“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 
The Evil Within
by Roger Rawlings
Afterword by Peter Staudenmaier
Appendix by Maura Kwaten
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 stood at different levels of moral development — each was 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. Standing near the center of humanity’s family are the currently most advanced races, the whites, he said. 
I also remember a lesson our class received in a related subject: botany. The teacher drew figures-of-eight on the blackboard and lectured us about "lemniscates": the mystic interaction of the "telluric" and "etheric" forces, which is the basic structure of nature, she said. During one day's main lesson, she 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. 
Here is one of Rudolf 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.” 
Let’s not pause to puzzle out, just now, the question of races becoming extinct when they move; our focus here is on Steiner’s discrimination between races. Steiner taught that the differences between races are so profound, they will lead to a racial Armageddon. Here is a statement he made dealing with the process by which humanity will proceed to its next evolutionary stage. The process will not be peaceful. Before humankind can make its intended progress, vigorous measures must be taken to deal with the less-evolved peoples. Racial struggle is an historical necessity. For those who remember Fascism, this will ring a few bells: “[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, when the spirit could only be sought outside of the physical human being. But the result will have to be that [mankind’s next 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.” 
One of Steiner’s basic racial tenets is that the division of mankind into races resulted from demonic interference. Lucifer and Ahriman (the Zoroastrian devil) 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].” 
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..."). Correcting this error will allow “higher” races to get on with the task of evolution: “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.” 
Attaining a “pure, ideal human type” may or may not be a desirable goal. Racial divisions would end if we all became alike — but aiming for anything of the sort would run contrary to the ideals of diversity, multiculturalism, and mutual respect. Some Waldorf schools today nod toward diversity, for instance by featuring many nonwhite students in their promotional materials. Perhaps such schools have rid themselves of racism, but perhaps some harbor a condescending prejudice toward nonwhite races. Racism occurs whenever anyone is judged — negatively or positively — on the basis of race rather than personal attributes.
Steiner taught that 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.” 
Steiner was no humorist, but often enough he was unintentionally absurd. On the subject of race, his absurdity was pernicious and inexcusable. The only way to even partially excuse him is to say that he was a man of his times, sharing the prevailing attitudes and prejudices of his times. But that defense 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 statements I have quoted make abundantly clear, he was a flawed, bigoted, ordinary man who chose to spread hateful nonsense.
Steiner taught that thinking is the special field of endeavor for Aryans.  German Aryans occupy a lofty place: They are enabled by their mythology to understand human evolution particularly well , and their mission now is to comprehend the world from many angles.  Steiner, an Austrian-German, 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 higher, northern European spiritual awareness.
Here are some of Steiner’s other statements about human races. To make Steiner’s 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:
Racism was near the core of Rudolf Steiner’s thinking. Most Anthroposophists deny this, although a few have acknowledged the truth. The latter group, however, includes individuals who assert that they and all of their fellow Anthroposophists rejected Steiner’s racial doctrines following the racial horrors of World War II — that is, after 1945. But this is untrue. I can attest that racism cropped up in some Waldorf classrooms nearly twenty after the war [see “I Went to Waldorf”], and others have reported similar problems at Waldorf schools much more recently [see, e.g., “Woman Sees Waldorf Racism on First Visit”: waldorfcritics.org, and "N-Word"].
Let’s hope that Anthroposophists do, indeed, learn to reject Steiner’s racial doctrines. Here’s one more sample: “[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 [sic]. Enough souls are pouring in from other quarters for incarnation in races that are on the down-grade (i.e. bad souls) [sic].”  What does Steiner mean by these humane words? A good soul who has the misfortune of being a member or a backward, retrograde race can free itself of its unfortunate situation. It will be reincarnated in a better race next time around. But don’t worry: Inferior races will remain well stocked, because so many bad souls are available to fill their ranks.
The essential error committed by racists is to treat people not as individuals but, primarily or wholly, as representatives of a group — a nation or a race. This error is built into Steiner's doctrines. He taught that races and nations share "group souls" — that is, all the members of these groups shares certain spiritual qualities that cannot be found in other groups. Steiner also taught that group souls are spiritual beings, having their own existence, and individuals can be considered mere extensions or tools of those beings:
This is such a stunning concept. I'm almost tempted to let it stand on its own, as if it needs no commentary. But outrage should not be silent. Steiner admitted that individuals have their own, individual souls, but he characterized all individuals as being, to a significant extent, merely the tools used by familial, national, or racial souls. This doctrine is appalling on almost every level. It is both racist and crazily occultist. It is deplorable.
Compounding the astonishingly unpleasant nature of his doctrines, Steiner associated angels with racial identity, thereby defiling them as well as himself. Specifically, Steiner said that archangels “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.” 
This is spiritualism, Steiner-style. 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 for them. Bear in mind, Steiner taught that spirits are real, living entities — they are gods. He did not use the word "spirit" as a modern, abstract think might: A "spirit" is not just a quality or a attitude, it is an identifiable being having a mind and powers. When Steiner said a folk-soul "is a reality," he meant such a being really exists.
The only consideration that might exonerate Steiner, slightly, is that his racial theories — like nearly all of his theories — are lunatic. Thinking of this sort is almost beneath reproach or correction. It has no bearing on reality — except to the degree that it warps the thinking of others.
Steiner's defenders sometimes argue that the racial divisions of mankind were important in the past, but the categories called "races" lost their meaning a long time ago. In other words, Steiner's doctrines provide an objective description of past conditions, but they place no importance on race in our present, more advanced age.
But this is not true. Steiner said that humanity will remain divided by race for many centuries yet. Describing our evolution through a series of "epochs," Steiner said:
So in Anthroposophy race remains important today, and it will remain so for thousands of years to come. In human terms, a "near future" lasting a "few thousand years" would be a virtual eternity, especially if it entailed a continuation of racism. Moreover, a footnote to the foregoing quotation suggests that Steiner forecast racial divisions continuing not for thousands but for millions of years to come.  This seems excessive; Steiner often contradicted himself, but in general the shorter forecast is more consistent with his teachings. Whether we calculate in terms of a few dozen centuries or hundreds of centuries, however, the effect is much the same. For a vast stretch of time ahead of us, we will continue to be wracked by racial divisions, according to Steiner, 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
“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), VII.
“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 [think of 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.
"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?"
[Public domain photograph.]
Rudolf Steiner made many statements that must be deemed racist. Yet he also made a number of statements that deplore racism. How can we sort this out?
One point to bear in mind is that racists often make statements that conceal or belie 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 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.
Here is part of a message I posted at the Waldorf Critics list in 2009
"Steiner sometimes made remarks that seem unobjectionable. But he also sometimes made remarks that are extremely objectionable. The latter very 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. 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 Peter, Sharon, Dan, 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."
Referring to an investigation of Waldorf schools
broadcast by the BBC in November, 2012,
historian Peter Staudenmaier has written:
"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." — Peter Staudenmaier [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/25414]
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 incarnate in the various races — we all incarnate in the lower races and, eventually, we may later incarnate in the higher racial forms. 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. This is the unprejudicial truth, according to Steiner. And what does this sort of "truth" amount to? Racism. 
Steiner denied that he was prejudiced, of course. And perhaps, by his lights, he was. And perhaps, by their lights, those of his followers who accept his racial teachings are likewise unprejudiced. 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.
Here is a better defense, perhaps:
"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." 
Steiner certainly advocated freedom and individuality. He taught that individuals must free themselves from retardant characteristics such as racial, animal, or even animalistic-racial 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. [See "Freedom".]
The Anthroposophical use of language is frequently slippery. Anthroposophists say that their system is a science, when it isn't. They say that 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 this instances, is not necessarily to deceive us (although Steiner may have worked intentionally to deceive). Generally, such misstatements arise from Anthroposophists' misunderstandings of various issues, and their self-deception. 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.
For more on Steiner's racist remarks and racism in Waldorf schools, see:
For a report of racism discovered in Waldorf schools recently,
in the USA, please use this link:
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".
“The ego had to reach a certain point of development, as it were, but not overdo it in either direction. And it is our task today to understand this in the right way. For all spiritual science [i.e., Anthroposophy] has in a certain respect to appeal to what we call the development of a higher ego from out of the lower. When we look back over the ages we can learn from the fact that certain sections of the earth's inhabitant's did not find it possible to keep pace with earth evolution in the development of their ego, how many mistakes can be made in regard to the development of the higher ego out of the lower. In ancient Atlantis, for instance, there were peoples who dropped out of the earth population so to speak, and they became Red Indians ... At the other extreme were those people who said: Oh, the ego is of no significance. The ego must lose itself entirely, it must dissolve altogether, and only listen to what the outside world says! They did not really say this, because they did not reflect in this manner. But those are the peoples who denied their ego to such an extent that they went black, because the external forces coming from the sun to the earth made them so. Only those peoples that were capable of holding the balance with regard to their ego could develop into the future.”
