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Thread: Racial Ethnography in Waldorf Schools (Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy)

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    Thumbs Up Racial Ethnography in Waldorf Schools (Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy)

    […] In 1994, Mrs Angelique Oprinsen, a parent of a pupil at a Waldorf School in Zutphen, The Netherlands, discovered something which shocked her. Her daughter Juliette came home with an exercise book, labelled 'racial ethnography'. The 'racial ethnography' exercise books contained stereotypes like 'Negroes have a sense of rhythm' and 'thick lips'.

    Mrs Oprinsen immediately called the teacher to criticize this. […] At the meeting, they told her they backed the curriculum. When she spoke to other parents of the Waldorf school children, she got the same reply.

    During a parents' and teachers' meeting at the school, those parents told Mrs Oprinsen: “If you would understand Rudolf Steiner, you would back his ideas on 'races'. The fact that you do not support his thought shows you do not understand Steiner.”

    The founder of Anthroposophy and of the Waldorf schools, Rudolf Steiner [like Guido von List], based his ideas on clairvoyance. [...]

    The press quoted statements by Steiner. It was hard to deny the racism in these statements. At a Waldorf school in Eindhoven, two students caused a commotion by demanding a public discussion. The school threatened to expel the students.

    […] In a short letter to the parents, the school said they condemned all forms of discrimination. The statement by the chairman of the Dutch Anthroposophical Society, the banker Baron Paul Mackay, published in De Telegraaf (national daily), did not reassure me either.

    Both the school and Mackay ignored Steiner's racist statements. They did not express their views about them then; they still don't. They stated they did not want to have anything to do with discrimination. I am sure that they are sincere about this. However, what is the value of these statements, if they are not willing to dissociate themselves from clearly racist statements by Steiner?

    Over and over again, the Anthroposophical movement is unable to deal with this in a satisfactory way. […] So, I am still very worried about Rudolf Steiner's statements and ideas. These ideas can, very possibly, lead to racist thoughts and acts.

    At first, three teachers defended the racial anthropology education. Later on, the school said it was an incident, caused by only one teacher. Neither the school nor Steiner could be held responsible. This is incorrect, as the connection made between 'races' and, for example, the different age phases in a human's life, really is very much an Anthroposophical point of view. Steiner said on this in a speech:

    “Really, all history and all social life--including present day social life--can only be understood if one goes into the characteristics of the 'races'. And only if one first studies diligently how the spiritual factor in man works especially by way of the complexion, one may understand that spiritual factor correctly.”

    The Dutch Anthroposophist Maarten Ploeger wants us to believe that this quotation was only true during the 'Atlantean' period. However, the quotation shows very clearly that also in present day social life, one is supposed to make racist distinctions.

    Steiner himself said that we can only really meet somebody if we are able to look deeper than the other person's exterior. Why, then, do all these hindrances exist? As a consequence, true meetings are rare; though we learn especially from those meetings. […] Therefore, I was very worried as I discovered that the teaching at the Waldorf schools might conceivably stimulate racist thinking. Is this what Anthroposophy stands for?


    'Solar' and 'lunar' people

    Are we fully aware of what this means? In the racial anthropology exercise book of Mrs Oprinsen's daughter, I found a drawing which to me very clearly symbolizes a wrong way of thinking. I still see the image in the drawing before me. I will describe it for you.

    The drawing showed 'racial' differences as linked to the difference between night and day. In the foreground, two white children stand in the bright sunlight. In the dark background, so in the night which is passing away, in the weak light of the moon and the stars, there is the hazy image of a little black boy. The teacher had told the children that the black 'race' belongs to the night, the yellow one to the morning, and the whites to the day.

    The question is not the integrity of one teacher who instructed the pupils to make this drawing. Undoubtedly, he thought that making this drawing was good for the children. But does he realize what it is based on?

