April 2005 Archives

Racism vs Racialism


Kwame Anthony Appiah's distinction between 'racialism' and 'racism' seems important in considering Steiner's statements on the subject of race. A nice summary is provided by George Fredrickson in his book Racism: A Short History.[1]First Fredrickson offers Appiah's definition of 'racialism' as a belief "that there are heritable characteristics, possessed by members of our species, that allow us to divide them into a small set of races, in such a way that all the members of these races share certain traits and tendencies with each other that they do not share with members of any other race."[2] Fredrickson continues, "Such a belief essentializes differences but does not necessarily imply inequality or hierarchy. As a moral philosopher, Appiah finds such a viewpoint mistaken but not immoral. Racialists do not become racists until they make such convictions the basis for claiming special privileges for members of what they consider to be their own race, and for disparaging and doing harm to those deemed racially Other."

As a historian, Fredrickson finds the distinction useful in considering such people as pre-Civil War abolitionists, many of whom held the belief that blacks were fundamentally different, but were not therefore inferior. Of such people, he says, "I did not wish to use the pejorative 'racism', because, for at least some of these antislavery men and women, the alleged peculiarities of blacks did not sanction a belief in their inferiority or justify enslaving them or discriminating against them."

The abolitionist example is enlightening. Those who fought for the rights of minorities 100 to 150 years ago are none the less defined as "racists" today because they adhered to the widely held belief that human subpopulations differed in certain traits, while explicitly denying that such differences conferred any superiority or privilege. Today such a belief is considered by some as "racist". Yet moral philosophers and historians are bothered by this, because it applies the same label "racist" both to those who advocated and implemented slavery and those who opposed it. Hence the alternative term "racialism".

I feel that Rudolf Steiner falls into the same category as the abolitionists. Steiner opposed racism, national chauvinism, colonialism, and ethnic particularism his entire life. To Steiner the individual was primary, and all individuals are more important than their race, color, nationality, gender, or ethnic group identification. And this was during the time of the high point of "classic" racism, the actual doctrine that a person's racial affiliation was more important than their individuality. It was Steiner's explicit and repeated opposition to racism that caused Anthroposophy to be denounced in no uncertain terms by the Nazi government of Germany in 1935[3].

Yet Steiner did express a belief to the effect that that there are heritable characteristics, possessed by members of our species, that allow a grouping into five races, in such a way that all the members of these races share certain traits and tendencies with each other that they do not share with members of any other race. Steiner was also careful to warn that these traits were inessential and that there was no basis to claim one race superior to any other. By Appiah's definition, this makes Steiner a "racialist" but not a "racist". "Racism" has become such an elastic term, applied almost indiscriminately whenever the word "race" appears, that many experts, among them George Fredrickson, complain that the term has lost all usefulness.[4]

Critics of Steiner are playing a shell game with definitions, using the broadest definition of "racism" to catch Steiner, then presenting their findings in a manner designed to imply that Steiner was a racist the narrowest sense. Realistically, had you conducted a poll 100 years ago, asking the general public, leading scientists, statesmen, and intellectuals, on all five continents, the single question, "Does race exist?" you would have heard "yes" from well over 99 percent of respondents, Steiner included. By the broad definition, nearly the entire world was racist back then. Ask further whether one race is superior to others and a large percentage would again have answered "yes". Steiner, however, would not have been among them. Yet by the critics, Steiner is presented in a manner designed to covey to the casual reader that he was an active advocate for the oppression of non-European peoples, or possibly even all non-Germans. This is intellectually dishonest.


1. Fredrickson, George M. Racism: A Short History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2002. Pages 153-54.

2. Appiah, Kwame Anthony. "Racisms" in Anatomy of Racism, ed. David Theo Goldberg. Minneapolis, 1990. p 222.

3. Jakob Wilhelm Hauer to the Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst RFSS), Oberabschnitt Süd-West, Stuttgart, on February 7th, 1935. (Archival source: BAD R 4901-3285. Hauer. Translation by Daniel Hindes.):

"Anthroposophical "spiritual science", because it holds fast to outmoded spiritual concepts, causes anthroposophy to belong to the epoch of occidental thinking against which our new race- and volk- based thinking (that sees man as a unified physical-spiritual entity) is fighting for its continued existence. Anthroposophy, too, frees the spirit from its connection to race and volk and damns all that is racial and folk-based (Völkische) to lower spheres of primitivism – to the instinctual – considering it to be a drive to be overcome by the spirit, a prehistoricism. Thereby it demonstrates its interconnection with the dominant streams of previous European spiritual history, above all the Enlightenment, German Idealist philosophy, and the Liberalism of the previous century. In it remains living the idealism of the French Revolution and the humanitarian ideals of the Freemasons, as it does in Theosophy, the mother-organization from which it arose. Like Freemasonry and Theosophy, it mixes itself with oriental mysticism, occultism and spiritualism, and breaks like a large wave – similar in form to the secret teachings of the Kabbalah – over Europe…
“These foundations of the world view have the effect that anthroposophy stands open in a disastrous manner to all anti-völkisch, anti-Nationalistic, pacifistic, überstaatlichen (considering something to be more important than the state) and especially Jewish influences…”

