Some of the roots of antiracism in anthroposophy and Waldorf education
How did Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), as the main founder of both anthroposophy and Waldorf education, view the nature of the individual in relation to the "race" or culture he or she happened to have or belong to at different times in history.

And how did he view the relation between the cultures of the world at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century?

Below is a selection of some few examples of the views he expressed throughout his life, 80-110 years ago, in a culture permeated with thinking about people in terms of "race", and experiencing the horrors of the first World War in history.

1888:

"The barometer of progress in the evolution of humanity is ... the understanding of the ideal of freedom that is prevalent, and the practical realization of that understanding. It is our conviction that the present age has taken a step forward in this understanding which is just as significant as the step initiated by the teaching of Christ: 'Let there be no difference between Jews and Greeks, between barbarians and Scythians; but may you all be brothers in Christ.'"
Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte 1887-1901 (Collected essays) (GA 31), Dornach 1989, 13 July 1888.
1894:
"Those who judge human beings according to generic characteristics stop before the boundary beyond which people begin to be beings whose activity is based on free self-determination."
Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path. A Philosophy of Freedom (GA 4), Hudson 1995, written in 1894.
1897:
"Value should be attached solely to the mutual exchange between individuals. It is irrelevant whether someone is a Jew or a German ... This is so obvious that one feels stupid even putting it into words. So how stupid must one be to assert the opposite!"
Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte 1887-1901 (Collected essays) (GA 31), Dornach 1989, September 1897.
1900:
"I have never been able to see anti-Semitism as anything except a view that indicates in those who hold it an inferiority of spirit, a lack of ability to make ethical judgments and a tastelessness ... that is an insult to any normal way of thinking."
Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte 1887-1901 (Collected essays) (GA 31), Dornach 1989, 1 September 1900.
1901:
"Anti-Semitism is a mockery of all belief in ideas. It is a mockery especially of the idea that humanity rises above any specialized form (tribe, race, nation) in which this humanity expresses itself."

“Anti-Semitism is not only a danger for Jews, it is also a danger for non Jews. It arises out of a way of thinking that does not seriously strive for sound, straightforward judgments. Anti-Semitism promotes this way of thinking. And anyone who thinks philosophically should not just observe that passively. The belief in ideas will only return to prevalence if we oppose the contrary unbelief in all areas as energetically as possible.“

Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte 1887-1901 (Collected essays) (GA 31), Dornach 1989, 20 and 27 November 1901.
1903:
"Endeavors to achieve tolerance, to achieve a general love of humanity: these have always been the forces that have produced the great steps forward in human progress. It is the wish of the theosophical stream to bring together in unity what individual cultural movements strive to attain. It wants to overcome small-mindedness and intolerance. For humanity can only achieve its goals nowadays if it unites in striving for them."
"The Theosophical Congress in Amsterdam", June 1903, in Lucifer-Gnosis 1903-1908 (in GA 34), Dornach 1987.
 
"The highest principle of the Theosophical Society is: 'To be the core of a fraternal community that encompasses the whole of humanity without distinction of race, religion, social class, nationality or gender.' In fact this is the sole principle that is regarded as binding for members of this Society. All other efforts are merely intended as means towards achieving the great goal as expressed in this intrinsic requirement."
"Theosophy and Socialism" (in GA 34), in Lucifer-Gnosis 1903-1908, October 1903.
1904:
"Other qualities which ... have to be combated [on the path of spiritual development] are ... the making of distinctions in human beings according to the outward characteristics of rank, sex, race, and so forth. In our time it is difficult for people to understand how the combating of such qualities can have anything to do with the heightening of the faculty of cognition. But every spiritual scientist knows that much more depends upon such matters than upon the increase of intelligence and employment of artificial exercises. Especially can misunderstanding arise if we believe that we must become foolhardy in order to be fearless; that we must close our eyes to the differences between people, because we must combat the prejudices of rank, race, and so forth. Rather is it true that a correct estimate of all things is to be attained only wen we are no longer entangled in prejudice. Even in the ordinary sense it is true that the fear of some phenomenon prevents us from estimating it rightly; that a racial prejudice prevents us from seeing into a man's soul. It is this ordinary sense that the student must develop in all its delicacy and subtlety."
Knowledge of the Higher Worlds And Its Attainment (GA 10), written in 1904. Chapter: Some Practical Aspects.
 