    He taught the children from the teacher training material, made by Max Stibbe, one of the first Dutch members of the Anthroposophical Society, and editor-in-chief of the Waldorf review Vrije Opvoedkunst.

    This means we have to go back to Anthroposophy itself. If we wonder where Anthroposophists originally got the image in the drawing from, then, according to the Amsterdam historian Jan Willem de Groot, we have to go back even further in time, to 'cosmic' racial theorists, like Professor Gustav Carus in Germany.

    In 1849, at the celebration of Goethe's centennial, Carus presented his Ueber ungleiche Befaehigung der verschiedene Menschheitsstaemme für höhere geistige Entwicklung ('About the unequal capabilities of the different tribes of humanity for higher spiritual development').

    It linked anthropology to the position of heavenly bodies to the earth. Carus wrote that the black 'race' belongs to the night, the yellow and red (Indian) ones to the twilight, and the whites to the day. Carus characterized those whom he called the white 'Caucasian' race, the 'day people', as the bearers of all culture.

    On the contrary, the 'twilight' and 'night people' were inferior and degenerated, and therefore unfit to create any form of culture. Carus' later followers, especially in the late 19th century German völkisch movement, linked blond 'Aryans' to bright sunlight, 'dark' non-Aryans to the lesser moonlight.

    De Groot quotes the Dutch Anthroposophist John van Schaik (Jonas, 27 May 1994) on Steiner's views on the Jews:

    “Steiner also differentiates. He says that the Old Testament God still works from the lunar sphere, and that the New Testament God works from solar power. From the lunar sphere, Jahweh [Jehovah in Steiner's original] leads the Jewish nation. The moon reflects, works on the reflecting consciousness. It reflects something. The Jewish nation developed a reflecting, strongly intellectual consciousness.”

    De Groot remarks that few Anthroposophists today know how this 'lunar' view has strong links to the tradition of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semites said that Jews were especially linked to intellectualism, which they abhorred. They also wrote that the moon was a 'parasitical' heavenly body, merely reflecting the sunlight. In this way, they wrote, 'lunar' Jews were also 'parasites'.

    According to the German Anthroposophists Klaus-Peter Endres and Wolfgang Schad, Steiner did not derive just the idea of linking heavenly bodies to races from Carus. Carus also underlies Steiner's idea of 3 racial types of human skulls, corresponding to 3 racially different types of brains, and his view that American Indians will become extinct inevitably.

    And how about the table of races which the teacher told the pupils to make? In 1844, Robert Chambers linked Black people with childhood, White people with adulthood, etc., in his The Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation.

    In 1866, the doctor John Down first described in the London Hospital Reports so-called 'Down's syndrome' children as 'Mongols', based on, and repeating, Chambers' racist speculations. Down became well known. If Steiner also knew this, then, in this case, his inspiration came from 19th century writings, now discredited by progress in science, rather than from supernatural higher levels of clairvoyance.

    Until 1912, before Rudolf Steiner founded the Anthroposophical Society, he was General Secretary for Germany of the Theosophical Society. Ideas in this society about 'root races' influenced him greatly.

    Madame Helena Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, prophesied in her The Secret Doctrine (German edition of 1901, shortly after Steiner joined the Theosophists): 'Redskins, Eskimos, Papuans, Australians, Polynesians, etc., all die out.' She thought: 'So, their extinction is a karmic necessity'.[…]


    Critical Anthroposophists in Flensburger Hefte

    To defend themselves, some Anthroposophists will say that I am just a parent who is not spiritually advanced enough yet to understand Anthroposophy. To preclude this possibility, let us look at the German Anthroposophical magazine Flensburger Hefte.

    In the 41st issue, Anthroposofie und Rassismus, prominent members of the Anthroposophical movement report on their research on some questionable statements by Rudolf Steiner. In issue # 40, they had already written: “There are indeed some statements by Rudolf Steiner which one cannot justify in any way. One should unequivocally dissociate oneself from these statements.”

