To Peter - continuation

From: golden3000997
Date: Sun Feb 22, 2004 12:37 pm
Subject: To Peter - continuation

I had to do this on Word, because I have a lousy e-mail system and I can't cut and paste in a reply. It's the whole of your last post (our discussion) with my new stuff between "lines". I hope it makes sense. I use different colors in Word, but they don't come through here.

[from: agreement and disagreement 1]

Subj: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Re: agreement and disagreement
Date: 2/22/2004 12:58:26 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: pstauden@yahoo.de (Peter Staudenmaier)

Hi Christine, I was glad to get such a thorough reply from you. You wrote:

First, what is your personal conclusion about Rudolf Steiner and racism? Have you concluded that Rudolf Steiner in the final development was truly "racist"?

Yes, that is part of my conclusion, though what seems important to me is not whether Steiner was racist as a person, but whether his teachings contain important racist elements. But I do, as it happens, think it legitimate to describe Steiner as a racist. I think that several of my relatives are racists (kind of like your dad, maybe), and a number of very significant philosophers whose work I treasure were racists, and one of the great composers of all time, Richard Wagner, was an ardent racist and a raving antisemite. I think it is both possible and necessary to recognize the racist facets of figures like these, without using that as an excuse to dismiss the rest of their work.

What exactly is this defined as?

I think the most sensible definition of racist belief is something along these lines: a way of thinking that sorts human groups into racial categories, accords essential meaning to these categories, delineates specific differences between them, associates these differences with significant cultural, spiritual, or intellectual traits, and ranks the resulting constellation of categories in some hierarchical order of higher and lower.

(Christine)
Quick definitions (Racism) (One Look Dictionary)

noun: discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of another race
noun: the prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races

Encyclopedia article (Wikipedia)

Racism refers to beliefs, practices, and institutions that negatively discriminate against people based on their perceived or ascribed race. Sometimes the term is also used to describe the belief that race is the primary determinant of human capacities, or that individuals should be treated differently based on their ascribed race. (continued at Wikipedia)

In comparing your definition above with the very simple definitions I got from One Look Dictionary and Wikipedia, I see a subtle but important difference.

The crucial word in your definition, I think is "ranks". Yes, this word does imply judgment of value on the part of the person or society or institution doing the "ranking" and is tied in with the "predjudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races. However, it does not absolutely denote "discriminatory or abusive behavior" or serve as proof that this judgment of value will always lead or require the holder to "negatively discriminate against people based on their perceived or ascribed race". I feel that the nature and history of overt racism in the United States would tend to make an observer of such as remark as "Rudolf Steiner was racist or held racist beliefs" immediately assume that the philosophy he developed would promote "discriminatory or abusive behavior" or to "negatively discriminate against people based on their perceived or ascribed race."

This is why I made my point about your readers, actual and potential:

Or, do you not think that any association with the word "Nazi" may call up an emotional response in great numbers of people who do not have the time or inclination to do such scholarly work on their own?

To which you responded:

No, I definitely disagree with you on that point, as I tried to spell out in one of my replies to you on the waldorf critics list. I think that terms like "racist" and "Nazi" have specific meanings that can and should be used responsibly, not as terms of abuse but as analytical descriptions.

I accept and respect the fact that you and perhaps others, are using such words "responsibly" with clear and definite meanings. However, I maintain that in society in general, the percentage of people is very low who a. have made an in depth study of the definitions and meanings of racism and b. would approach your work without emotional pre-conceptions.

Is the idea of the "Jewish people" assimilating into society at large a racist idea?

No, definitely not. Most German Jews during Steiner's lifetime were assimilationists. In fact the majority of them had already achieved a considerable measure of integration into "society at large". What they had not done, and what most of them quite reasonably declined to do, was abandon their Jewish identity in the process. In contrast to these pro-assimilationist Jews, assimilationist antisemites demanded a complete dissolution of Jewishness as such. I think that Steiner, in several stages of his career, fit into this latter pattern. But this sort of antisemitism was by no means racist, at least not necessarily so, and in several crucial respects it was fundamentally different from the racial versions of antisemitism that were also current at the time.

Wouldn't the ideas of separation, "purity of blood", segregation (as exemplified in the United States with "people of color" be more "racist"?

