The Art of Avoiding History, by Peter Staudenmaier

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Re: The Art of Avoiding History, by Peter Staudenmaier

Postby admin » Tue Feb 06, 2018 1:58 am

Part 1 of 2

Anthroposophy and its Defenders
by Peter Staudenmaier and Peter Zegers
Reply to Peter Normann Waage, Humanism and Polemical Populism


Anthroposophy and Ecofascism has sparked a debate within Scandinavian humanist circles, with some authors like Peter Normann Waage lining up to defend anthroposophy as a harmless variant of humanism.[1] While we are encouraged by this long overdue debate, we are troubled by the degree of historical naiveté it has revealed. Waage’s perspective seems to represent a view that is fairly widespread among educated and well-intentioned people. We hope that we can contribute to a more accurate view of the political implications of anthroposophy by correcting several of the misconceptions exemplified by Waage’s reply. Although Waage has nothing to say about the article’s main topic, the systematic collusion between organized anthroposophy and the so-called “green wing” of German fascism, he does raise several issues that lie at the core of that collusion. Waage would have us believe that Rudolf Steiner was a principled anti-racist, that he opposed private property, rejected militarism and nationalism, and was a staunch adversary of Nazism. These claims are not simply untrue; they betray a surprising unfamiliarity with Steiner’s published work and a profound misunderstanding of anthroposophy’s political history.


Let us begin, as Waage does, with the question of nationalism. To the end of his life, Steiner was forthright in acknowledging his early and enthusiastic participation in pan-German agitation. In the autobiography he published shortly before his death, he had this to say about his years in Vienna before the turn of the century: “Now, I took an interested part in the struggle which the Germans in Austria were then carrying on in behalf of their national existence.” (Rudolf Steiner, The Course of My Life, New York 1951, p. 142)[2] Steiner’s autobiography provides ample testimony to his German nationalist convictions. The paragraph following the one quoted above refers to Steiner’s “friends from the national struggle,” and two pages prior he discusses the impact of Julius Langbehn’s infamous book Rembrandt als Erzieher on his thinking.[3] Steiner also notes that he briefly worked as editor of the Deutsche Wochenschrift, one of the leading German nationalist publications of the time.

But Waage need not have searched through Steiner’s autobiography for evidence of his early pan-German engagement, as Steiner’s collected works contain several dozen articles published in the German nationalist press between 1884 and 1890, with titles like “Die deutschnationale Sache in Österreich” (“The Pan-German Cause in Austria”).[4] The hard-line nationalist stance that Steiner adopts in these articles is extremist even by the standards of the 1880s; he attacks the mainstream nationalist parties as “un-German” and rejects any compromise with them.[5] Nor was this a mere youthful aberration; Steiner never disowned or regretted these writings. On the contrary, he emphatically re-affirmed his pan-German views in a series of articles at the turn of the century.[6]

The striking thing about Steiner’s proud avowal of his nationalist activities is how utterly divorced from reality those activities were. There was, of course, no real “struggle for national existence” among Germans in the Habsburg empire – much less in Vienna itself – because there was never any serious threat to German predominance under the monarchy, and certainly not to their national existence. On the contrary, ethnic Germans were the undisputed administrative, economic, and cultural elite throughout the Austrian half of the far-flung multinational empire. Steiner’s involvement in pan-German efforts was based on chauvinism and ethnic prejudice. In light of Steiner’s long-standing attachment to a particularly virulent form of Great German nationalism, it is hardly surprising to see his attitude descend into outright national contempt with the advent of World War One.[7]

Steiner gave dozens of lectures during the war (collected in the two volume Zeitgeschichtliche Betrachtungen) condemning what he termed “British, French, and Russian imperialism,” never for a moment mentioning German imperialism. These lectures portray Germany and Austria as innocent victims of the “West” and the “East” and are filled with indignant rejections of any criticism of German nationalism and militarism. They recycle the hoary myth of Mitteleuropa familiar to students of the German right. Steiner sketched in the details of this myth in his postwar writings; one might consult, for example, the lecture cycle Bewußtseins-Notwendigkeiten für Gegenwart und Zukunft (Dornach, 1967), where Steiner repeats the standard nationalist line about the special spiritual mission of the German people and warns that this unique “German essence” is being “alienated” by “Americanism” on the one side and “Russiandom” on the other (p. 408). Steiner goes on to explain that “fear of the spiritual is the characteristic element of Americanism” (p. 405), while describing the threat from “the East” as “socialism” and “bolshevism” (p. 407). This is a classic instance of the reactionary German paranoia of being trapped between the soulless West and the collectivist East, dressed up as spiritual insight. The same paranoia formed a crucial component of German fascism.

Waage notes that Steiner was a fervent opponent of Wilsonian self-determination, a fact which the article had already pointed out. This position, in itself, by no means indicates a fundamental hostility to nationalism; several of the leading lights of extremist German nationalism, such as Count Reventlow and Adolf Bartels, shared Steiner’s dim view of Wilson’s proposals.[8] More importantly, Waage fails to grasp why Steiner took this stance. Steiner held that the doctrine of national self-determination “is opposed to the divinely ordered course of evolution.” (Steiner, From Symptom to Reality in Modern History, London 1976, p. 12)[9] He considered this doctrine, in concert with the triumph of “British, French, and Russian imperialism” in World War One, responsible for the dismantling of the Habsburg empire, which Steiner evidently viewed as a great loss for European civilization. Again and again Steiner argued that unlike other “national characters,” which are stuck in particularity, the German national character strives toward universalism, which in his eyes legitimated the German claim to predominance in Central Europe. For Steiner, Germany’s supposed spiritual advancement was the perfect excuse for imperialist expansion: “If one national civilization spreads more readily, and has greater spiritual fertility than another, then it is quite right that it should spread.” (Steiner, The Threefold Commonwealth, New York 1922, p. 183)[10]


Waage reminds readers of Humanist that Steiner “at the end of the century was involved in ‘the Association Against Anti-Semitism’.” Indeed, Steiner was a friend of Ludwig Jacobowski, an employee of the Verein zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus (Society for Protection Against Antisemitism). The association with Jacobowski, however, does not speak well for Steiner’s confused attitude toward antisemitism. In fact, a look at Jacobowski’s writings on Jewish affairs shows that it was a familiar appeal to German nationalism which drew Steiner’s attention. Jacobowski advocated the “complete assimilation” of Jews to what he called the “German spirit,” and his best-known work, Werther der Jude, could be read as “an antisemitic text” (Ritchie Robertson, The ‘Jewish Question’ in German Literature 1749-1939, Oxford 1999, p. 279). In a much-discussed pamphlet attacking a prominent antisemitic agitator, Hermann Ahlwardt, Jacobowski called Ahlwardt “un-German” (and also accused him of being a Social Democrat); the same pamphlet spoke of “an honorable anti-Semitism” in contrast to Ahlwardt’s variety, and declared in assimilationist-patriotic style that “a young Jewish generation is being prepared which is German and feels German.” (All quotes from Sanford Ragins, Jewish Responses to Anti-Semitism in Germany, 1870-1914, Cincinnati 1980, pp. 43-44) Jacobowski also referred to some of the anti-Jewish arguments put forth by pan-German antisemites as “important and correct” (Jacobowski quoted in Fred Stern, Ludwig Jacobowski, Darmstadt 1966, p. 159). One of the leading scholars on the topic, Ismar Schorsch, describes Jacobowski’s position thus: “Anti-Semitism is indeed based upon fact and can only be overcome by a drastic ethical reformation of the entire Jewish community.” Schorsch comments: “The response to anti-Semitism of this alienated Jew [Jacobowski] was thus marked by extreme vacillation between criticism of his coreligionists and defiant reaffirmation of Judaism.” (Schorsch, Jewish Reactions to German Anti-Semitism, 1870-1914, New York 1972, pp. 47 and 95). Steiner himself emphasized Jacobowski’s exclusive commitment to German culture and believed that his friend had “long since outgrown Jewishness” (Steiner quoted in Moses and Schöne, editors, Juden in der deutschen Literatur, Frankfurt 1986, p. 200). This is hardly a convincing testament to Steiner’s pro-Jewish sympathies.[11]

Gobineau's [unlike Chamberlain's] was an honest Antisemitism, it was, like Nietzsche's, an historical Antisemitism: it had nothing whatever to do with modern Antisemitism, that movement born from fear, envy, and impotence ... [i]t is an upright, a genuine, a gentlemanly Antisemitism, it is the Antisemitism of the aristocrat, who sees his very blood threatened by revolutionary religions.

-- Oscar Levy, from "Breeding Superman: Nietzsche, Race and Eugenics in Edwardian and Interwar Britain", by Dan Stone

What Waage doesn’t mention is that throughout his life Steiner consorted with notoriously bitter antisemites and was by his own account on entirely friendly terms with them. The passages in Mein Lebensgang on his relationship with Heinrich von Treitschke, for example, are straightforwardly admiring of this towering figure on the German right, who was the foremost intellectual ally of militant antisemitism (Treitschke coined the Nazi slogan “The Jews are our misfortune”). Steiner never so much as mentions Treitschke’s infamous stance on the “Jewish question.”[12] The same is true of Steiner’s appraisals of other figures, whether positive or negative, including Haeckel and Karl Lueger, among others. In fact it is abundantly clear from Steiner’s own writings on the subject that he had an extremely rudimentary understanding of antisemitism and that he was himself beholden to a wide variety of antisemitic stereotypes, which he frequently broadcast to his followers.[13] On more than one occasion he expressed the wish “that Jewry as a people would simply cease to exist” (Steiner, Geschichte der Menschheit, Dornach 1968, p. 189 and elsewhere). This wish was consistent with Steiner’s categorical rejection of the Jewish people’s right to existence: "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." (Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Literatur, GA 32, p. 152) It would seem that Waage’s portrait of Steiner as a consistent opponent of nationalism and antisemitism is at odds with the facts.


Waage believes that Steiner “cannot justly be called a racist” and that anthroposophy’s peculiar philosophy of root-races constitutes “a sound anti-racist view.” To support these claims Waage tells us that “already in 1909” Steiner “stopped using” the terms “root race” and “Aryan.” Waage’s chronology is confused. 1909 is the year that Steiner published the collection Aus der Akasha-Chronik, his most thorough presentation of the root race doctrine in all its fantastic detail. This book, available in English under the title Cosmic Memory, remains to the present day a primary source for anthroposophy’s worldview, with no distancing whatsoever toward its racist elements. The editor’s foreword to the current edition, published in Dornach, doesn’t so much as mention the book’s racist content, much less try to explain it, contextualize it, or minimize it; and the Anthroposophical Society continues to officially designate the book one of the “fundamental anthroposophist texts” (Wolfram Groddeck, Eine Wegleitung durch die Rudolf Steiner Gesamtausgabe, Dornach 1979, p. 16). Nor did Steiner himself ever renounce it; on the contrary, in 1925 he called Aus der Akasha-Chronik the “basis of anthroposophist cosmology” (Mein Lebensgang, original ed., p. 301). Today the book is still officially recommended for use by Waldorf teachers.

In 1910 – that is, after Waage claims Steiner had “stopped using” the terminology of root races and Aryans – Steiner gave the lectures in Oslo which served as the opening device for Anthroposophy and Ecofascism. The Norway lecture cycle on “national souls” was revised and edited by Steiner in 1918 and published in book form that same year. The term “root race” is used throughout this book. The fifth chapter, Steiner’s lecture in Oslo from June 12, 1910, is titled “The Five Root Races of Mankind”, and refers to the racial superiority of “the Aryans” (Steiner, The Mission of the Individual Folk Souls in Relation to Teutonic Mythology, London 1970, p. 106).[14] But Waage would no doubt complain that we have taken Steiner’s unequivocal words “out of context” if we did not go on to mention that the book also contains these curious sentences: “Since all men in their different incarnations pass through the various races the claim that the European is superior to the black and yellow races has no real validity. In such cases the truth is sometimes veiled, but you see that with the help of Spiritual Science we do after all light upon remarkable truths.” (ibid. p. 76)

Aside from the vexing question of just what that ominous reference to “veiled truth” is supposed to mean – do black and yellow skins “veil” an inner truth? – this passage can only be interpreted as anti-racist if one accepts the anthroposophist version of “Spiritual Science,” and the sentence makes no sense at all unless one believes in reincarnation. Moreover, any anti-racist interpretation of this passage is immediately contradicted by the context which Waage thinks Anthroposophy and Ecofascism systematically obscured. On the page directly before the above quote, Steiner prints a diagram showing Africa on the bottom, Asia in the middle, and Europe on top, and on the same page he explains that the “Negro race” is tied to humanity’s childhood, “the yellow and brown races” to adolescence, and Europeans to adulthood and maturity. Steiner then insists that this racially stratified hierarchy “is simply a universal law” and indeed a product of inescapable destiny: “The forces which determine man’s racial character follow this cosmic pattern. The American Indians died out, not because of European persecutions, but because they were destined to succumb to those forces which hastened their extinction.” (ibid. p. 76 — the very same page as the quote which to Waage represents “a sound anti-racist view.”)

[E]ven had the whites not massacred, starved, enslaved, expatriated and otherwise maltreated those older races [the Indian and Negro], the latter would nevertheless have died out just as surely, though more slowly, because such is the Law of Evolution -- the Order of Nature. At some future time the white race-bodies when they become inhabited by the Egos who are now embodied in red, black, yellow or brown skins, will have degenerated so far that they also will disappear, to give place to other and better vehicles.

-- The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception, by Max Heindel

Even setting aside Waage’s incomprehension of this particular text, he has simply misunderstood Steiner’s racial theory overall. For reasons he never explains, Waage believes that Steiner’s theory of reincarnation makes race peripheral. He is quite mistaken. In reality, Steiner taught that each individual soul must in the course of its spiritual evolution climb up the ladder of racial progress, from “lower races” to “higher races.” This racist nonsense is noxious enough, but Steiner exacerbated it by pointing out very explicitly which groups belonged to the “lower racial forms” and the “backward races” (Jews, Chinese, and blacks, for example) and which groups belonged to the “higher racial forms” and the “advanced races” (above all Germans, Nordic peoples, and “the great Aryan Root Race”). Steiner repeats these repugnant notions throughout his work.[15] According to anthroposophy, a soul that is unfortunate enough to incarnate in a “backward race” has only itself to blame. Very little effort is required to locate dozens of such passages within Steiner’s published writings.[16]

Thus we can see that Waage’s claim that Steiner definitively rejected the ideology of root races and Aryan supremacy is inaccurate, and that Steiner’s occasional trite phrases about the spiritual insignificance of race are disingenuous.[17] But have his anthroposophist followers managed to free themselves from their master’s xenophobic prejudices?[18] The article already offered numerous examples of the continuing virulence of racist thinking within contemporary anthroposophy, but let us examine one further instance which highlights Waage’s indefensible claims. One of Steiner’s early devout followers was Ernst Uehli, a teacher at the original Waldorf school and an officer of the Anthroposophical Society. In anthroposophist circles Uehli is regarded as an outstanding anti-fascist; Uwe Werner makes special mention of him as having been “extremely critical” of National Socialism (Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, Munich 1999, 97).

In reality Uehli propounded an ugly version of anthroposophical racism, Aryan supremacism and antisemitism with a marked penchant for blood-and-soil ideology. In 1926 he published a book on “Nordic-Germanic Mythology” and dedicated it to the recently deceased Steiner, who is quoted and referred to constantly throughout the book. Uehli uses the terms “root races” and “Aryan” repeatedly (Ernst Uehli, Nordisch-Germanische Mythologie als Mysteriengeschichte, Stuttgart 1965, 134-144). Why would a close follower of Steiner continue to promote ideas that the master had supposedly renounced? But Uehli doesn’t content himself with simply repeating the anthroposophist orthodoxy on root races and Aryan superiority; he constructs a grand historical-evolutionary-racial narrative in which the two rival forces, separated throughout the millennia by their fundamentally different racial makeup, are “the Semitic and the Aryan peoples” (ibid. 144). Whereas “the early Germans were a people of nature” and thus pure and strong, “the Jews succumbed to Ahriman” (ibid. 147; “Ahriman” is the anthroposophist term for demonic forces that promote materialism). Alongside the world-historical struggle between the nature-loving Aryans and the materialistic and diabolical Jews, Uehli notes that there are still a few “primitive peoples that are dying out” as a result of cosmic necessity, since they are nothing more than the “decadent remnants” of an earlier root race (ibid. 135).[19]

One might think that latter-day anthroposophists would be sensible enough to quietly ignore such repellent racist nonsense from their not so distant past. But in the year 2000 Uehli’s works were still part of the officially recommended curriculum for Waldorf teachers in both Germany and the United States. This fact sparked yet another public scandal around anthroposophist racism when a book of Uehli’s about Atlantis, evidently even more offensive than the one we’ve quoted, was brought to public attention in the spring of 2000. The German youth ministry responded by putting the book on its index of racist literature. If even German government bureaucrats have no trouble recognizing anthroposophy’s racist content, why does Waage stubbornly deny it? Anthroposophy’s ongoing racist legacy has led to public investigations in the Netherlands, Switzerland, France and Belgium as well. Limits of space prevent us from elaborating on this crucial topic, but interested readers can consult the outstanding treatment of the German case by Peter Bierl in his Wurzelrassen, Erzengel und Volksgeister. Die Anthroposophie Rudolf Steiners und die Waldorfpädagogik (Konkret Literatur Verlag, Hamburg 1999; 2nd ed. 2005).


Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of Waage’s reply is his emphatic contention that Steiner “was an opponent of the right to private property.” Indeed Waage is adamant that the article’s depiction of Steiner’s pro-capitalist views is “sloppy at best, untruthful at worst.” Curiously, Waage offers no supporting quotes from Steiner and cites no other literature to back up his interpretation, and some of his own paraphrases of Steiner’s views actually contradict his interpretation.[20] Steiner’s voluminous writings on economic subjects are often vague and occasionally opaque, and his position shifted multiple times; here as elsewhere, contradictions are the one consistent element. It is nonetheless possible to decipher his attitude toward private property. What Steiner opposed was the misuse of private property, not the institution itself.[21] He favored a peculiar mixture of private ownership and social conscience, whereby both individual capitalists and small groups of especially “talented” executives would manage private capital as a sort of trust for the ostensible good of the whole community (readers familiar with the disjointed economic doctrines of classical fascism will notice the parallels to the ideology of the Volksgemeinschaft or people’s community). Steiner insisted that the notion of abolishing capitalism was simply impossible and would mean abolishing social life as such; for him, “capitalism is a necessary component of modern life.”[22] The anthroposophist Walter Kugler, who works for the Rudolf Steiner Nachlaßverwaltung in Dornach (the administrators of Steiner’s published and unpublished works), describes Steiner’s position thus: “Each entrepreneur, that is each individual who wants to make use of his talents to satisfy the needs of others, will obtain capital for as long as he is able to make productive use of his talents.” (Kugler, Rudolf Steiner und die Anthroposophie, Cologne 1978, p. 165) Steiner himself wrote: “The entire ownership of capital must be arranged so that the especially talented individual or the especially talented group of individuals comes to possess capital in a way which arises solely from their own personal initiative.” (ibid.)

A central tenet of the Dreigliederung or ‘social threefolding’ doctrine, which Steiner emphasized again and again, was that the economic sphere must never be organized or managed democratically.[23] Accordingly, Steiner polemicized against socialism (not just its marxist variants) and explicitly rejected the socialization of property (not just nationalization).[24] He also opposed labor unions. Within a full-fledged “threefold commonwealth” Steiner foresaw a spiritual meritocracy in which the “most capable” would be given effective control over economic resources, and he vehemently rejected the notion of tempering this arrangement through any kind of community oversight. He derided the idea of “transferring the means of production from private ownership into communal property,” as well as of socializing “the management of concentrated masses of capital,” and insisted that “the management of the means of production must be left in the hands of the individual.” (Steiner in ibid. 199, 200) Steiner was insistent on this point: “No-one can be allowed to return to economic forms in which the individual is tied to or limited by the community. We must strive instead for the very opposite.” (ibid. p. 201) In one work alone, the 1919 book Kernpunkte der sozialen Frage, he expressly and forcefully dismissed “communal property” more than a dozen times; nearly every chapter contains at least one denunciation of “common ownership.”

Steiner’s interest in economic affairs arose as a reaction to the wave of working-class revolt that swept across Europe in the immediate aftermath of World War One. During this period numerous grassroots demands for socializing the factories were put forward in city after city. Steiner ridiculed all such proposals – “as if one could really socialize the various factories.”
(ibid. p. 209) His own counterproposals were meant precisely to thwart this economic democratization from below.[25] In Steiner’s utopia, the economy was not to be run by the “hand-workers,” but rather by “the spiritual workers, who direct production.” (Threefold Commonwealth, p. xxxii; this is the original authorized English translation of Kernpunkte der sozialen Frage.)[26] And just how are these privileged spiritual workers to be chosen? “The spiritual organization will rest on a healthy basis of individual initiative, exercised in free competition amongst the private individuals suited to spiritual work.” (ibid. p. 158) Within this framework, “the spiritual life should be set free, and given control of the employment of capital” – indeed, an “absolutely free use of capital” (ibid. pp. 117, 126). “Private property,” for Steiner, “is an outcome of the social creativeness which is associated with individual human ability.” (ibid. p. 126) Shared ownership, in contrast, is an obstruction to this all-important creative unfolding of individual talent: “The individual cannot make his abilities effective in business, if he is tied down in his work and decisions to the will of the community.” (Steiner, Rudolf Steiner: Essential Readings, ed. Richard Seddon, Wellingborough 1988, p. 106) Given these thoroughly capitalist assumptions, Steiner’s conclusion comes as no surprise: “Really practical thought, therefore, will not look to find the cure for social ills in a reshaping of economic life that would substitute communal for private management of the means of production. The endeavor should rather be to forestall the ills that can arise through management by individual initiative and personal worth, without impairing this management itself.” (ibid.)

Moreover, when Steiner’s economic ideas were put into practice in the early 1920s by the Threefold Commonwealth League (Bund für Dreigliederung des Sozialen Organismus) in southwest Germany, it was very clear that he opposed a democratic organization of the affiliated factories - the Waldorf tobacco factory being the best known. The anthroposophist Hans Kühn wrote: “Democratization of the factories was something he [Steiner] opposed on principle. The manager had to be able to make his own arrangements without interference.” (Hans Kühn, Dreigliederungszeit. Rudolf Steiners Kampf für die Gesellschaftsordnung der Zukunft, Dornach, 1978 p. 52). Since leading anthroposophists had no trouble grasping this point, it is difficult to understand how Waage could mistake Steiner for an opponent of private ownership and capitalism. Steiner’s scheme was nothing more than an ‘enlightened’ version of private property under the benevolent control of a spiritual aristocracy. As such it forms the perfect economic counterpart to his mixture of radical individualism and elitism. It would be hard to explain the appeal of Steiner’s economic doctrines to aristocrats and industrialists – and these, after all, are the ones who responded most favorably to his proposals – if those doctrines had contained anything that threatened the profits of the powerful.[27]


Waage seems to have misunderstood Anthroposophy and Ecofascism as a version of the guilt by association argument: if some anthroposophists were Nazis and some Nazis were anthroposophists, this simpleminded reasoning goes, then the two groups must be identical. At the very least it should have been clear that the article dealt with one specific wing of the Nazi movement, the ecofascist tendency, a grouping which was controversial within the party as a whole. Waage’s failure to recognize this crucial distinction marks the very beginning of his reply, where he invents a “quotation” that never appeared in the article. Nowhere does the article assert “that Steiner was a Nazi,” much less that “anthroposophy is Nazism,” as Waage pretends.[28] He goes on to make several untenable claims about anthroposophy’s relationship to National Socialism: that there were no significant ideological parallels between the two worldviews, that the Nazis tried to kill Steiner in 1922 because he was a principled opponent of their political outlook, and that anthroposophist collaborators with the Third Reich were repudiated by organized anthroposophy after World War Two. Let us examine each of these claims in turn.

1. Ideological parallels. In addition to casting doubt on the article’s comparison of Steiner’s anti-French diatribes to Mein Kampf (we urge readers who share Waage’s skepticism on this point to read Hitler’s passages on France as Germany’s “mortal enemy” alongside Steiner’s passages on the same theme), Waage says that the description of similarities between the anthroposophist and the Nazi racial mythologies is “obviously unreasonable.”[29] This view is not shared by scholars of the topic. In the words of anti-fascist researcher Volkmar Wölk, “It is a short conceptual step from this position [Steiner’s root-race theory] to the racial doctrine of the Nazis.”[30] If Waage finds such politically conscious scholarship too critical, he may want to consult instead the work of historian Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, who wrote the entirely approving preface to Rudolf Steiner: Essential Writings and can hardly be suspected of harboring any bias against Steiner. Goodrick-Clarke’s respected work The Occult Roots of Nazism, one of the few books by a responsible scholar on a topic which is otherwise a playground for conspiracy theorists and amateur occultists, is a thorough analysis of ariosophy,” another turn of the century Viennese offshoot of theosophy which took the Aryan myth even further than Steiner did and which had a direct influence on Hitler.

Goodrick-Clarke notes that in the late nineteenth century Steiner was involved in the Vienna theosophist circles which were the source of “the particular kind of theosophy which the Ariosophists adopted to their völkisch ideas.”
(Occult Roots of Nazism, Wellingborough 1985, p. 29) He also emphasizes that “the very structure of theosophical thought lent itself to völkisch adoption.” (ibid. p. 31) In 1908, midway through Steiner’s tenure as the head of German theosophy, a German theosophist named Harald Grävell published a significant article in the major Viennese ariosophist journal. There Grävell “outlined a thoroughly theosophical conception of race and a programme for the restoration of Aryan authority in the world. His quoted occult sources were texts by Annie Besant, Blavatsky’s successor as leader of the international Theosophical Society at London, and Rudolf Steiner, the Secretary General of its German branch in Berlin.” (ibid. p. 101) In particular Grävell cited Steiner’s 1907 text Blut ist ein ganz besonderer Saft, “which reflected the theosophical interest in racist ideas.” (ibid. p. 242; Steiner’s text is available in English under the title “The Occult Significance of Blood.”) Goodrick-Clarke also shows that the ariosophists were influenced by nineteenth century Romanticism, Haeckel and Monism, just as Steiner was.