Report of the Security Service Central Office (SD-Hauptamtes) in Berlin on "Anthroposophie” dated May 1936. (Archival source: BAD Z/B I 904. Translation by by Daniel Hindes.):

“I consider the Anthroposophical worldview, which is in every way internationally and pacifistically oriented, to be quite simply incompatible with National Socialism. The National Socialist worldview is built upon the conception of blood, race, and Volk, and then also, on the conception of the absolute state. Precisely these two fundamental pillars of the National Socialist worldview and the Third Reich are denied by the anthroposophical worldview. […] Every study and activity involving anthroposophy necessarily has its source in the anthroposophical worldview. This means that schools built upon the anthroposophical worldview and managed by anthroposophists are a danger to true German education […]”

4. George Fredrickson cites Loïc Wacquant, "a prominent sociologist of race" as advocating, "forsaking once and for all the inflammatory and exceedingly ductile category of 'racism' save as a descriptive term referring to empirically analyzable doctrines about beliefs about 'race'."

Fredrickson, George M. Racism: A Short History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2002. Page152-53.

The history of the occult is an interesting topic, especially for scholars of Rudolf Steiner. To someone new to esotericism who encounters Rudolf Steiner first, it may seem as if he originated everything. This is not to undervalue Steiner's substantial original contributions; however Steiner himself was the first to acknowledge that he was working in a tradition with a long history. And Steiner made many references to earlier concepts – as often to disagree with them as to declare them correct. Steiner took individual positions on literally thousands of different points within the occult tradition, which poses a considerable challenge to anyone who would like to easily pigeonhole him into an easy category of this or that type of occultist. And one path that will almost invariably go wrong is to identify one position that Steiner held, compare it to one position another occultist held, and if it is similar, subsequently conclude that they therefore must have held identical positions on every other question of major or minor significance.

Occultism is by definition an obscure topic, and one that has a long history of sensationalist publicity. When pursued as a historical subject, it demands at least the same level or rigor in sources as any other area of history. Writing rigorous, carefully documented history is tedious, but the tedium is what separates history from, say, the sensationalism of an outlet like the Weekly World News.

Now if there is one common tendency in occultism (both the legitimate and fraudulent kind) it is that of obscuring sources. The mysterious, secret source of wisdom is a common trend in most all occult revelations. And in many instances, when a careful investigator meticulously researches the claims, they can discover fraud of some sort or other. Some frauds are essentially a form of plagiarism, where one "teacher" is discovered to be teaching almost verbatim the teachings of an unrelated obscure mystic when they claim to have invented or discovered the teachings themselves. Other times gurus invent biographies, saying they were studying in Tibet during an earlier period of their lives when in fact they were studying at a Midwestern community college. In fact, Steiner is almost unique in that his biography in all its details is verifiable, and he is nothing more or less than he claims to be. Steiner is further unusual in that he repeatedly claimed that his source for his occult knowledge was only his own insight, his own clairvoyance, and no teacher, guru, master, or Great White Lodge had instructed him in either teachings or tasks. He alone assumed responsibility for everything he said and did.

When occult history is written, it is often either hagiography or exposé. The hagiographies tend to be poorly documented, the exposés meticulously so. (The one curious reversal of this trend seems to be Steiner, whose hagiographies are meticulously documented, by whose investigative exposés tend to be missing any real documentation.) A neutral history, if it is really a history, needs to be meticulously documented, because that is what is required of a historian.

This discussion brings us to an interesting website that I discovered recently, http://www.sociologyesoscience.com/esoterica/. At first glance it appears to be a goldmine of information on occult movements and trends. It ranges broadly over personalities and trends, and mentions virtually anyone of any significance. Steiner even merits a few paragraphs. And most of it seems pretty accurate. As I read through, I eagerly bookmarked it. Then I came across a point that I decided I would like to look into, and came across the problem: No footnotes! I clicked through a dozen or more articles, tens of thousands of words. No footnotes. No citations. None. In vain I looked for a references page, a list of works consulted. From a historical perspective, the site is useless. Because without citations, you can't trust a single thing the author says.

Out of curiosity I poked around until I found the author's name: Eric P. Wijnants. Clicking around some more, I found even more articles. One in particular caught my eye. It was an article on the connection between Alistair Crowley and L. Ron Hubbard, at http://sociologyesoscience.com/crowleyscientology.html. Because I had previously read something on the subject, I looked it over. Sure enough the story was quite familiar. Substantial portions were taken from Russell Miller's Bare Faced Messiah. The source pages are even on the web, at http://www.clambake.org/archive/books/bfm/bfm07.htm. Did Eric give any acknowledgement to where he got his information? No, not a word.

The irony is immense. For someone who purports to unearth the hidden truth about the occult, he is behaving exactly like the occultists he exposes. Mountains of secret truth are revealed, and all must be taken on faith, faith that Eric P. Wijnants has properly understood and presented the information that he posts in semi-anonymity (none of the occult pages have his name on them). And faith it must be, because there is no way to verify any of it.

Further, there is no way any of these articles would be accepted in an academic context, because without sources, they are all essentially plagiarized.

