peter Staudenmaier, waldorf-critics list, September 12, 2007

It’s a very good summary of the various criticisms of Waldorf that are part
of current public discussion in Germany. Much of it is similar to themes
discussed on this list; Bierl addresses Waldorf’s rejection, on
anthroposophical grounds, of comics, legos, soccer, sex education,
lefthandedness, and so forth. He reviews the racist and ethnocentric content
of books officially recommended for Waldorf teachers, the fixation on
mystically derived 7 year periods rather than cognitive development as the
structure of Waldorf pedagogy, the rejection of critical thinking, the
categorization of pupils according to the four humors scheme, the notion of
Waldorf education as a karmic mission, and so forth. He also notes the
extraordinarily small percentage of ‘foreign’ students at German Waldorf
schools, which means that Waldorf schools are overwhelmingly white, in
contrast to public schools in Germany. The article reminds me that many of
the typical reactions of Waldorf defenders from North America (and England
and New Zealand and Australia etc) — golly, I’ve never seen anything like
*that* at *my* Waldorf school! — are based in part on ignorance of the
basic features of Waldorf education in its place of origin.

Bierl’s article is occasioned by the recent spate of publicity, including
lots of critical coverage, that anthroposophy and Waldorf have received in
Germany, through a combination of circumstances: the move to censor several
of Steiner’s books; the appearance of Helmut Zander’s history of
anthroposophy; and the plans by neo-Nazi leader Andreas Molau to found a
Waldorf school. Bierl is the author of an excellent book on anthroposophy
and Waldorf (Wurzelrassen, Erzengel, und Volksgeister, 2nd edition Hamburg
2005), and continues to research the subject. He is one of the favorite
targets of anthroposophist outrage in Germany.