Does all this prove that Rudolf Steiner was personally responsible for shaping Hitler’s perverse worldview? Of course not, and the article made no such argument. What Goodrick-Clarke’s painstaking research does show is that the borders between anthroposophy proper and other versions of race mysticism and occult nationalism were exceedingly porous. Many of the far-right esotericist groupings of the interwar period drew on the root race doctrine which Steiner had done so much to promote, and this obscure body of ideas had an undeniable impact on Nazi thought. This point is borne out by numerous other scholars. James Webb writes: “there is absolutely no doubt that Hitler believed in a theory of occult evolution of a Theosophical type.” (Webb, The Occult Establishment, Chicago 1976, p. 313) Webb also documents, in detail, several important areas of overlap – race theory, Atlantis, Aryans, among others – between anthroposophy and theosophy on the one hand and the belief systems of the Nazi leadership, particularly Hitler, Himmler, and Rosenberg, on the other.[31]

If such scholarship is still too “biased” for Waage, he might prefer to consult the work of Eduard Gugenberger and Roman Schweidlenka, who have many nice things to say about Steiner and in general present him as an honorable exception to the otherwise dismal political record of esotericist thinkers (see Gugenberger & Schweidlenka, Mutter Erde – Magie und Politik, Vienna 1987, pp. 135-145). But even these sympathetic commentators emphasize that “Steiner posited a strictly hierarchical evolutionary chain” based on the root race model, with “Germanic-Nordic” peoples at the top (ibid. p. 144). They go on to remark that in Steiner’s anthroposophy, his “own race and own culture appear as the currently highest stage of humanity’s spiritual development” (ibid. p. 145). Gugenberger and Schweidlenka themselves point out the obvious racism and justification of social injustice which anthroposophy thereby propagates under the guise of spiritual enlightenment. It is hence only to be expected that contemporary neo-Nazis draw substantially on Steiner’s teachings.[32]

Ignoring all of this evidence, Waage nonetheless categorically denies the ideological parallels between anthroposophy and National Socialism, particularly its esoteric and environmentalist variants. To reassure readers of Humanist that we have not cited historical sources selectively, we urge those curious about this philosophical affinity to check our interpretation against the standard historiography on the Nazi worldview and its ideological origins. Even those works which mention Steiner merely in passing, as one among many contributors to right-wing authoritarian demagoguery, will serve to correct Waage’s impression that Steiner was simply “a rational humanist.”[33]

2. The 1922 incident. Waage writes that “Steiner himself was the victim of an attempted assassination by the Nazi movement in 1922” as proof that Steiner was a conscientious opponent of Nazism. Before reviewing this very revealing 1922 event, we must remark on the peculiar logic invoked here. If Waage thinks that the identity of a public figure’s assassin tells us something definitive about the victim’s identity, then he must conclude that Trotsky was not a Bolshevik and Rabin was not a Jew. Perhaps Waage also believes that Nazi leaders Ernst Röhm and Gregor Strasser were really anti-Nazi, since Hitler had them killed in 1934. But in fact this point is moot, because Waage gets the relevant details of the 1922 incident wrong in the first place. What actually happened in Munich in May, 1922, was that a group of right-wing thugs disrupted a large public lecture by Steiner and apparently tried to physically assault him after he had finished speaking, but were beaten back by Steiner’s supporters. To call this lecture-hall brawl an “attempted assassination” is unsubstantiated hyperbole, as there is no evidence that Steiner’s attackers intended to kill him.[34] Nor was there any direct involvement by “the Nazi movement”; anthroposophist sources indicate instead that Steiner’s would-be assailants belonged to a rival far-right outfit.[35] These facts are easily available in standard anthroposophist descriptions of the incident.[36] Waage’s overwrought version of the event is also flatly contradicted by anthroposophical eyewitness accounts.[37]

Although anthroposophists frequently try to recast Steiner as an anti-Hitler martyr by pointing to the 1922 incident, the facts of the event do not support this interpretation. The confrontation took place at the Vier Jahreszeiten hotel, where Steiner chose to give his Munich speech. From 1919 onward this hotel was a notorious gathering point for Munich’s ultranationalist far right; it housed the headquarters of the Thule Society, one of the most militant völkisch groups, and was indeed owned by Thule members.[38] Some contemporary anthroposophists even claim that Steiner’s attackers belonged to the Thule Society.[39] But no matter who was in fact responsible for the aborted disruption of Steiner’s lecture, his own choice of venue is difficult to explain if one views Steiner simply as an anti-nationalist who abjured far right politics. Furthermore, several prominent Thule Society members had direct ties to Steiner and anthroposophy, including Rudolf Hess, anthroposophy’s chief ally during the Third Reich.[40]

How are we to make sense of this convoluted situation? As we have already indicated, in the interwar period the organizational outlines of the reactionary nationalist-occult spectrum were thoroughly porous, with competing groups displaying a substantial overlap in membership and ideology. Anthroposophy was a part of this spectrum, as were several of the direct precursors to the Nazis. Goodrick-Clarke offers an illuminating example of this crossover: In 1923, immediately after moving to Germany, the Russian antisemitic conspiracy theorist and occultist Gregor Schwartz-Bostunitsch “became an enthusiastic Anthroposophist” (Occult Roots of Nazism, p. 170). By the end of the decade Schwartz-Bostunitsch had turned on anthroposophy, seeing it as yet another cog in the international occult conspiracy; he later became an officer in the SS.[41]

Such examples are anything but isolated, as the literature on German esoteric politics shows. The constant intermingling of right-wing and esoteric groups is a major theme of Webb’s Occult Establishment, and the book includes a thoughtful exploration of both the overlaps and the mutual hostilities between Steiner and his followers and the militant völkisch forces. Webb concludes that “Steiner was not really alien to völkisch thought,” and shows that “the völkisch reaction [against Steiner] was an admission that both camps were operating on the same level. And a proportion of the völkisch rage came from the realization that here [in anthroposophy] was another vision of the universe which claimed to be ‘spiritual’.” (p. 290) The outbreak of hostilities between völkisch groups and anthroposophy was not due to fundamental differences between the two currents, but on the contrary to their marked ideological proximity – indeed it was precisely these basic ideological affinities which made them rivals in the first place.[42] Thus the lessons to be drawn from the 1922 incident point toward, not away from, the thesis of mutual influence by early Nazis and anthroposophists.

In addition to misrepresenting and misunderstanding the 1922 incident, Waage makes two further points about Steiner and the Nazis which he thinks are proof of Steiner’s anti-Nazi credentials: Steiner’s 1920 criticism of the misuse of the swastika, and Hitler’s 1921 criticism of Steiner’s harmful spiritual influence. Both of these claims rest on a basic incomprehension of the historical context. Waage quotes a brief remark by Steiner, made “already in 1920,” about “the beastliness that goes on in Germany under the swastika banners.” Waage gives an erroneous date for this quote; Steiner actually said these words on 10 September 1923 (see Rhythmen im Kosmos und in Menschenwesen. Wie kommt man zum Schauen der geistigen Welt? GA 350, p. 276), although he did make another revealing remark about the Swastika in 1920.[43] But mixed-up citations aside, it is unlikely that any comment on the use of the swastika in 1920 was directed against the Nazi party as such. That party was not officially formed until April, 1920, and remained minuscule and largely unknown for some time. Moreover, the Nazis did not adopt the swastika emblem until the summer of 1920, and the distinctive swastika banners were not designed until two years later (William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, New York 1960, 43-44).

In fact, when we checked the citation Waage gives, we found this: “This symbol [the swastika] which the Indian or old Egyptian once looked to when he spoke of his sacred Brahman, this symbol is now to be seen on the [Russian] ten thousand ruble note! Those who are making grand politics there know how to influence the human soul. They know what the triumphal procession of the swastika means – this swastika that a large number of people in Europe are already wearing – but they do not want to listen to that which strives to understand, out of the most important symptoms, the secrets of today’s historical development." (Steiner, Geisteswissenschaft als Erkenntnis der Grundimpulse sozialer Gestaltung GA 199, p. 161; speech 27.08.1920) On the basis of Waage’s own citation, Steiner opposed the ostensible use of the swastika by the Bolsheviks; he makes no mention at all of the Nazis.

Still, is it not possible that Steiner was expressing a general hostility to the racist thinking associated even then with the swastika? That is similarly unlikely. Consider another of Steiner’s critical comments on the misuse of the swastika as a political symbol, this one from a lecture in Dornach in 1924: “The Asian cannot understand concepts like the European has; instead the Asians wants images. These abstractions, these concepts which the European has, the Asian does not want those, they hurt his brain, he does not want them. And a symbol like, for example, the swastika, this symbol – it was an ancient sun symbol – was present all throughout Asia. The old Asians still remember this. Certain Bolshevik politicians were clever enough, just like the German Völkischen, to use this ancient swastika as their symbol. This makes a much bigger impression on Asians than all of Marxism does. Marxism consists of concepts for thinking; that doesn’t make an impression on these people. But such a symbol, that makes an impression on these people.” (Steiner, Geschichte der Menschheit, p. 261)[44] It would be obtuse to describe a passage like this as an admonition against racist politics.

What of Hitler’s early criticism of Steiner? Waage quotes a 1921 article by Hitler which, in Waage’s rendering, accuses Steiner of “ruining people’s normal spiritual basis.” To take this brief remark as a considered rejection of Steiner’s philosophy is to misunderstand both the quotation and its broader context. Waage’s truncated quote gives the impression that the passage is a general denunciation of the deleterious effects of Steiner’s spiritual doctrines. In fact Hitler’s article from March 15, 1921 – the only recorded reference to Steiner in Hitler’s writings during Steiner’s lifetime – is directed not against Steiner, but against the German foreign minister Walter Simons. (See Adolf Hitler, Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen 1905-1924, Stuttgart 1980, 348-353) Hitler mentions Steiner merely as a “friend” of Simons, evidently convinced that Simons was somehow influenced by Steiner.[45] As one might expect from a practiced demagogue, Hitler’s criticism of the foreign minister, and by extension of Steiner, bears little relationship to either figure’s actual politics.[46] Indeed anthroposophists at the time leveled the same charges at Simons as Hitler did.[47] Steiner himself, for that matter, unequivocally condemned Simons in extremely strong terms for the very same actions as Hitler did.[48] While Hitler’s rhetorical jibe shows contempt for Steiner, it tells us nothing about the conceptual continuities and discontinuities between their respective belief systems.

Hitler was generally impatient with would-be spiritual reformers like Steiner because he thought they distracted attention from the real struggle in the political realm. This scarcely indicates a fundamental philosophical hostility toward Steiner’s teachings; indeed Hitler frequently made similar criticisms of loyal Nazi party members. Consider distinguished historian George Mosse’s discussion of an analogous case, that of Steiner’s fellow cosmic spiritualist Artur Dinter: “Even as early as Mein Kampf Hitler severely criticised Volkish ‘religious reformers.’ Considering Hitler’s own view of nature mysticism and the ‘secret science,’ this might seem contradictory. However, his reasons for such criticism are illuminating. The Volkish leaders in general were in his eyes ‘sectarians’ who must be crushed by the true ‘movement,’ but specifically these reformers weakened the fight against the common enemy: Jewry. They scattered the forces that were needed to wage this battle. Basically, Hitler’s criticism of such men as Dinter was that they failed to focus their ideology on the Jews. This leads once more to our thesis that Hitler transformed the German revolution, of which many Volkish adherents dreamt, into an anti-Jewish revolution, and thereby concretized and objectified an ideology that had been too vague for the purposes of a mass movement. The spiritualist and theosophical ideas were thus relegated to the background and their adherents silenced or ignored.” (Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology, New York 1964, pp. 306-307)[49] The historical record simply does not support Waage’s interpretation of the passing insults traded between Steiner and Hitler, and Waage’s interpretation is utterly incompatible with Steiner’s own quite explicit statements. When understood in their historical context, the sometimes nasty exchanges between Steiner and völkisch leaders, far from exonerating Steiner, actually provide further evidence of the extent to which he contributed to that “vague ideology” which Hitler later put into practice.

The Nazis, in common with all fascists, had always condemned half-measures as typically bourgeois and anti-revolutionary. Goebbels now defined as "revolutionary" those who would accept no compromise in executing a scorched earth policy, or in shooting shirkers and deserters. Refusal to carry out such actions marked the worn-out old bourgeois.

-- The Fascist Revolution, by George L. Mosse

3. Repudiation of anthroposophist collaborators. Waage informs us that “the leader of the Steiner schools in Germany who held the schools open until 1941 with the approval of the regime, was after the war expelled from all Steiner schools.” Waage does not name this person, but the context makes clear that he must mean either René Maikowski or Elisabeth Klein, who led the negotiations with Nazi education officials to keep the Waldorf schools operating as long as possible. The notion that Klein or Maikowski were expelled from the Waldorf movement after the war is preposterous. Maikowski was the central figure in re-establishing the Hannover Waldorf school after the war, and Klein taught at the school from 1950 until 1965.[50] Both were very active in the broader Waldorf movement after 1945, publishing in its journals, helping establish new schools, and training other teachers. Both received emphatic support from anthroposophy’s headquarters in Dornach.

Waage would have his readers believe that open Nazi collaborators were unwelcome within organized anthroposophy after the war. The very opposite was the case. Günther Wachsmuth continued without interruption to occupy the highest office in international anthroposophy, despite his expressed admiration for the Nazis. Nor is there any record of measures against Erhard Bartsch, chief promoter of biodynamic agriculture, SS collaborator and Hitler fan. Many former Nazis went on to renowned anthroposophical careers after 1945, including Friedrich Benesch, Ernst Harmstorf, Heimo Rau, Gotthold Hegele, Werner Voigt, and Udo Renzenbrink. Even Uwe Werner, with his access to internal documents and his evident eagerness to include every last exculpatory detail imaginable, concedes that anthroposophists undertook no collective soul-searching after 1945: “Curiously, the anthroposophists did not discuss or describe in detail their behavior during the Nazi period directly after the year 1945.” (Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, p. 2) Indeed he emphasizes that after the war anthroposophists “more or less consciously refused to revive controversies about the behavior of some anthroposophists during the Nazi period.” (ibid.) Werner does not note a single exception to this policy. He explicitly states that the only postwar recriminations of any kind “were certain barely expressed reservations about individuals.” (ibid. p. 364)

Far from pursuing a general reckoning with the Nazis in their midst, postwar anthroposophists got back to business as usual and stifled any discussion of the more sordid aspects of their past. To this day the vast majority of anthroposophists completely deny their extensive record of collusion with the Nazis. Nor is this record, as Waage suggests, a matter of a few wayward figures like Maikowski or Klein.[51] Werner’s work alone – quite against its author’s intentions – provides copious evidence of just how widespread this collusion was; in the course of the book he lists a range of named individuals who were both active anthroposophists and Nazi party members. He also inadvertently shows that the extent of the organizational and personnel overlap between the Anthroposophical Society and the Nazi party was significant enough to concern the anti-esoteric faction of the Nazis, and reveals that the anthroposophist leadership was willing to go to great lengths to protect the party members in its ranks (see, e.g., Werner p. 72). Obviously not a few anthroposophists wanted to remain Nazis in good standing. Moreover, anthroposophist loyalty to their Nazi comrades continued after the defeat of the Third Reich. Walter Darré’s lawyer at Nuremberg was the anthroposophist Hans Merkel; he remained a close confidante of the notorious racial theorist and former minister in Hitler’s cabinet until the end of Darré’s life. Merkel was also the attorney for Nazi war criminal Otto Ohlendorf. And after Ohlendorf was hanged for the murder of 90,000 Jews, the anthroposophist pastor Haverbeck presided at his funeral. Neither repentant nor rueful, postwar anthroposophists were at least consistent in their political allegiances.

Alas, mistakes such as these are not the worst of Waage’s errors. He appears to be entirely unfamiliar with even well-known aspects of the history of the anthroposophical movement during the Third Reich. Waage writes that “there was allegedly supposed to be a bio-dynamic garden” at the Dachau concentration camp. Allegedly? Supposed to be? We hope that Waage is not one of those anthroposophists who believes that there were ‘allegedly supposed to be’ gas chambers at Auschwitz. The biodynamic garden at Dachau was hardly “alleged,” it was very real, and it was overseen by an anthroposophist, Franz Lippert. It is discussed extensively in a very wide array of both anthroposophical and scholarly sources.[52] Indeed it is described at length in one of the sources Waage himself touts.[53] Waage’s complete ignorance of all of this easily accessible information is nothing short of astonishing. Waage has somehow managed to convince himself that Anthroposophy and Ecofascism presented a “simple” version of the history of anthroposophical entwinement with Nazism; this misunderstanding of the article appears to be based on Waage’s own starkly simplistic and startlingly uninformed conception of history. In reality, the history recounted in the article is highly complex and contradictory, and anthroposophists and their defenders would do well to recognize at long last the complexities and contradictions in their own past.

Anthroposophy Today

Waage devotes much of his reply to Anthroposophy and Ecofascism to issues that the article did not address, such as the benevolent activities of Waldorf schools in various countries around the globe. While it is difficult to see what these matters have to do with the relationship between anthroposophy and ecofascism, Waage seems to think they count as refutations of the article. He says that its “perfidious accusations” against anthroposophy are harmful to “teachers, pupils and parents” of Waldorf schools. We don’t understand how questioning the ideology of an ideologically oriented school can be harmful to anyone; surely it would be more harmful to leave the ideology unquestioned.[54] We hope that the lesson Waage learned at his Waldorf school is not that anthroposophists are always right and their critics always wrong. Our own experience, at any rate, is rather different. [55]

Waage also makes much of the recent report by Dutch anthroposophists which purports to exonerate Steiner of the charge of racism. Incredibly, he takes this report as an example of anthroposophists grappling candidly with their compromised past. Waage himself admits that Steiner said a number of “absurdly grotesque and outrageous” things about blacks, Asians, native people, etc., but discounts these utterances because they were supposedly “marginal” to Steiner’s core beliefs. Waage does not seem to have reflected on the fundamental divergence between his own position, which is ethically incoherent, and the position staked out in the Dutch report, which is empirically incoherent. It would be one thing if the Dutch commission had concluded that, on balance, anthroposophy is not necessarily a racist doctrine. But this is not the conclusion the Dutch commission came to. Instead their report, as Waage himself notes, determined that “no race theory or racist views can be attributed to Steiner.” We repeat: in the commission’s opinion, which Waage appears to endorse, Rudolf Steiner held no racist views whatsoever, and his writings do not contain any race theory.[56]

Let us note, first, that this is a bold departure from previous anthroposophist apologetics, which imagined that Steiner’s racism was forgivable because it was a “product of its time” – an interesting argument in itself, since it can be used to justify so many twentieth century atrocities.[57] Until now, the anthroposophist attitude toward Steiner’s racism was: ignore it and it will go away. But with the Dutch report this stance of silent complicity has given way to one of pure and absolute denial. Rudolf Steiner, we are now told, never uttered a racist word in his life. We are dismayed that humanists would join in such a specious pretense. To claim that Steiner held no racist views is simply a sign of dishonesty, ignorance, or bad faith. A person who is free of racist views cannot possibly say things like “the Negro race does not belong in Europe,” “transplanting black people to Europe is horrible,” “the white race is the spiritually creative race,” and “concepts hurt the Asian’s brain,” and cannot conceivably call aboriginal peoples “degenerate,” “decadent,” and “stunted”. These statements admit of no non-racist interpretation. Steiner made each of these statements, and expressed similar sentiments over and over again, from a position of professed moral authority. To absolve such a practice is incompatible with humanist values.

But even this dismal instance of willful ignorance is surpassed by the belief that Steiner’s written works contain no racial theory. To appreciate just how intellectually threadbare this posture is, let us briefly recapitulate: Steiner was the chief public spokesperson for one of the largest branches of theosophy for a full decade. One of the primary original contributions theosophy made to the occult canon was the doctrine of root races. Steiner adopted the root race doctrine wholesale into anthroposophy. That comprehensive doctrine divides the human family into five root races (Wurzelrassen, sometimes also named Hauptrassen or Grundrassen, principal or primary races), with two more root races to appear in the distant future. Each root race is further stratified into sub-races (Unterrassen). These categories are biological (Steiner calls them “hereditary”) as well as spiritual. The racial classifications are not normatively neutral; they are arranged in ascending order of spiritual development, with the fifth root race, the “Aryan race,” and within that root race the “Germanic-Nordic sub-race,” at the top of the hierarchy. This hierarchy, in turn, is an integral component of the cosmic order. These ideas are explicitly laid out in great detail and with emphatic repetition in numerous books, pamphlets, articles and lectures written and published by Rudolf Steiner. Yet somehow, Waage assures us, they do not constitute a race theory.

To anyone who has tried to engage anthroposophists and their defenders in dialogue and critique, such dubious apologetics are all too recognizable. There is a growing group of voices that have raised challenging questions about anthroposophy’s political heritage, and these voices have for the most part not been met with an honest response. When faced with logic and fact, anthroposophy and its defenders have nowhere to turn but denial of what everyone else knows to be true.
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Re: The Art of Avoiding History, by Peter Staudenmaier

Postby admin » Tue Feb 06, 2018 1:58 am

Part 2 of 2

When confronted with public scrutiny and scholarly inquiry, anthroposophy and its defenders have no reply but derision and evasion. These are the familiar habits of sectarians and cultists, and they threaten to turn every attempt at critical debate into a travesty of reason. To participate in such a travesty is a form of self-deception and self-debasement unworthy of any humanist. Our hope is that a sober assessment of the historical entwinement of anthroposophy and ecofascism will challenge anthroposophists and their defenders to ask themselves if the belief system they admire can be extricated from this poisonous legacy. If it cannot, we hope they will have the courage to leave anthroposophy behind.



[1] Peter Staudenmaier, “Anthroposophy and Ecofascism”, Humanist (Oslo) 2/2000; Peter Normann Waage, “Humanism and Polemical Populism”, Humanist 3/2000. Waage’s essay may be found here: Readers unfamiliar with the context of this exchange may wish to consult Peter Zegers, “The Dark Side of Political Ecology”, Humanist 2/2000, and Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier, Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience, Edinburgh and San Francisco 1995 (Norwegian edition: Økofascisme: Lærdom fra Tysklands erfaringer, Porsgrunn 1997). In the context of the exchange with Waage in the journal Humanist, Peter Staudenmaier and Peter Zegers agreed to refer to Waage as a non-anthroposophist. Waage is in fact a longstanding and prominent Norwegian anthroposophist, writing for anthroposophical journals, editing anthroposophical periodicals, publishing books on anthroposophists with anthroposophical presses, translating Steiner’s work into Norwegian, and so forth. Readers surprised by this may wish to consult the celebratory profile of Waage in Das Goetheanum, June 2005.

[2] In our original exchange, Waage claimed to be unable to find this passage in the Norwegian translation of Steiner’s autobiography. The sentence above is from the authorized English translation of the book. In the original the sentence reads: “Nun nahm ich damals an den nationalen Kämpfen lebhaften Anteil, welche die Deutschen in Österreich um ihre nationale Existenz führten.” (Rudolf Steiner, Mein Lebensgang, original edition Dornach 1925, p. 132) We offered our own translation thus: “At this time I was enthusiastically active in the struggles of the Germans in Austria for their national existence.” We also noted that the central phrase could be alternatively translated as “deeply sympathetic”. Existing anthroposophist translations support our reading and contradict Waage’s reading. The Italian edition of the book, for example, renders the passage as follows: “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). Since the original article cited the German edition of the book, and since Waage reads German and has access to Steiner’s collected works in the original, his insinuation that this quote was concocted strikes us as peculiar, to say the least.

[3] Langbehn’s book was the bible of the right-wing nationalist völkisch movement, a forerunner to the Nazis, during the period of Steiner’s active involvement in pan-German circles. Steiner offers, of all things, a stylistic critique of the book, never once mentioning its aggressive antisemitism or its baleful political and cultural influence within German-speaking Europe. For Steiner’s further comments on the book, many of them remarkably positive, see Steiner, Kunstgeschichte als Abbild innerer geistiger Impulse, pp. 141-144.[/b] See also Steiner’s extremely positive remarks on Paul de Lagarde: Steiner, Aus schicksaltragender Zeit, pp. 224-225, and Steiner, Unsere Toten, pp. 82-92. For an overview of Langbehn’s impact see Peter Pulzer, The Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria, New York 1964, chapter 25; for an extraordinarily insightful analysis of both Langbehn and Lagarde see Fritz Stern, The Politics of Cultural Despair, Berkeley 1961; cf. also Doris Mendlewitsch, Volk und Heil: Vordenker des Nationalsozialismus im 19. Jahrhundert, Rheda 1988, pp. 74-115 on Langbehn and pp. 116-155 on Lagarde, as well as Ulrich Sieg, Deutschlands Prophet: Paul de Lagarde und die Ursprünge des modernen Antisemitismus, Munich 2007.

[4] See Rudolf Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte 1887-1901, Dornach 1966 (GA volume 31; “GA” refers to the Gesamtausgabe, Steiner’s collected works published by the Rudolf Steiner Nachlaßverwaltung in Dornach, Switzerland), pp. 111-120. These early nationalist articles from Steiner’s Vienna period are filled with prejudice against what Steiner called “the Slavic enemy” (GA 31, p. 116), and they demand that the political agenda of the Habsburg empire be set by “the exclusively national elements of the German people in Austria,” namely “the pan-Germans” (GA 31, p. 143). Waage cited this very same volume in his reply to the article; its contents seem to have escaped his notice.

[5] See GA 31, pp. 118-119 and 143-144, among others.

[6] See, for example, GA 31 pp. 214-216 and 361-362, as well as the 1898 essay “Über deutschnationale Kampfdichter in Österreich” (“On Pan-German Poets of the Struggle in Austria”) in Rudolf Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Literatur1884-1902, Dornach 1971 (GA 32), pp. 448-449.

[7] Waage claims that Steiner’s 1916 book Gedanken während der Zeit des Krieges (“Thoughts During Wartime”) does not advocate German militarism. In fact this book endorses the belligerent Central Powers in unambiguous terms: “The Germans could foresee that this war would one day be fought against them. It was their duty to arm themselves for it.” (GA 24, p. 321) On several occasions Steiner also spoke on the conspiracy against Germany by international Freemasonry and Theosophy: “I have drawn your attention to the demonstrable fact that in the 1890’s certain occult brotherhoods in the West discussed the current world war, and that moreover the disciples of these occult brotherhoods were instructed with maps which showed how Europe was to be changed by this war. English occult brotherhoods in particular pointed to a war that had to come, that they positively steered toward, that they set the stage for.” (Zeitgeschichtliche Betrachtungen. Das Karma der Unwahrhaftigkeit. Erster Teil. GA 173, p. 22). During the war, Steiner sought to establish a public relations operation in Switzerland to promote the cause of the Central Powers; see Christoph Lindenberg, Rudolf Steiner: Eine Biographie, Stuttgart 1997, p. 574.

The clattering of hooves could be heard approaching along the street. It sounded near and metallic, then suddenly stopped. I leaped to the window and saw Demian dismounting below. I ran down.

"What is it, Demian?"

He paid no attention to my words. He was very pale and sweat poured down his cheeks. He tied the bridle of his steaming horse to the garden fence and took my arm and walked down the street with me.

"Have you heard about it?"

I had heard nothing.

Demian squeezed my arm and turned his face toward me, with a strangely somber yet sympathetic look in his eyes.

"Yes, it's starting. You've heard about the difficulties with Russia."

"What? Is it war?"

He spoke very softly although no one was anywhere near us.

"It hasn't been declared yet. But there will be war. You can take my word for that. I didn't want to worry you but I have seen omens on three different occasions since that time. So it won't be the end of the world, no earthquake, no revolution, but war. You'll see what a sensation that will be! People will love it. Even now they can hardly wait for the killing to begin -- their lives are that dull! But you will see, Sinclair, that this is only the beginning. Perhaps it will be a very big war, a war on a gigantic scale. But that, too, will only be the beginning. The new world has begun and the new world will be terrible for those clinging to the old. What will you do?"

I was dumfounded, it all sounded so strange, so improbable.

"I don't know -- and you?"

He shrugged his shoulders.

''I'll be called up as soon as the mobilization order comes through. I'm a lieutenant."

"You, a lieutenant! I had no idea."

