(co-written with Peter Zegers)
Reply to Peter Normann Waage, New Myths About Rudolf Steiner
“The Steiner I know,” writes Peter Normann Waage, was the nicest guy you ever met. 1 He couldn’t possibly have said and done all those nasty things Staudenmaier and Zegers say he did. It’s just not like him. Why, look at all the other nice things he said! Look at all the wonderful work his followers do! Look at all the nice friends he had!
As frivolous as Waage’s arguments are, they point to a serious issue: the Janus face of anthroposophy. Steiner’s writings are an incoherent mix of contradictory ideas, which allows his epigones to pick and choose those elements that foster the progressive and enlightened image they wish to project. The Janus face of anthroposophy also allows its partisans to deflect any criticism, no matter how copiously substantiated, via the simple method of counter-presentation: when you show them all of the works Steiner produced outlining his esoteric theory of Aryan supremacy, they simply ignore them and point instead to other passages where Steiner preaches brotherhood and tolerance. 2 Although it requires a certain amount of willful naiveté, it is indeed possible to construct a universalist and ‘humanist’ Steiner out of bits and pieces of his pre-anthroposophist works like Philosophie der Freiheit, while ignoring all of the occultist and racist mature works like Aus der Akasha-Chronik, the book which Steiner designated as the “basis of anthroposophist cosmology”. 3
This method of counter-presentation has the unfortunate effect of reducing rational argument to a mere trading of isolated quotations back and forth. 4 Based on a combination of wishful thinking and denial, it leads to a primitive form of argument-by-definition: real anthroposophy is whatever Waage says it is. Myopically fixated on one side of the Janus face, he insists that the dozens of works by Steiner we cited, as well as the numerous other anthroposophist works we drew on, are somehow “atypical and eccentric”. By offering anthroposophists’ own words to readers, we have supposedly obscured “the whole tendency of the movement”. We gladly admit that we are unable to explain Steiner’s incoherence, and we have yet to encounter a defense of anthroposophy that tries to show how the several sides of the Janus face relate to one another. Our task all along has been to analyze and understand the frightening side of anthroposophy’s Janus face, the side which Steiner’s admirers desperately want to keep hidden. Our topic is not, of course, “the Steiner Waage knows,” but rather the Steiner he ought to get to know if he wants to be taken seriously in public discussions of anthroposophy’s politics.
That, after all, has been the subject of our exchange from the beginning. What is at issue is not the Steiner Waage knows, or indeed the romanticized versions of Steiner and his ideas that any given individual anthroposophist knows or imagines. What is at issue is the history of actually existing anthroposophy. Without adding unnecessarily to the rancor of this exchange, it is important to point out that Waage’s competence on this subject is limited – not because of his profession as a journalist and not because of his personal predilections as an anthroposophist, but simply because he has not taken the time to review the available sources. Heedless of this basic disparity between his position and ours, Waage reverses the reality and asserts that, as non-anthroposophists, we are unacquainted with ‘real’ anthroposophy based on the Steiner he knows. What he appears to mean is that we are insufficiently familiar with, not to mention insufficiently respectful toward, an idealized construct of “anthroposophy” as Waage himself envisions it. This may well be true, and is obviously irrelevant. Our arguments are not about Waage’s private conception of what anthroposophy ought to be; they are about what anthroposophy has actually been, as seen from the world outside its own narrow borders. He seems remarkably unwilling to step beyond those borders and look at anthroposophy as a historical phenomenon and an object of study. Waage’s role is that of a Believer railing against external inquiry into his cherished belief system.
Thus Waage, comfortable in his own anthroposophical certitudes and unaccustomed to non-anthroposophical perspectives on anthroposophy, repeats the same old refrain. He insists that we are spreading “myths” about Steiner. In order to tell myths from facts, one needs a basic familiarity with the published works of the figure in question (in this case, the writings and speeches of Rudolf Steiner), a knowledge of their historical context (the occult subculture and the Lebensreform or alternative lifestyles movement), and an understanding of their political affiliations (Austrian and German nationalism). Waage meets none of these requirements. He is ignorant of much of Steiner’s written work, as his peculiar claims about that work attest. He appears to know little about either the occult revival or the left-right crossover that characterized ‘alternative’ circles in turn of the century Central Europe. And he is completely oblivious to the history of German nationalism; Waage believes that the pan-German movement was engaged in “nation building” and that it uniformly advocated “a concentration of all German speaking people in one state”. 5 But Waage is not one to be deterred by historical facts; he is simply convinced, as an article of faith, that Steiner rejected nationalism. 6
This wishful thinking leads Waage to compound the already embarrassing errors from his first reply. He originally claimed that the passage from Steiner’s autobiography recalling his pan-German engagement didn’t exist. Now that he has finally managed to find this passage, he complains that we have mistranslated it. 7 This complaint is childish; our translation is, of course, entirely accurate, as anyone with access to a German-Norwegian dictionary can readily ascertain. 8 If Waage is still confused on this matter, he might wish to consult other passages where Steiner reminisces about his early pan-German activism, for example this one from 1900: “With even greater enthusiasm we dedicated ourselves to the rising pan-German movement.” 9 Or he could consult sympathetic anthroposophical biographies of Steiner which note that he became editor of one of the most militant Viennese pan-German journals, the Deutsche Wochenschrift, in 1888. 10 Or he could simply look up the several dozen articles Steiner published in the radical pan-German press in the 1880’s, which are collected in volumes 29, 30, 31 and 32 of the Gesamtausgabe (Waage repeatedly cites the latter two volumes, evidently without having bothered to read them). No-one familiar with these articles could possibly doubt Steiner’s wholehearted devotion to what he called “the pan-German cause in Austria.” (GA 31, p. 111.) Even if all of these sources had for some mysterious reason been unavailable to Waage, he could simply take a look at the very same sources he himself quotes, for example anthroposophist Christoph Lindenberg’s biography of Steiner, which discusses Steiner’s pan-German activism at length, provides extensive details and citations, and notes that “Steiner himself counted himself a member of this movement,” the pan-German movement in Austria. 11
Unaware of these basic facts about Steiner’s political background, Waage asks: “Is it a crime to be interested in the ‘national existence’ of a people?” — referring to the Austro-Germans. We recommend he peek inside a history book to determine whether the German community in Austria actually faced a “struggle for national existence” in the late nineteenth century. Robert Kann, for example, observes that German nationalism in Austria sought “the preservation and enhancement of a privileged position.” (Kann, The Habsburg Empire, New York 1973, p. 19) 12 John Mason writes that the Austro-Germans were “the leading national group in the Empire and exercised an influence out of all proportion to their numbers.” He notes that the Habsburg state “was thoroughly German in character”, that “[t]he official language of the Empire was German and the civil servants were overwhelmingly German”, and concludes: “Not only was the cultural life of Vienna almost exclusively German, but the capitalist class, the Catholic hierarchy and the press were also the preserve of the Austro-Germans.” (Mason, The Dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire 1867-1918, London 1997, pp. 10-11) 13 The young Steiner and his pan-German comrades were not engaged in “nation building,” as Waage imagines; they were engaged in an aggressively xenophobic defense of privilege and ethnic purity. 14 While there had been significant democratic impulses in 1848-era Great German nationalism, by the 1880’s in Austria these had given way to simple national self-interest and antagonism toward other ethnic groups, particularly the Slav peoples of the empire. Much of the impetus for the middle-class variety of nationalism which Steiner adopted came from a deep sense of cultural superiority and entitlement: Germans in Austria often perceived themselves as the bearers of civilization to their supposedly backward neighbors and fellow citizens. It was this potent sense of the “German mission” which drew Steiner so enthusiastically into pan-German nationalist circles.