Yes, segregation and purity of "blood" generally belong to the arsenal of racial antisemites, not of assimilationist antisemites. In fact one of the best scholars on this issue, Donald Niewyk, distinguishes between "integrationist" and "segregationist" antisemites, whereas I tend to use the terms "assimilationist" and "dissimilationist". Most of the integrationist/assimilationist antisemites -- a group which included several of the most infamous and influential antisemites of the time -- were not racial antisemites, though they were typically racists in other respects.

Also, with the creation of Israel and the intense devotion to Jewish nationalism, do we not see just the kind of continued antipathy and violence as a result of that antipathy between "races" - specifically in the Middle East? And is this a result of "blood" or "religion" or "culture"? I don't know.

I think the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has more to do with struggles over land and security than it does with blood, religion, or culture. But in any case, I don't see a fundamental difference, at this level, between Jewish nationalism and Ukrainian nationalism or Puerto Rican nationalism or Tibetan nationalism and so forth.

(Christine)

And we are in agreement that Steiner spoke and acted against nationalism, especially fervent and/ or violent nationalism. That he proffered the opinion that the recognition of individual worth and value should and indeed, must take precedent over all nationalistic ties and characteristics. Is this correct?

The second (multi faceted) question is: what is your expressed purpose in bringing this discussion into the arena of the appropriateness of Waldorf Education in 1. public schools and 2. society at large?

I have very little to say on that topic. I don't know enough about Waldorf education to make an interesting case either way, and I don't have strong feelings about Waldorf as such. I get the sense that Waldorf schools, especially in North America, comprise a very wide range of beliefs and practices, some of which have relatively little to do with the aspects of anthroposophy that I study. As far as the public schools part of your question goes, it seems to me that the PLANS folks have a very good point about the establishment clause, and I generally come down on the side of secularism as the safest option in a society like the contemporary US.

(Christine)

You know that I have already very clearly and specifically outlined my points of agreement with PLANS, especially in terms of the opinion that Waldorf Education should be kept separate from the state school system. I am actually pleased that they are being denied charters. I think it will mean less "messes" to clean up afterward. I clearly state in my article on Religion in Waldorf Schools posted here that Waldorf Schools are not right for everyone and why. And I hope I make it clear that it is not because the Waldorf School, its teachers or the philosophy behind it does not want to accept people from all religious backgrounds, but rather that because of the diversity of religious exposure contained in the curriculum, parents who wish to have their child exposed only to a limited set of belief systems would feel uncomfortable in our schools.

At the same time, though, it seems that your research on Rudolf Steiner and his "racist" statements are being used by PLANS and Waldorf Critics as a secondary argument to the legal fight to remove Waldorf Charter Schools. I still don't understand why you are lending your work to this if, as you say above,

I have very little to say on that topic. I don't know enough about Waldorf education to make an interesting case either way, and I don't have strong feelings about Waldorf as such. I get the sense that Waldorf schools, especially in North America, comprise a very wide range of beliefs and practices, some of which have relatively little to do with the aspects of anthroposophy that I study.

And below:

I think that terms like "racist" and "Nazi" have specific meanings that can and should be used responsibly, not as terms of abuse but as analytical descriptions. I spend an enormous chunk of my time reading documents written by Nazis (actual Nazis, the kind who proudly call themselves Nazis), and I pay close attention to what distinguishes their perspectives from those of other authoritarian right-wingers. Rudolf Steiner was certainly not a Nazi, but a number of his followers were, and there was a significant strand within the Nazi movement that looked favorably on various aspects of Steiner's work. The point of exploring these historical connections is not to call up an emotional response but to prompt informed consideration of the ambiguous record of alternative spiritual movements and their wide-ranging political affiliations.

What is the usefulness to you and your work specifically with Steiner's Anthropsophy of associating yourself and your work with PLANS? And what do you see as the specific benefit to PLANS of associating itself with your work?

While your scholarship on the issue is profound and has involved many hours of research and thought, do you think that you have presented it in a way and through a medium that would keep the discussion in an academic and objective realm?