"Yes, that was one of the ways I compromised. You know I dislike calling attention to myself so much I almost always went to the other extreme, just to give a correct impression. I believe I'll be on the front in a week."

"My God."

"Now don't get sentimental. Of course it's not going to be any fun ordering men to fire on living beings, but that will be incidental. Each of us will be caught up in the great chain of events. You, too, you'll be drafted, for sure."...

How curious all this was, and, fundamentally, how beautiful! And now there was to be war. What we had talked about so often was to begin. Demian had known so much about it ahead of time. How strange that the stream of the world was not to bypass us any more, that it now went straight through our hearts, and that now or very soon the moment would come when the world would need us, when it would seek to transform itself. Demian was right, one could not be sentimental about that. The only remarkable thing was that I was to share the very personal matter of my fate with so many others, with the whole world in fact. Well, so be it! ...

Soon there was war, and Demian, strangely unfamiliar in his uniform, left us. I accompanied his mother home. It was not long before I, too, took my leave of her. She kissed me on the mouth and clasped me for a moment to her breast. Her great eyes burned close and firmly into mine.

All men seemed to have become brothers -- overnight. They talked of "the fatherland" and of "honor," but what lay behind it was their own fate whose unveiled face they had now all beheld for one brief moment. Young men left their barracks, were packed into trains, and on many faces I saw a sign -- not ours -- but a beautiful, dignified sign nonetheless that meant love and death. I, too, was embraced by people whom I had never seen before and I understood this gesture and responded to it. Intoxication made them do it, not a hankering after their destiny. But this intoxication was sacred, for it was the result of their all having thrown that brief and terribly disquieting glance into the eyes of their fate.

-- Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth, by Hermann Hesse

It is true, it is true, what I speak is the greatness and intoxication and ugliness of madness.

But the spirit of the depths stepped up to me and said: "What you speak is. The greatness is, the intoxication is, the undignified, sick, paltry dailiness is. It runs in all the streets, lives in all the houses, and rules the day of all humanity. Even the eternal stars are commonplace. It is the great mistress and the one essence of God. One laughs about it, and laughter, too, is. Do you believe, man of this time, that laughter is lower than worship? Where is your measure, false measurer? The sum of life decides in laughter and in worship, not your judgment."

I must also speak the ridiculous. You coming men! You will recognize the supreme meaning by the fact that he is laughter and worship, a bloody laughter and a bloody worship. A sacrificial blood binds the poles. Those who know this laugh and worship in the same breath.

After this, however, my humanity approached me and said: "What solitude, what coldness of desolation you lay upon me when you speak such! Reflect on the destruction of being and the streams of blood from the terrible sacrifice that the depths demand."

But the spirit of the depths said: "No one can or should halt sacrifice. Sacrifice is not destruction, sacrifice is the foundation stone of what is to come. Have you not had monasteries? Have not countless thousands gone into the desert? You should carry the monastery in yourself. The desert is within you. The desert calls you and draws you back, and if you were fettered to the world of this time with iron, the call of the desert would break all chains. Truly, I prepare you for solitude."

After this, my humanity remained silent. Something happened to my spirit, however, which I must call mercy.

My speech is imperfect. Not because I want to shine with words, but out of the impossibility of finding those words, I speak in images. With nothing else can I express the words from the depths.

The mercy which happened to me gave me belief, hope, and sufficient daring, not to resist further the spirit of the depths, but to utter his word. But before I could pull myself together to really do it, I needed a visible sign that would show me that the spirit of the depths in me was at the same time the ruler of the depths of world affairs.

It happened in October of the year 1913 as I was leaving alone for a journey, that during the day I was suddenly overcome in broad daylight by a vision: I saw a terrible flood that covered all the northern and low-lying lands between the North Sea and the Alps. It reached from England up to Russia, and from the coast of the North Sea right up to the Alps. I saw yellow waves, swimming rubble, and the death of countless thousands.

This vision lasted for two hours, it confused me and made me ill. I was not able to interpret it. Two weeks passed then the vision returned, still more violent than before, and an inner voice spoke: "Look at it, it is completely real, and it will come to pass. You cannot doubt this."...

From then on the anxiety toward the terrible event that stood directly before us kept coming back. Once I also saw a sea of blood over the northern lands.

In the year 1914 in the month of June, at the beginning and end of the month, and at the beginning of July, I had the same dream three times: I was in a foreign land, and suddenly, overnight and right in the middle of summer, a terrible cold descended from space. All seas and rivers were locked in ice, every green living thing had frozen.

The second dream was thoroughly similar to this. But the third dream at the beginning of July went as follows:

I was in a remote English land. It was necessary that I return to my homeland with a fast ship as speedily as possible. I reached home quickly. In my homeland I found that in the middle of summer a terrible cold had fallen from space, which had turned every living thing into ice. There stood a leaf-bearing but fruitless tree, whose leaves had turned into sweet grapes full of healing juice through the working of the frost. I picked some grapes and gave them to a great waiting throng.

In reality, now, it was so: At the time when the great war broke out between the peoples of Europe, I found myself in Scotland, compelled by the war to choose the fastest ship and the shortest route home. I encountered the colossal cold that froze everything, I met up with the flood, the sea of blood, and found my barren tree whose leaves the frost had transformed into a remedy. And I plucked the ripe fruit and gave it to you and I do not know what I poured out for you, what bitter-sweet intoxicating drink which left on your tongues an aftertaste of blood....

Therefore the spirit foretold to me that the cold of outer space will spread across the earth. With this he showed me in an image that the God will step between men and drive every individual with the whip of icy cold to the warmth of his own monastic hearth.

-- The Red Book: Liber Novus, by C.G. Jung

Mussolini's transformation away from Marxism into what eventually became fascism began prior to World War I, as Mussolini had grown increasingly pessimistic about Marxism and egalitarianism while becoming increasingly supportive of figures who opposed egalitarianism, such as Friedrich Nietzsche. By 1902, Mussolini was studying Georges Sorel, Nietzsche, and Vilfredo Pareto. Sorel's emphasis on the need for overthrowing decadent liberal democracy and capitalism by the use of violence, direct action, general strikes and neo-Machiavellian appeals to emotion impressed Mussolini deeply. His use of Nietzsche made him a highly unorthodox socialist, due to Nietzsche's promotion of elitism and anti-egalitarian views. Prior to World War I, Mussolini's writings over time indicated that he had abandoned the Marxism and egalitarianism that he had previously supported, in favour of Nietzsche's übermensch concept and anti-egalitarianism. In 1908, Mussolini wrote a short essay called "Philosophy of Strength" based on his Nietzschean influence, in which Mussolini openly spoke fondly of the ramifications of an impending war in Europe in challenging both religion and nihilism: "a new kind of free spirit will come, strengthened by the war, ... a spirit equipped with a kind of sublime perversity, ... a new free spirit will triumph over God and over Nothing."

-- Fascism, by Wikipedia

Christianity, too, has fallen into a lower degree of contempt than ever. Realizing that it was moribund, it made a supreme and suicidal effort, and plunged into the death-spasm of the first world-war. It was too far corrupt to react to the injections of the White formula which might have saved it. We see today that Christianity is more bigoted, further divorced from reality, than ever. In some countries it has again become a persecuting church.

-- The Three Schools of Magick, Magick Without Tears, by Aleister Crowley

According to Wilhelm II, World War I resulted from a conspiracy between his enemies, the blood kin Czar Nicholas II and King George V, and their affiliated secret societies.

-- The American Red Double-Cross, by Dr. Len Horowitz


The Moving Finger writes; and having writ,
Moves on; nor all your Piety or Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

-- The Horror of It -- Camera Records of War's Gruesome Glories, by Frederick A. Barber

In 1933 Jung recalled: "At the outbreak of war I was in Inverness, and I returned through Holland and Germany. I came right through the armies going west, and I had the feeling that it was what one would call in German a Hochzeitsstimmung, a feast of love all over the country: Everything was decorated with flowers, it was an outburst of love, they all loved each other and everything was beautiful. Yes, the war was important, a big affair, but the main thing was the brotherly love all over the country, everybody was everybody else's brother, one could have everything anyone possessed, it did not matter. The peasants threw open their cellars and handed out what they had. That happened even in the restaurant and buffet at the railroad station. I was very hungry. I had had nothing to eat for about twenty-four hours, and they had some sandwiches left, and when I asked what they cost, they said, "Oh nothing, just take them!" And when I first crossed the border into Germany, we were led into an enormous tent full of beer and sausages and bread and cheese, and we paid nothing, it was one great feast of love."

-- The Red Book: Liber Novus, by C.G. Jung

I abhor,
And yet how sweet
The sound along the marching street
Of drum and fife, and I forget
Broken old mothers, and the whole
Dark butchery without a soul.

Oh, it is wickedness to clothe
Yon hideous, grinning thing that stalks
Hidden in music, like a queen
That in a garden of glory walks
Till good men love the thing they loathe;
Art, thou hast many infamies,
But not an infamy like this.
Oh, snap the fife and still the drum,
And show the monster like she is.

-- The Horror of It -- Camera Records of War's Gruesome Glories, by Frederick A. Barber

[8] See Ernst zu Reventlow, Politische Vorgeschichte des Großen Krieges, Berlin 1919; and Adolf Bartels, Rasse und Volkstum, Weimar 1920, chapter 25: “Die Ideale Mr. Wilsons”. This hostility is not surprising, since Wilson’s self-determination program presented a serious threat to German territorial claims; the break-up of the Habsburg lands along national lines was the death knell for ethnic German predominance in Eastern Europe. Contrary to Waage’s implication, Steiner’s invective against Wilson did not put him in pleasant political company.

[9] The quoted passage is from the unsigned synopsis of the book which precedes Steiner’s text; even if these words are not directly Steiner’s own, they clearly express his thinking on the matter.

[10] It is strange that Waage chooses to see Steiner’s myopic emphasis on German national concerns as an attempt “to preserve a multicultural Central Europe,” since Steiner’s explicit model was an Austria-Hungary under German domination. Steiner himself was not the least bit shy about his personal allegiance, within the threatening “multicultural” milieu of the Habsburg empire, to what he called his “folk community.” He described himself as “German by descent and racial affiliation” and as a “true-born German-Austrian,” and explained: “In these decades it was of decisive importance for the Austro-German with spiritual aspirations that – living outside the folk community to which Lessing, Goethe, Herder etcetera belonged, and transplanted into a wholly alien environment over the frontier – he imbibed there the spiritual perception of Goethe, Schiller, Lessing and Herder.” (Symptom to Reality pp. 162, 163, 168) This is a conspicuously monocultural viewpoint, indeed a forthrightly ethnocentric one. Comparable passages abound throughout Steiner’s works; see e.g. his description of how the “German character” of Vienna was ruined by an unfortunate influx of Slavs (“das eindringende Slawentum”), which regrettably turned Vienna into an “international” and “cosmopolitan” city: Steiner, Soziale Ideen - Soziale Wirklichkeit - Soziale Praxis, GA 337a, pp. 240-241.

[11] For further discussion of Jacobowski see the fine analysis 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. Cf. also Sander Gilman, Jewish Self-Hatred, Baltimore 1986, p. 224; and Katherine Roper, German Encounters with Modernity, London 1991, pp. 153-157.

[12] See also Steiner’s effusive passages about Treitschke in Steiner, Zeitgeschichtliche Betrachtungen, 109-118; as well as Steiner, Aufsätze über die Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus und zur Zeitlage, pp. 283-287; Steiner, Erziehungskunst (GA 295), pp. 74-75 and 83; and Steiner, Konferenzen mit den Lehrern der Freien Waldorfschule vol. 3 (GA 300c), pp. 31-32.

[13] In our estimation, this is also true of the handful of articles that Steiner wrote for the Verein zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus in 1901, in the aftermath of Jacobowski’s unexpected death. See GA 31, pp. 382-420.

[14] In a second series of lectures in Oslo in 1921, collected under the title “The Future Spiritual Mission of Norway and Sweden,” Steiner explicitly re-affirmed his lectures on “national souls” from eleven years before. He did not in any way modify or repudiate their racist content; on the contrary, he renewed his emphasis on the special mission of “the Nordic spirit” (see Steiner, Nordische und Mitteleuropäische Geistimpulse, Dornach 1968).

[15] Consider, as one example among many, the following passage, where Steiner explains to his followers the crucial contrast between racial progress and racial decadence: “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.” Rudolf Steiner, Menschheitsentwickelung und Christus-Erkenntnis, Dornach 1981, p. 186. This, then, is what Waage calls “a fundamentally anti-racist viewpoint”.

[16] For further examples see among many others Steiner, “The Manifestation of the Ego in the Different Races of Men” in Steiner, The Being of Man and His Future Evolution; Steiner, “Die Grundbegriffe der Theosophie: Menschenrassen” in Steiner, Die Welträtsel und die Anthroposophie; Steiner, “Farbe und Menschenrassen” in Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde; Steiner, The Apocalypse of St. John; Steiner, Grundelemente der Esoterik; Steiner, The Occult Significance of Blood; Steiner, Christus und die menschliche Seele, pp. 92-93; Steiner, Über Gesundheit und Krankheit, p. 189; Steiner, Das Hereinwirken geistiger Wesenheiten in den Menschen, pp. 174-195; Steiner, Menschheitsentwickelung und Christus-Erkenntnis, pp. 243-245.

[17] We suspect that this stubborn inability to recognize the plain meaning of Steiner’s words is related to Waage’s credulousness toward Steiner as a unique source of spiritual inspiration, rather than a historical figure. He even takes at face value Steiner’s patently insincere disapproval of his followers’ “blind obedience.” Every third-rate guru makes such cheerful disavowals of personal authority as a matter of course, because they are effective in disarming gullible recruits. More to the point, anthroposophists as a rule vehemently refuse to question their guru’s spiritual authority, and regard criticism of his unsavory political views as slander. That Waage should adopt this attitude himself is both unsettling and revealing.

[18] Readers familiar with Steiner’s epistemology will find this question superfluous, as anthroposophy explicitly denigrates “criticism” and “judgement” while celebrating “reverent veneration” of ostensible spiritual virtues, and rejects “intellectual effort” in favor of “immediate spiritual perception.” (See Steiner, Wie erlangt man Erkenntnisse der höheren Welten? pp. 6, 32; and Aus der Akasha-Chronik p. 3) Short of schism or apostasy, anthroposophy simply offers no grounds on which its adherents might coherently revise or refute its inherited doctrines. For a judicious assessment of the anti-rational and authoritarian implications of Steiner’s teachings, see Sven Ove Hansson, “Is Anthroposophy Science?” Conceptus XXV no. 64 (1991). On Steiner’s contribution to the irrationalist cultural currents of his day, see Paul Forman, “Weimar Culture, Causality, and Quantum Theory” in Russell McCormmach, Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences volume 3, Philadelphia 1971, pp. 11-12 and 105.

[19] For similar passages see Ernst Uehli, Atlantis und das Rätsel der Eiszeitkunst, Stuttgart 1957; Uehli, Kultur und Kunst Ägyptens, Ein Isisgeheimnis, Dornach 1955; Uehli, Eine neue Gralsuche, Stuttgart 1921.

[20] Much of this exceedingly odd aspect of Waage’s article seems to stem from his own political naiveté; Waage is in this respect a typical befuddled liberal-cum-‘progressive,’ unable to distinguish left from right. The high point of his confusion comes in his unintentionally hilarious comparison of Steiner and Bookchin. Bookchin, who had nothing but contempt for Steiner’s repellent social doctrines, would have had a fine time skewering Waage’s misapprehension of both populism and polemic, one of Bookchin’s favorite rhetorical devices. Polemic lays bare precisely the kind of hopelessly confused political vision which Waage proudly claims as his own.

[21] This fundamental aspect of Steiner’s social threefolding program is emphasized throughout the anthroposophical threefolding literature, a large body of work with which Waage appears to be entirely unfamiliar. For one especially revealing explanation see Albert Schmelzer, Die Dreigliederungsbewegung 1919, Stuttgart 1991, pp. 78-79.

[22] Steiner, Westliche und östliche Weltgegensätzlichkeiten, GA 83, p. 302. Steiner’s followers have sometimes extended this analysis into a veritable celebration of capitalism under threefolding auspices; see e.g. Folkert Wilken, Das Kapital (1976), Wilken, The Liberation of Capital (1982); and for an illuminating earlier idiom see Folkert Wilken, Grundwahrheiten einer organischen Wirtschaft (1934). Equally telling examples can be found in Roman Boos’ musings on ‘social threefolding’ as “cooperative capitalism” and on “capital as an instrument of freedom” in Gegenwart March 1942; Boos, an early threefolding activist, attributes the same views to Steiner himself.

[23] This basic notion is trumpeted throughout Steiner’s work, so much so that it is virtually impossible to see how Waage could have missed it, assuming he has read any of Steiner’s publications on ‘social threefolding.’ Steiner’s followers faithfully repeat the same mantra throughout the anthroposophical literature on the topic; for one of numerous examples see Oskar Hermann, “Wirtschaftsdemokratie: Ein Zerrbild der Dreigliederung” Anthroposophie March 30, 1930, pp. 98-100. Steiner himself put it most succinctly: “Um Gottes willen keine Demokratie auf wirtschaftlichem Gebiet!” Steiner, Vom Einheitsstaat zum dreigliedrigen sozialen Organismus p. 165.

[24] Steiner did on occasion speak derisively of “the old capitalism,” especially before proletarian audiences, and he sometimes promoted what he called “true socialism.” But he strictly distinguished his own ill-defined notions from the various practical proposals that grew out of the vigorous social struggle against capitalism after the war. Steiner considered such programs for a democratic transformation of economic life to be aberrant forms of “hyper-radicalism, which can only make people unhappy.” (Steiner quoted in Karl Heyer, Wer ist der deutsche Volksgeist?, Freiburg 1961, 187) He insisted that anthroposophy alone offered a viable basis for societal reconstruction; indeed “All knowledge, especially social knowledge, must be based on anthroposophical knowledge.” (Steiner in ibid. 188)

[25] Steiner firmly and repeatedly rejected the notion that the exploitation of labor arises “from the economic order of capitalism”; for him the problem “lies not in capitalism, but in the misuse of spiritual talents.” (Steiner, Der innere Aspekt des sozialen Rätsels, Dornach 1972, p. 82) His social vision was at times worthy of Thatcher or Reagan: “Individuals should gain advantage for themselves in the totally free struggle of competition.” (Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte GA 31, p. 285)

[26] These ideas are repeated throughout the threefolding literature; see among many other examples Ernst Uehli’s pamphlet Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, Stuttgart 1922; Wilhelm Blume, “Vom organischen Aufbau der Volksgemeinschaft” in the journal Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, July 1919; Emil Leinhas, “Kapitalverwaltung im dreigliedrigen sozialen Organismus” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus February 1920.

[27] For better or worse, Waage is not alone in fundamentally misapprehending Steiner’s ‘social threefolding’ ideology. For a particularly egregious instance of left failure to understand Steiner, much less analyze his work and its political and economic significance, see the thoroughly credulous article by Guido Giacomo Preparata, “Perishable Money in a Threefold Commonwealth: Rudolf Steiner and the Social Economics of an Anarchist Utopia” Review of Radical Political Economics 38 (2006), 619-48. Preparata does at least manage to situate Steiner in the right gallery of economic charlatans, albeit backhandedly; not only is Preparata a fan of Steiner, but of Silvio Gesell as well, and even of the antisemitic theorist of “social credit,” C. H. Douglas. That this is what passes for radical economic thought in the twenty-first century is a dire sign indeed. For a very different view of both Steiner and Gesell see Robert Kurz, “Politische Ökonomie des Antisemitismus” Krisis 17 (1995), and for a critical analysis of Douglas see Derek Wall, “Social Credit: The Ecosocialism of Fools” Capitalism Nature Socialism 14 (2003). For an early instance of anthroposophist enthusiasm for Douglas and social credit see Owen Barfield, “The Relation between the Economics of C.H. Douglas and those of Rudolf Steiner” Anthroposophy: A Quarterly Review of Spiritual Science, vol. 8 no. 3 (1933), 272-285.

[28] Waage fabricated another “quotation” by leaving out three essential words, without ellipsis, from the sentence in the original version of the article. Here is the complete quote with the three words in brackets: Anthroposophy is “en åpenlyst rasebasert lære som foregriper [viktige elementer i] det nazistiske verdensbilde med flere tiår.” (Humanist 2/00, p 38). (Anthroposophy is “a blatantly racist doctrine which anticipated [important elements of] the Nazi worldview by several decades”.)

[29] Quite apart from Waage’s evident lack of familiarity with Steiner’s published works, his puzzling remarks on Mein Kampf strongly suggest that he has simply never read the book. It would be preferable to view this as an instance of differing interpretations of the same text, but his stylistic evaluation – Waage opines that Hitler’s tome is full of “agitatorial fury” and the opposite of Steiner’s own “somewhat dry, long-winded style” – indicates that Waage may have only heard about Mein Kampf second hand, and never bothered to actually look at the work itself. Hitler’s style in Mein Kampf is, if anything, dry and long-winded. Even the compact edition of the book current during the Third Reich totals nearly 800 pages. Paragraph after paragraph plods on without a spark of fury. Were there perhaps no copies of Mein Kampf to be found at any libraries in Norway?

[30] Volkmar Wölk, “Neue Trends im ökofaschistischen Netzwerk” in Hethey and Katz, In Bester Gesellschaft, Göttingen 1991, 121. See also Wölk’s thorough study Natur und Mythos, Duisburg 1992, which examines in detail the relationship between anthroposophy and contemporary neofascist politics in Germany. For additional evidence of the striking parallels between the theosophical root-race doctrine and Hitler’s racial views, see Jackson Spielvogel and David Redles, “Hitler’s Racial Ideology: Content and Occult Sources” in Friedlander and Milton, Simon Wiesenthal Center Annual volume 3, Los Angeles 1986, and Jeffrey Goldstein, “On Racism and Anti-Semitism in Occultism and Nazism” in Livia Rothkirchen, Yad Vashem Studies XIII, Jerusalem 1979.

[31] The Atlantis myth in particular played a significant role in this ideological cross-pollination. For background on Steiner’s lost-continent narrative, a central element in anthroposophy’s racial cosmology, see among others Franz Wegener, Das atlantidische Weltbild: Nationalsozialismus und Neue Rechte auf der Suche nach der versunkenen Atlantis, Gladbeck 2001; Arn Strohmeyer, Von Hyperborea nach Auschwitz, Cologne 2005; Sumathi Ramaswamy, The Lost Land of Lemuria: Fabulous Geographies, Catastrophic Histories, Berkeley 2004; L. Sprague de Camp, Lost Continents: The Atlantis Theme in History, Science and Literature, New York 1954; Joscelyn Godwin, Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival, London 1993; Burchard Brentjes, Atlantis: Geschichte einer Utopie, Cologne 1993; Richard Ellis, Imagining Atlantis, New York 1998; Paul Jordan, The Atlantis Syndrome, Stroud 2001; Klaus von See, “Nord-Glaube und Atlantis-Sehnsucht” in von See, Ideologie und Philologie, Heidelberg 2006, 91-117; Pierre Vidal-Naquet, “Atlantis and the Nations” Critical Inquiry, vol. 18 no. 2 (1992), 300-326; and Vidal-Naquet, The Atlantis Story, Exeter 2007. A fine analysis of esoteric versions of the Atlantis myth and its intertwinement with the Aryan myth can be found in Roberto Pinotti, “Continenti perduti ed esoterismo: prospettive tradizionali oltre il mito” in Pinotti, I continenti perduti (Milan: Mondadori, 1995), 306-56. For a sense of just how seriously anthroposophists today continue to take the myth of Atlantis, which they insist is not at all a myth but quite real, see for example Andreas Delor, Kampf um Atlantis: Ein Beitrag zur anthroposophischen Atlantis-Diskussion, Frankfurt 2004.

[32] Regarding Steiner’s influence on the present-day extreme right, see among others Gugenberger and Schweidlenka, p. 245; Stefanie von Schnurbein and Justus Ulbricht, Völkische Religion und Krisen der Moderne, Würzburg 2001, pp. 411-412; Peter Kratz, Die Götter des New Age, Berlin 1994, p. 288; and Helmut Reinalter, Franko Petri, and Rüdiger Kaufmann, Das Weltbild des Rechtsextremismus, Innsbruck 1998, p. 207. Alongside such neo-fascist and Aryan supremacist groups there is also the far right wing of contemporary anthroposophy around the recently deceased Werner Georg Haverbeck, for whom Steiner is of course the primary inspiration. For a detailed examination of this ultraright anthroposophist tendency, see Jutta Ditfurth, Feuer in die Herzen, Hamburg 1992, pp. 217-228, and Janet Biehl’s essay in Biehl and Staudenmaier, Ecofascism.

[33] In addition to the numerous studies cited in the original article and the others quoted here, readers may consult the following: Kurt Sontheimer, Antidemokratisches Denken in der Weimarer Republik, p. 57; Ulrich Linse, Barfüssige Propheten, p. 84; Martin Geyer, Verkehrte Welt, pp. 311-312; Fritz Stern, The Politics of Cultural Despair, p. 86; Gary Stark, Entrepreneurs of Ideology, p. 74; Richard Noll, The Jung Cult, pp. 50, 65, 77, 230; Puschner, Schmitz, and Ulbricht, Handbuch zur ‘Völkischen Bewegung’, pp. 127, 608; Hans Helms, Die Ideologie der anonymen Gesellschaft, pp. 278, 333-339; and Uwe Ketelsen, Literatur und Drittes Reich, p. 105; Michael Burleigh, Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics from the Great War to the War on Terror, pp. 20-21, 29-30. For context see above all Herman de Tollenaere, The Politics of Divine Wisdom: Theosophy and Labour, National, and Women’s Movements in Indonesia and South Asia, 1875-1947 (Nijmegen 1996), and Joscelyn Godwin, The Theosophical Enlightenment, Albany 1994.

[34] Waage’s fanciful version of this event is contradicted by a wide variety of anthroposophist sources. Guenther Wachsmuth’s biography of Steiner, for example, describes the incident as an attempt by “a few hotheads, who had been confused by the usual untrue propaganda of our opponents, to disrupt the lectures with noise, turning out the lights, even personal threats to the speaker – methods which had become typical in that period of political chaos. It was only because he was protected by brave friends, especially [the anthroposophists] Dr. Noll and Dr. Büchenbacher, that Rudolf Steiner was kept safe from physical attack by these nasty fellows at his Munich lecture on May 15.” (Guenther Wachsmuth, Rudolf Steiners Erdenleben und Wirken, Dornach 1964, 470) Wachsmuth says nothing about an attempted assassination, and does not associate Steiner’s antagonists with the Nazis.

[35] In contrast to Waage’s account, Uwe Werner writes: “On May 15, 1922, followers of Ludendorff [former general and competitor to Hitler for leadership of the Munich far right] planned to disrupt a lecture by Steiner in the Munich hotel Vier Jahreszeiten and provoke a melee. But Munich anthroposophists became aware of the plans beforehand and were able to react. Steiner was able to finish his lecture, and only afterwards was there a physical confrontation, in which the anthroposophists prevailed.” (Uwe Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, Munich 1999, p. 8) Werner, chief archivist at the Anthroposophical Society’s world headquarters in Switzerland, makes no mention of an assassination attempt or of the Nazis.

