THE GOOD WARS
America, Germany, and Waldorf
I want to discuss something that at first glance may seem tangential to the main issues dealt with on this website. The two world wars probably presented a dilemma for at least a few of my teachers. Our Waldorf school was heavily staffed by individuals of German extraction. I do not know that any of these people contributed to the German war effort in either world war, and I do not know that any of them felt allegiance to the Kaiser or to Hitler. I certainly have no interest in charging any of them with insufficient loyalty to the United States. My point is simply that affection for the nation of one’s birth or heritage is a natural human impulse. Surely, for individuals of German extraction — even those who opposed the German wartime governments — seeing Germany brought to devastating ruin would have been painful. This, I suspect, is why at our school references to the wars often seemed to be tinged with a vague sense of embarrassment, as if in speaking of the wars some rule of correct behavior had been breached.
My father flew for the US Army in Europe during World War II. In seventh grade, I wrote an essay about the air campaign against Germany. When I handed the paper to my teacher, Joseph Wetzl, he frowned and dropped it on his desk as if it were offensive to him. I cannot know whether his reaction stemmed from Germanic staunchness or a spiritualistic pacifism. Nonetheless, I felt guilty, afterward, for submitting such a paper to a German-American.
Our school had a distinct if muted German tone. Here is a partial list of faculty, staff, and close associates of the school who may have been of German extraction (bear in mind that the school was small, so the following names represent a large fraction): Baravalle, Bedding, Benner, Berlin, Fruchtman, Karl, Kaufmann, Meissner, Ritscher, Scherer, Wachsman, Wehle, Weschler, Wetzl, and Winkler. In some cases, there were two individuals in the school — usually husband and wife — bearing the same Germanic surname. The student body also contained a large number of individuals with German names. A fair percentage of these kids were children of faculty and staff, which meant that sometimes there were three or more individuals at the school having the same German surname. 
Waldorf education is, in many ways, essentially Germanic. Rudolf Steiner taught that Germans stand at the forefront of human spiritual evolution, and the wisdom humanity needs now can emerge only through the German people. Steiner wrote, “Ever since the Atlantean race [i.e., the form of humanity on Atlantis] began slowly to disappear, the great Aryan Race has been the dominant one on earth.”  And among the Aryans, Germans occupy a special place: “[The German] must be educated to [his] mission...[which is] looking at the world from the most varied points of view. This is the special mission of the German people ... They shall take hold upon world culture from this side, even as the German people ... [C]ertain things that I shall touch upon today, for example, in the realm of knowledge, can be evolved only through the German people....”  Here we see Steiner endorsing the notion of German exceptionalism. Steiner taught that all nations and people have "missions," but clearly the German mission is august. Germans have the ability to see complex truths. Steiner stands on “this side,” promoting the special gifts of the German people, who will “take hold upon world culture.” And, crucially, "[C]ertain things...in the realm of knowledge, can be evolved only through the German people....” To his faithful followers, Steiner’s words amount to gospel; they are happy to affirm what he affirmed. To at least some other readers, Steiner's words may seem chilling.
Despite the number of “German” adults and children at our school, my impression is that most of the students — growing up in the USA, in the 1950-60s — were generally disposed to see the world wars in simplistic, even jingoistic terms: good vs. evil, democracy vs. militarism, the American Way vs. barbarism. These attitudes can be traced far back, but we were especially affected by the patriotic fervor of the war years, a fervor that was only heightened during the Cold War, which was raging at its worst while we grew up. Today, we tend to look back on WW II as a righteous crusade: Civilized nations opposing barbaric hordes. In retrospect, the Holocaust provided more than ample reason to congratulate ourselves that we really seemed to be the good guys. And Germany came to seem even worse than we had thought. If, during the war, American government officials knew of the existence of death camps, most American civilians and soldiers did not. The revelation of the camps was horrific. I can remember black-and-white TV documentaries about heroic GIs liberating the skeletal inmates of the camps, scenes of bulldozers pushing corpses into mass graves, scenes of gas chambers and charred ovens. The images were like glimpses into Hell.
For most students at our Waldorf school, America was the epitome of heroism (the home of the brave) and virtue (the land of the free). We thought America had won both wars almost single-handedly — the sacrifices of the Russians, in particular, were ignored by most, since the Reds had become our new foes. We kids garnered these views from our parents, movies, TV, radio, magazines and newspapers. (As Waldorf students, we weren’t supposed to watch TV, but most of us could not resist.) The kicker: We were also fed these views, indirectly, at school. Unlike many Waldorf schools, ours attempted to be distinctly “American.” We said the Pledge of Allegiance in assemblies, there were American flags in the school, and our headmaster attributed our curriculum largely to American spiritual visionaries. We were raised in a confusing German/American welter of accents and inclinations.
The main reason for the American patriotism in our school lay in the efforts our headmaster — John Fentress Gardner — to disguise the true nature of Waldorf education. While he did not explicitly say so in class (he hinted, but he didn’t announce), in other forums Mr. Gardner specifically contended that the American Transcendentalists were spiritual antecedents of Rudolf Steiner. After resigning due to a scandal reported in THE NEW YORK TIMES , Mr. Gardner wrote AMERICAN HERALDS OF THE SPIRIT [Hudson, NY: Lindisfarne Press, 1992], about the American Transcendentalists Emerson, Whitman, and Melville. The third appendix deals with “Rudolf Steiner’s extensive and immensely fruitful research.” Mr. Gardner’s thesis was that the American Transcendentalists anticipated — in vague form — spiritual doctrines that Steiner would sharpen and perfect, “lending them the clarity of something fully experienced....” [p. 298].