I hope not! I am very critical of the academic realm and the stultifying conception of objectivity that is so often associated with it. That is one of the main reasons I have avoided an academic career so far and remained an independent scholar (though I must confess that I am currently in the midst of throwing in that particular towel); one of my goals is to move historical discussions out of the academic realm so that non-academics can participate in them. My published work on anthroposophy is not objective in the sense I think you mean, and no competent reader could mistake it for such; I am very up front about my own skeptical stance. Much of what I write on anthroposophy is a mixture of scholarship and polemic, addressed to a non-specialist audience. It is not a neutral reflection on the pros and cons of Steiner's various doctrines.

(Christine)

Since I have not read your published work yet, may I ask what the prime objective of that work is? Is it specifically written with a stated viewpoint as to the amount of value to be found in Rudolf Steiner's work for the individual and/ or for society? And if so, which end of the value see-saw do you lean toward? Pro or con?

Or, do you not think that any association with the word "Nazi" may call up an emotional response in great numbers of people who do not have the time or inclination to do such scholarly work on their own?

No, I definitely disagree with you on that point, as I tried to spell out in one of my replies to you on the waldorf critics list. I think that terms like "racist" and "Nazi" have specific meanings that can and should be used responsibly, not as terms of abuse but as analytical descriptions. I spend an enormous chunk of my time reading documents written by Nazis (actual Nazis, the kind who proudly call themselves Nazis), and I pay close attention to what distinguishes their perspectives from those of other authoritarian right-wingers. Rudolf Steiner was certainly not a Nazi, but a number of his followers were, and there was a significant strand within the Nazi movement that looked favorably on various aspects of Steiner's work. The point of exploring these historical connections is not to call up an emotional response but to prompt informed consideration of the ambiguous record of alternative spiritual movements and their wide-ranging political affiliations.

A third question arises in me. Please forgive me if you have illucidated this elsewhere - I do not have the time to search all of the archives of the past five or more years of discussion on other forums - have you seen examples of overt or covert racism in the practice of Waldorf Education. If so, would you please discuss these examples?

The most important example, in my view, is the one I mentioned to you recently on the waldorf critics list, namely the "racial ethnography" curriculum in Dutch Waldorf schools, which was not discontinued until well into the 1990's. I hope it's okay with you if I simply quote some of what I wrote on the topic last year at the openwaldorf site (where you can also find vigorous discussion of this and related themes). Very briefly: Until the mid-1990's, Dutch Waldorf schools continued to teach courses on "racial ethnography" to 7th and 8th grade pupils. These courses were based squarely on Steiner's racial theories, and their role in the Waldorf curriculum was discussed extensively in the journal of the Dutch Waldorf movement. This longstanding practice changed only after the mother of a Waldorf student went to the press with her child's class notebooks about racial characteristics. The resulting media attention spurred the Dutch Anthroposophical Society and the Waldorf federation to review the "racial ethnography" curriculum, which they eventually decided to abandon. Public schools in the Netherlands had nothing remotely similar to these courses on "racial ethnography"; the only schools where such material was taught were Waldorf schools. This incident was the origin of the much-discussed "Dutch report" on anthroposophy and race.

(Christine)

I would like to read more and understand more about what is meant by "racial ethnography" in the 7th & 8th grade curriculum. In seventh grade, to the best of my knowledge, Waldorf schools in Europe, Great Britain and the United States should be working with history as contrasted with the mythology explored from First through Fourth. Fifth Grade is a transitional year that culminates in Ancient Greece and a combination of Greek mythology, which was an active part of their culture and that which we consider "historical" events and biographies. Sixth Grade sees the presence of mythology in Ancient Rome, but much less adherence to them as an active belief system in the lives of the Romans. Then we have the real historical drama of the Pax Romana and the life of Jesus Christ as a biography without which understanding what follows as history would be impossible. Also should have here the life of Mohammed. The stage then is set for Seventh Grade and the Renaissance up through the age of exploration. I don't at this moment understand how "racial ethnography" comes into it. Here are the definitions I have from Wikipedia:

Ethnography
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Ethnography is the practice in cultural anthropology of writing a scientific description of an individual human society or of a situation within a society. It is also the name for the resulting text. The comparison of cultural details uncovered through ethnography is the province of ethnology. (my emphasis)

Classic ethnographies include Argonauts of the Western Pacific by Bronislaw Malinowski and The Nuer by E. E. Evans-Pritchard. More commonly read ethnographies include Nisa by Marjorie Shostak and Mama Lola by Karen McCarthy Brown.

