This is the third part of a series of guest posts on the curious Steiner Waldorf cult
The first part was The true nature of Steiner (Waldorf) education. Mystical barmpottery at taxpayers’ expense. Part 1
Part 2 was The Steiner Waldorf cult uses bait and switch to get state funding. Part 2
This post deals with the most contentious and serious aspect of Steiner schools, racism. It makes, in my view, a convincing argument that Steiner’s undoubtedly racist views remain a problem today. They can’t be dismissed simply by saying that Steiner was a child of his times.
This post was written by an ex-Steiner school parent, known on the web as @ThetisMercurio.
The essay supplies yet more reasons to think that Steiner schools are all based on pseudo science: Steiner’s Spiritual Science. It is important that we understand these schools because funding of these schools is imminent, through Michael Gove’s Free Schools policy.
Extracts from works by Olav Hammer and Peter Staudenmaier are included with the permission of the authors.
A Spiritual Elite
Our first two posts introduced Anthroposophy and our concerns about the state funding of Steiner Waldorf schools through the Free Schools policy. Anthroposophy, the belief system developed by Rudolf Steiner, undeniably underpins the pedagogy which informs teaching practice in Steiner schools. This is reflected in the course materials and recommended texts for Steiner trainee teachers, wherever these have been obtained.
What must be stressed is that an adherence to Anthroposophy and aspects of this pedagogy can lead teachers to make decisions about individual children based on race and disability, which many people would consider to be outright discrimination.
Ceiling, First Goetheanum, Rudolf Steiner. Spirit worlds.
This discrimination may be undeclared and subtle but we believe it is, when rightly understood, within the comprehension and scope of the Equality Act 2010 as interpreted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Does the ideological drive towards Free Schools justify a breach in the rights of children not to be exposed to such potentially damaging practice?
In this post I write about the history of Anthroposophy, and how Steiner’s privileged status amongst adherents has obscured understanding of Steiner Waldorf education. Although I’ll focus on Steiner’s race doctrines, it’s important to understand that an anthroposophical belief in karma and reincarnation must have an impact on children with learning disabilities. Some of the most distressing personal accounts on parent forums have described an encounter with this particular aspect of Steiner’s dogma. Liz Ditz, a writer on education and learning disabilities, has the same concern with regard to Waldorf Charters in the US:
“Waldorf/Steiner [is] particularly pernicious for children with educational special needs such as dyslexia, ADHD, and autism. Because of the underlying beliefs in karma and reincarnation, teachers at Waldorf/Steiner tend to believe that such educational challenges are part of a child’s destiny to “work out”. The Waldorf/Steiner attitude does not satisfy US laws relative to educating students.”
Roger Rawlings indicates Steiner’s thinking on disability on Waldorf Watch and the UK site EASE online has an account of ‘karma in the classroom’ by a parent with a Steiner training. Swedish blogger Alicia Hamberg describes the University of Aberdeen’s programme on Rudolf Steiner’s curative pedagogy, which draws directly on Steiner’s clairvoyantly acquired ideas. This area demands greater investigation before English Steiner schools can be assumed to satisfy discrimination legislation regarding children with disabilities.
There is a determined lack of interest and comprehension about the nature of Anthroposophy amongst those responsible for overseeing the inspection of Steiner schools (Ofsted, which delegates to the SIS) and also amongst those who will make the decision to fund particular schools. It may appear too difficult. The structure of an esoteric belief system, with gradually imparted ‘knowledge’: impenetrable texts, study groups, a tradition of communicating certain information orally (a great deal isn’t written down) and a distrust of critical thinking, means that Steiner teachers themselves can be confused about the nature or real life implications of Steiner’s dogma, as well as largely ignorant of the Waldorf movement’s history. But there is an undeclared hierarchy of anthroposophical knowledge and influence within a Steiner school’s college of teachers; decisions about individual children are often steered by collegiate anthroposophical impulse. Obfuscation is deliberate: when explaining Anthroposophy, as far as the movement is concerned the answer depends on who is asking.
We can’t afford to be ignorant or to accept Steiner schools on their own terms. The history of Anthroposophy and thereby Steiner Waldorf education is essential reading. That history contains a warning, and we ignore this at our own risk.
Lessons on Spin from the New Schools Network
In November 2009, a meeting was held in London between representatives of the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship and English Steiner Schools, including Emma Craigie, Rachel Wolf of the New Schools Network and Sam Freedman, Tory special advisor for education. It was called: ‘Moving forward, a special pre-election seminar about possible developments in the state funding opportunity for Steiner schools’.
A transcript of this seminar appeared online in March 2010 on both UK Anthroposophy and Liberal Conspiracy. I can reiterate that the transcript is a genuine account of a public meeting. No one present has to the best of our knowledge complained that this is not the case. Since there appears to be no attempt to dissuade from pursuing Free Schools funding the Steiner schools and initiatives mentioned in our second post (in fact many more than three of these schools are well advanced) I believe it is important to revisit this seminar.
The NSN is already under scrutiny. After an intervention by Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan, it has been the recipient of regulatory advice from the Charity Commission regarding its responsibilities as an independent charity. The clarity of NSN funding arrangements has also been questioned. I suggest that if Rachel Wolf is expected to advise parents on the best way to educate their children, she cannot afford, in the case of 18 or more potential Steiner Free Schools, to ignore these two salient problems in the path of state funded Steiner education:
1) Accounts from parents who are or who have been unhappy with the Steiner schooling system and those who have had negative experiences associated with the schools.
2) The writings of Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy
I agree with those at the seminar that the latter will be the greater problem. In fact, I assert that it’s an insurmountable one, or at least that it should be. This can’t be cured by good PR or by changing a name. Should the success of the Free Schools policy need to be bolstered by protecting Steiner Waldorf’s reputation from disenchanted parents, students and teachers, it will mean a concerted effort to ensure their voices are not heard or their stories are discredited. Such a tactic would be unsustainable, to put it mildly.
In the seminar, it was mentioned that there are racist aspects to Steiner’s writings. This accusation is far from new and it seems it was no surprise to those present. If Sam Freedman is aware of a potential threat to the reputation of the state from the funding of Steiner schools with an adherence to ‘Steiner says’, (an adherence which troubled the writers of the 2005 Woods report) he should be concerned that since the closure of the University of Plymouth Steiner BA there are no publicly accountable Steiner Waldorf teacher training courses in the UK. It’s unclear where the teachers are going to come from, especially since it appears there will be no requirement for Free Schools teachers to be formally trained. British Steiner Waldorf training will be essentially ‘in-house’ (perhaps at the Steiner Academy Hereford).
The issue of whether racism exists as an active agent within Anthroposophy was not addressed seriously at the pre-election meeting, although anthroposophical distinctions regarding both race and disability have human consequences and political implications.
Steiner’s drawing of the “evolution of humankind” through the various stages – Hyperborea, Lemuria, Atlantis — from lower to higher forms (fish to reptiles to mammals etc), with the top three categories marked “apes,” then (American) “Indians,” then at the very top “Aryans.” Steiner’s 1907 lecture refers to both apes and Indians as “decadent side branches” of evolution.
Rudolf Steiner, 1907. Menschheitsentwickelung und Christus-Erkenntnis (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1981)
Pervasive racial assumptions run throughout Rudolf Steiner’s work. Anthroposophy itself is : “built around a racial view of human nature arranged in a hierarchical framework,” and Steiner’s doctrine awards a higher or lower place in the spiritual evolution of mankind for certain races, with their attendant characteristics. If Freedman believes the schools can simply not teach what Steiner said, he shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of Anthroposophy, and of its role within Steiner schools. Anthroposophy is not taught to the children: it informs the pedagogy. It is taught to the teachers. But since it is an esoteric religion, with hidden knowledge, that teaching is often opaque. In addition, Anthroposophy is not a tradition in which critical thinking is prized, indeed the intellectual is suspect; Steiner’s spiritual science has its own, privileged internal logic and route to acuity. As Olav Hammer, a Professor of the history of religions, comments in his accessible book ‘Claiming Knowledge’:
“..anthroposophy has an overtly formulated epistemology, which claims rational status for its visionary means of attaining knowledge.”
“For the anthroposophist, spiritual science is as inexorably logical as the natural sciences. The path towards attaining knowledge of the higher worlds, including insights into the exact mechanisms of reincarnation, lie open to those who practice the methods of Geisteswissenschaft [spiritual science] to the full. It is not only part of Steiner’s experience, but also potentially part of the experience of every individual. A carefully outlined series of meditative exercises describes how one can attain knowledge of the spiritual truths.”
and the system is itself insulated from critique:
“Steiner frees himself from the need for empirical investigation by claiming the ability to clairvoyantly access the Akashic record. In the Akashic record, Steiner found innumerable specific details on the workings of the cosmos and the human being, all presented as empirical facts.”
Hammer notes that Steiner’s method of spiritual science may appear democratic but is in reality autocratic. The only truly authentic insights are Steiner’s.
For those who believe they are developing clairvoyant faculties in pursuit of Anthroposophy’s Higher Worlds; Steiner’s racist doctrines, existing within an anthroposophical structure of reincarnation and karma, can be seen as essentially benevolent and redemptive. Though adherence (and awareness) certainly differs amongst teachers, it is impossible to remove Anthroposophy from the Steiner school pedagogy, from the required reading on the teacher training courses, from the mission of the schools. It would be entirely naive to imagine anthroposophical allegiances and beliefs in Steiner Free Schools could be policed by the DfE, especially as British courses disappear from public view or teachers are trained in other countries. Nor can the public be shielded from evidence of Anthroposophy’s precise nature and history.
Anthroposophy, and consequently the Steiner Waldorf movement, resist external critical analysis. The occult has until fairly recently been largely ignored by serious academics, and those who have explored Theosophy and other esoteric movements have been generally sympathetic to the possibility of supernatural agency. But, as we’ve seen with Olav Hammer as example, this has changed. There is now extensive academic research into the foundations of Anthroposophy and the development of Steiner Waldorf schools, enabling a non-arcane understanding of anthroposophical texts. Much of this is of course in German, including Helmut Zander’s 2007 two volume study, ‘Anthroposophie in Deutschland’.
Zander describes the ad hoc nature of the first Waldorf school, as Steiner borrowed much from already existing educational reform movements as well as from traditional models, and added his own spiritual insights. The results could only in some areas be thought of as progressive: the schools were co-educational and did not focus on exams. But from the beginning, the Waldorf system was teacher-led, not child-led and had strong authoritarian tendencies.
Rudolf Steiner 1861-1925 – Spiritual Insights
Most importantly, Zander contextualizes Steiner as a historical figure, without needing to pass judgements on the accuracy of his supernatural claims. He focuses on the political landscape in which Steiner existed in real, not occult terms. And he demonstrates the significant role of Steiner’s race theories within his work, noting how anthroposophical race doctrine frequently involves implicit or explicit value judgements. Even though Zander encourages dialogue with anthroposophists who can tolerate some kind of external analysis, an extreme voice still demanded Zander’s university revoke his degree, on the grounds that he couldn’t determine the validity of any of Steiner’s claims without himself attaining ‘knowledge of the higher worlds’. Crazy as this sounds, it’s the singular manifestation of a familiar anthroposophical motif, a demand that Anthroposophy be understood – and respected, exclusively on its own terms.
Rudolf Steiner and race: the path toward the universal human
One of the most authoritative writers about Anthroposophy in English is American historian Peter Staudenmaier. His recent PhD in modern history, written at Cornell, concerns Anthroposophy in Germany and Italy from 1900 to 1945. A fluent German speaker, Staudenmaier had access to Steiner’s untranslated work as well as to original archive material. He stresses that Steiner’s prolific output can be internally contradictory, enabling supporters to claim that anthroposophical race doctrine is incidental or misunderstood. But nevertheless, there’s a dominant and explicable theme, owing much to Steiner’s occult interpretation of German nationalism. Steiner’s attitude to Jewishness is an example of insular preoccupations:
“The nature of Steiner’s hostility to Jewishness was thus both ordinary and anomalous; it incorporated the common misconceptions of the era and simultaneously transcended these within the peculiar framework of “occult science”. It was not so much hatred or fear of Jews that animated Steiner’s mature antisemitism, but ignorance of contemporary Jewish life, of modern Jewish culture and history, as well as a myopic commitment to German spiritual superiority. What Steiner did know about Judaism, moreover, was generally refracted through a Christian and Germanocentric lens.” Peter Staudenmaier ‘Rudolf Steiner and the Jewish Question’ Leo Baeck Inst. Yearbook 2005
Steiner’s claims to ‘spiritual science’ to an extent reflect an earlier association with zoologist and social Darwinist Ernst Haeckel. (Richard Dawkins comments in ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ that Haeckel was “perhaps Darwin’s most devoted disciple in Germany” and while praising Haeckel’s draughtsmanship adds: “the devotion was not reciprocated”.).
Staudenmaier suggests a mutable concept of evolution may have mediated Steiner’s shift from ‘secular to sacred’, but that it was a conversion to Mme Blavatsky’s occult movement, Theosophy, that most inspired Steiner’s racial theories:
Madame Blavatsky: Theosophist and medium.
“Steiner’s doctrine of racial evolution is more than a biological appendage to his spiritual cosmology. For Anthroposophy as for Theosophy, evolution is the link between the human and the divine, it is a process supervised by higher powers and a vehicle for the soul’s elevation and purification. [ ] The guiding thread throughout Steiner’s race mythology is the motif of a small, racially advanced group progressing into the next era while the great mass of backward populations declines. In the current era, the dominant race is the Aryan race, which evolved out of a small number of specially advanced colonists from Atlantis. In Steiner’s words: “Ever since the Atlantean Race began slowly to disappear, the great Aryan Race has been the dominant one on earth.”
There is a crucial difference for Steiner between ‘race development’ and ‘soul development’:
“The two must not be confused. A human soul can develop itself in such a way that it incarnates in a particular race within a given incarnation. If it acquires certain capacities in this incarnation, then in a later incarnation it can incarnate in a different race.”
Rudolf Steiner, Christus und die menschliche Seele [Christ and the human soul] (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1997), 92
“As the incarnating souls ‘became steadily better and better’, Steiner explained, ‘the souls eventually passed over into higher races, such that souls which had earlier been incarnated in completely subordinate races developed themselves upwards onto a higher level and were able to incarnate later into the physical descendants of the leading population of Europe’. Steiner further contended that the very existence of different racial groups on the Earth at the same time was a cosmic mistake, a detour from the proper route of humankind’s development. This claim was tied to Steiner’s vision of the eventual emergence of a ‘Universal Human’, the goal of his teleological conception of evolution. While pointing toward the ultimate disappearance of race as a meaningful factor in human existence, Steiner’s theory of the Universal Human is built around a contrast with ‘lower types of people,’ which constitute the necessary counterpart to the ‘uniform, perfect, beautiful type of human being,’ the cosmic goal that underlies ‘the meaning of our whole earthly evolution’.”
Though potentially spiritually ‘enlightened’ to the initiate, Steiner’s views on race remain reprehensible:
“The white population, then, represent normal human beings who continue to progress, while Asians and Africans are abnormal peoples who were not as capable of evolving. Statements like these can be found throughout Steiner’s works, and may reflect the prejudices prevalent among educated Europeans of his era. Perhaps the most instructive instances are Steiner’s various statements about black people. [ ] Addressing the first generation of Waldorf teachers in 1923, Steiner responded to a question about teaching French with the following remarks:
“The French are committing the terrible brutality of moving black people to Europe, but it works, in an even worse way, back on France. It has an enormous effect on the blood and the race and contributes considerably toward French decadence. The French as a race are reverting."
Peter Staudenmaier, Race and redemption: Racial and Ethnic Evolution in Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy : Nova Religio 2008
All must have disclaimers
Returning to the seminar in London discussing Free Schools funding for Steiner Waldorf: Should Steiner schools engineer a more multi-cultural image? This strategy would cause embarrassment to a government facing the understandable fury of non-white Steiner parents who come across Steiner’s race doctrines – unless Rachel Wolf persuades Cornell to revoke Dr Staudenmaier’s PhD (with assistance from dedicated anthroposophical defenders). Waldorf’s biggest problem, acknowledged after the departure of Freedman and Wolf, is undoubtedly the teachers:
“It was felt that there may be some difficulty in making a blanket rebuttal of all Anthroposophy because many people throughout the Steiner schools system, especially teachers, strongly support many aspects of that belief system. If teachers were asked to make a blanket rebuttal of Anthroposophy, many of them may not do this.”
They cannot do this. For many, Anthroposophy is the point. Rudolf Steiner is considered by his followers to be irreproachable, a spiritual master blessed with clairvoyant powers. Pull the thread of the race doctrines out of the design, there is a corresponding pressure on Steiner’s doctrine of reincarnation and karma. The Steiner Waldorf pedagogy itself rests on anthroposophical dogma. Although a reappraisal of doctrine is not without precedent within religious movements, it would be especially problematic for Anthroposophy, as an esoteric belief system. Knowing this, the easiest way to protect the movement is to be pragmatic and to issue disclaimers. But these disclaimers bear analysis, since many anthroposophists still defend Steiner’s racial and ethnic teachings; believing them, as Staudenmaier explains, to be “humanitarian, tolerant, and enlightened.”
Here is the (current) disclaimer on racism from the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF).
Is it true that some of Rudolf Steiners writings and lectures contained statements that could be interpreted as racist?
Yes. Even though Steiner’s ideas are based on a profound respect for the equality, individuality and shared humanity of all people, regardless of race or ethnic origin, his works do contain a small number of quotations that are discriminatory. The SWSF rejects these statements and all racism. However, it should be noted that other great thinkers of his time including Darwin, Schweitzer, Gandhi and Carl Jung also spoke of race in a way that offends modern sensibilities. This does not render them or their work ‘racist’.
It is ironic that Steiner schools sometimes have to defend themselves against these accusations. Our schools thrive on every continent, in every culture and within a wide range of ethnic contexts. For example, during the period of the apartheid regime in South Africa, the only school catering for mixed races was a Steiner Waldorf school & today there are schools following Steiner philosophy of education in diverse cultures & communities, including: Israel, Egypt, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Taiwan, Japan, Brazil or Hawaii, over 60 countries in all. It should be noted that all the Steiner schools in the UK actively are opposed to all forms of discrimination against any person or group of people on the grounds of race, gender, faith, disability, age and sexual orientation and are committed to promoting equality of opportunity and reflecting the diversity of the children, staff and parents served by their school.
Further clarification about this can be found on the Statements page of the European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education website (by clicking the ‘Waldorf schools against discrimination’ link).
The first word is unusual, though the disclaimer’s tone betrays the movement’s haughty antipathy to external analysis – and frankly it’s simply untrue. There are a very large number of Steiner’s pronouncements which could not only be interpreted as racist, they are racist. Saying they are not racist costs the SWSF nothing and will not make them disappear. (To be candid, many of Steiner’s statements clearly discriminate between races in both an unpleasant and prosaic manner, the ‘spiritual’ is no excuse.)
But the statement reveals a significant misunderstanding of racism. It is historically naive to imagine that being represented in diverse cultures and communities can define a worldview. Catholic schools are similarly represented, this doesn’t alter the nature of Catholic teachings; Anthroposophy’s racial doctrines do not magically change because there are Steiner Waldorf schools in Kenya. The disclaimer also ignores the fact that South African Waldorf schools were founded by Max Stibbe (the Waldorf school in Pretoria is still named after him), a vocal supporter of apartheid. Peter Staudenmaier comments:
“[Stibbe] was also the editor of the Dutch Waldorf journal Ostara, as well as the founding editor of an even more influential Waldorf journal, Vrije Opvoedkunst, in 1933. Vrije Opvoedkunst is where Stibbe published his racist articles in the 1960s, which formed the basis for the "racial ethnography" courses in Dutch Waldorf schools well into the 1990s.”
Nor can the recent promotion of a non-white titular Vice Principal (at the state funded 315 pupil (£5.2 million) Hereford Steiner Academy cancel out Steiner’s racial doctrines.
In addition, under “What is Anthroposophy?’ the SWSF states:
“Like many inspiring thinkers from the past, Ghandi and Darwin being other examples, Rudolf Steiner provides us with important insights which continue to be relevant today, as well as statements which conflict with our contemporary understanding of inclusivity and equality.”
It’s extraordinary that in a description of Anthroposophy by the Steiner Waldorf movement’s umbrella organisation in the UK, there’s no mention of karma, reincarnation, higher worlds, spiritual science etc, or the fact that anthroposophists believe Steiner was clairvoyant. Zoologists do not believe Darwin was clairvoyant – nor did Darwin teach an occult racial doctrine. Steiner’s unique status amongst his followers means that he cannot be excused as simply ‘a man of his time’. Even so, such racial ideas were rejected by many of Steiner’s contemporaries.
From a historical perspective, racial remarks should not be assessed according to whether they offend modern sensibilities. What makes a particular text racist is its content, what it actually says about race.
The 2nd Goetheanum, designed by Steiner – world centre for Anthroposophy – Dornach, Switzerland
The European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education) disclaimer document ‘Waldorf schools against discrimination’, linked to by the SWSF, states:
“Anthroposophy, upon which Waldorf education is founded, stands firmly against all forms of racism and nationalism. Throughout Steiner’s work there is a consistent anti-racist sentiment and he frequently described racist views as being anachronistic and antithetical to basic human values and dignity. The Waldorf schools are aware, however, that occasional phrases in Rudolf Steiner’s complete works are not in concordance with this fundamental direction and have a discriminatory effect.”
This is extraordinarily mendacious, and only sustainable if no one else – specifically no politician – reads any Steiner. The ‘discriminatory effect’ is reflected in the actions and decisions of teachers in the classroom, behaving in accordance with anthroposophical dogma which they may not even believe is racist. It should not be confused with an accusation that Steiner Waldorf schools openly discriminate on grounds of race, for example at point of entry, which they do not. Whether Steiner’s teachings themselves are ‘discriminatory’ makes little sense in an early twentieth century context – what matters is that they are racist. A confusion between discrimination and racism further highlights the worrying anthroposophist misunderstanding of racism.
This ECSWE disclaimer is cited by the Rudolf Steiner school South Devon. This is one of three English Steiner schools nearing funding, with the support of the Tory MP for Totnes, Dr Sarah Wollaston. The school also seeks to distance itself from “any racism stated or implied in any of Rudolf Steiner’s speeches and writings (dating from the mid -1880s to his death in 1925)” It’s alarming to find this on a school website bearing the name of the seer in question. But the disclaimer doesn’t acknowledge any statements by Steiner, much less examine their racial content. There’s no explanation of why this statement needs to be there.
On the same ECSWE site there’s a link to a document called: ‘Overcoming Racism through Anthroposophy: Rudolf Steiner and Questions of Race’. This is an audacious title. Peter Staudenmaier responds (hyperlinks mine):
“Far from a denunciation of any and all racist statements made by Steiner, it is a defense of Steiner’s racial teachings. It also claims that Steiner opposed antisemitism throughout his life, that he was deeply opposed to any philosophy of racial or ethnic superiority, and so forth. The document is co-authored by Detlef Hardorp and Lorenzo Ravagli, among others, who have very vocally and quite explicitly defended a range of Steiner’s racist arguments. This remains the mainstream position for both the Waldorf movement and the broader anthroposophist movement today.
