In Defense of Steiner and Waldorf Education 


The following is excerpted from an e-mail that came in, after deadline, from the Anthroposophical Society in America. Our fact-checking department was satisfied, after its own research, that both Steiner quotations in the Weekly’s story are accurate, but out of respect for the society’s perspective, as well as its point about context and the entirety of Steiner’s work, I wanted to include this response on the Web site. Thanks also to all the supporters of Waldorf-style education who telephoned me to offer their views as well.

-- Howard Blume

Dear Mr. Blume:

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As I understand it, there are two quotations which you've asked to be verified:

"Blond hair bestows intelligence"

"The more the fair human individuals die out, the more will the instinctive wisdom of humans vanish."

Quotation #1: I cannot verify this quotation. Could you provide any more information about it? If it is from the same lecture as quotation #2, I have been unable to find it.

Quotation #2: This quotation is from a lecture given by Rudolf Steiner to workmen who were building the Goetheanum building in Switzerland -- December 13, 1922 "On Health and Illness." These are based on stenographic notes which were not corrected by Steiner. This is a series of "Question / Answer" sessions between Steiner and workers as opposed to prepared lectures. So, one finds that Steiner's responses are spontaneous and not as well formed as one finds on his other material on the same theme. This may be one reason why this series of lectures has been so quoted by critics of because these phrases are less flowing than other prepared lectures that Steiner makes regarding diversity.

Usually critics are eager to only select certain portions of quotations and leave out other sections which do not match their pre-formed conclusion -- or by which Steiner amplifies HIS meaning.

Quotation #2: speaking to the workmen in December 1922, Steiner says:

For it is really so that the more the blond races die out, the more the instinctive wisdom of man dies. Men become dumber. And they can become clever again only if they are not left to the body, but rather if they have a real spiritual science.

Then Steiner goes on to say:

Thus one must have a spiritual science to the same degree that men lose their cleverness along with blondness. . .

Please note Steiner's point -- instinctive wisdom MUST die out and be replaced by a science of the spirit (Anthroposophy).

He is NOT opposed to instinctive wisdom dying out – quite the contrary. After all, the context is that he is speaking to the workmen who are building the Goetheanum, the world headquarters for his spiritual movement called the Anthroposophical Society about which he had said in 1909, "Therefore it is necessary that that movement which is called the anthroposophical movement. . . adopts as its basic character this stripping off of the character of race – that especially it seeks to unite people out of all 'races,' out of all nations, and in this way bridges over these differences, these distinctions, these gaps, which are existing between various groups of human beings. . . . Therefore, it is so urgently necessary to understand that the anthroposophical movement is a spiritual one, which looks to the spiritual, and overcomes just that which arises from physical distinctions, through the force of a spiritual movement." (THE EGO, 1909, p. 18)

Speaking to the workmen a few months later (March 1923), Steiner is asked another question about diversity of races (which is collected in the same volume of lectures) and Steiner again returns to his central point of his earlier statement -- that anthroposophy is NOT linked to race.

In Europe over here what we call Anthroposophy can be developed. It must be developed out of the spirit - that does not come out of racial characteristics. It must be developed out of the spirit. And the men who are unwilling to approach the Spirit will plunge Europe into disaster.

Here Steiner says that those who continue to try to promulgate the superiority of one race over another (and thereby be unwilling to approach the Spirit) will "plunge Europe into disaster." For someone to suggest that Steiner's anthroposophy is race-based or that he in some way was supportive of racism or what became National Socialism in Nazi Germany is a total untruth based both on what Steiner said and the historical facts.

Please remember, the talk you quote was on December 1922. On May 16, 1922 in Munich, Rudolf Steiner barely escaped physical harm when he was attacked by proto-Nazis who stormed the stage during one of his lectures.

Mr. Blume, the collected works of Rudolf Steiner include 40 books and over 6,000 lectures published in 300 volumes containing more than 89,000 pages. Critics have had to search this vast library to find a handful of quotations which, when taken out of context or incompletely presented, misrepresent both the life of Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy. Still, those statements exist.

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