— Rudolf Steiner,
“The Manifestation of the Ego in the Different Races of Men”,
a lecture that appears in the book
THE BEING OF MAN AND HIS FUTURE EVOLUTION
(Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981).
"Groups of men in whom the bones had, as it were, become too strong, were now left behind as degenerate races. They could not adapt themselves to post-Atlantean conditions; the last remnant of these people are the American Indians; they had degenerated. There are other backward groups in whom not only the system of bones, but also the system concerned with nutrition hardened too early, that system governed by the forces of the etheric body; while the bony system is governed by the forces of the physical body. The last remnant of those human groups in which the nutritive system hardened too soon now forms the negroid races. Then there are those who degenerated at too early a stage through the nervous system becoming hardened and not remaining soft long enough for it to become available as an instrument of higher thought; of these the Malays are the last relic. Therefore, among them are tendencies towards certain passionate and sensuous instincts."
— Rudolf Steiner,
UNIVERSE, EARTH AND MAN
(Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1931),
Edwin Kreulen, the education editor for the Dutch daily TROUW, attended a Waldorf school. Looking back, he has written:
"According to page 1 of my [Waldorf] exercise book, all races originate from a kind of primeval man, who lived ten thousand years ago in the central continent of Atlantis.
"...'With the first Southern races, the natural forces of earth and sun have worked to blacken their skins. With the Northern races, the inner forces of light became stronger, which made them whites ... The races became stuck at different stages in their development from childhood to old age.' Then comes a classification, linking the black race to childhood, the brown race to a fourteen year old, and the whites to all ages.
"...According to the exercise book, each race corresponds to a part of the human body. Senses and brains are linked to whites, metabolism to blacks. And only the white person has a straight face. E.g., the yellow race has 'slanted eyes, a hollow face, flat nose, and coarse black hair.'
"Next, the exercise book discusses all races individually ... 'All negroes still keep a childish expression on their faces for a long time. The lips are shapeless and thick, the nose somewhat flat and not yet grown up in a sense ... [Negroes'] stories, their views on the world and creation are somewhat childish. In childish simplicity they worship their gods.' The chapter on the black race concludes: 'After being dominated for centuries, the negroes are now developing on their own; however, this goes with big problems and bloody wars.'
"...At a certain point, my defense of the school changes into pure anger. How dare they indoctrinate me with this?" [Edwin Kreulen, "My Education Toward Racism", TROUW, February 4, 1998 http://waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/EducationRacism.html]
At least some of the teachers at the Waldorf school I attended openly expressed racist beliefs. They did so when addressing my all-white class; they were more circumspect when addressing classes that included non-white students. Today my old school proudly tells the world that one of its graduates, who is black, has been extremely successful in his chosen career; and the school, quite accurately, reports that this graduate supports his alma mater. The point the school evidently thinks it is making is that there can be no taint of racism in a school that accepts students from all races and treats them well.
But there is no denying the presence of racist beliefs in Anthroposophy, nor — if you can trust me and others who have reported racist episodes in Waldorf schools — can there be much doubt that Anthroposophical racism does arise, at least occasionally, within Waldorf schools. A black Waldorf student who is shielded from Anthroposophical doctrines about blacks may "benefit" from the circumspection of his teachers, but he may also be misled about some fundamental Anthroposophical beliefs.
Waldorf teachers probably try to treat all their students well, regardless of race or nationality. But this does not mean that, according to the Waldorf worldview, all races and nationalities are equal. In fact, the Waldorf worldview asserts that races and nations stand at varying levels of spiritual development; some are distinctly lower than others. The black race is generally deemed to stand at the lowest level and the white race at the highest. Waldorf teachers do not, as a result, think that they should mistreat black students. But all Waldorf teachers who accept Anthroposophical tenets about race necessarily consider black students to be less evolved, less spiritually advanced, and generally less intelligent than their white classmates. No amount of dissembling, and no degree of kindness shown to black students, alters this reality. Racism is embedded in Anthroposophical thinking [see "Embedded Racism"], and it surfaces — at least occasionally — inside Waldorf schools [see, e.g., "N-Word"].
The following is excerpted from the archive
of the defunct website CHASE
(Challenging Anthroposophy and Steiner Education).
The archive remains open.
Steiner’s texts and recorded lectures contain content that is racist and anti-Semitic. English published translations have been cleansed of his more overt racist and anti-Semitic material ... CHASE gives two examples ... Both of the examples of English sanitisation of Steiner texts were published by Rudolf Steiner Press, London. The Rudolf Steiner Press is the publishing arm and a subsidiary of the UK national society for Anthroposophy, the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain.
...The first example of sanitisation involves an entire chapter of the original being expunged from the English translation of the same work. The English translation is of Steiner’s book ‘From Beetroot to Buddhism’ (London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999). It omits the chapter which when translated would be titled “The Essence of Jewry”. The chapter appears in the original German text as a chapter titled “Vom Wesen des Judentums”. The omitted chapter, about twenty pages long, when translated would contain these two passages:
...The second example of sanitisation of English translations of Steiner texts is another one where an entire chapter of the original book is absent from the English translation of it. The book concerned is Steiner’s book ‘From Limestone to Lucifer’ (London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999). The omitted chapter if translated would be titled “Color and the Races of Mankind” and is about sixteen pages long. If translated into English it would contain the following passages:
Ahriman (top) and Lucifer (bottom)
as depicted by Steiner.
These sketches are based on images of these demons
included in the monumental sculpture of Christ,
"The Representative of Humanity,"
which stands at the Goetheanum.
"The evil astral world is the province of Lucifer,
the evil Lower Devachan the province of Ahriman...."
— Rudolf Steiner, THE ETHERISATION OF THE BLOOD
(Rudolf Steiner Press, 1971), GA 130.
"As we know, around the Atlantean time [i.e., on Atlantis], human souls gradually came down from the planets to which they had ascended. You may remember that I described in my [book] AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE that the souls had ascended and then came down again and that the life of earthly incarnations, properly speaking, begins with their descent. Thus, the I [the spiritual ego] of human beings, their individualities, would have gone through the various human forms [races] mentioned above in consecutive periods. In the fifth Atlantean period, the I would have had one human form, in the sixth another, in the seventh again another; in the first post-Atlantean epoch it would have had yet another form, and so on. We would all have lived through these types of humanity, one after the other.
"Indeed, it was planned [by the gods] that human beings would thus complete the necessary schooling of human individuality by passing through various etheric formations [etheric bodies] that had different effects on their physical body. In fact, according to the original plan, there could have been a type of human being on the earth who would have been the result, as it were, of seven successive periods of development, each of which would have contributed to the perfection of that human type. In the fifth post-Atlantean period, then, there would have been one united type of human being spread over the whole face of the earth.
"However, Lucifer and Ahriman interfered and thwarted the original design. As a result, the ancient Greeks could only dream of an ideal, superhuman type, which they tried to represent in various ways, for example, in the form of Apollo, Zeus, or Athena. They could not fully encompass this type simply because it did not really exist. But if we have a sense for Greek sculpture, we can feel how the ancient Greeks dreamed of a uniform, perfect, beautiful type of human being that should have developed. This development did not occur because Lucifer and Ahriman preserved older racial forms that had developed, so that there was a coexistence of races rather than a succession."
— Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), pp. 75-76.
The evil intentions of Lucifer and Ahriman extend into more areas than race. They also encompass animalistic tendencies.
"If we had become what Lucifer and Ahriman intended and had been thrown upon our own resources, we should have been chased about the world by animal desires for what satisfied one organ or another...."
— Rudolf Steiner,
THE FOUR SACRIFICES OF CHRIST
(Anthroposophic Press, 1944), GA 152.
There is a connection. Steiner spoke of "animalistic-racial" tendencies, indicative of a low level of development:
"Those who have entered into the intellectual age no longer have a strong feeling for the animalistic-racial element.”
— Rudolf Steiner,
THE CYCLE OF THE YEAR AS
BREATHING PROCESS OF THE EARTH
(Anthroposophic Press, 1984), p. 68.
We see more clearly when we reach the modern, intellectual stage — but we also lose sight of much that is important, so we must evolve further, to greater vision.
The following is excerpted from
"Steiner Waldorf Schools Part 3. The problem of racism"
at DC's Improbable Science
[A]dherence to Anthroposophy and aspects of this pedagogy can lead teachers to make decisions about individual children based on race and disability, which many people would consider to be outright discrimination.
...We can’t afford to be ignorant or to accept Steiner schools on their own terms. The history of Anthroposophy and thereby Steiner Waldorf education is essential reading. That history contains a warning, and we ignore this at our own risk.