Linking our school with great American thinkers of the past enabled Mr. Gardner to assure parents that Waldorf was essentially all-American: “...I worked to gain understanding for [the school and its methods]. I minimized the difference between a Waldorf school and other [American] schools ... As soon as fundamental questions began to be answered plainly, wild rumors and frightened guesses quieted down.”  Mr. Gardner’s “plain” answers apparently entailed the proposition that “There was nothing in Rudolf Steiner that Thoreau and Emerson and Whitman would not have approved wholeheartedly.”  This claim would be defensible only if the great bulk of Steiner’s teachings (the gods’ divine cosmic plan, planetary stages of evolution, the magical effects of eurythmy, the existence of human automata, etc.) were kept hidden and the remainder were reduced to something like “The task of a truly liberal education...must be to revive and train intuitive faculties, in a modern way, to take their place beside the intellectual. This is the simplest statement of the purpose of Waldorf methods....”  This statement by Mr. Gardner is indeed simple, but it is also quite incomplete and therefore misleading.
To return to the world wars: Our school generally ignored the unhappy wartime antagonism between Germany and America. History classes focused on ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, and later a patriotic version of the founding of America. The 20th century was rarely present in our classes, except for occasional assertions that Communism was uniquely evil. The world wars must have cropped up somewhere in our studies — I remember that, in high school, I wrote a completely unscientific essay about Einstein and the A-bomb (my thesis: It’s a good thing that the good guys got the bomb first). But I have no memory of the social or political currents of the 20th century receiving any sustained review or analysis in our classes. Much of our study of history came in art history classes, which were nice, but didn’t have much geopolitical content. We followed the development of civilization through the progression of artistic achievement — but we did not follow this as far as modern, cubist, or abstract art. Our view of the world was almost Victorian, as if history had been suspended at around the end of the 19th century. We were schooled in a general antipathy to all things modern. Science, technology, TV — everything that smacked of the real, modern world — was (and still is) held in disfavor among Anthroposophists. 
Moving this possibly tangential discussion toward its close, let’s hear more from Steiner about the role of the German people in humanity’s development. “[I]t is necessary for us to...make ourselves strong to meet those Ahrimanic forces. [Ahriman, according to Steiner, is a powerful demon who opposes human evolution.] It is a matter therefore of finding the way towards understanding the spiritual world with the very same powers we also use to understand the outside world. That, of course, is the way...that is inwardly bound up with the whole mission of the German people.”  At least some of our teachers were probably quite able to accept Steiner’s statements about the special mission of the German people.
Where does all of this leave us? In microcosm, my personal experience is that these matters count. During my high school years, I was the confused product of two conflicting delusions. I was a delusional, ill-informed junior Anthroposophist-in-training; at the same time, I was a delusional, ill-informed junior American super-patriot. If we today accept the propositions that Anthroposophy is nonsense and that super-patriotism is at least a tad excessive, then reality was nowhere on my radar. Thus, as in so many ways, I graduated from the Waldorf School unprepared to face the real world.
Here’s the macrocosm. Steiner said that humans used to possess greater clairvoyant powers than is common now.  Becoming clairvoyant again is an important goal, but in the meantime humanity has to evolve through a phase of materialism and material-brain thinking and feeling (while striving, of course, to avoid the snares of these).  Blonds have the best brains.  Generally, Aryans excel at thinking — it is their special field of endeavor.  Germans (who are high Aryans) understand the future of human evolution particularly well , and Germans’ mission now — in service to human evolution — entails comprehending the world from many angles.  Steiner founded Anthroposophy, an esoteric system that organizes spiritual wisdom gleaned from around the globe.  It’s not too much to say that Anthroposophy is designed to fulfill the German national/racial mission: seeing the world from many angles and consolidating the results. It follows that in establishing an educational system in Germany — that is, the first Waldorf School, with Anthroposophy at is base — Steiner intended to educate Germans precisely as he said they should be educated: “[The German] must be educated to [his] mission....”
It’s hard to believe that even German kids benefit from an “education” steeped in esotericism. But that aside, there seems to be no denying (although Anthroposophists will deny it) that Waldorf schooling is inappropriate everywhere outside Germany, unless the coursework is modified so as to fulfill the “missions” of other peoples. But this is rarely done. The basic Waldorf curriculum, which includes heavy doses of Germanic/Norse mythology, is followed with few variations in Waldorf schools all around the globe. Waldorf schooling is a form of mythic, Germanic spiritual training. It inappropriate in America and elsewhere, all around the globe. Its value even in Germany, today, is extremely doubtful. Steiner's doctrines are largely absurd. Rearing children in accordance with these doctrines — in America, Germany, or anywhere else — is absurd.
— Roger Rawlings
“German brainpower has achieved things in certain areas by applying mechanical powers ... [T]hese mechanistic and demonic powers can be overcome on the basis of our particular spiritual mission. Then, however, a German may easily get himself misunderstood as he comes to see...that it is not his function to stop at the purely mechanical element that is of such great service to him also in the present day, with the challenges presented by the war [i.e., World War I]. He must not stop at what is merely mechanism, for then he would merely create demons. No, he must develop powerful forces within him that can boldly face these demons. This means we have to stand in the spiritual world, not blindly but in a way that arises from, and is guided by, conviction.” — Rudolf Steiner, DESTINIES OF INDIVIDUALS AND OF NATIONS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1987) p. 81.