"The most important principle adopted by the theosophical movement is: to form itself into the core of a general fraternity amongst all human beings built on the love of one's fellows. In doing this the theosophical movement will comprehensively prepare human beings for a world view in which not mutual struggle but love is the creative and formative element."
Ursprung und Ziel des Menschen (Origin and Goal of the Human Being), (GA 53), Dornach 1981, lecture of 29 September 1904.
1905:
"It is a great achievement in our soul life when we can learn through spiritual development to attain the ability to recognize truly the common soul element that imbues the whole of the human race, the unity that exists in the whole of humanity; it is a recognition which we don't receive as an unconscious gift, but that we must consciously set out to achieve. It is the task of the spiritual scientific world view to in truth and reality develop this unified soul of all of humanity. This is expressed in our first principle: to found a band of brotherhood across the world as a whole, without concern for race, gender, color and so on. That is the recognition of the soul, that is common to all humanity. All the way into the passions, the purification must take place that makes is self evident, that the same soul lives in your brother [as in yourself]."
Die Welträtsel und die Anthroposophie (The World Riddle and Anthroposophy) (GA 54), Dornach 1983, lecture of 12 October 1905.
1906:
"Christ leads [...] beyond the race to all of humanity on Earth, to all peoples and races all over the planet. Christ Jesus is the representative for that; he carries all of humanity in himself [...] Christ Jesus is the one who encompasses the consciousness of all of humanity as in an extract.
Kosmogonie (Cosmogony) (GA 94), lecture of 11 November 1906.


1907:

"A time will come when all racial and tribal links come to an end. Individual human beings will become increasingly different from one another. Mutual belonging will then no longer be a matter of consanguinity but will arise through that which binds one soul to another. This is the course human evolution will take."
The Theosophy of the Rosicrucian (GA 99), lecture of 4 June 1907
1908:
"In primeval ages of humanity love occurred between those linked together by the bonds of consanguinity, and very great importance was attached to love having this physical basis of blood relatedness. Christ came in order to spiritualize this love, in order on the one hand to detach it from the bonds in which consanguinity enveloped it, and on the other in order to bring in the strength and impulse for spiritual love [...] 'Galilean' signifies 'the one of mixed race'. Christ Jesus goes to Galilee, to those who are most mixed. From that which comes into being in reproduction through mixing there will arise what is not bound to the physical basis of love."
The Gospel of St John (GA 103), lecture of 23 May 1908
 
“For this reason we speak of ages of culture in contra-distinction to races. All that is connected with the idea of race is still a relic of the epoch preceding our own, namely the Atlantean. We are now living in the period of cultural ages [...] Today the idea of culture has superseded the idea of race.”
The Apocalypse of St John (GA 104), London 1977, lecture of 20 June 1908.
 
"That constitutes the advancement in relation to the former Atlantean time; that at that time a colony developed in a small area, but that in our time the possibility is given to recruit those who really understand the mission of the Earth out of all tribes all over the Earth, people who understand to make Christ alive in themselves, to develop the principle of brotherly love all over the Earth, and do it in a proper sense, not in the sense of the Christian confessions, but in the sense of true esoteric Christianity, that can spring from all cultures."
The Apocalypse of St John (GA 104), London 1977, lecture of 24 June 1908.


"In regard to present humanity ... it no longer makes sense to speak simply of the development of the races. In the true sense of the word this development of the races applies only to the Atlantean epoch ... External physiognomies then differed so greatly that one could actually speak of different forms ... In our own epoch the concept of race will gradually disappear along with all the differences that are relics of earlier times. Thus everything that exists today in connection with the [different] races are relics of the differentiation that took place in Atlantean times. We can still speak of races but only in the sense that the real concept of races is losing its validity."

Welt, Erde und Mensch (The World, the Earth, and Man), (GA 105) lecture of 16 August 1908.
1909:
"Now, in the present time, we live in a time of transition in the most eminent sense of the word. All group soulness shall be cast off. Just as the abyss between the individual nations disappear more and more, just as the individual parts of the different nations understand each other more and more, other forms of group soulness will be cast off too, and what is individual in the individual human will step into the foreground. We have thereby characterized something that is very important in this development.

"If we want to understand it from another side, we can say that that concept in which the group soulness most clearly comes to expression, the concept of race, more and more loses its importance.

"If we go back to the time before the Atlantean catastrophe, we see how the human races prepared themselves. During the old Atlantean time people were grouped together according to the external characteristics of their bodies even more than today. What we today calls 'races' are the relics of the marked differences that were common between people during the old Atlantean time.

"But the concept of race in a proper sense was only useful at the old Atlantis. Therefore we have not, as we count with a real evolution of humanity, used the concept of race for the post-Atlantean time. We don't speak of an Indian race, a Persian race and so on, as it isn't proper any more. We speak of an Old Indian cultural epoch, of an Old Persian cultural epoch and so on. 