And finally, the probably unauthorized use of several professional quality photographs of the interior of Steiner's second Goetheanum to illustrate his esoterica page is another indication of how much respect Eric P. Wijnants has for other people's work. Neither the photographer, nor the architect, nor the place is mentioned! They are just used out of any context for the mood they convey. (See: http://www.epwijnants-lectures.com/rosen.html). How like a fraudulent occultist!

A couple of days ago I pointed out an mistranslation by Peter Staudenmaier:

"Die Negerrasse gehört nicht zu Europa, und es ist natürlich nur ein Unfug, daß sie jetzt in Europa eine so große Rolle spielt."

he translated to:

"The negro race does not belong in Europe, and it is of course nothing but a disgrace that this race is now playing such a large role in Europe."

And I provided what I felt to be the proper translation:

“The Negro race does not belong to Europe, and it is naturally pure mischief that it is currently playing so large a role in Europe.”

And I pointed out the importance of understanding the historical background in evaluating this statement. Now this may appear to be a bunch of hairsplitting, and in this particular case the changes introduced are extraordinarily minor, so much that Peter makes light of the whole issue of his mistranslations in a follow-up post.

However, the issue of Peter Staudenmaier's consistent and deliberate mistranslations is not a minor one, and other examples are far more serious. Leaving aside the "nichts weniger als" debate (the original is ambiguous enough that there are even a small number of native speakers who maintain that it represents single negation and not double negation, thus Staudenmaier may simply be mistaken instead of deliberately deceptive) there are several other serious examples that remain uncorrected.

Let us look at two for now. They occur in the second paragraph of Staudenamier & Zeger's "Anthroposophy and its Defenders" (the article that Barnaby is sure I must have missed because I still maintain, against Staudenmaier, that Steiner was not a nationalist). Staudenamier and Zegers write:

"Let us begin, as Waage does, with the question of nationalism. To the end of his life, Steiner was forthright in acknowledging his early and enthusiastic participation in pan-German agitation. In the autobiography he published shortly before his death, he had this to say about his years in Vienna before the turn of the century: "At this time I was enthusiastically active in the struggles of the Germans in Austria for their national existence." ("Nun nahm ich damals an den nationalen Kämpfen lebhaften Anteil, welche die Deutschen in Österreich um ihre nationale Existenz führten." Steiner, Mein Lebensgang, original edition Dornach 1925, p. 132; the phrase "lebhaften Anteil" could also be translated as "deeply sympathetic".) Waage says that he was unable to find this passage in the Norwegian translation of Steiner's autobiography. (The authorized English translation renders the passage thus: "Now, I took an interested part in the struggle which the Germans in Austria were then carrying on in behalf of their national existence." (Rudolf Steiner, The Course of My Life, New York 1951, 142) Since the article cited the German edition of the book, and since Waage reads German and has access to Steiner's collected works in the original, his insinuation that this quote was concocted strikes us as peculiar, to say the least.) But even without this particularly revealing sentence, Steiner's autobiography provides ample testimony to his German nationalist convictions. The paragraph following the one quoted above refers to Steiner's numerous "friends from the national struggle," and two pages prior he discusses the impact of Julius Langbehn's infamous book Rembrandt als Erzieher on his thinking. (angbehn's book was the bible of the right-wing nationalist völkisch movement, the forerunner to the Nazis, during the period of Steiner's active involvement in pan-German circles. Steiner offers, of all things, a stylistic critique of the book, never once mentioning its aggressive antisemitism or its baleful political and cultural influence within German-speaking Europe. For an overview of Langbehn's impact see Peter Pulzer, The Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria, New York 1964, chapter 25.)"

As I commented to Barnaby, the above paints a certain picture of Rudolf Steiner, one that is hard to defend from charges of nationalism. But how accurate is it? It certainly seems quite scholarly. It even cites the German, so they must be right! I mean, nobody would cite the German and then blatantly mistranslate it, would they? But that is indeed what has happened here.

Getting right to the question of mistranslation, an "Anteil" is "a share of", or figuratively "an interest in," or if sympathy is indicated, "sympathy." However, to argue the translation of "lebhaften Anteil" is to miss the point. The phrase "Anteil... nehmen... an" - the phrase used in the sentence - is translated as "take an interest in;" or, if indicating sympathy, "sympathize with" (Langenscheidts Handwörterbuch Deutsch-Englisch, Berlin 1996, p. 807). Further, "lebhaft" as an adjective is translated "lively" when indicating interest or imagination (same dictionary, p. 1136) and I should note that by no definition given does it mean "deeply" or "enthusiastically," though both these would seem reasonable to a translator trying to improve the flow. So "enthusiastically active in" is widely off the mark, "deeply sympathetic" is also off the mark (individually each word could go that way, but together in the context of the sentence a far better alternative exists) and the straight dictionary translation would be:

"At that time I took a lively interest in the battles that the Germans in Austria were fighting concerning their national existence."

