The Evil Within




“One can only understand history...if one pays attention to people's racial characteristics. And one can only understand all that is spiritual...if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin.” — Rudolf Steiner [1]


Rudolf Steiner’s doctrines are infested with racial prejudice. I got my first inklings of this during my senior year at a Waldorf school.

One morning in a biology course, our headmaster laid out for us the overarching structure of the family of man. He explained that the various races stand at different levels of moral development — each is forging its own destiny. He said these things sympathetically, with no hint of condescension. Yet his words were jarring. The Oriental races, he said, are ancient, wise, but vitiated. The African races are youthful, unformed, childlike, he said. Located near the center of humanity’s family are the currently most advanced races, the whites, he said. [2]

I also remember a lesson our class received from another of our teachers. During an hour ostensibly devoted to botany, the teacher veered off topic to warn us never to receive blood transfusions from members of other races. (All of us in the class were white.) Blacks and Orientals have blood types that are physically different from ours, our teacher informed us: Receiving such inferior blood would diminish our Aryan qualities. The moral once again seemed to be that, for Anthroposophists, racial identity has great significance. [3]

These startling statements by two of our teachers might be written off as mere expressions of personal racial bias; deplorable, but essentially minor aberrations within the overall context of our education. But in fact these teachers were opening a window for us onto the racial views propounded by the founder of Waldorf education, Rudolf Steiner. Here is one of Steiner’s statements about the differences between various human races: 

"On one side we find the black race, which is earthly at most. If it moves to the West, it becomes extinct. We also have the yellow race, which is in the middle between earth and the cosmos. If it moves to the East, it becomes brown, attaches itself too much to the cosmos, and becomes extinct. The white race is the future, the race that is spiritually creative." [4]

Steiner said different races stand at different levels, and each has its proper place on the Earth: When a race leaves its proper place, it "becomes extinct" — or it risks this destruction. According to Steiner, the differences between races are so profound, they will lead to a racial Armageddon. Here is a statement Steiner made dealing with the process by which humanity will proceed to its next evolutionary stage. The process will not be peaceful. Before advanced (which is to say, white) humans can make their intended progress, vigorous measures must be taken to deal with the less-evolved peoples. Racial struggle is an historical necessity, Steiner said. 

“[T]hese things [future human evolution] cannot happen in the world without the most violent struggle. White mankind is still on the path of absorbing spirit more deeply into its essence. Yellow mankind is on the path of preserving the period when the spirit was kept away from the body [i.e., "yellow" or colored races do not absorb spirit into their essence] ... But the result will have to be that the transition from the fifth cultural epoch to the sixth cultural epoch [i.e., mankind’s next evolutionary step upwards] cannot happen differently than as a violent fight between white mankind and colored mankind in the most varied areas. And world history will consist of the events that will lead to these battles between white and colored mankind until the great fight between white and colored mankind has been brought about. Future events are frequently reflected in previous events. You see, we stand before something so colossal that, if we regard it through the diverse perceptions of spiritual science, we will in the future recognize it as a necessary occurrence.” [5]

One of Steiner’s basic racial tenets is that the division of mankind into races resulted from demonic interference. The mighty demons Lucifer and Ahriman disrupted the harmonious evolution of humanity by causing older forms of mankind to survive while other segments of humanity evolved to higher levels. 

“Lucifer and Ahriman...fought against this harmonious tendency of development in the evolution of humanity, and they managed to change the whole process so that various developments were shifted and displaced. While there should have been basically only one form of human being...Lucifer and Ahriman preserved [earlier human types] ... Thus, forms that should have disappeared remained. Instead of racial diversities developing consecutively, older racial forms remained unchanged and newer ones began to evolve at the same time. Instead of the intended consecutive development of races, there was a coexistence of races. That is how it came about that physically different races inhabited the earth and are still there in our time although evolution should really have proceeded [unimpeded].” [6]

Note that, according to Steiner's teachings, the older racial forms preserved by Lucifer and Ahriman are necessarily less evolved and hence inferior to newer forms. Anthroposophists often argue that Steiner was not a racist. Yet making distinctions between races — and placing whites at the top of a racial hierarchy — are recurrent themes in his work. In Steiner’s view, the simultaneous existence of multiple races is, in itself, wrong ("there should have been basically only one form of human being..."). In the modern world, Steiner said, multiple races exist at multiple levels of development, some higher than others — some races approach the ideal human type, while others diverge far from it. Our souls make progress as they ascend through the ranks of the races, incarnating first in lowly races, and rising later through incarnation in higher and higher racial forms. 

"A race or nation stands so much the higher, the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal human type ... The evolution of man through the incarnations in ever higher national and racial forms is thus a process of liberation [leading to] an ideal future.” [7]

In the "ideal future", there will be just one “pure, ideal human type.” Divergent races will no longer exist when all humans are equally evolved, when they are all uniformly alike. This may or may not seem to be a desirable goal, but Steiner's vision explicitly rules out the possibility of acknowledging the equality of all races now, in the world as it exists now. If one race "stands so much the higher" because it approaches the human ideal (as imagined by white, European Rudolf Steiner), other races must be judged so much the lower, because they deviate from the human ideal (as imagined by white, European Rudolf Steiner). The implication of Steiner's vision is that humanity will overcome racism only when racial differences are eliminated. This vision forecloses the ideals of diversity, multiculturalism, and mutual respect among differing peoples. It is a denial of racial equality.