...Steiner’s drawing of the “evolution of humankind” through the various stages – Hyperborea, Lemuria, Atlantis — from lower to higher forms (fish to reptiles to mammals etc.), with the top three categories marked “apes,” then (American) “Indians,” then at the very top “Aryans.” Steiner’s 1907 lecture refers to both apes and Indians as “decadent side branches” of evolution.
Steiner’s drawing of the “evolution of humankind” through
various stages – Polaria, Hyperborea, Lemuria, Atlantis —
from lower to higher forms (fish to reptiles to mammals, etc.),
with the top three categories marked “apes,”
then “Indians,” then at the very top “Aryans” [i.e., whites].
Steiner’s 1907 lecture refers to both apes and Indians
as “decadent side branches” of evolution.
[Rudolf Steiner, 1907.
Menschheitsentwickelung und Christus-Erkenntnis
(Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1981).]
Pervasive racial assumptions run throughout Rudolf Steiner’s work. Anthroposophy itself is : “built around a racial view of human nature arranged in a hierarchical framework,” and Steiner’s doctrine awards a higher or lower place in the spiritual evolution of mankind for certain races, with their attendant characteristics.
...For those [of Steiner’s followers] who believe they are developing clairvoyant faculties in pursuit of Anthroposophy’s "Higher Worlds", Steiner’s racist doctrines, existing within an anthroposophical structure of reincarnation and karma, can be seen as essentially benevolent and redemptive.
...One of the most authoritative writers about Anthroposophy in English is American historian Peter Staudenmaier. His recent Ph.D. in modern history, written at Cornell, concerns Anthroposophy in Germany and Italy from 1900 to 1945. A fluent German speaker, Staudenmaier had access to Steiner’s untranslated work as well as to original archive material. He stresses that Steiner’s prolific output can be internally contradictory, enabling supporters to claim that anthroposophical race doctrine is incidental or misunderstood. But nevertheless, there’s a dominant and explicable theme, owing much to Steiner’s occult interpretation of German nationalism. Steiner’s attitude to Jewishness is an example of insular preoccupations:
...Though potentially spiritually ‘enlightened’ to the initiate, Steiner’s views on race remain reprehensible:
Three central racial types as discussed in Steiner’s 1923 lecture
“Color and the Races of Humankind”:
black ("Schwartz"), yellow ("Gelb"), and white ("Weiss").
The primary traits of each racial type are identified.
Blacks, who Steiner says are largely guided by the
"rear brain" ("Hinterhirn"), lead an “impulsive life” ("Triebleben").
Yellow people, in whom the "middle brain" ("Mittelhirn") predominates,
lead an “emotional life” ("Gefühlsleben").
Whites, who have a well-developed "fore-brain" ("Vorderhirn"),
lead a "thinking life" ("Denkleben").
Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde
(Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1993).]
...Anthroposophy impacts on real children. Ray Pereira noticed the racist overtones in his child’s ‘Steiner stream’ in an Australian school:
Two years ago, at an established English Steiner school now applying for Free Schools funding; a British couple were alarmed when their 12 year old daughter (who’d been at the school for a year) told them a German teacher had read out the word ‘nigger’ from a book of poems, a standard text in Steiner schools. The mother reports that the teacher did not agree with the children that this is a racist word, indeed it was her daughter who was punished for refusing to back down. As a foster parent for many years and a mentor for Kids’ Company, the mother concerned is used to dealing with challenging situations but the school’s response to this incident (amongst others) shocked her. The staff seemed not to take the family’s concerns seriously and delayed taking action. Looking online for information on Steiner schools’ policies regarding racism, the mother discovered that in the book HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS, by Rudolf Steiner (an edition last published 2008, Anthroposophic Press), a book on which one of the school trustees was basing workshops, there is an account of ‘reincarnation through the races’:
In a formal meeting with the school, the father, who is black, calmly read aloud a quote from Steiner which stated that: “the black man is the child of the races.” There was no response from those present, presumably the trustees convinced themselves it was outside the remit of the discussion. The couple were shown the school’s discrimination document. But they report that when they asked the school’s Education Coordinator if he believed in Steiner’s doctrine of the reincarnation of the soul through racial hierarchies, he reddened with anger and refused to answer.
This critical Steiner mother notes an obvious inconsistency. In reply to a trustee’s defence that individuals chose which bits of Steiner to believe:
The child involved is now at school elsewhere. Her family arranged for a racism awareness day to be conducted at the Steiner school; this is required of every educational setting.
In response to Waldorf supporters’ claims that their teachers are simply not capable of racism and that Steiner schools are both enlightened and benign, Peter Staudenmaier writes:
Staudenmaier is a historian, not primarily a critic of Steiner Waldorf education. But a knowledge of the history of the anthroposophical movement is essential if we are to make any sense of the difficulties the schools face today:
by Peter Staudenmaier
Steiner's 1923 lecture “Color and the Races of Humankind” can be found in VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1993); it was excised from the English translation of the book. Steiner begins the lecture by reaffirming the central importance of race to a proper understanding of spiritual reality:
He then provides an overview of the various racial groups on the earth, offering definite instruction about which races belong where:
Steiner then embarks on an extended disquisition on the distinctive features of each race, complete with drawings to illustrate their physiological and mental differences. He reports that black people are distinguished by their “rear-brain,” yellow and brown people by their “mid-brain,” and white people by their “fore-brain,” adding that black people are marked by a powerful “instinctual life,” yellow and brown people by a potent “emotional life,” and white people by a highly developed “intellectual life.” (p. 58) Steiner goes into considerable detail about black people in particular:
Steiner continues his series of racial contrasts by examining the ostensible differences between Asians and Europeans, claiming unconditionally that “Europe has always been the starting point for everything that develops humanity in relation to the external world”; Steiner goes on to say that Asians are incapable of making technological discoveries on their own or using European inventions properly. He then asserts without qualification: “Very few inventions have been made in Asia. They can assemble things, but as for inventions themselves, that is, that which arises from experience with the external world, the Asians cannot do this.” After offering what he takes to be a humorous anecdote about Asian technological ignorance, Steiner summarizes:
Steiner then states categorically that genuine creativity comes from the capacity of “the white race” to explore and inhabit all parts of the globe; indeed for Steiner, “The whites are the ones who actually develop humanity in themselves.” (p. 62)
Steiner presents these claims about racial difference as a set of objective spiritual facts, meant to impress upon his audience the need for mutual understanding and interracial cooperation, based on recognition of the “natural dispositions” that mark each racial group. At the conclusion of the lecture, Steiner offers a synopsis of his racial teachings:
This closing passage sums up the lecture and provides a précis of Anthroposophical thinking on race: the black, brown, red, and yellow races all have their special character and their special role to play, but at this stage of cosmic development they are dying out, whereas the white race continues to move forward into the racial future.
These are the sorts of doctrines that Waldorf spokespeople continue to defend today.
Steiner's lecture "The Occult Significance of Blood" discusses the purported differences between "civilized" peoples (colonizers) and "uncivilized" peoples (the colonized), with particular attention to the ostensibly racial contrasts between these kinds of people, which he claims is reflected in their blood. Steiner further distinguishes between two different kinds of "uncivilized" peoples: those that are advancing evolutionarily and those that are regressing evolutionarily. He argues that the European colonizers need to discern which kind of "uncivilized" people is which, in order make the process of colonization and "civilization" more effective. This is the context within which he raises the issue of intermarriage and exogamy.
It is crucially important to remember that "intermarriage" in colonial circumstances usually meant violent sexual coercion of women from colonized groups by European men. Throughout the history of European colonialism, many native cultures were destroyed by colonists "intermarrying" with native populations and absorbing what they saw as the more desirable elements into their own colonial cultures. This is a common aspect of colonialism as such. The same notion formed a central motif in Steiner's racial and ethnic theories: The assimilable elements of backward and archaic groups get taken up into forward-moving groups, while the stragglers die out.
This background helps account for Steiner's ambivalent viewpoint on exogamy or intermarriage. "The Occult Significance of Blood" posits an "evolutionary trade-off," in the words of a latter-day Anthroposophist, between endogamy and exogamy, and indeed the basic conception of such polarities and trade-offs runs throughout the text. These ideas are heavily indebted to several of the chief strands within 19th century racist thought. The belief that specific racial traits are carried in the blood and that particular ethnic and racial groups are either advancing or declining evolutionarily was one of the core assumptions of racist thinking in Steiner's day.
