Overt racism is present in Steiner’s works. It builds on prejudices and attitudes prevalent in Steiner’s time. The very expressions people used in ordinary discourse contained racist assumptions, although most people — including Steiner — were probably unaware of this and generally did not intend anything prejudicial by the use of such expressions. Here are some examples. I submit that they are largely innocent — Steiner meant no conscious harm. But today, in a more enlightened time, we recognize harm in such talk — i.e., the equation of white with virtue, wisdom, and morality, and black with their opposites.

The quotations also touch on other significant matters. Consider the first one, for instance:

"The work of the spiritual scientific movement is to let the wisdom of the Great White Brotherhood, which had its origins in Atlantis, gradually flow out to the world." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY (SteinerBooks, 1998), p. 181.

[SteinerBooks, 1998.]

"The leaders of those former Root Races were also united in a White Brotherhood. Its members, however, had not undergone their previous development on our earth, but on other planets." — Rudolf Steiner, THE TEMPLE LEGEND AND THE GOLDEN LEGEND (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), p. 38.

"Were there not disciples of a white lodge, a lodge invisible and perhaps not to be entered but merely felt, yet working and predominating everywhere and determining human destiny?" — Rudolf Steiner TOWARD IMAGINATION: CULTURE AND THE INDIVIDUAL (SteinerBooks, 1990), p. 60. Steiner's answer is yes. See “White Lodge”.

"The 'Adepts' are the Mahatmas or the Masters of the White Lodge or the Masters of Wisdom and the Harmony of Sensations and Feelings." — Note on p. 288, SPIRITUALISM, MADAME BLAVATSKY & THEOSOPHY (SteinerBooks, 2002). Some of this white/black terminology is still used by Anthroposophists today.

"This is, as a matter of fact, caused by that black magic — I have described it like this on other occasions too — known as journalism ... If you cannot develop the urge for truthfulness in yourselves, you will always be open to the danger of being infected, influenced, by the untruthfulness that lives in the world." — Rudolf Steiner, THE KARMA OF UNTRUTHFULNESS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005,  p. 87. We might be tempted to think that Steiner was speaking metaphorically, but he explicitly denied this. And consider the following two quotes.

"When things that ought to come later make their appearance as spiritual premature births by the means I have described — through criminal occult activity — when this happens those whose intentions toward humanity are not good, in other words those who are black or grey magicians, can gain possession of such secrets." — Rudolf Steiner, SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004),  p. 90.

"Needless to say, these things do become black magic when they are not handled as they ought to be handled ... The Gods use magic, and the difference between white and black magic consists only in this: in white magic one intervenes in a moral, selfless way, and in black magic in an immoral, selfish way." — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR SPECIAL NEEDS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 48. 

"It does not follow that, when called upon to decide, anyone will naturally follow the white path ... No one therefore should expect the occultists of the white path to give him instruction for the development of his own egotistical self ... [N]o one merely seeking an advantage for himself will ever obtain assistance from the white occultists." — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1994), pp. 152-153.

"‘The purified world will develop above and beyond thee, and thou shalt be excluded from it. Thus thou wouldst tread the black path, while the others from whom thou didst sever thyself tread the white path.’" — Ibid., p. 152.

"If this is your choice, then yours is the black path. But those from whom you separate yourself tread the white path." — Rudolf Steiner, HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS (SteinerBooks, 2002), p. 204. Note that this is a new translation, still using the old terms.

"If we take the flesh color of Caucasian man, which resembles spring's fresh peach-blossom color, we have the living image of the soul. If we contemplate white in an artistic way, we have the soul image of the spirit. (The spirit as such conceals itself.) And if, as artists, we take hold of black, we have the spiritual image of death. And the circle is closed." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ARTS AND THEIR MISSION (Anthroposophic Press, 1964), lecture 8, GA 276.

“We also tend to have a nuance of feeling toward empty or black objects that is related to emptiness. This feeling toward anything related to blackness is the feeling of fear or anxiety. This is expressed in the u sound. The feeling nuance of wonder and admiration is expressed in the a sound; this is a feeling toward what is full — everything white, bright, and related to whiteness and brightness and the feeling toward the sound related to brightness. “ — Rudolf Steiner, PRACTICAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 2000), p. 20.