[36] Christoph Lindenberg’s massive biography of Steiner, for example, provides a thorough account of the incident: Lindenberg, Rudolf Steiner: Eine Biographie, p. 770. Lindenberg says absolutely nothing about Nazis (or even Ludendorffers or indeed any völkisch agitators), much less about any assassination attempt; in fact Lindenberg does not mention any attempted physical attack on Steiner of any sort. Waage’s bizarre version of the event does, however, accord with the version promoted by anthroposophist and antisemitic conspiracy theorist Karl Heise, one of the more prolific crackpots in the history of the anthroposophical movement; see Heise, Der katholische Ansturm wider den Okkultismus, Leipzig 1923, p. 94. We urge skeptical readers to consult this tome by Heise (or any of Heise’s numerous works, for that matter) for a classic example of anthroposophist conspiracism in all its florid absurdity. Is this the kind of company that Waage generally prefers to keep?

[37] See for example the memoir by Elisabeth Klein, who was not only present at the 1922 event but was on stage with Steiner; Klein’s thorough description says nothing about any attempted assassination or about Nazis or even right-wingers, merely reporting that a “hostile group” tried to “disrupt the lecture” (Elisabeth Klein, Begegnungen, Freiburg 1978, pp. 45-46). See also the comprehensive contemporary report by Paul Baumann, “Dr. Rudolf Steiners Vortrag in München,” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus May 25, 1922, pp. 4-5, which does not mention the Nazis and says nothing at all about an assassination attempt or even an attempted physical attack on Steiner himself. In light of this extremely extensive, detailed, and credible counter-evidence, all from sources with impeccable anthroposophical credentials, it would be very interesting indeed to learn how Waage managed to reach the unfounded and fantastic conclusions stated in his article. Did he think historians would somehow fail to check his facts? More interesting still: Why exactly did he fail to check his own facts himself?

[38] Aside from the Thule Society, other far-right groups that met at the Vier Jahreszeiten during this period include the pan-German Alldeutscher Verband and the antisemitic Hammerbund. (See Reginald Phelps, “‘Before Hitler Came’: Thule Society and Germanen Orden,” Journal of Modern History (Chicago) volume 25 number 3, p. 252.)

[39] See, e.g., Gerhard Wehr, Rudolf Steiner, Freiburg 1982, 327. Wehr also reports a second-hand rumor that Steiner was “eighth or ninth” on a supposed right-wing hit list, but does not attribute these alleged assassination plans to any particular organization.

[40] A further Thule Society member who later used his position in the Nazi hierarchy to support anthroposophical endeavors was Hanns Georg Müller. On Müller’s role in the Thule Society see Hermann Gilbhard, Die Thule-Gesellschaft, Munich 1994, pp. 243-247. Müller went on to become a functionary in the Reichsleitung of the Nazi party, and after 1933 was the chief official in charge of Nazi Lebensreform efforts. In these positions he actively supported anthroposophists, and the biodynamic movement in particular, publishing anthroposophical works through his publishing house and vigorously promoting biodynamic agriculture in his Nazi journal Leib und Leben. He additionally headed the Nazi organization Deutsche Gesellschaft für Lebensreform, in which anthroposophists such as Erhard Bartsch and Franz Dreidax played leading roles.

[41] For further information on Schwartz-Bostunitsch and his relationship to anthroposophy see Michael Hagemeister, “Das Leben des Gregor Schwartz-Bostunitsch” in Karl Schlögel, ed., Russische Emigration in Deutschland 1918-1941, Berlin 1995, pp. 209-218.

[42] Some historians view anthroposophy as virtually part of the völkisch movement. Helmut Zander, for example, makes a compelling case that anthroposophy represents one of the chief embodiments within the occult spectrum of “the continuity of völkisch thought” (Zander, “Sozialdarwinistische Rassentheorien aus dem okkulten Untergrund des Kaiserreichs” in Uwe Puschner, Walter Schmitz, and Justus Ulbricht, Handbuch zur ‘Völkischen Bewegung’ 1871-1918, München 1996, p. 226). We urge readers who find our own arguments too “polemical” to consult Zander’s work, a model of scholarly balance which reaches conclusions similar to our own.

[43] The quote from 1923, which Waage mistakenly dates to 1920, reads: “On some mountain paths . . . one finds these symbols, swastikas, which are causing so much mischief in Germany these days [mit den heute in Deutschland so viel Unfug getrieben wird]. This swastika is worn by people who no longer have any idea that it was once a symbol which indicated to travelers: here are people who understand these things, who see not only with the physical eye but with the spiritual eye as well." (GA 350 p. 276; lecture 10.09.1923) Even if Steiner’s comment were directed at the Nazis, it would be at most an irritated complaint, not a principled criticism.

[44] The passage appears as follows in the English translation of the book: “Asians do not care for the kind of thinking we have in Europe. They want images, like the images you see in the monasteries of Tibet. Asians want images. The abstract notions Europeans have are of no interest to them, they make their heads hurt, and they do not want them. A symbol such as the swastika, the ancient sun cross, was widely known in Asia, and the old Asians still remember it. Some Bolshevik government people had the clever idea of making the ancient swastika their symbol, juts like the nationalists in Germany. This makes much more of an impression on the Asians than any anything by way of Marxism. Marxism is a set of ideas that have to be thought, and this does not impress them. But such a sign, that does impress them.” Steiner, From Beetroot to Buddhism, London 1999, pp. 228-229.

[45] Here is the full passage: Hitler calls Simons “an intimate friend of the Gnostic and Anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner, a supporter of the threefold structuring of the social organism and whatever they call all of these Jewish methods for destroying the normal frame of mind of the peoples” (Hitler, Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen 1905-1924, 350). Simons’ biographer has shown that the rumors of Steiner’s influence on Simons were based primarily on reports in the Berlin newspaper Vossische Zeitung; see Horst Gründer, Walter Simons als Staatsmann, Jurist und Kirchenpolitiker, Neustadt an der Aisch 1975, p. 64. These reports were officially denied at the time both by anthroposophists (statement by the Bund für Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus in Vossische Zeitung 3.5.1921) and by the Foreign Ministry (see Gründer, p. 64). In fact, Steiner’s disciples attacked Simons precisely for his ignorance of Steiner’s theories; see Ernst Boldt, Rudolf Steiner: Ein Kämpfer gegen seine Zeit, München 1921, p. 188.

[46] Hitler’s article takes Simons to task for being insufficiently intransigent regarding post-war negotiations over the status of Upper Silesia. Despite Hitler’s typically exaggerated tone, his attack on Simons amounts to a disagreement over tactics, as the foreign minister was in fact the most hard-line member of the cabinet on the question of Upper Silesia (see Gründer, Walter Simons, pp. 153-156). Steiner’s own position was not at all inimical to German national interests in the province, as Peter Bierl’s analysis of Steiner’s engagement in Upper Silesia demonstrates (see Bierl, Wurzelrassen, Erzengel und Volksgeister, 125). Moreover, at the very same time as Hitler’s tirade against the foreign minister, anthroposophists assailed Simons in terms strikingly similar to Hitler’s own; see Boldt, Rudolf Steiner, p. 187. Thus Hitler’s sole public condemnation of Steiner is not only brief, parenthetical, and rather arcane, it is based entirely on a series of patently false assumptions about Steiner, his followers, and their politics. This does not, needless to say, constitute compelling evidence of either elementary incompatibility or enduring hostility between the Hitlerian and Steinerian visions of Germany’s mission.

[47] In addition to the sources cited above, see e.g. Jürgen von Grone, “Mitteleuropäische Realpolitik” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus August 13, 1921, pp. 2-3, which harshly criticizes Simons for capitulating to “Wilsonism” in the negotiations over Upper Silesia; and Friedrich Engelmann, Ist die Dreigliederung undeutsch? Stuttgart 1921, p. 10, which denounces Simons as a pliable tool of the Entente.

[48] See Steiner, Die Anthroposophie und ihre Gegner (GA 255b), pp. 324-325; Steiner’s public lecture in Stuttgart from May 25, 1921. Here Steiner denies any influence on Simons and condemns his role in the Upper Silesia negotiations. See also the parallel passages in Steiner, Perspektiven der Menschheitsentwickelung (GA 204), pp. 123-124; lecture in Dornach, April 22, 1921. We cannot help wondering why Waage has completely ignored sources such as these.

[49] For further background on Dinter see George Kren and Rodler Morris, “Race and Spirituality: Arthur Dinter's Theosophical Antisemitism”, Holocaust and Genocide Studies vol. 6 (1991).

[50] See e.g. René Maikowski, Schicksalswege auf der Suche nach dem lebendigen Geist, Freiburg 1980, pp. 167-188, and Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, p. 450. Klein’s prominent contributions to post-war anthroposophical publications can be readily discerned from anthroposophical reference works, e.g. Götz Deimann, ed., Die anthroposophischen Zeitschriften von 1903 bis 1985, Stuttgart 1987. On a side note: those inclined to doubt our characterization of Waage himself as an anthroposophist may wish to consult the several references in this volume to Waage as both contributor to and editor of anthroposophical periodicals.

[51] In stark contrast to Waage’s evasiveness on the question of responsibility, one of the earliest analyses of Waldorf schools during the Third Reich warns against “dismissing the Waldorf movement’s deliberate proximity to National Socialism as a problem of personal mistakes and sympathies” (Achim Leschinsky, “Waldorfschulen im Nationalsozialismus”, Neue Sammlung: Zeitschrift für Erziehung und Gesellschaft vol. 23 no. 3, Stuttgart 1983, p. 272).

[52] The biodynamic garden at Dachau was merely one of an entire network of biodynamic plantations established by the SS at various concentration camps. The scholarly literature on this topic extends back to the 1960s. Here is a sample: Enno Georg, Die wirtschaftlichen Unternehmungen der SS (Stuttgart 1963), for decades the standard historical work on SS economic enterprises, discusses the SS's biodynamic agriculture sites at the concentration camps on pp. 62-66, with special attention to the Dachau operation. Walter Wuttke-Groneberg’s work on alternative medicine in the Third Reich also covers the Dachau biodynamic plantation thoroughly; see e.g. Wuttke-Groneberg, “Von Heidelberg nach Dachau” in Gerhard Baader and Ulrich Schultz, eds, Medizin und Nationalsozialismus (Berlin 1980), pp. 113-138, particularly the section "Die Heilkräuterplantage im KZ Dachau" pp. 116-120. See also Walter Wuttke-Groneberg, “Nationalsozialistische Medizin: Volks- und Naturheilkunde auf "neuen Wegen"” in Heinz Abholz, ed, Alternative Medizin (Berlin 1983), which in addition to very useful information on the role of anthroposophical medicine in the Third Reich also examines the SS biodynamic plantations on pp. 43-44. Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn has thoroughly examined the topic in his work as well; see e.g. Wolschke-Bulmahn, “Biodynamischer Gartenbau, Landschaftsarchitektur und Nationalsozialismus,” Das Gartenamt 42 (1993), pp. 590-95 and 638-42. For yet another study see Robert Sigel, “Heilkräuterkulturen im KZ: Die Plantage in Dachau,” Dachauer Hefte 4 (1988). Last, there is a whole book on the SS biodynamic installations which discusses the Dachau garden at great length: Wolfgang Jacobeit and Christoph Kopke, Die biologisch-dynamische Wirtschaftsweise im KZ (Berlin 1999).

[53] For the standard anthroposophist perspective on the biodynamic farm at Dachau and Lippert’s role see Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, pp. 283-286 and 329-334. Another anthroposophical account is available in Arfst Wagner, “Franz Lippert und die Heilkräuterkulturen im KZ Dachau” Flensburger Hefte 32 (1991), pp. 54-55. For a much more historically informed account see Hermann Kaienburg, Die Wirtschaft der SS (Berlin 2003), pp. 771-855. On the biodynamic farm at the Ravensbrück concentration camp see Bernhard Strebel, Das KZ Ravensbrück: Geschichte eines Lagerkomplexes (Paderborn 2003), pp. 212-213.

[54] For a helpful summary on this issue see Klaus Prange, “Curriculum und Karma: Das anthroposophische Erziehungsmodell Rudolf Steiners” in Mission Klassenzimmer: Zum Einfluß von Religion und Esoterik auf Bildung und Erziehung (Aschaffenburg 2005), pp. 85-100.

[55] On a personal note, one of us, Peter Staudenmaier, was a student in Catholic schools for twelve years and has several priests in his family. Is he doing harm to himself or his relatives when he points out the various regressive, inhumane, and intolerant aspects of Roman Catholicism? If not, why can’t Waage bring himself to take the same simple and decent step?

[56] In an odd attempt to provide “objective” confirmation of the Dutch anthroposophists’ conclusions, Waage directs our attention to two articles in the anthropsophist periodical Info3. Waage describes the authors, Wolfgang Ullmann and Jörn Rüsen, as “non-anthroposophists.” This claim is questionable in the case of Rüsen, who serves on the Advisory Board of the anthroposophist Novalis Institute. But no matter what the ideological orientation of these two expert witnesses for anthroposophy, their analyses of the Dutch report are remarkably naive (both articles can be found in Info3 12/98). Rüsen, who believes that racism is fundamentally incompatible with “the political culture of modern societies” (the world would certainly be a nicer place if that were true), employs the well-worn argument that anthroposophy is “a product of its time.” This raises the obvious question of why Rüsen continues to promote an obsolete philosophy. He also praises anthroposophy’s “conception of universal-historical development” without mentioning that this conception is explicitly organized along racial lines. Ullmann, for his part, does mention Steiner’s root race theory, but nevertheless affirms the Dutch report’s claim that anthroposophy contains no racial doctrine. This defies logic; Ullmann must believe either that the root race theory is not a part of anthroposophy, or that it is not a racial doctrine. Ullmann also makes the bizarre accusation that Steiner’s critics are trying to prevent a public discussion of anthroposophy, pointing in particular to the Grandt brothers, authors of the ill-fated Schwarzbuch Anthroposophie (The Black Book of Anthroposophy). Ullmann’s hypocrisy is breathtaking; it is in fact Steiner’s critics who have forced a public discussion of anthroposophy, while anthroposophists have done everything in their power to stifle this discussion. In 1997 Austrian anthroposophists sued the publishers of Schwarzbuch Anthroposophie and succeeded in prohibiting distribution of the book, thus making it inaccessible to scholars and the public. This case is merely one of several recent attempts by anthroposophists to use the courts to suppress informed public debate and to intimidate potential critics by driving small publishers to bankruptcy; see the thorough recounting of the various suits by Austrian anthroposophists in Gunnar Schedel, “Die sanften Zensoren,” Schwarzer Faden 3/99.

[57] According to this reasoning, for example, the 1935 Norwegian sterilization law cannot be condemned, criticized, or lamented because, after all, it was a product of its time. American slavery would be similarly insulated from reproach on this view. Presumably the holocaust itself was merely a product of its time, so we should all just keep quiet about it.
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Re: The Art of Avoiding History, by Peter Staudenmaier

Postby admin » Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:00 am

Part 1 of 2

The Janus Face of Anthroposophy
by Peter Zegers and Peter Staudenmaier
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, [2]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]

[E]xtra care must be taken that as few of the spirits as possible become enmeshed in the fetters of Race. This is exactly what happened to the spirits reborn in the Jewish Race-bodies. They attached themselves so firmly to the Race that they are drawn back into it in successive births. "Once a Jew, always a Jew" is their slogan. They have entirely forgotten their spiritual nature and glory in the material fact of being "Abraham's seed." Therefore they are neither "fish nor flesh." They have no part in the advancing Aryan Race and yet they are beyond those remnants of the Lemurian and Atlantean peoples which are still with us. They have become a people without a country, an anomaly among mankind.

Because of their bondage to the Race-idea, their one-time Leader was forced to abandon them, and they became "lost." That they might cease to regard themselves as separate from other peoples, other nations were stirred up against them at various times by the Leaders of humanity, and they were led captive from the country where they had settled, but in vain. They stubbornly refused to amalgamate with others. Again and again they returned in a body to their arid land. Prophets of their own Race were raised up who mercilessly rebuked them and predicted dire disaster, but without avail.

-- The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception: An Elementary Treatise Upon Man's Past Evolution, Present Constitution and Future Development, by Max Heindel

Care had to be taken that not everything in man proceeding from the head can become the prey of Lucifer and Ahriman; that not everything shall depend upon head-activity and the activity of the outward-turned senses, for then Lucifer and Ahriman would have been victors. It was necessary that a counterweight should be created in the domain of earthly life, that there should be in the human being something entirely independent of the head. And this was achieved through the work of the good Spirits of Form, who implanted the principle of Love into the principle of heredity on Earth. That is to say, there is now operative in the human race something that is independent of the head, that passes from generation to generation and has its deepest foundations in the physical nature of man.

Everything that is connected with propagation and with heredity, everything that is independent of man in the sense that he cannot penetrate it with his thinking, everything that is the gift of the Moon in the celestial firmament—that, in man, is what has proceeded from the principle of Love permeating the process of propagation and heredity. Hence the violent battle which persists through history, the battle waged by Lucifer and Ahriman against everything that comes from this domain. Lucifer and Ahriman want to force on man the exclusive sovereignty of the head, and they launch their attacks by way of the head against everything that is purely natural affinity. For whatever is hereditary substance on the Earth cannot be wrested away by them. What the Moon is in the heavens, heredity is in men on the Earth below. Everything that is grounded in heredity, everything that is not charged with thought, that is connected intrinsically with physical nature — that is the Jahve-principle. The Jahve-principle unfolds its greatest activity where nature is working as nature; it is there that Jahve has outpoured in greatest measure the Love that is his natural attribute, in order to create a counterweight to the lovelessness, the mere wisdom, of Lucifer and Ahriman.

The Occult Movement in the Nineteenth Century and Its Relation to Modern Culture, by Rudolf Steiner

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, pointless as they may be, 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.[45] 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. 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 of 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?
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Re: The Art of Avoiding History, by Peter Staudenmaier

Postby admin » Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:01 am

Part 2 of 2

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:

[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 nearly 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 like to gently suggest that he acquaint himself with it.

Above all, the fascist revolution saw itself as a "Third Force," rejecting both "materialistic Marxism" and "finance capitalism" in the capitalist and materialist present. This was the revolutionary tradition within which fascism worked. But it was not alone in such an aim; in the postwar world, many left-wing intellectuals rejected both Marxist orthodoxy and capitalism. Unlike the fascists, however, they sought to transcend both by emphasis on the triumphant goodness of man once capitalism was abolished.

Fascism retreated instead into the nationalist mystique. But here, once more, it followed a precedent. French socialists of the mid-nineteenth century, and men like Edouard Drumont toward the end of the century, had combined opposition to finance capitalism and the advocacy of greater social equality with an impassioned nationalism. They were National Socialists long before the small German Workers' Party took this name. Such National Socialism was in the air as a "Third Force" in the last decades of the nineteenth century, when Marxism was to be reckoned with and capitalist development seemed accompanied by a soulless positivism in a world where only material values counted. There were early national socialist movements in France (in which former leaders of the Paris Commune, with their Jacobin traditions, joined, but also some anarchists and bourgeois bien-pensants), in Bohemia, and even in Germany, advocated at the turn of the century by the Hessian Peasants' League led by Otto Boeckel. [13]

In Italy, argument for the "Third Force" resulted from the First World War -- the struggle to get Italy to intervene in this war, and the subsequent war experience seemed to transcend vested interests and political parties. [14] There was indeed a similar reaction among a good many veterans in Germany (but not in France, which had won the war and successfully weathered postwar upheaval). Yet in Italy, unlike Germany, the "war experience" carried revolutionary implications. Mussolini was joined in this hope by students and by revolutionary syndicalists who wanted to abolish the existing social and economic order so that the nation could be regenerated through the searing experience of war. After the war as "revolutionary veterans" they appealed both to the revolutionary spirit and to a sense of Italy's historic national mission. It is typical that when the local Fascist Party was founded in 1920 in Ferrara, it was a youth group called the "Third Italy" which took the initiative. [15] In Germany and Italy -- nations plunged into crisis by the war -- and also among many political groups of other nations, the "Third Force" became an alternative revolution to Marxism, a retreat into the organic community of the nation when the world seemed to be dominated on the one hand by the mysterious power of money and on the other by the Marxist conspiracy. [16]

Yet this "Third Force" became ever less revolutionary and more nationalistic as fascists and Nazis strove for power. Mussolini broke with the revolutionary syndicalists early on and tamed his youth organization but stayed with the Futurists, whose revolutionary ardor took the fast sports car as its model rather than the nationalization of production. Hitler got rid of social revolutionaries like Otto Strasser who wanted to challenge property relationships, however slightly. Yet we must not limit our gaze to property relationships or the naked play of power and interest; such issues alone do not motivate men. It was the strength of fascism everywhere that it appeared to transcend these concerns, gave people a meaningful sense of political participation (though, of course, in reality they did not participate at all), and sheltered them within the national community against the menace of rapid change and the all too swift passage of time. At the same time it gave them hope through projecting a utopia, taking advantage of apocalyptic longings.

National Socialism was able to contain the revolutionary impetus better than Italian fascism because in Germany the very term "Third Force" was fraught with mystical and millenarian meaning. The mythos of the "Third Force" became a part of the mythos of the "Third Reich," carrying on a Germanic messianic tradition that had no real equivalent in Catholic Italy. The prophecy by Joachim of Flora about the future "Third Age," which would be a kingdom of the spirit -- the biblical millennium -- had become an essential ingredient of German Protestantism, as had the three mystical kingdoms of Paracelsus: that of God, the planets, and the Earth. The German mystics such as Jakob Bohme believed that man, by overcoming his baser self and seeking harmony within nature, could rise from Earth to the kingdom of God -- an important emphasis on "becoming" or joining the eternal spirit of the race rather than "being"; on the quest for the "genuine" as exemplified first by nature and, later, by the "Volk" itself. [17]

Moeller van den Bruck, whose book The Third Reich (1923) was originally entitled The Third Way, brought this tradition up to date for a defeated nation: the Germanic mission would transcend all the contradictions inherent in modern life, including Germany's defeat in war; Germans must struggle continually toward utopia, which he equated with the German Reich of the future. To be sure, Moeller was pragmatic in his demand for political action, his advocacy of the corporate state, and his desire to institute a planned economy (hence his praise of Lenin's new economic policy). [18] Yet he also retained the traditional elements that were so much a part of this kind of revolution, calling for the maintenance of state authority, preferably that of a monarchy, as well as of the family structure.

However, for Moeller the pragmatic was always subsumed under the messianic. The arrival of the "Third Reich" would automatically solve all outstanding problems. Such a belief was part of the "Third Force" in Germany: the purified national community of the future would end all present difficulties and anxieties, social inequalities and economic crises. Man would then "overcome" the dialectic of earthly life. Small wonder that the Nazis enthusiastically annexed the fairy tale and folk legend to their cause. However, this vision of the future was rooted in the past -- it was the traditional fairy tale which the Nazis used in creating their emphasis upon the modern Volk. Precedent was always an integral part of the Nazi ideology, and of Italian fascism too -- as when in the fourth year of Mussolini's government the ancient monuments of Rome were restored. For Mussolini, however, history was never more than a platform from which to jump into an ill-defined future.

Hitler and Goebbels's obsession with history reached a climax at the moment of defeat: in 1945, they clung to memories of Frederick the Great, who had been saved from certain defeat by the opportune death of the Czarina Elizabeth, as well as remembering the victory of Rome over Carthage. [19] Utopia and traditionalism were linked, a point to which we shall return when discussing the new fascist man.

Ernst Bloch called this urge to "overcome" -- the mystical and millenarian dynamic -- the "hidden revolution" essential to the realization of the true socialist revolution. [20] Men must hope before they can act. National Socialism claimed to represent this "inner dynamic," though it was always careful to state that the "Third Reich" stood at the threshold of fulfillment and that a period of struggle and suffering must precede eventual salvation. And indeed, in the end, this revolutionary tradition did transfer a religious enthusiasm to secular government....

The fascist revolution built upon a deep bedrock of popular piety and, especially in Germany, upon a millenarianism that was apt to come to the fore in times of crisis. More about this tradition will be said in the chapter below on the occult origins of National Socialism. The myths and symbols of nationalism were superimposed upon those of Christianity -- not only in the rhythms of public rites and ceremonies (even the Duce's famed dialogues with the masses from his balcony are related to Christian "responses") -- but also in the appeal to apocalyptic and millenarian thought. Such appeals can be found in the very vocabulary of Nazi leaders. Their language grew out of Christianity as we mentioned in the introduction; it was, after all, a language of faith. In 1935, for example, at Munich's Feldherrnhalle, where his putsch of 1923 had resulted in a bloody fiasco, Hitler called those who had fallen earlier "my apostles," and proclaimed that "with the Third Reich you have risen from the dead." Many other examples spring to mind, as when the leader of the Labor Front, Robert Ley, asserted that "we have found the road to eternity." The whole vocabulary of blood and soil was filled with Christian liturgical and religious meaning -- the "blood" itself, the "martyrdom," the "incarnation." [21]....

It was an organic view of the world, which was supposed to take in the whole man and thus end his alienation. A fundamental redefinition is involved in such a view of man and his place in the world. "Politics," wrote the Italian fascist Giuseppe Bottai, "is an attitude toward life itself," [25] and this phrase is repeated word for word in National Socialist literature. Horia Sima, one of Codreanu's successors in the leadership of the Romanian Iron Guard, summed it up: "We must cease to separate the spiritual from the political man. All history is a commentary upon the life of the spirit." [26] When fascists spoke of culture, they meant a proper attitude toward life: encompassing the ability to accept a faith, the work ethic, and discipline, but also receptivity to art and the appreciation of the native landscape. [27] The true community was symbolized by factors opposed to materialism, by art and literature, the symbols of the past and the stereotypes of the present. The National Socialist emphasis upon myth, symbol, literature and art is indeed common to all fascism....

The crucial role which the war experience played in National Socialism is well enough known. The war was "a lovely dream" and a "miracle of achievement," as one Nazi children's book put it. Any death in war was a hero's death and thus the true fulfillment of life. [35] There was no doubt here about the "greatness and necessity of war." [36] In Mussolini's hands, this myth had even greater force because of the absence of a truly coherent volkish ideology in Italy. The fascist struggle was a continuation of the war experience. But here, as in Germany, the glorification of struggle was linked to wartime camaraderie and put forward as a method to end class divisions within the nation. "Not class war but class solidarity" reigned in the face of death, wrote an Italian fascist who had been a syndicalist up to the last months of the war; it was not a conflict between potentates or capitalists but a necessity for the defense of the people. Historical materialism was dead. [37]

The elan of the battlefield was transformed into activism at home. The fasci and the German storm troopers regarded their postwar world as an enemy, which as patriotic shock troops they must destroy. Indeed, the leaders of these formations were in large part former front-line officers: Roehm, the head of the S.A.; Codreanu, founder of the Iron Guard; De Bono in Italy and Szalasi in Hungary -- to give only a few examples. But this activism was tamed by the "magic" of the leadership of which Gustave Le Bon had written toward the end of the nineteenth century. Among the returned veterans it was even more easily controllable, for they desperately sought comradeship and leadership, not only because of the war experience but also to counteract their sense of isolation within a nation that had not lived up to their expectations.