Steiner said the external physical characteristics of the various races reflect and even cause those races’ inner qualities. Hair- and eye-color, for instance, have surprising importance: 

“If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense ... 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. Brown- and dark-haired people drive the substances into their eyes and hair that the fair people retain in their brains.” [8]

On the subject of race, Steiner's views are pernicious and indefensible. His followers today sometimes offer the excuse that he was a man of his times, sharing the prevailing attitudes and prejudices of his times. Steiner was born in 1861, in Austria, and he died in 1925, in Germany. During his lifetime, racism was indeed widespread and, according to the standards prevailing in those days, it was deemed more or less respectable. Steiner's views undoubtedly were conditioned, at least to some extent, by the culture in which he lived; hence, it might be argued that he should not be blamed for his racist pronouncements. But this line of argument is hazardous for Anthroposophists — it is, in effect, an acknowledgment that Steiner was not a clairvoyant savant, as he claimed. He could not see ultimate truth. He had no special insight. As the quotations presented here make abundantly clear, he was a flawed, bigoted, ordinary man who chose to spread hateful, racist nonsense. It is important to remember that while many Germans — among others — were overt racists in Steiner's time, not everyone was. Many well-informed people, contemporaries of Steiner, vigorously rejected racism. Yet Steiner's work embraces numerous racist stereotypes and slanders. He presented his views as if they were spiritually enlightened; he spoke, often, in lofty terms; yet he was, manifestly, a racist.


Steiner taught that thinking is the special field of endeavor for Aryans. [9] German Aryans occupy a lofty place: They are enabled by their mythology and their attainments to understand human evolution particularly well [10], and their mission now is to comprehend the world from many angles. [11] Steiner took upon himself what may be considered an extension and fulfillment of the German national/racial mission, to create in Anthroposophy a system that organizes spiritual wisdom gleaned from around the globe and perfected by Germanic spiritual awareness.

Here are some of Steiner’s statements about human races. (We'll see many more, presently.) To make these statements clear, I have edited out extraneous verbiage and added some explanatory notes. Please check the sources I cite. You’ll see that I have not changed Steiner’s meaning.

“[A] centre of cosmic influence [is] situated in the interior of Africa. At this centre are active all those terrestrial forces emanating from the soil which can influence man especially during his early childhood ... The black or Negro race is substantially determined by these childhood characteristics.” [12] 

Steiner taught that blacks are childish, Asians are adolescent, whites are adult, and “red Indians” are old, dying, superannuated. When progressing to higher and higher evolutionary forms, Steiner indicated, a human soul incarnates in progressively higher races, starting at black and rising eventually to white. 

As we evolve, according to Steiner, we find our proper homes in different parts of the Earth. Blacks belong in Africa, where childishness (or minimal soul evolution) is appropriate. Moving blacks out of Africa to other parts of the Earth is a grave error. Steiner accused the French of making precisely this mistake:

“The French are committing the terrible brutality of moving black people to Europe ... It has an enormous effect on [French] blood and the [French] race and contributes considerably toward French decadence. The French as a race are reverting.” [13]

Blacks are damaged by being moved to a place where they do not belong, Steiner taught. And the people who move them, in this instance the French, are damaged as well. The French become increasingly decadent, so as a race they move downward ("the French as a race are reverting”), and indeed the very blood of the French race is affected ("it has an enormous effect on [French] blood").

Steiner inveighed against mixing the blood of disparate populations. Mixing the blood of species can cause sterility, he said, while mixing the blood of races can cause spiritual damage, such as diminishing a race's capacity for clairvoyance. In fact, Steiner taught, the barren intellectuality of modern humanity can be traced to the mixing of blood:

“Modern science has discovered that if the blood of one animal is mixed with that of another not akin to it, the blood of the one is fatal to that of the other ... [T]he ancient clairvoyance of underdeveloped man was killed when his blood was mixed with the blood of others who did not belong to the same stock. The entire intellectual life of to-day is the outcome of the mingling of blood...." [14]

To be unevolved, Steiner taught, is to be spiritually uninformed. Lowly races are more materialistic, they are far removed from true spirituality, they are abnormal, and they run the grave risk of entering a terminal decline. Evolving upward is thus an urgent necessity if a race is to attain fulfillment. Whites have climbed properly toward improvement, but other races have lagged behind. Today's red and black races descend from abnormal humans who did not participate in the evolution led by more advanced individuals: 

“[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. [Likewise, the abnormal] people whose ego-feeling was too little developed...became the subsequent Negro population of Africa ... The human beings who had developed normally lent themselves best to progress.” [15] 

The "normal" humans, having well-balanced egos, became the whites of Europe; "abnormal" humans, having defective egos, became members of darker, lower races. Progress — entailing possession of a true human ego — should be our goal. That way lies civilization and spirituality; other directions lead to (or cause people to remain mired in) savagery and materialism.

"[Evil human souls incarnated in] the races that had become decadent and were falling into decline. The [good] souls left the bodies of [these] races and rose up to higher races.” [16] 

Abnormality is equivalent to decadence and decline — and evil — Steiner taught. Normality leads to whiteness, in all of its meanings. If things go as they should, the higher races should become more and more populous as the lower races gradually wither away. Souls that fail to evolve to higher levels expire along with the racial forms in which they have become trapped. Normal, highly evolved souls continue evolving higher and higher.

“This was the reason that the lower races had fewer and fewer descendants, while the higher races had more and more.” [17] 

This is the holy plan laid out by the gods, Steiner taught. All of humanity should have progressed together from one racial form to the next. Thus, only one race should exist at any given time. But because of the interference of Lucifer and Ahriman, multiple races exist simultaneously now. Individual souls progress or deteriorate — they move up or down — as they incarnate and reincarnate through the existing racial forms. 

