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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:

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.

 

In addition, the underlying assumption from critics is that ANYTHING which Rudolf Steiner said is believed by anthroposophists. This also is an untruth. Anthroposophy is NOT a religion or a body of dogma to be believed. (From Cosmic Memory, p. 112) "The author of this present book in no way claims that he should be believed blindly. He merely wishes to report what his best efforts have enabled him to discover. He will welcome any correction based on competent knowledge."

Could Steiner be wrong? Of course. Steiner never claimed infallibility -- quite the contrary: "This perception (of the spiritual researcher) can also err, can see in an inexact, oblique, wrong manner. No man is free from error in this field, no matter how high he stands." (Cosmic Memory, p. 40.)

I am taking the liberty of attaching other quotations from Steiner which reflect his true belief in ONE HUMAN RACE and the Society's own position statement on diversity.

Sincerely, Jean W. Yeager Administrative Director

 

THE ANTHROPOSOPHICAL SOCIETY IN AMERICAPOSITION STATEMENT ON DIVERSITY

The Anthroposophical Society in America is committed to developing the potential of every human being to its fullest. Admission to the Society is open to everyone without regard to sex, religion, national origin, race, or ethnicity. In addition, the Society does not discriminate due to artistic or scientific orientation. We emphatically reject racism in all its forms, and embrace the principles of common humanity expressed by the founder of The Anthroposophical Society, Rudolf Steiner:

"[We] must cast aside the division into races. [We] must seek to unite people of all races and nations, and to bridge the divisions and differences between various groups of people."

-- The Universal Human, Lecture 1

We explicitly reject any racial theory that may be construed to be part of Rudolf Steiner's writings. The Anthroposophical Society in America is an open, public society and it rejects any purported spiritual or scientific theory on the basis of which the alleged superiority of one race is justified at the expense of another race.

-- The General Council of the Anthroposophical Society in America (1999)

ABOUT ANTIQUARIAN PUBLICATIONS"Antiquarian publications" are commonly viewed within the context of their times and culture. This has been the case for the work of: Martin Luthur, Carl Jung, "Lewis Carroll", Sigmund Freud, "Mark Twain", and others.

Because the work of Steiner continues to form a source of study and inspiration for many people in contemporary life, students are urged to place Steiner's statements on the races in a holistic context which may include: their antiquarian nature, other statements by Steiner which speak positively of the qualities of the races and higher nature of humanity, the life and work of Rudolf Steiner himself, and living work arising from anthroposophy.

QUOTATIONS ABOUT DIVERSITY FROM RUDOLF STEINER

From THE FALL OF THE SPIRITS OF DARKNESS (1917)

"Nothing will hasten humanity in its downfall more than the propagation of ideals based on race, nation and blood."

From KARMIC RELATIONS, VOLUME 1 (1917)Page 186"A fourteenth century person who spoke of the ideals of race and nation would have been speaking in terms of progressive tendencies of human evolution;" not so today! . . .

"If anyone now considers them [ideas of race and nationalism] to be progressive ideals to present to humanity [in 1917], this is an untruth. Nothing is more designed to take humanity into its decline than the propagation of ideals of race, nation and blood. Nothing is more likely to prevent human progress than proclamations of national ideals belonging to earlier centuries which continue to be preserved by the luciferic and ahrimanic powers. The true ideal must arise from what we find in the world of the Spirit, not in the blood."

"The Ego," THE STEINER LIBRARY, December 1909Page 16"To-day in our time, the group-soulness of people is still not yet overcome, and whoever believes that it is completely overcome does not keep in mind certain finer phenomena of life....Certain human beings not only appear alike in their physiognomy, but...also the soul-qualities are similar in groups of human beings: that one can, as it were, divide human beings into categories....The boundaries drawn between the single nations fall away more and more; but other groupings are still perceptible. Certain basic characteristics stand so connected in some people, that he who will only look, can still today perceive the last relics of the group-soulness of man."

Page 17

(Today) "All group-soulness has gradually to be stripped off....the individual nature of each single person [will] come to the foreground more and more."

 

Page 18

"That idea whereby the group-soulness chiefly expresses itself loses meaning ever more and more in the evolution of mankind, i.e., the idea of race.

Page 18

"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. For the old racial standpoint had in a certain connection a physical character, whereas what will fulfil itself in the future will have a much more spiritual character. Therefore it is so urgently necessary to understand that our 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."

From THE GOSPEL OF MARK, (1912)Page 36"...from the beginning, [the Christ] does not belong to any one people, but realizes the most beautiful principle in spiritual science: to acknowledge something without discrimination of color, race, and nationality."

From THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN, (1909, 1910, 1916)Page 12 - 13"...in its fundamental nature, the anthroposophical movement . . . 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."

COMMENT: Rudolf Steiner, speaking about the Theosophical concept of root-races and sub-races, rejects those concepts.

Page 13

"...every 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. 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."

From SECRETS OF THE THRESHOLD, (1913)COMMENT: On the ability to learn from all people.Page 67"Attention must be given not only to one's own opinion, not only to what one thinks oneself and can recognize as correct through one's own powers, but respect must be felt for that which has resulted through the civilisations and the efforts in wisdom made by the different races in the course of historical development."

From THE FESTIVAL BOOK ON EASTER, Dornach, Switzerland, April 2, 1920

Page 28 - 29

"When Paul appeared with his interpretation of Christianity there was a fundamental break with the principle whereby human knowledge was determined by the blood, the principle that had prevailed -- and necessarily so -- in earlier times. For Paul was the first to declare that neither blood nor identity of race, nor any factor, by which human knowledge had been determined in pre-Christian times, could remain, but that man himself must establish his relation to knowledge through inner initiative; that there must be a community of those whom he designated as Christians, a community to which man allies himself in spirit and soul, into which he is not placed by his blood, but of which he himself elects to be a member."

From the FESTIVAL BOOK ON ASCENSION/PENTECOST, Hamburg, Germany, Whitsunday, 1910Page 24"Our bodily nature has actually a double function to fulfil: it makes us a human being, but it also makes us members of this or that people, this or that race or family. In the ancient times which preceded Christianity, little as yet was experienced of what can be called world-wide humanity, of that feeling of human fellowship which in ever greater measure has lived in human hearts only since Christianity was proclaimed, and which says to us: Thou art fellow-man with all the human beings of the earth! On the other hand, that feeling was all the stronger which makes each man a member of a particular people or tribe."

Page 24-25

"It used to be that one felt oneself to be a member of his folk, and nothing more. The further you go back into antiquity, the more intense this feeling was. Now, in racism, one feels that other people are members of a race or tribe, and nothing more."

From THE AKASHIC CHRONICLE (1904)

". . . the beginnings of what we now call 'race' arose. This 'characteristic of race' was retained throughout the times of development in Atlantis, in the fourth main epoch, and onwards into our own times of the fifth epoch. However, at the end of this fifth epoch the word 'race' will once more lose all meaning. The humanity of the future will be organized into groupings which one will be unable to call 'races'. Conventional Theosophical literature has caused much confusion in this respect. . . In it world development is portrayed as if 'races' were to perpetuate themselves in the same way throughout the eternal cycles of the earth. This is absolutely not the case. Even everything worthy of the name 'race' comes into being and also passes away."

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