The revolutionary tradition of the "Third Force" contained ingredients essential to this taming process: stress upon the national past and the mystical community of the nation; emphasis upon that middle-class respectability which proved essential for political success. The cult element to which we referred earlier gave it direction by channeling attention toward the eternal verities, which must never be forgotten. Activism there must be, enthusiasm was essential; the leader, aided by fascist methods of self-representation would direct it into the proper channels.

Here the liturgical element must be mentioned again, for the "eternal verities" were purveyed and reinforced through the endless repetition of slogans, choruses, symbols, and participation in group and mass ceremonies. These were the techniques that went into the taming of the revolution and that made fascism a new religion annexing rites long familiar through centuries of religious observance.

-- The Fascist Revolution: Toward a General Theory of Fascism, by George L. Mosse

[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 that was 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.

[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 1916 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 1916 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 1916 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.

[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)

[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, 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."

What precedes these struggles will occupy world-history up to the decisive events of the great contests between the white world and the coloured world. Future events are reflected in manifold ways in the events that precede. We are standing in fact, viewed in the light of spiritual science, before something colossal that must necessarily come about in the future.

On the one hand we have a part of mankind with the mission to bring the spirit into physical life, to let the spirit permeate each single thing in physical life. On the other hand we have a part of mankind who are now destined to take over a descending evolution."  

(Rudolf Steiner, "The Christ-Impulse as Bearer of the Union of the Spiritual and the Bodily" pp. 7-9 in the typescript)

[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 moreover 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.

[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] At least one of Steiner’s antisemitic passages was apparently included in the final version of the report.
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Re: The Art of Avoiding History, by Peter Staudenmaier

Postby admin » Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:57 am

Is Anthroposophy Science?
by Sven Ove Hansson, Uppsala
Conceptus XXV (1991), No. 64, pp. 37-49.



During the first years I was obliged to present certain things with great reserve, for the simple reason that years of testing and strict verification were needed in connection with certain subjects and because from the outset I had resolved never to publish or to say anything except that for which I could be answerable, having submitted it all to thorough testing....But it has not always been easy to test these things as they should be tested. If one resolves to work conscientiously and with a sense of full responsibility, every opportunity that offers itself for stringent testing must be seized, but these opportunities must never be forced. In spiritual investigation it is a matter of waiting....In the spiritual worlds, the existence of a false, erroneous conception of the real facts is confusing for investigation itself....they give the appearance of truth, of reality. Hence one has first to battle with them, to test them, in order to discover whether they have the attributes of untrue thoughts, or the attributes of true and really living thoughts....Now please do not misunderstand me here. I do not assert that at the present time it is the task of each individual to put everything to the test....It is very necessary to gather together carefully the items of concrete knowledge that have been given and to correlate them. And that is why — how shall I put it? — that is why it has such a jarring effect (although that does not quite express what I mean) when one who is trying to speak about the spiritual world with full responsibility, is asked all kinds of questions about this or that point after the lectures. These people want to know everything, but on the other hand one has been endeavouring to speak only of what has actually been thought through to the end. One is forced, then, to speak about a whole number of matters into which there has not yet been opportunity for thorough investigation. It is, of course, possible to give some reply, for the science of occultism is there; but when one has laid it down as a fundamental principle to speak only of what one has actually tested and verified, this kind of talking goes against the grain.

-- The Occult Movement in the Nineteenth Century and Its Relation to Modern Culture, by Rudolf Steiner


Anthroposophy is one of the most successful occult movements in Europe. In this paper, its claim to be a science is examined. Two criteria are used that have both been accepted by the founder of anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner: (1) intersubjectivity, and (2) confirmation by empirical science. Neither of these criteria is satisfied. The claims that anthroposophy is a science are not justified.

Anthroposophy, originally an outgrowth of theosophy, is one of the most successful occult movements in Northern and Central Europe. New adherents are attracted by its Waldorf schools, its herb medicines and its pesticide-free agriculture. However, anthroposophy is more than a collection of social movements. Its adherents claim that it is a science. The strength and influence of the anthroposophical movement is reason enough to examine the claim that anthroposophy is a science. Another reason is that precise and authoritative statements of its epistemology are available, so that anthroposophy is more accessible to philosophical analysis than are most other movements with related aims and methods.

1. The anthroposophical road to knowledge

Anthroposophy is a doctrine about hidden, spiritual realities. It is almost entirely based on the teachings of its founder, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Steiner's pronouncements are in practice never questioned in the anthroposophical movement, and very little of substance has been added to the doctrine after his death. It is in his writings that the (esoteric) epistemology of anthroposophy can be found. [1]

Steiner emphasized that he was doing "science" [Wissenschaft]. He interchangeably called his undertaking "occult science" [Geheimwissenschaft], "Divine Science" [göttliche Wissenschaft] and - most commonly - "spiritual science" [Geisteswissenschaft].[2] Spiritual science "would speak of the non-sensible in the same spirit in which Natural Science speaks of the sensible".[3] It works by developing in the individual an ability to see directly into spiritual reality ("clairvoyance" [Hellsehen]). The process of acquiring this ability is called "initiation" [Einweihung].[4] Steiner has provided fairly detailed guidelines for the first stages of the initiation process. Some individuals have, according to Steiner, a personality that facilitates the development of clairvoyance.

"There are children who look up with reverent awe [heilige Scheu] to certain venerated persons. Their reverence for these people forbids them, even in the deepest depths of their hearts, to admit any thought of criticism or opposition... Many occult pupils [Geheimschüler] come from the ranks of such children."[5]

If a disciple has not been born with this attitude, it is necessary that he "undertakes by rigorous self-education to engender within himself this attitude of devotion". The reason for this is that "every criticism, every adverse judgment passed, dispels the powers of the soul for the attainment of higher knowledge, just as reverent veneration develops these powers".[6]

When the disciple has got rid of his critical attitudes, the next step is to perform daily meditations. One of the meditations described by Steiner is to look at a seed and try to see, with an inner eye, how it grows into a plant. Gradually, this will lead to an ability to see the potential plant within the seed.[7]

For the clairvoyant ability to develop, the disciple must continuously restrain any inner tendency to analyze or criticize. "By such intellectualising [Verstandesarbeit] he merely diverts himself from the right path. He should look out on the world with fresh, healthy senses and a keen power of observation, and give himself up to his feelings."[8] Or, in other words:

"We must say to ourselves: our thinking ceases, and our head becomes the scene of the influence [Wirken] of the higher hierarchies." [9]

Ahriman takes full advantage of moments when, in full waking life, a man falls into a state of vertigo or dizziness, into a kind of twilight consciousness, when he feels not quite securely anchored in the physical world and begins to yield himself to the whirl of the universe, when he does not stand firmly and steadily on his own feet as an individuality. These are the moments when it behoves him to be on his guard, for it is then that Ahriman easily gets the upper hand. The best way in which we can protect ourselves is to develop clear, exact thinking, not simply skimming over things in thought as is the general custom today. We should go even farther and try to avoid colloquialisms and current catchwords, for directly we use such words which come, not from thought but from habits of speech, we are not exercising thinking — even if only for a very short time. These are particularly dangerous moments because they are not heeded. We should really be careful to avoid using words behind which there is not sufficient reflection. Such self-training, precisely in these intimate details, should be undertaken by those who are in earnest about the tasks of the age. ...

Again, when there is some deviation from the sphere of normal consciousness, these are moments favourable for Lucifer. Very radical symptoms may appear, but there are also more intimate phenomena, when, for instance, we allow our actions to be determined by obscure feelings of affiliation and the like. The more flagrant, more radical, deviations of consciousness are those where the will becomes defective or so weak that a man can do no other than surrender himself entirely to his life of soul with what amounts to the exclusion of his will....

But we are now living at a time when certain beings must inevitably become known to us, on the one side beings who are behind the veil of nature, and on the other, behind the veil of the world of soul. If these beings are not made known, the further evolution of mankind will be endangered.

-- The Occult Movement in the Nineteenth Century and Its Relation to Modern Culture, by Rudolf Steiner

When he has acquired knowledge in this way, the clairvoyant "will in doing so have experienced the proof, and nothing more can be achieved by any added proof from outside". [10]

The successful clairvoyant will experience dramatic mental changes. Previously, his consciousness was "continually interrupted by the periods of sleep".[11] Not so any longer. "His dreams, hitherto confused and haphazard, now begin to assume a more regular character. Their pictures begin to arrange themselves in an orderly way, like the thoughts and ideas of daily life."[12]

The clairvoyant will gain access to knowledge that is unavailable to the uninitiated. As one example, he will transcend the limits of historical science, and sense "past events in their eternal character".[13] In particular, he will be able to read the so-called Akasha chronicle. This is not a chronicle in the ordinary sense of a historical text. Instead, it consists in the supersensual traces of past events.

"Those who are initiated into the reading of such a living script, will be able to look back into a much more distant past than what is related by external history [åussere Geschichte]; and they are also able - through immediate spiritual perception [unmittelbare geistige Wahrnehmung] - to give a much more reliable account of the subject-matter of this history than what it is itself capable of."[14]

Steiner was a frequent reader of the Akasha chronicle. Significant portions of his voluminous writings consist of exhaustive accounts of historical events. He provided details about Atlantis and other lost civilizations. He corrected the Gospels, revealed the secrets of ancient Egyptian priests, etc. All this he had learnt from the Akasha chronicle.

Steiner also taught many other branches of knowledge, such as agriculture, medicine and education. His source of knowledge was always the same: His own clairvoyant visions.

Among the more obvious criticisms that can be made against Steiner's road to knowledge are (1) that it does not satisfy intersubjectivity, and (2) that its results contradict conventional science. Steiner was well aware of these arguments. Indeed, he emphatically claimed that his method satisfies intersubjectivity and that its results will be confirmed by conventional science. This makes it possible to evaluate his road to knowledge by two criteria accepted both by himself and by practitioners of conventional science. Let us first turn to intersubjectivity.

2. Intersubjectivity

According to Steiner, true clairvoyants are sure to reach the same result. "Just as a round table will be seen as round by two persons with normal sight and not as round by one and square by another, so at the sight of the blossom, the same spiritual figure will present itself to two souls."[15] Indeed, this intersubjectivity was greater than that of empirical science:

"And what different initiates can report on history and prehistory will be essentially in agreement [im wesentlichen in Übereinstimmung]. Indeed all occult schools have such a history and prehistory. And we have here, since thousands of years, such complete agreement [volle Übereinstimmung] that the agreement to be found between the external historians of a single century cannot be compared to it. In all times and all places the initiates relate essentially the same."[16]

This standpoint may be somewhat surprising, considering the wide variety of occult teachings that are competing for our souls. And of course, Steiner could not deny that contradictory doctrines are being promoted as true, occult knowledge. But this was only because some practitioners of clairvoyance made mistakes. True occult knowledge was the same for everyone that was able to attain it. "Divergencies exist only so long as men try to approach the highest truths by arbitrary ways, instead of by a pathway that is scientifically sure."[17]

In order to establish that anthroposophical knowledge is intersubjective it is not sufficient merely to declare that some visions are true and some are mistaken. In addition, a method is required for deciding whether a particular vision is true or not. If such a method can be specified, and if it yields the same result for everyone who uses it, then intersubjectivity has been secured.

Steiner did in fact provide such a method. To avoid making mistakes, and to ensure that his visions were true, the prospective clairvoyant should take advice from a teacher. "You let a teacher transmit to you what has been achieved for humanity by inspired forerunners [inspirierte Vorgånger]"[18] In a very clarifying passage he said:

"One who, without first turning his attention to some of the essential facts of the supersensible world, merely does 'exercises' with the idea of gaining entrance there, will find in it a vague and confusing chaos. Man finds his way into that world - to begin with, as it were, naively - by learning to understand its essential features. Then he can gain a clear idea of how - leaving his 'naive' stage behind him - he will himself attain, in full consciousness, to the experiences which have been related to him."[19]

In other words, the practitioner of anthroposophical science must compare his visions to those reported by his teacher and by other "inspired forerunners". His own visions are true only if they tally with these precedents. Such comparisons are, indeed, a necessary part of the anthroposophical road to knowledge. Steiner said that "the safe guidance by the experienced occult teacher [Geheimlehrer] cannot be completely replaced".[20]

In an important sense, this criterion establishes intersubjectivity. Let us suppose that every disciple of the anthroposophical road to knowledge judges the authenticity of his visions according to how they conform with those of a forerunner. Let us furthermore suppose that they all use the same forerunner. Then their method is undeniably intersubjective.

However, this particular form of intersubjectivity gives rise to at least two further epistemological problems:

(1) Since there are different occult forerunners with different teachings, how do we (intersubjectively) find out which are the genuine ones?

(2) If the guidance of a teacher is necessary, where did the first occult teacher get his knowledge from?

Steiner does not seem to have tried to solve any of these two problems. In the absence of satisfactory solutions, Steiner's intersubjectivity consists in the subjection to an authority whose superior access to knowledge is merely stipulated. This is intersubjectivity, but an authoritarian form of intersubjectivity.

In anthroposophical practice, a further problem has ensued: Since Steiner's death in 1925, no one else has reached anywhere near his clairvoyant ability. As one example, in spite of dedicated efforts by thousands of anthroposophists, no one after Steiner seems to have been able to read the Akasha chronicle.

One might have expected anthroposophy, as practiced today, to be based mainly on clairvoyant visions by its contemporary practitioners (i.e., visions certified by their agreement with the teachings of Steiner). In practice, however, only a very small part of what anthroposophists believe in has this basis. Instead, Steiner's books and (stenographically recorded) lectures are the dominating source of anthroposophical doctrine.

It would be wrong, however, to denounce this practice as contrary to Steiner's methodology. If one accepts one's own visions only when they are in accord with the teachings of a "forerunner", then nothing could be more natural than accepting these teachings even when one has not had any corresponding visions. Indeed, this is exactly what Steiner adviced those of us to do, "who cannot or do not desire to tread the path into the supersensible world".[21]

There is an obvious parallel between this short cut to anthroposophical knowledge and the normal way of learning science at schools and universities. We do not learn mechanics by meticulously repeating the experiments of Galilei or the observations of Tycho Brahe. We learn ancient Egyptian history without trying to decipher hieroglyphs, etc. Instead, we learn from "forerunners", whose results are summarized in textbooks.

But in spite of the similarity there are at least two important differences. One of them concerns the attitude to critical thinking. In the teaching of ordinary science, the official ideal is to inspire the student to think critically. In anthroposophy, the ideal is to help him suppress critical thinking. This applies not only to the practice of clairvoyance, but also to the secondary acquisition of occult knowledge:

"If such truths are communicated to you, then they will by their own force arouse inspiration in the soul. However, if you want to partake in such inspiration, you must try not to receive these insights [Ertkenntnisse] in a sober-minded and intellectual way [nüchtern und verstandesmåssig], but to let the exaltation of the ideas bring you to all emotional experiences that are at all possible."[22]

The other major difference concerns access to knowledge. In conventional science, teachers are supposed to encourage beginning students to learn as much as they can, even about the most advanced parts of science. It is not considered "dangerous" for the beginning physicist to try to understand quantum chromodynamics or for the beginning linguist to study some half-deciphered ancient pictographs.

In anthroposophy, however, there are strict limits to what information should be accessible to non-initiates. The disciple's physical senses hide from him "things which, if he were unprepared, would throw him into utter disarray; the sight of them would be more than he could endure. The pupil [Geheimschüler] must be able to endure this sight."[23] It is "a natural law among all Initiates" not to reveal any information to those of us who are not prepared for it.[24]

"You may flatter him, you may torment him: nothing can induce him to divulge anything which he knows should not be divulged to you because at your present stage of development you do not understand how to prepare in your soul a worthy reception for this mystery [Geheimnis]."[25]

3. Testable predictions

According to Steiner, there is no contradiction between anthroposophy and conventional science.

"The results of spiritual science do not in any instance contradict the factual research of natural science. In all cases, when you look impartially at the relation between the two, something quite different will appear for our epoch. It turns out that this factual research steers for the goal of being brought, in not too distant time, into full harmony with what spiritual science must, from its supersensible sources, establish for certain areas".[26]

In other words, conventional science is bound to gradually rediscover the truths already discovered by spiritual science.

Steiner did not accept empirical science as a judge of anthroposophy. Nevertheless, his prediction of the convergence of ordinary science towards anthroposophy put him in a position where his claims can be tested against ordinary science. If it turns out that natural science has moved in the direction of anthroposophy in the 66 years since his death, then this is a very strong support of his road to knowledge. If, on the other hand, natural science has moved further away from anthroposophy, then we know for sure that Steiner's occult knowledge was not infallible.

It should be emphasized that Steiner's prediction about the future of natural science makes a test against natural science more relevant in this case than it is for many other doctrines about spiritual knowledge. Many occultists have withdrawn from testability by claiming to speak about a reality that is completely separate from physical reality.

In what follows, I will consider three test cases, drawn from Steiner's writings. Examples 1 and 2 have been chosen since they concern basic issues in natural science. Example 3 has been chosen since it contains an unusually precise prediction.

My first example is the structure of atoms. In 1917, Steiner said:

"The materialists [Stoffler] - we will simply call them that - imagine that the world consists of atoms. What does spiritual science show us? Most certainly, natural phenomena bring us back to such atoms, but what are they, these atoms?... According to the materialists, space is empty, and the atoms totter around in it. Thus, they are the most solid that there is [das allerfesteste]. But this is not so, it all depends on misapprehension [Tåuschung]. The atoms are bubbles of the imaginative cognition [Blasen vor der imaginativen Erkenntnis], and reality is where the empty space is; and the atoms consist exactly in that these bubbles are inflated. Within the bubbles there is exactly nothing, contrary to their surroundings. Do you know the pearls of a bottle of mineral water, there is nothing in the water where the pearls are, but there you see the pearls. In this way, the atoms are bubbles. The space is empty there, there is nothing inside them."[27]

According to Steiner's prediction about the relationship between anthroposophy and natural science, there should have been since 1917 at least some movement in natural science towards a conception of atoms as something that contains "exactly nothing". However, atomic physics has moved in the very opposite direction. From the point of view of natural science, it is well-established - to say the least - that atoms are not empty bubbles.

My second example concerns special relativity. In the same speech from 1917, Steiner devoted a passage to special relativity. I will quote the whole of that passage:

"All the brilliant nonsense that is today served for instance as realist philosophy [Realphilosophie], and through which Einstein was made a great man, must be rejected if you want to have clear conceptions about these things, that correspond to reality. Do you know how obvious the theory of relativity is? You just have to imagine that when a gun is fired at a distance you will hear it only after a certain time. Now, however, let us suppose that we move towards the gun. Then we will hear it earlier, the closer to it that we come, won't we? Now the theorist of relativity concludes: if you move as fast as sound, then you will go with the sound and not hear it. And if you go faster than the sound, then you will here something that was fired later, earlier than something that was fired earlier. This is today a common assumption, but it has no relation whatsoever to reality. The fact is that when you move as fast as the sound, then you can yourself be a sound, but you cannot hear a sound. These quite unsound ideas are alive today as the theory of relativity, and they have the best of reputations."[28]

According to Steiner's predictions about the relationship between anthroposophy and natural science, we should expect relativity theory to have a weaker position in natural science than it had in 1917. This, however, is not the case. Instead, its standing has been much strengthened by accumulated empirical evidence in its favour.

Incidentally, Steiner's pronouncement about relativity has a surprising similarity to what might have been said by someone whose acquaintance with relativity was restricted to reading (and misunderstanding) a popular science text in which the Doppler effect of light was explained by a comparison with sound waves.

Steiner's claim that someone who moves with the speed of sound "cannot hear a sound" must be seen in its historical context. When he said this, it was considered by scientists to be wrong, whereas the general public did not know very much about it. Today, in the age of supersonic aircraft, virtually everyone will consider it to be wrong. It is surprising that such a statement should have been made by someone who was able to foresee the future development of natural science.

My third and last example concerns therapy against syphilis. Steiner was a firm believer in the therapeutic usefulness of the so-called planet metals, including lead and mercury. He made a very clear prediction about the future use of mercury against syphilis:

"And with respect to these effects of mercury on syphilitic diseases it should be mentioned that mercury has recently been replaced in many ways. The famous new drugs that have replaced it are, however, already today known in their not quite unobjectionable effects, and very soon [sehr bald] medicine will in this field have completely returned to mercury."[29]

Almost seventy years later, no sign has been seen of any return to mercury.

The list of failed predictions could be prolonged ad nauseam. It is clear from a reading of Steiner's writings that he was wrong in his prediction that natural science was developing in the direction of confirming more and more of his own teachings.

It can, of course, be maintained that although Steiner often failed, reliable knowledge is obtainable by his method. However, this makes one of the problems pointed out in section 2 much more acute. If I can only know when my visions are correct by comparing them to those of someone with correct visions, but Steiner's visions were sometimes mistaken, then how do I find a "forerunner" whose visions I can rely on?

I can only see one possible escape for the faithful anthroposophist. That is to take seriously Steiner's warnings against a critical attitude towards the occult (i.e., towards Steiner's teachings). If some of Steiner's pronouncements seem false or contradictory, then that must be because we do not understand them. So what is the problem?

The problem is that there is virtually nothing left that anthroposophy can have in common with science.

4. Epilogue

Clearly, it does not follow from the non-scientific nature of anthroposophy that it is of no value. In this final section, a few words will be said about other possible ways in which anthroposophy might be valuable. Anthroposophy includes practices and beliefs, and its positive contributions should be sought in these two categories.

As an example of a prominent anthroposophical practice we may take its "biodynamical" agriculture. The major differences between biodynamical and conventional farming are (1) the absence of artificial fertilizers and pesticides, and (2) the presence of various magical practices, such as sowing and harvesting according to astrological calendars, spreading the ashes of a burnt vole-skin in order to avert further attacks by voles, etc. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that these magical practices are superior to conventional farming. Indeed, to the extent that the farmer harvests according to the planets and not according the crops and the weather, this will make him a less successful farmer. On the other hand, to reduce or discontinue the use of agricultural chemicals clearly has environmental advantages. Such changes in agriculture also have many proponents outside of the biodynamical movement. To the extent that there are positive elements in anthroposophical farming, these elements will have a stronger impact if they are freed from their connection with the rest of biodynamics.

The same can be said of the positive elements that may subsist in other anthroposophical practices, such as its health care and its (Waldorf) education. If positive ingredients can be found in anthroposophical practice, they can be made use of without the wholesale acceptance of anthroposophy. (Incidentally, I know of no such positive ingredient that is unique to anthroposophy.) In other words, a non-anthroposophist who finds positive elements in anthroposophical practices does not need either the teachings or the organizations of anthroposophy in order to avail herself of the advantages of these elements.

To what extent, finally, can the anthroposophical system of beliefs be of predominantly positive value? As should be clear from the above, these beliefs are less efficient than science - or scientifically guided common-sense - as guidelines for coping with empirical reality. What remains then, is essentially the functions that are traditionally claimed for religion: consolation, a sense of meaning and purpose, hope for after-life, foundations for morality.

This is not the place to discuss thc pros and cons of religion. Suffice it to concede that there is no reason to believe that anthroposophy is necessarily worse equipped than the major traditional religions to satisfy "religious needs". However, a defense of anthroposophy along these lines would have to be contrary to the teachings of anthroposophy, since the movement emphatically disavows any description of itself as a religion.



[1] In what follows, Steiner will be quoted in English translation. Translations published by the anthroposophical movement will be used when available. The German original of some key words will be given in square brackets.

The following abbreviations will be used for the most frequently quoted writings by Steiner:

• Akasha: Rudolf Steiner, Aus der Akasha-Chronik, Dornach, n.d.
• Geheimw: Rudolf Steiner, Die Geheimwissenschaft im Umriss, Leipzig 1920.
• Knowledge: Rudolf Steiner, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. How it is achieved, London 1969. (Translation of Wie Erlangt.)
• Occult: Rudolf Steiner, Occult Science. An Outline, London 1979. (Translation of Gehiemw.)
• Stufen: Rudolf Steiner, Die Stufen der hoheren Erkenninis, Dornach 1931.
• Wie erlagt: Rudolf Steiner, Wie erlangt man Erkenninisse der hoheren Welten?, Berlin 1918.

[2] for "gottliche Wissenshaft", see Wie erlangt, p. 25. (Knowledge p. 41.)

[3] Geheimw, p. 4. (Occult p. 27)

[4] Wie erlangt, p. 61. (Knowledge p. 77)

[5] Wie erlangt, pp. 4-5. (Knowledge pp. 22-23.)

[6] Wie erlangt, p. 6. (Knowledge p. 24)

[7] Wie erlangt, pp. 47 ff. (Knowledge pp. 63 ff.)

[8] Wie erlangt, pp. 32-33. (Knowledge p. 49)

[9] Rudolf Steiner, Meditation und Konzentration. Die drei Arten des Hellsehens, Dornach 1935, p. 33.

[10] Geheimw, p. 10. (Occult p. 31)

[11] Wie erlangt, p. 159. (Knowledge p. 170)

[12] Wie erlangt, p. 148. (Knowledge p. 160)

[13] Akasha, p. 2-3.

[14] Akasha, p. 3.

[15] Wie erlangt, p. 32. (Knowledge p. 49)

[16] Akasha, p. 3.

[17] Geheimw, pp. 14-15. (Occult p. 33)

[18] Stufen, p. 65.

[19] Geheimw, p. 21. (Occult p. 37)

[20] Stufen, p. 69.

[21] Wie erlangt, p. X. (Knowledge pp. 15-16.)

[22] Stufen, p. 66.

[23] Wie erlangt, p. 58. (Knowledge p. 74)

[24] Wie erlangt, p. 3. (Knowledge, p. 21)

[25] Wie erlangt, pp. 3-4. (Knowledge, pp. 21-22)

[26] Akasha, p. 227.

[27] Rudolf Steiner, Das Karma des Materialismus, Berliner Vortrage, gehalten im August und September 1917, Berlin 1922, pp. 2:14-15.

[28] Ibid., p. 2:16.

[29] Rudolf Steiner, "Uber Gesundheit und Krankheit", lectures held in 1922 and 1923, quoted from franz Stratmann, Zum Einfluss der Anthroposophie in der Medzin, Munchen 1988, p. 39.