There are large racial categories and smaller subcategories. The French, as we saw above, may thus be denominated as a "race." Likewise, all white Europeans may be considered a subset or a "sub-race" of the great, multi-national "Aryan" race:

“If we contemplate ourselves, we here in Europe are thus the fifth Sub-Race of the great Aryan Root Race.” [18] 

Here, Steiner employs Theosophical terminology. A "root race" is the racial form that should exist during a given historical period; a "sub-race" is a subdivision of a root race. European whites ("we here in Europe") stand at the current pinnacle of human progress. The four preceding sub-races, Steiner taught, were the ancient Indian, ancient Persian, ancient Egyptian, and the ancient Greco-Roman. (Note that some peoples are excluded from this lineup; they have occupied, at best, tangential positions within the family of humankind. Note, too, that by "ancient Indians," Steiner meant Asian, not American, Indians.)

The most highly evolved group in each era represents the vanguard of human progress; only this group may be deemed "civilized." In the modern world, only Aryans deserve to be considered civilized. 

"[Aryans] comprise present-day civilized humanity....” [19] 

If Lucifer and Ahriman had not interfered, all humans alive now would be Aryans. However, according to Steiner, some humans alive today represent previous evolutionary levels — they are not Aryans. The highest humans living now are the white Aryans of Europe, Steiner said. These humans “comprise present-day civilized humanity,” whereas other humans alive now are less civilized or uncivilized. 

Low or uncivilized races exist at levels that sometimes verge on bestiality. Steiner did not hesitate to designate such peoples as barbaric and savage, as when he asked this:

"How can a negro [sic] or an utterly barbaric savage become civilized? ... [A race's fate hinges on] whether it be on the up- or down-grade of its evolution...." [20]

Low races can damage higher races through mixing of blood, Steiner indicated. But similar damage may also be caused through psychological or spiritual corruption.

“[I]f we give...Negro novels to pregnant [white] women to read, then it won’t even be necessary for Negroes to come to Europe in order for mulattos to appear. Simply through the spiritual effects of reading Negro novels, a multitude of children will be born in Europe that are completely gray, that have mulatto hair, that look like mulattos!” [21] 

Steiner's defenders sometimes excuse this statement, calling it is a joke. But it is a "joke" that only a racist would tell or find amusing. In fact, Steiner imputed great powers to all forms of art, including all forms of literature. Within the context of Steiner's teachings, it is perfectly plausible to assert that novels written by blacks could have injurious effects (emotional, spiritual, and even biological) on whites and their offspring.

Steiner made racist pronouncements encompassing virtually all peoples, nations, and races. The brown race, including American Indians, did not escape his judgment.

“If you look at pictures of the old American Indians the process of ossification is evident in the decline of this race ... [A] representative of these old American Indians still preserves a memory of that great Atlantean civilization [i.e., the civilization of Atlantis] which could not adapt itself to later evolution ... [Progressive forces led to] all the civilizations which reached their zenith in Europe ... The descendants of the brown race did not participate in this development.” [22] 

According to Steiner, the brown race was unable to evolve beyond the levels established during, or soon after, life on Atlantis. Thus, brown-skinned humans such as American Indians reached a dead end and began to die off. The Indians' demise is shown in their faces, which struck Steiner as bony or gaunt. In general, Steiner said, American Indians became ossified.

Steiner's bigotry sometimes took novel forms, as when he brought in references to Atlantis. But often Steiner parroted common racist slurs, as when he called blacks savage or childish. Some of his statements about Jews are similarly hackneyed.

“The Jews have a great gift for materialism, but little for recognition of the spiritual world.” [23] 

Just as Steiner identified the French as a "race" (or a subdivision of a race), so Jews may be deemed to be a race or sub-race. Here, Steiner voices two interconnected, standard anti-Semitic slanders: Jews are highly materialist, and they are incapable of understanding spiritual truths. 

Steiner pointed to Jews as an example of groups that refuse to heed spiritual wisdom and thus fail to evolve:

"People who listen to the great leaders of humankind...reincarnate in an advanced race; in the same way he who ignores the great teacher...will always reincarnate in the same race [i.e., he will fail to rise to a higher racial level] ... This is the deeper meaning of Ahasver [the 'wandering Jew'], who must always reappear in the same form because he rejected the hand of the greatest leader, Christ. Thus each person [may stall at one level] or instead undergo the transformation into higher races, toward ever higher perfection. Races would never become decadent, never decline, if there weren't souls that are...unwilling to move up to a higher racial form. Look at the races that have survived from earlier eras: they only exist because some souls could not climb higher." [24] 

Some of Steiner's racial assertions are as astonishing as they are repellant.

“[A] kind of ‘Chineseness’ is beginning to manifest in Europe, as though Europe were becoming ‘chinesified’ ... By bringing about the ‘opiumising’ of Chinese was possible to condemn the Chinese to take in...some very immature, sub-standard souls ... But those souls who had themselves decided to incarnate in Chinese bodies were thereby prevented from [incarnating in] these ‘opiumised’ bodies. They were diverted to Europe.” [25] 

Here, Steiner speaks of the Chinese as a race or sub-race, and he indicates that because of widespread opium addiction in China, inferior, less-evolved souls have tended to incarnate in Chinese bodies. As a result, other souls that normally should have incarnated in China have been shunted to Europe instead. Thus, just as blacks who are brought to Europe cause damage in Europe, so these Oriental souls arriving in European bodies cause damage ("‘Chineseness’ is beginning to manifest in Europe").

Whereas the gods had intended for low racial forms to disappear as humanity evolves higher, Steiner said low forms remain because so many individuals make faulty or wicked choices in their lives, which causes them to reincarnate in retrograde races.

“[W]e must distinguish between soul-evolution and race-evolution. A soul may be incarnated in a race that is declining; but if that soul does not make itself evil, it will not be reincarnated in a race that is falling back, but in one that is on the up-grade. Enough souls are pouring in from other quarters for incarnation in races that are on the down-grade (i.e. bad souls).” [26] 

There is a note of hope in this description: Good souls may free themselves and evolve upward. But failure to evolve is sinful. Souls who make themselves evil fall to lower forms in their future lives. And we should recognize the clear implication: Low races are morally inferior.