The verb in the sentence ("führten") refers strictly to the Germans, and Steiner's position was limited to his "lively interest" in the form of a prepositional phrase. That not one, but two possible mistranslations are argued, and the straight translation ignored, is disingenuous and a clear mark of an attack piece, not scholarship. To argue that one or more "authorized" translations translate it that way (one of the five different English translations does mistranslate the sentence as "I took an interested part in..." ) is no excuse for serious historians, especially ones with the original German in right front of them and making such a dramatic point about such a short phrase. It is quite cleverly done, since by giving two possible readings, the authors make it appear that they are reasonable about possible alternatives. However, they offer a false choice since the straight translation, which happens not to support their point, is not carefully ignored. Perhaps this is why Waage could not find it in his Norwegian translation; it simply does not exist.

Starting off like that, it should not surprise us that the "friends from the national struggle" and the claimed influence of Rembrandt als Erzieher (a book whose title translated is "Rembrandt as Educator") also turn out to be fabrications. For the "friends from the national struggle" let us look at the whole sentence, both in the original German and in English.

"Es kam zu alledem dazu, daß viele meiner Freunde aus den damaligen nationalen Kämpfen heraus in ihrer Auffassung des Judentumes eine antisemitische Nuance aufgenommen hatten. Die sahen meine Stellung in eine jüdischen Hause nicht mit Sympathie an; und der Herr dieses Hauses fand in meinem freundschaftlichen Umgange mit solchen Persönlichkeiten nur eine Bestätigung der Eindrücke, die er von meinem Aufsatze empfangen hatte."

Rudolf Steiner, Mein Lebensgang, Stuttgart 1948, p. 172

"To all this was added the fact that many of my friends had taken on from their national struggle a tinge of anti-Semetism in their view of the Judaism. They did not view sympathetically my holding a post in a Jewish family; and the head of this family saw in my friendly mingling with such persons only a confirmation of the impression which he had received from my essay." (Translation Daniel Hindes)

That's rignt, "...friends had taken on from their national struggle ...". Steiner had some friends who were involved in the national struggle. These friends were anti-Semites. This caused problems because Steiner was working in a Jewish household. Now the German sentence is somewhat complex, so perhaps Staudenmaier and Zeger's working knowledge of German is to blame for the fact that they mistranslate the phrase "from the national struggle" as modifying "Freunde" (or "friends") and not "Auffassung" (or "interpretation, opinion, view"). If this is to indicate their grasp of German it calls into question much of the rest of their work. The alternative, that they willfully mistranslated the passage, is equally damning of their scholarship.

As to Rembrandt als Erzieher, lest I be accused of selective reading, I will present the whole two paragraphs mentioned by Staudenmaier and Zegers:

"It was with sad memories that I made the journey back to Vienna. There fell into my hands just then a book of whose “spiritual richness” men of all sorts were speaking: Rembrandt als Erzieher. In conversations about this book, which were then going on wherever one went, one could hear about the coming of an entirely new spirit. I was forced to become aware, by reason of this very phenomenon, of the great loneliness in which I stood with my temper of mind amid the spiritual life of that period.

"In regard to a book which was prized in the highest degree by all the world my own feeling was as if someone had sat for several months at a table in one of the better hotels and listened to what the “outstanding” personalities in the genealogical tables said by way of “brilliant” remarks, and had then written these down in the form of aphorisms. After this continuous “preliminary work” he could have thrown his slips of paper with these remarks into a vessel, shaken them thoroughly together, and then taken them out again After drawing out the slips, he could have made a series of these and so produced a book. Of course, this criticism is exaggerated. But my inner vital mood forced me into such revulsion from that which the “spirit of the times” then praised as a work of the highest merit. I considered Rembrandt as Teacher a book which dealt wholly with the surface of thoughts that have to do with the realm of the spiritual, and which did not harmonize in a single sentence with the real depths of the human soul. It grieved me to know that my contemporaries considered such a book as coming from a profound personality, whereas I was forced to believe that such dealers in the small change of thought moving in the shallows of the spirit would drive all that is deeply human out of man's soul."

So while our authors impute that Rembrandt als Erzieher influenced Steiner towards nationalism, we find him deeply critical of the book, calling it "small change of thought" and describing how it made him feel isolated from the spiritual life of the period, namely the same nationalism that the authors impute he supported. In fact the whole of chapter 13 of Mein Lebensgang describes Steiner's disillusionment with the petty nationalistic struggles of the Germans and Myagars, even as he was interested in the ideas that motivated various people. Yet it seems that, to our authors, being interested in an idea is the same thing as supporting it. It is this fundamental error that they will repeat with Steiners interest in Haeckel and Nietzsche.

It is "scholarship" such as this (really it is simple character assassination) that has Barnaby convinced that I am wrong and Staudenmaier is right evaluating Steiner's nationalism. But Staudenmaier only appears right because he is faking the evidence. And faking the evidence is the only way to manufacture a nationalist background for someone like Steiner who fought his entire life against nationalism.