To put it in simple terms: What Steiner says in this text is that the colonizers need to determine what evolutionary level particular colonized peoples occupy and what their evolutionary trajectory is (progressing or regressing), in order to know how to civilize them, and that when colonizers interbreed with some "savage" peoples, this will cause the colonized peoples to die out, because their blood can't handle it. Steiner's point is that the colonial imposition of "civilization" onto distant populations will succeed if the colonizers pay attention to the racial constitution of the colonized peoples, and that the racial-evolutionary status of "savage" peoples, reflected in the structure of their blood, is the decisive criterion for determining whether or not the colonizers should interbreed with the colonized.
Steiner delivered the lecture, in Berlin, right in the middle of Germany's genocidal campaign against the Herero and Nama peoples in the German colony of South-West Africa, during the run-up to the famous "Hottentot election" in which German colonialism was a central contested issue. Much of Steiner's lecture presents standard theosophical teachings about the physical body, the etheric body, and the astral body, the relationship between the "I" and the blood, the intertwinement of macrocosm and microcosm, and so forth. The most widely discussed sections of the text are the ones dealing with what Steiner calls "the race question." Those are also the sections of the text that have been repeatedly altered or deleted in published English translations of the work. What gets lost in such whitewashed translations is, among other things, Steiner's equation of black people as such with barbaric savages.
In my view, however, the more important elements in the text concern Steiner's argument that the colonizing civilized Europeans must determine whether the unfortunate savage peoples and races are on the up-grade or down-grade of evolution, so that the colonizers will know how to introduce civilization to these benighted alien races. This notion is crucial to Steiner's theory of racial and ethnic evolution overall. It is especially striking in the German context of 1906 and 1907.
Steiner's lecture is silent about the aggressive violence of colonialism, right in the midst of a genocidal German colonial campaign; it equates black people with utterly barbaric savages and claims that some non-European peoples are on the down-grade of evolution; it says that some non-Europeans had to perish as soon as colonists came to their particular parts of the world; and so forth. None of this seems to register on many Anthroposophist readers.
In some ways, this is a specific instance of a broader Anthroposophical phenomenon, namely reading into Steiner's text what Anthroposophist readers would like to find there. Readers who consider Anthroposophy a source of spiritual wisdom face particular temptations when the content of a given Steiner text departs from the Steiner that they know and love; in many cases they understandably want to read the text in a way that makes it more compatible with what drew them to Anthroposophy in the first place. That gets especially tricky when race comes up, not least because what counted as offensive and strange regarding racial statements has shifted markedly over the past century. In my experience, Anthroposophically inclined readers do not often keep such basic considerations in mind.
Even if latter-day Anthroposophist interpretations of "The Occult Significance of Blood" were accurate, however, the conclusions many Anthroposophists draw from their preferred reading would remain false, due in part to a historically naive approach to the text. The notion that authors who endorse intermarriage and "blood mixing" must be antiracist, as numerous Anthroposophists appear to believe, is quite false. Such claims reflect a lack of awareness of basic historical information about the development of racist thought. To choose merely the most obvious counter-example: Arthur Gobineau is often considered the father of racist ideology. His racial theory was based on the interplay between two drives, a "law of attraction" and a "law of repulsion," both of which contributed to either racial advance or racial decline. To simplify somewhat, the idea was that "higher" races properly go around the world conquering and colonizing and mixing their stock with "lower" races, which spreads civilization, but when the "higher" races spread themselves too thin, then racial decline and eventual disaster is certain. In other words, the idea that proponents of intermarriage must be antiracist is completely wrong and a striking instance of historical naiveté.
Finally, one further crucial factor which many Anthroposophists today entirely overlook is that a number of Anthroposophists historically have explicitly opposed intermarriage between different racial and ethnic groups. Indeed several of Steiner's most prominent followers, including leading Anthroposophist race theorists of the first half of the twentieth century, firmly rejected racial intermarriage and "blood mixing," above all Richard Karutz in Germany and Massimo Scaligero in Italy. Their understanding of Steiner on this point was evidently rather different from the one currently popular among Steiner's admirers today. Other Anthroposophists who openly opposed this sort of interracial and inter-ethnic mixing include Karl Heise and Zviad Gamsakhurdia.
— Peter Staudenmaier
[R. R., 1996.]
FROM THE NET
Here is a message posted in August, 2009,
responding to someone who had
defended Steiner against charges of anti-Semitism.
I have edited it slightly for inclusion here.
To see the full message, please go to
I'm a Mum who recently pulled her daughter out of a Steiner School in the UK precisely because of the racism in Steiner’s work and racism at the school. My daughter's teacher told my mixed-race daughter that “nigger” is not a racist word, she punished my daughter for complaining, she [the teacher] was not suspended, and she received no written warning. A boy who used the word was not punished either, and another boy who screamed it in the playground was not punished. Unusual, as kids get lines, etc., for minor misdemeanors.
We were told the school was broadly Christian. If we had known the beliefs in reincarnation we would have not put our daughter in the school. Anthroposophy is not broadly Christian.
We were told the school was not religious, too. I saw it as a kind of paganish, not properly religious — maypole dancing, a harmless arty place. It wasn't.
You say Steiner made some positive statements about Jews. I don't give a toss. He made many more vile racist statements about Blacks, Jews, and anyone nonwhite. That’s all I need to know. And its not a few dodgy statements, it’s a belief that humanity progresses through the races from black to white, a belief system which is CENTRAL to Anthroposophy. He didn't make a couple of slip-ups. Plus, how can he slip up — he is supposedly clairvoyant. Is the spirit world racist?
This isn't about decades ago, this is about now. Our daughter has suffered racism for the first time at a school. One of the Trustees at the school does workshops on a book printed in 2008 (Steiner’s HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS) which talks about evolution through the races. The Education Coordinator wouldn't answer me when I asked him if he believed in that theory, he point-blank refused!
Me, I believe that the theory is racist. That there are people in the school who don't is appalling, it makes me feel sick. My husband is black, he lives with racism daily, London taxis don't stop for him that often (maybe a third of the time). Imagine having your child in a school that won't answer your questions on racism in Steiner, imagine realising that you had made a huge mistake by putting your child in the school.
Everyone we talk to about this is so shocked. Only Steiner teachers and Anthroposophists are not. I feel they are not in the real world, they have lost all sense of reality and I honestly think most of them really don't believe the theory is racist as I think they look at my husband and daughter and think, "Don't worry you'll get there in time."
It’s a very horrible turn-of-the-century racism , but then I suppose it would be as that’s when it was written...
We [participants at waldorf-critics] are not full of hatred at all. Everyone here has experiences of Steiner schools or theories which are negative. I and all of us will go on blogs, etc., until the schools are transparent. It’s a pain having to do it as it takes time and I have kids and foster kids to look after and play with, which believe me I'd far rather be doing. But if one person reads this and does their research on Steiner education before enrolling their kids, then it’s worth it for me. Peace and best wishes,
— Maura Kwaten
For more on the use of the word "nigger"
in a Steiner school, see "N-Word".
For an interesting perspective from a self-described Anthroposophist, see http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/11090 . The writer, Tom Mellett, disputes the idea that Steiner repudiated his racist teachings late in life. Mellett cites the Steiner lecture, "Color and the Human Races", delivered in 1923, within two years of Steiner's death. He reports that "Color and the Human Races" was suppressed in the English-language edition of the relevant series of lectures, so he calls this the "Forbidden Lecture".
Here is Mellett's translation, from the German edition, of the summary of this lecture. The bracketed explanations are by Mellett:
Mellett ends his message by saying:
A note by an American: myself. When Steiner says Americans cultivate Anthroposophy in a natural way, he is alluding to his teachings that material, physical nature is at best an inferior level of reality, below the spiritual level. At worst, nature is a place of maya, Ahriman, lies, and the loss of spirit. Nature spirits, or elemental beings, reside within nature and lack true spirit. Human beings who degenerate may become subordinate nature spirits. Americans, in any case, live in a materialistic culture determined largely by greed. Americans send anti-spiritual forces abroad in the wide world. I discuss (or should I say confess?) these matters elsewhere at this website, Waldorf Watch.
— Roger Rawlings
To walk through the text of a racist lecture by Steiner,
To examine the "Forbidden Lecture" — the German text
and my effort at translation — see "Forbidden".
I have also translated an anti-Semitic lecture
delivered by Steiner:
For Steiner's view of America and Americans,
“Imagine the surface of the Earth with an eastern region here and a western one there ... [T]hrough that other being [i.e., the "double"] which takes possession of the human being before birth and has to depart before death, via a detour through that other being the various forces work especially strongly through racial types and geographical variations.”
— Rudolf Steiner,
(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 151.
[R.R. sketch, 2010,
based on the one on p. 150.]
For Steiner's teachings about "doubles,"
see "Double Trouble".