Waage is also woefully uninformed about the history of German antisemitism and the variety of responses to it. 15 He thinks that Steiner’s friend Jacobowski was the “leader” of the Verein zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus. In fact Jacobowski was merely an employee of the Verein; his work there was “no doubt more administrative and journalistic, and above all performed in order to support himself.” 16 His personal commitment was quite explicitly and emphatically not to Jewish concerns, but to German nationalism. 17 That is precisely what aroused Steiner’s admiration; in Steiner’s words, Jacobowski had “long since outgrown Jewishness”. 18 Waage also believes that a pro-assimilationist viewpoint was incompatible with outspoken antisemitism. 19 He would do well to acquaint himself with figures such as Stöcker, Treitschke, and Vacher de Lapouge, all of whom were both proponents of Jewish assimilation and vehement antisemites. 20 Unaware of this crucial background, Waage thoroughly misunderstands Steiner’s stance on the “Jewish question.” Indeed he flatly denies that Steiner wished to see the Jewish people disappear, simply ignoring Steiner’s unequivocal, repeated, and very explicit statements throughout his career. Steiner insisted quite emphatically that “the only proper thing would be for the Jews to blend in with the other peoples and disappear into the other peoples.” 21 His position was entirely clear: “the best thing that the Jews could do would be to disappear into the rest of humankind, to blend in with the rest of humankind, so that Jewry as a people would simply cease to exist.” 22 Before his turn to theosophy, Steiner demanded that Austrian and German Jews completely repudiate their Jewish identity in favor of a purely “German spirit” and “German culture,” which he considered superior to all others. In his mature anthroposophist phase, Steiner held that modern Jews were an obsolete remnant of a spiritually superceded race, the descendants of those hapless inhabitants of Atlantis who did not evolve into “Aryans.” He consistently singled out the Jews as his prime example of a people anachronistically attached to ethnic particularity, a stumbling block on the path of spiritual progress toward the “universal human”. 23
In both of his replies, Waage assiduously avoids mentioning Steiner’s theory of root races. This is a striking omission, and makes us wonder whether Waage is defending anthroposophy at all, as opposed to Steiner’s pre-anthroposophist individualism. Steiner’s esoteric racial doctrine is an essential element in the conceptual foundation upon which the entire edifice of anthroposophy is built, and latter-day anthroposophists have so far refused to confront it honestly. In particular, Waage seems to have missed the rather central fact that after his theosophical turn, Steiner relegated his earlier individualist position in favor of a comprehensive racial-ethnic-national classification system wherein each individual’s spiritual and cultural capacities are determined by and/or directly correlated to their “root race,” “people,” and “national soul.”
In his pivotal 1909 work Wie erlangt man Erkenntnisse der höheren Welten? Steiner wrote: “The human individual belongs to a family, a nation, a race; his actions in this world depend on his belonging to such a totality. [. . .] Indeed, in a certain sense individuals are only the executive organs of these family souls, racial spirits, and so forth. [. . .] Every individual gets his tasks, in the truest sense of the word, assigned by the family soul, the national soul, or the racial soul.” (Steiner, GA 10, Dornach 1961, pp. 199-200) 24 Toward the end of his life, Steiner again emphasized this crucial facet of anthroposophic thought: “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.” 25 Waage might consider taking at the very least a brief look at the existing scholarship on anthroposophical race theory; he will be surprised at what he’ll find there. 26
But let us return to the theme that sparked this debate in the first place: anthroposophy’s ambivalent disposition toward German fascism. In his last installment in this exchange, Waage finally comes right out and admits that he simply didn’t realize what the topic of the debate was. He writes: “Staudenmaier/Zegers ask for my comments on the connection between anthroposophy and the “green wing” of German fascism. This is one among many topics I have had to leave out.” Leave out? The connection between anthroposophy and the “green wing” of German fascism was after all the subject of “Anthroposophy and Ecofascism,” the article to which Waage was ostensibly replying. Was he genuinely confused about this all along? If so, what does it tell us about his obtuse apologia for anthroposophy’s fascist past? More unsettling still, what does it tell us about his vision of anthroposophy’s future?
Instead of addressing in even a cursory way the subject under discussion, Waage likes to keep referring to “the many anthroposophists who resisted Nazism.” In the course of his two replies he has yet to name a single example of an anthroposophist who joined the resistance to Hitler. The historical literature on anthroposophy’s relationship to National Socialism contains no such examples. Anthroposophy’s in-house historian Uwe Werner, who goes to great lengths to excuse anthroposophist collaboration with the Nazi regime, was unable to come up with a single instance of anthroposophists joining the resistance. Jens Heisterkamp, a prominent German anthroposophist, writes that “the anthroposophist movement did not produce any members of the Resistance.” 27 Undeterred by his limited knowledge of the historical context, Waage goes on to reject our characterization of Rudolf Hess as anthroposophy’s chief ally in the Third Reich. But there is no serious dispute on this point even among anthroposophist commentators. Werner’s book itself, which strenuously denies that Hess had any personal interest in anthroposophy, makes perfectly clear that Hess was the foremost protector and patron of anthroposophist activities. 28
In a last-ditch effort to show that Steiner’s political ideas were “directly opposed” to Hitler’s, Waage points to Steiner’s engagement in Upper Silesia. He couldn’t have chosen a worse example to make his case. Far from revealing Steiner’s universalist side, the anthroposophical intervention in Upper Silesia places Steiner and his followers squarely in the German nationalist camp. What Steiner advocated was temporary autonomy for the ethnically mixed province. While latter-day anthroposophists like to portray this as an anti-nationalist position, both the historical evidence and Steiner’s own pronouncements on the topic show that the very opposite was the case. Historians of the Upper Silesian conflict have long recognized that calls for “autonomy” were merely a smokescreen for nationalist agitation. Hans-Ake Persson writes: “A notion prevalent among both German and Polish nationals was that Upper Silesia should remain intact, since it was quite prosperous and was seen as an economic unit. Both groups were prepared to grant autonomy to the area. Up to this point the national groups were in agreement, yet they became unyielding when Upper Silesia’s state affiliation was to be determined. The historical region was to be preserved, while the decisive question was whether Silesia should answer to Berlin or Warsaw.” (Persson in Sven Tägil, Regions in Central Europe: The Legacy of History, London 1999, p. 223) And Elizabeth Wiskemann writes: “Many Germans hoped to save Upper Silesia from Poland by granting it autonomy within Germany.” However, she continues, “the Allies quickly rejected the autonomy idea — it would but create a German dependency, they considered.” (Wiskemann, Germany’s Eastern Neighbours, London 1956, p. 27) 29
In Steiner’s case, the plea for autonomy was intended to prevent the League of Nations from partitioning the province between Poland and Germany, which would have meant a loss of German territory. His public treatises appealed plaintively to “true German convictions” in Upper Silesia (see the pamphlet Aufruf zur Rettung Oberschlesiens, reproduced in GA 338, pp. 264-5), and his private sessions with Silesian anthroposophists emphasized that the very notion of a Polish state was “impossible” and “an illusion.” 30 Rejecting the internationally sponsored plebiscite as an affront to “the German essence,” Steiner argued that the situation demanded a spiritual solution, not a political solution. And the proper spiritual solution, of course, required “spiritual leaders” (geistige Führer), who could only come from Germany and Austria. 31 It is thus hardly surprising that anthroposophists involved in the Upper Silesian agitation simply assumed a natural German right to the province and lamented the eventual absorption of part of the territory by Poland. 32 In the words of the anthroposophist Karl Heyer, referring to the 1921 plebiscite on the future of Upper Silesia, “for the German there could be no other position than to vote in favor of Germany”. 33 This stance was repeatedly emphasized by anthroposophists and advocates of ‘social threefolding’ at the time. 34
Waage seems utterly unaware of this rather crucial fact. Once the plebiscite itself was no longer to be averted, Steiner and his followers adopted a very emphatic and forthright position in favor of voting for Germany in the referendum. In the days surrounding the League of Nations plebiscite, the editors of the threefolding newspaper declared unambiguously: “Now that the vote is taking place, the League for Social Threefolding needless to say takes the view that for every German there can be no other position than to vote for Germany.” 35 Two weeks later, the paper’s editors explained that their stance all along was to vote for Germany: “In light of the fact of the plebiscite, the League for Social Threefolding firmly adopted the position of voting for Germany when possible, and the leadership of the League answered categorically every time it was asked that every person eligible to vote in the plebiscite was of course duty-bound to vote and had to vote for Germany.” 36 In the eyes of Steiner and his followers, the anthroposophical approach of social threefolding was most appropriate to maintaining German hegemony in the region. Karl Heyer, for example, wrote in advance of the referendum: “The threefold solution to the Upper Silesian problem is better suited than any other for protecting Germany’s true interests in economic terms as well as in national terms and in state-political terms.” 37 An official statement from the League for Social Threefolding declared that social threefolding was the only way “to make it possible for Germany to escape from being strangled by the West, and to return to Germany its historical prestige.” 38 Similar statements abound within the anthroposophical literature from the period. 39 The League for Social Threefolding even published an announcement in the Frankfurter Zeitung, probably the most prominent newspaper in Germany at the time, on March 12, 1921 under the title “Social Threefolding and Upper Silesia” stating very explicitly that their position was to vote for Germany in the upcoming plebiscite.