Faculty Conferences

The contents of the volumes “Faculty Meetings With Rudolf Steiner” (also known as Faculty Conferences or Conferences with Teachers) belong to the least reliable portion of Rudolf Steiner's works. What you are reading is a translation of a summary by an editor of the notes of some of people who were sitting in the faculty meetings. These are not word for word stenographic recordings, and certainly not anything Rudolf Steiner ever reviewed himself. Editors Erich Gabert and Hans Rudolf Niederhäuser, working at the Steiner Archive, constructed these volumes using primarily the notes of Dr. Karl Schubert, one of the founding teachers at the first Waldorf School, and complemented by the notes of other participants. As Gabert and Niederhäuser note in their preface, "...the notes all have a very fragmented quality. The editors’ task was to position the fragments so that they support one another, thus giving the most complete picture possible." Heavy editing went into the reconstruction of Steiner’s statements, and these are not at all his actual words. There was considerable debate whether to even publish them, but since even less complete versions were circulating, the Archives decided to proceed. Bear this in mind when reading them.

Responding to the WC III


Another poster that has been looking at my writing is someone who signs their work "Barnaby". Before I get into the detailed points that Barnaby makes, I would like to comment on the character of his post. Barnaby takes a mildly derisive stance in his comments, weaving just a few facts into a ringing indictment of my logic. This is classic polemic, delivered WC style. And as usual, it is based on a few illogical assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the basic facts.

Barnaby writes:

"I'd like to ask about völkisch conceptions of race and culture. Daniel Hindes, shining paladin of anthroposophy, writes on his website:

Steiner considered the term "Sub-Race" to be misleading since it implied a racial character to cultural development, so he renamed the time periods "Cultural Epochs".


Note the unnecessary "shining paladin of anthroposophy". Barnaby shows just how inbred the "Waldorf Critics" are; identifying someone as an anthroposophist - especially with a verbal flourish - is the first step to dismissing their entire argument.

I think he might be projecting his modern understanding of 'race' and 'culture' onto Steiner.

So this is the actual thesis, and a point that can be discussed. What is the meaning of 'race' and 'culture', today and in the past? Have they changed? How did Steiner understand the terms? Are we today misunderstanding Steiner when we bring modern assumptions of the possible meanings of these words to Steiner's century-old texts?

In actual fact, the thesis (that Hindes is mistaken in claiming Steiner saw a difference between cultural development and racial evolution) has not yet been developed by Barnaby at all; at the end of his post he asks for help proving it. Typical of so-calledWaldorf Critics, Barnaby has his conclusion finished before he has even started his research!

Hindes, who '... has been systematically studying the works of Rudolf Steiner for over a decade' also bizarrely claims that he never took a German nationalist stance:


The problematic noun-pronoun agreement notwithstanding (I assume Barnaby is not implying that Hindes takes a German nationalist stance) Barnaby is setting up his polemical argument. Hindes, who ought to know better if he has really studied Steiner for over a decade, seems to have missed something important. Here comes the fact that is to show Hindes' ignorance, a fact so basic that any so-called scholar of Steiner ought to immediately know it:

How Steiner managed to write for and edit pan-Germanist journals without being a German nationalist is beyond me.

So here is the actual fact in question: what to make of Steiner's editing of journals that, before Steiner's involvement, was known to be pan-Germanist. Does this automatically mean that Steiner must have been a German nationalist, as Barnaby considers proven by the mere fact that Steiner was published in a specific forum?

Evidently Hindes' systematic study hasn't reached GA 31 and 32 yet, which contains Steiner's writings from the Deutche Wochenschrift, a journal devoted to the 'the pan-German cause in Austria'. See Staudenmaier and Zegers' 'Anthroposophy and its Defenders':


With a polemical flourish, Hindes is dismissed for both failing to get to GA31 and GA32, and for failing to note that this was pointed out in an article called "Anthroposophy and its Defenders" by no less than Peter Staudenmaier and Peter Zegers. How Hindes could write a 60-page rebuttal to one Staudenmaier article and not be aware of Staudenmaier's follow-up is not discussed. Further, since Barnaby admits he can't read German, and GA's 31 and 32 have never been published in English, Barnaby can't possibly have investigated for himself what is actually written there, but this won't stop him from snidely dismissing those who have.

First, Staudenmaier's track record for accuracy in the one article that I did thoroughly review is absolutely abysmal. So relying uncritically on anything Staudenmaier writes about Steiner would be a mistake. If we look at Staudenmaier's claims, it is indeed yet another litany of malfeasance of which Steiner is accused. And like the first article, Anthroposophy and Ecofascism, if the claims were established, it would leave Steiner a greatly diminished figure indeed. However, it is mostly fiction, spun heavily.

A few basic facts. Steiner edited and wrote for a journal known for its pan-German slant. When Steiner took over informally as editor (the point at which he started writing) he essentially co-opted it for his own purposes. In fact, the new direction was so unsuccessful that the journal folded in six months, and Steiner was involved in a lawsuit over its demise. Basically, Steiner was not writing pan-German nationalist articles, and this alienated the readership. The articles themselves are reprinted in GA31 and GA32, but Staudenmaier does his usual hatchet job misrepresenting their contents. If I ever have time I will translate them. However, the are decidedly not the pan-Germanist propaganda that Staudenmaier, using only the titles as evidence, makes them out to be. Those in doubt are encouraged to read the actual articles in question and decide for themselves.

Steiner's concept of race owes a great debt to völkisch pan-Germanists.