Critiques of traditional ethnographic rhetoric and writing have come into increasing prominence, at least from the 1960s onwards. Critical, postmodern, and poststructural ethnographies often entail "confessional" writing, postcolonial critiques of canonical work, and literary interpretation and deconstruction.

Ethnology
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Ethnology is a genre of anthropological study, involving the systematic comparison of the beliefs and practices of different societies. Among its goals are the reconstruction of human history, and the formulation of laws of culture and culture change, and the formulation of generalizations about human nature.

Of course, the history of Western Civilization through the Age of Exploration and into the "Age of Revolution" (French, American, Industrial) includes a great deal of belief by the peoples of that time in racial and cultural superiorities and the colonialism and violence done in the name of those beliefs. Are you saying that the Dutch Waldorf Schools were teaching this history in such a way as to promote the concept to the children that these ideas of racial superiority were justified?? If so, I would also be appalled! But I don't know without reading the actual reports if this is true. I would also have to state that nowhere in Rudolf Steiner's work would I find justification for such teaching. His long range and long term projections about spiritual development were never meant as a justification of the holding of views on racial superiority of any kind. Nor were such ideas presented to adult audiences intended to be passed on to children of pre-teen years. To me personally, teaching about the atrocities of Western Civilization from the Crusades to Colonial America should have the opposite result entirely - that is to show the awfulness of ideas of racial superiority and the horrors that result from such ideas. This does not mean that we cannot find good in biographies such as those of Charlemagne, Joan of Arc, or even (dare I say it?) Christopher Columbus or Queen Victoria. ( I am personally very down on Columbus!) But they were who they were within their time periods and what they said, thought and did must be placed in context of everything that was "known" and "believed" at that time. How can the students come to be people who have the ability to intellectually understand what is worthwhile and what is reprehensible in the history of humanity unless they fully "experience" each time period with as much imagination as possible? Introducing these historical ideas would be, in my opinion, necessary for any young person to understand what impelled major historical events. However, to allow them to walk away from that time period believing that those ideas should be maintained and applied in our time would be to do exactly what Steiner describes below as "not moving forward" or "getting stuck in development" (my paraphrases).

Is this what the report on the Dutch Waldorf Schools concluded? That history was being taught in such a way as to promote, justify and give sanction to the ideas of racial, ethnic and/ or religious superiority as existed from say 1500 to 1900? I really want to know.

The "races" that Steiner speaks of in Occult Science, to the best of my understanding are streams of development over long "epochs" of time and, especially taking into consideration the basic tenets of reincarnation, include every one of us as individuals. I fully believe that I have been Jewish, Catholic, African or possibly a slave in the United States, maybe Moslem, (but I don't think so yet) - Ancient Persian, yes definitely. I have been male and female and have lived in times and places completely unlike the one I am in now. I also believe that I will be all of these things again and live in times and places still more unlike this one or any past ones. I believe that whereever there is "antipathy" toward any kind of person, creed or system of thought within myself, there will I be drawn primarily so that I can "live through" it from the "other"'s point of view. I believe that evolution is not racial, but individual and that all the differences that exist in the physical realm have their purpose and meaning and can only be understood as part of a "puzzle" or "tapestry" of interlocking pieces or threads. I believe that in every moment of antipathy lives a seed of love - one that will be watered and brought to blossom in a future place and time.

Much of what you write above sounds to me perfectly compatible with Steiner's version of reincarnation. The crucial difference is that by my reading, Steiner considered evolution to be both individual and racial. He sometimes taught that some racial forms are higher than others, and that spiritual progress is correlated to racial progress. Here is a passage that might show you what I have in mind:

"Everyone who works in this way prepares the ground for the human bodies of the future, for the bodies that souls will later need. There is a word that beautifully expresses this work toward the future, which we will understand when we clarify the difference between soul development and racial development. All of you were once Atlanteans, and these Atlantean bodies looked very different, as I have already described. The same soul that was once in an Atlantean body somewhere is now in your body. But not all bodies have been prepared, in the way yours have been, by a small number of colonists who long ago migrated from the West to the East. Those who remained behind, who bound themselves up with their race, they degenerated, while the advanced ones founded new civilizations. The last stragglers on the way to the east, the Mongols, still retain something of the culture of the Atlanteans. In the same way, the bodies of those people who do not develop themselves in a progressive fashion will continue into the next era and will constitute the Chinese of the future. There will once again be decadent peoples. After all, the souls that inhabit Chinese bodies are those that will once again have to incarnate in such races, because they had too strong an attraction to that race. The souls that are today within you will later incarnate in bodies that come from people who work in the way I have indicated, and who beget the bodies of the future, just as the first colonists from Atlantis once did. And those who cling to the ordinary, who do not want to join with the movement toward the future, they will become fused with their race. There are people who want to stick to the familiar, who want nothing to do with progress; they refuse to listen to those who lead the way beyond the race to newer and newer forms of humanity. The myths have preserved this intention in a wonderful manner. The best way they could portray this is by pointing to one of the greatest ones, who spoke the words: “Whosoever does not leave father and mother, wife and child, brother and sister, cannot be my disciple”; and by depicting, in contrast, the tragedy of the person who says, I want nothing to do with such a leader, and rejects him. How could one express this more clearly than in the image of the person who rejects the leader, and who is incapable of advancing! That is the legend of Ahasver, the Eternal Jew, who sat there and pushed away the greatest leader, Christ Jesus, who wanted nothing to do with evolution, and who therefore must remain in his race, must always reappear in his race. These are myths that have been given to humankind for its eternal memory, so that humankind knows what it is dealing with."

(Steiner, Menschheitsentwickelung und Christus-Erkenntnis pp. 186-187)

It seems to me that passages like that one (and there are lots more like that one) simultaneously represent the sort of 'tapestry' approach that you invoke, and depend on racist premises. This is one of the reasons why I say that Steiner's work contains significant racist elements, even on those occasions when Steiner looked toward a non-racial future.

Peter Staudenmaier

(Christine)

I still don't understand what you mean exactly in the paragraph above by "racist premises" which would by what you say above extend to my own world view.

If so, I need to know and understand exactly what it is in my world view that depends on a racist premise. Forgive me if I am being dense, but I still don't get it. If one postulates that "getting stuck" in spiritual development has physical consequences, yet one recognizes that this "getting stuck" is a Free Will and Individual decision, then how is this a racist idea? I would have thought a racist version would be that a person COULD not accept Christ or what ever is to be thought of as "spiritual progress" (my terminology) BECAUSE he or she is a member of a racial or ethnic group - that they would be unfree and limited by the physical body they were born into. I always thought of racist ideology as being that the Individual was dependent and by inference, limited by racial characteristics (whatever they may be defined as by the racist).

In the passage above, I do hear the voice of someone who, like Christians of many sects and denominations, believes that Christ Jesus was and is the forerunner of the future of humanity. And, like other Christians who believe their beliefs are truth or Moslems who believe their beliefs are true, I hear the voice of one saying that it would be better for all people if they would recognize and follow these beliefs.

I do not, however, hear in that voice any note of condemnation toward the "Eternal Jew" or toward Atlanteans "stuck" in Chinese incarnations. Nor do I hear any cause for condescension or overt or covert discrimination against either Jewish or Chinese people.

I also hear in the body of Rudolf Steiner's work the fervent call to the Individual to transcend all limitations of national and genetic identity - all clan, creed and social limitations of any kind. And for the Individual to recognize the Individual in the Other, even in the kind of situation where the "Other" may prefer to put his or her national, religious or heredity association above his or her own freedom of personality. Rudolf Steiner's call above all others, except possibly the call to love and know the Christ Being was to love and know "the Other" in our Self and our Self in "the Other". The two are inextricably linked in both Steiner's and my personal world views.

Respectfully,
Christine

...................................................................................................................................

From: Peter Staudenmaier
Date: Sun Feb 22, 2004 5:16 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] To Peter - continuation

Hi Christine, thanks for your reply. You offered several definitions of racism, which sound fine to me, except for the emphasis on 'behavior'; as you'll recall from my reply to Linda Clemens ten days ago, I reject the reduction of racism to a kind of behavior; I see it as just as importantly a kind of thinking. That's why I recommended the books by Mosse, Macmaster, Harding, etc., which look at the development of racist belief systems in a historical perspective. I think this is what you're getting at when you point out the difference in emphasis between my definition of racist thinking and the ones you came up with:

In comparing your definition above with the very simple definitions I got from One Look Dictionary and Wikipedia, I see a subtle but important difference.