"[I]t is important to look at Rudolf Steiner's picture of a central mission of the German folk spirit: to explore the human soul, to recognize that it exists above and beyond its reflection in the body, to implement its ability to wake up out of ordinary consciousness, and to realize the 'I's' own free spiritual activity, which is both individualistic and in harmony with that of other people." — William Lindeman, introductory note to Rudolf Steiner's THE RIDDLE OF MAN (Mercury Press, 1990), GA 20.
Anthroposophy stands for "a courageous struggle against the most dangerous enemies of the German spirit, of the German soul, of the German people." — Anthroposophist Erhard Bartsch, “Rudolf Steiner und die Aufgaben des deutschen Volkes”, July 7, 1940. [See Peter Staudenmaier, "Organic Farming in Nazi Germany", ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY 18 (2013), pp. 383-411.]
To understand the following, you should know that Steiner said the "I" is the human spiritual ego, our spark of divinity.
Also, he taught that the human soul actually consists of three souls. The highest of these three is the "spiritual soul."
"Dr. Steiner nearly always characterized the development of the human ‘I’ as such — finding its balance between the three soul-members, each and all, as the essential mission of the German people ... [H]e assigns to them especially the Spiritual Soul's development, in its more inward, spiritual aspect." — George Adams Kaufmann, THE SOULS OF NATIONS (Anthroposophic Publishing Co., 1938), lecture 10.
“Anthroposophy as Steiner taught it focused crucially on ideas like ‘the German spirit’ and ‘the German soul’ and ‘the German essence’ and ‘the German mission’ and so forth ... What many anthroposophists sought in the 1920s was a 'spiritual revolution' in Germany for the sake of the whole world. Here is an example from anthroposophist Ernst Boldt’s 1923 book FROM LUTHER TO STEINER: ‘The “mobilizing” of Spirit and intellect that has been going forward in Germany, under Rudolf Steiner, ever since 1900 is now almost complete; at the given moment the “troops” standing in readiness will carry out their appointed parts in the operations and strike a blow for German Idealism, for the German Spirit, and for German Culture, doing so against the pseudo- and un-German barbarism, as exemplified by Russian Bolshevism, Roman Catholicism, and Jesuitry, against Roman Law and against Anglo-American Materialism and Imperialism, all of which have sought to make their homes on our soil.’” — Peter Staudenmaier, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/9771 , March 25, 2009.
According to Anthroposophic belief, the current age is marked by the "struggle for power between the Anglo-Saxon and the Germanic cultures for dominance ... Steiner says 'I told you some time ago that in the secret brotherhoods, especially those which grew so powerful from the times of James I onward, it was taught as an obvious truth that the Anglo-Saxon race — as they put it — will have to be given dominance over the world in the fifth post-Atlantean period [i.e., the present, the fifth age since Atlantis sank].'” — Rudolf Steiner, quoted by Christopher Bamford in SPIRITUALISM, MADAME BLAVATSKY, & THEOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), note 2, p. 295.
The Nazis took power in Germany in 1933. Soon thereafter, a Nazi official sympathetic to Waldorf schools produced a report saying, in part, "The goals of the Waldorf schools coincide in their fundamental principles with what the Führer has called for in education...." — Quoted by Peter Staudenmaier in his 2010 dissertation, "Between Occultism and Fascism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race and Nation in Germany and Italy, 1900-1945", p. 336.
The same report said "The educational approach of the Waldorf schools grows out of the German essence ... [T]he basic principles of Waldorf schooling are much closer to the ideas of National Socialism than may appear at first glance." — Ibid., p. 337.
Today Waldorf education is promoted by Anthroposophists worldwide, offered to children in many nations, and the claim is often made that the schools equip children for freedom. But in 1934, a Waldorf advocate writing in behalf of the parents at the first Waldorf school said "[T]he school is committed to participation in the rebuilding of the Reich [i.e., the German empire] ... Toward this goal, the school is committed to active collaboration, putting itself at the service of the leaders of the school system of the new Reich [i.e., Hitler's Third Reich] ... We declare, on the foundation of the New State, that we recognize the Free Waldorf School as an outstanding and reliable institution in accord with the New State." — Ibid., pp. 338-339.
Another Waldorf advocate wrote that a goal of Waldorf education was to produce loyal citizens: Waldorf schools aim to "place stalwart and duty-conscious people into the nation and the state." [p. 340.] We should note that at the time, under the Nazi dictatorship, individual freedom was out of the question in Germany. We should also realize, of course, that Waldorf representatives were striving to placate the Nazis in order to preserve the Waldorf movement. Their statements must be read in this context.
Some Nazis strongly opposed Waldorf schools, and some Waldorf school teachers and officials strongly opposed Nazism. But there was collaboration between some Nazis and some Waldorf personnel. Staudenmaier summarizes the situation thus: "Many Waldorf documents from the Nazi period proclaim allegiance to the fatherland, to the nation, to the German essence, and even to National Socialism as the embodiment and vehicle of the long-awaited spiritual renewal of Germany. While much of this rhetoric may have been motivated at least in part by tactical considerations, the underlying national mythology is consistent with the pre-1933 anthroposophical view of the historical and cosmic mission of the German spirit." — Ibid., p. 333.