This claim of Barnaby's, I should point out, is not backed by anything. It is simply an assumption. I would consider the Waldorf Critics to be making useful contributions to Steiner scholarship and criticism if they were to write articles attempting to establish such points rather than simply take them as assumptions. Steiner's concept of race and its historical context would indeed be an interesting topic to explore. I would suggest starting with Steiner's writings on the subject. Then check the pan-Germanists, and compare. Perhaps the thesis will stand, as Barnaby so blithely assumes. Perhaps it will fall. But work through the source material before making up your mind!

I'd like to know what *they* meant by 'race' and 'culture', and what they thought was the relationship between the two. I suspect they, and consequently Steiner, believed that culture was determined by race. If that's true then Hindes' argument, and the related argument that Waldorf students learn about different cultures rather than racial-spiritual evolution in their lessons on Egyptians, Hebrews and so on, is nonsense.

Note the error of logic; once it is assumed that Steiner's concept of race is the same as the pan-Germanists, then whatever can be attributed to the pan-Germanists automatically transfers to Steiner. That the two may actually have different views on race is overlooked. It is this type of sideways attack that Waldorf Critics are forced to rely on, since there is no real direct approach.

Here is the tie-in to Waldorf education. Should it be demonstrated that Steiner adopted a völkish pan-Germanist understanding of joint racial-cultural evolution, then it could conceivably be established that Waldorf schools are teaching racism instead of cultural history. However, even this does not necessarily follow logically; hypothetically, were Steiner to be proven a völkisch pan-Germanists in racial assumptions (whatever exactly is meant by these terms) it does not necessarily follow that thousands of classroom teachers today are imparting völkisch pan-Germanists in racial assumptions when the individually prepare and then present their blocks on, say, the Hebrews. Further, it does not follow logically that, in learning about different cultures in various classes, students are being indoctrinated in racial-spiritual evolution. Sometimes learning about a culture is simply learning about a culture. Only on the WC is it a sinister plot to impart century-old racist assumptions.

In actual fact, the material showing that Steiner did not believe that culture was determined by race has been posted online by several people. Consult:


And also my footnotes on my Root Races page:

“When people speak of races today they do so in a way that is no longer quite correct; in theosophical literature, too, great mistakes are made on this subject ... Even in regard to present humanity, for example, it no longer makes sense to speak simply of the development of races. In the true sense of the word this development of the races applies only to the Atlantean epoch ... 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 race is losing its validity."

Steiner, Rudolf. Universe, Earth and Man (GA 105), London 1987, lecture of 16 August 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. Hence we speak of the ancient Indian culture, of which the culture announced to us in the Vedas is only an echo. The ancient and sacred Indian culture was the first dawn of post-Atlantean civilization; it followed immediately upon the Atlantean epoch.”

Steiner, Rudolf. The Apocalypse of St John (GA 104), London 1977, lecture of 20 June 1908.

Explaining the issue at length in 1909, when he was still the General Secretary of the German section of the Theosophical Society in Germany, Steiner said:

”If we go back beyond the Atlantean catastrophe, we see how human races were prepared. In the ancient Atlantean age, human beings were grouped according to external bodily characteristics even more so than in our time. The races we distinguish today are merely vestiges of these significant differences between human beings in ancient Atlantis. The concept of races I only fully applicable to Atlantis. Because we are dealing with the real evolution of humanity, we [theosophists] have therefore never used this concept of race in its original meaning. Thus, we do not speak of an Indian race, a Persian race, and so on, because it is no longer true or proper to do so. Instead, we speak of an Indian, a Persian, and other periods of civilization. And it would make no sense at all to say that in our time a sixth "race" is being prepared. Though remnants of ancient Atlantean differences, of ancient Atlantean group-soulness, still exist and the division into races is still in effect, what is being prepared for the sixth epoch is precisely the stripping away of race. That is essentially what is happening.

"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 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 seven periods of time, one for each of the seven root races, and each of these root races was divided into seven sub-races. These seven periods were said to repeat in a cycle so that one could always speak of seven races and seven sub-races. However, we must get beyond the illness of childhood and clearly understand that the concept of race has ceased to have any meaning in our time."

Rudolf Steiner. The Universal Human: The Evolution of Individuality. New York: Anthroposophic Press, 1990. Pages 12-13. Lecture of December 4th, 1909.

Serena Blaue wrote (on the Anthroposophy Tomorrow mail list)

When [Peter Staudenmaier] translates "Die Negerrasse gehört nicht zu Europa, und es ist natürlich nur ein Unfug, daß sie jetzt in Europa eine so große Rolle spielt."


" The negro race does not belong in Europe, and it is of course nothing but a disgrace that this race is now playing such a large role in Europe."

" Unfug" does not mean "disgrace" and this is typical of [Peter Staudenmaier] to assume that no one will notice his deliberate mistranslation of RS.

Unfug, according to German dictionaries, means mischief, foolery, monkey business, shenanigans, horseplay.

Disgrace is Schande, Ungnade, sich blamieren, Blamage

I don't know the entire context to be clear about RS's exact meaning, but Unfug is not disgrace.

Also, I see that [Peter Staudenmaier] added the words "this race" in instead of just saying "that they now play such a large role in Europe." This serves to give an emphasis on "race" that is not there in the original.