In April, 2009, I had occasion to write a brief summary of Steiner’s racial views. I’ll append it here, although it repeats some of what we have already seen. [RR]
Steiner often contradicted himself. What he said in public was often inconsistent with what he told his followers in less-public circumstances. And what he said in public one day was often different from what he said publicly on other days. Understanding this is crucial to evaluating his statements. Anthroposophists can easily find Steiner quotations that seem to be full of light and love — and they seem to think that these remarks render Steiner's other, nastier comments null and void. But let's do a thought experiment. We meet someone who says, a hundred times, that he is free of racial prejudice. But then we overhear him affirming the stereotype that blacks are primitive, driven by uncontrollable sexual urges, and we hear him endorsing the stereotype that Jews are purely materialistic, and we listen aghast as he asserts that skin color reflects deep inner qualities. He says these appalling things only occasionally, while continuing to announce his racial broadmindedness on other, more numerous occasions. We would, I think, have reason to doubt his claims that he is free of prejudice. Indeed, the only way a bigot of this sort could clear himself would be to say clearly that he has made many racially bigoted statements in the past, and he realizes now that he was wrong to make them, and he now utterly repudiates them. Until/unless he makes such a confession — and makes no further racially slanderous statements thereafter — his attitudes on race would remain, at best, suspect.
So what did Steiner sometimes say, amidst his protestations of virtue? A few example we have seen here before:
One other point, which also has been made here before: Saying that the differences between races must be eliminated is very different from saying that all races are equal. Steiner taught that racial differences are so important and disturbing that the only way for humans to unite would be for such differences to be eliminated. This is utterly different from accepting all races as equally worthy of respect and honor. The person who made the remarks I quoted, above, did not believe in human equality in the present or past — he only held out a hope that we might unite in the future, when our differences are behind us. He did not, however, teach that all humans will be able to move up to that imagined evolutionary stage. He taught that numerous people will fall out of evolution long before the good humans move to their reward. Steiner said that some people are not really human at all: "Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 650. Steiner also said that some people who are human will degenerate to a lower condition: "Beings that stay behind at such stages appear in a later epoch as subordinate nature spirits." — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 70. Even near the end of our future history, there will still be some people incapable of moving up to the ultimate stages of our perfection. Instead, as an "evil race," they will be cast into the abyss. "The evil race, with its savage impulses, will dwell in animal form in the abyss." — Rudolf Steiner, UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993), p. 103.
The overall pattern of human evolution, as Steiner described it, consists of some people moving ahead to higher and higher stages of consciousness, while others (quite often members of nonwhite races, the descendants of abnormal humans) prove themselves incapable of further evolution. "[I]t was the normal human beings that were ... the most capable of evolving. [Abnormal] peoples whose ego impulse was developed too strongly gradually wandered to the West [from Atlantis] and became ... the Red Indians of America. [Likewise, the abnormal] people whose ego-feeling was too little developed migrated to the East, and became the subsequent Negro population of Africa ... [T]hey deposited too many carbonic constituents in their skin and became black. This is why the Negroes are black. Thus both east of Atlantis in the black population and west of Atlantis in the red population we find survivors of the kind of people who had not developed their ego-feeling in a normal way. The human beings who had developed normally lent themselves best to progress." — Rudolf Steiner, THE BEING OF MAN AND HIS FUTURE EVOLUTION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981), pp. 118-119. The ones who proved capable of evolution are, according to Steiner, white: "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 spiritually productive race." — Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS ESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS, p. 62.
Here is an item from the Waldorf Watch "news" page.
I will quote from an online posting,
then I will offer a response.
[Image: Rudolf Steiner,
"Menschheitsentwickelung und Christus-Erkenntnis”, page 245.]
This schematic shows human evolution proceeding
from Atlantis to modern Europe.
Two decadent racial groups branch off,
failing to evolve properly.
Entwickelung der Menschheit : Development of Mankind
Atlantier: Resident of Atlantis (Atlantean)
Dekadente Abzweigung: decadent branching
Affengeschlecht: apes (or ape species)
(Steiner viewed American Indians as an extreme case
of racial backwardness:
He deemed Indians to be virtually
— and, in his view, appropriately — extinct.)
The "Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Median (BPjM) ("Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons") examined 2 books by Rudolf Steiner for ‘racist content’ and decided that the content of the books is racist.
To understand the BPjM´s importance and function here's its self-portrayal, quote:
..."We are an official administrative authority of the German government ... Our task is to protect children and adolescents in Germany from any media that might contain harmful or dangerous contents. This work is authorized by the ‘Youth Protection Law’ ... Media monitored by us are, among others: videos, DVDs, computer games, audio records and CDs, print media and internet sites. Objects are considered harmful or dangerous to minors if they tend to endanger their process of developing a socially responsible and self-reliant personality. In general, this applies to objects that contain indecent, extremely violent, crime-inducing, anti-Semitic or otherwise racist material...."
More in the article by Andreas Lichte: http://www.ruhrbarone.de/waldorf-schools-rudolf-steiner%E2%80%99s-books-are-%E2%80%9Can-incitement-to-racial-hatred%E2%80%9D-says-bpjm/
The books examined are SPIRITUAL-SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE OF THE HUMAN BEING and THE MISSION OF INDIVIDUAL FOLK-SOULS IN CONNECTION WITH GERMANIC-NORDIC MYTHOLOGY.
The report includes such judgments as “The content of the book [by Rudolf Steiner] is, in the opinion of the board of 12 representatives, considered in part [to be] an incitement to racial hatred, respectively as discriminating on grounds of race.“
Some of the statements made by Steiner that the report holds up as examples of racist thinking are these:*
• “The African location corresponds to those forces of the Earth which imprint on people the features of childhood…”
Writer Andreas Lichte adds this Steiner statement:
*I have done some light editing; the original translations into English were somewhat stilted and unclear.
In considering Steiner's views,
readers who are more conversant with English than German
may benefit from re-examining some of the images, above,
inscribed this time in English rather than 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, American Indians are shown
branching off below the level of Aryans;
they stand one level above the apes,
which branched off previously.
According to Steiner, these are the predominant human races today.
Blacks are the lowest, Steiner said;
they live at the lowest level, being subject to their impulses,
and they use the most backward part of the brain,
If blacks move from their proper place on Earth,
they turn copper red and die out.
Orientals are higher.
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,
(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.)
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,
American Indians branched off,
failing to keep pace with proper human evolution
as exemplified by Europeans.
[R.R. copies, 2014.]
Here is a collection of quotations
posted by Peter Staudenmaier in October, 2011
I have trimmed it slightly and added the
names of publishing houses, dates of publication,
and GA numbers.
"[C]onsider how different the natural abilities, how different the talents of the individual races are. The one race stands at the level of what we call the highest civilization, while the other stands at what appears to be the most primitive, subordinate level of civilization. This may make it seem odd to us that the human being, who after all has a unified nature, can appear in such a different and imperfect form. People often feel that it is an injustice of nature that some are doomed to an existence in a race that stands far below, while others are raised up to an apparently perfect race. ... [H]uman souls proceed through the different races ... [O]ne is not condemned to live only in a primitive race while another stands at the highly developed stages of racial existence. Each of us passes through the different racial stages, and the passage signifies a progressive development for the individual soul. One who appears today as a member of the European race went through different races in earlier times, and will in later times proceed through races other than ours. The races appear to us as steps in a teaching process, and this variety takes on coherence and purpose." — Rudolf Steiner, DIE WELTRÄTSEL UND DIE ANTHROPOSOPHIE (Rudolf Steiner Verlag 1985), GA 54, pp. 132-3.
"Each person proceeds through race after race. Those that are young souls incarnate in the races that have remained behind on earlier racial levels. In this way, the races and souls that live around us take on a physical and spiritual structure. Everything makes sense, everything becomes clear and explicable. We are moving closer and closer to the solution of this puzzle and we can realize that in the future we will have other epochs to go through, we will have other paths to follow than the ones made by race. We must be clear about the difference between soul development and racial development. Our own souls once lived within the Atlantean race, and they then developed themselves upward to a higher race. That gives us an image of the evolution of humankind up until our time. In this way we can comprehend how to justify the principle, the core principle of universal brotherhood without regard to race, color, status, and so forth. I will explain this thought in particular later. Today I simply wanted to show how the same essence appears in different forms, and in fact in a much more correct sense than natural science would have us believe. Our souls march from one level to the next, which is to say from one race to the next, and we come to know the meaning of humanity when we examine these races." — Rudolf Steiner, ibid. pp. 153-4.
"If we want to understand this, we must carefully distinguish between race development and soul development. The two must not be confused. A human soul can develop itself in such a way that it incarnates in a particular race within a given incarnation. If it acquires certain capacities in this incarnation, then in a later incarnation it can incarnate in a different race." — Rudolf Steiner, CHRISTUS UND DIE MENSCHLICHE SEELE (Rudolf steiner Verlag, 1997), GA 155, p. 92.