Steiner's conception of the German national mission
and the primacy of Germany in human spiritual evolution
are reflected in the strange events surrounding Steiner's decision to break
from Theosophy and set up Anthroposophy as an independent spiritual movement.
Many Theosophists had come to view a young Indian boy named Krishnamurti
as the new incarnation of Christ. Steiner vigorously objected.
Here is how historian Peter Staudenmaier has told the tale:
Making sense of Steiner's indignant attitude toward the Krishnamurti affair requires taking seriously Steiner's statements about the racial character of Asians, the future direction of racial evolution, the spiritual significance of skin color, the obsolete and inferior nature of Eastern spiritual traditions, and other factors.
While Steiner did hold that no living person could be the reincarnation of Christ, he did not leave the matter at that. He pointedly ridiculed the notion that this "Hindu lad," as Steiner called Krishnamurti, could embody the Christ. According to Steiner, Hindus had long since played out their evolutionary function and were now leftovers of former spiritual grandeur, an anachronism trapped in decline. Krishnamurti was neither white, European, nor Christian, and thus failed Steiner's test of adequacy for cosmic leadership. At the same time, according to reports from his theosophical associates, Steiner may have encouraged his own followers to think of Steiner himself as the new appearance of Christ.
More important still, the Krishnamurti affair was the occasion for Steiner's final break from the mainstream theosophical movement, which was headquartered in India, and this break, the founding moment of the anthroposophical movement as such, did indeed involve racial ideology. In the midst of the acrimonious split, in 1911, a close colleague of Steiner, anthroposophist Günther Wagner, wrote that both Steiner himself and his followers believed that ìsince we are the most advanced race, we have the most advanced religionî (1911 letter fom Wagner quoted in Norbert Klatt, Theosophie und Anthroposophie: Neue Aspekte zu ihrer Geschichte, 102). That is an important part of why it was such an affront to the anthroposophist mindset when the rest of the theosophical movement cast its lot with Krishnamurti, who was neither racially nor religiously suited to the role, in their eyes.
Steiner's general statements on the significance of race can also help illuminate the incident. His basic stance was straightforward enough: "One can only understand history and all of social life, including today's social life, if one pays attention to people's racial characteristics. And one can only understand all that is spiritual in the correct sense if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin." (Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde, 52) This criterion was of particular importance when Steiner addressed the ostensible spiritual-racial contrast between Europeans and Asians.
Steiner claimed that it was the special destiny of the Germanic peoples to fulfill the "mission of white humanity" by integrating the spiritual and the physical, and that this integration of the physical and spiritual is what accounts for white skin. This integration has failed in non-white peoples, Steiner explained, referring specifically to "the Asian peoples." In Asians and other non-whites, according to Steiner, the spirit "takes a demonic character and does not completely permeate the flesh, there white skin does not appear. Atavistic forces are present which do not let the spirit come into complete harmony with the flesh." (Steiner, The Christ-Impulse as Bearer of the Union of the Spiritual and the Bodily, 8)
Steiner was explicit about this fundamental contrast: "How could one fail to be struck by the profound differences in spiritual culture between, let us say, the peoples of Europe and Asia! How indeed could one not be struck by the differences connected with the colour of the skin?" The purportedly different levels of development were central to this contrast: "How can we fail to realise that the Asiatic peoples have retained certain cultural impulses of past earthly epochs, whereas the Euro-American peoples have advanced beyond them?" (ibid., 6)
Steiner further held that it is the task of "the German people" to spread "spiritual life," which "the Oriental" has lost; the Oriental must now receive spiritual guidance from the Germans (Steiner, Gedankenfreiheit und soziale Kräfte, 141). Steiner taught that "the soul life of the Orient" is not fully part of "normal human life," explicitly equating "normal human life" with "our own, in the West"; the spirituality of the East in contrast is "decadent" and "certainly in decline" (126). He faulted English-speaking Theosophists for looking to India for "ancient oriental wisdom" and for "borrowing completely from the oriental Indians," whose springs of wisdom had long since run dry (130).
The problem, in Steiner's eyes, was not merely an Asian lack of originality and creativity; for Steiner, "the Oriental thinker" is not at the same level of development as "European spiritual culture"; it is only in the West that the seeds of the future are to be found. (132) The decadent and declining features of Indian spiritual life, he insisted, are wholly inappropriate for Europeans. (133) "And it is an example of decadence in the West, of abandonment of all the good spirits of European humankind, that there are many people today who seek to shore up their European spiritual life by absorbing the Oriental essence." (137) Steiner attributed "the purest and cleanest form of thinking" to "the Germans," who are indeed the carriers of "the future of humanity" (142); but this future can only be realized by "our own spiritual striving, not by borrowing from the Oriental" (141).