Waage apparently believes that Steiner himself opposed this forthright advocacy of a German right to Upper Silesia. He is mistaken. Steiner’s stand on Upper Silesia confirmed his life-long conviction that German spiritual superiority entitled the Germans to territorial hegemony in eastern Europe. The anthroposophical editors of Steiner’s collected works spell this position out clearly, and verify with ample evidence that the position of the threefolding movement during the Upper Silesian campaign was indeed to vote for Germany. 40 Steiner’s followers themselves said the very same thing, quite unequivocally, about Steiner’s own stance at the time. 41 Many of Steiner’s own statements on the matter fully support this. Consider Steiner’s public lecture in Stuttgart about anthroposophy and social threefolding on May 25, 1921, where he once again countered the claims of critics of anthroposophy. Here Steiner said: “When things like this are put forth, it is no surprise to find people claiming that anthroposophy had shown its un-German and un-national aspect in its stance on the Upper Silesian question. Everybody who asked us for advice in that situation was told that whoever stands in our ranks should vote for Germany if the plebiscite comes. We never said anything different. We also said that the point is not this plebiscite, but rather establishing Upper Silesia as an integral territory that is inwardly united with the German spiritual essence.” 42
All of these facts are accessible to anyone who is willing to take the time to delve into Steiner’s works and place them into their historical context. For better or worse this task has largely been left to non-anthroposophists like us. And the further we explore Steiner’s teachings, the more insidious those teachings become. In the course of looking into Steiner’s paranoid views on World War I as a “conspiracy against German spiritual life,” for example, we came across an astonishing lecture on “the mission of white humankind” in which Steiner predicts “a violent battle of white people against colored people”. In this 1915 lecture to an anthroposophist audience in Stuttgart, Steiner explains that spiritual characteristics are tied to skin color and that non-white skin is a sign of spiritual defects that will be expunged in the coming race war. 43
Here Steiner contrasts “the European-American essence and the Asian essence,” asking: “How could people fail to notice the profound differences, in terms of spiritual culture, between the European and the Asian peoples. How could they fail to notice this differentiation, which is tied to external skin color!” (p. 35) He goes on to observe that “the Asian peoples” are beholden to the “cultural impulses of past epochs” while “the European-American peoples have advanced beyond these cultural impulses.” He then declares that it is a sign of “an unhealthy soul-life” when Europeans partake of these “lower” Asian impulses (p. 36). Steiner continues that the special role of the “Germanic peoples” is to integrate the spiritual and the physical through a “carrying down of the spiritual impulses” onto the physical plane and into the human body. “This carrying down, this thorough impregnation of the flesh by the spirit, this is characteristic of the mission, the whole mission of white humanity. People have white skin color because the spirit works within the skin when it wants to descend to the physical plane. That the external physical body will become a container for the spirit, that is the task of our fifth cultural epoch.” (p. 37) But when this task is imperfectly fulfilled, it leads to a spiritual defect which is marked by non-white skin. Steiner explains that “when the spirit is held back, when it takes on a demonic character and does not fully penetrate the flesh, then white skin color does not appear, because atavistic powers are present that do not allow the spirit to achieve complete harmony with the flesh.” (p. 38)
In order to prevent the victory of these demonic and atavistic powers that people of color embody, there will have to be a cosmic showdown between white people and non-white people. “But these things will never take place in the world without the most violent struggle. White humankind is still on the path of absorbing the spirit deeper and deeper into its own essence. Yellow humankind is on the path of conserving the era when the spirit will be kept away from the body, when the spirit will only be sought outside of the human-physical organization. But the result will have to be 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 in myriad areas. And that which precedes these battles between white and colored humankind will occupy world history until the completion of the great battles between white and colored humankind. Future events are frequently reflected in prior events. You see, we stand before something colossal that – when we understand it through spiritual science – we will in the future be able to recognize as a necessary occurrence.” (p. 38)
But Waage is unconcerned with breathtaking passages such as this, which show that anthroposophy’s racism is not a marginal afterthought but is intimately tied to its pretensions to “spiritual science.” Blissful in his ignorance, Waage continues to pretend that the evidence of Steiner’s racism is “thinner than air.” Instead of grappling with these obviously racist elements of Steiner’s doctrine himself, Waage attempts to shift the burden onto non-anthroposophists. 44 His plaintive remarks about misunderstanding Anthroposophy and Ecofascism raise a genuine concern, one that has bedeviled any number of anthroposophists outraged by our research. Waage writes of us: “If I have misunderstood them, they have to accept the responsibility.” We are glad to accept this responsibility. Anthroposophy and Ecofascism was not written for readers like Waage. It was not written for anthroposophists. It was not written for readers with limited interest in historical context, or readers who are easily swayed by appeals to sentiment. It was not written for those who feel compelled to defend Nazi collaborators, or who have dedicated their efforts to whitewashing racism and exonerating antisemitism. Those sorts of readers are bound to misunderstand critical arguments about anthroposophy. 45 The article was written instead for other readers. Above all, it was rather obviously written for non-anthroposophists. It was written for readers who understand what racism is and how it functions, who have an interest in informing themselves about the history of Nazism, and who do not find complex analysis of political ideas excessively difficult to follow.
Waage, for whatever reason, has had a notably hard time following our analysis. He thinks we have dismissed Steiner as a racist, and nothing more. He thinks we have labeled Steiner simply an antisemite, and nothing more. He thinks we have collapsed all anthroposophists into Nazis, and all Nazis into proto-environmentalists, and perhaps all environmentalists into esotericists. He thinks we have made claims about topics we have not addressed. He thinks we have failed to address topics on which we have written extensively. For example, he takes us to task for failing to comment on the report of the Dutch anthroposophist commission on Steiner and racism. We did in fact devote several pages to this topic in our original rejoinder, although they were cut from the version printed in Humanist. We very much hope readers will consult the full version of our earlier article for our views on this report and Waage’s reliance on it. But since Waage seems quite fond of the Dutch commission’s report, we are glad to comment further on its findings. 46
The Dutch report simply asserts that those anthroposophists who have interpreted Steiner’s teachings in a racist fashion have misunderstood Steiner – a convenient excuse which sheds no light whatsoever on the underlying reasons for the ongoing racism within organized anthroposophy. Aside from the irrelevant sections on contemporary discrimination law, the commission’s methodology is purely esoteric, and its annotations of the quotes from Steiner demand of the reader a suspension of critical faculties. Steiner’s supposed clairvoyance and his ideas about karma and reincarnation play an overwhelming part in their appraisal. This should come as no surprise, since all of the members of the commission belong to the Dutch Anthroposophical Society.
What is more seriously troubling is the commission’s insistence on purveying a race theory of their own. According to the Dutch report there are different human races with different physical, mental, cultural and spiritual capacities. The authors posit “great differences between the human races” (p. 206) and state that “people of below average development” must incarnate in “lower races” (p. 207). They also claim, for example, that technology was developed by the “Caucasian race” (p. 210). Moreover, the commission declares more than once that non-anthroposophists and people who do not share a spiritual conception of reality (“materialists” in their vocabulary) are simply incapable of judging Steiner’s work. This absurd stance obviously cancels whatever worth the study might have had for those outside the cult of Rudolf Steiner.