Appendix: [omitted] texts of quotations in original German
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Re: The Art of Avoiding History, by Peter Staudenmaier

Postby admin » Tue Feb 06, 2018 5:57 am

Part 1 of 2

Aryan Origins: Brief History of Linguistic Arguments
by Madhav M. Deshpande
From: India: Historical Beginnings and the Concept of the Aryan: Essays by Romila Thapar, Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, Madhav M. Deshpande, Shereen Ratnagar
© Individual essays with respective authors
© This collection: National Book Trust, India
Published by the Director, National Book Trust, India




The discussion of the terms 'Arya' and 'Anarya' is normally dominated on the one hand by linguistics and archaeology, and, now more increasingly in the context of politics of knowledge as reflected in colonial and post-colonial histories of South Asia. Even in the ancient and classical period which is dominated by the discourses of the Hindu Dharmasastras (and Epics) on the one hand, and the contesting traditions of Buddhism and Jainism, these terms have played an equally significant role expressing conceptions of linguistic, ethnic, moral and spiritual identity, purity, and superiority. I have discussed many of these issues in my previous studies (see: Bibliography). Here, I wish to review primarily the linguistic side of the Aryan question and describe where the linguistic arguments stand at present. In the literature linguistics, the term Aryan is used to refer specifically to those who were speakers of Indo-Iranian languages, the Indo-Iranian itself being a branch of the larger Indo-European language family. The term Arya as a self-referring ethnic term is seen only in the ancient linguistic materials found in Iran and India. The ancient linguistic material of the Indo-Iranian branch consists of the Vedic texts of ancient India, and the Avestan and Old-Persian texts of ancient Iran. Linguistically related material is found in the treaty of Mitannis in Anatolia dating to the 14th century BC, though the word Arya is not found in that region to my knowledge. Thus, in the careful linguistic use of the term Aryan, it is used to refer to speakers of Indo-Iranian languages. However, in less careful, but apparently quite extensive usage, the term is sometimes used to refer to the entire Indo-European language family. With the uncritical equation of language and race in the nineteenth century, the term Aryan came to assume a racial significance, and it was extensively used in that manner by western historians, by the Nazis, and still continues to be used that way by white supremacist groups in many parts of the world, cf. Day (1994). The term Aryan, influenced by its usage in Europe, also appears in racist sense in many Indian writings of the 19th and 20th centuries, cf. Deshpande (2005). In the 19th century India, the term also came to be used to refer to a revivalist purist Hindu identity by groups like the Arya Samaja, and it continues to vibrate with Hindu nationalist groups till today. This widely divergent and multi-valent usage of the term Arya in the available literature of the last two centuries has complicated our understanding of the historical situation, which needs a careful sorting of the various meanings of this term, before one can deal with specific historical reconstructions. I do not believe that we can explain the linguistic make-up of ancient South Asia, without the assumption of migration of the speakers of a branch of Indo-Iranian into the sub-continent and their gradual contact and convergence with speakers of other languages such as Dravidian and Austro-Asiatic. Such a migration does not entail a concerted invasion of the region, such as the invasion by the forces of Alexander the Great, but neither does this necessarily require the imperceptibly slow and non-warlike expansions of agricultural communities as suggested by the alternative Indo-European history of Colin Renfrew (1988).

I respect the caution expressed by Kenneth A.R. Kennedy (1995: 60): "Affirmations as emphatic as those voiced by the Allchins insure that the search for the Aryan presence in linguistic and archaeological sources will survive for some time to come. However, biological anthropologists remain unable to lend support to any of the theories concerning an Aryan biological or demographic entity within the contexts of linguistics and archaeology." Indeed, one should not go by the old identifications of linguistic, religious, and racial identities. However, Kennedy's conclusions are not really contradictory to linguistic research, if we understand that there is no correlation between racial and linguistic identities. People speaking the same language can belong to different racial backgounds, and people of the same racial background may speak different languages. If we dissociate linguistic, cultural, and biological identities, as we need to, then we can certainly find cases of distinct linguistic identities where one would be hard-pressed to find biological differences. The speakers of Indo-Aryan Marathi and Dravidian Kannada can hardly be distinguished from each other on biological grounds, and yet these two languages belong to different linguistic families. There is no reason why the Aryans and non-Aryans of the Vedic period or of Indus Valley could not be linguistically different without necessarily showing up biological differences.

The differences as expressed in the Rgveda by the terms anindra, "those who do not worship Indra," adeva "those who do not worship Devas," ayajyu "those who do not offer sacrifices," sisnadeva "those who worship phallic gods," muradeva "those who worship images of gods" etc. are cultural differences. The term mrdhravac and possibly anas are indicative of linguistic differences. While the outsiders can hardly tell the difference between a Sinhalese and a Sri Lankan Tamil, the differences are perceptible to the populations of Sri Lanka. Similarly, even if our biologists of today cannot distinguish between the skeletons of Aryans and Non-Aryans, there is no reason to deny to them the differences as they perceived; for a critique of Kennedy and others, see Ratnagar (1998) and (1999). When the Rgvedic poets invoke their gods to help the Arya community and destroy the Dasa/ Dasyus, we are dealing with ethnically and culturally perceived differences. Within the Rgvedic period, there appears to have been a gradual move away from the earlier violent conflicts between the Arya varna and the Dasa varna (cf. yo dasam varnam adharam, guha kah, RV II. 12.4) toward some sort of co-operative and collaborative relationship between these two varnas as hinted in RV 1.179.6 : ubhau varnav rsir ugrah puposa (cf. P.V. Kane, History of Dharmasastra, Vol. II, Pt. I, p, 25, fn. 53). In my publications (Deshpande, 1993a), I have dealt with the details of how a slow inter-ethnic convergence may have come about in ancient India, and how the ancient Indian terminology of bija-ksetra "seed-field" provides access to a cultural understanding of biology.

In this connection, we have a lot of terminological dilemmas to deal with. For example, when we use the word "Arya," what do we mean by such a word? We know that the word was used as a self-referring term only by the ancient Iranians and by the authors of the Vedic hymns. Kuiper (1991: 6) says: "[In the RV] 'Aryans' were in general those who maintained the world order by means of sacrifices and gifts .... " Quite apart from the now-unacceptable racial interpretation of this term, Kuiper's definition makes this term purely functional, and stretches it away from any association with a real or perceived ethnicity. On the other hand, consider Southworth's comments: (1995: 261): "Therefore, while it is appropriate to refer to 'speakers of Proto-Dravidian' or 'members of the proto-Dravidian speech community,' or 'speakers of Old Indo-Aryan,' or even (when justified) 'Dravidian-Old Indo-Aryan bilinguals,' use of labels such as 'the Dravidians' or 'the Aryans' is not justifiable in linguistic terms. In fact, their use in any context is problematic, since they can only be justified by demonstrating the existence of a group which both spoke the language in question and possessed particular attributes."

But before getting into a review of the purely linguistic arguments, it is useful to see the range of usage of these terms in premodern literature. For example, the term Arya referring to an ethnic identity occurs in the Rgveda, sometimes in conflict with other communities called Dasas and Dasyus, sometimes in alliances with them as in the famous War of Ten Kings (dasarajna), and sometimes even in a balanced complementarity. We can also usefully compare Manu's Lawbook with the warning issued by the linguist Franklin Southworth (1995: 261). A term like 'Arya,' as the usage of the Dharmasastras shows, was indeed used in linguistic, ethnic, and moral contexts, and that it also had extensions into designations of regions. Manu (10.57) says that one should determine the low-status of a person who looks like an Arya (aryarupam iva), but is an Anarya (anarya), on the basis of his actions (karmabhih svair vibhavayet). This verse shows that there was indeed a prototypical expectation of how an Arya person looks like, i.e. his physical features (aryarupa). In this context, the word rupa "form, appearance" does not appear to have any symbolic meaning. This indicates that physical features which were associated with a prototypical Arya were indeed not restricted to only those who were socially recognized as Arya. Manu, however does not specify the Arya physical features, though Patanjali's Mahabhasya (on P.2.2.6) does say that normally one would not recognize a person "dark like the heap of Urad lentils" (masarasivarna) sitting in the market place to be a Brahmin, and that a Brahmin is normally expected to look gaura "fair," sucyacara "with clean conduct," and pingalakesa "With tawny colored hair." Manu recognizes that confusion extended also to the use of languages. Manu (10.45: mukhabahurupajjanam ya loke jatayo bahih/mlecchavacas caryavacas te sarve dasyavah smrtah //) indicates that there are people all over the known world who speak Arya and Mleccha languages, but the use of language cannot be taken as a factor determining their social identity. Outside the four varnas born from the head, arms, thighs, and feet of the creator, everyone is a barbarian Dasyu, whether he speaks an Arya or a Mleccha language. This statement clearly says that speaking an Arya language does not make a Mleccha/Dasyu into an Arya. This gives us some sense of the baggage the term Arya carries with it, and the baggage that we must recognize before a clearer sense of history can begin to emerge.

Beginnings of Indo-European Linguistics

Glimpses of the beginning of the modern study of Indian languages opened with encounters of Europeans with India. P. Sassetti, who was in Goa between 1581 and 1588, noted that Sanskrit had many words in common with Italian "particularly in the numerals six to nine, in the names for God, snake, and many others," Lockwood (1971: 22). In 1767, P. Coeurdous asked the French Academy for the reasons for the striking similarities between Sanskrit, Greek and Latin, and he suggested that such similarities were relics of the primitive language of mankind after the confusion of tongues at Babel. He compares, for instance: Skt. danam 'gift,' devas 'god,' janu 'knee,' madhyas 'middle,' and vidhava 'widow' with Lat. donum, deus, genu, and vidua, and also the present tense of the verb 'to be' : Skt. Sg. 1 asmi, 2 asi, 3 asti, Pl. 1 smas, 2 stha, 3 santi, with Lat. sum, es, est, sumus, estis, and sunt. However, the credit for suggesting a common bond in the clearest terms goes to Sir William Jones, who declared in 1786 before the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal in Calcutta:

"The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either; bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs, and in the forms of grammar, could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed that no philologer could examine them all three without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which perhaps no longer exists. There is similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothick and the Celtick, though blended with a very different idiom, had the same origin with Sanskrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family."

It should be noted that while William Jones argued for a common ancestral bond between Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, as well as Germanic, Celtic, and Iranian languages, his words are important: "sprung from some common source, which perhaps no longer exists." As Trautmann (1997, 1998) has demonstrated in detail, Jones was still working under the Biblical ideas of dispersal of languages after Babel, and did not look upon Sanskrit itself as the source of all Indo-European languages. It was Friedrich von Schlegel (1772- 1829) who in his work Uber die Sprache und Weisheit der Indier published in 1808 declared Sanskrit to be the parent language, of which Greek, Latin, Persian, and the members of the Germanic branch were the more or less degenerate descendants, and more remotely connected were Armenian, Slavonic and Celtic languages. Schlegel based his conclusions on a comparative study of the vocabulary and grammatical structure of these languages. While the comparative method he initiated survived, his conclusions were soon overthrown. Laying the systematic foundations of comparative Indo-European philology, Franz Bopp in his Uber das Konugationssystem der Sanskritsprache in Vergleichung mit jenen der griechischen, lateinischen, persischen und germanischen Sprache (1816) defined the position of Sanskrit within the Indo-European family: "I do not believe that Greek, Latin and the other European languages are to be considered as derived from Sanskrit ... I feel rather inclined to consider them altogether as subsequent variations of one original tongue, which Sanskrit has preserved more perfectly." In 1833, Bopp published his monumental work on Comparative Indo-European grammar: Vergleichende Grammatik des Sanskrit, Zend, Armenischen, Griechischen, Lateinischen, Lithauischen, Altslawischen, Gothischen und Deutschen. While William Jones deserves the credit for announcing the discovery of the genetic relationship between Indo-European languages, it was in Germany under Bopp and his successors that the science of Indo-European philology progressed with great speed.

A. Schleicher (1821-68) initiated the reconstruction of prehistoric Indo-European forms. By comparing the forms recorded in the daughter languages, one can imagine how the word looked in the parent Indo-European language. By comparing words for horse, i.e. Ski:. asvas, Gk. hippos, also ikkos, arid Lat. equus, archac equos, and by assuming that Sanskrit has kept the vowels of the parent language, Schleicher postulated *akvas as the word for horse in the parent Indo-European language. Subsequent research pointed out that the reconstruction should rather be *ekwos, since it had by then become clear that the vowel system of Sanskrit, far from faithfully reflecting the prehistoric stage, had in fact undergone sweeping changes which resulted in the transformation of both original e and o into a. Gradually it became clear that in certain respects the languages of Europe were more archaic than Sanskrit. "The discovery of the Law of Palatals was naturally a blow to the prestige of Sanskrit which philologists had hitherto assumed to stand close to the parent tongue" (Lockwood 1971: 28). The results of research in this field were crowned with the work of Karl Brugmann (1849-1919) and B. Delbruck (1842-1922). While other works of this period are now mainly of historical interest, Delbruck's Grundriss der vergleichenden Grammatik der indo-germanischen Sprachen (1886-1916) in five volumes remains an unequalled source of factual information and is indispensable for serious work on Indo-European linguistics. The position of Sanskrit within the Indo-European family as defined since the work of Brugmann and Delbruck has changed little within this field, even though great strides have been made in many areas of historical and comparative linguistics.

In the initial period since William Jones's declaration, it is evident that there was no clear understanding of a distinction between what later came to be called Indo-Aryan languages from the class of Dravidian languages. Among the traditional Sanskrit Pandits, there was a general belief that all languages other than Sanskrit were somehow derived from Sanskrit which was described by Dandin as a Divine language (daivi vak). This was evident from the usage of descriptive terms such as tatsama "words identical with those of Sanskrit," tadbhava "words (transparently) derived from Sanskrit," and desya "regional" words whose derivation from Sanskrit was not transparent. This terminology was widely used not only to describe Prakrit and Apabhram sa languages which historically belong to the Indo-Aryan family, but also to describe the languages that belong to the Dravidian family. I have described elsewhere that in the traditional Mima m sa belief, even the so called Mleccha "foreign" languages were also ultimately derived from Vedic Sanskrit. Early western scholarship after William Jones also went through a phase that did not know distinct origins for Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages.

19th Century Views: Gauda and Dravida Linguistic Areas

There is a traditional classification of Brahmins of India into two groups. The northern group consisting of five sub-groups is given the title Gauda, while the southern group consisting of five sub-groups is given the title Dravida; for a detailed analysis, see Deshpande (2002). The five sub-groups coming under the term Gauda are: Sarasvata, Kanyakubja, Gauda, Maithila and Utkala. The five sub-groups coming under the term Dravida are: Gurjara, Maharastra, Tailanga, Karnataka and Dravida. The early state of linguistic understanding in the post-Jones period is seen in the discussions of these groups and sub-groups by Colebrooke. In his 1801 article "On the Sanscrit and Pracrit Languages," Henry Thomas Colebrooke brings up this classification in the context of describing the linguistic geography of India. Without a hint that this is a classification of brahmins, albeit in different regions of India, Colebrooke (1801: 226) generalizes this into a classification of the "Hindu nations":

"The five Hindu nations, whose peculiar dialects have been thus briefly noticed, occupy the northern and eastern portions of India; they are denominated the five Gaurs. The rest, called the five Dravirs, inhabit the southern and western parts of the peninsula."

Colebrooke had changed the context of the general classification away from a classification of brahmins to a classification of "Hindu nations" based upon their affiliation with language and regionality. Here too, he detected certain contradictions. He had doubts about the appropriateness of the classification of the Gurjaras among the Dravidas, and the classification of Utkalas among the Gaudas. He says (1801: 229):

"Considering situation of their country, and analogy of language and writing, I cannot hesitate in thinking that Gurjaras should be considered as the fifth northern nation of India, and the Uriyas should be ranked among the tribes the Dacshin."

What is difficult for us to understand is the exact basis upon which Colebrooke is making these judgments, because, as Trautmann (1997: 147) points out: "He ... derives all major Indian languages from Sanskrit, excepting only those known to have come from the invasions of foreigners."

The fact that Colebrooke moved this classification into the area of linguistic geography set the course for the future Indological use of classification in the works of successors, where a clearer recognition of major differences between Indo-Aryan and Dravidian language families becomes evident. As Trautmann's research shows, The second discovery, that of Dravidian language family, is usually credited to a missionary, Bishop Robert Caldwell, whose classic work, A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South Indian Languages, was published in 1856 .... This, however, is mistaken. Fully forty years previous to Caldwell's book, in the very year in which Bopp was laying the foundations of the comparative study of Indo-European languages in Europe (1816), Francis Whyte Ellis, Collector of Madras, published an elegant proof of the Dravidian language family. He showed that Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada shared a common stock of roots and forms of grammar that were different from those of Sanskrit, a finding he extended also to Malayalam, Tulu, Kodagu, and 'Rajmahali' or Malto, a tribal language of the Gangetic basin, far to the north" (Trautmann 2005: xxiii). The work of Ellis, and more widely the work of Bishop Caldwell, influenced the evolving understanding of the different language families in India, and a new understanding of the terms Gauda and Dravida as language groups in India began to emerge. In Caldwell's work (1856, 1974: 56-57), we see a contrast set up between "Gaurian Idioms" and "Dravidian Idioms." The languages included under the heading Gaurian are Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, and Sindhi. Under the heading Dravidian are listed Tamil, Canarese, Tulu, Malayalam, Telugu, Toda, Kota, Gond, Ku, Rajmahal, Brahui, and Oraon. The departure from the original context in the direction of a language-classification, since the writing of Colebrooke, is so complete in Caldwell that there is no oddity felt in listing Marathi and Gujarati among the Gaurian group. The terms are undergoing a process of redefinition and recontextualization. We see the same process in Rudolf Hoernle's 1880 work A Comparative Grammar of the Gaudian Languages. Hoernle (Introduction, p. i) explains his choice of the term Gaudian: "I have adopted the term Gaudian to designate collectively all North-Indian vernaculars of Sanskrit affinity, for want of a better word; not as being the least objectionable, but as being the most convenient one." Referring to the specific languages, Hoernle (ibid) says: "Seven languages of the Sanskrit stock are usually enumerated as spoken in North India, viz. Sindhi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Hindi, Bangali, Oriya, Marathi." The languages of Maharashtra and Gujarat, coming under the old panca dravidas, are now listed as "languages of the Sanskrit stock ... spoken in North India." There is a newly emerging notion of a linguistic divide between Indo-Aryan and Dravidian, and this divide is expressed by using the old terminology of Gauda vs. Dravida.

Early Indian Responses to Indo-European Linguistics

By the second half of the nineteenth century, there were several theories and counter-theories circulating in India; for details see Deshpande 2005. The newly emerging class of western educated Indians was absorbing the theories of Indo-European philology and Caldwell's notion of the separate Dravidian family, and was reacting to these new ideas in various ways. Early nineteenth century scholarly figures like Sir R. G. Bhandarkar, who was trained in Bombay and Pune under European professors, completely agreed with the conclusions of Indo-European philology of the time, and began to offer explanations of the emergence of various languages in terms of contact between Aryan and non-Aryan populations in India. Bhandarkar's contribution toward an understanding of the Aryan origins may be seen most profoundly in his Wilson Philological Lectures on Sanskrit & the Derived Languages delivered in 1877 in Bombay, and published in form of a book in 1914. Referring to the progress of Indo-European philology especially in Germany, Bhandarkar says: "The progress made within about fifty years is marvelous, and affords a striking instance of the intellectual activity of the Europeans. In the cultivation of Philology and the elaboration of this new science the Germans, of all other nations, have been most prominent, and have done by far the greater portion of the work," (Bhandarkar 1914:5). Bhandarkar's explanations built on the hypothesis of various migrations, contacts, and adaptations are seen in the following discourse: "Though [the speakers of Pali] heard conjunct consonants and the diphthongs ai and au pronounced by the speakers of Sanskrit, as correctly as the other letters which they did not corrupt, their organs were not fitted to utter them. These peculiarities may have been natural or acquired. If natural, the people who first corrupted Sanskrit into Pali must have belonged to an alien race which came into close contact with the Aryas and learnt their language .... And there is another instance in History of an alien race having treated the sounds of the language of a civilized community in just the same way. The Barbarians who overran Italy and developed the Italian from the Latin, showed the same inability to pronounce the Latin conjuncts, and assimilated them as our Pali ancestors did," (Bhandarkar 1914: 47). The process of the emergence of the Prakrits is accounted for by Bhandarkar by referring to the migration of the Aryas from "the land of the five rivers" to "the country known afterwards as Brahmavarta and Kurukshetra." This is the country about Thanesvar, where "they formed a consolidated community in which an aboriginal or alien race was incorporated and the language represented by the Pali was the language of that race," (Bhandarkar 1914: 88). The idea of the Aryas, the speakers of Sanskrit, coming into contact with non-Aryas, and such a contact leading to a degenerative transformation of Sanskrit into Prakrits is an idea not inherently alien to the Sanskritic tradition. But the same tradition does not admit any notion of history for this divine and eternal language, and here Bhandarkar's efforts to find historical origins of and developments in Sanskrit did not go well with his contemporaries. These were departures from the Sanskritic tradition. If the speakers of Sanskrit were Aryas, and if Sanskrit itself resulted from a process of transformation from its Indo-European precursors and underwent later transformations of its own, were the Aryas themselves subject to transformative processes? If the transformations of Sanskrit into Pali were caused by the alien speakers trying to learn the Aryan language, what was it that caused the transformations which resulted into the very existence of Sanskrit itself, and what caused transformations within the very history of Sanskrit? Such questions indeed raise unpalatable issues, and Bhandarkar's own wording suggests that he, as a Brahmin, was himself caught in the middle. Bhandarkar's wording would suggest a belief that the Aryas were not in contact with non-Aryans in "the land of the five rivers." Even admitting that the Indus Civilization was not excavated by this time, one still finds this belief difficult to accept, particularly in view of the fact that there are north western Prakrits in Asokan inscriptions, a fact which was known to Bhandarkar by this time. Bhandarkar finds that the northwestern Prakrits like Paisaci, appear to be truly Aryan. Perhaps then this was the language of an Aryan tribe that had remained longer in the original seat of the race, and was connected with the ancestors of the Teutons, so as to develop a phonetic peculiarity resembling theirs, and emigrated to India at a very late period and settled on the borders. Or it might be that the tribe came to India along with the others, but living in the mountainous countries on the border in a sort of rude independence, it developed this peculiarity of pronunciation .... Since under this supposition they could not have come in very close contact with their more civilized brethren of the plains, their language did not undergo some of those phonetic modifications which Sanskrit underwent in the mouth of the aboriginal races," (Bhandarkar 1914: 94). So the speakers of northwestern Prakrits were truly Aryan, uncontaminated by contact with the non-Aryans, but not as civilized as the speakers of Sanskrit who did come in contact with the "aboriginal races"? Bhandarkar seems to believe that the Aryans were not in contact with aboriginal races until they moved from "the land of five rivers" into the interior of India. Thus the linguistic deviations from Sanskrit in the direction of Pali and other Prakrits are caused by the contact of the Aryas with the non-Aryas, while the linguistic deviations from Sanskrit in the direction of the northwestern Prakrits and other Indo-European languages are to be explained by "isolation" at best. This creates an interesting tripartite division: the ethnically pure but less civilized Aryas of the northwest, the pure civilized Aryas of the "land of the five rivers," and the uncivilized non-Aryas of the rest of the Indian subcontinent.

Bhandarkar's student at Deccan College, B.G. Tilak (1856-1920) disagreed with Bhandarkar's moderate political views and reformist social views, but basically accepted the conclusions of Indo-European philology, with a twist of his own. His first publication on the subject of ancient history was the book Orion or Researches into the Antiquity of the Vedas, published in 1893. His second publication was The Arctic Home in the Vedas, published in 1903. His third and the last publication on the subject was the book Vedic Chronology and Vedanga Jyotisha [Containing also Chaldean and Indian Vedas and other miscellaneous essays], written in 1913 in the Mandalay jail in Burma and published posthumously in 1925. Trying to find history in the anadi "beginningless" Vedas was a departure from the Brahmanical tradition, but such a departure, facilitated even though it was by the introduction of Western education, was the path chosen by Tilak.

Tilak was in basic agreement with Bhandarkar on the conclusions of Indo-European linguistic theory, and had particular admiration for the work of Max Muller. He viewed Max Muller not only as a great scholar of the Veda, but as someone who pointed out to the west the importance of the spiritual contribution of India (cf. Tilak on Max Muller, Lokmanya Tilakamce Kesaritil Samkina Lekh, vol. 4, 1922, 124ff. Also see Max Muller's obituary written by Tilak in Kesari, November 6, 1900, ibid, pp. 573ff.). In his obituary of Max Muller in Kesari (ibid, pp. 575-6), Tilak approvingly points out Muller's contributions to Indo-European philology and comparative mythology:

"The efforts of the western philologists were given a new turn by their recognition of the ancient character of Sanskrit and their study of Panini's general rules and their exceptions regarding the derivation of various types of words from stems and affixes. In the last thirty/ forty years, German scholars have produced an entirely new sastra 'science' of comparative philology. One must not forget that Panini's work is the foundation of this new sastra. ... The second consequence of the western study of languages was in the area of the study of religion. Before the birth of western philologists like Burnouf, Bopp, and Jones, the people in Europe were familiar with only one religious tradition that was born in the region of Palestine. ... This orientation of the western thinking on religion changed with their study of the Veda, Avesta, and the Buddhist Tripitaka, and with a great transformation of ways of thinking, the science (sastra) of comparative religion was born. . .. The notion that the civilized people in Europe and Asia must have originally belonged to the same human race and were speakers of the same original language gradually developed and was successively strengthened. It is necessary to understand this history to fully comprehend the true significance of Professor Max Muller's efforts, scholarship, and writings."

However, while Tilak admired Max Muller, he believed that the purely philological approach of scholars like Max Muller was not sufficient to yield convincing results and that the astronomical method, though generally condemned by the philologists as being indefinite and unreliable, could be refined and used to make more exact predictions. In his own works based not so much on philology, but on astronomical evidence, Tilak argued that the ancestors of the Vedic Aryans, and possibly texts of the Vedas themselves came from the Arctic Home dating to a very ancient period of 8000 to 10000 Be. If one were to accept Tilak's dating of the Vedas and the ancestors of the Vedic Aryans, then the non-Sanskrit branches of Indo-European language family would all seem to be far younger than the Indo-Aryan branch. While this conclusion would make the Indian Aryans the senior, rather than junior, brothers of the colonial Western Aryans, and would boost the nationalist pride, Tilak did not systematically attempt to explain how he would derive all other branches of Indo-European from Sanskrit. Without explicitly claiming so, Tilak makes Sanskrit the oldest of all Indo-European languages, and hence a possible source of them all. As I have discussed elsewhere in detail (cf. "Arctic Home in the Vedas: Religion, Politics, and the Colonial Context," forthcoming), in spite of Tilak's political background, by the standards of the late 19th and early 20th century scholarship in the west, Tilak's geological and astronomical investigations had better scholarly foundations, than the openly Hindutva-motivated histories constructed by Savarkar, Golwalkar, and others.

However, in the nineteenth century Maharashtra, there was a continuing Brahmanical tradition that believed in the primordiality of Sanskrit and India as its homeland and holy-land, combined with a belief that all other languages were derived from Sanskrit through a process of degeneration (apabhramtsa-ization). This goes back to Manu's Lawbook that all populations of the world ultimately originate from the four primordial vannas created by God in India, through mixing of the original varnas and through migrations of various groups away from the Aryavartic center combined with loss of dharmic behavior (Manusmrti, chapter 10). Manu (10.43-44) lists Paundraka, Caudra, Dravida, Kamboja, Yavana, Saka, Parada, Pahlava, Cina, Kirata, Darada, and Khasa as original Ksatriyas who slowly became Sudras through loss of dharmic behavior and through non-contact with Brahmins (kriyalopat ... brahmanadarsanena ca, Manu 10.43). This Brahmanical view, combined with the appropriation of modern knowledge of the Indo-European family and the emerging sense of Indian nationalism, appears in the works of authors like Narayan Pavgee, a contemporary of Tilak. While Tilak argued for the Arctic Home of the Vedic Aryans, Pavgee argued for the Aryavartic Home of the Aryans, though he was willing to accept a theory that a branch of the Aryavartic Aryans migrated to the Arctic region and eventually returned to India. With the Aryavartic home of the Aryans, Pavgee was arguing against the notion that the Aryans came to India from outside. However, he was proposing that the Aryans spread across the world from the Aryavartic home, and that Sanskrit was the mother of all languages of the world.