The key error committed by racists is to treat people not as individuals but as essentially interchangeable representatives of a group — a nation or a race. Steiner seems to avoid this error when, for instance, he differentiates between the evolution of individuals and the evolution of races, as we have just seen. And yet, at another level, the error is built into Steiner's doctrines. He said races and nations share "group souls" — that is, all the members of a race share certain spiritual qualities that cannot be found in other groups. Steiner also said group souls are spiritual beings, having their own existence, and individual humans can be considered mere extensions or tools of those spiritual beings:

"The person belongs to a family, a nation, a race; his activity in this world depends upon his belonging to some such community ... Besides the separate individuals, a very real family and national Group Soul and racial Spirit is at work in the life of a family, a people, or a race. Indeed, in a certain sense, the separate individuals are merely [sic] the executive organs of these family Group Souls, racial Spirits and so on. It is nothing but the truth to say, for instance, that a national Group Soul makes use of each individual man belonging to that nation for the execution of some work. The national Group Soul does not descend into physical reality, but dwells in the higher worlds, and in order to work in the physical world, makes use of the physical organs of each individual ... In the truest sense [sic], every individual receives his allotted task from his family, national or racial Group Soul." [27]

Steiner said individual humans have their own, individual souls, but also said all humans partake of familial, national, or racial souls, of which they are "executive organs." This doctrine is appalling on almost every level.

Steiner used various terms for the spirits presiding over human groups. He called them group souls, folk souls, folk spirits, race souls, and so on. In all cases, these spirits are gods, Steiner said — they are the divinities sometimes referred to as Archangels or Fire Spirits.

“Archangels (Archangeloi, Fire Spirits)...bring the life of the individual and the life of broader groups of humanity — that is, peoples, races, and so on — into harmonious order ... For anyone who can penetrate spiritual knowledge, folk-souls and race-souls are quite different from what is generally understood by these terms today, especially by the abstract, modern scientist ... [A]bstract thinkers merely conceive of the folk-spirit or folk-soul as the abstract sum total of so many people. For them, only the individual human being is real ... [But] a folk-soul or folk-spirit is a reality. A Fire Spirit or Archangel manifests in a folk-soul, governing the relationship between individual human beings and the whole of a people or race.” [28]

This is spiritualism, Steiner-style. Each race has its own race soul, its own spirit, its own god. Racial difference is thus not merely a matter of skin pigmentation; it is a deep, spiritual matter, reflecting deeply different spiritual states overseen by different gods. A white man, for instance, has a different god than a black man has. Steiner's racism runs about as deep as it possibly could: It extends to differences between gods.

Manifestly, Steiner did not understand how his words make the attitude of the "abstract, modern scientist" look good by comparison. If scientists assert that individuals are paramount — that individuals are the only beings that actually, verifiably exist — then so much the better. But Steiner insisted that his alternative, spiritualistic perspective reveals transcendent truths. Only in our benighted, materialistic age are such truths denied, Steiner said. 

“You know that what is called folk-soul, race-soul, has become a somewhat abstract idea today ... [But] to the spiritual researcher [e.g., an Anthroposophist] this is not so at all. What one calls the to him an absolutely independent entity. It is only that in our present Earth existence the folk soul is a purely spiritual being, perceptible only to one who can ascend to the astral plane [29]; there you could not deny it, for there it is present as an actual living being ... On the Moon [i.e., during Old Moon, the evolutionary period when we lived "on" the Moon] it would have occurred to you even less to deny this group-soul, for at that time it had a still more real existence. It was the folk-soul, the race-soul, which guided the bloodstream down into the bodies, into those beings which circled round the Moon. It is the destiny of our age to deny the existence of such beings ... We are at the very height of this materialistic development which prefers to deny such beings as folk-souls and race-souls.” [30]

Steiner looked forward to a period when racial differences would end; then, all humans would stand at the same level of development. But he said this would not happen for many centuries yet. Describing our evolution through a series of "epochs," Steiner said this:

“[A]s we evolve from the fifth into the sixth and then into the seventh epoch, the ancient connections of race and blood will be increasingly lost. [We are presently in the fifth such epoch.] Humanity will become freer of physical ties in order to form groups from the aspect of the spirit [i.e., we will form groupings based on spiritual, not racial, affinities] ... The concept of race will lose it meaning...over the next few thousand years.” [31] 

So, in Anthroposophical belief, race will remain important for thousands of years to come. [32] For a vast stretch of time ahead of us, we will continue to be wracked by racial divisions, and these divisions will reflect important evolutionary differences among higher and lower human beings.

This is vile, but it is what Steiner taught. The unpleasant upshot is that if you want to follow Steiner, you must accept a racist description of reality. On the other hand, if you want to reject racism, you have little choice but to reject the teachings of Rudolf Steiner.

— Roger Rawlings

Footnotes for the Foregoing Sections

(Scroll Down to Find Further Sections)

[1] Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS (Verlag Der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, 1961), GA 349, p. 52.

[2] The lesson our headmaster gave us that day was generally consistent with Steiner's views, but it differed from Steiner’s teachings in some details. According to Steiner, American Indians — not Asians — are senescent. See, e.g., Toos Jeurissen, “Waldorf Salad with Aryan Mayonnaise??” [].

According to historian Peter Staudenmaier, some scattered racist remarks can be found in Steiner's work before 1900, which is when Steiner became interested in Theosophy. But Steiner's overt, occultist racism emerged in 1904, when Steiner began elaborating the Theosophical concept of root races (primary races of historical epochs; other races branch off from them). Staudenmaier also identifies three distinct phases in Steiner's view of Jews and Judaism: an anti-Semitic period in the 1880s-1890s, a brief philo-Semitic period late in the 1890s and early 1900s, then another anti-Semitic phase from about 1902 onward. [] 

[3] The warning was consistent with Steiner's teachings. 