In my view, a perfunctory ‘denunciation’ of ‘any and all racist statements made by Steiner’ — even if we could find such a denunciation from some anthroposophist body or other — would miss the point. If anthroposophists want to face up the racist components in their ideological legacy, they need to analyze and understand what Steiner taught about race, not pre-emptorily denounce it, and they need to figure out how to revise the overall conceptual structure of anthroposophy, which in its current form is built to a significant extent around racial premises. Simply waving away the problem with a vague gesture of disassociation accomplishes nothing toward that end, indeed it actively hinders the steps that could lead toward that end.”
A 1998 report by Dutch anthroposophists concluded there were no ‘racist teachings’ in Rudolf Steiner’s work. Peter Staudenmaier believes that an attempt by anthroposophists to come to terms with Steiner’s race doctrines, the “Frankfurt Memorandum” 2008, is flawed partly by using that Dutch report as its inspiration.
Significantly, former Waldorf teacher Tom Mellett notes parallels between the Steiner movement’s denunciation of Steiner’s racism and statements made by the Catholic church regarding priestly sex abuse.
Race in the classroom
Anthroposophy impacts on real children. Ray Pereira noticed the racist overtones in his child’s ‘Steiner stream’ in an Australian school:
“Mr Pereira, who is from Sri Lanka, said his concerns about Steiner’s racist beliefs were realised when his children were not allowed to use black or brown crayons because they were “not pure”. He said Steiner teachers at the state-run school recommended they not immunise their children because it would lead to the `‘bestialisation of humans”.”
Two years ago, at an established English Steiner school now applying for Free Schools funding; a British couple were alarmed when their 12 year old daughter (who’d been at the school for a year) told them a German teacher had read out the word ‘nigger’ from a book of poems, a standard text in Steiner schools. The mother reports that the teacher did not agree with the children that this is a racist word, indeed it was her daughter who was punished for refusing to back down. As a foster parent for many years and a mentor for Kids’ Company, the mother concerned is used to dealing with challenging situations but the school’s response to this incident (amongst others) shocked her. The staff seemed not to take the family’s concerns seriously and delayed taking action. Looking online for information on Steiner schools’ policies regarding racism, the mother discovered that in the book ‘How to Know Higher Worlds’, by Rudolf Steiner, (an edition last published 2008, Anthroposophic Press) a book on which one of the school trustees was basing workshops, there is an account of ‘reincarnation through the races’:
“Peoples and races are after all, merely different developmental stages in our evolution toward a pure humanity. The more perfectly that individual members of that race or people express the pure, ideal human type – the more they have worked their way through from the physical and mortal to the super sensible and immortal realm – the “higher” this race or nation is.”
In a formal meeting with the school, the father, who is black, calmly read aloud a quote from Steiner which stated that: ‘the black man is the child of the races’. There was no response from those present, presumably the trustees convinced themselves it was outside the remit of the discussion. The couple were shown the school’s discrimination document. But they report that when they asked the school’s Education Coordinator if he believed in Steiner’s doctrine of the reincarnation of the soul through racial hierarchies, he reddened with anger and refused to answer.
This critical Steiner mother notes an obvious inconsistency. In reply to a trustee’s defence that individuals chose which bits of Steiner to believe:
“I asked her, how they could do that when Steiner received his knowledge clairvoyantly – if it all came from the spirit world surely it was all true? I also said I didn’t believe that’s where he got his knowledge, unless the spirit world itself is racist.”
The child involved is now at school elsewhere. Her family arranged for a racism awareness day to be conducted at the Steiner school; this is required of every educational setting.
A Steiner Waldorf classroom (from here)
In response to Waldorf supporters’ claims that their teachers are simply not capable of racism and that Steiner schools are both enlightened and benign, Peter Staudenmaier writes:
“Many forms of racist belief are not intentionally sinister, but are instead embedded in high-minded, benevolent, and compassionate orientations toward the world. It is this type of racist thought, whose historical heritage extends through the White Man’s Burden and many forms of paternalistic racial ideology, that may find a welcome home in some Waldorf schools and other anthroposophical contexts, where it can perpetuate its ideas about race under the banner of spiritual growth and wisdom. This kind of racist thinking spreads more readily precisely because it is not tied to consciously sinister intentions. Seeing through this kind of racism – which, furthermore, often has more widespread and more insidious effects on the real lives of real people than the intentionally sinister variety does – means paying attention to the background beliefs that animate a project like Waldorf, whether among its founding generation or today.”
Staudenmaier is a historian, not primarily a critic of Steiner Waldorf education. But a knowledge of the history of the anthroposophical movement is essential if we are to make any sense of the difficulties the schools face today:
“I would be pleased if my research provided an opportunity for Waldorf admirers to ponder this contentious history and take its lessons seriously. What is worrisome about the Waldorf movement’s continued failure to address anthroposophy’s racial legacy is not that Waldorf schools in the twenty-first century will start churning out little Hitler youths; what is worrisome is that Waldorf advocates and sympathizers may unknowingly help prepare the ideological groundwork for another unforeseen shift in the broader cultural terrain, in which notions of racial and ethnic superiority and inferiority could once again take on a spiritual significance that lends itself all too easily to practical implementation in a changed social and political context. For this reason among others, I strongly encourage those involved in Waldorf endeavors to take another look at the history of their movement and the doctrines at its core.”
There is a reprise of these themes in an insightful article by novelist Hari Kunzru.
If those concerned with Steiner Waldorf education read nothing else, they should read Peter Staudenmaier’s article “Anthroposophy and Ecofascism”. It is a compelling account of Anthroposophy’s history; essential reading, too important to ignore.
Like Peter Staudenmaier, I have an interest in progressive forms of education. Steiner Waldorf education, far from being progressive or democratic, is dogmatic, autocratic and anti-intellectual. The persuasive lobby for state funded Steiner schools in my opinion misrepresents Anthroposophy, there are no exceptional applications. It is this lack of honesty that causes most concern. Steiner schools have failed a particular responsibility to their clients, not shared by Church of England or Catholic schools, to explain at the beginning what is for most parents an unfamiliar world-view.
Most seriously, mindful of Steiner’s dogma of karma and the reincarnation of the human soul through the races: If genuine equalities impact assessments were conducted on these schools, in my view it is inconceivable that the implications for children from black and ethnic minorities, and those with learning difficulties, would permit the funding of Steiner education.
German children 1930s. Image from Black News Tribune
Download a pdf file of Anthroposophy’s racial doctrines: explanation and examples by Dr Peter Staudenmaier.
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For those who would like to read more, the last couple of quotes from Peter Staudenmaier are from a postscript on Waldorf education at the end of his article ‘The Art of Avoiding History’:
A tremendously well written and well researched post on an important topic! I just wanted to jump in quickly to say this, but I’ll probably have more to add later. Good work!
A great piece which leaves me feeling chilled; it’s morally reprehensible to allow state funding to go through when it’s so clear there is little understanding of this pedagogy and apparently an alarming insouciance about the consequences of practicing it in the classroom. Government representatives know there are racist elements and yet are apparently ready to ignore them, let teachers who are solely trained in this pedagogy loose on our children, it is quite frankly, beyond belief.
A fascinating look at the history and wider context of some of the more insidious aspects of Anthroposophy.
As to their practical application in the modern day Steiner classroom, the implication that some (or all?) Steiner schools may be in breach of the Equality Act 2010 is a serious one. I am not a lawyer, but feel that this is going to need to be addressed before any Free School applications are granted.
[…] has written an immensely important guest post on DC’s Improbable Science. This time, it’s about the issues related to the racial […]
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John Sutton, Val Rogers and Thetis, Thetis. Thetis said: RT @HGJohn: More revealing stuff on Steiner schools: http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3853and this lot are looking to set up state funded fre … […]
The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF) works to support and promote Steiner education in the UK. Both the SWSF and its member schools are unequivocal in their condemnation of racism and in their commitment to the universal principles embodied in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and protected by the Equality Act October 2010.
The SWSF refutes categorically any statement, suggestion, implication or inference that any of its member schools would tolerate racism in any shape or form or that Steiner education is racist.
The SWSF supports and endorses the statement on racism that can be read on the web-site of the European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education: http://www.steinerwaldorfeurope.org/index.php
The SWSF welcomes the opportunity for innovation, diversity and accessibility provided by the new Free School’s legislation and supports those member schools who are applying for Free School status.
The opportunity for children from all cultural, ethnic and religious backgounds to benefit from Steiner education as a consequence of Free School status is to be applauded.
Our web site is the first stop for anyone who wants a balanced view of Steiner education. It provides extensive information on the education, its background, the curriculum, books and DVD’s, in addition to current news and press articles and a comprehensive range of links to relevant and related organisations. http://steinerwaldorf.org.uk
Thanks once again to Thetis for a devastating expose of Steiner education. It is simply incredible to read this and then reflect on the way Steiner schools are percieved and represent themselves as a benign alternative to mainstream education.
The comparison with the way the catholic church has covered up for child sex abuse is chilling- this is still a very live issue in Ireland and will be for a generation.
In discussions with Steiner apologists, who are probably not racist themselves, the defense frequently given is “it’s not as bad as state schools or church schools”- an extraordinary avoidance of the issue and abnegation of responsibility. Hopefully these posts will help bring the discussion into the open and make it harder for people to avoid the truth about these schools.
Many thanks for the kind offer of information providing a balanced view of Steiner education.
Is there an organisation I can approach if I seek information which is not balanced but which is, in fact, biased in favour of Steiner education? Please let me know if you have any recommendations.
Why then do you recommend and Steiner Press keep churning out books with the same racist bollocks in ? How to Know Higher Worlds was printed in 2008., books with the reincarnation through races theory are being read by teachers while training. You can’t have it both ways,you either put out statements on every school website and in every parents handbook saying every teacher and the SWSF does not believe in reincarnation through the races take out all those parts and never print them again in any Steiner book or you carry on as you are reprinting and training people in this rubbish and take the flack that will come your way.
Believe me if you printed information on the school website you would have no non-white families in your schools.
Unfortunately knowing that the theory is a central part of Anthroposophy means that you wouldn”t have Anthroposophy without it and even if a statement was out there saying schools did not follow this belief would anyone believe them ? I wouldn’t.
The problem is Anthroposophists don’t believe the theory is racist they just think thats a path we all go through and really don’t see how offensive it is.
I’m still livid that we were tricked into signing up to a school that has teachers that would look at my childs skin colour as an issue,that sees myself and my husband as at totally different levels…
thanks to all for comments.
I see that whoever is posting on behalf of the SWSF recklessly reaffirms the Steiner Movement’s position towards Steiner’s race theories exactly as explained in this post, without any hint of shame or understanding. This does not suggest a positive future for those who may be obliged to support Steiner Waldorf schools within their learning communities. But it’s not clear if this is a formal statement, or if any individual within the movement is genuinely in a position to speak for anyone else. This is in the nature of an esoteric society with an inner circle etc.
The SWSF are realistically in no position to judge what happens in individual Steiner schools. And who will train the teachers – if they’re trained at all? Who will monitor the courses, check the reading lists, attend the private meetings? Sit in on Thursday evenings when the children are discussed?
maimuna is absolutely right: ‘Anthroposophists don’t believe the theory is racist’. This will be a problem for any government choosing to fund any individual Steiner school. No PR will be good enough to hide it. Peter Staudenmaier comments on the Waldorf Critics list, where there’s an ongoing discussion of Steiner Waldorf:
“That is indeed the heart of the matter. Much of the Waldorf leadership and the anthroposophical leadership are severely uninformed about what racism is, about its history, about its current forms, about how it functions, and consequently they don’t realize that significant constituent elements in anthroposophical thought are racist. They thus continue to defend these elements, all the while believing that they have somehow unequivocally condemned racism in all of its manifestations. It is a remarkable instance of self-delusion.
This remains the mainstream position for both the Waldorf movement and the broader anthroposophist movement today. The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship is in effect declaring publicly that they find nothing objectionable in Steiner’s race doctrines and that they have no intention of reviewing, revising, or rejecting these doctrines. I look forward to the day this position changes.”
Snort @James Cranch.
SWSF- have you actually read and taken on board the main points of this article? or do you intend to reiterate the same old platitudes?
To be frank with you, I don’t believe anyone who has read Steiner, taken on board his world view, his “truths’ and “laws”, the reading list and curriculum content of the teacher training courses, the history of the movement and the lack of, let’s say, “disclosure” about anthroposophy would believe a word you spun about these things….let’s also remember there is a history of tales of dishonesty and hounding of those disenchanted with the movement.
Rene Querido, highly respected, much quoted and revered Steiner teacher (at Michael Hall school, Sussex and others worldwide) author of numerous books about Steiner education mentions race and ethnic background here
“In learning to understand a child, it is important to consider–in addition to hereditary factors, which include race, ethnic background, and the biological strands supplied by father and mother–what the
soul has brought with it out of supersensible realms. If we deepen this line of thought, we shall take into account not only the prenatal
“gesture” but also the spiritual origins as they manifested themselves in previous incarnations. In other words, just as we have applied certain questions regarding our own spiritual origins, we should without jumping to quick conclusions also consider to which spiritual streams our students belonged.”
The Esoteric Background of Waldorf Education: The Cosmic Christ Impulse. RSteiner Press 1995
How would this work do you suppose in a UK Steiner school? How would “race and ethnic background” help “understand” a child? Let alone children’s previous incarnations from the supersensible world. How many parents who read your site, have children at your schools, have an inkling of this hokum being used on their children?
It may well be uncomfortable, but it is time to stop the veil of self deception which seems to float around anthroposophist’s public personas. If it isn’t self deception it is apparently either misunderstanding, stupidity or dishonesty…
Reading Querido’s introduction, one understands anthroposophic “impulses” such as education are concerned with enabling evolution to continue in a “healthy” way; anthroposophical understanding of evolution is a spiritual ascension of the soul through races; even if some races are decadent, there is the opportunity to reincarnate in a “higher” race; many anthroposophists apparently don’t see this as racist. Let’s hope someone puts them in the picture, and soon.
Rudolf Steiner’s books are racist
confirms „BPjM“, Germany’s Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons.
The “Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien” (BPjM) (”Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons”) examined 2 books by Rudolf Steiner for “racist content” and decided that the content of the books IS racist.
To understand the BPjM´s importance and function here’s its self-portrayal:
“General information about the BPjM (Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons)
We are an official administrative authority of the German government called “Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien” (BPjM) (”Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons”). Our task is to protect children and adolescents in Germany from any media that might contain harmful or dangerous contents. This work is authorized by the “Youth Protection Law” (Jugendschutzgesetz – JuSchG).
Media monitored by us are, among others: videos, DVDs, computer games, audio records and CDs, print media and internet sites.
Objects are considered harmful or dangerous to minors if they tend to endanger their process of developing a socially responsible and self-reliant personality. In general, this applies to objects that contain indecent, extremely violent, crime-inducing, anti-Semitic or otherwise racist material. (…)” see the BPjM-homepage for the rest.
The 2 books examined by the BPjM are:
– „Geisteswissenschaftliche Menschenkunde“
English title: „Spiritual-Scientific Knowledge of the Human Being“
– „Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen im Zusammenhang mit der germanisch-nordischen Mythologie“
English title: „The Mission of Individual Volk-Souls in Connection with Germanic-Nordic Mythology“
The 2 decisions differ from one another only with regard to which particular statements by Rudolf Steiner the BPjM considered to be racist. As stated in the respective decisions on i) „Geisteswissenschaftliche Menschenkunde“ and ii) „Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen“, decisions page 6:
„Der Inhalt des Buches ist nach Ansicht des 12er-Gremiums in Teilen als zum Rassenhass anreizend bzw. als Rassen diskriminierend anzusehen.”
„The content of the book [by Rudolf Steiner] is, in the opinion of the board of 12 representatives, considered in part as an incitement to racial hatred, respectively as discriminating on grounds of race.“
This is followed by a definition. I only translate the most important part:
„Ein Medium reizt mithin zum Rassenhass an, d.h. stellt Rassenhass als nachahmenswert dar, wenn darin Menschen wegen ihrer Zugehörigkeit zu einer anderen Rasse, Nation, Glaubensgemeinschaft o.ä. als minderwertig und verächtlich dargestellt oder diskriminiert werden (Ukrow, Jugendschutzrecht, Rn. 284).”
“A medium incites racial hatred, that is, depicts racial hatred as worthy of imitation, if human beings are represented as being inferior or contemptible or are discriminated against, due to their affiliation to another race, nation, religious community or the like.”
This definition is followed by those of Rudolf Steiner’s statements that were considered by the BPjM as racist. I translate only statements concerning BLACK PEOPLE directly.
from “Geisteswissenschaftliche Menschenkunde”
„Die Menschen, welche ihr Ich-Gefühl zu gering ausgebildet hatten, wanderten nach dem Osten, und die übriggebliebenen Reste von diesen Menschen sind die nachherige Negerbevölkerung Afrikas geworden.”
“The people who had underdeveloped their sense of »I« [that is: the »ego«], migrated to the east, and the surviving remnants of these people later became the negro population of Africa.”
„Diejenigen Menschen aber, die ihre Ich-Wesenheit zu schwach entwickelt hatten, die den Sonneneinwirkungen zu sehr ausgesetzt waren, sie waren wie Pflanzen: sie setzten unter ihrer Haut zuviel kohlenstoffartige Bestandteile ab und wurden schwarz. Daher sind die Neger schwarz.”
“But the people, who underdeveloped their »I«-being [that is: their »ego«], who were exposed too much to the effects of the sun, they were like plants: they deposited under their skin too many carbon-like elements and became black. This is why the negro is black.”
„…, von der ganz passiven Negerseele angefangen, die völlig der Umgebung, der äußeren Physis hingegeben ist, …”
“…, beginning with the completely passive soul of the negro, which is in complete abandon to [that is: devoted to] the environment, to the exterior physique, …”
„Aber das sind die, welche so ihr Ich verleugnet haben, dass sie schwarz davon wurden, weil die äußeren Kräfte, die von der Sonne auf die Erde kommen, sie eben schwarz machten.”
“But they are the ones, who so denied their »I« that it turned them black, because the exterior forces that come from the sun to the earth simply turned them black.”
from „Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen”
„Der afrikanische Punkt entspricht denjenigen Kräften der Erde, welche den Menschen die ersten Kindheitsmerkmale aufdrücken, …”
„The African Point corresponds to those forces of the Earth, which imprint on people the first features of childhood…”
These are examples of racist statements made in only 2 of Steiner’s books. Be aware of the fact that Steiner wrote 354 books. To what do they add up? To an esoteric evolutionary theory, in which there is no place for people who aren’t white. Coloured people will become extinct – Steiner’s program in short:
„Die weiße Rasse ist die zukünftige, ist die am Geiste schaffende Rasse”
“The white race is the race of the future, the race that works creatively on the spirit.”
The Steiner school I looked at as a prospective parent has its policies on equal opportunities and special educational needs, that you’d expect to see for any school, on its website. Everything reads as it should, presumably to satisfy the requirements of OFSTED/SIS inspection.
The SWSF has stated its position on the matter of race.
This would be enough to satisfy most parents and indeed politicians. Those that come across articles such as this and go on to read what Steiner actually wrote will have questions and doubts raised that a PR campaign alone will likely not satisfy.
May I ask the person apparently posting on behalf of the SWSF if it took up the free PR training offered by the NSN at their meeting last year? And if so, what did that training consist of? I asked the NSN the same questions but have had no reply.
As Thetis points out, it’s not just about race. Steiner’s teachings on karma and its link with illness and learning disabilities and the classification of children’s personality types based on other aspects of their physical appearance, are equally problematic. How far is the SWSF willing to go in renouncing these ideas?
The horror stories based on the application of these ideas in the classroom are easy to dismiss. I’d be the first to say that you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet. However, their sheer number and consistency was enough to make me want to investigate further. I urge any other prospective Steiner parent to do the same.
Here are ALL of Rudolf Steiner’s statements of his book „Geisteswissenschaftliche Menschenkunde“ that were considered by the BPjM as racist:
[Ed. This long comment, entirely in German, has been converted to a file which you can download]
I was alarmed to find this while doing research for my teacher training course at a Waldorf school (It is racist): “There is yet another extremely important consideration. Civilized people use their sense of smell for foods and other external things, but it doesn’t inform them of much else. In contrast, primitive tribes in Africa can smell out their enemies at far range, just as a dog can detect a scent. They are warned of their foes by smell. Thus, the intelligence that is found in such great measure in the dog is also found to a certain degree among primitive people. The member of a primitive tribe in Africa can tell long before he has seen his adversary that he is approaching; he distinguishes him from other people with his nose. Imagine how delicate one’s sense of discernment in the nose must be if one can know that an enemy is nearby by means of it. Also, Africans know how to utter a certain warning sound that Europeans cannot make at all. It is a clicking sound, somewhat like the cracking of a whip.
It can be said that the more civilized a man becomes, the more diminished is the importance of his sense of smell. We can use this sense as an indicator of whether we are dealing with a less ‘civilized’ species like the canine family — and they are an uncivilized species—or one more civilized.” p. 84 From Comets to Cocaine: Answers to Questions By Rudolf Steiner, Rudolf Steiner Press 2000 London
Sir Jeremy Smith, I presume?
. . . . Sir Jeremy Smith, I presume?
. .. . . . . . Sir Jeremy Smith, I presume?
Are you there, sir? Must I then make like HM Stanley in 1873 and search throughout the Internet jungle to find you, sir?
Sir Jeremy Smith, may we then assume that you are still the Communications Director for the SWSF? At least you were at the time we last heard from you on any Waldorf critical blog, which was on February 9, 2009, almost two full years ago.
Do you recall your comment on this blog
Origin of the Specious: Race, lies and stereotypes in Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy
Now quoting Jeremy Smith from the beginning of his comment of Feb. 7, 2009
”A colleague has drawn my attention to this blog and the recent exchanges on Rudolf Steiner and Steiner schools. I’m the communications officer for the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF), the membership organization for Steiner schools in the UK and Ireland.
It’s good to see some familiar Waldorf Critics people posting their usual stories here, though as is their normal practice, using a variety of different aliases. I don’t propose to get into a discussion of what Steiner did or didn’t say or the context in which he said it, because this truly would be to enter into a dialogue of the deaf.”
And from the end of his comment:
“Since it is my policy not to feed the trolls or further inflame the condition of those poor unfortunates with marked symptoms of OCD, I will not be making any additional postings on this blog. However, if anyone has a genuine concern about a UK or Irish Steiner school that they have been unable to resolve, please contact me via the SWSF office and I will do my best to help.”
Do you appreciate the irony of the fact that a posting here is signed merely as “SWSF” while in that comment from two years ago, you chided Waldorf critics for not signing their real name?
Also, sir, does the fact that you posted here as “SWSF” indicate a change in your judgments about the mental, psychical and/or spiritual conditions of the Critics who contribute here?
I mean specifically, do you consider all critics here to be still deaf to dialogue? And even more importantly, do you still stand by your bold and sweeping psychiatric diagnosis of these aforementioned critics as suffering from the psychological affliction know as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
Or perhaps we are engaging in some form of “mirror neuron ping-pong?” where you project on us and we project on you?