The second volume of his Bharatiya Samrajya (1893) is titled: Aryalok va tyance Buddhi-vaibhav "The Aryan People and the Wealth of their Intelligence." The book begins with a section dealing with the original home of the Aryas (aryance mula-nivasa-sthana). Pavgee asserts at the very beginning that the Vedas are the oldest literature of mankind, and that the Vedas support the notion that northern India is the original home of not just the Aryans, but of the entire mankind (Pavgee 1893: 2). The Aryan family of languages originated in India, Pavgee (1893: 5) asserts, and it expanded westward from India through the regions of Iran, Greece, Italy, Spain, England, Germany, and Russia. Pavgee mentions the view of western philologists that the Aryans came into India from outside, but he does not support this view. In the ninth volume of his Bharatiya Samrajya (1900), titled Bharatakhandatil Nanavidha Bhasa "Various Languages in India," Pavgee has a section on the original land of the Arya language, i.e. Sanskrit. Pavgee asserts unequivocally that Sanskrit originated in the region of Aryavarta within India and is the mother of all Aryan languages. All languages such as Marathi, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Iranian, Greek, Latin, German, English, and Polish were born from Sanskrit. They are daughters of Sanskrit (Pavgee 1900: 14). Various originally Arya groups left their religion and castes and left the original Arya homeland, and these eventually became the various branches of the Aryan language family. In support of this conclusion, Pavgee offers, not linguistic arguments, but a large number of passages from Smrtis and Puranas (1900: 16ff), a practice continued in nationalist history writing till today, see papers in Deo and Kamath (1993).

From Linguistic Reconstruction to Racist Theories in the west

Returning to the history of western scholarship during the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, one needs to keep in mind one major factor, namely that the Indus Valley Civilization was discovered only in 1920s, and hence all previous scholarship of the Indo-European philology developed in the absence of any knowledge of the Indus Valley Civilization. While the discovery of the Indo-European language family was to a large extent a result of linguistic scholarship, the scholars who were engaged in this scholarship often used discourses that merged the distinction between language and ethnicity or race, (Day, 1994, Leach, 1990, and Trautmann 1997 and 1999). Beginning with William Jones, we find the use of terms like "nations" to refer to groups speaking particular languages, and words like "Semitic" and "Hamitic" combined both language and ethnicity, (Trautmann 1997 and 1998). With this mixture of terminology, the notion of a linguistic ancestor for the languages of the Indo-European family soon developed into finding an ancestral group of people, a nation or a race, that over time splintered into multiple sub-groups and these migrated from an original homeland to their eventual destinations where we find the descendant languages today. Today one can say with confidence that there is no necessary connection between language and ethnicity. The African blacks who speak French are linguistically as much Indo-European as white French speakers in France, just as the English-speaking peoples across the world speak an Indo-European language, though they belong to different races and ethnicities. Thus, linguistic identities are not necessarily related to racial or ethnic identities; the language of race was pervasively used by scholars in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In early writings, Max Muller used the word Aryan in racial meaning, even though he later recanted: "There are Aryan and Semitic languages, [but] it is against all logic to speak, without an expressed or implied qualification, of an Aryan race, Aryan blood, or Aryan skulls," Max Muller (1880, 4: 223). Edmund Leach (1990: 235) points out that by 1878 Max Muller was writing without equivocation about Aryans as if they were a racial group moving outward from some central Asian homeland by a process of conquest. In the 1890's, the linguist Sir George Grierson was explaining all Indo-Aryan dialect distributions in northern India as due to past military conquest, a view that was repeated without criticism in the 1969 printing of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Leach (1990: 235). We see the same pattern in the works of leading European scholars like Hermann Oldenberg. Consider the following narrative from Oldenberg (1896, 1973: 39):

"In the ancient times for instance, the Aryans of the Northwestern part of further India had not yet entered deep into the borderland by the use of force and were still the brothers and almost neighbours of the Zarathustrian Aryas of Iran, or rather of the Aryans who were opponents of Zarathustra. The situation changed in later times. Hinduism spread all along the peninsula with the Aryan character ever weakening, with the blood of the natives mingling in their blood stream in a never-ceasing continuity and with an infinite series of shades of complexion, ranging from the fair to the dark, observable in the populace. It will not do to mix up the old times with the modern times."

Such passages can be multiplied a hundred times indicating how wide the use of the racial terminology was. The racial terminology took different forms, e.g. the Aryans versus Semites in Germany, while in the context of colonial domains like India, the racial terminology made the relationships between the white Aryan British and the black Aryan Bengali ever more complicated -- sometimes positively, though most of the time negatively. Does this mean that one must not connect migrations of peoples to linguistic changes, for fear of involving ourselves in racialist thinking? I do not think so. Theorizing from where we stand today, we need to take into account all forms of human interaction that involves language to evaluate the phenomenon of linguistic relationships, genetic or otherwise, as well as phenomena like various forms of intensive and extensive bilingualism and diglossia. The social context of language in its widest sense needs to be taken into account to explain facts language, without insisting that a linguistic identity must be co-terminus with racial, biological, religious, or political identities. The different identities do indeed intersect, but do not logically entail each other. These various forms of identities do affect language use, and may be taken into account with due caution.

Historical Linguistics after the Discovery of the Indus Valley Civilization

With the discovery of the Indus Civilization in 1920s began a new effort to make sense of the Indo-European migrations and the Vedic texts. Early on, the destruction of the Indus cities was connected with the Vedic Aryans led by their God Indra destroying the forts of Dasas and Dasyus. If this version of history is accepted, Indus was pre-Vedic and non-Vedic and was destroyed by Vedic Aryans. This most likely makes Indus a non-Indo-European linguistic region, and hence for decades various scholars, like Emeneau and Parpola, argued for a Dravidian identity for Indus. This was also supported by the consideration that Brahui in Baluchistan is a Dravidian language, and further by the claim of David McAlpin that Dravidian and Elamite of ancient Iran may belong to the same language family. Even though gradually the opinion shifted to the position that the Vedic Aryans entered the Indus area after the Indus cities had already declined and abandoned, the predominant linguistic opinion still held that the Indus Valley was a Dravidian speaking region. Decipherments of the Indus Seals by S.R. Rao and Madhusudan Misra, among others have claimed a form of proto-Sanskrit as the language of Indus, and the Vedic character of Indus civilization, though there is not a wide acceptance of these proposals, cf. for a review of recent proposals, see: Ratnagar (1996), Witzel (2002) and Mahadevan (2002). More recently scholars Michael Witzel have suggested that the area was most likely a multi-lingual multi-ethnic region that may have included Dravidian, proto- or para-Munda, as well other languages (related to isolates like Burushaski), including forms of Indo-Iranian on the periphery. This suggestion seems to be most realistic to me, as it allows an open-ended examination of all available linguistic data.

As for the latest twist on the decipherment of the Indus seals, Farmer-Sproat-Witzel (2004) proposes that the Indus seal symbols do not codify a language: "Archaeologists have long claimed the Indus Valley as one of the four literate centers of the early ancient world, complete with long texts written on perishable materials. We demonstrate the impossibility of the lost-manuscript thesis and show that Indus symbols were not even evolving in linguistic directions after at least 600 years of use. Suggestions as to how Indus symbols were used are noted in nonlinguistic symbol systems in the Near East that served key religious, political, and special functions without encoding speech or serving as formal memory aids. Evidence is reviewed that the Harappans' lack of a true script may have been tied to the role played by their symbols in controlling large multilinguistic populations; parallels are drawn to the later resistance of Brahmin elites to the literate encoding of Vedic sources and to similar phenomena in esoteric traditions outside South Asia (Abstract, p. 19)." While a nonlinguistic interpretation of Indus symbols is a distinct possibility that needs to be taken into account, the initial reactions to the above proposal from scholars do not seem to indicate a wide acceptance. In any case, whether because the available attempts to decipher the linguistic value of Indus symbols have all failed to reach a convincing result, or because they are intrinsically nonlinguistic symbols, so far the symbols of Indus do not directly contribute to our linguistic understanding of history, which must be teased out only from an intensive mining of linguistic sources such as the Vedic and Iranian texts, and this brings us back to the work of scholars like Emeneau, Burrow, Kuiper, Mayrhofer, Southworth, Witzel, Parpola, and Lubotsky, among others. The substratum languages in the area covered by the Indus Valley Civilization probably include Dravidian, (Para-) Munda, as well as ancestors of linguistic isolates like Burushaski, plus some traces of the languages the Bactria Margiana Archaeological Complex, as well as early forms of Iranian Indo-Aryan in the border areas. Southworth (2005: 328-9) says: "The Indus language (group) is probably the oldest detectable linguistic stage, both in Panjab and Sindh. An unidentified western Austro-Asiatic language designated as Para-Munda probably functioned as a lingua franca of this area. Some of these language groups may have been present as early as the seventh or eighth millennium Be, when archaeologists record the beginnings of agriculture in areas bordering the Indus Valley. Indo-Aryan appears in the form Vedic Sanskrit, dateable to the early second millennium Be, probably preceded by outer Indo-Aryan. The arrival of Dravidian-speaking people in the area is difficult to date and is the subject of some controversy. Evidence of Dravidian borrowings in the Rigveda dates only from about 1200 Be, according to some sources, yet it is nevertheless possible that Dravidian languages were spoken in Sindh and Saurashtra (and perhaps even in Panjab) considerably earlier. Ultimately, only Indo-Aryan survives in these areas, though Sindh shows traces of outer Indo-Aryan." Also noteworthy are Witzel's two 1999 articles "Substratum Languages in Old Indo-Aryan" and "Early Sources for South Asian Substrate Languages," as well as the forthcoming article "The Languages of Harappa."

New Linguistic Approach in Mid-20th Century: "India as a Linguistic Area"

The most significant development of the middle of the twentieth century linguistic study of India was the idea of "India as a Linguistic Area" seen in the early works of Murray B. Emeneau and F.B.J. Kuiper, and eventually consolidated in the work of Nicholas Masica. Until the emergence of the notion of Linguistic Area, the only dominant model was the genetic model used in Indo-European and other forms of historical linguistics. The genetic model explains the common elements between genetically related languages as being a reflection of common ancestry. Where the genetically related languages differ, those differences may have developed either internally in those branches, or they may be due to contact with other languages of different regions etc. But what about a demonstrably large number of common features shared by languages that evidently do not belong to the same language family? Where do these features and their commonality originate? The new direction proposed by areal linguistics was that diffusion of linguistic features across genetically unrelated languages can occur through intense and prolonged contact. Given sufficient intensity of contact and depth of time, genetically unrelated languages of a given geographical region begin to exchange phonetic, syntactic, and other features with each other, and over time develop a significant set of such shared features. The research work of Emeneau, Kuiper, Masica and others has demonstrated how this process occurred in the Indian subcontinent so that languages belonging to different families like Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, and Austro-Asiatic came to share a large number of common linguistic features through diffusion, rather than common ancestry. Thus, genetic relationships between languages as well as processes of diffusion among languages of a given linguistic area are all working simultaneously to produce the resulting state of a language or languages, and these different strands in the make-up of languages need to be analytically separated in order to get a proper sense of linguistic history. Franklin Southworth (1974) had previously used the term "linguistic stratigraphy" for this sort of linguistic analysis, and his recently published book (2005) calls it "linguistic archaeology," where he discusses how one can begin to peel off or dig into various layers of features acquired by a language or languages.

By the beginning of the second half of the twentieth century, especially with the researches of scholars like Emeneau, Burrow, and Kuiper, who added serious consideration of Dravidian and Austro-Asiatic languages and their co-existence in the Indian subcontinent with languages of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European family, many issues were newly brought into a sharper focus. In his 1975 article "Substratum Influence on (Rg-Vedic) Sanskrit," Hans Hock conveniently summarizes the conclusions of this research (p. 76-78):

As is well known, the South Asian subcontinent today constitutes one of the paradigm cases of linguistic convergence: Three major linguistic families of distinct origins (Dravidian, Indo-Aryan, and Munda), as well at least one language isolate (Burushaski) have merged into a sprachbund which further extends into the fringes of the neighboring Iranian and Tibeto-Burman language families. This sprachbund (= linguistic area) is characterized by an impressive array of shared features which are found throughout most or all of the individual sub-dialects of the area and which include a contrast between dental and retroflex segments [for example, t, d, dh, and n, versus t, th, d, dh, and n], a prevailing SOV (= Subject-Object-Verb) sentence structure, and the phenomenon of a 'cumulative' extended sentence structure characterized by the tendency to limit the occurrence of finite verbs to the rightmost clause; while all preceding (non-relative) clauses have the verb appear as a non-finite 'absolutive.' Considering the massiveness of this present-day convergence, it is only natural to assume that it must be a result of centuries, if not of millennia, of quite intimate bilingual contact. And it is equally natural to speculate on the period when the developments leading to his convergence must have begun. In terms of the history of Indo-Aryan, did they begin at the time of the earliest extant texts, the Vedic Samhitas, especially the oldest among them, the Rg-Veda? Or did they take their course only in a later, post-Vedic period?

It is natural to speculate on the direction of the convergence in its early stages. Was it a mutual convergence, as it is usually encountered in present-day India? Or was it mainly a unidirectional convergence comparable, say, to that between Czech and German?

... As early as 1833, Pott considered the dental! retroflex contrast of Sanskrit at least partly due to the influence of the 'autochthonous' languages (78), later specifying these as Dravidian (1836: 19,453). In 1856, Caldwell made similar claims (38). As time progressed, the number of linguists subscribing to this view and adding other features of (Rg) Vedic or post-Vedic Sanskrit considered the result of Dravidian influence steadily increased.

In 1921, Przyluski added another possible source for some of these phenomena, namely Munda. Levi (1923) added further weight to the assumption that Munda at one time must have been very influential in the South Asian area. As a consequence, it was for some time considered possible that Munda, as well Dravidian, may have contributed to the specifically "Indian" features of Sanskrit (such as the dental/retroflex contrast); cf. e.g. Bloch (1934: 53-4). As a matter of fact, Pizagalli (1929: 165-7) believed that only the Munda languages could be the source for Indo-Aryan retroflexion. In the more recent literature, however, the influence of Munda is considered to have been minimal at best, Dravidian being cited as the probable source language; cf. e.g. Emeneau (1956, 1962a, 197-4), Kuiper (1967a).

There is thus a long tradition of explicitly or implicitly answering the question concerning the beginning of the South Asian convergence to have been pre-Vedic (since the dental/retroflex contrast occurs already in earliest, Rg-Vedic texts). Moreover, at least for the early, Vedic period, there is a tacit agreement that the convergence was unidirectional, from Dravidian (or Munda) to Sanskrit. At any rate, except perhaps for the area of vocabulary, no attempt seems to have been made to identify any instances of early convergence in the opposite direction.

This view, however, has not remained unchallenged. There has been a small, but constant flow of linguistic opinion according to which, especially in view of our present ignorance about the full linguistic panorama of early India, it is hazardous to attribute convergence only to a Dravidian (and/or Munda) substratum: There have been other languages which could have been the source for at least some of the phenomena, cf. e.g. Bloch (1929: 731-2, 1934: 322- 4), Mayrhofer (1953: 233-4), Thieme (1955: 436-48). In light of the fact that even today we the isolated Burushaski in the South Asian sprachbund, this cautionary attitude seems to be justified.

Some linguists even have completely rejected the hypotheses advocating early substratum influence, and have claimed that the developments in question can be accounted for as native, without any need for assuming an outside, non-Indo-Aryan substratum; cf. e.g. Buhler (1864), Bloch (1925: 16, 29).

Finally, other linguists, accepting the view that (some of) the phenomena in question can be accounted for as regular, native developments, proposed that at most, the substratum language(s) accelerated or 'helped' these developments; cf. e.g. Konow (1903: 455, 1906: 279), Bloch (1929: 723-4, 1934: 53-4) (thus changing his earlier, 1925 view), Burrow (1955: 95-6).
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Re: The Art of Avoiding History, by Peter Staudenmaier

Postby admin » Tue Feb 06, 2018 5:57 am

Part 2 of 2

I have quoted Hock's account at length to illustrate the complicated history of these arguments and to show approximately where these arguments stood in 1975. For an updated review of this discussion, see Hock (1996). The discussion makes it clear that there is no scholar at this time seriously arguing for the indigenous Indian origin of Aryans or Indo-Aryans whose views need to be included in such a survey of linguistic scholarship. Secondly, there is greater awareness of the increasing complexity of linguistic arguments as one begins to take into account questions of language contact, bilingualism, convergence, diffusion of linguistic features, formation of sprachbund or linguistic area, etc. Besides the question of the origin of retroflex consonants in Indo-Aryan as possibly due to language contact and convergence with Dravidian and/or Munda languages, Hock (1975) also discusses other features possibly due to diffusion:

Vocabulary items: For example, mina 'fish,' ulukhala 'mortar,' mayura 'peacock' from Dravidian, and words like langala 'plough' from Munda.

Absolutives: Constructions of the type kundam krtva devadatto 'pibat 'having made the pitcher, D. drank'. Such constructions are generally considered the result of Dravidian influence.

Participles as finite verbs: This indicates the increasing use of constructions like devadattena kundam krtam besides the finite verb construction devadattah kundam akarot. This is earlier attributed to Dravidian influence.

Nominal Style: The nominal sentences in Sanskrit as well as the tendency of the increasing length of the nominal compounds has been attributed to Dravidian substratum in earlier discussions.

SOV sentence order: The subject-object-verb order of Sanskrit, in contrast with the western Indo-European languages, is explained on the assumption of Dravidian substratum.

Quotative iti: The tendency of Sanskrit to signal the direct discourse by postposing the particle Hi has been attributed to Dravidian substratum.

Amredita compounds: The repetitive use of words in the sense of "every x" in passages like svam svam caritram sikseran has been claimed to be a result of substratum influence.

Use of api : The various uses of api have been claimed as a result of Dravidian substratum influence.

Caste terminology and usage: Emeneau (1974) claims that the pattern of making derived feminines from masculine caste names like kumbhakan from kumbhakara 'potter' is due to Dravidian substratum.

One should note that the listing given above is simply to indicate the kinds of arguments that were proposed by various scholars by this time and not to suggest that there was a complete consensus among scholars on all or any of these proposals. Around this time, in fact, one notices more proposals from Emeneau and Burrow regarding Dravidian substratum influence, from Kuiper regarding Munda influence, and scholars like Thieme indicating their doubts about many of these proposals for Non-IE sources of influence and counter-suggestions for internal development of many features within specific branches of Indo-European, without the necessary assumption of external influences. Hans Hock himself, after a detailed examination of evidence in his 1975 and other publications, expresses a more cautious approach to suggestions of substratum influence: "Perhaps the most important argument against a Dravidian origin of features in question, especially in Rg-Vedic times, is the fact that there is not only no conclusive, independent evidence for early Dravidian/Indo-Aryan contact, but that on the contrary there is independent evidence for early contact between Indo-Aryan and another non-IE-language (which is generally considered not to be a likely source for these features), namely Munda. This casts considerable doubt on the common assumption of early Dravidian/Indo-Aryan contact and the convergence it is generally assumed to have entailed .... Finally, it is by no means certain whether Proto-Dravidian did in fact , as is generally assumed (at least implicitly), antedate the arrival of the Indo-Aryans. While it is thus unlikely that there was early convergence of Indo-Aryan with Dravidian, this should not be understood to imply that there proof against such a convergence", Hock (1975: 113-4).

Migrations, Language Contact, Bilingualism, and Dialect Geography

Assuming the mainstream view of Indo-European linguistic theory, several problems concern us regarding the probable migrations of Aryans and about the identity of the non-Aryans they most likely met in India and before reaching India proper. Hoernle (1880: xxx-xxxii) postulated the existence of two early Aryan groups in North India, the Magadhan and the Sauraseni, representing two waves of Indo-European language speakers, which the Magadhans were the older. This idea was supported by Grierson (Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol. 1, pp. 353-59) and given an ethnological footing by Risley (1915: 55). Oldenberg also supported and elaborated this idea and pointed out that "probably the first immigrants, and, therefore, the farthest forward to the east ... are those tribes ... the Anga and Magadha, the Videha, the Kosala and Kasi." He (1890, 1882: 9) also claims that it was the second wave that produced the Vedas. This theme has been linguistically upheld by Meillet who shows that the Vedic dialect, like the Iranian, is an r-only dialect in which ~he Indo-European *l merged into r, but the dialect of the redactors of Vedas was an *r and *l dialect, where the original Indo-European *r and *1 were retained; the redactors of the Vedic texts have put this l back into some of the Vedic words, where the original Vedic dialect had an r, Meillet (1912-13); Bloch (1970: 2). In later Prakrits we clearly see the eastern Prakrit, Magadhi, developing into a pure l-only dialect; whereas the western and particularly the northwestern dialects, almost devoid of l, represent the early r-only dialect., (Mehendale 1948: 297). For more recent studies of Vedic dialects and possibility of multiple migrations of Indo-Aryans speaking slightly varying dialects, see: Parpola (1988) and (21002), and Witzel (1989).

We should explore the difference between the r-only dialect, the r-and-l dialect (and possibly an l-only dialect) further. Burrow (1972) provides a perceptive analysis of this issue. He (1972: 535) says that "the r-dialect prominent in the early Rgveda shares a common change (of s > s) Iranian. It is unlikely to have undergone this change independently and consequently we must assume that it took place when a group of Indo-Aryan migrants were still in contact with Iranians . ... On the other hand, those Indo-Aryans who preserved the distinction between r and l had already departed to India, and so they were unaffected by it. The speakers of the r-dialect were the latest comers on the Indian scene and there ensued a mixture of the two dialects." This is an important proposal. This suggests that there was a branch of Indo-European, which like the parent Indo-European had retained the distinction between r and l, and that this branch came into the region of Iran and later into India before the migrations of the standard Indo-Iranian branch.

Burrow's 1973 article titled "The Proto-Indoaryans" allows a further refinement of his ideas. In this study, Burrow proposes that there was a common Indo-Iranian homeland of the Proto-Aryans in northern Iran. He suggests that ancestors of Iranians and Indo-Aryans lived together in this common homeland. Then at first there was a southward migration of the ancestors of the Indo-Aryans, or Proto-IndoAryans. The Proto-Indo-Aryans spread both eastward to India and westward toward the Near East. Then came the second southward migration, that of the Proto-Iranians. The migration of the Proto-Iranians split the Proto-Indo-Aryans from their Western branch, those who are eventually represented in the Mitanni documents. In this scenario, all the three groups, the Proto-Iranians, the Western branch of the Proto-Indo-Aryans, and the Eastern branch of the Proto-Indo- Aryans represent the r-only dialects of common Indo-Iranian heritage. The Eastern branch is represented in the Rgvedic Aryans. The Western branch of the Proto-Indo-Aryans represented in the Mitanni documents is also an r-only dialect. This is clear from the following examples cited by Burrow (1973: 123) and Parpola (1988: 196):

Epithets of horses

Mitanni / Vedic
papru-nnu or babru-nnu / babhru- 'brown'
pinkara-nnu or binkara-nnu / pingala- 'reddish brown'
paritta-nnu or baritta-nnu / palita- 'gray'

In these examples, the Mitanni-Aryan dialect has r even where the Vedic words have an 1. How about the r-and-l branch of Indo-European which presumably reached India before the "Rgvedic Aryans? Where did they come from? Did they reach India via Iran? If so, did they leave any trace of themselves in Iran? Were the speakers of the r-and-l dialect of Pre-Vedic Indo-Aryans a totally different branch from the Indo-Iranian? These are difficult questions. Parpola (1988: 247) suggests: "The change l > r, which characterizes the common proto language of the Rgvedic and Avestan, seems to have taken place relatively late in Proto-North-Aryan, since it has not reached peripheral dialects, including Ossetic and a number of Pamir dialects within East Iranian. Several etyma suggest that Proto-Nuristani retained the original PIE l; others attesting to the change l > r are probably early loan words from Proto-Dardic (Le. Proto-Rgvedic). The nearly 1,900 Iranian proper names in the Persepolis tablets contain possible traces of an l-retaining dialect in western Iran in the early fifth century B.C." Anyway, one still would have to assume the entry of the r-and-l dialects of Indo-Aryans into India before the arrival of the Rgvedic Aryans to account for the fact that r-and-l dialects in India were more easterly in relation to the Rgvedic dialect.

This poses many complicated problems in our understanding of the contact and/or convergence of Aryans with non-Aryans in different parts of India, and outside of India. One thing seems to clear. The contacts with non-Aryans outside of India did not lead to retroflexion either in the Indo-Iranian dialects, or in the pre-Indo-Iranian (r-and-l) dialects. The retroflexing influence was manifest in India. Even here it is manifest more in the eastern parts of north India than in the northwestern parts. Is it because there was less intense contact and/or convergence in the northwest? Or, is it because the non-Aryans in the northwest did not have retroflexion in their speech?

We may also refer to the problem of the origin of the retroflex sounds l and lh for intervocalic d and dh in Sakalya's recension of the Rgveda, the only recension that has survived to the present day. We hear of other recensions of the Rgveda such as those of the Mandukeya, Sankhayana, and Baskala schools, but they are now extinct. Most scholars take for granted the existence of these sounds in the Rgveda. I disagree with this view. I think that like other eastern retroflexes, l developed when the Rgvedic recitational traditions moved eastward in North India. Evidence to support this possibility comes from inscriptional Prakrits. Mehendale (1948: 11) points out that, in inscriptional Prakrits, the "change -d- > - l- occurs in the non-Western groups," illustrated by the regional alternation of edaka and elaka. This shows that the change of -d- to -l- did not occur in the northwestern regions of India at the time of Asoka. Panini, who comes from the northwest and precedes Asoka by about two centuries, does not have the sound l in his Sanskrit. His rules concerning the Vedic language do not have any indication of the existence of the sound l in the Vedic texts known to him. In fact, in his rules like P.6.3.113 (sadhye sadhva sadheti nigame) and P.8.3.54 idaya va), he refers to Vedic usages such as sadha and ida without lh and l for the intervocalic dh and d. Panini obviously knew Sakalya's Rgveda, and hence it is surprising to find him not recording the existence of l in that text. Thus, even though we reconstruct these retroflex l sounds in Proto-Dravidian, this sound does not manifest first in the northwestern Indo-Aryan. This indicates that even if we assume the Indus-Valley speakers to be Dravidians of some sort and that a contact and/or convergence with them occurred in the northwest, it does not seem to have led to massive retroflexion in that region. The massive retroflexion appears in the central and eastern parts of north India, and then in the South.

We cannot deny that the incoming Aryans came in contact with certain non-Aryan people in India. There is ample evidence for such contacts. Emeneau (1974: 93) not only proposes that there was "extensive bilingualism," but that "Sanskrit was handed down at some early period by a majority of speakers who learned it as a second language, their first language being Dravidian. "However, it is impossible to believe that majority of the composers of the Rgveda had Sanskrit as their second language and had some Dravidian language as their first language. This does not contradict the existence of several words in the Rgveda which can only be explained as loan words from Dravi- dian and Munda languages. The loan words do indicate contact with non-Aryan peoples, However, even if one accepts the entire lists of Rgvedic loan words provided by Kuiper, Burrow, and Southworth, the total number of these words in the Rgveda is still not as great as the number of Indo-Aryan loan words in Tamil or in Southeast Asian languages. Neither the Southeast Asian languages nor the British English pick up retroflexion, in spite of borrowing a very large number of words from retroflexed languages.