“[T]his question of race is one that we can never understand until we understand the mysteries of the blood and of the results accruing from the mingling of the blood of different races." — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT SIGNIFICANCE OF BLOOD (Health Research Books, 1972), p. 13. 

Steiner asked this:

"How can a negro [sic] or an utterly barbaric savage become civilized?" — Ibid., p. 13. 

Steiner said the answer depends on blood and whether a race "be on the up- or down-grade of its evolution...." — Ibid., p. 13. 

Steiner taught that whites are evolving upwardly while other races, having risen as high as they can, degenerate. 

"The white race is the future, the race that is creating spirit." — Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS, p. 62. 

According to Steiner, whites can advance to higher spiritual levels because they are capable of high clairvoyant abilities. But mingling whites' blood with blood from other races would cut off this possibility. 

"The physical organism of man survives when strange blood comes in contact with strange blood, but clairvoyant power perishes under the influence of this mixing of blood, or exogamy." — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT SIGNIFICANCE OF BLOOD, p. 42. 

Exogamy is sexual pairing outside one's own ethnic group, tribe, or race. It is equivalent to miscegenation, one of the prime bugaboos of racists. 

In sum, Steiner taught that different races have different forms of blood, and this is reflected in the differences between their racial or folk souls. 

"[T]he blood of mankind is acted upon in a twofold manner; that two races originate, by the blood of mankind being acted upon [i.e., two different racial types result from two differently affected blood types]; on the one side we have that which we call the Mongolian race, on the other that which we may describe as belonging to the Semitic race. That is a great polarity in humanity, and we shall have to trace much that is of immense importance back to this polarity, if we wish to understand the depths of the Folk-souls [i.e., the two races embody the effects if two different folk souls, or gods (the effects are present in the blood types)]." — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1929), lecture 6, GA 121. 

In Steiner's interpretation of Norse myths, the occult significance of blood and race is the responsibility of the high god/archangel Lodur: 

“Archangels are to be found amongst the companions of Odin: Hönir who gave the power of thought and Lodur who gave that which is intimately connected with race, namely pigmentation and the character of the blood.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS  (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 133. 

(This is a different translation of the same book, published under a slightly different title.)


This is an essential summary of Steiner's racial views; as such, it bears frequent repetition. (At this website, I include various English translations, all having essentially the same meaning.)

[5] Rudolf Steiner, DIE GEISTIGEN HINTERGRÜNDE DES ERSTEN WELTKRIEGES (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1974), GA 174b, p. 38.

[6] Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN: THE EVOLUTION OF INDIVIDUALITY, Lectures from 1909-1916 (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), p. 75.

[7] Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 149.

[8] Rudolf Steiner, HEALTH AND ILLNESS, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1981), pp. 85-86.

[9] E.g., Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (SteinerBooks, 1987), p. 46.

[10] E.g., Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 17.

[11] E.g., Rudolf Steiner, THE CHALLENGE OF OUR TIMES (SteinerBooks, 1979), pp. 207-209. 


[13] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 558-559.

[14] Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT SIGNIFICANCE OF BLOOD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1967), p. 30

[15] Rudolf Steiner, THE BEING OF MAN AND HIS FUTURE EVOLUTION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981), pp. 118-119.

[16] Rudolf Steiner, READING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE (SteinerBooks, 1993), pp. 49-50.

[17] Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY (SteinerBooks, 1995), p. 30.

[18] Rudolf Steiner, THE TEMPLE LEGEND (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), p. 201.

[19] Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Garber Communications, 1990), pp. 45-46.

[20] Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT SIGNIFICANCE OF BLOOD (Health Research Books, 1972), p. 13.

[21] Rudolf Steiner, ÜBER GESUNDHEIT UND KRANKHEIT (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1994), GA 348, p. 189.

[22] THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS, pp. 108-109.

[23] Rudolf Steiner, FROM BEETROOT TO BUDDHISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 59.

[24] Rudolf Steiner, DAS HEREINWIRKEN GEISTIGER WESENHEITEN IN DEN MENSCHEN (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1984), GA 102, p. 174.

[25] Rudolf Steiner, THE KARMA OF UNTRUTHFULNESS, Vol. 1 (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1988), lecture 13, GA 173.

[26] Rudolf Steiner, INVESTIGATIONS IN OCCULTISM SHOWING ITS PRACTICAL VALUE IN DAILY LIFE (Kessinger Publishing, 1996) p. 138 —  reproduction of a 1920 edition. 

The final, parenthetical phrase, "(i.e., bad souls)" was apparently added by the editor, H. Collison.


[28] Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 92.

[29] I.e., only clairvoyants can perceive such spiritual beings today. (The "astral plane" is the soul world, a portion of the spirit realm.)

[30] Rudolf Steiner, ROSICRUCIAN WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 113.

[31] Ibid., pp 144-145.

[32] A footnote to this quotation [p. 171] suggests that Steiner forecast racial divisions continuing not for thousands but for millions of years to come.


A note about Web pages, URL's (Web addresses), and links to them: These may become outdated. Owners of websites may remove pages, change their locations, change their contents, etc. I work to maintain the URL's and links at my own websites, but I cannot control what happens elsewhere. If any URL's or links I present here prove to be outdated, I apologize. They were all current when I produced the various essays at my sites, and perhaps with a little Internet sleuthing you may be able to find materials that otherwise seem to have vanished or been altered.



“There is a biography of Schubert in which it is said that he looked rather like a negro. There is not a grain of truth in it. He actually had a pleasing, attractive face.” — Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS: Esoteric Studies - Volume I (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), Vol. VII.