The crucial word in your definition, I think is "ranks". Yes, this word does imply judgment of value on the part of the person or society or institution doing the "ranking" and is tied in with the "predjudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races. However, it does not absolutely denote "discriminatory or abusive behavior" or serve as proof that this judgment of value will always lead or require the holder to "negatively discriminate against people based on their perceived or ascribed race".

Quite true. In my opinion, actively discriminatory behavior is only one expression of racism; it is scarcely the only one. People who believe in higher and lower races can accurately be described as racist, in my view, regardless of how they treat others.

I feel that the nature and history of overt racism in the United States would tend to make an observer of such as remark as "Rudolf Steiner was racist or held racist beliefs" immediately assume that the philosophy he developed would promote "discriminatory or abusive behavior" or to "negatively discriminate against people based on their perceived or ascribed race.

Sometimes racist beliefs do indeed have this sort of overt consequence, but sometimes the effect is much more subtle. It is even possible to combine racist beliefs with anti-racist behavior; some of the 19th century abolitionists, for example, held a wide range of racist views.

I accept and respect the fact that you and perhaps others, are using such words "responsibly" with clear and definite meanings. However, I maintain that in society in general, the percentage of people is very low who a. have made an in depth study of the definitions and meanings of racism and b. would approach your work without emotional pre-conceptions.

Before I reply to that very reasonable point, I have to note that 'racist' and 'Nazi' are significantly different terms in this respect. There is lots of room for legitimate disagreement about just what constitutes "racism". But the people I call Nazis are people who called themselves Nazis; it makes little sense to argue over whether they were 'really' Nazis. In any case, I don't think I entirely agree with your argument above. I think there are many people in our society who have an informed sense of what racism means and who are capable of bracketing their own emotional pre-conceptions when discussing the matter or reading about it or whatever. As for whether my readers know enough about Nazism, I'm not sure; that is part of why I go to some lengths in my published work to clarify who I have in mind and what role they played within the broader Nazi movement. My first article on anthroposophy (which examined the relationship between Steiner's followers and the so-called "green wing" of the Nazi party) explicitly warned against a guilt-by-association interpretation of these historical events.

And we are in agreement that Steiner spoke and acted against nationalism, especially fervent and/ or violent nationalism. That he proffered the opinion that the recognition of individual worth and value should and indeed, must take precedent over all nationalistic ties and characteristics. Is this correct?

I think we are only in partial agreement on that score. I agree that Steiner saw his own mature doctrine (after the theosophical turn) as consistently anti-nationalist. I do not agree that his teachings were in fact free of nationalist assumptions. In fact, I think that in an important sense the very opposite was the case. I see many strands of German cultural nationalism in Steiner's mature work.

You know that I have already very clearly and specifically outlined my points of agreement with PLANS, especially in terms of the opinion that Waldorf Education should be kept separate from the state school system.

Yes, I think you and I see eye to eye on that one.

At the same time, though, it seems that your research on Rudolf Steiner and his "racist" statements are being used by PLANS and Waldorf Critics as a secondary argument to the legal fight to remove Waldorf Charter Schools.

My understanding is that this was already a part of PLANS' argument before I came along. In any case, I had never heard of PLANS when I began my research on anthroposophy, and I didn't join the waldorf critics list until more than a year after I wrote my first article on the topic. From what I can tell, there were extensive quotations from Steiner's racial doctrines posted at the PLANS site long before that, and I have found abundant discussion of these issues in the wc-list archives from years prior to the publication of my first article.

I still don't understand why you are lending your work to this [...] What is the usefulness to you and your work specifically with Steiner's Anthropsophy of associating yourself and your work with PLANS? And what do you see as the specific benefit to PLANS of associating itself with your work?

I am very easygoing about who posts my work on the web (this is one of the things that some anthroposophists appear to hold against me), and I don't think that PLANS has misused my work in any way. There are occasional members of the wc-list who, in my view, have a mistaken conception of the relationship between anthroposophy and antisemitism, for example, or anthroposophy and Nazism, and when I think that is the case I say so on the list. I'm not sure what else I ought to do. Any suggestions?

Since I have not read your published work yet, may I ask what the prime objective of that work is? Is it specifically written with a stated viewpoint as to the amount of value to be found in Rudolf Steiner's work for the individual and/ or for society? And if so, which end of the value see-saw do you lean toward? Pro or con?