Los Angeles, California
Hello folks; I’m hoping that this blog will welcome an open, unprejudiced conversation about this issue. It seems to me that it is located firmly within the Kuhnian ‘paradigm war’ between the forces of ‘modernity’, on the one hand, and what I’ve come to call ‘trans-modernity’, on the other. Any paradigm is necessarily and unavoidably founded in unprovable metaphysical assumptions that ’empiricist science’ itself is incapable of legislating between. And any worldview that embraces ‘the invisible’ (e.g. Steiner) or ‘the mysterious’ (e.g. Merleau-Ponty) is liable to be lambasted by those wedded to positivistic science and naive verificationism, not least because it fundamentally rocks the latters’ foundational assumptions about what constitutes ‘reality’; and this in turn generates considerable levels of anxiety, which then manifests in all manner of different ways.
Here is an article I wrote some years ago, refuting the allegation of racism made against Rudolf Steiner, which open-minded readers might like to read and consider. A major issue here has to be the notion of ‘racism’ itself, and what, precisely, it might mean. It’s just not good enough (and is actually singularly unscientific) to accept as an unproblematic given a ‘politically correct’ definition of ‘racism’ that entails all manner of unarticulated presuppositions which themselves surely need to be where the conversation begins. Anyway, here is the article.
Originally published in New View magazine, 31 (Spring), 2004, pp. 51–3
A Refutation of the Allegation of Racism against Rudolf Steiner
By Richard House
It is commonplace in developed Western culture for the slightest whiff of ‘racism’ to be unconditionally condemned – an understandable balance-restoring tendency, perhaps, when viewed in the context of the Western world’s own disreputable history in these matters. However, an equally interesting and quite new cultural phenomenon, at least in Britain, is the increasing challenge being mounted to what some see as an overbearingly stifling ‘political correctness’ on questions of race. I maintain that Rudolf Steiner’s uniquely panoramic contributions on these questions can shed a great deal of light on to these commonly fraught debates – not least because, in Steiner’s view of ‘the universal human being’, we are presented with a quite new way of thinking about these questions that takes us well beyond the uncritical – and singularly non-illuminating – dichotomous thinking that swings simplistically between ‘racist’ and ‘anti-racist’ belief systems. In what follows, the comparatively recent charge of ‘racism’ that was levelled at Rudolf Steiner in the 1990s is used as a vehicle for bringing some much-needed illumination to what is, in mainstream culture, an issue that typically generates far more heat than light.
In the 1990s a series of attacks were made on Rudolf Steiner, coming out of The Netherlands. This became something of a cause celebre in Holland, and as a result, a detailed survey of all Steiner’s literary corpus (over 6,000 lectures in all, with Steiner’s Collected Works amounting to 360 volumes) was undertaken. The resulting Commission examined and evaluated 245 quotations from the 89,000 pages of Steiner’s Collected Works. The study was carried out under a mandate of the Anthroposophical Society in The Netherlands, by a commission chaired by the lawyer Dr Th. A. van Baarda. The Commission’s final report, Anthroposophy and the Question of Race’, comprises some 720 pages, and is the result of nearly four years of work. It examined all passages about the subject of race in Rudolf Steiner’s collected works in their context, and it issued an interim announcement on 4th February 1998 that there was no ground for accusations of racism in the work of Rudolf Steiner.
The following is a direct quotation from the Commission’s final report:
There is no question of a racial doctrine being involved in the work of Rudolf Steiner. Nor does his work contain any statements which have been made with the intention of insulting people or groups on account of race… Suggestions that racism is inherent in anthroposophy… has been shown to be categorically incorrect. Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophical portrayal of man is based on the equality of all individuals and not on an alleged superiority of one race over another one. Nevertheless, the collected work of Rudolf Steiner does contain some statements which according to current criteria are of a discriminatory [nature] or could be found to be discriminatory. (My added emphasis)
As to Steiner (Waldorf) education, the Commission concluded – in agreement with the prior judgement of Dutch Government Education Inspectors (Onderwijsinspectie) – that racism does not exist there.
In its report, the Committee made the point that Steiner appeared to have been subjected to ‘selective indignation’. Clearly, too, the fact that the comments identified are from ‘live’ lectures, noted contemporaneously, rather than from specifically written books as such, is an important consideration. It is certainly arguable that a small number of quotations are, indeed, somewhat problematic, even when taken in context; yet it is crucial to emphasise the great changes in sensibility about these issues that have occurred since 1920 and earlier. The Commission’s report goes on to indicate the ‘racism’ (according to present-day standards) in the work of Darwin, Schweitzer, and Gandhi! (not to mention Carl Jung, Martin Heidegger and many great cultural thinkers)… Moreover, in the evolution of language many words have developed a different meaning in the course of time, and the originally intended content of a statement made by Steiner in the early 1900s (and in a different language to our own) may change if it is repeated verbatim. If a dated choice of words is simply repeated, the result may indeed be – quite unfairly – to cast Steiner in an unfavourable light.
At this point it is useful to consider the words of Steiner himself, who said:
[one of the aims of the] anthroposophical movement…[is to] 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 people and various groups of people…[we]…must get beyond the illnesses of childhood and understand clearly that the concept of race has ceased to have any meaning in our time.
A more clear and unambiguous statement of ‘post-racist’ thinking could hardly be imagined.
Moreover, the Commission regretted that in the debate about racism, Rudolf Steiner’s progressive views about society are always conveniently left out of the discussion. In short, in regard to races, Steiner was of the opinion that racial differences are no longer of our time. In his participation in the debates after the First World War about the structure of society, Steiner argued not only for cultural diversity but also for the equality of all peoples and races as a universal principle. Moreover, he did this at a time when equality before the law was not at all self-evident, not even amongst white peoples.
Rudolf Steiner’s concept of man, then, is based upon the equality of all individuals, and not on some supposed superiority of one race over another. Anthroposophy is diametrically opposed to ‘social Darwinism’, in which the idea of ‘survival of the fittest’ leads to the domination of the strongest race. In Steiner’s view of society, the central idea is a cosmopolitan striving for one humanity without distinctions as to races and peoples.
By its very nature, Anthroposophy cannot possibly be racist, for it simply does not encompass any theory of mutation and selection with regard to human races. The question of which race is ‘stronger’ or ‘superior’ is therefore irrelevant. There is clearly no inherent relationship between Anthroposophy and any ideologies based on racism, fascism or anti-Semitism. Steiner, for example, emphatically condemned the annihilation of the Indians by the white man; and in 1935 the Anthroposophical Society in Germany was banned by the Nazis.
I would like to ask you all carefully to consider the following: Just how many of us would be prepared to have virtually every public word we utter today written down and published (amounting to 360 volumes in all!) – and without having the opportunity to edit most of the resulting texts; and then, 80-100 years later, for every single word that we have uttered now to be judged and assessed according to the ethical standards and mores prevailing in the year 2100!… I would guess that not one of us would be prepared to see this as in any way fair or appropriate; yet this is in effect precisely what Rudolf Steiner is being subjected to in these absurd attacks. There’s surely not a human being who has ever lived who, if every word they had ever uttered were subjected to a searching gaze similar to that to which Steiner’s have been subjected, wouldn’t come out looking dubious, if a few statements were selectively and manipulatively highlighted, and divorced from the original living context in which they were made…. And this is of course precisely what has been done to Steiner’s words in the making of these pernicious accusations.
Racism is also a very tricky subject, especially in an age where political correctness has arguably run out of control. At certain times in history and in certain cultures, racist views have actually been the taken-for-granted cultural norm – and, often as not, in very ‘respectable’ sections of society. Some of the greatest minds and individuals of the past century or so have been similarly accused of racism – notably, Carl Jung, Martin Heidegger (arguably the world’s greatest 20th century philosopher); and perhaps in a few cases there may have been some limited truth to the accusations. But I don’t think it has ever been seriously suggested by even the strongest critics that it is valid to reject a body of thought generated by or from one person’s cultural contribution merely because they have had one or two views which subsequent (presumably more enlightened) societies have regarded as morally questionable. I believe, in short, that it is important to bring some ‘historically relative’ meta-understanding to the views held by people in earlier times, countries and cultures, and to understand, and even have some compassion for, the specific historical contexts in which they arose.
I hope this clarifies the circumstances surrounding this question, and the highly misleading and grossly unfair accusations that have been levelled against Rudolf Steiner. It remains for those who persist in clinging to these baseless allegations to examine their own motivations for so doing, and for others to judge the possible motivations driving any such persistence. Above all, I urge anyone harbouring the slightest doubts to actually visit a Steiner school or Kindergarten and to judge for themselves, rather than basing their view on prejudicial second-hand hear-say: for ultimately it is a direct experience of our learning environments that is the best antidote to the absurd claims that our education – or the ideas that underpin it – are ‘racist’ or discriminatory.
Summary of the final report from the Commission
“Rudolf Steiner recognized as opponent of anti-Semitism and nationalism, Zeist/Driebergen, Netherlands, April 1, 2000: On Saturday, April 1, 2000, the Commission on Anthroposophy and the Question of Race made its final report to the Council of the Anthroposophical Society in The Netherlands. In this final report the Commission reiterates its prior conclusion of the interim report of February, 1998 – namely, that the work of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) contains neither racial doctrine nor statements made for the purpose of insulting persons or groups of people because of their race, and which could therefore be called racist. In the opinion of the Commission, the collected works of Rudolf Steiner do contain a number of statements that, by today’s standards, are of a discriminatory nature or could be experienced as discriminatory. Certain words or phrases, even if Steiner used them in a descriptive way, are emotionally charged today, and may, by current standards, be experienced as discriminatory.
The Commission found that the debate in The Netherlands about the question whether Anthroposophy embodies racism and racial discrimination has been conducted on the basis of grossly incomplete information; and that this incompleteness has led to a distorted picture. It found that any suggestion that racism is an inherent part of Anthroposophy was proven to be categorically wrong. The investigation shows that, beginning in the year 1900, Steiner clearly spoke and wrote against the dangers of anti-Semitism, including in the periodical of a then existing German association against anti-Semitism existing at that time.”
It should be noted that the Commission did criticise the way in which the anthroposophical movement has dealt with allegations of racism. The Council of the Anthroposophical Society in the Netherlands had no coordinated strategy to defend itself against such allegations made, which then probably had a ‘greater harmful effect’ than would have been the case had there been an energetic defence against them.
Richard House, Ph.D. is Senior Lecturer in Psychotherapy and Counselling, Department of Psychology, Roehampton University. A counsellor since 1990 and a trained Steiner Kindergarten and class teacher, his books include Therapy Beyond Modernity (Karnac, 2003), Implausible Professions (co-editor Nick Totton, PCCS Books, 1997/2011), Against and For CBT (co-editor Del Loewenthal, PCCS, 2008) and Childhood, Well-being and a Therapeutic Ethos (co-editor Del Loewenthal, Karnac, 2009). Richard is a co-founder of The Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the Open EYE early-years campaign. With author Sue Palmer, he co-orchestrated the two press Open Letters on ‘toxic childhood’ and ‘play’ in 2006 and 2007, precipitating a global media debate about the state of childhood in modern technological culture.
Last updated Jan 2004
For some comments on the unfounded insinuations by ThetisMercurio that Waldorf education and schools are racist and promote racism, beyond thoughtless individual teachers at times, see http://twitter.com/MycroftII/status/15908551260119041
@ SWSF – Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship
I would like to propose to the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF) to contact the “Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien” (BPjM) (”Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons”) to discuss the topic “racist Rudolf Steiner” with a German federal authority.
See for the decision of the BPjM on Rudolf Steiners racism:
I advise you that the BPjM is not going to consider any Anthroposophical propaganda as it was uttered in comments by Anthroposophy defenders “Richard House” and “Thebee”.
A brilliant and important piece of research.
A new document titled ‘Steiner Free Schools FAQ’ is worth attention. It is dated 09/11/2010 and written by newly appointed advisor of the SWSF Emma Craigie (née Rees-Mogg) in liaison with the Department of Education:
Steiner Free Schools: Frequently Asked Questions
Please note that we are in a period of policy development, the answers below represent our best understanding at this point.
1.What is a Free School?
An independent state funded school.
2. What is the difference between a Free School and an Academy?
Once established a Free School is an Academy. The term Free School refers to how the school is set up.
3. Will all teachers in Free Schools require QTS?
No. All teachers will need to be graduates with Steiner training. We hope to
develop a Steiner route to QTS for new teachers in the future. Instructors who are
not graduates can also be employed. Schools decide their own pay scales.
a.Which subjects are to be tested?
i.English and Maths at 11.
ii.There will also be a requirement for 16 year olds to take 5 GCSEs.
b.Will tests be based on the national curriculum or the Steiner curriculum?
i.Exact nature of the 11 year old assessment not yet known.
c. What about the six year old reading test?
We understand that Steiner schools will be able to be exempted from this.
2.Curriculum – will we able to deliver the Steiner Curriculum?
3. Principal/Head of School
a.Is this still a requirement?
b. What role must this person play?
They are legally accountable to the Board
c. Is there some flexibility to enable us to continue to operate along collegiate
Yes. There is a requirement that the school has strong and effective leadership, but how that is delivered is up to individual schools.
4.Staffing Structure – collegiate working – can we stick with this?
a.Where does the money come from?
b.Capital and Income. How much funding is on offer towards the costs of the
free school? Is the funding determined on a per pupil basis e.g. £6k per
Per pupil funding will be on the same basis as other state schools in the area. As Academies Free Schools will receive approximately 10% on top of the per pupil funding, which is money that the local authority retains for the schools which it runs. Funding for rent will be on top of this.
c.How long does the contract last? When can they change the funding/educational/pedagogical requirements?
We expect contracts to be for 7 years.
d.Would there be capital funding for building upgrades?
Free Schools can bid for capital funding. Cost effective projects are most likely to be successful.
6.Can future governments change this policy?
Future governments can indeed change policies. They cannot break contracts.
Currently the policy which allows groups of private individuals to start Free Schools
is not supported by the Labour Party. However the continued existence of
Academies has cross party support.
Who approves the application to become a free school?
The Secretary of State for Education.
8.How much influence does the Local Authority have re approval?
The LEA will be consulted on their view but have no veto. Obtaining their support is nonetheless desirable.
9.Admissions – what control will schools have over their admissions?
Oversubscribed schools will need to abide by the Schools Admissions Code. This gives
priority to children with a Statement of Special Needs, followed by Looked After
children. Schools can then decide and usually give priority to siblings followed by
proximity to school. At Hereford it has been agreed that being on the school register
can have a higher priority than proximity, which means that the places of
kindergarten children who are already at the school are not threatened by children
age rising 5 (which is the age at which the admissions code starts) moving closer to
the school. Teachers children can have places even when the school is full.
10.How will the Ofsted (SIS) inspection change?
We understand that there is a recognition on the part of the government that the
inspection regime will need to be adapted to take account of the diversity of
curriculum which the new policy allows.
11.If we become a free school, what happens to the existing building/assets? Can the
charity still own them and rent them out to the free school?
12.How can we become a Free School?
The application form can be downloaded from the Department of Education website.
Guidance on how to complete your application is available from the New Schools
For more information please see
Emma Craigie 09.11.2010
Why are the Rees-Mogg’s so keen that Gove gives Steiner schools tax payers money?
I refer readers back to our post 2 on this blog: http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3595
“In the New Schools Network document cited in our previous post, Free School hopefuls are advised how to advertise their projects: “Post something on mumsnet, netmums, or facebook.” If the NSN had done their homework, they would know that mumsnet Steiner threads have been so controversial (and incomprehensible to those not involved) that in 2008 parents were asked by mumsnet’s co-founder Justine Roberts not to post about Steiner education at all. Indeed the forum was threatened with legal action by Sune Nordwall, (also known as Thebee, Tizian, Excalibur, Mycroft etc) a Swedish anthroposophist; since discovered to be in the employment of the Swedish Waldorf School Federation. Blogger Alicia Hamberg aka zooey quotes (in translation):
“In England, the attacks on [waldorf] pedagogy have led to parents withdrawing their children from the waldorf schools. The [Swedish Waldorf School] Federation has employed Sune on a part-time basis to monitor the debate.”
We do not suggest on this blog that the Swedish Waldorf School Federation are responsible for or complicit in Nordwall’s activities on mumsnet or elsewhere, although as Alicia Hamberg points out, they have not sought to distance themselves from his behaviour. What is notable though is that representatives of Waldorf education in Sweden were concerned to monitor a UK debate held not in the press but in the relative obscurity of the supposedly safe, supportive world of mothers‘ chatrooms. The Steiner Waldorf movement understands the importance of a positive profile on the UK’s most influential meeting place for parents; the very people who form their customer base. But their tactics are counterintuitive. In anthro-speak everywhere, critics, the majority of whom are parents who have had children in Steiner schools, become attackers.”
Thebee: would you like to explain why you threatened mumsnet with libel if they did not delete mother’s posts which were negative about Steiner Waldorf education?
Just as an aside, since a lot of info relating to Steiner is likely to be in German:
If you dial up a webpage that is in in German using Google’s Chrome browser, it will auto-translate the HTML into English. The translation is not usually brilliant, but for anyone who knows German a bit it is usually a good starting basis for a proper translation.
Good that you can join this open forum – though both anthroposophists and those questioning their beliefs come with strong views – so the discussion could not be called unprejudiced.
I’m not sure why you are bringing Kuhn’s paradigm wars to this debate – I would suggest that the article here is nuanced and describes the complexity of the issues rather than being reductionist or simplistic as you infer.
However, I do agree with you that world views (magical or esoteric) proclaiming invisible forces are often lambasted. I would say rightly so. Anthroposophy may be fluid in parts, secret at times and often contradictory, but what strikes me is how deterministic the causal threads running though it are (eg that one’s place on the spiritual racial hierarchy is defined by experiences in previous lives). Not very post-modern but more akin to science at its worst (when scientists, or more commonly policy makers, misuse evidence and won’t incorporate emerging alternative analyses).
Science and the social sciences have to a great extent moved on from the paradigm wars. In education in particular mixed methods are seen to provide a fuller picture of reality with constructivist narratives and perceptions having a place alongside randomised trials in making a real difference to children’s educational experiences. Rather than being post-modern Anthroposophy just sets itself away from any empirical analysis by claiming some special status as a ‘spiritual science’ – deterministic but not at all scientific.
As for a response to your article, the main post here deals with much of it. I will make three points:
1. We clearly have different views about whether Steiner’s overarching view is racist. Yes he proclaims a belief in all humanity, but unfortunately he clearly and repeatedly discusses a racial hierarchy. Just because Steiner suggests that it’s the same soul passing though different races does not excuse it in any way. It results in people from different races being viewed differently and potentially treated differently. This means its both racist and discriminatory in my view.
2. Anthroposophists who are also teachers can’t help but treat children from different races (hair and skin colour etc) differently. They think they are helping to guide the soul through to the next life. While their thoughts and actions may be ‘invisible’ to anyone looking around a school, they come to the surface in the direct experiences of children as described by Thetis.
3. The current disclaimers are inadequate. Until all Anthroposophical organisations state categorically that Steiner was wrong in his beliefs about this hierarchy (whilst also admitting he had no clairvoyant powers, since nobody does) most people who look at this issue will continue to see that Anthroposophy is inherently racist.
Peter Staudenmaier has recently posted on the Waldorf Critics Yahoo Group, the 16 Steiner quotes singled out in the Dutch
anthroposophist report, “Anthroposophy and the Question of Race,” as prosecutable under Dutch discrimination law.
I have had ongoing issues with Highland Hall Waldorf school in Northridge, California. They taught my child that white people are \more evolved\ than blacks and Asians. When I questioned this with teachers at the school, they defended the idea – one claiming it was \out of Africa\ theory. The class was Physiology.
Highland Hall teaches Steiner’s racist ideas as part of their curriculum. I have talked extensively with them about this to no avail. Additionally, Highland Hall is the host for WISC – the Waldorf teacher training institute. Waldorf teacher training materials included required reading of Steiner’s most racist ideas. Why?
Please see my blog regarding racism being taught covertly at Highland Hall Waldorf school.
Thanks Tom – and that Dutch report constitutes an avoidance of responsibility within Anthroposophy for Steiner’s race doctrines, as linked to within the article & here:
Dr House – to help readers follow the debate, I feel I should point out that you are mentioned in our first post here: http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3528
With respect, I do feel you need to go back and read this post again, since I can’t believe you could have read it properly and still have chosen to post your article here. You are simply reiterating in your own words everything I have just written about apologists for Steiner, whether or not you would refer to yourself as an anthroposophist.
I’m concerned, in the circumstances, that you appear to be involved with the training of Steiner Waldorf teachers:
especially since in your introduction to these courses you do not explain the central role of karma and reincarnation within Anthroposophy. It would surely be better from the outset if students understood the world-view informing the education system they’re entering.
Your (in my view) incomprehension about the nature of racism frankly shocks me. That you should choose to come here and air it publicly is in my opinion further cause for alarm about the movement you’re endorsing.
Thank you for posting your article from 2004. I thought it was so well thought out and well-written that I decided to repost it on the Waldorf Critics Yahoo Group where it will receive a much more comprehensive deconstruction than will be accomplished here, especially by the outside historian of anthroposophy, Peter Staudenmaier, to whom Thetis makes many links in her above article. (Though I see now that R. House has just made an excellent commentary on your article.)
As an American Anthroposophist for the last 34 years, a retired Waldorf teacher (math, physics in HS) and with a fluency in German, I have more than the average knowledge of these issues we are discussing. I say this not to brag, but to obviate the need for you to “re-invent the wheel” for me in whatever we discuss.
For a first foray into our discussion, Richard, may I comment upon the grandiose irony of you preaching against the way critics deliberately take Steiner’s words out of context, and then watching you proceed to do just that with a Steiner quote! (I would make a snarky “pot-kettle” remark here, but that itself might be construed as racist! ;-))
Instead, I shall take a tidbit out of your article above and suggest that you season it with cardamom and nutmeg as you may be forced to eat such words:
RICHARD: “ . . . if a few statements were selectively and manipulatively highlighted, and divorced from the original living context in which they were made…. And this is of course precisely what has been done to Steiner’s words in the making of these pernicious accusations.”
TOM: Now I again quote you, Richard, as you selectively and manipulatively quote Steiner:
RICHARD: “At this point it is useful to consider the words of Steiner himself, who said:
[one of the aims of the] anthroposophical movement…[is to] 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 people and various groups of people…[we]…must get beyond the illnesses of childhood and understand clearly that the concept of race has ceased to have any meaning in our time.
The above quote is taken from a lecture that Rudolf Steiner gave on Dec. 4, 1909 in Munich.
The 12-lecture cycle is called: “The Universal Human” (GA #117)
Lecture 1 is entitled: “Individuality and the Group-Soul”
The entire lecture can be read here at the magnificent Rudolf Steiner Online Archive
Now, Richard, I shall fill in the two major ellipses that you have in the selectively and manipulatively truncated quote above. (The words of your quote I put in all caps.)
RUDOLF STEINER: “Therefore, in its fundamental nature,
THE ANTHROPOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT,
which is to prepare the sixth period,
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 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.