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“A humanity that thinks materialistically will produce frightful beings in the future ... We have two streams today, a great [i.e., huge] materialistic one which fills the earth, and the small spiritual stream which is restricted to but few human beings [chiefly, Steiner and his adherents] ... All materialistically thinking souls work on the production of evil race-formations ... Just as older conditions which have degenerated to the ape species seem grotesque to us today, so do materialistic races remain at the standpoint of evil, and will people the earth as evil races. It will lie entirely with humanity as to whether a soul will remain in the bad race or will ascend by spiritual culture to a good race.” — Rudolf Steiner, ROSICRUCIAN WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 150.

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"Rudolf Steiner’s racial theories have attracted attention in recent years both in public debate and in the academic world. Taking his starting point in the theosophist racial doctrine and in contemporary theories of evolution, especially Ernst Haeckel’s theory of development, Steiner elaborated a comprehensive theory in which various races and cultural epochs were given their places in a hierarchy and were understood within a developmental perspective. In the present era [Steiner taught] the relevance of the races is shrinking and they will indeed disappear at some date in a distant future. But until that happened, the white race would be the leading race. Equally important is his understanding of the cultural epochs and the historical tasks that he meant were given to different ethnic groups. In this regard, he attached a special importance to the Teutonic ethnic groups and, with his German national orientation, Steiner idealized first and foremost the Central European or German culture and national genius." — Jan-Erik Ebbestad Hansen, "The Jews – Teachers of the Nazis?" [], accessed 1/29/16.


Rudolf Steiner made many statements that must be deemed racist. Yet he also made a number of statements deploring racism. How can we sort this out?

Bear in mind, racists often make statements concealing or belying their real, racist beliefs. Knowing that overt racism is often considered objectionable, they often avoid overt professions of their racist attitudes and ideas. Only when they are among friends, or when they lose control, do they typically state their real views.

A test (not infallible, surely, but generally reliable) is to note whether an individual ever  makes racist statements. A racist may make any number of wise, liberal, enlightened statements, but every once in a while s/he will say something that is clearly racist. An individual who is free of racist beliefs will almost never — intentionally or otherwise — make a flat-out, unapologetic racist remark.

It is also important to understand what racism is. Usually, people equate racism with racial hatred, and indeed racists very often hate the members of "inferior" races. But racism is not, at root, an emotion, it is an idea. Specifically, it is the idea that some races really are inferior and other races really are superior. In other words, it is the idea that some races are higher than others. And this is precisely what we find in Steiner's doctrines. To repeat a quotation we considered above: 

“A race or nation stands so much the higher, the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal human type ... The evolution of man through the incarnations in ever higher national and racial forms is thus a process of liberation [leading to] an ideal future.” — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 149.

Perhaps Rudolf Steiner hated few if any human beings of any racial or national group. Perhaps Anthroposophists today hate few if any human beings of any kind. But this does not keep them from being racists. No matter how well they treat the members of "inferior" races, if they believe that in fact some races are "inferior" or "lower," then they subscribe to a racist ideology — the racist ideology that Rudolf Steiner taught them.

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Here is part of a message I posted at the Waldorf Critics list in 2009


I have edited it slightly for use here.

Steiner sometimes said things that seem unobjectionable. But he also sometimes said things that are extremely objectionable. The latter statements greatly weaken, if not completely negate, the former. Example: Let's say I make four statement about Martians. 1) I love Martians. 2) Martians are very smart and sophisticated. 3) Martians are evil morons. 4) Some of my best friends are Martians. The third statement leaps out, and it calls into question all the others. If I am serious about the third statement, then I am probably not serious about the others. This is what racists often do: They make many professions of enlightened, liberal attitudes — but from time to time they reveal their real views. This is what I have pointed out re. Steiner's racism. (And not to take too much credit, I should add that our listmates Peter Staudenmaier, Sharon Lombard, Dan Dugan, and others, have done this also, in most cases earlier and better.) Steiner made many "good" statements, but he also made some absolutely horrible statements. The only proper response to the latter is utter rejection. And anyone who is drawn to Steiner because of his "good" statements needs to know about Steiner's vile statements.

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Referring to an investigation of Waldorf schools

broadcast by the BBC in November, 2012,

historian Peter Staudenmaier has written the following


Some of the more insightful comments in the BBC report, in my view, came from [new Waldorf teacher] Daisy Powell ... One of her prominent remarks, however, is significantly mistaken. Referring to Steiner's racial doctrines, Daisy said: 'there is a fraction of his work that could be construed as promoting the idea of a kind of hierarchical evolution through the races.' This is not merely a fraction of Steiner's work. It is a central strand in his teachings, and it runs throughout dozens of his published texts and lectures. It is one of the core ideas around which Steiner's conception of spiritual advancement is built. It is crucial to his theory of reincarnation in successively higher forms, to his overarching framework of cosmic evolution, and to his essential contrast between spiritually progressing and spiritually stagnating souls. 

Here is the basic defense of Steiner's racial teachings, in Steiner's own words: 

“As all persons in their different incarnations pass through the various races, therefore, although it may be argued that the European has the advantage over the black and the yellow races, we should not be prejudiced thereby. Here the truth may, indeed, be sometimes veiled, but you see that with the help of spiritual science we really do come upon remarkable truths." — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Anthroposophical Publishing Company, 1929), lecture 4, GA 121.

What does this amount to? All humans are basically alike, since we all incarnate in the various races. Early in our evolution, we all incarnate in the lower races. Later, as we evolve higher, we incarnate in the higher racial forms. Basically, we are all alike. So we should not be "prejudiced."

Think about this. Does Steiner's defense hold up? Is what he says racist or not?