The commission’s own epistemological framework is astonishingly primitive, even by anthroposophist standards. In an effort to turn Steiner’s frequent unintelligibility into a virtue, they inform us that when Steiner contradicted himself over and over again he was simply trying to get at the truth from different angles. This is a foolish pretext for the commission’s failure to do any hermeneutic work of its own. A sympathetic reading of Steiner’s work is one thing, willful ignorance quite another – especially in light of the commission’s notorious ‘argument’ (really a mere assumption) that Steiner’s scattered anti-racist comments both absolve and negate his much more numerous racist remarks. To make this implausible claim stick, they would need to advance some interpretive agenda, some explanatory model for making sense of Steiner’s incoherence. But they never do so, leaving the Janus face entirely intact while simply avoiding one of its several sides.
Nor does the commission fare any better in its examination of the historical context. The Dutch report discusses both Blavatsky and Haeckel, the latter in some detail, and notes that Steiner’s theory of evolution was an amalgam of these two disconcerting pedigrees, but never says a word about either Blavatsky’s or Haeckel’s shameful politics. The continuities between Haeckel’s acute racism and nationalism and Steiner’s variations on the same theme are never addressed. Despite Haeckel’s acknowledged status as Germany’s foremost Social Darwinist in Steiner’s era, the commission claims that Steiner’s own theory is not a form of Social Darwinism because it does not posit a natural mechanism of evolution. Instead Steiner held that racial groups die out because, in the commission’s words, “a further development of the soul was no longer possible.” (p. 98) Why this repugnant version of spiritualized racism should be preferable to Haeckel’s ‘materialist’ version is a question the commission declines to consider. Having endorsed Steiner’s spiritual schema of racial decline and advance, the Dutch report makes various pathetic attempts to explain away even Steiner’s most obviously offensive rantings about “racial odors” or the link between blondeness and intelligence: anyone who considers such abysmal nonsense to be racist, the commission tells us, is simply trapped in materialist thinking.
Undoubtedly the most celebrated of the commission’s findings is that “only” eighty-three quotes by Steiner, out of a total output of 350 volumes, are potentially racist. 47 It goes without saying that a crudely quantitative approach is completely out of place here, but that is hardly the worst of the report’s troubles. 48 Contrary to the repeated implication that these excerpts represent insignificant marginalia, the quotes in question are central passages from Steiner’s principal works, on a crucial aspect of anthroposophy’s cosmology: racial categories as a reflection of spiritual hierarchies. They are also substantial and lengthy passages; a full third of the 147 Steiner quotes that the commission examines in detail are multiple paragraphs or multiple pages. But the most amazing thing about the Dutch report is what it omits. Whereas the commission evidently included every last supposedly anti-racist fragment from Steiner that they could dig up, they deliberately excluded all of his writings on the root-race theory. They justify this incredible step with the absurd presumption that when Steiner wrote about “root races” he really meant chronological epochs, not racial groups, a claim which is immediately belied, on grammatical grounds alone, by every sentence Steiner wrote on the topic.
More striking still is the omission of Steiner’s assorted antisemitic diatribes and his comparable fulminations against the French, English, Slavs, and so on. 49 And although the Dutch report reviews the development of Austrian pan-Germanism, and in the same chapter cites volume 31 of Steiner’s collected works, it never so much as mentions Steiner’s own pan-German propaganda that is so copiously represented in the same volume. Categorically ignoring this unequivocal and massive textual evidence, the commission repeats the ridiculous refrain that Steiner “rejected every form of nationalism.” (p. 93) This sort of conspicuous hypocrisy cannot possibly be due to mere sloppiness or selective reading; it is unmistakable evidence of bad faith and conscious deception. Last but scarcely least, the Dutch report miraculously fails to make any mention of several indisputably racist statements by Steiner that we have stumbled across in our own reading of his collected works, for example his crazed assertion that “concepts hurt the Asian’s brain” or his shocking discourse on non-white skin as a sign of spiritual imperfection and the consequent “violent battle of white humanity against colored humanity” that we quoted above. In both cases the report quotes, several times, the same volumes that contain these extraordinary sentences. How did such unambiguous passages manage to escape the learned commission’s attention?
The net result is a report that is both incomplete and incoherent: it excludes an enormous proportion of Steiner’s racist writings, while nevertheless reproducing dozens of other racist passages from his works, and still denies that a single racist statement ever issued from Steiner’s pen. In light of all of these easily recognizable shortcomings, whose severity is such that they cumulatively form a devastating indictment of the both the Dutch report and its authors, Waage’s esteem for this document is decidedly misplaced. To anyone who has tried to come to terms with Steiner’s teachings on race, Waage’s enthusiasm for the Dutch report merely confirms his hopelessly naïve approach to the subject. Despite the unabashedly exculpatory thrust of the tendentious study that Waage respects so highly, the report has led to a split in the Dutch Anthroposophical Society; the more fundamentalist faction has left the Society and is now trying to start a new one. This is hardly the sort of critical self-examination that the report was supposed to spark. Perhaps someday the closed world of anthroposophy will open itself up to honest scrutiny.
Until that day arrives, newcomers to anthroposophy will have to settle for the evasions and equivocations of those like Waage who hope to protect anthroposophist orthodoxy by sticking their heads in the sand. Waage’s apologetics perfectly embody the uncritical, unreflective and ahistorical approach to Steiner’s doctrines that we have unfortunately come to expect from anthroposophists and their defenders. Mistaking credulousness for respectfulness, Waage has done a distinct disservice to anthroposophists and non-anthroposophists alike. Although our exchange with Waage is finished, the debate on anthroposophy’s past and present is far from over. We are gratified to see that this debate has spread to Sweden, the United States, and beyond, and are also disappointed that it has frequently proven impossible to involve anthroposophists in a genuine dialogue because our arguments are so often met only with angry accusations and indignant denials. We hope that by illuminating the hidden sides of anthroposophy’s Janus face, we have given non-anthroposophists reason to question anthroposophy’s “progressive” credentials. And as independent critical inquiry into Steiner’s political legacy continues, we hope that interested readers will begin their own examination of that legacy.
1. Waage’s “New Myths about Rudolf Steiner” can be found here: http://uncletaz.com/waage/waagenglish2.html
2. Many of the issues Waage raises in his latest reply have already been answered in the full version of our first response to him, “Anthroposophy and its Defenders,” as well as in the greatly shortened version of that essay published in Humanist 4/2000. We would once again like to urge readers to consult that essay for a much more detailed refutation of Waage’s arguments.
3. Steiner, Mein Lebensgang, Dornach 1925, p. 301. We can certainly understand that Waage would prefer to discuss The Philosophy of Freedom, but his contention that this early work is more central to anthroposophy than the mature anthroposophist works is clearly wide of the mark. The Philosophy of Freedom was published in 1893, eight years before Steiner’s turn to theosophy and twenty years before the founding of the Anthroposophical Society. Steiner’s attitude toward theosophy in the 1890s was scathingly critical; see e.g. his 1897 essay “Theosophen” in Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Literatur (GA 32), pp. 194-6, or the very similar essays from 1891 and 1892 in Steiner, Methodische Grundlagen der Anthroposophie (GA 30), pp. 493-495 and 510-511. A decade later, Steiner made these very same ideas, which in the 1890s he had so harshly criticized, the centerpiece of his mature anthroposophical teachings.
4. Consider, for example, Waage’s own preferred Steiner text, The Philosophy of Freedom, which Waage imagines to be the very foundation of “anti-racist engagement.” The book contains the following remarkable passage: “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.” Rather than digging around for some other Steiner quote that sounds nicer to Waage’s ear, why not simply deal straightforwardly with the problematic facets of Steiner’s thought?