That is why it is absolutely essential to understand that our anthroposophical movement is a spiritual one. It looks to the spirit and overcomes the effects of physical differences through the force of being a spiritual movement. Of course, any movement has its childhood illnesses, so to speak. Consequently, in the beginning of the theosophical movement, the earth was divided into 7 periods of time, one for each of the 7 Root Races, and each of these Root Races was divided into 7 Sub-Races. These 7 periods were said to repeat in a cycle so that one could always speak of 7 Races and 7 Sub-Races.
HOWEVER, WE MUST GET BEYOND THE ILLNESSES OF CHILDHOOD AND UNDERSTAND CLEARLY THAT THE CONCEPT OF RACE HAS CEASED TO HAVE ANY MEANING IN OUR TIME.”
Here I list 3 topics of discussion about the above bowdlerized sentences:
 What is the 6th period, and what does it mean to prepare for this 6th period?
 Notice how the OLD viewpoint of race — based on the obvious characteristics of the PHYSICAL body— upgrades into the NEW viewpoint of race will be based upon SPIRITUAL characteristics, whatever they mean. So what do they mean?
 Although Rudolf Steiner speaks of the past earthly evolution cycles of 7 Root Races, each with 7 Sub-Races, etc., as “childhood illnesses,” nonetheless, the context of the entire lecture here is all about how we need to prepare for the FUTURE 6th period, also known as the 6th Sub-Race in Theosophical terminology, more commonly called the “Sixth Epoch” by Anthroposophists today.
And finally, please indulge me for a little Waldorf humor as I recite a kindergarten verse for us adult children in honor of the above Root Races and Sub-Races:
“As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with 7 wives. Each wife had 7 sacks. Each sack had 7 cats. Each cat had 7 kits. Kits, Cats, Sacks, Wives, how many were going to St. Ives?”
Los Angeles, CA
I’m always very wary of someone who speaks of political correctness as having gone mad…
I love the way Anthro fans come on blogs and never answer a single question that anyone asks.
They never have a comeback for stories concerning racism at schools now ( Pete K’s kids were actually taught this racist stuff at school,and so were other families )
They just ignore it and stick out stuff they have prepared a while ago thinking it will somehow convince people that everything is ok really.
They can’t discuss it as they don’t understand that Steiner’s writings are deeply deeply offensive.Once they start discussing their offensive views can’t be hidden.
At the racism awareness course set up by my husband and myself there was a question that asked what ethnicity the teachers were.Some of them ticked every box on the list ( about 20 ) saying they had reincarnated through all the races on the list,guess what colour they were ? White.
Which means they consider themselves to be at the top of the pile,to have reached where they are supposed to be.
Richard do you get that ? Going through the races to culminate racially by being born white…
That is teachers in 2008 saying that. My child went to that school,my child is not white. How are those teachers seeing her ?
Not racist eh ?
How dare you ? You are telling me what happened to my child and other families is not real ? That the racism we see is imagined ?
The defenders of Steiner’s racism act as most abuseres do, deny and belittle the abused persons complaints. It reminds me of the Catholic church and the denial of sexual abusers and the protection of them.
It happens when a religious movement is as they believe helping humanity-nothing can stand in their way.
We are always hearing how people should visit a Steiner school and make up their own mind. We all keep telling you this is the problem.
Richard ,if my husband and I were told on the open day that some of the teachers believed they had reincarnated from Black to white do you think we would have enrolled our child ? If we were told that the wet on wet paintings were not in fact a one off lesson in water colour techniques but an exercise in helping the child’s soul do you think we would have enrolled our child ?
If we saw the ‘Red Indian’ section in the library do you think we would have enrolled her ?
If we had seen the German book saying ‘The boy had so much chocolate on his face he looked like a nigger’ ( that was read out in her class ) do you think we would have enrolled her ?
Richard ,the problem is that Steiner schools lie to prospective parents which is why I have to keep coming and saying the same thing on blogs.
My motive is to tell the truth so that other families will not have to go through what we went through because you and the SWSF and the school prospectus’s will not tell the truth.
If you did tell the truth I wouldn’t have to be here.
To prospective parents I would say ,remember that the BNP say they are not racist too. You won’t find anything out from visiting a Steiner school as after all they don’t even admit to being a there to help the children reincarnate properly.
Research and read Steiner,there is an online library.
Sorry your lovely quote didn’t come out here is what I was answering
‘It remains for those who persist in clinging to these baseless allegations to examine their own motivations for so doing …’
I then said ‘How dare you…’etc
[…] the UK a discussion is going on about Rudolf Steiner’s racism, see: “Steiner Waldorf Schools Part 3. The problem of racism“. Therefore Ruhrbarone publish a short English summary of the BPjM’s decision on Rudolf Steiner. […]
I spread the word, spread your word, see:
“Waldorf Schools: Rudolf Steiner’s books are “an incitement to racial hatred”, says BPjM
In the UK a discussion is going on about Rudolf Steiner’s racism, see: “Steiner Waldorf Schools Part 3. The problem of racism“. Therefore Ruhrbarone publish a short English summary of the BPjM’s decision on Rudolf Steiner. (…)”
“Steiner Waldorf Schools Part 3. The problem of racism“ is linked to your article.
Could you please give a short summary of your article as an – English – comment to “Ruhrbarone” ?
Thank you Andreas!
I sincerely hope you reflect on Maimuna’s comments.
DC’s blog may not be the best place to continue this discussion in depth and at length, but you are invited to choose a forum to do so with historian Peter Staudenmaier, who as you can see from my article has researched and explored the history of Anthroposophy. This response to your comment here was posted on the Waldorf Critics list, where (as I’ve mentioned before) there’s an ongoing discussion of Steiner Waldorf education:
Anyone who’d like to is invited to join in that discussion.
Or of course they should feel free to comment here.
[…] ThetisMercurio’s post, there’s a photograph of Rudolf Steiner together with a little girl; it’s a section of […]
I wouldn’t be holding my breath waiting for a response from Richard or any other defender here. On any critical Internet forums, their behavior is always the classic “hit and run” technique — drop an old dogmatic brick (like Richard’s 6 year old article) down the well and hope it makes a big enough splash to distract everyone, giving them enough time and cover to go back into hiding.
So in the absence of actual dialogue and engagement, I started to imagine what it might have been like for you if the Waldorf school you became part of had been up front about the anthroposophy informing the curriculum and especially about the racial attitudes inherent in anthroposophy.
So, Maura, imagine if there had been a person at the Waldorf school you visited, a person who was a liaison between the school and the anthroposophical society, a person who — as an expert in anthroposophy — would answer all your difficult questions with direct straight answers, who would leave no doubt in your mind where everything stood.
Now such a person does exist, and he lives in the UK, in West Midlands. He is an expert in anthroposophy and he would be refreshingly candid and direct with you. (Of course, no Waldorf school would have anything to do with him, so the real fantasy part of my scenario is his being a liaison. )
The expert is Terry Boardman and his website is here:
However, I came across a dialogue he was having with Dan Dugan ten years ago.
Dan had said that, although Terry did not hate other races, nonetheless he was still to be termed “racist” because he, with his anthroposophical expertise, was patronizing other races. Here is Terry’s candid and telling reply: (now imagine yourself in place of Dan)
“If you’re going to distinguish different kinds of racism, Dan, then you ought to say so, so we know what you’re talking about. Obviously, all kinds of racism are to be rejected. What you have to show if you are to substantiate my expression of “another kind of racism” as you put it is that I am *in fact* patronising *other races*. Don’t you see your own illogicality here Dan? You say I may not hate *other races* but that I patronise *other races*. That obviously implies I patronise them from a basis of emotional attachment to my own race. But I have no such attachment.
You say that I patronise *all races* because I say they are one-sided, and that therefore I express a racist point of view. This is political correctness taken to the point of utter absurdity. I maintain that it is nothing but common sense to say that the individual races are one-sided, just as one can say that an individual nation expresses something one-sided. One does not have to be in a “superior” position vis-a-vis a race in order to characterise it; it is merely necessary to be unattached to it. The superiority trip is in your head, not mine. . . .
I patronise nobody. I regard my own race (white Caucasian) with the same evenhandedness as I regard all other races. I have been a keen student of history since I was 8, so I know and deeply respect the contributions made to humanity by all races *in their different ways*. I resent and utterly reject your fundamentally IGNORANT (I raise my voice) accusations of racism in my case. They are ignorant of me as a person, ignorant of the way I see the world, ignorant of the reality of other races and cultures and ignorant of history.”
I’m sure you would have been shocked to your foundations Maura, but at least you might have been grateful for the candor — something you didn’t and would not receive as a parent asking pesky questions to the Waldorf faculty.
Now suppose you had asked about the 4 temperaments as well as Steiner’s racial categories. Well, Terry might have answered you with a survey of the 20 “racial temperaments.” ( 4 temperaments times 5 races = 20 racial temperaments) He might answer you as he answered Dan in another section of the 2000 archive.
“As for the temperaments, there is also my own observation of life, of course, and I see that – painting with a broad brush for what it’s worth – black African culture has a sanguine mercurial quality, south Asian culture has a phlegmatic venusian quality, north Asian culture has a choleric martial quality, native American culture has a melancholic Saturnine quality, and Indo-European culture has a choleric jovial quality. The fact that within these broad temperamental groupings, one will of course find individuals whose temperament seems different does not in itself contradict the general tenor of each temperament. Individual destiny – the degree to which each person is more, or less, closely identified with his/her racial temperament – also plays in, along with a person’s horoscopical configuration. The human soul life and temperament is a complex picture, but certain basic undertones can be discerned nevertheless.”
I imagine such transparency might have saved you a lot of time, money and heartache. Alas, you were thoroughly obfuscated.
I see that you’re on the go. Much can be said about your article, but I’ll try to be somewhat short.
You rely heavily on Staudenmaier’s writings, and you twice in your article recommend your readers to read his “Anthroposophy and ecofascism” from 2000.
Like most who read it, I was shocked at first. That was probly intended as he had aquired a B.A. in German literature when he wrote it. It was his academic basis at the time for his claim of “historical scholarship”, and he seems to have learnt some tricks of the trade if you want to write effectively when you make up stories.
Then – unlike probably most who read it, and your article here – I started to check up on and compare what he wrote with the sources he referred to.
As you know http://thebee.se/comments/PS/Staudenmaier.html tells what I found and how he responded to it …
http://thebee.se/comments/PS/OnPS2004Paper.html shows some more examples of his writings during his graduate studies, at the end of which he seems to have allowed or himself implemented that his first many untruths from around 2000 be published on the net, again.
The latter shows the superficiality of what he writes in the article I discuss, and his way of not telling anything about what he probably knows that contradicts him. His easily demonstrated untruths at the beginning of his career, using them to argue that “anthroposophists” need to take an honest look at Steiner, using his own repeatedly untruthful writings to do this reveals the hypocricy of his argumentation.
He ikes to play mind games with people.
That he republishes his repeatedly untruthful articles from around 2000 at the end of his graduate studies, one at the beginning of last year, where you try to use his now PhD title as implicit “argument” that his writings from long before and outside of his actual dissertation are the result of “historical scholarship”, shows the Janus nature of his writings, in addition to the hypocricy of his argumentation at the beginning of his career as author on anthroposophy.
Steiner can be very problematic to understand. The main part of the remains of his words are more or less correct and complete transcripts of lectures he held. He really disliked that people repeatedly insisted on taking down what he said at specific times, to specific people in specific contexts and then distribute it to people all around as if it was his final words on what he discussed in his lectures.
What he had to say that he considered to be essential, independently of specific people in an audience, at a specific time and place, he wrote down and published as articles, essays and books. Most of it can be found online on the net today, listed at http://www.rsarchive.org/Books/index.php?ys=1
His basic written work, that describes how he viewed and understood our origin and development as humanity, Outline of Esoteric (or occult) Science, does not with one word mention the theosophical, not anthroposophical terms and concepts “root race” or “sub race” of “root races”.
To understand what the theosophical terms “root race” and “sub races” refer to, in contrast to what was considered to be the main anthropological “races” at the time in his view, you need to do some thinking and analysis of his works.
http://waldorfanswers.org/ThreeConcepts.htm tries to sort this out in a very preliminary was as an introduction to the subject of “race” in Steiner’s work.
If you don’t understand what he referrred to at different times when he used the word “race”, you’re lost, and any discussion on the subject becomes more or less meaningless.
To this belongs among other things understanding that what he referred to as the “Atlantean” period in human evolution very probably has several layers. The main level probably needs to be understood to refer to Cenozoic time. Another level, in other instances, probably refers to a late interglacial or interstadial period.
Also, evolution needs to be understood as best reflected with a log scale.This means that the “middle” Atlantean time, its fourth main period, developed around the transition from Tertiary to Quaternary time, and that is the time that can be understood to be the time when the Elohim of the Torah blew “life spirit” into the human being in the form we existed at the time, making us into humans in the essential sense.
Quaternary time constitutes the second half of “Atlantis”/Atlantean time, characterized by the repeated Ice ages. And when Steiner comments on “lower” and “higher” races at the time, you need to understand something about the human forms, some “higher”, some “lower” that developed during Quaternary time, and with the Neanderthals being one of the “lower” races at the end of the “Atlantean” time
This just as a short introduction to the subject. Very little work has been done on it yet. For different reasons, most of those engaged in anthroposophy and activities based on anthroposophy, like Waldorf education and schools have been humanists. And they have related to human evolution as described from a lofty spiritual perspective by Steiner, mainly as pictures, without relating it to paleontological findings, as they haven’t quite seen how to do it, and developing a resigned attitude to it.
That is not inevitable.
Also you need to see that we are as individuals, as spiritual beings at our core, is becoming ever more loosely related to external appearance.
It makes the discussion you engage in in your article, and your implied insinuations about Steiner Waldorf schools as developing foci of racism below the surface more or less.meaningless.
As you very probably also know, independent empirical research in Germany some years ago showed that pupils at Steiner Waldorf schools are least hostile to foreigners and express least extremist right wing attitudes of all pupils in Germany.
This contradicts your I think superficial, primarily ideologically based scare mongering as rationalist, humanist, satirical… in your article.
This does not mean that I think a rationalist form of humanism is completely unjustified. It has contributed extensively to an understanding of important aspects of what we are and how the world works. But it misses some essential points about what we are as humans, and how the world works.
But Steiner Waldorf schools are not racist and do not produce racist pupils. You bark up the wrong tree on this.
If Waldorf schools aren’t racist, why are Waldorf teacher trainees REQUIRED to read books like “Knowledge of Higher Worlds” which contains the following:
“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 Higher Worlds p. 207)
And of course the foundation of Waldorf teacher training – Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner (now known as “Discussions with Teachers”):
“The use of the French language quite certainly corrupts the soul. The soul acquires nothing more than the possibility of clichés. Those who enthusiastically speak French transfer that to other languages. The French are also ruining what maintains their dead language, namely, their blood. The French are committing the terrible brutality of moving black people to Europe, but it works, in an even worse way, back on France. It has an enormous effect on the blood and the race and contributes considerably toward French decadence. The French as a race are reverting.” (FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, pp. 558-559.)
But maybe you were a good Waldorf child, Mr. Bee… From the same book:
Critical thinking is especially hazardous. Good children “have a respect that
forbids them, even in the deepest recess of their heart, to harbour any thoughts
of criticism or opposition.” [KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT,
This is what Waldorf teachers are TAUGHT in Waldorf teacher training. What else are Waldorf teachers asked to read, Mr. Bee?
How about this… again from Faculty Meetings:
“For the seventh, eighth, and ninth grade independent religious instruction we could move into a freer form and give a theoretical explanation about such things as life before birth and after death. We could give them examples. We could show them how to look at the major cultural connections and about the mission of the human being on Earth. You need only look at Goethe and Jean Paul [i.e., Johann Paul Friedrich Richter, a German author] to see it. You can show everywhere that their capacities come from a life before birth.” (FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 184.)
So Waldorf teachers are told to teach reincarnation… Agreed?
And of course, they should learn their science, right?
“With the students, we should at least try to…make it clear that, for instance, an island like Great Britain swims in the sea and is held fast by the forces of the stars. In actuality, such islands do not sit directly upon a foundation; they swim and are held fast from outside.” (FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 607.)
“It is not that the planets move around the Sun, but these three, Mercury, Venus, and the Earth, follow the Sun, and these three, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, precede it.” (FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER., pp. 30-31.)
And my person favorite, demonic possession:
Dr. Steiner: “That little girl L.. in the first grade must have something very wrong inside. There is not much we can do. Such cases are increasing in which children are born with a human form, but are not really human beings in relation to their highest I [the highest element of one’s spiritual being]; instead, they are filled with beings that do not belong to the human class. Quite a number of people have been born since the [1890s] without an I, that is, they are not reincarnated, but are human forms filled with a sort of natural demon. There are quite a large number of older people going around who are actually not human beings, but only natural; they are human beings only in regard to their form. We cannot, however, create a school for demons.”
A teacher: “How is that possible?”
Dr. Steiner: “Cosmic error is certainly not impossible. The relationships of individuals coming into earthly existence have long been determined. There are also generations in which individuals have no desire to come into earthly existence and be connected with physicality, or immediately leave at the very beginning. In such cases, other beings that are not quite suited step in…. They are also quite different from human beings in regard to everything spiritual. They can, for example, never remember such things as sentences; they have a memory only for words, not for sentences….
“I do not like to talk about such things since we have often been attacked even without them. Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings. Nevertheless, these are facts. Our culture would not be in such a decline if people felt more strongly that a number of people are going around who, because they are completely ruthless, have become something that is not human, but instead are demons in human form.
“Nevertheless, we do not want to shout that to the world. Our opposition is already large enough. Such things are really shocking to people. I caused enough shock when I needed to say that a very famous university professor, after a very short time between death and rebirth, was reincarnated as a black scientist. We do not want to shout such things out into the world.” (Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, Anthroposophical Press, 1998, pp. 649-650.)
But getting back to Steiner’s racist views… rather than your “new” ideas about what Steiner believed, how about if we get it right from Steiner:
“Thus we see that through these abnormal Spirits of Form there are five potential centres of influence where these reflected planetary forces are concentrated and produce in reflect what we know as the five main races of the Earth. Let us now look more closely into the centre which, in Lecture Four, we situated in the interior of Africa. If we state that the Negro race was born of the cooperation between the normal Spirits of Form and the abnormal Spirits of Form centred in Mercury, then from an occult standpoint we are perfectly correct in describing the Negro race as the “Mercury race”. Let us now continue along the line joining the centres or focal points from which the individual races spread outward. We then come to Asia which is the seat of the “Venus race” or the Malayan race. We then move northward across the wide expanse of Asia and we find the Mongolian race which is formed by the Mars forces. Then we cross over into Europe and find the Europeans who in their original racial character are “Jupiter men”. If we cross the ocean to America which is the centre where civilizations or races die, we find there dark “Saturn’s race”, the original Red Indian race. The American Indian race is the “Saturn race”. Thus if you look into the matter more closely from an occult standpoint you will become aware of the five centres where the planetary forces are concentrated and are manifested in the external world. With a progressively more definite and concrete conception of this racial distribution you will develop an inner understanding of the racial characteristics peculiar to the peoples spread over the Earth, an understanding of this unique cooperation of the normal and abnormal Spirits of Form.
“It is valid for the epoch when, at a definite moment of time in the old Atlantean evolution, the peoples began to migrate from a centre in Atlantis and sought the particular centre where they could receive the training appropriate to their race.
“Now how do we look upon a member of the Ethiopian race, of the Mercury race? We see him as one who was originally chosen, who was predestined by the Elohim to express the quintessence of the all-human. But from the Mercury Centre the potent influences of the abnormal Spirits of Form intervened and modified the form of man to such an extent that the Ethiopian race arose. And such was the case with each individual race.
“Now how do these Race Spirits work in and upon man? They work in a very unique way; they permeate his vital energies, they penetrate even down into his physical body. Now you know that the four fundamental members of man find their impress and are reflected in corresponding parts of the physical body: the ‘I’ finds its impress in the blood, the astral body in the nervous system, the etheric or life body in the glandular system. Only the physical body is self-sufficient; it is a reflection of its own inner being which for the man of the present is subject to its own fixed laws. Now those spiritual Beings who are stirring in man and determine his racial character cannot at first work directly into his higher vehicles. They are active first of all in these reflections of the higher vehicles in the physical body. They cannot as yet enter directly into the physical body, but they are active in the three other members, in the blood which is the reflection of the ‘I’; in the nervous system, the reflection of the astral body; and in the glandular system which is the reflection of the etheric body. The Race Spirits, the abnormal Spirits of Form, are active in these three systems, which are part of man’s organic system, but are reflections of the higher vehicles. Thus the physical body of man is determined from within. These various spiritual Beings invade those members of the physical body which are the preliminary drafts, the suggestions of the higher vehicles. Now where, for instance, does Mercury make his influence felt? Under Mercury, I include all the abnormal Spirits of Form to be found in Mercury. He makes his influence felt by cooperating with others, especially in the glandular system. He is active in the glandular (or lymphatic) system where are manifested the forces born of that preponderance of the Mercury forces which are present in the Ethiopian race. Everything which gives the Ethiopian race its distinctive character sterns from the ferment of the Mercury forces in the glandular system of this people. What transforms the undifferentiated universal human form into the distinctive Ethiopian typewith his black pigmentation and woolly or frizzy hair is the consequence of their activity.
“The Semitic people are an example of a modification of collective humanity. Jahve or Jehovah shuts Himself off from the other Elohim and invests this people with a special character by cooperating with the Mars Spirits, in order to bring about a special modification of his people. You will now understand the peculiar character of the Semitic people and its mission. In a profound occult sense the Biblical writer was able to claim that Jahve or Jehovah had made this people his own. If you add to this the fact that Jahve cooperated with the Mars Spirits who worked principally in the blood, you will understand why racial continuity through the blood-stream was of particular importance to the Semitic Hebrew people and why Jahve describes Himself as the God who is present in the blood of the generations, in the blood of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When he declared himself to be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He proclaimed that He was present in the blood-stream of the Patriarchs. Whatsoever works in the blood, whatsoever must be determined through the blood – the cooperation with the Mars Spirits – that is one of the mysteries which give us a deep insight into the wise guidance of all mankind. The blood of mankind is thus subject to a twofold influence; two races emerge, the Mongolian race and the Semitic race. This points to the existence of an important polarity in mankind and we must emphasize the immense importance of this polarity if we wish to plumb the depths of the Folk Souls.
“Consequently the various peoples may assume the most diverse forms. According as the eye or the ear or one of the other senses predominates, so will the different peoples respond in this or that way to the particularnational tendency within the racial character. In consequence of this they are faced with quite specific tasks. The particular task of the Caucasian race is to find the way to the spirit through the senses, for this race is orientated chiefly towards the sense-world. Here is disclosed something that introduces us to the deeper secrets of occultism; it shows how, in those peoples who are subject to the Venus forces, the initial steps in development, even in occult development, must be concentrated on the respiratory system. Amongst the peoples living more in the Western Hemisphere, on the other hand, the initial steps must start from an enrichment and a spiritualization of the life of the senses. This is experienced by those peoples inhabiting countries more towards the West in their stages of higher cognition, in Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition, in so far as the Jupiter Spirit originally modified the character.