[L]et us awaken in the child what it means to look at black, red, green, yellow, white." — Rudolf Steiner, THE YOUNGER GENERATION (SteinerBooks, 1967), lecture 10, GA 217.

"Just as the members of the great WHITE [sic] Brotherhood are always in harmony with one another and with humanity, so all men will one day be one, through this wisdom ... The work of the spiritual-scientific movement is therefore to allow a gradual flowing out of wisdom of the great white brotherhood that had its origin in Atlantis." — Rudolf Steiner, “The Adept-School of the Past”,  ANTHROPOSOPHIC NEWS SHEET 31/32,  Aug. 10, 1941, GA 97.

"There is a great difference between the leaders of the two preceding root-races and those of our fifth race. The leaders of those races too were united in a White Lodge. But they did not undergo their earlier evolution on our earth planet, but in another environment. They descended to earth already mature, descended as human beings of higher development, in order to instruct men who were still in their infancy, in order to teach them the first arts which they needed. This period of instruction lasted through the third, fourth, and right into the fifth root-race." — Rudolf Steiner, GREEK AND GERMANIC MYTHOLOGY IN THE LIGHT OF ESOTERICISM (transcript, Rudolf Steiner Archive), lecture 1, GA 90f.

"Magic must never be made to serve when selfish purposes are involved. Hence, the employment of seed forces is not permitted today even to serve white magic. On the other hand, in Lemurian times the seed forces of the animals were used. But everywhere that the growth forces of animals are misused, horrendous forces of fire, the volcanic element, are awakened." — Rudolf Steiner, READING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE (Steiner Books, 1993), p. 81.

“Mammon is not only the god of money. He is much more the leader of all vile black powers. And his hordes attack not only human souls, but also the physical bodies of humans in order to gnaw away at them and ruin them. People speak of bacteria a lot more today not because they know more about them, but because bacteria have taken on a very special form today. And in the future they will get the upper hand in a terrifying way. When that black age approaches, then fraternal war will rage in a gruesome way, and poor human bodies will waste away, terribly afflicted by diseases and plagues. The stigma of sin will be impressed on human bodies visible to everyone." — Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC LESSONS 1904-1909 (Steiner Books, 2007), pp. 232-233.

Illustration accompanying lecture 8, THE ARTS AND THEIR MISSION.

"If we take the flesh color of Caucasian man, which resembles spring's fresh peach-blossom color, 

we have the living image of the soul. 

If we contemplate white in an artistic way, we have the soul image of the spirit. 

(The spirit as such conceals itself.) 

And if, as artists, we take hold of black, we have the spiritual image of death. 

And the circle is closed." — Rudolf Steiner

"[O]ur earth is a battlefield; it is the scene of two opposing powers: right and left. The one, the white power on the right, after the earth has reached a certain degree of material, physical density, strives to spiritualise it once again. The other power, the left or black power, strives to make the earth ever denser and denser, like the moon. Thus, after a period of time, the earth could become the physical expression for the good powers, or the physical expression for the evil. It becomes the physical expression for the good powers through man uniting himself with the spirits working for unification, in that he seeks the ego in the community. It belongs to the function of the earth to differentiate itself physically to an ever greater degree. Now it is possible for the separate parts to go their own way, for each part to form an ego. This is the black path. The white path is the one which strives for what is common, which forms an ego in community. Were we to burrow more and more deeply into ourselves, to sink ourselves into our own ego organisation, to desire always more and more for ourselves, the final result would be that we should strive to separate ourselves from one another. If on the other hand we draw closer, so that a common spirit inspires us, so that a centre is formed between us, in our midst, then we are drawn together, then we are united. To be a black magician means to develop more and more the spirit of separateness. There are black adepts who are on the way to acquire certain forces of the earth for themselves. Were the circle of their pupils to become so strong that this should prove possible, then the earth would be on the path leading to destruction."  — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 20, GA 93a.

— Compiled by Roger Rawlings

To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.


atoms : nah

bees : please

can't we all just get along? : demons and demonizing

if only : wishing, hoping...

ignorance : Steiner affirming

nuts : brains and demons

philosophy : magically, seven and twelve

Souls of Terror : the book

Sun at Midnight : a review

treasury 1 : this and that

treasury 2 : ditto

treasury 3 : ditto

treasury 4 : ditto

treasury 5 : ditto

treasury 6 : ditto

treasury 7 : ditto

treasury 8 : ditto


will : and self-hypnosis