5. The 1882 Linz Program, the founding manifesto of Austrian pan-Germanism, did not call for unification of Germany and Austria but for closer economic and political ties, including a customs union and a strengthened military alliance. One of the foremost divisions within the late nineteenth century pan-German movement was the rivalry between großdeutsch and kleindeutsch (greater German and lesser German) nationalists; this basic divide was further complicated by the fact that these two terms often had divergent meanings for pan-Germanists in Austria and in Germany. Although he was Austrian and thus a Habsburg subject, Steiner’s maudlin paeans to the Hohenzollern dynasty seem to indicate that his own sympathies were pro-Prussian. For historical context see the chapter on “Deutschnationalismus” in Albert Fuchs, Geistige Strömungen in Österreich 1867-1918, Vienna 1949; for a brief overview in English see Arthur May, The Hapsburg Monarchy 1867-1914, New York 1968, pp. 210-212.
6. This quixotic conviction appears to be, once again, anchored in a remarkable level of political naiveté. Regarding what he calls “the third way,” for example, Waage writes: “Do you become a fascist by searching for an alternative to American commercialism and Russian/Soviet collectivism?” He has evidently never even heard of the “Third Position,” one of the most potent streams within the contemporary neo-fascist scene. We would likely to gently suggest that he acquaint himself with it.
7. Without belaboring the point, or questioning Waage’s comprehension of German, it must be noted that several of his readings are simply inscrutable. Consider the passage from Steiner’s autobiography which refers, in Waage’s rendering, to Steiner’s “friends who, in connection with the national struggle, had come under the influence of anti-Semitism.” Is this something other than Steiner’s “friends from the national struggle”? If so, why is Waage unable to explain what that difference might be? To put the matter bluntly: Why did he waste a paragraph confirming our translation, apparently convinced that he was refuting it?
8. According to the Tysk blå ordbok (Third edition, Gerd Paulsen, Kunnskapsforlaget, Oslo 1998), “Anteil nehmen” means “ta del i” (to take part in). Our correct translation is confirmed by the authorized English translation of Steiner’s autobiography, which renders the passage thus: “I took an interested part in the struggle which the Germans in Austria were then carrying on in behalf of their national existence.” (Steiner, The Course of My Life, New York 1951, p. 142.) The Italian translation fully confirms this as well: “in quel tempo, prendendo io parte viva alla lotta che i Tedeschi avevano da sostenere in Austria per la loro esistenza nazionale” (Steiner, La Mia Vita, Milan 1937, p. 147); “prendere parte,” particularly with the modifier “viva,” means direct involvement and active participation. Moreover, the full version of our first reply to Waage clearly noted the possibility of alternative translations of this passage, so his suggestion that our translation was intentionally misleading is quite preposterous. Waage is also very confused about the edition of Steiner’s book cited in our reply; he now thinks that we quoted the “German pocketbook edition”. In fact, as anyone who cares to consult our original reply can plainly see, we cited the original 1925 edition of Mein Lebensgang. This is quite obviously not the same edition as the pocketbook version published sixty-five years later. We must ask again: How could Waage possibly have been befuddled about this?
9. “Mit um so grösserer Begeisterung verschrieben wir uns der aufstrebenden deutsch-nationalen Bewegung.” Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte 1887-1901 (GA 31), p. 361.
10. Gerhard Wehr, Rudolf Steiner, Freiburg 1982, p. 68; Wehr also notes somewhat laconically that Steiner’s “essays from this period betray certain sympathies for the pan-German movement in the Danube monarchy” (p. 82). For the historical context see the excellent treatment by Pieter Judson, “When is a diaspora not a diaspora? Rethinking nation-centered narratives about Germans in Habsburg East Central Europe” in Krista O’Donnell, Renate Bridenthal, and Nancy Reagin, editors, The Heimat Abroad: The Boundaries of Germanness (University of Michigan Press 2005).
11. Christoph Lindenberg, Rudolf Steiner: Eine Biographie, Stuttgart 1997, p. 61: “Steiner selbst rechnete sich zu dieser Bewegung,” namely the “deutsch-national” movement. Lindenberg further notes that “Steiner was active in this movement well beyond the usual level of involvement,” observing that Steiner served in a variety of official positions in a pan-German student organization (p. 62). Lindenberg’s biography also devotes an entire chapter to Steiner’s stint as editor of the pan-German newspaper Deutsche Wochenschrift; see chapter 9, “Der Redakteur — Ein Ausflug in die Politik”. For a description of the crucial role of the Deutsche Wochenschrift as the mouthpiece of radical German nationalism in Austria, see William McGrath, Dionysian Art and Populist Politics in Austria, New Haven 1974, pp. 201-206.
12. In another work, Kann traces the “tremendous ideological influence” of Austrian pan-Germanism on National Socialism (Kann, The Multinational Empire: Nationalism and National Reform in the Habsburg Monarchy 1848-1918, New York 1964, vol. 1 p. 98), and points to the pan-Germans’ “policy of national raving, charging any moderate national policy with betrayal of the cause of the German people” (p. 100). That description perfectly fits much of Steiner’s journalism in the 1880’s. Roger Chickering also describes one of the main ideological motifs of pan-Germanism: “Pan-Germans embraced the belief that the Aryans had stood at the top in the natural hierarchy of races and that the distinction of being the least polluted survivor of the Aryans belonged to the Germanic (or Nordic) race, of which the Germans made up the principal part.” (Chickering, We Men Who Feel Most German: A Cultural Study of the Pan-German League 1886-1914, London 1984, p. 242)
13. These facts are very easy to find throughout the existing historical literature; for further examples see among others Jörg Kirchhoff, Die Deutschen in der österreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie, Berlin 2001.
14. Waage also puts in a good word for Steiner’s reactionary mythology of Mitteleuropa, rather incongruously comparing it to the trans-European “third way” movements during the cold war. The historically nonsensical comparison aside, Waage has misunderstood Steiner’s stance. The ideology of Mitteleuropa took various forms, but Steiner’s position clearly fit the criteria of what one historian calls “the nationalistic perspective of a German historical mission” (Lonnie Johnson, Central Europe: Enemies, Neighbors, Friends, Oxford 1996, p. 169). Johnson remarks: “Frequently based upon the idea of German ‘colonization’ on the Continent, this version of Mitteleuropa appealed to a broad spectrum of radical conservatives, romantic Pan-Germans, and antimodern agrarianists in Wilhelmine Germany.” (ibid. p. 170) There is a substantial literature on this very question, and Waage would do well to familiarize himself with it; among other discussions of the political ramifications of Mitteleuropa ideology see Henry Meyer, Mitteleuropa in German thought and action 1815-1945 (The Hague 1955); Jörg Brechtefeld, Mitteleuropa and German politics: 1848 to the present (New York 1996); Fritz Fischer, Weltmacht oder Niedergang: Deutschland im ersten Weltkrieg (Frankfurt 1965), pp. 14-19, 45-49, 70-73; Roger Chickering, Imperial Germany and the Great War, 1914-1918 (Cambridge 2004), pp. 86-87; David Blackbourn, The Long Nineteenth Century: A History of Germany, 1780-1918 (Cambridge 1998), pp. 362-63; Jürgen Elvert, Mitteleuropa: Deutsche Pläne zur europäischen Neuordnung 1918-1954 (Stuttgart 1999).
15. Once again, Waage has had an extraordinarily difficult time comprehending our argument on this point. He thinks we wrote simply that “Steiner was an antisemite.” In reality, from the beginning we have emphasized Steiner’s ambivalence toward Jews and his confused attitude toward antisemitism. Steiner’s stance on the “Jewish question” did not directly align him with Hitler, who sought the biological elimination of Jews, but with the mainstream of German antisemitism, which sought the cultural, ethnic, and spiritual elimination of Jews.