"That is the reason why there were fewer and fewer descendants in the subordinate races and more and more descendants in the higher races. Thus the lowest strata of the European population gradually died out. This is a very definite process which we must understand. The souls evolve further, the bodies die away. We must therefore carefully distinguish between soul development and race development. The souls then appear in bodies that descend from higher races." — Rudolf Steiner, ibid. p. 93.
"People who listen to the great leaders of humankind, and preserve their soul with its eternal essence, reincarnate in an advanced race; in the same way he who ignores the great teacher, who rejects the great leader of humankind, will always reincarnate in the same race, because he was only able to develop the one form. 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 has the opportunity to become caught up in the essence of one incarnation, to push away the leader of humankind, or instead to undergo the transformation into higher races, toward ever higher perfection. Races would never become decadent, never decline, if there weren't souls that are unable to move up and 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." — Rudolf Steiner, DAS HEREINWIRKEN GEISTIGER WESENHEITEN IN DEN MENSCHEN (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1984), GA 102, p. 174.
"All of you were once Atlanteans [i.e., you lived on Atlantis], and these Atlantean bodies looked very different, as I have already described. The same soul that was once in an Atlantean body somewhere is now in your body. But not all bodies have been prepared, in the way yours have been, by a small number of colonists who long ago migrated from the West to the East. Those who remained behind, who bound themselves up with their race, they degenerated, while the advanced ones founded new civilizations. The last stragglers on the way to the east, the Mongols, still retain something of the culture of the Atlanteans. In the same way, the bodies of those people who do not develop themselves in a progressive fashion will continue into the next era and will constitute the Chinese of the future. There will once again be decadent peoples. After all, the souls that inhabit Chinese bodies are those that will once again have to incarnate in such races, because they had too strong an attraction to that race. The souls that are today within you will later incarnate in bodies that come from people who work in the way I have indicated, and who beget the bodies of the future, just as the first colonists from Atlantis once did. And those who cling to the ordinary, who do not want to join with the movement toward the future, they will become fused with their race. There are people who want to stick to the familiar, who want nothing to do with progress; they refuse to listen to those who lead the way beyond the race to newer and newer forms of humanity." — Rudolf Steiner, MENSCHHEITSENTWICKELUNG UND CHRISTUS-ERKENNTNIS (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1981), GA 100, p. 186.
"We have before us in the American race [i.e., Native Americans] a primitive aboriginal people that has remained far, far behind [...] But the Europeans have ascended to a higher level of culture, while the Indians have remained behind and become decadent. One must always pay attention to this evolutionary process. It can be described as follows. In the course of millennia our planet transforms itself, and this transformation also demands a development of humankind. Those side branches that no longer fit in to current conditions become decadent. Thus we have an upright evolutionary trunk as well as side branches which decay." — Rudolf Steiner, ibid., p. 244.
"[T]he characteristic of the mission of white humanity in general is to carry down the spirit [from the higher worlds], to impregnate the flesh with the spirit. Man has his white skin that the spirit may work in the skin when it descends to the physical plane ... [W]here the spirit has still to work as spirit, where in a certain way it has to stay behind in its development — because in our time it should descend into the flesh — where it stays behind, taking a demonic character and does not completely permeate the flesh, there the white skin does not appear ... [The next evolutionary] epoch must prepare the knowledge of the spirit in the physical environment ... But these things do not enter the world without the most violent struggles. White humanity is still on the way to take the spirit more and more deeply into its own being. Yellow humanity is on the way to conserve that age in which the spirit is held away from the body, is sought purely outside the human physical organisation. This makes it inevitable that the transition from the fifth culture epoch to the sixth will will bring about a violent struggle of the white and yellow races in the most varied domains. What precedes these struggles will occupy world-history up to the decisive events of the great contests between the white world and the coloured world. Future events are reflected in manifold ways in the events that precede. We are standing in fact, viewed in the light of spiritual science, before something colossal that must necessarily come about in the future." — Rudolf Steiner, "The Christ-Impulse as Bearer of the Union of the Spiritual and the Bodily", typescript "For Members of the Anthroposophical Society", translated by M. Cotterell; the original is in Rudolf Steiner, DIE GEISTIGEN HINTERGRÜNDE DES ERSTEN WELTKRIEGES (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1994), GA 174b, pp. 37-38.
"Recently I went into a bookstore in Basel and found an example of the latest publishing agenda: a Negro novel, just as the Negroes in general are entering into European civilization step by step! Everywhere Negro dances are being performed, Negro dances are being hopped. But we even have this Negro novel already. It is utterly boring, dreadfully boring, but people devour it. I am personally convinced that if we get more Negro novels, and give these Negro novels to pregnant women to read during the first phase of pregnancy, when as you know they can sometimes develop such cravings, if we give these Negro novels to pregnant women to read, then it won’t even be necessary for Negroes to come to Europe in order for mulattoes 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 mulattoes!" — Rudolf Steiner, ÜBER GESUNDHEIT UND KRANKHEIT (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1997), GA 348, p. 189.
"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." — Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1961), GA 349, p. 52.
"We here in Europe call ourselves the white race. If we go over to Asia, we have mostly the yellow race. And if we go over to Africa, there we have the black race. Those are also the original races. Everything else living in these regions is based on migration. Thus when we ask which race belongs to which part of the earth, we must say: the yellow race, the Mongols, the Mongolian race belongs to Asia, the white race or the Caucasian race belongs to Europe, and the black race or the Negro race belongs to Africa. The Negro race does not belong to Europe, and the fact that this race is now playing such a large role in Europe is of course nothing but a nuisance." — Rudolf Steiner, ibid., pp. 52-53.
"Let us look first at the blacks in Africa. These blacks in Africa have the peculiar characteristic that they absorb all light and all warmth from space. They take it in. And this light and warmth cannot penetrate through the whole body, because after all a person is always a person, even if he is black. It does not penetrate through the whole body, but lingers on the surface of the skin, and the skin itself thus turns black. So a black in Africa is therefore a person who absorbs as much warmth and light as possible from space and assimilates it within himself. In this way the energies of the cosmos affect the whole person. Everywhere he takes in light and warmth, everywhere. He assimilates it inside of himself. There must be something there that helps him in this assimilation. Now you see, what helps him in this assimilation is his rear-brain. In the Negro the rear-brain is therefore especially developed. It goes through his spinal cord. And this is able to assimilate all the light and warmth that are inside a person. Therefore everything connected to the body and the metabolism is strongly developed in the Negro. He has, as they say, powerful physical drives, powerful instincts. The Negro has a powerful instinctual life. And because he actually has the sun, light, and warmth on his body surface, in his skin, his whole metabolism operates as if he were being cooked inside by the sun. That is where his instinctual life comes from. The Negro is constantly cooking inside, and what feeds this fire is his rear-brain." — Rudolf Steiner, ibid., p. 55.
"Thus it is really very interesting: on the one hand there is the black race, which is the most earthly. When this race goes toward the West, it dies out. Then there is the yellow race, in the middle between the earth and the cosmos. When this race goes toward the East, it turns brown, it attaches itself too much to the cosmos and dies out. The white race is the race of the future, the spiritually creative race." — Rudolf Steiner, ibid., p. 67.
"We are within the great Root Race of humanity that has peopled the earth since the land on which we now live rose up out of the inundations of the ocean. Ever since the Atlantean Race began slowly to disappear, the great Aryan Race has been the dominant one on earth. If we contemplate ourselves, we here in Europe are thus the fifth Sub-Race of the great Aryan Root Race." — Rudolf Steiner, THE TEMPLE LEGEND: Freemasonry and Related Occult Movements (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1985), p. 201.
"The ancestors of the Atlanteans lived in a region which has disappeared, the main part of which lay south of contemporary Asia. In theosophical writings they are called the Lemurians. After they had passed through various stages of development the greatest part of them declined. These became stunted men, whose descendants still inhabit certain parts of the earth today as so-called savage tribes. Only a small part of Lemurian humanity was capable of further development. From this part the Atlanteans were formed. Later, something similar again took place. The greatest part of the Atlantean population declined, and from a small portion are descended the so-called Aryans who comprise present-day civilized humanity. According to the nomenclature of the science of the spirit, the Lemurians, Atlanteans and Aryans are root races of mankind." — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY: Prehistory of Earth and Man (SteinerBooks, 1987), pp. 45-46.
"Each root race has physical and mental characteristics which are quite different from those of the preceding one.” For this reason, “there are always populations which show different stages of development living beside each other on earth.” — Rudolf Steiner, ibid., p. 46.