Con. Yes, I state my viewpoint very clearly (by my standards, at least). My first article concludes by urging progressive non-anthroposophists to take a very skeptical stance toward working with anthroposophists on political projects. My articles on anthroposophy were not written for scholarly journals, they were written for an educated popular audience. I am a critic of anthroposophy, and I think all readers of my articles can tell that, since I say it loud and clear.

I would like to read more and understand more about what is meant by "racial ethnography" in the 7th & 8th grade curriculum.

There is a lot of material on this issue on the web. If you type in "Dutch Waldorf" at google you'll get oodles of it.

Are you saying that the Dutch Waldorf Schools were teaching this history in such a way as to promote the concept to the children that these ideas of racial superiority were justified??

According to the official report on the matter by a commission of Dutch anthroposophists, the "racial ethnography" classes were a Dutch anomaly; they blame it on Max Stibbe, one of the founders of Waldorf education in the Netherlands and a defender of apartheid.

I would also have to state that nowhere in Rudolf Steiner's work would I find justification for such teaching.

I can't agree. Steiner frequently characterized some racial groups as higher and others as lower, some as progressing and others as decadent, not merely in the past but today as well.

His long range and long term projections about spiritual development were never meant as a justification of the holding of views on racial superiority of any kind. Nor were such ideas presented to adult audiences intended to be passed on to children of pre-teen years.


I'm not sure why you are so confident about that. I can think of several obvious exceptions off the top of my head. Here's one from the book Faculty Meetings With Rudolf Steiner, p. 559, where Steiner tells the assembled teachers:

"The French are committing the terrible brutality of moving black people to Europe, but it works, in an even worse way, back on France. It has an enormous effect on the blood and the race and contributes considerably toward French decadence. The French as a race are reverting."

Do you disagree that such statements are plainly racist?

Is this what the report on the Dutch Waldorf Schools concluded? That history was being taught in such a way as to promote, justify and give sanction to the ideas of racial, ethnic and/ or religious superiority as existed from say 1500 to 1900? I really want to know.

I think the racial ethnography courses were separate from the history curriculum. A summary of the Dutch report is available in English; see here:

http://www.info3.de/ycms/artikel_190.shtml

I am not recommending the report itself; I think it's a whitewash.

I still don't understand what you mean exactly in the paragraph above by "racist premises" which would by what you say above extend to my own world view.

I have no idea whether they extend to your own worldview. What I meant is that the lengthy Steiner passage about racial advancement that I quoted is built around racist premises. Do you disagree?

Forgive me if I am being dense, but I still don't get it. If one postulates that "getting stuck" in spiritual development has physical consequences, yet one recognizes that this "getting stuck" is a Free Will and Individual decision, then how is this a racist idea?

It isn't necessarily a racist idea, unless one directly associates these "physical consequences" with particular races, which is exactly what Steiner does in the passage in question. At that point, yes, it becomes a racist idea. The very notion of contrasting degenerate racial groups and advanced racial groups is a racist idea, in my view. Do you disagree?

I always thought of racist ideology as being that the Individual was dependent and by inference, limited by racial characteristics (whatever they may be defined as by the racist).

Sure, that's one variant of racist ideology, but hardly the only one. In any case, what you mean by "Individual" above is evidently an individual soul that appears in a variety of incarnations through time (correct me if I'm misunderstanding you here); but racial ideology only refers to actual incarnations, to specific racial forms.

I do not, however, hear in that voice any note of condemnation toward the "Eternal Jew" or toward Atlanteans "stuck" in Chinese incarnations.

I don't know about condemnation, but he says very clearly that these unfortunates refuse to progress and are therefore trapped in inferior racial forms. I think that is an obviously racist idea. Do you disagree?

I also hear in the body of Rudolf Steiner's work the fervent call to the Individual to transcend all limitations of national and genetic identity - all clan, creed and social limitations of any kind.

Yes, I hear that in Steiner's work as well. As I've tried to explain previously, I don't think these elements somehow erase the less pleasant elements represented by the passage about Chinese and Jews. I think it makes more sense to try to take both sides (well, all sides, I suppose) of Steiner's racial and ethnic doctrines into account. I hope this makes my own perspective clearer. Thanks again for a thoughtful exchange,

Peter Staudenmaier

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