16. Itta Shedletzky, “Ludwig Jacobowski und Jakob Loewenberg” in Stephane Moses and Albrecht Schöne (ed.), Juden in der deutschen Literatur, Frankfurt 1986, p. 197. Emphasizing the same point, Jacobowski’s friend Anselma Heine wrote: “In order to earn a living, he [Jacobowski] continued to work in the office of a society dedicated to the preservation of Jewry. There as well he had long since been a mere assistant, no longer a believer.” (Heine quoted in Shedletzky, p. 200) This is fully confirmed by anthroposophist sources as well; see Walter Stoll, “Zur hundersten Wiederkehr des Geburtstages von Ludwig Jacobowski” Die Drei January 1968, p. 29. In the version of our earlier reply to Waage printed in Humanist 4/2000, we mistakenly reported that Jacobowski worked for the Vienna branch of the Verein. In fact, he worked for the parent organization in Berlin. For extensive background on the Verein and its attitudes toward Jewishness and antisemitism see Barbara Suchy, “The Verein zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus” in Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 28 (1983) pp. 205-239 (see pp. 214-215 in particular on Jacobowski and Steiner), and Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 30 (1985), pp. 67-103; and Ismar Schorsch, Jewish Reactions to German Anti-Semitism 1870-1914, New York 1972, particularly chapter 3.
17. On Jacobowski’s passionate German nationalism, see Shedletzky, op. cit., and from a perspective sympathetic to Steiner, see Fred Stern, Ludwig Jacobowski, Darmstadt 1966. Both Shedletzky and Stern give ample evidence of Jacobowski’s super-patriotic rejection of his own Jewishness. Cf. also the superb article by Jonathan Hess, “Fictions of a German-Jewish Public: Ludwig Jacobowski’s Werther the Jew and Its Readers” Jewish Social Studies Vol. 11, No. 2, Winter 2005, pp. 202-230.
18. Steiner quoted in Shedletzky, p. 200. Neither of Steiner’s lengthy obituaries of Jacobowski mentions his Jewish origins (see Steiner, GA 32, pp. 92-104); instead they emphasize his devotion to “German spiritual life” (p. 92).
19. Indeed Waage’s whole understanding of assimilationism is historically oblivious, and as a consequence he has totally misunderstood the perspective of liberal assimilationist Jews, which was the exact opposite of Steiner’s stance. Liberal assimilationist Jews in Steiner’s era worked toward the preservation of Jewish identity within German society, while Steiner advocated the elimination of Jewish identity from German society. For basic treatments of the issue see among others David Sorkin, “Emancipation and Assimilation: Two Concepts and their Application to German-Jewish History” in Leo Baeck Institute Year Book, vol. 35 (1990), pp. 17-33; Michael Meyer, “German Jewry’s Path to Normality and Assimilation” in Rainer Liedtke and David Rechter (ed.), Towards Normality? Acculturation and Modern German Jewry, Tübingen 2003; Jehuda Reinharz, Fatherland or Promised Land: The Dilemma of the German Jew, 1893-1914, Ann Arbor 1975; Uriel Tal, Christians and Jews in Germany, London 1975; Alfred Low, Jews in the Eyes of the Germans, Philadelphia 1979; Donald Niewyk, The Jews in Weimar Germany, Baton Rouge 1980; Paul Mendes-Flohr, German Jews: A Dual Identity, New Haven 1999; Hans-Joachim Salecker, Der Liberalismus und die Erfahrung der Differenz: Über die Bedingungen der Integration der Juden in Deutschland, Berlin 1999; Michael Marrus, “European Jewry and the Politics of Assimilation” Journal of Modern History vol. 49 (1977), pp. 89-109; Reinhard Rürup, “German Liberalism and the Emancipation of the Jews” Leo Baeck Institute Year Book, vol. 20 (1975), pp. 59-68.
20. See Bruce Pauley, From Prejudice to Persecution: A History of Austrian Anti-Semitism, Chapel Hill 1992, pp. 29-30, and George Mosse, Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism, Madison 1985, p. 61. On the general contours of assimilationist antisemitism see among others Paul Massing, Rehearsal for Destruction, New York 1967, pp. 76-77; Kurt Lenk, ‘Der Antisemitismusstreit oder Antisemitismus der gebildeten Leute’, in Hans Horch (ed.), Judentum, Antisemitismus und europäische Kultur, Tübingen 1988; George Mosse, Germans and Jews, Detroit 1987, chapter 3; Roderick Stackelberg, Idealism Debased: From Völkisch Ideology to National Socialism, pp. 90-91; and Donald Niewyk, “Solving the “Jewish Problem”: Continuity and Change in German Antisemitism, 1871-1945”, Leo Baeck Institute Year Book, vol. 35 (1990), pp. 335-370.
21. Steiner, “Vom Wesen des Judentums” in Steiner, Die Geschichte der Menschheit und die Weltanschauungen der Kulturvölker, Dornach 1968, p. 190.
22. Ibid., p. 189.
23. In a further striking instance of Steiner’s Janus face, his early and late antisemitic periods were separated by a brief phase in which he sincerely struggled to comprehend antisemitism as a social force and forthrightly condemned it. The half-dozen articles he published on the topic in the wake of Jacobowski’s death reveal a crude and confused approach to the problem; overall they constitute a well-intentioned but failed attempt to understand antisemitism. And while they criticize antisemitism, these articles simultaneously celebrate “the great cultural mission” of “the German people” (Steiner, GA 31, p. 418). These essays, which apologists like to seize on as if they represented Steiner’s considered views on the matter, were all published within a four month period in 1901. It is, once again, quite understandable that Waage prefers to focus on this aspect of Steiner, but such a skewed perspective is of no help in understanding Steiner’s biography or intellectual development. The handful of articles that he wrote during this time must be contrasted with his straightforwardly antisemitic works, such as this infamous declaration from 1888: “Jewry as such has long since outlived its time; it has no more justification within the modern life of peoples, and the fact that it continues to exist is a mistake of world history whose consequences are unavoidable. We do not mean the forms of the Jewish religion alone, but above all the spirit of Jewry, the Jewish way of thinking.” (Steiner, GA 32, p. 152) Remarkably, Waage himself quotes from this very same essay, Steiner’s adulatory review of Robert Hamerling’s antisemitic satire Homunkulus. Steiner’s essay concludes with a five-page attack on unnamed Jewish critics of Hamerling who are, according to Steiner, “necessarily prejudiced” and incapable of “an objective evaluation of the book” (p. 153). We suggest that any effort to fathom Steiner’s conflicted views on the “Jewish question” must take account of both sides of the Janus face.
24. In the authorized English translation of the book, the passage reads as follows: “The person belongs to a family, a nation, a race; his activity in this world depends upon his belonging to some such community. […] Indeed, in a certain sense the separate individuals are merely the executive organs of these family group souls, racial spirits, and so on. […] In the truest sense, everyone receives his allotted task from his family, national, or racial group soul.” Steiner, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment, New York 1961, pp. 239-241.
25. Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde (GA 349), Dornach 1980, p. 52. The quote is from 1923.
26. We recommend, once again, above all Helmut Zander, “Sozialdarwinistische Rassentheorien aus dem okkulten Untergrund des Kaiserreichs” in Uwe Puschner, Walter Schmitz & Justus H. Ulbricht (eds.), Handbuch zur “Völkischen Bewegung” 1871-1918, Munich 1996. The patently racist aspects of Steiner’s teachings do not necessarily mean that all varieties of anthroposophy must be racist; instead they mean that contemporary anthroposophists need to come to terms with the unpleasant side of the Janus face if they want to avoid adopting racist assumptions into their belief system. Zander writes: “Steiner’s work is, in the final analysis, marked by an unsystematized ambivalence in which incompatible and contradictory elements remain side by side. Whether or not anthroposophy is interpreted in a racist manner thereby depends on the interests of the reader. The reception history offers evidence for both readings.” (p. 246) We have, of course, noted anthroposophy’s political ambiguity all along. Although Waage charges us with “extreme ill will” toward Steiner, our ill will is directed solely against the reactionary political implications of Steiner’s anthroposophy.
27. See Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, Munich 1999, and Heisterkamp’s review of Werner’s book in Info3 April 1999. Since Waage’s field is journalism, not history, it would be unfair of us to hold him personally accountable for his unfamiliarity with the scholarship on anthroposophy during the Third Reich. But we do think he ought to take some responsibility for the numerous factual errors in his first reply. To choose just one example, Waage originally claimed that the Nazis tried to assassinate Steiner in 1922. After we showed this claim to be wildly inaccurate, Waage now retreats into quibbling with our description of the hotel where the 1922 incident took place. It is difficult to take his shifting position on this point seriously, since Waage plainly had no idea what he was talking about in the first place. We think it would make a genuine debate easier and more fruitful if anthroposophists and their defenders would take a moment to examine the historical evidence for our arguments before dismissing them.