Serena Blaue

Serena has noticed something important in Staudenmaier's translation, and the context is crucial. The historical background is roughly as follows. WW1 was over. Germany lost, and part of its territory – the Ruhr valley – was occupied by France. France stationed some black troops from its African colonies as part of he army of occupation in the Ruhr. This was widely seen as an insult by the German public (and was probably done by the French for this very reason). The press got a hold of the story and wouldn’t let it go. Lurid tales of the atrocities of the black troops were widely reported (if often exaggerated) for months. It became a major item of National Socialist propaganda. Whether by rape (as the public believed) or mutual consent, dozens of mixed race children were born. Against a backdrop of the indignation of three German-speaking nations Steiner made these comments to the construction workers building the first Goetheanum in answer to a question, during an informal lecture. Given what was being printed in most major newspapers on the subject, Steiner’s statement is about the mildest thing that could be said if you disagreed with the French policy.

There is another problem with the translation, one that turns the issue around entirely. The phrase “gehört zu” really means “to belong to”, making Steiner’s words:

“The Negro race does not belong to Europe, and it is naturally pure mischief that it is currently playing so large a role in Europe.”

That is right; Steiner believed that Africa and the Africans did not belong to Europe and the Europeans, and said as much. Given that most of the Africans were drafted and given no choice in coming to fight as soldiers in Europe, Steiner’s phrasing is actually the most anti-racist thing that could be said on the subject! Instead, his words are being mistranslated as an example of racism! This is so typical of Peter Staudenmaier.

That this translation is being used as an example of Steiner’s racism shows just how little attention is given to the historical context of Steiner’s statements. Peter Staudenmaier once wrote his version of the historical background, which in essence said that since many of the reports of atrocities committed by the black troops in the Ruhr appear to historians to have been exaggerated, Steiner ought to have no reason to object to these troops being there at all. Indeed, it seems that Staudenmaier would only be satisfied if Steiner were actually on the record as being FOR the occupation of Germany by African troops! Of course, Staudenmaier wrote over two pages, using references to a dozen sources on the subject, all detailing how modern historians deplore the blatant racism of the German public in the 1920's, with lurid examples of said racism. Most readers will loose the thread and fail to see the illogic of the basic argument, and once again Staudenmaier ends up blaming Steiner for the failures of mainstream German culture at the time, when in fact Steiner stood outside his own culture on the issue. In short, Steiner was against a policy of Europeans (in this case the French) forcing Africans to serve militarily in Europe. Steiner was not against the Africans themselves, either in Africa or in Europe.

Daniel Hindes

Responding to the WC II


Walden continues:

Looks like I might have found an answer to my question - but it seems confusing...

I previously wrote:

Trying to slowly make my way through a web site that Serena pointed out and I have a question regarding something the writer (Daniel Hindes) states:

"Blavatsky did indeed originate the term "Root Race". And she did declare that indigenous peoples are dying out. However, Staudenmaier has misunderstood (or never read) the explanation for how this is to be accomplished. Contrary to what Staudenmaier would have you believe, Blavatsky did not declare that those indigenous people who were alive ought to die for karmic reasons. Rather, Blavatsky, accepting the scientific reports that indigenous peoples were dying out as a unique racial group due to sterility, declared that this sterility was due to the fact that souls no longer wished to be born into these races. The dying-out process she predicted would take another thousand years. The karmic necessity that Blavatsky talked about was that souls wishing to be born were choosing other races for karmic reasons, and not that indigenous peoples currently alive ought to die.26 Staudenmaier has treated Blavatsky with the same lack of scholarly care and accuracy that he brings to this study of Steiner."

Does anyone know of these "scientific reports that indigenous peoples were dying out as a unique racial group due to sterility?"

Later on in the same piece, the same author seems to contradict his claim of scientific reports:

I'm not quite sure what Walden is talking about; he appears to be an extremely careless reader. Firstly, I do not identify with Blavatsky or hold up her opinions as Truth. I merely stated that firstly, Blavatsky believed one thing (and I gave specific page numbers for where it could be found in "The Secret Doctrine") and second that Staudenmaier seriously misrepresented Blavatsky's beliefs in writing about them, much as he seriously misrepresents Steiner's beliefs when writing about Steiner. Again, I am not adopting Blavatsky's position or even commenting on its accuracy. The entire point is that Peter Staudenmaier misunderstands and misrepresents both Blavatsky and Steiner. The point is not to determine whether Blavatsky or Steiner were correct, only to describe the positions of both writers.

[Daniel Hindes:]"The quote offered here is greatly helped by some context. Steiner wrote:

'The Native American population did not die out because this pleased the Europeans, but because the Native American population had to acquire such forces as lead to their dying out.'

This sentence does not make a lot of sense on its own. It is part of a larger thought that Steiner expressed over several pages on how the geography of the earth influenced the formation of racial characteristics in past epochs. In the west, said Steiner, the forces that lead to the overcoming of the influence of racial characteristics are strongest, and this he tied to the physical weakness behind the death of so many Native Americans. Though not explicitly mentioned in this context, this weakness was immunological, as research from the last 40 years has indicated. Steiner strongly deplored the behavior of the Europeans towards the Native Americans, but the simple fact remains that most of the inhabitants of the Americas in 1491 would not have survived the contact with Europe even if not a single one as murdered directly at the hands of a white man. Steiner intuited this even though the science of his day had no concepts to express why."