    In the 41th issue, they continue, saying: “We are fully aware that this can hurt. However, we think that it is both necessary and in agreement with what Rudolf Steiner himself wanted. He has said again and again that people should investigate his statements. All we have done is to act upon this call to investigate all his statements; and a real inquiry is impossible, if people stipulate as a condition a priori that one should not find any errors or mistakes.”

    Thomas Höfer, the editor of the Flensburger Hefte, quotes in his article a few statements by Rudolf Steiner:

    “These blacks in Africa characteristerically suck in, absorb, all light and all heat from the cosmos. And, humans being humans, this light and this heat from the cosmos cannot pass through the entire body. It does not flow through the entire body, but it stops at the skin. In this way, the complexion itself becomes black.

    Consequently, a black in Africa is a human who absorbs and assimilates as much light and heat from the cosmos as possible. As he does this, the forces of the cosmos work throughout that human. Everywhere, he absorbs light and heat, really everywhere. He assimilates them within himself. There really must be something which helps him in this assimilation. That something is mainly the cerebellum.

    This is why a Negro has an especially well developed cerebellum. This is linked to the spinal marrow; and they can assimilate all light and heat which a human contains. As a consequence, especially the aspects which pertain to the body and to metabolism are strongly developed in a Negro.

    He has a strong sexual urge -as people call it-, strong instincts. And as, with him, all which comes from the sun -light and heat- really is at the skin's surface, all of his metabolism works as if the sun itself is boiling in his inside. This causes his passions. Within a Negro, cooking is going on all the time; and the cerebellum kindles the fire.

    (...) And we, Europeans, we poor Europeans, we have the thinking life, which resides in the head. (...) Therefore, Europe has always been the starting point of everything which develops the human entity in such a way that at the same time a relationship with the outside world arises. (...)

    […] Really, it is the whites who develop the human factor within themselves. Therefore they have to rely on themselves. When whites do emigrate, they partly take on the characteristics of other areas, but they die more as individuals than as a race. The white race is the race of the future, the race that is working creatively with the spirit."


    Höfer quotes Steiner's speech he made to workers who were building the Goetheanum in Dornach, March 3, 1923. Thomas Höfer says that the speech is reproduced correctly. After checking the original text, it appeared that nothing was omitted that would make another interpretation of the text possible.

    […] Many of his statements are based on supernatural clairvoyance, and therefore are hard, or impossible, to check.

    […]Among Anthroposophists, the supremacy theory that, according to Steiner, whites are the people that will transcend the racial character, is still alive. Or, like the Anthroposophical teacher Hans Peter van Manen says it: "One may indeed consider this as an advantage or a privilege of the white race, that this influence which extinguishes races, primarily originates with the European nations."

    […] In co-operation with Klaus-Peter Endres, Wolfgang Schad read the entire work of Rudolf Steiner to look for statements on human 'races'. In doing so, they made, for instance, the shocking discovery of Steiner's discriminatory views on black people. They could not detect one single positive statement on black people.

    […] I do want to ask your attention for the next, probably most dangerous, idea of Rudolf Steiner; the idea that the extinction of certain nations is a cosmic necessity.

    At the request of the Anthroposophical Study Centre, Frank Wijnbergh held two lectures, titled 'Rassenproblematiek' (Racial problems) in Nijmegen, in 1985. […] At both lectures, the lecturer initiated those present in 'the secrets of the races'. "The racial problems" were dealt with in the framework of the Anthroposophical theory on reincarnation.

    According to this view, every human being, when returning to earth, chooses a race. Then, depending on individuals' needs, that race is supposed to bring both certain possibilities and certain impossibilities in the development to individuality.

    In this vein, Wijnbergh ascribed different characteristics and qualities to the various 'races'. Both because of the words he used, and because of the very negative image he gave of all races, except the white race, both lectures were extremely shocking. They were very insulting, especially to people of colour.

