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 [Tertiary and Quaternary time in Steiner's view. Ed. comment.]... 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 [Tertiary and Quaternary] times. We can still speak
of races but only in the sense that the real concept of races is losing
Rudolf Steiner: Welt, Erde und Mensch (The World, the Earth, and Man), (GA 105) lecture of 16 August 1908.
The focus of anthroposophy
is the human being, in both the general, universal and the individual sense,
and our origin and development as human beings, independent of our ethnic
origin, gender, nationality, race, creed, or other more temporary, external
During the time of Hitler
in Germany, 1933-45, this basic stance of anthroposophy made the Nazi authorities,
after thorough investigation
of anthroposophy, persecute anthroposophists, the anthroposophical
movement and the Waldorf movement, prohibit and dissolve the Anthroposophical
Society in 1935 and prohibit the Waldorf schools from taking on any more
pupils than they already had.
The Nazis charged them with
being individualistic, internationally oriented, pacifistic, and maintaining
close ties to Jews. Anthroposophy was held to be contradictory to the ideas
of race and "Volk" upheld by the Nazis, and to be directly opposed to and
a threat to National Socialism.
In recent years, more than
60 years after Nazi accusations against and persecutions of anthroposophy
and anthroposophists for being anti-racist, anti-Nazi and pro-Jewish, the
opposite allegations, that anthroposophy is "racist", "proto-Nazi"
and "anti-Semitic", are at times cultivated, nourished and propagated.
This is done by a few individuals
and small groups of people mainly for demagogical purposes, mostly as part
secular humanist and dogmatic left wing campaigns against anything
which takes the soul and spirit of the human being seriously. These individuals
have also recently begun to use advertising on the internet to spread the
allegations and myths in question.
These false allegations are used as
rhetorical tools to bait especially people of color and of Jewish
origin or creed -- indeed anyone of good intentions -- into supporting
the anti-Waldorf campaigns against anthroposophy and the Waldorf
What is the basic view of
Steiner and anthroposophy on the relation between what is individual in
the human being, and our ethnic origin, gender, nationality, race, creed,
and other more temporary, external characteristics?
essence probably is most concisely and clearly expressed in Steiner's discussion
of the issue in 1894, in his Philosophy of Freedom. Although at
that time, Steiner pointed especially to gender to exemplify how
individuality and individual freedom were undervalued for
he also applied the same argument against using generic aspects to judge
someone based on race.
This discussion can be found
in the context of an effort to develop an understanding of the essence
of humanity, that comes to expression as the element of potential freedom
and the striving for self-determination, which exists at the core of every
human being, independent of race, gender or other external characteristics:
"Anyone who judges
people according to generic characters gets only as far as the frontier
where people begin to be beings whose activity is based on free self-determination."
The individuality that lives
more or less visibly in all of us as humans is the central focus in anthroposophy
and Waldorf education, independent of the gender, race, nationality, or
ethnic group we happen to belong to, or the religion we profess to.
"The genus explains why something
in the individual appears in the form we observe. Man, however, makes himself
free from what is generic. ... What is generic in him serves only as a
medium in which to express his own individual being. He uses as a foundation
the characteristics that nature has given him, and to these he gives a
form appropriate to his own being."
"It is impossible to understand
a human being completely if one takes the concept of genus [like gender
or race, Ed. comment] as the basis of one's judgment. The tendency
to judge according to the genus is at its most stubborn where we are concerned
with differences of sex. Almost invariably man sees in woman, and woman
in man, too much of the general character of the other sex and too little
of what is individual.
"In practical life this does
less harm to men than to women. The social position of women is for the
most part such an unworthy one because in so many respects it is determined
not as it should be by the particular characteristics of the individual
woman, but by the general picture one has of woman's natural tasks and
and Genus in The Philosophy of Freedom, 1894)
What then is it that makes
a few individuals and small groups of people at times accuse Steiner and
anthroposophy of being racist or anti-Semitic, 70 years after the opposite
accusations were made by the Nazis in the 1930's in Germany?
As far as anthroposophy is
concerned, the arguments and allegations as such focus on three concepts,
that appear at times,
mainly in the early works of Steiner.
For some comments on them,
developed his main work during the beginning of a period, from the end
of the 19th century up to 1924 in a culture permeated with discussions
of "race" and "races" in nature and in human contexts, as part of the developing
understanding of evolution.
In spite of this dominance
of thinking in terms of "race" at the time, only five of the approximately
4,000 published lectures he held during the period, on almost every imaginable
issue, have the issue of what at the time was understood to be "the human
races" as their main theme.
Following allegations of
racism by a teacher at one Waldorf school in Holland some 10 years ago,
a Dutch commission was initiated by the Anthroposophical Society in the
Netherlands to investigate fully this issue. The commission reviewed in
detail the 89,000 pages comprising Steiner's published works, mostly transcripts
of lectures, and found in total 245 comments on the issue. The comments
in question constitute on the order of 0.2% of his collected works.
The central focus of
the commission was whether the publication of anything in the printed
works by Steiner was in violation of present-day, sensitive Dutch
legislation on discrimination.
While the commission
to the conclusion that that probably was not the case, it also
concluded that 16 of the 245 comments by Steiner, if made today by
someone in Holland as isolated statements in public, some 80-100 years
after they actually were made and outside their original cultural and
social context, would probably be deemed discriminatory according to
present-day Dutch legislation. (Five of these 16 comments were made in
1923 during one ad hoc morning lecture to construction workers in
answer to a question by one of the workers).
The commission also concluded
that anthroposophy contains no racial doctrine in the sense of a
seemingly scientific theory whereby the superiority of one race is supposed
to be legitimized at the expense of another.
For a description of the
background of the work of the Dutch Commission and its results, see here.
For more, see Rudolf Steiner on
was the year of the foundation of a federation
of women's associations in Germany as part of the developing women's
liberation movement. Back to text.)
2004: Robert Mays and Sune Nordwall