“Finally, the abnormal Spirits of Form who have their centre in Saturn work indirectly via all the other systems into the glandular system. In the Saturn race, therefore, in everything to which we must ascribe the Saturn character, we must expect to find the combination of the forces leading to the twilight of mankind, forces which set the seal upon its development and sow the seeds of its ultimate decline. This action and its effect upon the glandular system can be seen in the American Indian race and was the cause of its ultimate extinction. The Saturn influence finally works via all the other systems into the glandular system which secretes the hardest parts of man. This slow decline is characterized by a kind of ossification which is clearly reflected in the external form. If you look at the pictures of the old American Indians the process of ossification described above is evident in the decline of this race. In a race such as this everything pertaining to the forces of theSaturn evolution has become realized in a special manner; then Saturn withdrew into itself, abandoned man to his bony system and thus hastened his decline.” (Rudolf Steiner, The Mission of Single Folk Souls in Relation to Germanic-Nordic Mythology -Lecture 6 -The five main races of Mankind)
” .. why are Waldorf teacher trainees REQUIRED to read books like “Knowledge of Higher Worlds” which contains the following:
“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 Higher Worlds p. 207)”
The chapters of the book are articles published at a time around 1904/1905, when he also commented on Blavatsky’s “Secret Doctrine” with “At he Gates of Spiricual Science, a series of lectures in popular form, http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GateSpiSci/GateSS_index.html
They cover much of what Steiner later describes in “Esoteric Science” – an outline” but somewhat more in concrete terms.
“At the Gates …” does not discuss the anthropological “races”. It discusses the among other things theosophical concepts “root races” and “sub races of root races”.
The former (the anthropopological “races”) refers to the human forms that started to develop during the second half of “Atlantean” time, that is, Quarternary.
The latter, theosophical concept “root races” refers to the stages of our develoment as humanity, at first only in mainly spiritual form, during the development of our present solar system, starting before the formation of Saturn as a physical planet as Steiner saw it.
While this of course stands out as provocative to say the least to the down the earth consciousness we develop in normal busy day-to-day life, I think it is possible to understand what it refers to.
Only with the “Lemurian” epoch”, after the separation between what has developed as our present Sun and what we now have as the Earth, does the discussion by Steiner refer to our development as humans, even if at first not recognizable as such in our present form, from pre-Kambrium and onwards.
“Lemurian” time in the broad sense I think needs to be understood as refering to the development from pre-Kambrium up to the end of Cretaceous. It takes some effort and time to penetrate the pictures to the physical reality behind the pictures described in “Esoteric Science, an Outline” – http://wn.rsarchive.org/Books/GA013/English/AP1972/GA013_index.html
The main physical reality behind the concept “Atlantean time” (in my view) needs to be understood as what took place during Cenozoic time – Tertiary and Quaternary – up to the end of the Pleistocene, ending some 8,000 years B.C.
http://waldorfanswers.org/ThreeConcepts.htm tries to describe this in a very short outline.
Here is my favourite Steiner quote:
“Was ist die Hirnmasse? Die Hirnmasse ist einfach zu Ende geführte Darmmasse. Verfrühte Gehirnabscheidung geht durch den Darm. Der Darminhalt ist seinen Prozessen nach durchaus verwandt dem Hirninhalt. Wenn ich grotesk rede, würde ich sagen, ein fortgeschrittener Dunghaufen ist das im Gehirn sich Ausbreitende; aber es ist sachlich durchaus richtig. Der Dung ist es, der durch den eigenen organischen Prozess in die Edelmasse des Gehirns umgesetzt wird und da zur Grundlage für die Ich-Entwickelung wird”
translated: “What is the brain? The brain is fecal matter brought to an end. Premature brain deposit goes through the bowels. The bowel content is in its processes in deed related to the brain. Speaking grotesquely, I would say an advanced heap of dung is what spreads in the brain; but as a matter of fact it is correct. The dung is what is converted by an organic process to the noble matter of the brain, where it is the basis for the Self-development”
This man wasn’t just a racist, he was a complete nut
We have a whole slurr of such quotes (in german) at esowatch: http://www.esowatch.com/ge/index.php?title=Steiner_Zitate
There you can also find the complete reference, and look it up on athro sites- we are not making this up
If I find the time, I might do some more translations. Reading Steiner is the best way to find out how whack he was.
Sune – Thebee: I’ll ask you once again – would you like to explain why you threatened mumsnet with libel if they did not delete mother’s posts which were negative about Steiner Waldorf education?
It is my understanding that you are paid by the Steiner movement to burnish their image. That being the case, there seems to be every reason to be sceptical about your protestations. Paid propagandists are not to be believed.
I’m inclined to agree with the comment by Krazykraut (#41) “This man wasn’t just a racist, he was a complete nut”. His brand of rambling made-up mysticism is hardly a suitable basis for education.
But it barely matters now what Steiner did or didn’t write. What matters is what happens in Steiner schools here and now. How do you respond to the information given by Maimuna (comment #30, above)? That describes horrifyingly racist teaching in a UK school, very recently, in the sort of school that you are paid to promote.
David — ‘Paid propagandists are not to be believed.’
To TheBee’s defence, it has to be said that he was not to be believed back when he was not paid either. He has devoted his life to anthroposophy. It’s his mission to see to that Steiner’s reputation is never tainted — Steiner was, to him, a god on earth, he could do or say no wrong.
Anyway, my chief criticism isn’t what Steiner said, but what anthroposophists say today and what happens in the schools today. It’s worrying that anthroposophists don’t take Steiner’s statements about race seriously, but instead try to minimize them, ignore them or blame the critics for them. The basic problem isn’t Steiner’s racism at all, except in the (hopefully rare) cases when it seeps into the schools. The problem is that, even when Steiner’s more wicked ideas are disregarded, there’s not much speaking for waldorf as a pedagogy. If certain methods Steiner proposed had been found effective over the 100 years that have gone by since the first waldorf school was founded — well, then, it would be reasonable to use these methods when applicable, regardless of Steiner’s errors in other fields. But in absence of anything concrete speaking for Steiner’s ideas on education, it seems his other — non-racial — ideas are about as silly, unreasonable (and sometimes even as vile) as his ideas about race. That’s the biggest problem. Waldorf isn’t good education, and ignoring this means people continue to waste children’s lives on meaningless or potenially harmful crap.
First the second part of my answer to Pete:
The historical context of the comments in “How to attain …” indicates that what Steiner very loosely refers to as a development from “lower” to “higher” “national” and “racial” forms in the quote you give are these two senses of the term “race”, not the anthropological “races”. I think the reference to the development of especially the human forms from beginning of Quaternary up to the end of Pleistocene, in Theosophy referred to as “sub races of Atlantis” is properly described as a development from lower to higher “races”.
I still haven’t seen a reference by Steiner to what started to develop mainly during Quaternary as what later has been refered to as the five main races of humanity, as distinguished between by Blumenbach at the end of the 18th century. Steiner does not refer to them as “lower” and “higher” races, just different in a number of ways, in contrast to how they were referred to in discussions by others at the beginning of the 20th century.
The quote you give from “The Mission of Single Folk Souls in Relation to Germanic-Nordic Mythology”, a lecture series held by Steiner in Oslo in 1910, probably is just too much for people to digest here in this discussion, but understandable if you take enough time to do it.
As for Steiner’s suggestions to teachers at the first Steiner Waldorf school about what to teach, and in what grade, much of it of course is not done that way at most schools.
As for the comment by Steiner: “an island like Great Britain swims in the sea and is held fast by the forces of the stars”, this of course does not refer to what it seems to say to a first look, Great Britain swimming in water.
The comment was made at approximately the time – only few years later – when Alfred Wegener proposed the theory of continental drift to explain the similarities in flora and fauna at different continents, far apart – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continental_drift
The comment by Steiner indicates an underlying thought that the tectonic plates when they were formed far in the past have a relation to each other and that the pattern of this relation reflects the relation beween the stars depicted as the “star pictures” of the Zodiac. This again of course falls far outside what normally is thought today. I’m not aware of efforts to more in full penetrate this. One fragment of it however is indicated in “Rhythmusforschung und Technik. Der umstülpbare Würfel. Die polysomatische Gestaltung” from the 1970s i think (http://amzn.to/h1ut9l)
It describes the efforts by the author, a Paul Schatz, to investigate what happens when you turn the Platonic bodies, and especially the cube, inside out in an ordered way, which of course is nothing basically anyone thinks of, except of course one or other former Waldorf pupil … But it led to a discovery of a complex movement of parts of the cube during this transformation, that do not change form and volume during this process, and that can be reproduced by a machine, the Turbula, to mix substances otherwise difficult to mix. This machine was used to mix components that are used to make teflon.
The possible relation between the tectonic plates at the time of their first formation, as indicated by Steiner in his comment on the British Isles, is depicted in a decription of the dodecahedron.
As for the girl “L” that you mention as a chock to probably most: as far as I know, she was taken well care of and worked as a garden worker when in adult life.
And as for the relation between what we are as humans and any external characteristics we have as gender or “race, or age, if you close yor eyes and observe your consciousness, this is what we are at our core, and it is basically similar in all humans independently of what we look like from the outside, our external size, color and shape, gender or “race”. This probably is well understood by most people and is that out of which most people relate to each other.
A more or less clear or mixed “race” is just one of the many temporary external characteristics we may have. We understand this as an immediate intuition and it is this inner being of us as humans that is related to in Steiner Waldorf education, when understood as such.
I haven’t read “Teaching from the inside out” by Jack Petrach (http://amzn.to/eVDQgW), but it seems to describe what it can mean to teach from this central perspective in Waldorf education, our changing and developing relation to each other and the world from childhood and onwards, in a general way during the period, and as individuals, more or less, and increasingly varying the general themes in this pattern.
Mr Bee wrote:
“The main physical reality behind the concept “Atlantean time” (in my view) needs to be understood as what took place during Cenozoic time – Tertiary and Quaternary – up to the end of the Pleistocene, ending some 8,000 years B.C.”
Yes indeed, that is YOUR VIEW… it wasn’t Steiner’s (I’ve read both Knowledge of Higher Words AND Esoteric Science – as well as dozens of other Steiner books). He was a “scientist” after all… according to Waldorf. Scientists knew words like Cenozoic and Tertiary and Quaternary and Pleistocene back in Steiner’s time. If he meant those periods of time, he would have mentioned them somewhere. He didn’t because he didn’t. You invented this Mr. Bee… as an explanation for Steiner’s weirdness… without ANY support whatsoever in Steiner’s works. Steiner the “scientist” could have expressed man’s development through these periods of time (if he believed it) – very precisely. He wasn’t exactly at a loss for word – was he?
Mr. Bee continues: “While this of course stands out as provocative to say the least to the down the earth consciousness we develop in normal busy day-to-day life, I think it is possible to understand what it refers to.”
Yes – it is a lesson about Steiner’s racist views. Anyone can see that – very plainly. Why do teachers need to know this – if not to relate and apply what Steiner believed about the races to THEIR STUDENTS?
Waldorf teachers are taught Steiner’s racism for racist reasons – to separate and judge children by their race (among other things like head size and temperament). That’s IT! No connection to the scientific view of the early development of humans – this is the invention of Mr. Bee alone – without support from anything in Steiner’s works!
Your representation of the
Is there any scientific basis for Steiner’s anti-Semitism?
“Today all aspects of the Jews are dominated by racial qualities. Above all they marry among themselves. They see the racial qualities, not the spiritual. And this is what must be said in reply to the question: has the Jewish people fulfilled its mission within the evolution of human knowledge? It has fulfilled it; for in earlier times one single people was needed to bring about a certain monotheism. But today spiritual insight itself is necessary. Therefore this mission has been fulfilled. And therefore this Jewish mission as such, as a Jewish mission, is no longer necessary in evolution; instead the only proper thing would be for the Jews to blend in with the other peoples and disappear into the other peoples.” (Steiner, Die Geschichte der Menschheit und die Weltanschauungen der Kulturvölker p. 190)
“[Jesus felt]: All the forces of soul which I believed had been bestowed upon me lead only to the realisation that in the evolution of the Jewish people there is no longer the capacity to reach the heights of Divine revelations.” (Steiner, 1913, The Fifth Gospel. (1913) Trans. C. Davy & D.S. Osmond. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1968. p. 67)
“…the Jahve forces from the moon sphere meet and cooperate with the Mars spirits and thus a special kind of modification arises, namely, the Semitic race. Here is the occult explanation for the origin of the Semites. The Semitic people are an example of a modification of collective humanity. Jahve or Jehovah shuts himself off from the other Elohim and invests this people with a special character by cooperating with the Mars spirits, in order to bring about a special modification of his people. You will now understand the peculiar character of the Semitic people and its mission.”(Steiner, The Mission of Folk Souls p. 105)
@ ThetisMercurio – Ruhrbarone comment #1:
thanks for your comment !
You write: “I examine the epistemology and history of Anthroposophy, with reference to historians Olav Hammer, Helmut Zander and Peter Staudenmaier.”
Dr. Helmut Zander was asked by the “Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien” (BPjM) (”Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons”) to give his expertise. This is what he said about Rudolf Steiner’s racism, quote from the decision of the BPjM:
“Der Bundesprüfstelle wurde zudem von einem Wissenschaftler der Berliner Humboldt-Universität, Dr. Helmut Zander, dessen Abhandlung „Anthroposophische Rassentheorie – Der Geist auf dem Weg durch die Rassengeschichte“ übersandt. Darin kommt der Autor zu der Schlussfolgerung, dass Steiners Theorie aus heutiger Sicht das Prädikat „rassistisch“ zu Recht trage, aufgrund der Abwertung von Rassen und Völkern und der Überhöhung der weißen Rasse.”
“Furthermore, Dr. Helmut Zander, a scientist at the Humboldt-Universität Berlin submitted to the Bundesprüfstelle [BPjM] his treatise “Anthroposophische Rassentheorie – Der Geist auf dem Weg durch die Rassengeschichte” [“Anthroposophical Race Theory – The Path of the Spirit through Racial History”; my translation]. In this, Zander comes to the conclusion that Steiner’s theory is, from a present-day standpoint, justifiably be judged ‘racist’ given that it defames certain ‘races’ and peoples and glorifies the white ‘race’.”
So no need to discuss any further with Anthroposophists: Rudolf Steiner is a racist for sure.
Moreover Dr. Helmut Zander in his book „Anthroposophie in Deutschland“ explains that Rudolf Steiner’s racism is ever-present in the WHOLE of his teachings.
„Anthroposophie in Deutschland“, quote:
„Steiner ordnete die Rassen einer Fortschrittsgeschichte zu, in der beispielsweise heutige Indianer als »degenerierte Menschenrasse« im »Hinsterben« (GA 105, 106, 107 ) oder schwarze Afrikaner als defiziente Spezies der Menschen- und Bewusstseinsentwicklung, als »degenerierte«, »zurückgebliebene« Rasse (ebd., 106) erschienen. Umgekehrt habe die weisse Rasse »das Persönlichkeitsgefühl am stärksten ausgebildet« (GA 107, 288 ). Dies sind nur Kernsätze einer Rassentheorie, die Steiner 1904 erstmals formulierte, um sie 1910 in einem komplexen System und in zunehmender Abgrenzung zu theosophischen Positionen auszufalten. Mit seinem Ausstieg aus der Theosophie hat er diese Vorstellungen keinesfalls über Bord geworfen, sondern sie 1923 nochmals in Vortragen vor Arbeitern des Goetheanum in vergröberter, »popularisierter« Form wiederholt, aber ohne Revision im inhaltlichen Bestand. Die weisse war nun »die zukünftige, die am Geiste schaffende Rasse« (GA 349, 67 ). (…)
Steiner formulierte mit seinem theosophischen Sozialdarwinismus eine Ethnologie, in der die Rede von »degenerierten«, »zurückgebliebenen« oder »zukünftigen« Rassen keine »Unfälle«, sondern das Ergebnis einer konsequent durchgedachten Evolutionslehre waren. Ich sehe im Gegensatz zu vielen Anthroposophen keine Möglichkeit, diese Konsequenz zu bestreiten.“ (Helmut Zander, “Anthroposophie in Deutschland”, Göttingen 2007, p. 631, 636)
Could you please try to translate this CRUCIAL passage of „Anthroposophie in Deutschland“?
I contacted Helmut Zander, but he told me that there isn’t yet an authorized translation.
Mr. Bee, while both re-inventing Steiner’s meanings and explaining why we cannot understand what Steiner meant by reading his words, wrote:
“Quaternary time constitutes the second half of “Atlantis”/Atlantean time, characterized by the repeated Ice ages. And when Steiner comments on “lower” and “higher” races at the time, you need to understand something about the human forms, some “higher”, some “lower” that developed during Quaternary time, and with the Neanderthals being one of the “lower” races at the end of the “Atlantean” time”
Steiner, on the other hand, was very explicit about what he meant when he wrote:
“The ancestors of the Atlanteans lived in a region which has disappeared, the main part of which lay south of contemporary Asia. In theosophical writings they are called the Lemurians. After they had passed through various stages of development the greatest part of them declined. These became stunted men, whose descendants still inhabit certain parts of the earth today as so-called savage tribes. Only a small part of Lemurian humanity was capable of further development. From this part the Atlanteans were formed. Later, something similar again took place. The greatest part of the Atlantean population declined, and from a small portion are descended the so-called Aryans who comprise present-day civilized humanity. According to the nomenclature of the science of the spirit, the Lemurians, Atlanteans and Aryans are root races of mankind.” (Steiner, Cosmic Memory pp. 45-46)
No mention of Neanderthals, Mr. Bee. By the way, the word Neanderthal originated in Germany in 1860 where the first one was discovered. If Steiner was talking about Neanderthals, why didn’t he say so? He didn’t because he wasn’t. So who did Steiner consider “savages” and lower human forms? He explains here:
“But all such questions are illuminated as soon as we recognize the nature of the spiritual essence which lies at the back of our blood. Who can deny that this question is closely linked to that of race, which at the present time is once more coming markedly to the front? Yet this question of race is one that we can never understand until we understand the mysteries of the blood and of the results accruing from the mingling of the blood of different races. And finally, there is yet one other question, the importance of which is becoming more and more acute as we endeavor to extricate ourselves from the hitherto aimless methods of dealing with it, and seek to approach it in its more comprehensive bearings. This problem is that of colonisation, which crops up wherever civilised races come into contact with the uncivilised: namely – To what extent are uncivilised peoples capable of becoming civilised? How can a Negro or an utterly barbaric savage become civilised? And in what way ought we to deal with them? And here we have to consider not only the feelings due to a vague morality, but we are also confronted by great, serious, and vital problems of existence itself. Those who are not aware of the conditions governing a people – whether it be on the up- or down-grade of its evolution, and whether the one or the other is a matter conditioned by its blood – such people as these will, indeed, be unlikely to hit on the right mode of introducing civilisation to an alien race. These are all matters which arise as soon as the Blood Question is touched upon.” (Steiner, The Occult Significance of Blood p. 13)
Steiner was a racist – by any definition of the term. Please stop re-inventing Steiner for the public Mr. Bee… it’s obvious he wasn’t who you claim he was.
Thebee/Sune – I agree with PeteK that you don’t understand Steiner’s race doctrines. You’re like a Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty for your version of Rudolf Steiner – his words mean what you want them to mean. And you link to your own sites for verification.
You genuinely may not realise this, but your comments explicitly endorse Steiner’s teachings about “higher” and “lower” races: this is an open justification of anthroposophical racism. The problem is you appear to think that paternalistic forms of racism are OK – as an anthroposophist you support an esoteric version of the familiar White Man’s Burden. This fundamental error amongst anthroposophists is one reason why Waldorf schools are so clueless about the nature of racism, as it is experienced by real families like Maimuna’s. And why, in my opinion, Steiner Waldorf schools should certainly not be awarded public money.
Your claim that German Waldorf schools have a low incidence of xenophobic attitudes ignores a reality I’ve noticed in Steiner Waldorf schools in Britain too: there are few non-white children in these schools. The German study you mention examined a variety of settings, including non-Waldorf schools, and showed that schools with “the highest proportion of non-German students” had the highest rates of xenophobic attitudes – this finding held across all settings. Thus it’s the fact that there is an extraordinarily small percentage of ‘foreign’ students at German Waldorf schools, which are overwhelmingly white – in sharp contrast to public schools in Germany, that leads to the report’s statistic re Waldorf schools.
The German report therefore produces no evidence, when controlling for other confounding factors, that Steiner Waldorf schools “are least hostile to foreigners and express least extremist right wing attitudes of all pupils in Germany.”
Just to be clear: it’s because real children are involved that we shouldn’t simply indulge the delusions of esotericists, or the ideological follies of naive politicians. Zooey is right too – Steiner schools are not very good. There’s nothing here that justifies the risks.
Interesting that you don’t deny that you are paid by the Steiner movement.
As usual you say how tolerant and anti racist Steiner students are.
You saying that does not mean it is true.You would like people to think its true. Its not true.
The level of ignorance was staggering at our school. A boy told my daughter that ‘All Black people are niggers’ he had no punishment at all.Another child was given 100 lines for throwing a piece of cake.It shows what the teacher’s think is offensive and the boy of course was then given the message that racist insults were ok so of course he carried on.
Another boy screamed “Nigger!” in the playground.No punishment. I would say the kids at our school were very ignorant ,most of the class thought our daughter was adopted as I’m blond with blue eyes,and the school is just outside of London where there are thousands and thousands of mixed race kids,I was so shocked that they didn’t realise she could be mine ! There were 5 Black kids out of 400.
Her teacher once asked me if it was ok to describe some children from The Children’s Crusade as Black ?! He taught the kids a gospel song not by showing a Black Gospel choir on youtube but by singing it himself and showing the kids how ‘they'( Black people) would dance to Gospel ! Poor buggers how could they be comfortable with non white people if they were never exposed to Black culture in a normal way or disciplined when they use racist language. My daughter used to warn them if they went round calling people niggers and taking the piss out of street slang they would be given a severe beating when they entered certain areas,she had some fantastic friends there and is still in touch with a number of them but she has never come across that level of racism in any other school.
What seems rather charming and old fashioned is actually very unhelpful when these kids leave school and enter the real world.No recorded music,only old fashioned singing and acoustic music.After we left they had an African music night to raise money,the teacher taught them the songs- in state schools they would get an actual African band in so the kids actually learn something !
Of course you will say that we were unfortunate that its a one off.How could it be any other way with the SWSF, and most Steiner teachers not thinking Anthroposophy is racist,it would be impossible for Steiner students not to be a bit warped unless they are lucky enough to mix with other races outside school or educate themselves via the internet ( both options are rather unlikely in my view )
That statement about Steiner kids being anti racist annoys me as much as the one about Steiner schools being creative.When we read that we believed it,you don’t expect a school to lie.Steiner schools are the opposite of creative,don’t use black lines,careful how you decorate your book that checked design is not appropriate,your layering is wrong ! Its taken me a year to get our daughter to loosen up and be creative again…
Tom re your post I just wanted to say here that I knew nothing about the temperaments or racism in Steiner so I wouldn’t have had any questions about those things when I visited the school. If the school had dealt with the racism our daughter had suffered then I may never have found out about those things. I only found out because I innocently Googled Steiner school racism policy and all hell broke loose. I’m so grateful that I did find out about the racism in Anthroposophy as my child could still be there being looked at in a certain way and having her ‘soul fixed’ based on her skin colour,hair texture and the way she walked.