Steiner sharply contrasted "the Eastern school" from his own "western school" of esotericism, presenting the difference in racial terms: "But this oriental form of truth is worthless for us western peoples. It could only obstruct us and hold us back from our goal. Here in the West are the peoples who shall constitute the core of the future races." (Steiner, Aus den Inhalten der esoterischen Schulen, 221) "The dying races of the East still need the Oriental school. The Western school is for the races of the future." (ibid. 227)
In his book Christus und die menschliche Seele, Steiner discusses the role of "racial evolution" at length, particularly the cosmic differentiation of humankind into racial groups representing varying stages of spiritual progress. The book's second chapter, a lecture from May 1912 (in the midst of the heated intra-theosophical dispute over Krishnamurti), includes a three-page disquisition on the relationship between "race development" and "soul development," explaining that more advanced souls incarnate in "higher races," while less developed souls incarnate in "subordinate races." This process of continual racial-spiritual progress eventually results in "the dying out of the worse elements in the population" (93). Steiner then segues into a comparison of Indian and European spiritual traditions, emphasizing the differences in the "physical incarnation" between these two streams; the "Christ impulse," he explains, played the central role in differentiating the European from the Indian orientation (98).
Then there's Steiner's lecture "The peoples of the earth in the light of spiritual science," published shortly after Steiner's death in the anthroposophical journal Die Drei, vol. 5 no. 9 (December 1925). Here Steiner has quite a bit to say about "the Oriental peoples" and their spiritual practices, which pale in comparison to the spiritual culture brought forth by "the German nation" (651). According to Steiner, the Germans already possess, as part of their "ordinary characteristics," those spiritual achievements that "the Indian strives toward as his ideal of the superhuman." Hence "the European," with his "natural endowment," stands "a stage higher" than "the Oriental" (652).
Taken together, such sources and the numerous others of comparable content carry a consistent message. This lengthy list of assumptions about Indian spiritual traditions, combined with the presumption of European superiority, helps explain anthroposophy's origins in the dispute concerning Krishnamurti and the proper direction of the worldwide theosophical movement. These teachings, which Steiner repeated many times, indicate that aside from his reservations about a physical reincarnation of Christ, he could not conceive of a new "World Teacher" who did not emerge from the German people, heralds of the new age.
In Steiner's view, Krishnamurti was racially, culturally, and spiritually ineligible for the role assigned to him by Besant et al. When it came to discerning the appropriate form for advancing the Christ Impulse, anthroposophical race doctrine was a decisive factor. For further examples of Steiner's negative assessment of Asian spiritual traditions in European contexts, see among others Steiner, Luzifer-Gnosis, 370-71, Steiner, Grundelemente der Esoterik, 108-115, and Steiner, Westliche und östliche Weltgegensätzlichkeit, 226-39.
— Peter Staudenmaier, "Steiner and Krishnamurti"
Anthroposophy, which often seems so sweet, is actually tainted with
violence and traces of militarism.
[See "Violence", "War", and "The Gods".]
Indeed, Rudolf Steiner taught that in our time, the god who directly
oversees human evolution is Michael, the warrior god, the archangel of the Sun.
Not coincidentally, Michael is the patron saint of the German reich —
Steiner revered Michael much as he did most other things German,
seeing in them man's greatest spiritual advancement.
In this context, it is significant to note that Steiner was close to
Helmuth von Moltke, the chief of the German general staff
at the beginning of World War I.
Although von Moltke could justifiably be termed a war criminal,
Steiner defended him stoutly.
German victories in all spheres, even in warfare,
would carry mankind to new spiritual heights.
[See "Steiner and the Warlord".]
Adapting Waldorf schooling to cultures and nations outside central Europe requires some mental gymnastics. At my old Waldorf school in the USA, this meant — as I have indicated — combing through American literature for ideas that might conceivably seem consistent with Steiner's doctrines. It also meant celebrating the American Indian, contrary to Steiner's teachings. Such revisionism is possible for Anthroposophists because Steiner encouraged his followers to develop their own powers of spiritual perception. He expected the result to be that his followers would independently confirm the results of his own "exact clairvoyance," but in fact he opened the door to schisms.
Steiner taught that America is a peculiarly Ahrimanic place — an idea American-born Anthroposophists have some trouble accepting, since it would taint themselves as wells as the students in American Waldorf schools. White settlers were motivated largely by greed, Steiner taught, and they produced a materialistic, scientific culture that is demonic. “America was discovered under the influence of the greed for gold, under the influence of a purely materialistic culture....” — Rudolf Steiner, SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 67. This perverted culture found fertile soil in America. “This is the region where, through the prevailing external conditions, above all a relationship is developed with the mephistophelian-ahrimanic nature.” — Ibid., p. 69.
The original Americans, the aboriginal "Indians," descended from abnormal humans who were unable to evolve properly, or so Steiner taught. “[I]t was the normal human beings that were...the most capable of evolving.. [Abnormal] peoples whose ego impulse was developed too strongly...became...the Red Indians of America." — Rudolf Steiner, THE BEING OF MAN AND HIS FUTURE EVOLUTION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981), pp. 118-119.
Thus, the overall picture Steiner painted was bleakly negative: America is the home of abnormal people who cannot evolve properly, and greedy, materialistic newcomers, all operating within the sphere of Ahriman.
Americans understandably bridle at this image. Some elements of the image are accurate — American culture includes wide strains of materialism, certainly — but others are grotesquely biased, even racist. American Anthroposophists therefore try to right the balance. American Anthroposophists tend to credit Native Americans with an affinity to nature that, while reflecting a bygone stage of evolution, nonetheless offers wisdom for white Americans to embrace. "It is so interesting that the white man's civilization has been studying nature for hundreds of years, and the more it studies it, the less it learns ... [T]he Indian can show the way. If it is only the brain and not the heart that is listening for nature's message, her deeper teachings will not be learned." — John Fentress Gardner, quoted in RESPECT FOR LIFE (Waldorf Press, 1974), p. 185, edited by Sylvester M. Morey and Olivia L. Gilliam.