"It would have completely no sense if we were to speak of that we in our time were preparing for a sixth 'race'. If we in our time still see remains of the old Atlantean differences, remaining old group soulness, so that you still can speak of a differentiation into races - what is preparing itself for the sixth epoch consists specifically in getting rid of and leaving behind that which is 'racial character'. That is the important thing.

"Therefore it is necessary, that that movement that is called the anthroposophical movement, and that shall prepare for the sixth [Earth] epoch in its basic character, takes up especially this task of getting rid of that which related to 'racial character' and to unite people of all races, of all nations and in this way bridges this differentiation, these differences, this abyss that exists between different groups of people. Because that which are old racial points of view has a physical character, and that which will develop into the future has a spiritual character.

”That is the reason why it is so urgently necessary that our anthroposophical movement is a spiritual movement, that looks at that which is spiritual and overcomes specifically that which is based on physical differences out of the force of this spirituality.

"It is completely understandable that every movement has its childhood illnesses and that at the beginning of the theosophical movement one described what it is about as if the evolution of the Earth so to speak was differentiated into seven epochs - they were called 'main races' [here 'main races' refers to the theosophical concept of seven "root races"] - and that every 'root race' was differentiated into seven 'sub-races', and that everything would repeat itself that way for ever, so that you for ever could speak of seven 'races' and seven 'sub-races'.

"But one has to overcome this childhood illness and become clear that the concept of race ceases to have any meaning / importance specifically in our time.

"Something else is preparing itself - something that in the most eminent sense has to do with the human individuality - the ever more increasing individualization of man. What is important is that this development of the individuality is supported in the right way, and the anthroposophical movement has to support this development of individuality in man in the right way.''

Die tieferen Geheimnisse des Menschheitswerdens im Lichte der Evangelien (The Deeper Secrets of Human Evolution in the Light of the Gospels) (GA 117), lecture of 4 December 1909.
1910:
“We can best serve mankind if we develop our particular talents so as to offer them to the whole of humanity as a sacrifice which we bring to the progressive development of culture. We must learn to understand this. We must learn to understand that it would not redound to the credit of Spiritual Science, if it did not contribute to the evolution of man, Angel and Archangel, but were to support the convictions of one people at the expense of another. 

 "It is no part of Spiritual Science to assist in imposing the confessional beliefs of one continent upon another continent. If the religious teachings of the East were to prevail in the West, or vice versa, that would be a complete denial of anthroposophical teaching. What alone accords with anthroposophical teaching is that we should unselfishly dedicate the best that is in us, our sympathy and compassion, to the well-being of all humanity. And if we are self-contained, yet live not for ourselves but for all human beings, then that is true anthroposophical tolerance.”

The Mission of the Individual Folk Souls (GA 121), lecture of 17 June 1910.
1912:
“On the day when it comes about that the Brahmin not only loves and understands the Brahmin, the Pariah the Pariah, the Jew the Jew, and the Christian the Christian; but when the Jew is able to understand the Christian, the Pariah the Brahmin, the American the Asiatic, as a human being, and put himself in his place, then one will know how deeply it is felt in a Christian way when we say: 'All human beings must feel themselves to be brothers, no matter what their religious creed may be.' ”
The Spiritual Foundations of Morality (in GA 155), Hudson 1995, lecture of 30 May 1912.
 
“The trend which will become more and more general over the globe ... is no kind of approach to a new group-soul, but far rather the laying aside of the attributes of the group-soul. Intimately connected with this is the fact that the spiritual guidance of human beings will become more and more a matter individual to each one; they will have greater inner freedom in this respect. If Theosophy is to keep faith with its good old principles ... it will not cherish groundless hopes of a future culture emanating from one particular race.”
Earthly and Cosmic Man (GA 133), Dornach 1989, lecture of 20 June 1912.
1914:
“Our Society unites within a common stream members of very differing races or peoples who are today hostile to one another ... We are endeavoring to bring together again what has been scattered all over the world; here representatives of various nations embrace one another fraternally, they become brothers within our circle.”
Mitteleuropa zwischen Ost und West (Central Europe between East and West) (GA 174a), Dornach 1982, lecture of 13 September 1914.


“We can sense that the principle ... of working without any distinction between race, color, nationality and so on is fundamentally so closely bound up with the deeper being of our Movement that anyone who agrees with the profound seriousness of spiritual-scientific truths must realize that it would be nonsensical not to stand up for this first principle.”