The good among us will move upward, from membership in low races to membership in high races. But the evil among us will move in the opposite direction. A black person is less evolved than a white: S/he may be a good person who will evolve higher, or she may be a bad person who is descending from higher racial forms. Either way, s/he is now less highly evolved than any white person s/he encounters. She is a member or a low race while the white person is a member of a high race. This is the unprejudiced truth, according to Steiner. And what does this sort of "truth" amount to? Racism. [1]

Steiner claimed to be unprejudiced, of course. And perhaps, by his lights, he was.  And perhaps, by their lights, those of his followers who accept his racial teachings are in a similar manner free from prejudice. They simply accept the "truth" — which, according to Steiner, is that some races are higher than others. These followers may be unprejudiced, in their own view, but they accept teachings that are in fact quite clearly racist.

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Here is a better defense of Steiner's racial teachings: 

"Each member of a totality is determined, as regards its characteristics and functions, by the whole totality. A racial group is a totality and all the people belonging to it bear the characteristic features that are inherent in the nature of the group. How the single member is constituted, and how he will behave, are determined by the character of the racial group. Therefore the physiognomy and conduct of the individual have something generic about them. If we ask why some particular thing about a man is like this or like that, we are referred back from the individual to the genus. The genus explains why something in the individual appears in the form we observe.

"Man, however, makes himself free from what is generic. For the generic features of the human race, when rightly understood, do not restrict man's freedom, and should not artificially be made to do so. A man develops qualities and activities of his own, and the basis for these we can seek only in the man himself. What is generic in him serves only as a medium in which to express his own individual being. He uses as a foundation the characteristics that nature has given him, and to these he gives a form appropriate to his own being.

"...Only to the extent that a man has emancipated himself in this way from all that is generic, does he count as a free spirit within a human community. No man is all genus, none is all individuality. But every man gradually emancipates a greater or lesser sphere of his being, both from the generic characteristics of animal life and from domination by the decrees of human authorities." — Rudolf Steiner, THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1964), pp. 203-207. [2]

Steiner certainly advocated freedom and individuality. He taught that individuals must free themselves from retardant characteristics such as racial and animalistic qualities. And yet we see him, even while advocating freedom, placing extraordinary stress on the significance of race: "How the single member is constituted, and how he will behave, are determined by the character of the racial group." This is troubling — or should I say deplorable? We should also note that Steiner's conception of freedom was constrained. We have the capacity for freedom, but with it we must choose the only proper avenue open to us: obedience to the gods' divine plan.

Individual humans, Steiner says, differ from subhuman beings such as animals. Humans have the capacity for freedom. Thus, an individual human may evolve to a higher condition while the race into which s/he was born remains stagnant or even declines to a lower level. Does this mean Steiner's teachings on such matters are free of the taint of racism? A black person is less evolved than a white: S/he may be a good person who will evolve higher, or she may be a bad person who is descending from higher racial forms. Either way, s/he is now less highly evolved than any white person s/he encounters. S/he is a member of a low race while the white person is a member of a high race. This is the unprejudicial truth, according to Steiner. And what does this sort of "truth" amount to? Racism. 

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The Anthroposophical use of language is frequently slippery. Anthroposophists say their system is a science, when it isn't. They say their system is not a religion, when it is. They say their doctrines are not racist, when they are. They say their doctrines promote freedom, when they don't. 

The intent, in all these instances, is not necessarily to deceive us (although Steiner sometimes worked intentionally to deceive). Generally, such misstatements arise from Anthroposophists' misunderstanding of various issues. Anthroposophists tend to misunderstand a lot, including the nature of their beliefs. Believing themselves to be members of a divine movement, in harmony with the gods and devoted to universal betterment, they wear rose-tinted mental glasses. They see what they want to see, they define things as suits their predispositions, and they tell themselves comforting falsehoods. 

They fool themselves. But we need not accept their misstatements nor enter into their illusions.

Footnotes for the Foregoing:

[1] I develop this argument further in a message I posted at This is what I wrote (I have edited it slightly for use here; note that the message repeats various points made earlier on this page):

Here is Steiner's basic defense, in Steiner's own words. It hinges on the doctrine or reincarnation: 

“As all persons in their different incarnations pass through the various races, therefore, although it may be argued that the European has the advantage over the black and the yellow races, we should not be prejudiced thereby." — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF FOLK SOULS, lecture 4, GA 121.

What does this amount to? All humans are basically alike, since we incarnate in the various races — we all incarnate in the lower races and, eventually, we may later incarnate in the higher racial forms. So we are all alike, basically. Hence, Steiner's teachings are free of prejudice: Steiner was simply pointing out an objective fact, which is that all good humans move upward, from membership in low races to membership in high races. 

To give a modest example, I am white. Thus, I am almost certainly good. For sure, I am highly evolved. And also for sure, in my previous earthly lives I incarnated in low races, gradually working my way upward in succeeding incarnations until I arrived at my present wonderful whiteness.

No prejudice in any of this, wouldn't you agree?

But I have left out one component in Steiner's racial schema. Good humans evolve upwards. But evil humans move in the opposite direction.

I invite everyone to try a thought experiment: A white person is standing next to a black person. You've never met either of them, never talked to them, have no information about them except that one is white and one is black. What can you conclude?

According to Steiner, you can know that the white is more highly evolved — spiritually and probably ethically — than the black. People evolve to higher racial forms because they are good, Steiner said. Thus, the white person you see before you is either morally superior to the black or s/he has been morally superior. Perhaps s/he is making moral errors in this life and therefore s/he will slip down a rung or two in the next life — s/he may incarnate in a lower race next time around. Still, even if s/he is morally wobbly just now, s/he is currently superior to any black person in an important sense: S/he occupies a higher level; s/he is a member of a higher race.