28. For a fuller discussion of Hess’s personal relationship to anthroposophy, see Peter Staudenmaier, “The Art of Denying History” in Communalism 2008. Waage’s laughable contention that J. W. Hauer was the source of our arguments regarding Hess indicates that his grasp of the research on Hess is tenuous at best. Hauer spent his time harassing not just anthroposophists, but all religious groupings other than his own marginal sect. Not one of the numerous scholars who have confirmed Hess’s pronounced anthroposophist predilections draws on Hauer’s primitive propaganda in any way. On the 1941 campaign by Hess’s Nazi rivals to blame his unexpected flight to Britain on anthroposophical and other occult influences, see Kurt Pätzold and Manfred Weißbecker, Rudolf Hess: Der Mann an Hitlers Seite, Leipzig 1999, pp. 269-71; Hauer is not mentioned anywhere. Similarly, Rainer Schmidt’s account of the same events makes no mention of Hauer; see Schmidt, Rudolf Hess, Düsseldorf 1997. Himmler’s official log covering the Hess crisis does not refer to Hauer either; see Der Dienstkalender Heinrich Himmlers 1941/42, Hamburg 1999. For a thorough examination of Hauer’s relationship with anthroposophy see the fine study by Horst Junginger, Von der philologischen zur völkischen Religionswissenschaft: Das Fach Religionswissenschaft an der Universität Tübingen von der Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts bis zum Ende des Dritten Reiches, Stuttgart 1999. According to Junginger’s detailed account, Hauer did not depict Hess as an anthroposophist, but as a victim of anthroposophist machinations; see e.g. pp. 204-211. Junginger furthermore emphasizes Hess’s crucial support for and defense of anthroposophist projects in Nazi Germany; see e.g. pp. 202-204.
29. Such basic historical information is not difficult to locate. Readers who find Waage’s version of events plausible may wish to consult the following studies: F. Gregory Campbell, “The Struggle for Upper Silesia, 1919-1922” Journal of Modern History vol. 42 no. 3 (1970), 361-385; T. Hunt Tooley, National Identity and Weimar Germany: Upper Silesia and the Eastern Border, 1918 – 1922 (University of Nebraska Press 1997); Tooley, “The Polish-German Ethnic Dispute and the 1921 Upper Silesian Plebiscite” Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism 24 (1997), 13-20; Tooley, “German Political Violence and the Border Plebiscite in Upper Silesia, 1919-1921” Central European History vol. 21 no. 1 (1988), 56-98; Richard Blanke, “Upper Silesia 1921: The Case for Subjective Nationality” Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism 2 (1975), 241-260; Richard Tims, Germanizing Prussian Poland (Columbia University Press 1941); Ralph Schattkowsky, Deutschland und Polen von 1918/19 bis 1925, Frankfurt 1994, 48-94; Kai Struve, ed., Oberschlesien nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg: Studien zum nationalen Konflikt und seiner Erinnerung (Marburg 2003); Günther Doose, Die separatistische Bewegung in Oberschlesien nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg (Wiesbaden 1987); Waldemar Grosch, Deutsche und polnische Propaganda während der Volksabstimmung in Oberschlesien 1919 – 1921 (Dortmund 2002); Roland Baier, Der deutsche Osten als soziale Frage (Cologne 1980), 127-147.
30. Steiner, Wie wirkt man für den Impuls der Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus?, GA 338, Dornach 1986, p. 213.
31. ibid. pp. 226 and 234. These same 1921 lectures to Silesian anthroposophists, by the way, controvert Waage’s foolish claim that Steiner repudiated his 1915 work Gedanken während der Zeit des Krieges. For Steiner’s wholehearted re-affirmation of his earlier nationalist screed, see GA 338, pp. 228-9. We must also note, unfortunately, that Waage has misrepresented his own stated source on this point. Christoph Lindenberg’s 1997 biography Rudolf Steiner, p. 581, says more or less the opposite of what Waage claims it says. Here we read that after the war Steiner forcefully rejected criticism of his 1915 tract and insisted that the pamphlet had been correct; his post-war embarrassment at the possibility of it being republished stemmed solely, Lindenberg tells us, from the fact that in 1915 Steiner fully expected Germany to win the war. It is very difficult to see how Waage might have misunderstood Lindenberg’s account on this score. Steiner’s followers continued to promote Gedanken während der Zeit des Krieges after Steiner’s death; it is listed, for example, as one of the “basic works of Rudolf Steiner” in Karl Heyer, Wie man gegen Rudolf Steiner kämpft, Stuttgart 1932, and is reprinted in full in Roman Boos, ed., Rudolf Steiner während des Weltkrieges, Dornach 1933.
32. See, for example, Hans Kühn, Dreigliederungs-Zeit. Rudolf Steiners Kampf für die Gesellschaftsordnung der Zukunft, Dornach 1978, pp. 125-127.
33. Karl Heyer, Wie man gegen Rudolf Steiner kämpft, Stuttgart 1932, p. 84.
34. The Upper Silesian campaign brought to the fore the German cultural nationalist emphasis that had been part of Steiner’s social threefolding all along. Throughout 1920 and 1921 the threefolding newspaper Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus routinely carried articles with titles like “Der Ausverkauf Deutschlands” declaring that threefolding is the only path to “the salvation of the German Volk” and warning against allowing “our German Volk” to “fall prey to foreign influences” while emphasizing the spiritual differences between Slavs and Germans and propounding the German mission of bringing true enlightenment to Eastern European peoples and so on. The 1921 reporting on Upper Silesia in Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, meanwhile, constantly ridiculed Polish claims in the territory and condemned German politicians for failing to take a hard line in the negotiations over the province. Once partition was decided, the threefolders thundered against its specifics, pointing out that the League of Nations plan meant the loss of significant German economic resources to Poland, all part of the West’s strategy of strangling Germany, in anthroposophists’ eyes. This is what Steiner’s theory looked like in practice.
35. “Zusatz der Schriftleitung”, Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 38 (March 22, 1921) p. 3.
36. Die Schriftleitung, “Dreigliederung und Oberschlesien” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 40 (April 5, 1921), p. 3.
37. Heyer, “Der Weg zur Lösung der oberschlesischen Frage” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 31 (January 1921), p. 3.Heyer says nothing similar about Polish interests.
38. Bund für Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, “Die Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus und die oberschlesische Frage”, Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 36 (March 8, 1921), p. 4. The threefolders go on to write: “In the current situation, the Upper Silesian economy with its raw materials that are essential to the German economy can only be saved for German economic life if they are separated from political factors and made autonomous.” This was the driving force behind Steiner’s stance.
39. Prominent anthroposophist Roman Boos, for example, insisted that critics of social threefolding efforts in Upper Silesia were simply tools of the Entente promoting the anti-German spirit of the Versailles treaty. See Boos, “Wer verrät das Deutschtum?” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 38 (March 22, 1921), pp. 2-3. After the partition plan was put into effect, Ernst Uehli bemoaned the fact that failure to adopt a threefold solution had led to Germany’s loss of the economically precious portions of Upper Silesia: “Instead of threefolding, which would have meant saving Upper Silesia for Germany, the opposite is now taking place.” Uehli, “Ereignisse der Woche” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 49 (June 7, 1921), p. 2. Germany’s loss of part of Upper Silesia to Poland continued to agitate Uehli, who viewed this unfortunate outcome as a ruse by the “Western powers” to create for themselves a “mighty economic position” in Eastern Europe and thus stifle Germany’s rightful role there. Months after the League of Nations plebiscite, Uehli was still complaining: “A crucially significant part of German industry and raw materials is being given politically to bankrupt Poland.” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 3 no. 18 (3 Nov 1921). A decade after the Upper Silesian campaign, Ernst von Hippel, a well-known anthroposophist, advocate of social threefolding, and fan of Nazism, looked back on the events of 1921, still outraged that a portion of the province went to Poland rather than Germany. After ranting about the Entente, Versailles, Wilson, the League of Nations, and especially the French, von Hippel characterized Poland as “an Asiatic despotism” and deplored the tragic fact that German populations were now forced to live under Polish rule. Ernst von Hippel, Oberschlesien, Königsberg 1931.