J. F. Gardner, a white American Anthroposophist, was able to distance himself slightly from Steiner and praise Native Americans — as long as he found in their culture affirmations of Steiner's fundamental views on science, the heart, and the brain. In effect, he "honored" Native Americans by depicting them as noble savages, attuned to nature through a consciousness that is heartfelt, "natural," intuitive, and not overly reliant on the brain. (For more on these matters, see "Light and Dark" and "Thinking Cap".) 
America isn't really so bad, you see. Or so say we Americans.
[For more on America as described by Steiner, see "America".]
"[I]n January 1933, another Austrian brought forward his view of reform of the whole person for a whole society, and his vision of cultural renewal. His, too, was a program presented as the answer to the crisis born of World War I. His, too, was the promise of deliverance from Versailles [i.e., the onerous 1919 Treaty of Versailles] and restitution of [Germany's] self-confident strength. Like Steiner, Adolf Hitler's vision was one that claimed to overcome the disintegration of Germany and salvage German culture and civilization. In this important respect, the ideological differences between Hitler and Steiner were by no means obvious. Admittedly, the Nazi ideology was clearly opposite to Waldorf. The Steiner movement placed emphasis on what might be termed its libertarian dimensions: individual growth, self-governance of a body of teachers and independence from the state. Yet, Waldorf and National Socialism were at the same time curiously consonant in other essentials: passion for German culture and regard for the virtues of being responsive to a leader." — Ida Oberman, THE WALDORF MOVEMENT IN EDUCATION FROM EUROPEAN CRADLE TO AMERICAN CRUCIBLE, 1919-2008 (Edwin Mellen Press, 2008), p. 766.]
A 37-page letter was prepared by Waldorf representatives, arguing that Waldorf education recognized the special nature and mission of the German folk soul, a key Nazi tenet. The letter “contained items intended to demonstrate the ideological integrity and successes of Waldorf, e.g., excerpts from a lecture Steiner had given in 1915 on 'Germanic Soul and Germanic Spirit' ... [Waldorf teacher Ernst] Uehli’s effort to win the National Socialists government’s good will is most apparent in his stress of the ‘German’ character of Waldorf pedagogy. The Waldorf school did concentrate on raising German youth to be spiritually reverential, physically healthy and capable of taking responsibility.” — Ibid., p. 123.
For more on the extremely contentious issue
of ties between Waldorf schools and Nazism,
For information about Ahriman and Lucifer,
see "Ahriman" and "Lucifer".
For more on warfare in Steiner's doctrines,
see "War" and "All vs. All".
Wet-on-wet painting by a Waldorf student
[courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools].
War between America and Germany.
From a chapel window, Mighty 8th Air Force Museum:
US bombers attacking Germany.
My father flew such missions.
"[P]art of the mystery culture of ancient Atlantis made its way, not toward the East, but toward the West, to the lands of America discovered later on by the Europeans. There the more ahrimanic part of the irregular post-Atlantean culture lived itself out. Whereas the luciferic part lived on more in Asia, the ahrimanic part worked more in America." — Rudolf Steiner, INNER IMPULSES OF EVOLUTION (Anthroposophic Press, 1984), lecture 5, GA 171. [R.R. sketch, 2013.]
Ahriman as depicted in a mural intended for the Goetheanum;
see, e.g., THE GOETHEANUM CUPOLA MOTIFS OF RUDOLF STEINER
(SteinerBooks, 2011), p. 147, detail.
[R.R. sketch, 2014.]
A version of one of Steiner's seven mystic seals based on the seals of the Apocalypse.
For Steiner's followers, the winged being depicted is not an angel but purified humanity.
Conquering evil, ennobling ourselves, moving toward divinity —
these are glorious goals. The question in evaluating Steiner's teachings
is whether those teachings are likely to bring us closer to attaining such goals
or whether they would divert us into dark, deluded dead ends.
[R. R. sketch, 2010, based on one in Rudolf Steiner,
MYSTIC SEALS AND COLUMNS (Health Research, 1969), p. 4.]
Steiner's mentor was Helena Blavatsky, a founder of Theosophy. Steiner was bowled over by Blavatsky's book, THE SECRET DOCTRINE. Most of Steiner's teachings stem from Blavatsky's, although he increasingly distanced himself from her as he worked to create his own occult movement, Anthroposophy.
Here is an intriguing Q & A:
“What is occult ‘imprisonment’, and why was it inflicted on Madame Blavatsky?”
“There is a certain operation of ceremonial magic by means of which a wall of psychic influences may be built up around an individual who has become dangerous, which has the effect of paralysing the higher activities, and producing what is called the ‘repercussion of effort’, and the result is a kind of spiritual sleep characterised by fantastic visions. It is an operation seldom resorted to even by Brothers of the Left [i.e., evil brotherhoods], and in the case of Madame Blavatsky was disapproved of by almost all European occultists. [sic] On the American brotherhoods alone rests the responsibility for what has since happened.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE TRANSCENDENTAL UNIVERSE - quoted in Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT MOVEMENT IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), p. 102.