But then again of course the school wouldn’t have dealt with the racist incidences from a teacher and two children would they? It was only a matter of time before something happened.In fact the very first thing was ‘The Age of Discovery- a Route Around Africa’ Africans eat snakes and blood and don’t wear much was what my daughter was taught,she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.And that the Zulu people are from East Africa not South. When I questioned a different teacher about this as it was on display in the hall he said “Well you’re always going to offend someone these days aren’t you ?” Urrghh…
Maimuna / Maura
Here is the translation of the passage Andreas Lichte requested in Comment #48:
Anthroposophy in Germany excerpts
translated by Tom Mellett
“Steiner arranged the races into a progressive history where, for example, today’s [American] Indians are a “degenerate race of people” in the process of “dying out.” (GA 105, 106, 107 ),
or black Africans are a species of people who are deficient in their development of both consciousness and [civilized] humanity — they emerged as a “degenerate” or “retarded” race. (ibid., 106)
Conversely, the white race was “the most skilled in developing a sense of individuality.” (GA 107, 288 ).
These are just the highlights of a race theory that Steiner first formulated in 1904 and then by 1910 had structured it into a complex system that would increasingly define itself apart from theosophical positions.
But even after he phased out theosophy, he still never did throw these ideas overboard, but once again reiterated them in 1923 while lecturing to the workers at the Goetheanum in a coarse, “popularized” form but without any revision in the essential content. The white race was now “the future race, the race that is spiritually creative.” (GA 349, 67 ). (…)
Along with his Theosophical “Social Darwinism,” Steiner formulated an ethnology in which the vocabulary of “degenerate”, or “retarded”, or “future races” was not spoken “inadvertently”, but rather as the result of a systematic and sophisticated theory of evolution. Unlike many anthroposophists, I see no way to dispute this conclusion.”
(Helmut Zander, Anthroposophy in Germany, Göttingen 2007, p. 631, 636)
Thank you Thetis. Speaking of statistical controls – here’s an interesting statistic (please follow my Ahrimanic math):
It was reported at Highland Hall at a very rare “open” board meeting (I think there has only been one) that Highland Hall lost 25% of their students EACH year. That included the graduating class… so with a student body of approximately 400 students, that’s a turnover of 100 students – minus the graduating class each year (25 or so students) – leaves 75 students EACH YEAR who leave or whose parents pull them out.
Looking at it a different way – for every class of 25 students who graduate each year, (25% of 25 students = 6 students per year x 12 years – 1st grade through 12th) 72 students PER GRADUATING CLASS were removed (had their educations interrupted) at Highland Hall.
Those students, who presumably finish school elsewhere, are never considered when Waldorf talks of “Waldorf students”. Those students are not statistically represented in Waldorf inquiries (other than what I presented here).
Assuming Highland Hall (a seasoned and celebrated 50-year-old Waldorf school) is fairly typical of Waldorf schools everywhere, 3/4 of students who enter Waldorf don’t continue on to finish Waldorf. Highland Hall keeps their money, by the way. In my opinion, full disclosure of what Waldorf is would end this. But since, like all Waldorf schools, Highland Hall isn’t child-centered, it’s a win-win for them to attract ANY family. Getting even one or two years of tuition from unsuspecting families helps fuel their system. They can afford to provide free tuition to Anthroposophical families (like mine). Why disclose what’s behind Waldorf? Isn’t it up to the parents to determine if they are lying?
“Tom re your post I just wanted to say here that I knew nothing about the temperaments or racism in Steiner so I wouldn’t have had any questions about those things when I visited the school”.
This is a crucial point, how can prospective parents, inspectors and policy makers be aware of the belief that the soul reincarnates through a racial hierarchy or that a child’s physiognomy is a manifestation of their karma if they dont know these beliefs exist?
and if they don’t know that these beliefs exist how can anyone outside the movement be expected to ask the right questions?
If Gove decided to investigate further, he must first understand the difference between a specialist in Anthroposophy and a specialist in being an Anthroposophist.
You just gave me a great idea. I don’t know if you have these adverts on your tellies in the UK, but in the USA, not only must we endure advertisements for regular products like cars, food, clothing, etc., we also must endure commercials for drugs, be they Viagra, anti-depressants, heart medicines or sleeping pills.
Now when the drug commercial starts, you, as viewer, are of course regaled with the usual and warm, fuzzy and emotionally-appealing positive propaganda for the drug.
But because of federal regulations in the USA, negative side effects must also appear in the ad and usually, in the last 10 seconds of a 60 second spot, you will hear a hurried male voice-over, telling the worst things to expect about the drug.
Now just imagine if a few enterprising video experts out there would take some of the dozens of Waldorf school promotional videos which appear on YouTube as well as on WS homepages, and provide at least a voice-over which would express all the negative things about Waldorf that you as parents never knew existed.
Here is my initial attempt at writing a voice over text. Please feel free to improve mine and/or write your own:
FAST-TALKING MALE VOICE SPEAKS OVER SWEET WALDORF VIDEO IMAGERY:
(most effective if spoken on only one breath!!!)
Waldorf education is informed by the doctrine of anthroposophy, a system of belief developed by Rudolf Steiner which interprets your child as a spiritual being who has had many lifetimes before this one and thus carries karmic baggage into the classroom whereupon the teacher will evaluate your child on the basis of his or her karmic deficiencies as expressed in gender, race, temperament, head size, and handedness and may not intervene if your child is bullied because past life karma with the bullier is being worked out. The pedagogy is not child-centered but teacher-centered.’ Therefore teachers are obliged not to answer any difficult questions you as parents may have. If you wish to understand the pedagogy, please read the collected words of Rudolf Steiner and become an anthroposophist. Otherwise accept your destiny as a Waldorf parent and don’t bother the teachers. They know your child best.
I’d like to thank Thetis for the informative and illuminating post on the problem of racism in anthroposophy and Steiner education, in addition to the previous incisive posts from Thetis and Lovelyhorse, and thanks as well to DC for hosting the forum. Public discussion of these issues is often hampered by anthroposophical uneasiness with external inquiry; from Steiner onward there has been a lengthy tradition of anthroposophist hostility toward scholarly analysis, and particularly to historical research, from outside of the anthroposophical milieu. That is one important reason why many of Steiner’s followers react so strongly against my work and the work of other non-anthroposophist historians of anthroposophy such as Helmut Zander. They believe that we hold some sort of special grudge against their movement.
For those interested in exploring these issues further, there are a variety of resources available. A general overview of anthroposophy, with a focus on the UK, can be found in Geoffrey Ahern’s book Sun at Midnight: The Rudolf Steiner Movement and Gnosis in the West (Cambridge: Clarke, 2009). I am critical of several significant aspects of Ahern’s book, but it is accessible and provides important information. For parents considering Steiner education, I would particularly recommend Heiner Ullrich’s book Rudolf Steiner (London: Continuum, 2008). Ullrich is a professor of educational studies and an expert on the history of pedagogical reform movements, as well as a prominent figure in alternative education circles in Germany. He has published many works on anthroposophy and Steiner schools, including some of the best critical studies of Waldorf pedagogy available. Most of his work is in German, but the 2008 book provides a good overview in English of his research, and it is mostly focused on Steiner / Waldorf education. Though I have various disagreements with Ullrich’s arguments, I recommend the book highly to everybody looking for perceptive scholarship on Waldorf schooling and anthroposophy. It provides a detailed examination of Steiner, anthroposophy, and Waldorf pedagogy from a simultaneously sympathetic and critical perspective. For those looking for an internal Steiner school viewpoint, the best recent book is Ida Oberman, The Waldorf Movement in Education from European Cradle to American Crucible, 1919-2008 (Lewiston: Mellen, 2008).
Aside from anthroposophist statements, there is relatively little literature available in English on Steiner’s racial teachings. The best sources are in German. I recommend above all Georg Schmid, “Die Anthroposophie und die Rassenlehre Rudolf Steiners zwischen Universalismus, Eurozentrik und Germanophilie” in Joachim Müller, ed., Anthroposophie und Christentum: Eine kritisch-konstruktive Auseinandersetzung (Freiburg: Paulus, 1995), 138-94; Helmut Zander, “Sozialdarwinistische Rassentheorien aus dem okkulten Untergrund des Kaiserreichs” in Uwe Puschner, Walter Schmitz, and Justus Ulbricht, eds., Handbuch zur ‘Völkischen Bewegung’ 1871-1918 (Munich: Saur, 1996), 224-51; Zander, “Anthroposophische Rassentheorie: Der Geist auf dem Weg durch die Rassengeschichte” in Stefanie von Schnurbein and Justus Ulbricht, eds., Völkische Religion und Krisen der Moderne: Entwürfe “arteigener” Glaubenssysteme seit der Jahrhundertwende (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2001), 292-341; Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland: Theosophische Weltanschauung und gesellschaftliche Praxis 1884–1945 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007), 624-37; Zander, “Rudolf Steiners Rassenlehre: Plädoyer, über die Regeln der Deutung von Steiners Werk zu reden” in Uwe Puschner and Ulrich Großmann, eds., Völkisch und national: Zur Aktualität alter Denkmuster im 21. Jahrhundert (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2009), 145-55; Jana Husmann-Kastein, “Rassisierte Lichtgestalten – dunkle Krisen. Christus, Karma und Erlösung bei Rudolf Steiner” in Sven Glawion, Elahe Haschemi Yekani, and Jana Husmann-Kastein, eds., Erlöser: Figurationen männlicher Hegemonie (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2007), 83-95.
German historian Helmut Zander’s work is especially helpful for readers trying to make sense of anthroposophical doctrines and practices. His forthcoming biography of Steiner is due to appear in German early next year. For those who do not read German, I am happy to provide a copy of my review of Zander’s work, published in English earlier this year in Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism. I am also happy to provide copies of my own articles on Steiner’s racial and ethnic teachings; the two most pertinent are “Race and Redemption: Racial and Ethnic Evolution in Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 11 (2008), 4-36, and “Rudolf Steiner and the Jewish Question” Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 50 (2005), 127-47. Please feel free to contact me at pstauden [at] hotmail [dot] com (firstname.lastname@example.org). In addition, I am as always more than willing to discuss any of these issues with Steiner’s admirers and followers, very much including my anthroposophist detractors, in any forum they prefer. Those interested in current debates may follow the discussions here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/messages
Like other forms of esoteric racial thought, Steiner’s race doctrines are complex and internally contradictory, and they contain both racist and non-racist components. They are not peripheral to anthroposophy as a whole, but are central to anthroposophical cosmology and to anthroposophist conceptions of evolutionary progress and the relation between the physical and the spiritual. Steiner’s teachings about karma and reincarnation and the advance of the soul through successive stages of maturation are structured around a basic contrast between “higher” and “lower” racial and ethnic forms, “progressing” and “declining” racial and ethnic groups. These categories were fundamental to anthroposophy as Steiner taught it, and they remain largely unchallenged within anthroposophy today.
For historians like Zander and myself, critical analysis of anthroposophy’s racial doctrines is not part of some special grudge against Steiner and his followers or a vendetta against occult belief systems or a covert political struggle against anthroposophy or an academic conspiracy to promote materialism, atheism, and secularism. From a historical perspective, anthroposophy is simply an object of study, like any other worldview or movement, and can be assessed according to the same criteria used to appraise all other historical phenomena. For scholars, Steiner was a historical figure, not an Initiate or a herald of timeless truths or an oracle of cosmic wisdom or a supernatural spiritual force momentarily embodied in human form. That is why it is important to examine what Steiner actually taught about race, within its historical context, regardless of whether this causes indignation among anthroposophists today.
Some of Steiner’s own racial writings are available in English, and interested readers can consult these works to determine for themselves whether they include racist content. The task is not as easy as it is for German readers, however, since a number of English translations of Steiner’s published works have been surreptitiously cleansed of openly racist and antisemitic material. Among many others, four of Steiner’s major statements on race have never been published in English: his fundamental 1905 lecture “Basic Concepts of Theosophy: The Races of Humankind”; his 1915 lecture “The Christ-Impulse as Bearer of the Union of the Spiritual and the Bodily”; his 1923 lecture “Color and the Races of Humankind”; and his 1924 lecture “The Essence of Jewry”. Of the works that are available in English, the most relevant are Steiner’s books Cosmic Memory: Prehistory of Earth and Man (Steiner Books 1990), The Universal Human (Anthroposophic Press 1990), The Apocalypse of St. John (Anthroposophic Press 1993), Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment (Anthroposophic Press 1996), The Occult Significance of Blood (Rudolf Steiner Press 1997), Universe, Earth and Man (Rudolf Steiner Press 2003), The Mission of the Individual Folk Souls in Relation to Teutonic Mythology (Rudolf Steiner Press 2005), and his 1909 lecture “The Manifestation of the Ego in the Different Races of Men” in Rudolf Steiner, The Being of Man and His Future Evolution (London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981).
In my view, the chief reason why these historical issues matter to Steiner education today is this: Far from confronting the problem of anthroposophical racism straightforwardly, spokespeople for Steiner / Waldorf schooling continue to deny that there is any problem to begin with, flatly ignoring the content of Steiner’s works on race. This makes it effectively impossible for Steiner’s admirers to come to terms with the legacy of his racial teachings.
In closing, I would like to make clear that I do not consider esoteric and occult worldviews objectionable or troubling in themselves, although various critics of occultism have raised very important concerns on a wide range of topics. The real difficulties arise when these worldviews are put into practice and implemented in concrete practical endeavors, like agriculture or health care or the education of children. Schools based on an esoteric belief system have a special obligation to delineate their underlying ideology clearly and plainly, without obfuscation and euphemism, and to explain how they apply occult ideas in practice. In the case of anthroposophy, this includes engaging openly and candidly with Steiner’s racial doctrines. I encourage admirers of Steiner education to begin this long overdue task.
Thanks Peter – especially for providing sources for parents considering Steiner Waldorf education or with children in these schools.
I also believe that anthroposophists, Steiner Waldorf supporters and politicians must be candid about anthroposophy and the training of Waldorf teachers, since the welfare of children is at stake. These children are more important than an ideology of ‘parent choice’, especially when so many parents have no real idea about the nature of Steiner Waldorf education.
I hope these posts go some way towards creating greater understanding, and caution.
Doctor Staudenmaier, I presume?
. . . . Doctor Staudenmaier, I presume?
. . . . . . Doctor Staudenmaier, I presume?
OMG! Is my mike live? They all heard that? Oh God, I am so embarrassed! Ladies and gentlemen of the DC Improb! I deeply apologize for my childish antics here. I’ve always loved to play the Stanley-Livingstone game since childhood and, well, you can see how I first played it here with Jeremy Smith way up scroll in Comment #18.
OK, we’re back on live. Ahem.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the DC Improb! Let’s hear a great round of applause for the excellent comment #57 of Herr Doktor Peter Staudenmaier. . . . Oh. You want to sing? Sorry, I forgot I’m in the UK now.
OK, go ahead: “For he’s a jolly good fellow . . . For he’s a jolly good fellow . . . For he’s a jolly good felll-lowww . . . which nobody can deny!”
Now given that I have already made a voice-over for the Waldorf videos in Comment #56, I thought that I should follow suit here and publish a rebuttal to Herr Doktor S.’s contribution, which by some sort of time-warping prestidigitation was actually published on this blog BEFORE Peter wrote in. (No magic really. It’s just that the issues are . . . timeless)
Please Scroll up to Comment #37 and may I now introduce to you all to the pride of the other SWSF, that is, the “Swedish Waldorf School Federation” and the founding father of AAAAHAPS (The Anthroposophical Association for Adamant Ad Hominem Attacks on Peter Staudenmaier) —
Here he is, direct from Sweden, no, not Julian Assange, rather, the one and only indefatigable buzzing Bee himself, now winner of 8 Adhommy Awards for Comment #37 alone —- Suuuuuu-nayyyyy Nordwall!!!
And finally, ladies and gentlemen of the DC Improb, please read this message reposted by Herr Doktor Peter Staudenmaier, which he sent to the hive of Sune Nordwall in 2005, where Peter attempts to educate Sune on the differences between polemical writing and historical scholarship as well as correcting several of The Bee’s mistaken stings.
My name is Jan Luiten. I am a Dutchman a teacher (not a waldorf teacher) and a political scientist. I would like to comment on
I appreciate Peter Staudenmaier is bringing Steiner and the anthroposophy in the academic discussion. Doing so however also means that there should be room for discussion. First I want to put clear that I am not a “Steiner-follower”. When you study the mechanisms of discrimination and racism the concepts “prejudice” and “stereotype” are playing an important role. Is it not a stereotype to classify a whole group of very different people as “Steiner-followers”? The use of stereotypes forms one of the first steps in the direction of discrimination and racism. Speaking of “Steiner-followers” disregards the fact that are individual thinkers among the anthroposophists who have emancipated themselves from the group-culture. An anthroposophist should not be a person who uncritically believes all Steiner has said, but an individual who attaches value to the anthroposophical methodology.
To put things clear: I myself am an advocate of the multicultural society and I do not believe in the superiority of any “race”. I have worked a lot with members of the Turkish and Maroccan community in Amsterdam who are confronted with discrimination. They told me that whatever they are doing to accept Dutch values they are always encountering prejudices. When you tell on an internet-forum you are an anthroposophist you also immediately meet prejudices no matter what your opinions really are.
Should Steiner coûte que coûte be right? Off course not. If he is saying that black people do not belong in Europe I strongly object. But I simply doubt the basis for the judgment Steiner is a racist.
Certainly, Steiner has developed a theory about races. Core question however is:” is the theory of races of Rudolf Steiner a racist theory or not?” Like Staudenmaier (http://www.social-ecology.org/2009/01/anthroposophy-and-ecofascism-2/) I distinguish race-theories that are racist and race-theories that aren’t racist. Although there are statements of Steiner that can be experienced as grieving or offending my standpoint is that this is not enough to make the theory of Steiner a racist one. My point of view is based on the theory of a prominent scholar on racism: Albert Memmi. Memmi elaborates a theory about the mechanisms of racism in his book “Racism”
(University of Minnesota Press, 2000; Originally published as Le Racisme, Gallimard, 1982. )
Reviewing this book Joe Lockard (http://bad.eserver.org/reviews/2000/2000-2-14-8.35PM.html) comments: “Summarizing his points, Memmi writes \Differences can exist or not exist. Differences are not in themselves good or bad. One is not racist or anti-racist in pointing out or denying differences, but one is racist in using them “against someone to one’s own advantage.\ In a definition, racism according to Memmi is the Generalized and final assigning of values to real and imaginary differences, to the accusers benefit and at his victim’s expense, in order to justify the former’s own privilege or aggression.
In Steiners theory we will not find that he is calling for , or legimates, privileges in favor of one group above another or advocates aggression against certain groups. . I agree with Staudenmaier (http://www.social-ecology.org/2009/01/anthroposophy-and-ecofascism-2/) that there are other scholars with other definitions, but there are also scholars who think in the line of Memmi. This means there is no consensus in the academic world. Therefore it is rather prematurely to come to a definite judgment in this case.
We have also to connect the above said with Steiners political ideas. In his view all groups in society should have equal rights. There are no discriminating factors (race, gender, believe etc) that could legimate privileges (Steiner, Towards social renewal).
I’m impressed by the scholarly contributions that many people have made to this discussion, but I take a rather simpler point of view. My main objection to Steiner is that he seems to have been a rather potty mystic. Anthroposophy, gnomes, “biodynamic” farming and so on are simply preposterous made-up junk.
It’s interesting to compare him with a far more substantial thinker, Francis Galton. His ideas on race and eugenics seem quite dreadful now, but he was genuinely a child of his time. He was trying to interpret the nature of things as they appeared at the time, and, like so many scientists of the time, his conclusions now seem very wrong. But they were a rational attempt to get at the truth on the basis of the very limited knowledge of genetics that existed when he was alive. There was no lunatic astrology involved. It doesn’t seem very profitable to discuss in 2010 whether or not Francis Galton was a “racist”.
Science, being a more or less rational process, has long since moved on from the ideas of Francis Galton, but the Steiner movement, being a mystical belief system, seems often to propagate the barmy beliefs of Steiner. They are still required reading for students. Students of genetics would never be required to read the works of Galton, other than as a sort of historical aberration, but Steiner teachers are still required to read Steiner as though it were some sort of bible,
What matters is what happens now, and it is is quite clear that what happens now is often quite bad. I happen to live quite near to a Steiner school, and because of that my son was endangered by the low vaccination rate in the area that results from the irrational beliefs of Steiner parents. These parents sustain a shop that sells homeopathic pills and has visits from an “anthroposophical doctor” and such like threats to public health. The comment (#51) from @maimuna shows only too clearly that Steiner’s nastier ideas are alive and well in Steiner schools right now.
This seems to me to illustrate the difference between science and mysticism. Francis Galton is consigned to history books, but Steiner is alive and well in the warped minds of his followers. There is nothing illegal about believing in astrology and karma, but it is hardly a suitable basis for education in 2010 and certainly not the sort of thing that should get support from taxpayers.
@ David Colquhoun
I completely agree with you, quote: “My main objection to Steiner is that he seems to have been a rather potty mystic. Anthroposophy, gnomes, “biodynamic” farming and so on are simply preposterous made-up junk.”
Or as “krazykraut” put it:
“(…) This man [Steiner] wasn’t just a racist, he was a complete nut (…)”
“Scholars” – like historians – have to avoid the topic of Steiner’s insanity since they would have immediately to stop working on Steiner: the only competent expert would be a psychiatrist.
@ David Colquhoun
I also agree on this:
“… the Steiner movement, being a mystical belief system, seems often to propagate the barmy beliefs of Steiner. They are still required reading for students.”
I did a Waldorf teacher training myself. You find a rough translation of my report here:
“Wondrous Waldorf Pedagogy or Atlantis as State of Consciousness”
It was madness. I’ll copy only the passage directly related to Steiner’s racism, quote (“L.” is “Lichte”):
“How to teach geography is the subject offered by lecturer Vormann. His goal is to slowly lift the veil for a higher holism behind the outward impressions. He takes a week to accomplish the task introducing two continents: “Geographical polarities. Central and Eastern Asia in comparison to Northern America.” First more or less the regular school like comparison between the Yangtse and the Colorado River. Then it is down to the real subject matter “Mankind and landscape”. Asian architecture – the pagoda – makes the lecturer conclude the Asian is turning towards the sky – tien. The typical architecture of Northern America being the step pyramid. L. dares to ask: “What about Indians of Nothern American – the pueblo architecture? Or the tent of the nomading peoples of the prairies?” “They are irrelevant to the greater oversight, the Indians already were a perishing race,” the lecturer responds. “A perishing race, what do you mean by that, that the Indians were driven out of their land by the whites?” “No, the Indians already had been a perishing race, they did lack in what it takes to develop into higher cultures.” None of the other participants utters a word. L. is enraged, he remember his trip to the American West: “Don’t you think it is unfair putting the blame on the Indians considering what they’ve been through?!” “Why are you getting so upset, after all the ancient Egyptians also been a perishing race.” L. is struggling for words: “You may refer to the ancient Egyptians as a perishing race but I really do not feel like telling a hitch hiking Indian that he is a member of a perishing race!”