    The Comité van Waakzaamheid asked Wijnbergh the question what, according to him, was a bigger threat to Europe: the atomic bomb or the mixing of cultures. Wijnbergh replied without hesitation: I think it will be the mixing of cultures.

    […] Bernd Hansen did some research on Steiner's ideas on the fate of the Indians in Flensburger Hefte 41. He quotes Steiner:

    “Not all human beings who are living today are on the same level of the development of humanity. Besides the nations, who are on a high cultural level, there are primitive people who have lagged far behind culturally. (....) let us name as an example those nations who became known when America was discovered. (...)”

    We have found the American race as a primitive primordial people, which has remained far, far behind. They lag behind in religious views as well. (...) However, the Europeans have risen to a higher cultural level, while the Indians have remained static, and therefore they have become decadent. One can picture this like this: In the course of time, our planet changes and this change stimulates a development of humanity too. The side branches, which do not fit into the situation any more, become decadent.

    In a drawing of the development of humanity, Steiner puts the Indians between the apes and the Aryans. Bernd Hansen's reaction to this is: “This horrifies us today. However, already in 1907 too, people knew more about the rich Indian culture which existed all over the Americas; so one was able to know more than Steiner apparently knew.” [Then, how about Steiner being an occult Initiate?]

    Steiner: “During the Atlantean period of development, the skeleton had to remain flexible for a certain time, so it could be modified. Certain population groups, however, lagged behind, their skeleton became solid too early. (....) and lagged behind as a degenerate human race. They could not adapt to the situation in the post-Atlantean period; the last relics are the American Indians. They were degenerated. (.…) The Indian nation did not become extinct just by chance, because the Europeans wanted so, but because that nation had to acquire the forces, which led to extinction.”

    […] In his book 'Rassenleer met charisma', (racial doctrine with charisma) Bram Moerland quotes Steiner's book 'Die Volksseelen' (The Mission of Folk-Souls) on the fate of the American Indians:

    “First, he (Steiner) warns us that if we want to understand the cosmic meaning of the Indians' fate, we 'should not let personal sympathies or personal enthusiasm interfere, because that is not the main point. The only main point is what is hidden in the great laws of humanity. He, who would not agree with the necessity, would not accomplish anything. Objecting to this means that obstacles are put on the way.”

    […] There are also people who suggest that the Jews needed the holocaust in order to be able to create their own state. In this way, everything can be excused. However, it was neither the hand of God nor the hand of the devil who killed these people. It were the hands of humans with a certain ideology which told them that the disappearance of the Jewish people would be a good thing. It was an ideology they believed in and which they followed by neglecting their feelings of 'personal sympathy'.

    […] There are still people today who think Rudolf Steiner was right when he said there was no place left on earth for Jewry and that it had to disappear. Steiner wrote:

    “Das Judentum als solches hat sich aber längst ausgelebt, hat keine Berechtigung innerhalb des modernen Völkerlebens, und daß es sich dennoch erhalten hat, ist ein Fehler der Weltgeschichte, dessen Folgen nicht ausbleiben konnten.”

    (Really, Jewry as such has been outliving itself since a long time, it does not have the right to exist in the modern life of nations, and that it has survived nevertheless, is a mistake by world history, of which the consequences were bound to come.)

    […] The real problem is a combination of two factors. On the one hand, according to British social scientist Ahern's research, many Anthroposophists consider Rudolf Steiner as infallible. As far as racism is concerned, this would not need to be a problem: if Steiner would have made no racist statements. However, if he did, then this second factor in itself would not be such a big problem; if the belief in infallibility would not be so widespread.

    Conversations with parents of other Waldorf school children tell me that my worries are well-founded. People start looking for confirmations of Steiner's racist ideas. Steinerian theories direct the observations in such a way that only those facts are perceived which these theories allow to be perceived.

    Source: http://www.akdh.ch/ps/ps_97Holland.html

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