Perhaps the point needs amplification.
"H. P. Blavatsky...wanted to play the foremost occult role. She did not want to be just a higher medium; she wanted to direct the thing herself. She entered an American order where they told her many secrets which were only given to those in high grades. Nevertheless, this American order had a very definite intention and in time she received into her consciousness a great deal of knowledge. A whole new situation was now created. Here was a personality who knew much of the occult knowledge which the secret orders had preserved and protected. Here was a situation which had never occurred before ... [She] tried to set up certain conditions to which the American order could not agree, because if they had done so terrible confusion would have come about.
"Therefore, through very dubious means, they put her in what is called occult imprisonment which one achieves through certain ceremonial magic in which the soul which you are imprisoning can have ideas which go to a certain sphere and then are reflected back. Everything that develops in the person can be seen by themselves but it is not possible to share it with the external world. It only works within itself; it is an occult imprisonment. This particular ceremonial magic leading to occult imprisonment was done in order to try to make H. P. Blavatsky harmless. In the year 1879 there was an association of occultists of various lands and it was decided that an occult imprisonment was to be placed over Madam Blavatsky and she then lived for a number of years in real occult imprisonment. It then came about that certain [Asian] Indian occultists freed her from this occult imprisonment...." — Rudolf Steiner, THINGS IN THE PAST AND PRESENT IN THE SPIRIT OF MAN (transcript, Rudolf Steiner Archive), lecture 3, GA 167.
Steiner taught that Americans can scarcely comprehend true Anthroposophy. In America, he said, false forms of spiritualism thrive.
War brings death — but death is not so bad. According to Steiner, we live over and over, reincarnating many, many times. Here's how it works. We are born (upward-pointing arrowheads) and lead an Earthly life; then we die (downward-pointing arrowheads). Following death, we lead a looping life in the spirit realm, under the influence of six gods (Spirits of Form). The process goes on and on, lifetime after lifetime. As Steiner points out, he has explained all this in his book OCCULT SCIENCE:
"If we think about man as he is between birth and death, we can envisage that in regard to his evolution he stands under the workings of the Spirits of Form. This too is set forth in OCCULT SCIENCE. But if we then think of his life from death until the next birth, an essential fact must be taken into consideration, namely, that the spheres of activity of these Spirits of Form fall as it were into seven categories, only one of which is allotted to Jehovah, namely, that concerned primarily with the life between birth and death. The six other categories of the Spirits of Form guide the life between death and a new birth.
"This can be discovered only if we investigate the life between death and a new birth. Just as Jehovah has to do with the Earth and actually made the sacrifice of going to the Moon in order from there to neutralise certain things in Earth-evolution, so have the other Spirits of Form to do with the other planets. But this fact must be cloaked, must be kept secret if it is desired that the conception of repeated Earth-lives shall be withheld from men; and moreover the concealment must be really effective, it must be brought about in such a way that men do not become alive to the secret of which I have just spoken. For if they are diverted from a true vista of the life between death and a new birth, their attention will be rivetted, without this secret, upon the life between birth and death and they will allow mediums to talk them into believing that the life after death is simply a continuation of the life on Earth." — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT MOVEMENT IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), pp. 71-72. [R.R. sketch, 2010, based on the one on p. 71.]
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 11. THE WALDORF WORLDVIEW ◊◊◊
EVERYTHINGAn examination of Steiner’s central text
Steiner’s extraordinary, sci-fi-like narrative of human evolution.
The tale of our ancient past and our distant future, as told by Steiner. It continues in:
And badder, and baddest
THE GOOD WARS
If you'd like more information about any of the topics discussed here,
you might begin by consulting the following resources:
THE SEMI-STEINER DICTIONARY
THE BRIEF WALDORF / STEINER ENCYCLOPEDIA
WALDORF WATCH TABLE OF CONTENTS
Some illustrations on each page here at Waldorf Watch
are closely connected to the essay on that page;
others are not — they provide general context.
 The surnames of my classmates indicate that nearly half — and perhaps more — had German ancestry. I do not know why any of my classmates' parents chose Waldorf for their children.
In addition to the names I have listed, the names of many other teachers and students at the school were quite likely derived from German roots. The following may or may not have been of German extraction: Blumenthal (from the German, Blumen or flowers, and Thal or valley), Gardner (perhaps English, from Gardener, or German, from Gartner), Miller (perhaps English, or perhaps from the German, Mueller), Perl (originally Jewish, then German: after places called Perl or Berl, or possibly drawn from Middle High German, Perle), and Rose (English, Scottish, French, or German: from the name of the flower, originally from the Latin, rosa).
 Rudolf Steiner, THE TEMPLE LEGEND (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), p. 201.
 Rudolf Steiner THE CHALLENGE OF THE TIMES (SteinerBooks, 1979), pp. 207-209. Steiner praised Germans for a form of doublethink: The ability to affirm two or more disparate “truths” simultaneously.
To put the German mission in context: Steiner also spoke of the “missions” of other peoples. Take one example. “Among the English-speaking people self-seeking and political goals simply coincide. It leads to the fact that all politics performed in an utterly naive fashion — and this does not justify attaching any blame to a politician of the English-speaking peoples — can be used by the self-seeking person to fulfill thereby the mission of the English-speaking people.” — Ibid., p. 197. The tone, here, is condescending and dismissive, the interjected qualification notwithstanding.