Mitteleuropa zwischen Ost und West (Central Europe between East and West) (GA 174a), Dornach 1982, lecture of 3 December 1914.
1915:
“The very reason why we are working to reach a world view based on spiritual science is so that humanity may struggle to free itself from feelings of merely national concern as opposed to feelings concerned with humanity as a whole ... so that something may spread to encompass the whole earth, something that goes beyond all possible differentiations ...”
Die geistigen Hintergründe des Ersten Weltkriegs (The spiritual background of the First World War) (GA 174b), Dornach 1994, lecture of 14 February 1915.
1916:
“Christ is our savior who keeps humankind from being fragmented into groups ... Christianity lives wherever people are able to understand this union of all humanity through Christ. In the future, it will not matter much whether what Christ is will still be called by that name. However, a lot will depend on our finding in Christ the spiritual uniter of humanity and accepting that external diversity will increase more and more.”
Die geistige Vereinigung der Menschheit durch den Christus-Impuls (The Unification of Humanity through the Christ-Impuls) (GA 165), lecture of 9 January 1916.
1917:
“... someone speaking today of the ideal of races and nations and of tribal affiliation speaks of decadent impulses of humanity. And if such a person imagines that with such ideals he is placing before humanity ideals that are progressive, then this is not true. Because through nothing will humanity be brought more into decadence than if the ideals of race, nation and blood continue to hold sway.”
The Fall of the Spirits of Darkness (GA 177), Bristol 1993, lecture of 26 October 1917.
1919:
"... as regards ... what is independent of our bodily makeup we are all individually made; each one of us is his or her own self, an individual. With the exception of the far less important differences that show up as racial or national differences ... but which are (if you have a sense for this you cannot help noticing it) mere trifles by comparison with differences in individual gifts and skills: with the exception of these we are all equal as human beings ... as regards our external, physical humanity. We are equal as human beings, here in the physical world, specifically in that we all have the same human form and all manifest a human countenance. The fact that we all bear a human countenance and encounter one another as external, physical human beings... this makes us equal on this footing. We differ from one another in our individual gifts which, however, belong to our inner nature."
Education as a Force for Social Change (in GA 192), Hudson 1997, lecture of 23 April 1919.
1920:
“And it is national chauvinism that is ringing through the whole civilized world today. This is merely the social counterpart of the utterly reactionary world-view that tries to trace everything back to inherited characteristics.”
New Spirituality and the Christ Experience of the Twentieth Century (GA 200), London & Hudson 1988, lecture of 31 October 1920.
1923:
”Those who are fanatics and find their way into Anthroposophy through their fanaticism rather than through their inner life are the very ones who select the sharpest terms of abuse for all that is American ... It is not our task as Europeans to grumble about the Americans all the time, for it is up to us to found a civilization across the whole earth that is put together out of all that is best.”
Vom Leben des Menschen auf der Erde (GA 349), lecture of 3 March 1923.
1924:
“The first thing Europeans should learn is that they must not just carry their knowledge to Asia; they should learn very attentively what the Asians know. Then they would know, for example, what Tibetan wisdom is. So then they would not tell the Asians things in the old way but in the new way, making use of what Tibetan wisdom is. By respecting the culture of the others they would achieve something. This is what Europe must learn.”

 “Seeing how Europeans carry on over in Asia really makes one sweat blood. What they do destroys everything Asia has and leads absolutely nowhere. The real trouble of course is that Europe itself is in trouble and that it is difficult to imagine how Europe will ever be able to get out of this trouble. The great trouble is that Europe itself is in decline and that it cannot get away from all the cultural damage in which it is stuck if people do not make up their minds to take on a genuine culture of the spirit. Many people still do not believe this. And this is how it has come about that everyone coming to Europe from Asia has reached the conclusion: These Europeans, they are really all barbarians.

 “... They have reached this conclusion because so much of the ancient wisdom of the spirit and the ancient knowledge of the spirit has still been preserved in Asia; because of this, what Europeans know appears to Asians to be childish. All the things so much admired in Europe appear terribly childish to people in Asia!

 “... In spiritual culture Asians are today still ahead of Europeans. And if we in Europe cannot find anything better than what the Asians already have by way of a spiritual culture, then why should one take missions and suchlike to Asia in the first place? They are not needed there!”

Die Geschichte der Menschheit und die Weltanschauungen der Kulturvölker, lecture of 20 May 1924.
return to top

Copyright 2004: Robert Mays, Sune Nordwall, Rudolf Steiner Press, the Anthroposophic Press, and the translator of some of the quotes above.