“Mr. Vormann is annoyed about so much lack of respect.”Let us continue with the lesson, this question cannot be sufficiently resolved now!” Are we over and done with this issue? L. does not hear a word from he lecturer … – but from the seminary’s administration, three weeks later.”
Just as a reminder of the nature of the article “Anthroposophy and Ecofascicm” mentioned and linked to twice by Jan Luiten in his comment http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3853#comment-8695 :
http://thebee.se/comments/PS/Staudenmaier.html and for a clarification by Staudenmaier himself of how he has expressed his views on his own writings:
Will try to get back with some more comments on things I think need clarification and correction in Thetis article and some of the comments, after a break for Christmas.
Thebee – Sune (aka @MycroftII on twitter): though you’re welcome to express your opinions in these blog comments, I’d welcome a reply to my question, which I’m asking for the third time:
Why exactly did you threaten mumsnet with libel if they did not delete posts from mothers which were negative about Steiner Waldorf education?
To remind you, here is one of the many messages you sent mumsnet:
“If I see her posting promotion of libel at Mumsnet once more, I won’t tell you about it, but ask Percy Bratt of Bratt and Feinsilber in Sweden to contact you in cooperation with the legal representatives of The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship in the UK and Ireland (http://www.steinerwaldorf.org/index.html), about your negligent way of allowing libel to be published at Mumsnet and the one who is the most fervent publisher of it to continue to publish at Mumsnet.”
I understand that you work for the Swedish Waldorf Schools Federation and that you’re employed to monitor criticism of Steiner Waldorf education in Britain.
Why is the Swedish Waldorf Schools Federation so interested in the opinions of British parents?
I also see that you publish pages on your websites designed to attack individuals who you perceive to be a threat to the Steiner Waldorf movement.
I would be glad if someone from the SWSF would clarify whether or not you were operating, as you told mumsnet:
“…in cooperation with the legal representatives of The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship in the UK and Ireland (http://www.steinerwaldorf.org/index.html),”
And to establish whether the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship of the UK were themselves prepared, through your activities, to issue what could be described as libel-related threats to mumsnet.
I have no evidence that this was the case apart from your assertion and would be glad to hear that it is in fact untrue, and that you were exaggerating.
I refer you back to my earlier comment here, as I don’t think you understand Steiner’s race theories: http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3853#comment-8649
and would like to remind you, as Tom has done, that Peter Staudenmaier addressed your concerns with regard to his work, at length, in 2005 – he explains here:
Our concern on this blog is to emphasise the nature of Steiner Waldorf education and its unsuitability for public funding. Your issue seems to be largely a personal one, with Peter Staudenmaier or indeed with any individual who doesn’t agree with your perception of Rudolf Steiner. You are so clearly ridiculous, it seems unlikely that your comments here will achieve anything positive for you or for the movement you support.
In my view, the Swedish Waldorf School Federation has an obligation to answere these concerns about Sune. They have so far failed to do so. I’m taking the opportunity to remind them once again. http://zooey.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/questions-the-swedish-waldorf-federation-should-address/
By calling yourself and anthroposophist but picking and choosing Steiner’s cosmological doctrines, rules and laws you are in what Zooey calls a “double bind”. It’s back to the question- if Steiner culled his “knowledge” from clairvoyantly reading the “Akashic record” surely it’s all or nothing?
No one here I’m sure, would deny anyone their personal version of anthroposophy- the question here is, should anthroposophists practice these beliefs on children, people with learning difficulties, the sick and consumers without being honestly open about it?
Many people would disagree with your interpretation of Steiner’s “racist” statements, it seems more than naive to confuse ‘difference” with higher and lower spiritual attainment, “higher racial forms”, “highly developed stages of racial existence”, “advanced races”, “subordinate races”, “decadent races”, “backward races”, “different and imperfect form”, “lower peoples and races”, “mistakes” of evolution…the list is endless. Hardly describing simple “differences” between races.
Do the anthroposophists who don’t answer straight questions about Steiner’s racial evolutionary beliefs believe the “soul” development and reincarnation is the all important factor? the body is an irrelevant cloak, but if you embrace anthroposophy you might be lucky enough to incarnate white next time? Try telling that to the black, Asian and jewish members of my family.
Are those your things in bin bags on the lawn? I think the locks of the waldorf federations might have been changed.
Anthroposophists don’t “get” that Steiner’s Anthroposophy is racist. That much is plain to see. Any time one talks about “higher” and “lower” racial expressions of humans, that’s RACIST. It isn’t noticing the differences between the races that makes Steiner’s racial theory racist, it is the ranking of the races in racial hierarchies that clinches it. THERE IS NO QUESTION – STEINER WAS A RACIST!!!
Steiner taught that a hierarchy of races exists and placed the white race above others. Waldorf teachers are taught to interact with children in accordance with their race. Waldorf teachers HAVE TO BE racist in order to do their job – ie helping the child incarnate in human form. They won’t admit that they are – but it is their job to observe and interact with each child in accordance with the child’s race. Anyone who says otherwise is being dishonest.
Pete K wrote
Anthroposophists don’t “get” that Steiner’s Anthroposophy is racist.
Whoa, Pete! You’re way over-generalizing here! What about all those anthroposophists who DO “get” that Steiner’s anthroposophy is racist — and they could care less about it and laugh off your protestations against it because they are well-ensconced within the Anthro- “establishment”?
You see, the policy of “Don’t ask! Don’t tell” is not limited to sexual orientation, nor to the US military.
You taunted Sune The Bee thusly:
Are those your things in bin bags on the lawn? I think the locks of the waldorf federations might have been changed.
Quite the contrary, my dear 5er! If anything, they might give him a raise! He is still doing a job well done for them — (although in time, they won’t need him anymore. However, he will never be fired; he’ll merely fade away like a good old soldier.)
Let me describe the dynamic here by bringing an analogy which I hope may enable everyone to get a “forest overview” instead of nosing the bark of one single tree while simultaneously swatting at that pesky buzzing Bee.
What happens after you suffer a wooden splinter and the sliver of its tip breaks off and lodges under your skin? Your body’s immune system goes right to work, dispatching those white blood cells (leukocytes) to rush to the site and surround the foreign body in order to isolate the invader and prevent the present mere irritation from becoming a more painful infection and otherwise damaging the whole organism.
When this event happens to me, I am too squeamish about getting the safety pin or X-acto knife right away and digging out the subcutaneous sliver. I opt for enduring the dull but minimal chronic pain for 3 or 4 days until my immune system has done its job surrounding the sliver and eventually pushes it up so that I can easily and painlessly poke in the tip of the razor and flick it out and wash the wound.
So now let me give the analogy. The body is the “Waldorf Federation Organism.” The immune system is the Public or Community Relations department in any Waldorf organism. Of course the splinter is a gaggle (horde?) of Waldorf Critics and the white blood cells are extreme Waldorf defenders like the Bee.
So clearly we have a situation where the Waldorf Critics get “under the skin” of the Waldorf organism. Where is the site of the wound? Internet forums like here, Zooey’s, WC Yahoo, or once on mumsnet, etc. What happens? The Bee buzzes in and immediately draws the ire of all the Critics. What happens next? By attracting all that rage, he diverts the energy to himself and thus absorbs or at least contains most all of that rage (like any good leukocyte should!). What is the result? He manages to distract and then isolate the Critics, who then only rage all the more and thus become all the more distracted, absorbed and isolated by The Bee. (Can you say: “vicious cycle?”)
Now you see, the Waldorf organism is just as squeamish as I am about topical surgery. They are not going to risk the pain and bloody complications of immediately cutting into the flesh all round the sliver to gouge it out. Ouchie!!! No, they sit back, endure the slight dull pain of irritation, and simply get on with their day as usual.
(Can you say: “passive-aggressive behavior?” Now do you understand why you will never again on this thread hear from either SWSF, Jeremy Smith or Richard House? But only from The Bee?)
A few days later, the sliver — along with the dead leukocytes whose corpses have now formed a little yellow pus — is pushed up, extracted and washed away. Maybe a slight scar for another few days which finally disappears as if nothing had ever happened in the first place. But remember, the immune system never forgets and has logged accordingly the identity of the last batch of Critic Pathogens so it can deal quicker and better with them next time.
So, at what stage are we today, in the battle between Waldorf Critics and Defenders? In the middle phase. The sliver is still embedded and the leukocytes are still very much alive, though their days are numbered.
My point is, 5raphs, that The Bee is still of great use to the SWSF (both of them! UK & Sweden). He is still a live leukocyte but someday he will not be needed anymore, but SWSF will not even have to jettison him. He will simply “die away” of his own accord, having given his life for the cause, and the long range result is that the larger Waldorf organism will resume its thriving in the world — and also having developed some new antibodies to strengthen against the criticism just expunged. (Can you say: “Being co-opted?”)
I guess you’ll have to call me Cassandra now because what I have to prophesy for the future of the Waldorf Movement — using the above analogy — is not good news at all for the Critics. You can be satisfied that you do have the truth on your side — that Steiner is a racist, no question about it, I fully agree — but I also see that there’s not a damned thing you can do about stopping the Waldorf juggernaut in the world today. (Can you say: “Waldorf schools in Israel?”) Sorry.
It may not be much comfort to you, but if you do want to keep tabs on the movement, forget the racism angle; instead —- FOLLOW THE MONEY!!!!
To Anthros, I sign off as:
Father Tom, Judas Priest
To Critics, I sign off as:
PS Before I forget, 5raphs, thank you so much for elevating this discussion up to a good enough level where we can discuss such things as “double binds.” I see what you mean about Jan’s “double bind,” but are you aware of your own? Next post will delve into that.
Tom – there isn’t much we can do about Waldorf schools in Israel, even if we wanted to. This post has a modest orbit. And of course where there are Waldorf schools there will be home-grown critics of Waldorf education, who point out the same things that have been said on blogs and forums and to the press all over the world. It is actually very simple. But parents in the countries concerned must defend their own education systems.
Thebee is an easy target, partly thanks to you. Your analogy is clever and amusing. Thank you for your humour. It seems unlikely that he’s taken seriously anymore and even the New Schools Network may not now employ him as an advisor. Although frankly nothing would surprise me.
Since it is Christmastide and Anthroposophists are celebrating the 12 Holy Nights from Christmas Day, Dec. 25 (the birth of Jesus) through Epiphany of Jan. 6 (the birth of Christ), I thought it would be appropriate to offer a Christmas lecture excerpt from Steiner to acknowledge the holiday mood in this thread whose topic is racism in Steiner Waldorf schools. (Trust me; I can pull it off! 😉 )
But first I want to acknowledge the work of Sune Nordwall, our indefatigable Bee, for providing the inspiration for this Steiner excerpt . (God Jul, Sune!)
I am going to quote something Sune has written on his website here:
It is all about the concept of “Root Races” which was originally Theosophical terminology which Steiner used before he broke away to found anthroposophy in 1913. You see, what Mister Bee writes about Steiner’s use of “Root Races” is the truth — but it is not the whole truth. I liken Mr. Bee here to a sports writer who very accurately describes the physical layout and structure of a professional horse race track or raceway, but then would like his readers to believe that actual horse races never take place there! (If you don’t get what I’m saying, you will after you read the Steiner excerpt.)
Sune Nordwall, The Bee, writes on his Waldorf Answers site:
From an anthroposophical perspective, the theosophical concept “root race” is not a biological concept but rather refers to humanity during the successive stages in the common evolution of our solar system and of humanity. For these epochs, Steiner and anthroposophy use the geocentrically oriented term “Earth epochs”.
I now proceed to quote Rudolf Steiner from a lecture he gave exactly 106 years ago, on this very date, December 30, 1904 (he being then deeply steeped in the Theosophical tradition.)
Lecture Cycle: The Festivals and Their Meaning, I, Christmas
Lecture title: “On The Three Magi”
(Extract from a lecture)
Berlin, December 30, 1904, GA B60
(My additions are in brackets [. . . ] )
“Who are the Magi? They represent the Initiates of the three preceding races or epochs of culture, the Initiates of mankind up to the time of the coming of Christ, the Bringer of the Love that is free of egoism — the resurrected Osiris. The Initiates — and so too the Three Magi — were endowed with Manas. They bring gold, frankincense and myrrh as their offerings.
And why are their skins of three colours: white, yellow and black?
One is European — his skin is white; [Melchior brings Gold]
One is Indian — his skin is yellow; [Balthasar brings Frankincense]
One is African — his skin is black. [Casper brings Myrrh]
This indicates the connection with the so-called Root Races.
The remaining survivors of the Lemurian race are black;
those of the Atlantean race are yellow;
and the representatives of the Fifth Root Race, the Post-Atlantean or Aryan race, are white. [5th RR also called Aryan Root Race]
Thus the Three Kings or Magi are representatives of the Lemurians, the Atlanteans and the Aryans. They bring the three offerings.
The [white] European (Melchior) brings gold, the symbol of wisdom, of intelligence which comes to expression paramountly in the Fifth Root Race.
[Aryan Root Race = That means us in the here and now!]
The offering of the Initiate representing the Fourth Root Race ([Yellow race] Balthasar) is frankincense, connected with what was intrinsically characteristic of the Atlanteans. They were united more directly with the Godhead, a union which took effect as a suggestive influence, a kind of universal hypnosis. This union with the Godhead is betokened by the offering. Feeling must be sublimated in order that God may fertilise it. This is expressed symbolically by the frankincense, which is the universal symbol for an offering that has something to do with Intuition.
In the language of esotericism, myrrh is the symbol of dying, of death. What is the meaning of dying and of resurrection, as exemplified in the resurrected Osiris? I refer you here to words of Goethe: “So long as thou hast it not, this dying and becoming, thou’rt but a dull guest on the dark earth.” Jacob Boehme expresses the same thought in the words: “He who dies not ere he dies, perishes when he dies.”
Myrrh is the symbol of the dying of the lower life and the resurrection of the higher life. It is offered by the Initiate representing the Third Root Race (Lemurian). [Black Kaspar]
TOM: So we see that the black race (Lemurian = 3rd RR) is childish — as a race — because they remained behind the longest. In short, they failed to “grow up” or mature as a race, still playing childish games during the 4th RR and on onto the 5th RR. Hence they are represented by Casper the Black Magus, bringing the gift of myrrh to the Jesus boy.
Steiner then indicated that the Brown Race from Venus (the South East Asians, Malaysians, Pacific Islanders, et al.) were like the “adolescents” of races and the Mongols (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) from Mars the “young adults” of the races.
Now these “Mongols,” who became our present Asians, are then stragglers from the 4th Root Race, called the Atlantean Root Race. You see, though, how they as races have grown up a bit more than the black race. So they are not *childish* but maybe more *juvenile* as races go. And among the Magi, they are represented by Balthasar bringing the gift of frankincense.
Now we get to the 5th Root Race, or the Aryan Root Race, and we finally meet the grown up race, the properly mature race, i.e. the folks from planet Jupiter whose skin color is designated as white and who are classified as the Caucasian Race. But I prefer we not use pejorative terms like the “master race,” but rather something more paternalistic and compassionate like the *Great White Father* of the races, perhaps the *CEO* of the races, you know, the race in charge of human evolution, not leading by dominating and exploiting the other less mature races, but rather guiding these children toward their own proper karmic niches in future spiritual evolution.
This white-skinned magus is Melchior, and he brings the gift of Gold to the Jesus boy.
Gold, the metal of the sun, representing the true “Christed” individuality — the person ego is properly “seated.” Now recall what Steiner says about Black Casper’s gift of myrrh:
“Myrrh is the symbol of the dying of the lower life and the resurrection of the
higher life. It is offered by the Initiate representing the Third Root Race (Lemurian).”
So even in the very gifts of the Magi themselves, we see the proper anthroposophical relationship between the white and black races. The racial “Gold Standard,” of course, is the White Race, whose “sunlight of the soul,” as it were, is meant to shine on the hyper-active libidinal and metabolic lower instinctual life of the Negro Race, as represented by Casper, who brings myrrh so that the Black Race can “overcome” (cue black Gospel chorus to sing WE — SHALL– OVER —COME!!!) their intense instinctual life (with accompanying “hubba-hubba” libido) in order to resurrect their higher life in the light provided by the gold = “Christ-heart forces” of the White Race.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
God Jul och gott nytt år!
Frohe Weihnachten und glückliches Neujahr!
Yes – that certainly illustrates anthroposophical paternalistic racism.
@ Hollywood Tomfortas, comment 70
I disagree with your comment 70:
The discussion on Rudolf Steiner’s racism has a strong effect on the public opinion on the Cult Anthroposophy:
In Germany Anthroposophists organize professional workshops to train Anthroposophy defenders (would you please be so kind to give an English summary to the audience, Tom?):
Professioneller Umgang mit den Rassismus-Vorwürfen gegen Rudolf Steiner
Der Vorwurf, Rudolf Steiner sei ein Rassist gewesen, wird regelmäßig von Anthroposophie-Kritikern bemüht und wirft bei Eltern und Mitarbeitern an anthroposophischen Einrichtungen berechtigte Fragen auf.
Im umfangreichen Werk Rudolf Steiners gibt es eine Reihe von Aussagen, in denen er sich in einer Weise uber Farbige und Juden äußert, die heute als diskriminierend und verletzend erlebt wird.
Auch wenn Steiner den völkischen Antisemitismus immer glaubwürdig abgelehnt hat, finden sich bei ihm – damals durchaus weit verbreitete – antijudaistische Tendenzen, mit denen wir uns heute auseinandersetzen müssen.
Das Seminar wendet sich an Verantwortliche in anthroposophischen Einrichtungen und Initiativen, die sich einen Überblick über das Thema sowie den aktuellen Diskussionsstand verschaffen möchten. Ziel ist es, die Teilnehmer in die Lage zu versetzen, gegenüber kritischen Fragen differenziert und souverän Stellung beziehen zu konnen.
Schwerpunkte des Seminars
· Historische Einordnung: Antisemitismus und Rassismus zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts
· Materialien: Kritische Passagen bei Rudolf Steiner
· Medienumfeld-Analyse: Steiner-Kritiker, Blogs etc.
· Auseinandersetzung in den eigenen Reihen: „Frankfurter Memorandum“ und „Stuttgarter Erklärung“
Donnerstag, 4. November, 10-17 Uhr, Professioneller Umgang mit den Rassismus-Vorwürfen gegen Rudolf Steiner. Ein Seminar der Medienstelle Anthroposophie. Referenten: Dr. Jens Heisterkamp, Historiker und Chefredakteur der Zeitschrift Info3, gehörte zu den Initiatoren des 2008 in Info3 veröffentlichten „Frankfurter Memorandums“, dessen Unterzeichner sich für eine kritische Aufarbeitung und Distanzierung von einzelnen diskriminierenden Aussagen Steiners aussprachen. Laura Krautkrämer, PR-Beraterin und -Redakteurin mit Schwerpunkten in den Bereichen Unternehmenskommunikation und Corporate Social Responsibility, ist seit Mai 2010 Leiterin der Medienstelle Anthroposophie. Kosten: 120,- (inkl. Pausengetranke und Mittagessen). Veranstaltungsort: „der hof“, Alt-Niederursel 51, 60439 Frankfurt am Main. Weitere Informationen und Anmeldung: Info3-Verlag, Liss Gehlen, Tel. 069 – 58 46 45, E-mail: email@example.com.”
Among all the reactions and comments here I found yours the most interesting.
You are bringing things to the core and I like that.
The core question is: what is anthroposophy?
Let me explain first what anthroposophy is not : anthroposophy cannot be identified with the so called anthroposophical subculture. In sociology a subculture is a group of people with a culture which differentiates them from the larger dominant culture to which they belong. A subculture deviates in several points from the dominant culture.
Further Anthroposophy is not a doctrine. There are results of the research of Steiner (mainly)and others . I think it is not correct to take these results as a doctrine (but indeed it is mostly functioning as a doctrine in the anthroposophical subculture). This “body of knowledge” is not unchangeable.
It is possible to add new knowledge or to reject other knowledge.
So you can not say it is a belief system too.
What then is antyhroposophy?
Anthroposphy is a methodology.
A way to collect knowledge. All other aspects of anthroposophy are secondary. But now:
What kind of relation should one have to the research results of Steiner when you do not simply want to belief them?
I think the best thing to do here is to take it as a set of working hypotheses. Then you can test for yourself these working hypotheses in your own practice, and then reject them or keep them.
What you cannot test remains in the status of working hypothesis.(This is something different from Zooeys “picking” and “choosing”.)
I want to make clear that I am a critic of the anthroposophical subculture myself, but therefore I also claim the right to criticize some criticizers.
I gave you argumentation (Memmi’s theory, Steiners political ideas) for my point of view. What I get back were a lot of sentiments. Sentiments in this case are not convincing and could be dangerous too. By doing so you are displaying what you are reproaching the anthroposophists: irrationality.
I understand that the project here is about to stop state funding for Waldorf schools
This is off course a very democratic endeavour. Has not the majority the right to oppress a minority?
There is only one truth and you are possessing that truth. Off course you have the right to use the state to impose this truth on all of his citizens, haven’t you ?!!
Jan – by all means offer yourself up to our Coalition government, Michael Gove’s ideology of parent choice through the Free Schools policy is the one you’re supporting. You’re a true Tory. But I should advise you that the policy is very unpopular and has not received widespread support amongst parents or those involved in education. Many learning communities are concerned that this policy benefits a few interested individuals at the expense of local schools, impacting on the prospects of the majority of children. Steiner Waldorf schools are a small part of this concern but since so many of these schools have applied for what are now very scarce resources, it is absolutely right that they are better understood.
Of course I can’t use the state to impose anything, especially from DC’s blog. You’d have to be paranoid to think he has that kind of power! In a democracy we can at least express our opinions, and if we make a good case, we can expect others to agree. What is your case for Steiner Waldorf education? Especially as you state that the ‘anthroposophical subculture’, of which Waldorf education is a part, is so badly flawed?
It is the children who would go to these schools, and the communities that would have to deal with the consequences of state funded Steiner education – just as DC describes – that concern us here. If the government funds Steiner education it will impact on the reputation of the government, and education policy is already in trouble. It seems a very great risk to take for very little return, especially when the beliefs underpinning Steiner pedagogy are, in the opinion of this blog, often dangerous.
@Jan Luiten –
You’ve expressed very much the same ideas elsewhere regarding anthroposophy and racism, for example in the comments after Peter Staudenmaier’s article ‘Anthroposophy and ecofacism’ on the Social Ecology site. Peter replied to you a few days ago, as you’ll be aware but others may like to read the exchange: http://www.social-ecology.org/2009/01/anthroposophy-and-ecofascism-2/
And for anyone interested there is also an ongoing discussion on the German ruhrbarone blog Andreas linked to before:
In my view it’s positive that this is being discussed.
Likewise, it’s interesting to discuss anthroposohy with an anthroposophist who is more open than most.
As I see it, the concerns of this blog post are about the impact anthroposophic teachings have within education.
Seeing the way Steiner waldorf teachers are trained, the books they have to read, the “understanding” they are expected to have, of the anthroposophical interpretation of evolution for instance, it seems to me, at any rate, that Steiner’s proclamations are to be taken as truth: that there is a spirit world, that reincarnation is a fact, that clairvoyance is a legitimate way of gaining knowledge etc etc.