Let's amplify these points. The black person standing before you is a member of a low race, which means s/he is evil or at least spiritually retarded. According to Steiner, evil people move downward through the races until, in the end, they cease to be human at all. So any black person you see is quite likely an evil soul headed to deeper and deeper levels of depravity OR s/he is a soul who is becoming good but who for some reason lags behind in humanity's upward evolutionary march. Perhaps s/he started out in a low race, as we all do; s/he later evolved to a higher racial form; but then s/he regressed and sank to blackness again. That's one possibility. Another possibility is that s/he is spiritually abnormal — s/he is a spiritual infant who has not truly developed yet, so she has not progressed beyond blackness. Hence, s/he trails behind all good, mature whites walking the Earth today.

No matter how we cut it, according to Steiner, the black is currently lower than the white in an important sense: S/he occupies a lower level; s/he is a member of a lower race.

In sum, you know a lot about the two strangers you see standing before you.

Now, ending the thought experiment, ask yourself whether Steiner's views on race are helpful in the real world. What if there is no such thing as reincarnation? What if we are all now living our one and only earthly lives? Then blacks will not catch up with whites in future incarnations — there will be no future incarnations. Thus, in the real world, here and now, labeling anyone inferior due to race is a permanent judgment: The white is higher, the black is lower, and that's it. Period.

In the real world, in other words, Steiner's views are invidious, discriminatory, and prejudicial — they are racist. Presumably Steiner didn't mean to be a racist. Presumably he didn't understand the implications of his own teachings. But that is no excuse. His teachings are racist.

[2] This book is often cited by Anthroposophists who attempt to justify Steiner's political, social, and racial views. [For more on Steiner's views about freedom, see "Freedom".]``

For more on Steiner's racist remarks 

and racism in Waldorf schools, see:

Atlantis and the Aryans



Light and Dark



RS on Jews

Steiner's Bile




For a report of racism discovered 

in Waldorf schools recently, 

in the USA, please use this link:

It is probably correct to say that 

most Anthroposophists today genuinely 

deplore racism in its usual guises. 

But Steiner's teachings about races and peoples 

remain prevalent in Anthroposophical discourse.

See, e.g., "Embedded Racism".

For a statement about the identity of individuals 

quoted and paraphrased at Waldorf Watch, 

see "Trolls?"

Here are copies of diagrams drawn by Steiner, representing some of his key racial teachings. 

I have translated the labels written by Steiner in his native German.

The long, upward-sloping line represents the development or evolution of life on Earth. The first stage of Earthly evolution was called Polaria. That was followed by Hyperborea, Lemuria, and Atlantis. We now live in the Post-Atlantean period (not labeled as such on this diagram). According to Anthroposophical belief, humans were the first, central life form on Earth. We did not evolve from lower life forms; instead, the lower animals descended from us — they began their existence evolving alongside us, but they branched off at various points, staying behind while we evolved higher. Thus, long ago, proto-humans reached a developmental stage equivalent to today's protozoa; we continued evolving past that point, but those beings that could not evolve higher branched off then, staying behind as protozoa. Later, invertebrates branched off, then fish, birds, reptiles, and so on. Today, the peak of Earthly evolution is embodied by the humans known as Aryans. Other human races are lower, and they may branch off, headed to extinction. Thus, Indians are shown branching off below the level of Aryans; they stand one level above the apes, which branched off previously.

This diagram essentially repeats the upper portion of the first diagram, above. Again, the upward-sloping line indicates human evolution. The highest humans today are identified in this diagram as Europeans, the proper descendants of the residents of ancient Atlantis (the Atlanteans). Apes are creatures that became decadent and branched off the human evolutionary line during the period when humanity lived on Atlantis. More recently, Steiner said, Indians branched off, failing to keep pace with proper human evolution as exemplified by Europeans.

According to Steiner, these are the predominant human races today. The figure on the left represents black-skinned humans; the middle figure represents yellow-skinned humans; the figure on the right represents white-skinned humans. Blacks are the lowest racial group, Steiner said; they live at the lowest level, being subject to their impulses, and they use the most backward part of the brain, the "hindbrain." If blacks move from their proper place on Earth, they turn copper red and die out. Orientals (yellow) are higher, Steiner said. They live largely through their emotions, and they use the intermediate portion of the brain, the "middlebrain." If Orientals move from their proper place, they turn brown and die out. Whites are the highest, Steiner said; they have a higher capacity for thinking, as shown by their use of the forward portion of the brain, the "forebrain." 

Note the significance of word placement on the diagram. The word "white" is higher than the word "yellow," which in turn is higher than "black." "Copper red" and "brown" are at the bottom, verging on elimination from the picture. "Thinking" is higher than "emotion," which is higher than "impulses." "Forebrain" is positioned toward the front of the head, "middlebrain" toward the middle, and "hindbrain" near the back.

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Here are the original diagrams, with their German-language labels:

Rudolf Steiner, MENSCHHEITSENTWICKLUNG UND CHRISTUS-REKENNTNIS (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1981), p. 247.

Rudolf Steiner, MENSCHHEITSENTWICKLUNG UND CHRISTUS-REKENNTNIS (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1981), p. 245.

Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE; ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1993), p. 51.

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To explore these matters further, 

click on the following link: 

Steiner's Racism (Continued)




Waldorf Watch consists of a great many pages, many of which contain multiple sections. Throughout, I have tried to write in such a way that even newcomers — who may know little or nothing about Rudolf Steiner and his doctrines — will be able to follow the discussion. One drawback to this approach is that I often have to repeat points I have made before, elsewhere at the site. I ask for your forbearance. When you come upon quotations or other material that I have presented previously, please remember the reason for this redundancy, and skip ahead. Further down on that page or the next page, you should soon find less familiar material. — R.R.