Rudolf Steiner and the Jews

By Dan Dugan

Copyright 1999 Natural Jewish Parenting

Reproduced by permission: Spring 1999, Pages 40-41

In 1912, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) had been the leader of the German section of Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophy for ten years. When the Theosophists declared that the Indian boy Krishnamurti was a reincarnation of Chri–, Steiner disagreed. He had already integrated esoteric Christianity into his occultist system, and Krishnamurti wasn’t part of it. He split and took almost the entire German congregation of Theosophy with him. This was the foundation of Steiner’s sect, which he called “Anthroposophy.” Steiner and his devotees founded the first “Waldorf” school in 1919. The world-view of Steiner’s Anthroposophy underlies everything that is done in Waldorf schools, then and now.

Anthroposophy combines elements of Hinduism (reincarnation and karma), Zoroastrianism (co-creating gods of light and dark), esoteric Christianity (Gnosticism, Manicheanism), and European occultist traditions (Rosicrucianism, Masonry, herbalism). From Theosophy he carried over a complex, convoluted, and racist creation myth that implies “Aryan” superiority by force of destiny:

“We are within the great Root Race of humanity, which has peopled the earth, since the land on which we now live rose up out of the inundations of the ocean. Ever since the Atlantean Race began slowly to disappear, the great Aryan Race has been the dominant one on earth. If we contemplate ourselves, we here in Europe are thus the fifth Sub-Race of the great Aryan Root Race. The first Sub-Race lived in the distant past in Ancient India” [1905]

This mythical Atlantean history can be traced from Madame Blavatsky through Steiner to Nazi theorist Alfred Rosenberg. It continues to live today, not only in esoteric writings, but as the framework of ancient history as taught in Waldorf schools, both private and public. Steiner’s pedagogical theory dictates that children should be stepped through a recapitulation of the “evolution of human consciousness.” The framework of history used in the fifth and sixth grades of Waldorf schools follows Steiner’s evolutionary scheme. The Jews have no part in this system beyond the provision of a suitable physical body for “The Chri– Spirit” to occupy. Steiner explains that the task of the Jewish “race” is done, and that if all had gone according to the “higher gods'” plan it should have died out by now.

“[T]here must gradually develop in humanity what is connected with the true Chri– impulse, and what is related to the mere Jehovah [sic] impulse must be superseded.” [1918]

In another lecture he takes on a rather chilling tone:

“Whoever develops himself upwards, takes upon himself a tremendous responsibility, that is the great tragedy; the corollary of every saint is that a great number of beings are thrust down. There would be no development if this kind of thrusting down did not take place. A man must continually thrust others down, as he develops himself upwards. That is why all development which takes place out of self-interest is evil and reprehensible; it is only justifiable if done for the development of other beings.” [1905]

Steiner took different positions on race depending on to whom he was speaking. Reportedly he was a friend of the Jewish poet Ludwig Jacobowski, who appointed Steiner to execute his will. Speaking to devotees, presumably including Jews, he would make all-inclusive statements like this:

“Therefore the Anthroposophical movement must cast aside the division into races. It must seek to unite people of all races and nations, and to bridge the divisions and differences between the various groups of people. The old point of view of race has a physical character, but what will prevail in the future will have a more spiritual character.”

But he took quite a different tack when addressing construction workers:

“You see, when we really study science and history, we must conclude that if people become increasingly strong, they will also become increasingly stupid. If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense if men do not arrive at a form of intelligence that is independent of blondness. Blond hair actually bestows intelligence. It is indeed true that the more the fair individuals die out the more will the instinctive wisdom of humans vanish.” [1922]

Steiner also analyzes all of human culture into two “streams” or “races” that are characterized as Apollonian and Dionysian, Solar and Lunar, Luciferic and Ahrimanic, or Aryan and Jewish. In the following passage Steiner assumes that his readers recognize Heine as Jewish, and that they accept the German myth that the ancient Greeks were the ancestors of the “Aryans” (this passage is in a book that is required reading for Waldorf teacher trainees):

“Now everything artistic that comes towards mankind is divided into two streams, the sculptural, pictorial stream and the musical, poetic stream.You obviously know that this duality in the artistic realm even finds expression racially in world evolution. [A]ll that has grown from the being of the Greek peoples in a manner suited to their race is in the most exalted sense directed towards the sculptural, pictorial formation of the world; and all that emanates from the Jewish element is disposed towards the musical element of the world.” [1919]

In Waldorf education, students are led through a recapitulation of these two “streams” in the third and fourth grades. In the third grade Old Testament stories are studied, balanced in the fourth grade by bloody tales from Norse mythology. In Steiner’s time in Germany the Norse myths were believed to be the ancient wisdom of the “Aryan race.”

Steiner spent years in Vienna as a live-in tutor for a hydrocephalic boy in a wealthy Jewish family. The relationship grew tense after Steiner published an article defending Hamerling’s book “Homunculus” against charges of anti-Semitism. Steiner had written:

“Jewry as such has outlived itself for a long time. It does not have the right to exist in the modern life of nations. That it has survived, nevertheless, is a mistake by world history, of which the consequences were bound to come.” [Toos Jeurissen, trans de Tollenaere]

Steiner didn’t see himself as anti-Semitic. His devotees have the same problem today. They equate racism with overt hatred, and since they don’t feel that they hate anybody, they’re sure that they can’t be racists. They don’t understand that ignorance and paternalism are racism, too.

Steiner had, and continues to have today, many Jewish devotees. There is even an Anthroposophical kibbutz in Israel, whose leader theorizes that the Holocaust was a necessary evil to counterbalance the good of Chri-‘s second coming. Given Anthroposophy’s constant emphasis on the importance of “the Chri– Impulse,” it seems to me that for Jews to profess Anthroposophy would require either conversion to Gnostic Christianity or an unhealthy portion of cult-induced dissociation. One trick that gurus often use is to tell the devotee that he or she has been chosen for a special mission. A South African Anthroposophist explained recently that “spiritual Europeans” may “incarnate within another race” as a “sacrificial gesture.”

Jewish devotees of Anthroposophy might imagine their souls to be, in Steiner’s terminology, “universal humans.” That sounds like a liberal position until one realizes that Steiner meant that term to be synonymous with “Aryan type.”

Dan Dugan is a former Waldorf parent and runs Dan Dugan Sound Design in San Francisco, California. His organization, PLANS (People for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools) opposes public funding of  Waldorf-based schools due to their religious nature.

Sources for the information contained in this article, along with more information on the religious nature of Waldorf schools, can be found at