Reading Steiner, I’m always astounded to see how often he mentions ‘anthroposophical laws”, or makes sweeping statements about things being unequivocally facts and truths. He didn’t leave much room for discussion.
Steiner waldorf teachers are expected, as far as I see, to use and believe these statements, and aren’t considered true Steiner teachers if they don’t take these beliefs on board.
You can’t deny that anthroposophy sets out a complicated and structured system for explaining the world, from evolution, reincarnation, karma, spiritual hierarchies, to why we shouldn’t eat potatoes; there is hardly a subject on which Steiner didn’t theorise.
With this in mind, I have to disagree that “doctrine” isn’t a good word for describing anthroposophy- it means after all, principles that are taught, a school of thought, a philosophy. The teachers are “learning” it, aren’t they? on their own path of enlightenment?
In this instance, the semantics of anthroposophical definition is irrelevant, because what matters is how and why these (imo) crazy ideas are used with children, and the consequences that follow.
Methodological procedure follows rules and is generally logical; Steiner’s work is probably one of the least logical collection of random ideas I have had the misfortune to read.
You say anthroposophy is a way to collect knowledge; you need to define “knowledge” and what you really mean by ‘methodology’, because I think these particular rules and knowledge are purely subjective and existed only in Steiner’s bizarre mind, not absolutes from the Akashic record as he apparently often proclaimed.
I note you haven’t commented about the uncomfortable Steiner quotes on race.
@ Hollywood TomFortas
I agree with you that for keeping tabs on the movement, one should follow the money. But who’s got the guts to deal with bankers?
In 1999 a Belgian Parlementary Commission investigating dangereous sects, pointed out that the anthroposophical movement has a network which bonds pedagogical, medical and economical interests. http://www.stelling.nl/simpos/antro3.htm
Thank you for bringing that link. It’s important enough that I have translated the whole thing.
(But before I do, just a note of Netiquette on this blog. Since you gave the link, Andreas, it was then unnecessary to post the whole article as a comment. Since the article was in German, it was a real imposition to force readers of this English blog to have to scroll past the German text.
As it is, we are in trench warfare here, and Sune the Bee is already loading his mortars and cannons with gigantic pinatas filled with Steiner quotes which will explode at their zenith over the “No Man’s Land” region between the trenches, thus showering both sides with Steiner shrapnel. As soon as Sune launches, then Pete K. will retaliate here with his pinatas. We may need a Herakles (Hercules) to clean out this cyber-Augean stable!)
Anyway, back to the text. I wonder if Jeremy Smith or whoever is running the PR section of SWSF will sponsor a comparable seminar.
(translated from the German by Tom Mellett)
For Professionals: How to Manage the Racism Allegations against Rudolf Steiner
The charge that Rudolf Steiner was a racist is made repeatedly by critics of anthroposophy, yet it does raise legitimate questions for parents and employees at anthroposophical institutions.
In Rudolf Steiner’s comprehensive body of work, we do find a range of statements where he speaks about colored people and Jews in a way that is experienced today as discriminatory and offensive.
Even though Steiner would always credibly reject nationalist anti-Semitism, nonetheless, we do find in him – at that time quite widespread — anti-Semitic tendencies that we are obliged to confront today.
This seminar is aimed at managers of anthroposophical institutions and initiatives who would like to get an overview of the topic as well as the current level of discussion. The aim is to enable the participants to navigate the critical questions and to stand their ground with self-assurance.
Focal Points of the Seminar
• Historical Context: Anti-Semitism and racism at the beginning of the 20th Century
• Materials: critical passages of Rudolf Steiner
• Media analysis: Steiner critics, blogs, etc.
• Addressing our own ranks: “Frankfurter Memorandum” and “Stuttgart Declaration”
Thursday, November 4, 2010,
A seminar of the “Media Relations Office Anthroposophy.”
Dr. Jens Heisterkamp,
historian and editor-in-chief of the journal Info3. He was among the initiators of the 2008 Frankfurt Memorandum published in Info3 —
whose signatories endorsed a critical reappraisal of and distancing from each and every discriminatory statement made by Steiner.
Public Relations consultant and editor, will focus on the areas of corporate communications and corporate social responsibility. Since May 2010, she has been Director of the “Media Relations Office Anthroposophy.”
Thanks for showing everyone the Three Kings Story from ‘The Festivals and their Meaning’. That was another horrible experience I had with our Steiner school. That book was recommended for parents to read,it was listed in one of the weekly news letters.
I bought it and read that story and felt physically sick. How could that rubbish be in the story of the three kings ?
Mmmm only a few racist phrases eh SWSF, there’s reams of this stuff ! Why recommend a book with a story like this in it ,schools and Steiner Press must think its ok after all it was printed in 1998,still churning it out while saying Anthroposophy is not racist in the same breath…
Maimuna / Maura
Jan: ‘I think the best thing to do here is to take it as a set of working hypotheses. Then you can test for yourself these working hypotheses in your own practice, and then reject them or keep them.
What you cannot test remains in the status of working hypothesis.(This is something different from Zooeys “picking” and “choosing”.)’
Sure. I very much understand this approach. (Except, I wouldn’t call it hypothesis and testing… the science lingo is a bit misleading in this context.) It’s just that waldorf teachers are teachers. They work in a school. If they are to apply anthroposophical tenets to their teaching and interaction with the children, they need to answer the question of which tenets the agree with and which they do not. What they cannot be allowed to do, is act like there isn’t even a question. They cannot be allowed to pick and choose and not say what they pick and choose. But that’s what they want to do — and what I don’t agree with.
[…] Oh, really? I wonder if it is that simple for waldorf education. It’s easy to speak of great tasks and universality and the inclusion of all human beings — another thing entirely to put this in practice. As long as the underlying issue is ignored — i e, the race doctrines of Steiner’s teachings — the big promises and lofty ideas seem futile and rather hypocritical and, most importantly, they are utterly deceptive. What about the ‘transformation’ into ‘meaningful practice’? What about basic honesty? That would work for a start. […]
Two very important comments from Maimuna and zooey.
Thanks for translating Tom. They don’t appear to have moved on from the “Frankfurter Memorandum” and “Stuttgart Declaration”.
‘How to manage the racism allegations’ is a revealing, if unsurprising title.
@ David Colquhoun
I found your comment (#61) succinctly perceptive: a breath of fresh air in a heated debate that was giving me a headache (if you’ll pardon the purple prose).
When I first came across Steiner education, in the form of a parent and toddler group that my wife found to take our then-2yo son to when we moved to this town, I think we were both struck by how ‘right’ it felt: the physical environment of natural materials and warm pastel and earth colours rather than plastics and bright primary colours; and the rhythm of the sessions, with periods of free play, a snack shared together, craft activities the parents would do with the children, and always some time outside in the garden. Later my son had a few months in a conventional playgroup, where he never really seemed happy, then went to the Steiner kindergarten, which he seemed much more at home in. This seemed so right for him we barely thought twice about staying on past the 5-yo watershed when some other parents moved their children into conventional education (in Steiner children start school between 6 and 7), and we enrolled him in the school proper. Which, by and large, we’ve been pretty pleased with, both for him and his younger brother.
Some time during those early years I started to encounter Anthroposophy. I remember being suprised how a form of education that was so good in practice could have such barmy ideas behind it. Being old enough to have started realising that in the real world things are generally more complicated than they seem, I accepted the dichotomy as an amusing and pleasing reversal of the more depressing phenomenon that wonderful-sounding idealistic theories (yes I was a radical socialist once :-/) can turn out so dire in practice.
So this is where I’m coming from regarding Steiner’s theories and Anthroposophy. I think we need to look not only at the educational theory but the practice – the schools and how the children fare in them – and it would be a loss to education in general if we were to disregard SWE because we rejected the theory behind it. And I know the detractors will be queuing up to tell of classes, even whole schools, where children’s education has been unsatisfactory. I know: our school has, over the years, had a couple of poor teachers who have failed their children, and disappointed and angered their parents. It happens. I know of one parent of a former pupil who is now a fervent critic of our school on internet fora. But there have also been many good teachers who have brought out great things from the children in their care; so much so that many parents make great sacrifices in money, time and effort to keep them there and keep the school alive and thriving.
With regard to the racism issue: to the extent that Steiner teachers actually believe in, and are informed in their practice, by Steiner’s wacky theories, that is clearly a dreadful thing. But as Richard Wiseman points out in his excellent “Quirkology” people can profess racism and practice tolerance, and vice versa. So a Steiner training with its misguided racial theories won’t necessarily result in teachers bahaving in racist ways (and training people to be non-racist doesn’t necessarily make them behave tolerantly). Even so I’d wholeheartedly agree that any school, especially one receiving state funding, should be doing its best to train its staff in awareness of, and how to deal with, race, gender, sexuality, disability and such issues, and specifically to disavow anything in its founder’s ideas that conflict with a modern humanitarian sensibility.
From what I understand from talking to some of our teachers, Steiner teachers vary in how pragmatic or dogmatic they are about Steiner’s ideas. I imagine the pragmatists have no trouble adopting his ideas to modern sensibilities and would be no more or less likely to behave in racist or other prejudicial ways than teachers in any other settings. I would guess that the horror stories the anti-Steiner-ites recount involve more dogmatic Steiner teachers (or schools). I would also guess – even be prepared to put money on it – that one could find comparable horror stories of racist and other discriminatory behaviour by teachers and schools in other, non-Steiner, sectors. I think it’s more a reflection of human nature than any innate evil in SWE (though as I say in my previous paragraph, any Steiner school that doesn’t already have active and effective measures to avoid and deal with discrimination should certainly adopt them; and should be clear that Steiner’s ideas on the subject are no longer considered valid).
Thank you David for hosting this discussion on your blog. And I must extend (perhaps rather grudgingly :-)) thanks to Thetis and Lovelyhorse for their criticisms and the effort they’ve obviously gone to in presenting them – even though I find the polemical way they do so unhelpful to forming a balanced view. (Mind you, I don’t think many of the pro-Steiner faction do their cause any favours either. In fact much of the discussion I’ve waded through makes me want to do this: http://xkcd.com/438/ ;-))
They don’t appear to have moved on from the “Frankfurter Memorandum”
Yes, one might have expected by now at least a followup codicil called the “Hamburger Memorandum.”
(But since most of them are vegetarians, don’t hold your breath — unless of course, you are a Breatharian.)
Holding my breath for that long would make me an ex-Breatharian.
Interesting that you have now joined the third post. You appear to be trying to make out that DC’s recogntion that the extent to ‘which the barmpottery rub[s] off on parents and children [is] …..variable’ is somehow a more ‘perceptive’ view than that of Thetis and Lovely Horse. Rereading their posts (admittedly long in order to make the argument) it’s quite clear that they have already stated, in line with DC, and indeed with much of what you say:
– the extent to which teachers are practicing or influenced by anthroposophy is variable (and that the pragmatists will have no problem taking a non racist view)
– that it is the effect on children in the schools that really matters
– that some of the [superficial] elements of the education are attractive (natural materials etc).
However it IS clear that Anthroposophy underpins so much of what happens to children, even though it is not directly taught to them.
Trying to make out that Thetis and Lovely Horse are being polemical just because they are making a stand (coming to a conclusion which requires action), when their thinking is so nuanced, does your line of argument no favours.
Your reasoning seems to suggest that all will be fine if we allow those running the schools to oversee training to ensure that Steiner’s racial ideas are expunged from the school.
But these are anthroposophists, the very people most likely to believe in Steiner’s spiritual racial hierarchy and who don’t even see these doctrines as being racially discriminatory.
So, it’s great that you agree that there are teachers (the non-pragmatists) who ARE likely to be influenced by Steiner’s race theories. I think we can all agree that this is a problem. It’s just a shame you have come to the conclusion that the voices of parents and children experiencing racism should be ignored because it appears to you that other children have a good experience.
“So a Steiner training with its misguided racial theories won’t necessarily result in teachers bahaving in racist ways (and training people to be non-racist doesn’t necessarily make them behave tolerantly). Even so I’d wholeheartedly agree that any school, especially one receiving state funding, should be doing its best to train its staff in awareness of, and how to deal with, race, gender, sexuality, disability and such issues, and specifically to disavow anything in its founder’s ideas that conflict with a modern humanitarian sensibility.”
John – if this is your argument, what exactly is your disagreement with the authors then?
I think the point is many Waldorf supporters – and certainly official institutional spokespersons *don’t* disavow the “ideas that conflict with a modern humanitarian sensibility,” i.e., the racist doctrines.
zooey has found some revealing info at the website of the Goetheanum’s pedagogical section. She links to above:
‘the incorporation of the “I” into the body’ (teachers conferences)
If there is any doubt about the anthroposophical basis of Steiner Waldorf ed., this clarification is helpful.
I am qualified to comment on this because;
1) I was Steiner educated from 4 to 16. I am not a well meaning parent that never experienced it, nor an academic reading about it for the first time.
2) I chose to send my three daughters age 18, 15, 6 to state education.
3) I am an atheist and follow mainstream scientific principles but my father and mother were deeply into Steiner.
RACIST! I suspect that your objective is to try to stop the state funding of Steiner schools by trying to find any pretext you can. I would suggest that you actually look at what really happens in the schools not what you think happens. Hold onto reality or don’t call yourself a scientist call yourself a spin doctor. I have heard of teachers in the state system openly expressing racism during the 1960s and 70s when I was at school. I never even got a hint of it from teachers in my Steiner school and I have no doubt they would have been sacked instantly for expressing anything like it. My maths teacher was Indian married to a white English woman, my kindergarten teacher was dark but I don’t know where she was from and it never even crossed my mind to ask. I know one child in my class was racist and I asked my mother “Why does Quentin tease Marlene because she is black?” Not the absence of a comma. I had no concept that black was a reason to tease anybody and that never changed. My father Frederic de Havas lectured on Rudolf Steiner and was Jewish his sisters lived in Dornach and were high up in the movement. As for talking about disability discrimination. The care provided by the Steiner based Camp Hill movement for people with downs and autism meant they lived full lives I saw it. The idea of racial hierarchy was prevalent at the time Steiner was writing and it is not surprising therefore that it effected him, however his barmpot ideas about reincarnation meant that he could not value any one human being above another. In many ways he was far ahead of his time in being less racist than by far the majority. SO PLEASE TAKE YOUR FICTION OF THE RACIST STEINER SCHOOL AND PUT IT WHERE IT BELONGS. NON-SCIENCE.
I am really looking forward to meeting you in open debate. Perhaps we could invite a barmpot along too, but please lay off the smear campaign and stick to the reality.
So tomdehavas, if you did not observe racism at the Steiner school you attended, it must not exist at any Steiner school? This is not a convincing argument, nor is the name dropping about “higher ups in the movement.”
\The idea of racial hierarchy was prevalent at the time Steiner was writing and it is not surprising therefore that it effected him,\
Except that he was supposed to be clairvoyant. Why would he be affected by mistaken racial notions, then? There are two possibilities here, for believing anthroposophists: 1) His multiple offensive pronouncements about \higher and lower\ races, \outdated\ racial forms and the like, were all crap, which would make him, um, not clairvoyant; or 2) he was really clairvoyant … and therefore *right* in his multiple offensive racial pronouncements. Which? It does not seem possible to have this both ways, tomdehavas.
\however his barmpot ideas about reincarnation meant that he could not\The idea of racial hierarchy was prevalent at the time Steiner was writing and it is not surprising therefore that it effected him,\
Except that he was supposed to be clairvoyant. Why would he be affected by mistaken racial notions, then? There are two possibilities here, for believing anthroposophists: 1) His multiple offensive pronouncements about \higher and lower\ races, \outdated\ racial forms and the like, were all crap, which would make him, um, not clairvoyant; or 2) he was really clairvoyant … and therefore *right* in his multiple offensive racial pronouncements. Which? It does not seem possible to have this both ways, tomdehavas.
\however his barmpot ideas about reincarnation meant that he could not value any one human being above another.\
You’ll have to explain. How does this follow? value any one human being above another.\
You’ll have to explain. How does this follow?
Sorry the above is garbled – I’ve had a lot of trouble getting posts through. I guess it makes some sense till about halfway through, then it’s full of wacky repeats. sorry!!
Greetings, DW! Now that’s what I call a double bind! As you put it so well:
For true Anthros, they either have to (1) reject the racism, which means rejecting Steiner’s clairvoyance (and thus anthroposophy!) or else (2) accept the racism as a true expression of Steiner’s clairvoyance (and thus salvage anthroposophy)
Well, they easily escape the snares of this trap by opting for choice (2) and further justifying that choice by espousing the fundamental doctrine of anthroposophy — which Steiner called a “the science of karma,” — i.e., reincarnation, and as you will see, that — presto! — nullifies the racism!
I’ll let Tom de Foras answer in his way, but the reason reincarnation means treating everyone as equal is due to the wider perspective that reincarnation provides.
You see, to a true Anthro, racism is only a problem for those people who reject reincarnation and thus are stuck believing that this one life is “only this and nothing more. Quoth the raven: Nevermore!” In that case, then, clearly anthroposophy appears undeniably terribly racist to them, because once you’re black, you’re black for the rest of your life. You die black and that’s it. So of course you would see Steiner as terribly racist. But now watch the Anthro slip through the trap door and escape from the double bind that DW put them in.
You see, if you believe in Steiner’s ideas about reincarnation, then you get a second chance, a 3rd chance, a 4th, . . . (not quite ad infinitum, since reincarnation ends in 5,883 years — I’ll do the math another time), so if you are black or brown or yellow in this life, you’ll get a chance to improve your racial “maturity” shall I say, by making the most out of your colored lifetime now, and then reincarnating in a better lighter racial family in the future.
But wait, there’s more! You see it also cuts both ways. According to Steiner, when we develop our compassion and empathy to a high enough degree, the Caucasians in this life may willingly sacrifice their next life by re-incarnating in one of the lower darker-skinned races, the ones that are destined to die out anyway. (Can you say: White Man’s Burden?)
Hopefully, this might help explain why Anthros will never renounce Steiner’s racism even if they acknowledge or admit it. What an Anthro might say to a “Critic of Color,” let’s say, could go like this:
“Look, I agree with you that Steiner is racist, but it’s not really a bad racism because of reincarnation. But since you reject reincarnation, then you can’t help but make the racism out to be much worse than it really is. And that makes it your problem, not mine. Actually, I do sympathize with your plight now as a person of color, but if you would just accept reincarnation, then you would see that your present plight is temporary. You see, while it is true that ‘a leopard can’t change its spots’, it is also true that the leopard will someday die and could very well come back as an unspotted lion.”
Dear DW I must ask you to maintain logic in these discussions.
My experience at my Steiner School was that Racism was absolutely out and certainly not an integral part of the institution. That is my empirical experience just as I experience that cups hold water. It does not therefore prove that all cups I have not tried do not hold water. i.e. perhaps every Steiner thing I had no contact with is racist, but given I had a lot of contact my empirical scientific conclusion is that cups do hold water and the Steiner institutions are not racist.
Steiner was a nut as far as I’m concerned so “clairvoyant” no such thing! Give me a break. So I agree with “1) His multiple offensive pronouncements about \higher and lower\ races, \outdated\ racial forms and the like, were all crap”
Don’t worry about the repeat I think I understood it.
Dear Hollywood Tomfortas Anthros are unreasonable people as are the majority. They are quite capable of living lives with at least 16 (JOKE) totally contradictory beliefs without ever noticing the problem. So for this reason you can’t expect a little problem like a contradiction to bring them down. When reading the bible God kills every first child of the Egyptians but he was still the God of love. With Steiner even devoted Anthros pick and choose what they accept or don’t accept and I would say that my school experience was that the teachers never expressed or condoned racism or sexism, while the state system seperated girls and boys for needle work and metel work for example, Steiner schools did not. It was never even suggested that needlework was inherently feminine or metal work masculine unlike the mainstream. This lack of discrimination ran through everything, we didn’t even care who was smart and who was dumb because attention was never drawn to it. Every child was given the idea that they had a place in society.
Just to finish off. What bothers me about you lot is that you persist in trying to work out what goes on in Steiner school classrooms based on the Steiner bookshelf which is not only huge but mostly not about education and does not effect the classroom. It is therefore neither here nor there what the teacher believes when they are teaching how to add numbers, for example. My experience is that good teachers and bad teachers are just that and we should look at what they teach. Newton himself believed in some pretty silly stuff outside of mathematics but it would have been a great shame to reject F=ma just because Newton believed in god. Look in the class rooms in all schools. Watch what happens. Having been a pupil in the Steiner class room I know what I found wrong with it and right with it and what I found wrong with and right with the teachers I faced.
Personally I think most modern education, including Steiner, is a disaster in many ways. From the classes of 30 in which my children have struggled to learn to the segregation based on age rather than ability. To universities that have been being deliberately destroyed by subsequent governments since the 80s. What are we to be left with.
I hated school not because it was Steiner school but because it was school for a host of reasons that could apply to any school. But I must say I had a diversity of teachers many of whom knew their craft well. A few were obviously Gesteinered as we said, but most were not.
Finally on racism. My maths teacher who was indian and well known enough in the world of mining and explosives to have been made an “honorary white” so he could lecture in a South African University, was probably never asked how much Steiner claptrap he believed in, it certainly never effected his teaching or his exploding!
I guess when they employed Dr Gor Sen at Wynstones they forgot they were meant to be racist.
I was at Wynstones school from 1966 to 1978.
Tom de Havas
Replace \It does not therefore prove that all cups I have not tried do not hold water.\
\It does not therefore prove that all cups I have not tried do hold water, they might all not.\
@DW – thanks! It does bear repeating, so your repeats may be a conscious glitch by an exasperated gremlin in wordpress.
@Tom – it’s exactly those concepts of ‘racial maturity’ and the possibility of ‘sacrificing’ a life as a non-Caucasian that are so chilling. That’s a shrewd description of the anthroposophists’ double bind and their ‘spiritual’ escape route, which when understood really should disqualify them from running schools.
If having been a steiner school student is a requirement to express an opinion on the racist elements of anthroposophy, then I’m qualified too, Tom de H.
I can tell you on thing — I never experienced racism either. But I cannot speak for the non-white children who attended the school. (They were few, and the ones I know of chose to leave. Obviously I cannot say why.) But what should be the focus is the underlying philosophy. And the problem with anthroposophy is not just the racism issue but other issues too. Like the temperament doctrine and judging children based on physical appearances. These issues are related to the race doctrines. And you can never get away from the fact that karma and incarnation play a role in waldorf education.
I’m afraid it seems you don’t know a thing about anthroposophy or its role in waldorf education. Despite having been a student in one steiner school. Unfortunately your manner of discussing is rather typical for lots of former waldorf students. Angry, ranting, uninformed, abusive.
The Steiner Waldorf teacher training BA at the University of Plymouth is now in the process of closing, the last intake was September 2009. However the University still runs the International Masters Programme in Eurythmy and is looking at the possibility of integrating a Steiner Waldorf Education pathway within its BA Education Studies. The University library holds three of the books Peter mentions in message 57 that include the racial teachings of Rudolf Steiner:
Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment
The Apocalypse of St. John
I would like to ask Tom de Havas, what do you think those books are doing there?