"The race may fall behind; the community of people may remain backward, but the souls progress beyond the several races. If we wish to form a true conception of this we must say that all the souls now living in bodies in civilized countries were formerly incarnated in Atlantean bodies. A few developed there in the requisite manner, and did not remain in Atlantean bodies. As they had developed further they could become the souls of the bodies which had also progressed further. Only the souls which as souls had remained backward had to take bodies which as bodies had remained at a lower stage. If all the souls had progressed, the backward races would either have decreased very much in population, or the bodies would be occupied by newly incoming souls at a low stage of development. For there are always souls which can inhabit backward bodies. No soul is bound to a backward body if it does not bind itself to it. The relation between soul-development and race-development is preserved to us in a wonderful myth. Let us imagine race following race, civilization following civilization. The soul going through its earth mission in the right way is incarnated in a certain race; it strives upward in this race, and acquires the capacities of this race in order next time to be incarnated in a higher one. Only the souls which sink in the race and do not work out of the physical materiality, are held back in the race by their own weight, as one might say. They appear a second time in the same race and eventually a third time in bodies in similarly formed races. Such souls hold back the bodies of the race." — Rudolf Steiner, THE APOCALYPSE OF ST. JOHN (Anthroposophic Press, 1993), p. 80.
"Look at the colours to be found in Asia, from the Negroes to the yellow races. Hence you have bodies that are sheaths for every possible level of soul, from the completely passive Negro soul entirely given up the outer world of physical existence, to the other levels of passive souls in every possible part of Asia. Various characteristics of the evolution of the Asiatic and African peoples will now be comprehensible to you: they present various combinations of surrender to the environment and the external manifestation of ego-feeling. So fundamentally we have two groups of people representing combinations: those on European soil, forming the root stock of the white population, who had predominantly developed the feeling of personality [...] On the other hand there are those peoples in Asia with passive, self-effacing natures in whom just this passivity expresses itself in the highest degree. This makes the people dreamy, and the etheric body penetrates very deeply into the physical body. That is the fundamental difference between the European and the Asiatic peoples." — Rudolf Steiner, THE BEING OF MAN AND HIS FUTURE EVOLUTION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981), pp. 120-121.
Admitting that Steiner was wrong about race is hard for Anthroposophists, since it opens the possibility that Steiner may have been wrong about other important topics, as well. Sometimes Anthroposophists are forced to acknowledge that Steiner made minor errors on minor factual matters, but they vigorously resist the proposition that he made any large, spiritually significant mistakes. On questions of race, unfortunately, they sometimes defend Steiner because, in fact, they agree with his racial doctrines — doctrines that virtually everyone else recognizes as racist.
From the Waldorf Critics discussion list, October, 2012
...Couldn't these excessive reactions to critical analysis in the case of Steiner’s followers have a lot to do with a belief that Steiner simple ‘cannot’ be wrong because he is (believed to be) a higher-plane initiate who has insights to ‘truths’ not accessible to others?
[Peter Staudenmaier's answer]
A lot of anthroposophists do take this stance, though others do not, but what I originally referred to was the conspicuous reluctance among anthroposophists to acknowledge their own mistaken claims, not Steiner's mistaken claims. In any case, it is not that unusual to find anthroposophists forthrightly conceding that Steiner's statements on some topic or other were inaccurate. They mostly have a remarkably difficult time doing so with Steiner's statements about race, however. This failure of judgement is an important part of the reason why Steiner's racial teachings remain a burden for the movement he founded.
The exchange about Steiner's race doctrines [at the Ethereal Kiosk] provides a striking example. The most outspoken anthroposophist in that exchange admitted at one point: "What Steiner wrote about Mars is wrong." This is a standard position among anthroposophists; in the English edition of Steiner's book From Sunspots to Strawberries (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002), for example, the editors have appended a long footnote, extending over three pages, explaining that many of Steiner's claims about the planet Mars were "inaccurate," in their words.
That is what is missing in anthroposophist assessments of Steiner's claims about race. With the exception of some of the younger generation of German anthroposophists, it is rare to find any recognition among anthroposophists that Steiner's racial teachings were wrong or inaccurate, and rarer still to find any recognition that a significant portion of Steiner's racial teachings were racist. Part of the reason for this has to do with the usual anthroposophical lack of familiarity with what Steiner actually taught; the fellow who made the Mars comment on Alicia's blog, for example, had never even heard of Steiner's major texts on race and was unaware of their existence. This is fairly typical in English-language anthroposophist circles.
But there are other factors involved. For one thing, not a few of Steiner's admirers basically agree with his racial views and find no grounds for rejecting these views. That is why the racist aspects of anthroposophy are not merely a matter of historical interest. Another important factor is the general level of disregard for historical context within the esoteric milieu, a shortcoming which bedevils virtually any anthroposophist commentary on Steiner's racial teachings. But all of these factors can change, of course, and as unlikely as it may seem at the moment, there is always the possibility that anthroposophists will at last take up the task of informing themselves about Steiner's teachings on race and begin to confront these teachings critically.
— Peter S.
From the Waldorf Watch "news" page.
I will quote Steiner, then I will offer a response.
Now let us take an extreme case and imagine that a man unites too fully with what is to constitute the character of an incarnation [i.e., he stalls at a certain racial level]. Let us suppose he reaches what is to be reached in sixteen incarnations; he takes the sixteen false paths. The earth does not wait for him, the earth goes forward and he finally arrives at a point where he can no longer incorporate in a human body, for none are in existence. There will be no more bodies in which souls that have grown too much involved in their bodily nature can incarnate. Such souls lose the possibility of incarnation and find no other opportunity ... They must therefore live a bodiless existence. They must cut themselves off entirely from the progress of evolution. Why have they deserved this? By reason of the fact that they have not made use of life! ... They do not advance with world evolution, they remain behind at a certain stage. Beings that stay behind at such stages appear in a later epoch with approximately the character of the earlier age. They have grown together with it [i.e., merged with it], but not in the forms of the later epoch. They appear in a later epoch as subordinate nature-spirits. — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 69-70.
The entire Earth and all the good people on it are evolving upwards. Evil or deficient people get left behind. If, during sixteen incarnations, you continuously choose the path of evil and falsehood, you will be unable to incarnate again. The members of the good races will have risen high, beyond race, while you and the other incorrigibles lose the last vestiges of humanity. Races will cease to exist, so there will be no lowly race left for you to incarnate in. Therefore, you will become a subhuman nature spirit — that is, a being like a goblin who cannot evolve in the proper, human way and who will be excluded from the joyous destiny of all the good (white and whiter-than-white) humans on Vulcan and beyond. [To glimpse the future of good humans, see “Sixth Epoch” and the pages that follow it. To pick up the thread earlier in our evolution, start at “Prehistory 101”.]
Anthroposophists argue strenuously that their belief system is not racist. Look, they say, everybody passes through all the racial levels. We are all the same. If you happen to be black in this incarnation, you are low on the ladder, but you will rise in future incarnations. We all were black once. This argument overlooks a few things. According to Steiner, it is not true that everyone passes through all levels. Some people stall at a lower-than-white stage — which means some people never become white. Moreover, Anthroposophy teaches that every black person is less evolved — and almost certainly less moral — than any white person. (The other races fall between the white and black poles.) Moreover, to be realistic for a moment, reincarnation is a fantasy. Thus, the racial identity of every person alive today is the only racial identity s/he will ever have. So believing that blacks are less evolved than whites means passing a permanent racial judgment. Racism means judging people based on race. If you hate someone because of race, you are a racist. If you love someone because of race, you are a racist. If you, a high white Anthroposophist, lovingly try to prepare a lowly black to rise in a future incarnation, you are a kind, loving racist. Anthroposophy is racist.
Raising the possibility of a breakthrough,
in 2012 an Anthroposophical publishing house
released a book that acknowledges
the problematic nature of Steiner's racial teachings.
In seeking to explain those teachings, the author
sometimes verges on trying to explain them away.
Still, he admits the existence of the teachings,
and he recognizes the need to come to terms with them.
The book is
RASSISMUS UND GESCHICHTSMETAPHYSIK
[RACISM AND METAPHYSICAL HISTORY],
by Ansgar Martins (Frankfort: Info3, 2012).
Here are excerpts of a review
by historian Peter Staudenmaier.