40. The anthroposophical editors write: “Silesian friends of Rudolf Steiner’s threefolding idea had tried to advocate social threefolding to a broad audience as a solution to the problem, in order to save Upper Silesia from the disastrous consequences of the plebiscite they had been forced into in 1921, but with the additional recommendation that in case the plebiscite occurred, the only possible vote was a vote for Germany.” (Rudolf Steiner, Die Verantwortung des Menschen für die Weltentwickelung, GA 203, Dornach 1989, p. 337) In another volume dedicated to the charges raised by various opponents of anthroposophy during Steiner’s lifetime, the editors provide a thorough summary of the Upper Silesian threefolding campaign. Here is what they write: “The threefolding league sought to postpone the decision about the final status of Upper Silesia and thus hoped to annul the plebiscite. With this step it hoped to create the possibility of realizing threefolding on a limited scale.” They then quote extensively from Steiner’s “Call to Save Upper Silesia,” and continue: “In case this ideal solution [full-scale social threefolding according to anthroposophist terms] should turn out to be unrealizable, and in case the plebiscite was thus to be carried out anyway, the representatives of the Threefolding League adopted a pro-German position, one which they naturally did not propagate to the outside world, for the sake of their preferred solution.” (Rudolf Steiner, Die Anthroposophie und ihre Gegner, GA 255b, Dornach 2003, pp. 555-556) Walter Kugler, director of the Rudolf Steiner Archive in Dornach, explicitly confirms this point; see pp. 12-13 in Kugler, “Polnisch oder Deutsch? Oberschlesien, ein Schulbeispiel für die Notwendigkeit der Dreigliederung” Beiträge zur Rudolf Steiner Gesamtausgabe 93 (1986). Kugler emphasizes that the anthroposophist campaign in Upper Silesia always told residents to “vote for Germany” in the plebiscite, and moreover quotes Steiner saying the same thing.
41. Two years after the plebiscite, anthroposophists returned to the topic. In a February 1923 discussion with Steiner and other anthroposophists and threefolding activists, including those involved in the Upper Silesian campaign, anthroposophist Hans Büchenbacher reported: “During the struggles around the plebiscite in Upper Silesia, many anthroposophist public speakers in Germany presented threefolding as the peaceful solution and the only healthy solution to the problem, whereupon accusations of treason appeared in the press. Our speakers were able to rebuff these accusations. After all, they could simply point to the fact that if it came to a plebiscite, the threefolders would of course vote for Germany, and that Dr. Steiner himself said this clearly.” (Rudolf Steiner, Das Schicksalsjahr 1923 in der Geschichte der Anthroposophischen Gesellschaft, GA 259, Dornach 1991, p. 389) Steiner was one of the next participants to speak and did not in any way modify or correct or deny Büchenbacher’s unambiguous description, nor did any of the Silesian anthroposophist participants.
42. Rudolf Steiner, Die Anthroposophie und ihre Gegner, p. 328.
43. The lecture can be found in Rudolf Steiner, Die geistigen Hintergründe des Ersten Weltkrieges, Dornach, 1974 (GA 174b) pp. 30-54. As far as we have been able to determine, no English translation of this book has been published. The lecture in question, however, has been translated under anthroposophical auspices, but not made public; it circulates instead among anthroposophists in typescript form. A copy of the typescript can be found at the Rudolf Steiner Library in Ghent, New York, for example, under the following title: Rudolf Steiner, “The Christ-Impulse as Bearer of the Union of the Spiritual and the Bodily”, typescript marked “For Members of the Anthroposophical Society”, translated by M. Cotterell. In order for readers to be able to assess our translation of Steiner’s words in this instance, here is the central relevant passage as it appears in this anthroposophical translation: “And what is the characteristic that must particularly develop in this fifth culture-epoch? It is one that was kindled through the Mystery of Golgotha, namely that spiritual impulses have been led down right into the directly physically-human, that as it were the flesh must be laid hold of by the spirit. It has not yet happened. It will not happen till Spiritual Science has one day spread more widely over the earth and many more men bring it to expression in direct life, until, one could say, the spirit comes to expression in every movement of hand, of finger, in the most everyday affairs. But it was for the sake of bringing down the spiritual impulse that Christ became flesh in a human body. And the characteristic of the mission of white humanity in general is to carry down the spirit, 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. The task of our fifth culture-epoch, prepared through the preceding four epochs, is to make the outer physical body a shrine for the spirit. We must acquaint ourselves with those cultural impulses which show the tendency to bring the spirit into the flesh, into everyday matters. When we quite recognise this, then we shall also be clear that where 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, takes a demonic character and does not completely permeate the flesh, there the white skin does not appear. Atavistic forces are present which do not let the spirit come into complete harmony with the flesh. In the sixth post-Atlantean Culture epoch the task will be to know the spirit as something hovering in the surroundings, to recognise the spirit more in the elemental world, because that epoch must prepare the knowledge of the spirit in the physical environment. That could not easily come about if ancient atavistic forces were not preserved which recognise the spirit in its purely elemental life. 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 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.”
44. Waage’s peculiar insistence that critics of anthroposophy must adopt a properly reverential attitude toward Steiner before they dare to assess his public activities is typical of anthroposophist beliefs. This basic misunderstanding of the function of public debate is the reason Waage finds the notion of political critique so utterly foreign; witness in particular his dilettantish musings on the question of ecofascism. Waage is simply unable to imagine that an ecological activist could “confront the excrescences of the movement that he himself belongs to.” In authentic and intellectually vibrant social movements like the ecology movement, serious issues are discussed and debated openly, passionately, and honestly. Many ecological activists recognize that while topics such as ecofascism may be uncomfortable, a sincere dialogue on contentious matters is essential to any open civic endeavor. The anthroposophist movement, in contrast, seems nearly incapable of sustaining any informed debate on its own history. The various well-founded and historically researched political criticisms of anthroposophy that have been brought forward in the past decade and a half have provoked little more than defensiveness and denial, as if hiding from the facts would somehow make them go away. This is, indeed, the cardinal difference between a genuine social movement and a sectarian club based on cult-like devotion to its dubious guru: while the former thrives on open disputes over controversial issues, the latter dismisses any external political critique as malicious attacks by enemies of anthroposophy.
45. We are also taken aback by Waage’s evident contempt for his own readers, as expressed for example in his penultimate paragraph. He apparently believes that his readers are incapable of holding two ideas in their heads at once, that they cannot make rudimentary sense out of historically complex situations, and that they think a movement which contains some racists must consist of nothing but racists, and vice-versa. Unlike Waage, we expect more from our readers. We believe that readers can comprehend complexity, ambiguity, and contradictory evidence. We also recognize that readers inclined to sympathize with anthroposophy will not welcome the task we ask of them. It is nonetheless our obligation to ask that they try.
46. The final report has yet to be translated into German or English. Since Waage only had access to the interim report, we will confine our remarks to that version. Our citations refer to the published German translation of the interim report, Anthroposophie und die Frage der Rassen, third printing, Frankfurt 2000.
47. Anthroposophie und die Frage der Rassen, p. 347. That leaves only 79 quotes from Steiner which the commission examined and judged unproblematic. According to the peculiar calculus of the Dutch Commission, 83 “potentially” racist passages alongside 79 “unproblematic” passages adds up to no racism whatsoever, indeed no race theory of any kind, in Rudolf Steiner’s work.
48. The Dutch commission’s “criticism” of the “potentially” racist quotes is sometimes just as disturbing as the quotes themselves. Of Steiner’s line “the white race is the race of the future, the spiritually creative race,” for example, they have only this to say: “The accuracy of these claims can be questioned.” (p. 323)
49. Several of Steiner’s antisemitic passages are included in the final version of the report, though they are not recognized as such.