 See “Unenlightened”.
 John Fentress Gardner, “The Founding of Adelphi’s Waldorf School,” ONE MAN’S VISION: IN MEMORIAM, H.A.W. MYRIN (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1970), p. 48.
 Ibid., p. 46.
 Ibid., p. 48.
 See “Steiner’s ‘Science’”.
Television and computers are often held in special disfavor at Waldorf schools. Of course, most people would agree that too much time spent in front of a TV or computer is bad for children. But the Waldorf position is rooted in occultism. “Eliminating television is not only a practical concern. There are spiritual reasons for eliminating television. Some members of the Waldorf community believe that a being called Ahriman [a demon] is especially present in electronic media such as computers and the Internet. This might help explain why Waldorf is so adamant about eliminating television for children, even when the American Association of Pediatrics says limited TV is OK for kids over 2 years of age.” [Ahriman and Television, http://www.openwaldorf.com/media.html .] Ahriman is the devil in Zoroastrianism. For Rudolf Steiner and his followers, Ahriman is, in effect, Satan — and he shows up in such devices as TVs. “Whatever the merits of certain inventions, they show the face of Ahriman. Under such headings one could consider all sorts of mechanisms but in particular such appliances as television, radio, cinema and the thousand and one things dependent on electricity.” — Roy Wilkinson, RUDOLF STEINER, Chapter 6, “Forces of Evil” http://www.anthroposophy.org.uk/book/chapter6.html . There are good reasons to restrict TV and computer time for kids; but at Waldorf schools there are also wacky reasons. (I last checked the websites referred to here on March 3, 2009. It is interesting to note, in passing, that Waldorf advocates are willing to use the demonic Internet for their own good purposes.)
 Rudolf Steiner, THE DESTINY OF INDIVIDUALS AND OF NATIONS (SteinerBooks, 1986), p. 78.
Steiner asserted that the Central European powers had a special mission in World War I: The Central Powers occupied a Christlike position, resisting the evils of two demons, Lucifer and Ahriman. Central Europe, by this accounting, played a messianic role in the war. “Steiner sees a parallel between Christ’s central, but equalizing position [between Lucifer and Ahriman] and Central Europe’s mission in World War I. He implies that Germany’s and Austria’s militarism and political intransigence alone did not lead to war against the world powers in the East (Russia) and the West (France, England and, since 1917, the United States). According to Steiner, World War I was the earthly expression of a struggle between luciferic forces in the East and ahrimanic forces in the West, and it was Central Europe’s destiny to mediate between these forces.” — Peter Mollenhauer, introduction to Rudolf Steiner's lecture, “Christ in Relation to Lucifer and Ahriman” (Anthroposophic Press, 1978), GA 159.
 E.g., “People, however, who have preserved a certain nature-sense, i.e. the old clairvoyant forces which everyone once possessed....” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 63. For more about Steiner’s views on cognition, see “Thinking Cap” and “Steiner’s ‘Science’”.
 “[T]he essential characteristic of the fourth post-Atlantean period was that human powers of intellect and feeling were strengthened by being cut off from direct interaction with the world of soul and spirit. The souls who incarnated then and greatly developed those powers then carried the results of their development over into their incarnation during the fifth period.” — Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), pp. 386. The fourth period is the historical stage before our own, the fifth. “Incarnation” reflects Steiner’s borrowed doctrines of karma and reincarnation. We will at attain a higher sort of clairvoyance before too long: “[W]hen the sixth period begins, humanity will have been able to reacquire the non-sensory perception it possessed in a dusklike way in earlier times — but now on a higher level....” — Ibid., p. 389.
 “Blond hair actually bestows intelligence. In the case of fair people, less nourishment is driven into the eyes and hair; it remains instead in the brain and endows it with intelligence.” — Rudolf Steiner, HEALTH AND ILLNESS, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1981), pp. 85-86.
 “[A]t the present time it is the task of the Aryans to develop the faculty of thought and all that belongs to it.” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (SteinerBooks, 1987), p. 46.
 “Germanic mythology, from the way in which it was developed out of the native powers of the Archangel, is in its pictures closely akin to the anthroposophical conception of the world such as it shall grow to be in the course of time for all mankind.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 123.
 “... [L]ooking at the world from the most varied points of view ... [C]ertain things...for example, in the realm of knowledge, can be evolved only through the German people.” See again the final paragraph of the first section of this essay.
 E.g., RUDOLF STEINER (Western Esoteric Masters Series), anthology edited by Richard Seddon (Berkley: North Atlantic Books, 2004, general editor’s preface by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke), p. 7. Also see “Unenlightened”.
 Steiner alluded to Rousseau's concept of the noble savage; he found truth in it, while also indicating that it will become obsolete. “Now the epoch of the Consciousness Soul recognizes that there are so-called civilized men, and others who are extremely primitive — so primitive that Rousseau was captivated by their primitive condition and elaborated his theory of the ‘noble savage’. In the course of the epoch of the Consciousness soul this differentiation will cease.” — Rudolf Steiner, FROM SYMPTOM TO REALITY IN MODERN HISTORY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1976), p. 74. Steiner was discussing the present historical epoch. The consciousness soul is the lowest division of our soul nature, prevalent now.