Ansgar Martins has written a perceptive and provocative book about a topic many prefer to avoid: Rudolf Steiner’s racial teachings, a perennial bone of contention between anthroposophists and their critics. It is a sober and discerning account, by far the best to appear from an anthroposophist publisher, and a noteworthy contribution to the historical literature on Steiner and his movement. The book’s approach is nuanced, complex, and sophisticated, taking heed of the contrasting motifs in Steiner’s thinking about nation and race, what Martins aptly terms “Steiner’s wavering between universalism, individualism, cultural chauvinism, and racist stereotypes” (143). His method combines critique and empathetic comprehension: The task, as Martins sees it, is “to identify the ambivalent strands in [Steiner’s] thinking, and to understand how Steiner came to make racist statements, without forfeiting a critical perspective.” (141)
...Martins quotes dozens of texts and lectures in which Steiner spelled out his racial views, providing admirably clear explanations of the details of Steiner’s claims about racial evolution: External racial characteristics reflect internal spiritual qualities; different racial groups represent different levels of spiritual development; some racial groups carry evolutionary progress forward, while other racial groups are degenerating and devolving; the “white race” (or “Aryan race” or “Caucasian race” or “European peoples”) are “normal” and “the race of the future,” in contrast to the “colored races”; and the fundamental hierarchy of “lower races” and “higher races” as an expression of spiritual regression or advance. These themes, running throughout Steiner’s published work, are given vivid and informed treatment....
Some of the conclusions are bound to be disconcerting even for more open-minded anthroposophists. Martins notes the apologetic tendency of the vaunted ‘Dutch report’ on anthroposophical race doctrines and observes that its focus on legal issues is not especially helpful from a historical perspective (17). He carefully reviews “the full spectrum of antisemitic clichés” in Steiner’s work (29). He is justly harsh on the threadbare rationalizations for Steiner’s racial teachings put forward by prominent anthroposophists like Lorenzo Ravagli, editor of the flagship journal of Waldorf education...
The core of the book is a detailed reconstruction of Steiner’s evolving racial views from his theosophical period onward and his efforts to build these ideas into his overarching system of esoteric teachings. Martins offers a number of insightful interpretive hypotheses. He draws connections, for example, between Steiner’s depiction of the white race as representing the balanced and harmonious contrast to the black and yellow races, who had developed the ‘I’ either too weakly or too strongly, and Steiner’s model of Christ as the balanced and harmonious contrast to Ahriman and Lucifer....
Martins’ book tries to get to the bottom of the central paradox in Steiner’s thinking about race, its combination of racist and universalist strands, its contrasting biological and spiritual poles, simultaneously opposed to one another and intertwined around one another. If the book does not entirely succeed, the fault lies not with Martins’ analysis but with the irreducible contradictions in Steiner’s thought...
...Throughout the book Martins devotes considerable attention to the anti-Jewish strands in Steiner’s thought and the way they intersected with his racial doctrines. But he does not examine Steiner’s repeated invocations of the antisemitic myth of Ahasver, passages which are important to Steiner’s overarching racial theories. And while Martins quotes extensively from Steiner’s 1911 book on The Apocalypse of St. John, he does not cite the passages about a coming “War of All against All” and the emergence of a “race of good” and a contrasting “race of evil.”
More striking, in his discussion of Steiner’s 1915 lecture on “the mission of white humankind” Martins does not quote Steiner’s insistence that “the transition from the fifth cultural epoch to the sixth cultural epoch cannot happen in any other way than as a violent battle of white humankind against colored humankind” (Steiner, Die geistigen Hintergründe des Ersten Weltkrieges, 38). These facets of Steiner’s racial teachings merit attention not least because they represent a sharp counterpoint to the model of a gradual disappearance of racial difference....
Martins has undertaken the demanding job of appraising Steiner’s contentious and sometimes rebarbative views on race in a fair and historically responsible manner. His study stands as a rebuke to anthroposophists who continue to ignore this sizeable portion of their own past and its ongoing repercussions in the present. It also offers challenging but fruitful lessons for critics of anthroposophy tempted to simplify Steiner’s teachings on a volatile theme, lessons that can make a difference to historical evaluation of Steiner and his ideas and the activities of his followers. The intricate relationship between the racist features and the cosmopolitan features of Steiner’s esoteric system defies easy elucidation, but it is not hopelessly inscrutable or eternally enigmatic. This book demonstrates that it is possible to make historical sense of what Steiner taught about race and why it matters.
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 8. THE WORST SIDE ◊◊◊
 Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS (Verlag Der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, 1961), GA 349, p. 52.
 The headmaster may have misrepresented Steiner’s views slightly. A more accurate reading is that, according to Steiner, blacks are childish, Asians are adolescent, whites are adult, and “red Indians” are senescent. See, e.g., Toos Jeurissen, “Waldorf Salad with Aryan Mayonnaise??” www.waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/waldorf_salad.html
According to 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. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/10511
 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 "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 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; 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." — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1929), lecture 6, GA 121. Note the title. Another translation has the very similar title THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS [emphasis added].
 VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS, p. 62.
(We saw this quotation in the previous endnote; I will repeat it once more before we are finished.)
 Rudolf Steiner, DIE GEISTIGEN HINTERGRÜNDE DES ERSTEN WELTKRIEGES (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1974), GA 174b, p. 38.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN: THE EVOLUTION OF INDIVIDUALITY, Lectures from 1909-1916 (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), p. 75.
 Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 149.
 Rudolf Steiner, HEALTH AND ILLNESS, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1981), pp. 85-86.
 E.g., Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (SteinerBooks, 1987), p. 46.
 E.g., Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 17.
 E.g., Rudolf Steiner, THE CHALLENGE OF OUR TIMES (SteinerBooks, 1979), pp. 207-209.
 Rudolf Steiner, FROM BEETROOT TO BUDDHISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 59.
Racism doesn't have to be hate-filled. It may be "innocent" — yet deplorable nonetheless. "Everything artistic that approaches humankind divides into two streams; the stream of culture and images and the stream of music and poetry. These two artistic streams are really polar opposites, but there is also a real capacity for synthesis to higher unity precisely because of this polarity. You surely realise that this duality in the artistic realm finds expression even in the world’s evolution of the races ... [E]verything that has arisen from the being of the Greeks in the way most suited to them, in the most exalted sense, has a tendency towards sculpture and images, and all that emanates from the Jewish people tends towards music ... [W]e find these two streams divided, even racially." — Rudolf Steiner, PRACTICAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 2000), pp. 31-32.
 THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS, pp. 108-109.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE TEMPLE LEGEND (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), p. 201.
 Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Garber Communications, 1990), pp. 45-46.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE BEING OF MAN AND HIS FUTURE EVOLUTION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981), pp. 118-119.
 THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS, p. 75.
 Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 558-559.
 Rudolf Steiner, quoted by an investigative commission of the Anthroposophical Society in the Netherlands, which labeled the quote “unobjectionable.”
 Rudolf Steiner, "Die Sehnsucht der Juden nach Palästina," Magazin für Literatur, vol. 66 no. 38, 1897.
 Rudolf Steiner, ÜBER GESUNDHEIT UND KRANKHEIT (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1994), GA 348, p. 189.
 Rudolf Steiner, READING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE (SteinerBooks, 1993), pp. 49-50.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY (SteinerBooks, 1995), p. 30.
 Richard Seddon, THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY AND OF THE EARTH AS FORESEEN BY RUDOLF STEINER (The Temple Lodge, 2002), p. 53.
 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.
 KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS, pp. 141-142.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 92.
 Steiner called the third phase of human evolution "Old Moon." We lived on the Moon, then, although the Moon of that time was very different from the Moon we see in the sky today. See "Everything" and "Steiner Static."
 Rudolf Steiner, ROSICRUCIAN WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 113.
 Ibid., pp 144-145.
 Ibid., p. 171.
 I develop this argument further in a message I posted at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/12185. This is what I wrote:
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 is standing next to a black. 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 on 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 evolved 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.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1964), pp. 203-207.
This book is often cited by Anthroposophists attempting to justify Steiner's political, social, and racial views.
 "Those who have entered into the intellectual age no longer have a strong feeling for the animalistic-racial element.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE CYCLE OF THE YEAR AS BREATHING PROCESS OF THE EARTH (Anthroposophic Press, 1984), p. 68.
 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.
A note on sources: I have accessed Anthroposophical texts in various ways. 1) Chiefly, I have acquired books in the old-fashioned way, as physical objects. When I refer to a book I possess, I give the title, publisher, date of publication, and page number for each reference. 2) I have dipped into some books through Google Books [http://books.google.com/advanced_book_search]. I provide the same information for these volumes. 3) I have read various texts at the Rudolf Steiner Archive [http://www.rsarchive.org/Search.php]. Because the Archive does not provide page numbers, for these references I provide titles, names of publishers, dates of publication, and (where applicable) GA numbers. Be advised that Google Books sometimes gives inaccurate page numbers, and the Steiner Archive is full of typos. I have corrected these problems as well as I could, but I may have missed some instances.
You may have difficulty finding a few of the sources I cite. Anthroposophists tend to conceal various sources, and sometimes — following criticism — they remove or alter sources that they had previously displayed online.
— R. R.