[Walden:] Makes me wonder: when Daniel Hindes tells us that Blavatsky accepted the *scientific reports* that indigenous peoples were dying out as a unique racial group due to sterility, why does he later tell us that science of his (Steiner's) day had no concepts to express why - and that Steiner "intuited this?"

So here is Walden's quandary: how can Blavatsky accept so-called scientific reports about the sterility of Native peoples, and yet the science of Steiner's day doesn't know why the Native Americans died of disease in such numbers? This is then trumpted as a major flaw in the logic of the writer. Well Walden appears to be seriously confused on a few points. Firstly, sterility is not the same as immunological susceptibility. And Blavatsky's concept of Native peoples dying out over the next 1000 years due to sterility is not the same as the historical extermination of Native peoples or the mass deaths due to disease. So there is no contradiction between reporting that Blavatsky claimed that she knew of scientific reports of sterility that would cause a gradual dying out of Native peoples over the next 1000 years (had Walden checked the reference, he would have noted that Blavatsky was talking as much about Pacific Islanders as Native Americans) and Steiner explaining that Native Americans were particularly weak physically and had been dying out.

If this is an example of Walden's logical abilities, then I have to conclude that he can't reason. He is simply fabricating contradictions because he would so very much like to find my writing in error. This type of "emotional logic" seems typical of the WC as a whole.

By the way, many of my First Nations friends take strong exception to this stuff and last I checked - they have not yet "died out."


The gratuitous "my First Nation friends" is an unnecessary and insulting. Neither I nor Steiner in any way approve of what was done to the Native Americans. Both he and I deplore it. The implication that we in any way approve is completely unjustified. Why Walden presumes that describing an event is equivalent to condoning it is beyond me. I believe I had the same argument with Diana Winters; just because it happened doesn't make it good. And describing how or why it happened does not imply approval.

Responding to the WC


Howdy folks,

I've been on hiatus from my blog for a while; life has a way of filling up your time. My Defending Steiner is up for all to read, and some of the folks over at the WC (Waldorf Critics) have even been looking at it. It is a bit discouraging that they keep missing the point, but then, they don't have a history of critical reading that is critical in anything but attitude. Someone emailed me some of the WC postings, so I thought I'd respond here.

In one post, Walden writes:

Trying to slowly make my way through a web site that Serena pointed out and I have a question regarding something the writer (Daniel Hindes) states:

"Blavatsky did indeed originate the term "Root Race". And she did declare that indigenous peoples are dying out. However, Staudenmaier has misunderstood (or never read) the explanation for how this is to be accomplished. Contrary to what Staudenmaier would have you believe, Blavatsky did not declare that those indigenous people who were alive ought to die for karmic reasons. Rather, Blavatsky, accepting the scientific reports that indigenous peoples were dying out as a unique racial group due to sterility, declared that this sterility was due to the fact that souls no longer wished to be born into these races. The dying-out process she predicted would take another thousand years. The karmic necessity that Blavatsky talked about was that souls wishing to be born were choosing other races for karmic reasons, and not that indigenous peoples currently alive ought to die.26 Staudenmaier has treated Blavatsky with the same lack of scholarly care and accuracy that he brings to this study of Steiner."

Does anyone know of these "scientific reports that indigenous peoples were dying out as a unique racial group due to sterility?"

I myself would be interested in learning the answer. Blavatsky has come under criticism over the years for improperly documented sources. So this claim of hers may stand, or may fall.

I should note that whether or not Blavatsky was correct about the sterility of indigenous peoples, this does not change my point one bit. My observation was firstly, that Blavatsky believed this (and I gave specific page numbers for where it could be found in "The Secret Doctrine") and second that Staudenmaierseriously misrepresented Blavatsky's beliefs in writing about them, much as he seriously misrepresents Steiner's beliefs when writing about Steiner. Should Blavatsky turn out to be misinformed about sterilization, my point about Staudenmaier's accuracy still stands.

Another writer on the WC list has accused me of failing to prove Blavatsky free of racism with an example that is clearly racist. I'm not sure why Barnaby supposes that I ever attempted to defend Blavatsky of charges of racism. I should also note that nowhere do I propose that Blavatsky is free of racism. That some of Blavatsky's concepts were blatantly racist is obvious and well established, and not a point that I would dispute. I am not a knee-jerk defender of all that is "occult". I try to look carefully at the facts of every case, and draw reasonable conclusions. And as a matter of fact, it was on the issue of the importance of race that Steiner differed most sharply with Blavatsky. And one of my major issues with Peter Staudenmaier is that he flagrantly conflates Anthroposophy with Theosophy where most other scholars see major differences between them. I would urge people over at the Waldorf Critics list to use a little more discernment and care in reading. Since they have an obvious bias they should be especially careful in reading things which they know they will automatically disagree with.

Daniel Hindes

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