Ananthanarayana (1970: 66) basically accepts the concept of bilingualism as proposed by Emeneau and Kuiper, but derives a slightly different conclusion: "It is suggested that in the first period of this contact bilinguals were recruited chiefly from the native population. Support for such an assumption is provided in the greater number of Sanskrit loans (in Dravidian languages) as opposed to an insignificantly small number of Dravidian words in Sanskrit." This would mean that more Dravidians accepted Aryan words than Aryans accepted Dravidian words. This also suggests that the initiative for adoption was more prominent on the part of the native non-Aryan than on the part of the incoming Aryan. Thus, to account for retroflexion in Indo-Aryan, it is necessary to assume that a large number of speakers of Indo-Aryan were native Dravidians, rather than Aryans influenced by Dravidians as assumed by Kuiper (1967). Kuiper himself (1958: 351) says that foreign words were "Sanskritized" in the process of being incorporated into Sanskrit: "Sanskritization of foreign words by substitution of tr, dr (or rt, rd) for t, d is well attested in the classical language." He (1958: 352) carries this tendency farther back into the Rgveda: "The explanation of karta- as a Sanskritization of kata- would seem to be rather the only one that is phonetically admissible according to our present knowledge." If one accepts Kuiper's explanation of karta- < kata-, which is by no means certain, it would appear that the Rgvedic Aryans did think of rt as being moore native to the Aryan tongue, and t as being somewhat foreign.

Emeneau did recognize this problem. Instead of saying that Aryans interpreted allophones of Proto-Indo-Aryan in terms of the foreign Dravidian phonemic system, he considered it more logical to assume that Dravidians interpreted allophones of Proto-Indo-Aryan in terms of their native phonemic system in the process of adopting the foreign Aryan language. In his excellent paper "Bilingualism and Structural Borrowing," as early as 1962, Emeneau (1962a: 434) points out that "the evident Dravidianization of Sanskrit in some of its structural features must lead to the partial conclusion that a sufficient number or proportion of certain generations of Sanskrit speakers learned their Sanskrit from persons whose Dravidian linguistic traits were translated into Indo-Aryan and who provided the model succeeding generations. "

In his 1962 article, Emeneau proposed an essentially correct sociolinguistic process for the development of retroflexion in Sanskrit, but he was not sure of the exact chronology or of the intensity of this process with reference to the early Vedic texts. Were Dravidians participating in a significant proportion in the use of Sanskrit in pre-Vedic times? In 1962 Emeneau (1962a: 434) was not sure. In 1974, making essentially the same sociolinguistic argument, Emeneau (1974: 92) claims more confidently that such a process must have taken place before the composition of the Rgveda, and agrees with Kuiper that retroflexion in the existing Rgveda is an indication of pre-Rgvedic Dravidianization of the Aryan language.

In order to be able to evaluate the arguments put forward by Emeneau and Kuiper to establish "bilingualism" between the Vedic Aryans and Dravidians, we must take into account the analysis of bilingualism by Nadkarni (1975: 681), who points out that "structural borrowing at all levels of language, including syntax (the so-called 'deepest' level), can take place irrespective of the factor of social prestige, but solely as a consequence of 'intensive and extensive' bilingualism with a certain time-depth .... By 'extensive' bilingualism, I mean a situation in which bilingualism is coextensive with the entire community, as in case of K[annad] S[arasvat] K[onkani] speakers. By 'intensive' bilingualism, I mean a situation in which a commmunity whose mother tongue is language A is not merely conversant with language B, but actually uses it for a wide range of purposes in the course of normal, everyday living. Extensive bilingualism, in particular, seems necessary for structural borrowing to be stabilized, since it renders all the members of the community more or less equally receptive to influences and traits of the non-native language-which, first randomly, and gradually more and more regularly, find their way into their mother tongue. A linguistic innovation has a strong chance of stabilizing itself in a language· if it attracts no notice, and therefore no resistance from speakers, particularly in the early stages. This is possible only in situations of extensive bilingualism." Kuiper's data, as well as the loan word data pointed out by Southworth, indicate "sporadic" bilingualism, but are insufficient to indicate extensive or intensive bilingualism as defined by Nadkarni. I am pleased to report that Emeneau (1981: 469) agreed with my suggestion that retroflexion in the existing recension of the Rgveda needs to be explained more in terms of an increasingly Dravidianized oral transmission of the text, rather than in terms of this trait being part of the language of the original composers.

More Recent Developments: Emergence of "Out-of-India" Arguments

This is approximately where the linguistic debates stood by the end of the 1970s and 1980s. There was hardly an indigenous Aryan argument from linguistic angle to be seen in the available literature. The papers presented at the 1976 conference held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the theme "Aryan and Non-Aryan in India" (published in 1979) explore various linguistic questions such as "Aryan and Non-Aryan Elements in North Indian Agriculture" (Masica), "Linguistic Prehistory: The Dravidian Situation" (McAlpin), "Lexical Evidence for Contacts between Indo-Aryan and Dravidian" (Southworth), and "Genesis of Rgvedic Retroflexion: A Historical and Sociolinguistic Investigation" (Deshpande). While each of these studies explores various dimensions of the interaction between Aryan and Dravidian language groups, they do not question the basic tenets of Indo-European philology, and the need for the assumption of the migration of the Indo-Aryan branch into the Indian subcontinent. The "alternative" view of origins of Aryans is more or less absent at this time.

The situation seems to have changed by the beginning of the 1990s. George Erdosy had organized a conference in October 1991 in Toronto on the topic of "Archaeological and Linguistic Approaches to Ethnicity in Ancient South Asia" (papers published in 1995 under the title: The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language, Material Culture and Ethnicity, ed. by Erdosy). Papers at this conference indicated an emerging divide between some archaeologists (cf. Shaffer and Lichtenstein) who stressed the purely indigenous development of South Asian civilization and downplayed the role of linguistic arguments, and linguists and philologists like Deshpande, Southworth, and Witzel who argued that the linguistic arguments for separate language families arriving and converging in South Asia need to be understood in better ways" than be discounted. Deshpande argued the careful separation of ethnic, linguistic and cultural groups and deplored their loose identification with archaeological assemblages. Witzel stressed that images of mass migration may have originated in the 19th century, but exist today principally in the minds of archaeologists and polemicists. He pointed out the outmoded models of language change, as well as overreactions to them (by denying the validity of ANY migrational model) by both archaeologists and Hindu nationalist writers, continue to uncritically use the late Epic andPuranic materials to refute the linguistic arguments dealing a far more ancient period.

Interestingly, during the same year, July 1991, a seminar on the "Aryan Problem" was organized at Bangalore by the Mythic Society of Bangalore and the Bharatiya Itihasa Sankalana Samiti of Pune, and papers delivered at this seminar were published from Pune in 1993 by S.B. Deo and Suryanath Kamath. This volume presents a complete contrast with the previously mentioned volume of papers from the 1991 Toronto conference. The majority opinion in the Bangalore conference volume is in the direction of completely rejecting the Aryan migration theory. Many of these papers appropriately point out the colonial motivations of many founding fathers of Indo-European philology. However, they fail to recognize that the Indo-European theory also went counter to many deeply held religious doctrines of Christianity and traditional European notions of ethnic identity, and became a catalyst in a transformation of European study of language and religion, and that on purely objective linguistic grounds much of the edifice of Indo-European linguistics is still standing undamaged and unrefuted. Mehendale's paper in this volume, "The Indo-Aryans, the Indo-Iranians and the Indo-Europeans," is the only paper that exhibits a strong academic foundation and gives a detailed summary of linguistic arguments describing these phases of Indo-European migrations, but the same cannot be said of other papers in this volume. While many papers (e.g. Waradpande and Wakankar) in the volume spare no effort to reject Indo-European linguistics and notions of migrations into India, there is no objective historical basis offered for the claims of Sanskrit being the mother of not only Indo-Aryan, but all Indo-European, and indeed of all languages. For example, consider the following paragraph from Waradpande's article ("Fact and Fiction about the Aryans," p. 19): "The disapproval of Sisnadevas in two verses is not disapproval of phallus-worship, but of the practice of playing with the penis, as explained by Sayana. Linguistically also, a phallus-worshipper would be called Lingapujaka and not Lingadeva. Lingapujaka is never called Lingadeva." A few minutes spent with the Vedic Word Indices published by Vishvabandhu would show that the sole pujita from the root puj occurs for the first time only in the Khilas of the Rgveda, and in no other Samhita text, and similarly the form linga is completely absent in the Vedic Samhitas. Such is the historical integrity of Waradpande's arguments.

"The Aryan Problem: A Linguistic Approach" by R.P. Arya rejects any possibility of Indo-Europeans colonizing India, but asserts: "This forms a strong prima jade evidence enough to dispel the suppositions of modern philologists that identify Sanskrit as contemporary to her alleged sister languages of Indo-European family and accord her a high antiquity to be termed as the oldest known language of the world that formed or lent the idiom at least, to all the Indo-European languages that belonged either to the Semites or the Aryans. It seems that when the most exalted and advanced Vedic language had taken shape in India, the Semi tics in Europe and rest Asia were in a process of forming their language. And it seems more likely that the half-formed idiom of their language reached its completion at the hands of the Aryans who left their homeland several times to colonise the alien lands. ... Indian sacred books contain accounts of many emigrations from India in all directions" (p. 54). Any elementary textbook of linguistics would clarify that "Aryan" and "Semitic" are two unrelated language families. Such arguments are a clear throw-back to the linguistics of N.B. Pavgee at the beginning of the 20th century.

The names of Satya Swarup Misra, Madhusudan Mishra, N.S. Rajaram and Shrikant Talgeri are absent from the list of participants in the 1991 Bangalore conference on the "Aryan Problem," and yet the next decade in India comes to be dominated by the appearance of these writers of the indigenist Aryan school. To this list one should also add the writings of Sub hash Kak. Subhash Kak in his 1994 article "On the Classification of Indic Languages" concludes with these words: "The structural relationships amongst the Indo-European family of languages are well known. Not equally well known are the structural connections between the Indo-Aryan, the Dravidian and the Munda languages. These languages may be said to belong to the Prakrit family of languages. We use the label 'Prakrit' since it has been traditionally used to describe all Indian languages. In other words we argue that in general one might speak of membership of a language of more than one family. We believe that such a usage is more accurate than the term 'linguistic area' used earlier by Emeneau (p. 193)." Kak misses the significant difference between the opposite historical processes involved in the concepts of a "language family" and "linguistic area." The notion of a language family implies that languages Band Care branchings of a common ancestor A, and this fact of a genetic connection accounts for certain shared features. On the other hand, the notion of a linguistic area implies that languages A and B, though belonging to different language families and originally possessing different linguistic features come to share some of each others features over a long period of time through intense contact. Thus, shared common features of languages are a result of at least these two rather distinct processes. But then Kak asserts: "The evolution of the Prakrit family over millennia through prolonged interaction of the populations explains structural as well as biological commonality. The attested migrations of the Indo-Iranians into Europe explains the presence of several Dravidian features in the European languages (p. 193)." The project here appears more like building a primordial language family out of historically unrelated and yet closely interacting linguistic groups, analogous to concepts like nation-building in countries like India. "Linguistic Area" becomes "Family" for Kak.

By the time I organized the second conference on the theme "Aryan and non-Aryan in South Asia: Evidence, Interpretation and Ideology" in Ann Arbor, Michigan in October 1996 (the proceedings published in 1999), the presence of the indigenist Aryan school or the Out-of-India theory in the literature was loud enough to be taken into account. In the preface, the editors of the conference volume, Deshpande and Bronkhorst, say: "The Orientalist scholarship of the last two centuries has given new and various constructions to the received Aryan/non-Aryan distinction(s), constructions which have linguistic, racial, historical or even art-historical referents. Recently there have been reconsiderations and reinterpretations of the terms within and outside the academy. There is on the one hand the established view of a migration of Aryans into South Asia: on other hand there are new voices calling the whole endeavor fanciful, motivated by colonialism, 'Orientalism,' nationalism, or something else .... In South Asia the terms have also played a significant role in the recent growth of a politics of religious nationalism, and the reconstructions of 50uth Asian history that goes with it. ... The time is past when it can be treated as a substantive question as to the 'facts' in isolation from historical and political overtones (p. i)."

In his article "Out of India? The linguistic evidence" in this conference volume, Hans H. Hock deals at length with the "Sanskrit origin" hypothesis of S.S. Misra. In the introduction of his article, Hock states that "the claim that the aryas are indigenous to India can therefore be reconciled with the relationship of Indo-Aryan to the rest of Indo- European only under one of two hypotheses: the other Indo-European languages are descended the earliest Indo-Aryan, identical or at least close to Vedic Sanskrit, or Proto-Indo-European (PIE), the ancestor of all the Indo-European languages, was spoken in India and (the speakers of) all the Indo-European languages other than Sanskrit/ Indo-Aryan migrated out of India, Hock (1999: 1)." Hock calls the first of these the "Sanskrit origin" hypothesis and points out that it has been advocated by Satya Swarup Misra (Misra 1992). Misra attempts to demonstrate that Vedic Sanskrit is identical to Proto-Indo-European and that late 19th century arguments to the contrary are mistaken and biased against Sanskrit. Hock's detailed examination of Misra's arguments cannot be reproduced here, but Hock shows how Misra's interpretation does not agree with well-established principles and practices of comparative reconstruction. Hock also points out why given the geographical distribution of the Indo-European languages it is not possible to consider India to be the home of Proto-Indo- European, and concludes: "Neither the Sanskrit-origin variant nor the PIE-in-India variant, thus, turns out to provide credible support for the 'Out-of-India' hypothesis. Rather, the linguistic evidence still favors the prevailing Indo-Europeanist perspective that the speakers of Indo-Aryan migrated into India, Hock (1999: 17)." Hock's detailed arguments have provoked further indigenist responses by scholars like Koenraad Elst and others, but I have yet to see a convincing linguistic case made to support the indigenist 'Out-of-India' position.

In his important article "Linguistic substrata and the indigenous Aryan debate" in the same volume, Edwin Bryant (1999) has provided a comprehensive review of the linguistic arguments (later expanded into his 2001 book: The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate) and he concludes: "In short, all these linguists are operating on the assumption, based primarily on other criteria, that the Aryans 'must have' invaded India where there could not have been a 'linguistic vacuum'. Since Dravidian and ~1unda inadequately explain the changes visible in Sanskrit, many are forced to consider theories of extinct languages. How the data could be convincingly reinterpreted if this assumption were to be reconsidered remains to be seen, since a comprehensive and objective case has yet to be made by the 'Indigenous Aryanists' despite their possessing the rudiments of a variety of alternative explanations already advanced by Western linguists in their disagreements amongst themselves. The hypothesis of a pre-Indo-Aryan linguistic substratum remains perfectly acceptable way of explaining the existence of the non-Indo-European features in Sanskrit. ... In conclusion, in my opinion, the theory of Indo-Aryan migrations into the Indian subcontinent must be primarily established without doubt on other grounds to be fully conclusive. The apparent 'evidence' of a linguistic substratum in Indo-Aryan, in and of itself, cannot be used as a decisive arbitrator in the debate over Indo-Aryan origins (Bryant 1999: 80)."

Bryant's 2001 book is the most comprehensive review of the Indo-Aryan migration debate that gives for the first time a fair hearing to the Out-of-India voices. After giving a fair hearing to both sides in the debate, expressing his personal opinion of the controversy between the indigenist Aryan view and the standard Aryan migrationist view, Bryant remarks: "On a personal note, I am accordingly sympathetic to the Indigenous Aryan 'school' (if, simply for ease of reference, I might be permitted to reify my motley group as a school) when I view it as a manifestation of a postcolonial rejection of European intellectual hegemony (since most of the voices are from India), especially my analysis has led me to realize exactly how malleable much of the evidence actually is. This does not mean that the Indigenous Aryan position is historically probable. The available evidence by no means denies the normative view-that of external Aryan origins and, if anything, favors it. But this view has had more than its fair share of airing over the two centuries, and the Indigenous Aryan position has been generally ignored or marginalized. What it does mean, in my view, is that Indigenous Aryanism must be allowed a legitimate and even valuable place in discussions of Indo-Aryan origins" (Bryant 2001, Introduction, p. 7). While one appreciates the service that Bryant (2001) and Bryant and Patton (2005) have done to the field by fairly reporting and bringing to full exposure arguments of the Indigenous Aryan school, their endeavor to offer level playing field to these arguments is occasionally liable to be misunderstood to imply that there is balanced and convincing scholarship in these writings. Such is not the case and the Indigenist Aryan school, even as one sympathizes with its venting of grievances against the colonial background of much of the earlier IE scholarship, has yet to develop a convincing linguistic argument. A fair selection of recent Out-of-India theory oriented articles can be found in Bryant-Patton (2005), besides some very important articles . that indicate newer directions in our understanding of the Indo-Europeanist theory of Aryan migrations.

Promising New Directions in Linguistic Research

During the last five years, a high volume of exciting linguistic research has appeared that seems to indicate the likely path taken by the Indo-Iranians from areas to the north of the Central Asian region, through that region, and finally into the areas of Iran, Afghanistan, and India. This research points to a period where Uralic (Finno-Ugrian) speakers were in contact with Proto-Indo-Iranians to the north of the Bactria-Margiana region of Central Asia. Then several researchers uncover the linguistic interaction of the Proto-Indo-Iranians while they lived and gradually migrated southward through the Bactria-Margiana area in the direction of Iran and India. Much of this research combines linguistic and archaeological insights. This new research clarifies the path taken by the Indo-Iranian branch from the northern Taiga belt through the Central Asian regions finally reaching Iran and India. Among this research I would count a number of papers by various scholars included in the volumes Early Contacts between Uralic and Indo-European: Linguistic and Archaeological Considerations (Helsinki 2001) and Indo-Iranian Languages and Peoples (2002, edited by Nicholas Sims-Williams). Very important are the articles in the first volume by E.E. Kuz'mina on "Contacts between Finno-Ugric and Indo-Iranian speakers in the light of archaeological, linguistic and mythological data" and by Alexander Lubotsky on Indo-Iranian Substratum." The second volume mentioned above contains important articles by J . Mallory on "Archaeological models and Asian Indo-Europeans" and by 'Asko Parpola on "From the dialects of Old Indo-Aryan Proto-Indo-Aryan and Proto-Iranian." To this cutting work, I would like to add some illuminating recent articles, by Michael Witzel on "Autochthonous Aryans? The Evidence from Old Indian and Iranian Texts" (2001) and "Linguistic Evidence for Cultural Exchange in Prehistoric Western Central Asia" (2003).

I would like to conclude this extensive survey of the history of the linguistic arguments by saying that historical linguistic research, like any other project of historical reconstruction, is always going to remain a work-in-progress. The linguistic arguments can provide only one indicator in reconstructing history of human populations. In recent years, there are extensive attempts to correlate linguistic data archaeological data as well as with studies of the DNA structures. However, such correlations are fraught with serious problems. As Windfuhr (1997: 156) points out: "There is either common ground or agreement in many respects, including the recognition that genetic-linguistic relationships are not the same as ethnic or as biological relations .... It is also agreed, however, that linguistics and archaeology operate with different data within different epistemologies .... Neither ceramic patterns nor reconstructed rituals or cultures, or their particular assembly, allow for the reconstruction of the language, or languages, that was part of them. Language disappears and can only be reconstructed; artifacts are remains. Language change is not synchronized with cultural change." The ferment in these interdisciplinary approaches to reconstructions of Indo-Europeans and their specific branches like Indo-Iranian is manifest in the recent publications of scholars like Lamberg-Karlovsky (2002) and responses to his work by other scholars like Kuz'mina and Mallory. Similar interactions are taking place between biological and other approaches to historical reconstruction, cf. Shereen Ratnagar (1998 and 1999), Kivisild (1999). What we can expect from the on-going research is an open-ended approach to continually seeking new methods, refining the old ones, and search for previously unknown data, but not an axiomatic commitment to predetermined conclusions.



1. The term "retroflex" to those sounds like t that require the tongue to curl back and touch the top of the oral cavity. In the pronunciation of rand $, the tongue curls back, but does not touch the top of the oral cavity. This curling back of the tongue is not involved in the pronunciation of the dental sounds.


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Arya, RP. (1993), "The Aryan Problem-A Linguistic Approach." in Deo and Kamath 1993, pp. 51-57.

Bhandarkar, R G. (1914), Wilson Philological Lectures on Sanskrit and the Derived Languages, delivered at Bombay in 1877, Pune: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.

Bloch, Jules. (1920, 1970), The Formation of the Marathi Language. French original published in Paris, 1920, translated into English by Dev Raj Chanana, 1970, Delhi.

__ (1925), "Sanskrit et Dravidian," in Bulletin de la Societe de linguistique de Paris, Vol. pp. 1-2l.

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Re: The Art of Avoiding History, by Peter Staudenmaier

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Part 1 of 2

The Theory of Aryan Race and India: History and Politics
by Romila Thapar
Social Scientist, Vol. 24, No. 1/3 (Jan. - Mar., 1996), pp. 3-29



The invention of an Aryan race in nineteenth century Europe was to have, as we all know, far-reaching consequences on world history. Its application to European societies culminated in the ideology of Nazi Germany. Another sequel was that it became foundational to the interpretation of early Indian history and there have been attempts at a literal application of the theory to Indian society. Some European scholars now describe it as a nineteenth century myth. [1] But some contemporary Indian political ideologies seem determined to renew its life. In this they are assisted by those who still carry the imprint of this nineteenth century theory and treat it as central to the question of Indian identity. With the widespread discussion on 'Aryan origins' in the print media and the controversy over its treatment in school textbooks, it has become the subject of a larger debate in terms of its ideological underpinnings rather than merely the differing readings among archaeologists and historians.

I intend to begin by briefly sketching the emergence of the theory in Europe, in which the search for the Indian past also played a role. I would like to continue with various Indian interpretations of the theory which have been significant to the creation of modern Indian identities and to nationalism. Finally, I would like to review the major archaeological and literary evidence which questions the historical interpretations of the theory and implicitly also its political role. [2]

It was initially both curiosity and the colonial requirement of knowledge about their subject peoples, that led the officers of the East India Company serving in India to explore the history and culture of the colony which they were governing. The time was the late eighteenth century. Not only had the awareness of new worlds entered the consciousness of Europe, but knowledge as an aspect of the Enlightenment was thought to provide access to power. Governing a colony involved familiarity with what had preceded the arrival of the colonial power on the Indian scene. The focus therefore was on languages, law and religion. The belief that history was essential to this knowledge was thwarted by the seeming absence of histories of early India. That the beginnings of Indian history would have to be rediscovered through European methods of historical scholarship, with an emphasis on chronology and sequential narrative, became the challenge.

These early explorations were dominated by the need to construct a chronology for the Indian past. Attempts were made to trace parallels with Biblical theories and chronology. But the exploration with the maximum potential lay in the study of languages and particularly Sanskrit. Similarities between Greek and Latin and Sanskrit, noticed even earlier, were clinched with William Jones' reading of Sandracottos as Candragupta. Two other developments took place. One was the suggestion of a monogenesis or single origin of all related languages, an idea which was extended to the speakers of the languages as well. [3] The second was the emergence of comparative philology, which aroused considerable interest, especially after the availability of Vedic texts in the early nineteenth century. Vedic studies were hospitably received in Europe where there was already both enthusiasm for or criticism of, Indian culture. German romanticism and the writings of Herder and Schlegel suggested that the roots of human history might go back to these early beginnings recorded in Sanskrit texts. [4] James Mill on the other hand, had a different view in his highly influential History of British India, where he described India as backward and stagnant and Hindu civilisation as inimical to progress. [5]

Comparative philologists, such as E. [Eugene] Burnouf and F. Bopp were primarily interested in the technicalities of language. Vedic Sanskrit, as the earliest form of Sanskrit, had primacy. Monogenesis was strengthened with the notion of an ancestral language, Indo-Germanic or Indo-European as it came to be called, as also in the origins of some European languages and their speakers being traced back to Iran and India or still further, to a central Asian homeland. Europe was on the edge of an Oriental Renaissance for it was believed that yet another Renaissance might follow, this time from the 'discovery' of the Orient, and thus taking knowledge into yet other directions. [6] The scholars associated with these studies and therefore with interpreting the Indian past, were generally based in Europe and had no direct experience of India.

The latter part of the nineteenth century witnessed discussions on the inter-relatedness of language, culture and race, and the notion of biological race came to the forefront. [7] The experience of imperialism where the European 'races' were viewed as advanced, and those of the colonised, as 'lesser breeds', reinforced these identities, as did social Darwinism.

Prominent among these identities was Aryan, used both for the language and the race, as current in the mid-nineteenth century. [8] Aryan was derived from the Old Iranian arya used in the Zoroastrian text, the Avesta, and was a cognate of the Sanskrit arya. Gobineau, who attempted to identify the races of Europe as Aryan and non-Aryan with an intrusion of the Semitic, associated the Aryans with the sons of Noah but emphasised the superiority of the white race and was fearful about the bastardisation of this race. [9] The study of craniology which became important at this time began to question the wider identity of the Aryan. It was discovered that the speakers of Indo-European languages were represented by diverse skull types. This was in part responsible for a new turn to the theory in the suggestion that the European Aryans were distinct from the Asian Aryans. 10 The former were said to be indigenous to Europe while the latter had their homeland in Asia. If the European Aryans were indigenous to northern Europe then the Nordic blonde was the prototype Aryan. Such theories liberated the origins of European civilisation from being embedded in Biblical history. They also had the approval of rationalist [url]groups opposed to the Church[/url], and supportive of Enlightenment thinking.

The application of these ideas to Indian origins was strengthened by Max Mueller's work on Sanskrit and Vedic studies and in particular his editing of the Rigveda during the years from 1849 to 1874. He ascribed the importance of this study to his belief that the Rigveda was the most ancient literature of the world, providing evidence of the roots of Indo-Aryan and the key to Hinduism. Together with the Avesta it formed the earliest stratum of Indo-European.  

Max Mueller maintained that there was an original Aryan homeland in central Asia. He postulated a small Aryan clan on a high elevation in central Asia, speaking a language which was not yet Sanskrit or Greek, a kind of proto-language ancestral to later Indo-European languages. From here and over the course of some centuries, it branched off in two directions; one came towards Europe and the other migrated to Iran, eventually splitting again with one segment invading north-western India. [11] The common origin of the Aryans was for him unquestioned. The northern Aryans who are said to have migrated to Europe are described by Max Mueller as active and combative and they developed the idea of a nation, while the southern Aryans who migrated to Iran and to India were passive and meditative, concerned with religion and philosophy. This description is still quoted for the inhabitants of India and has even come to be a cliche in the minds of many.

The Aryans, according to Max Mueller were fair-complexioned Indo-European speakers who conquered the dark-skinned dasas of India. The arya-varna and the dasa-varna of the Rigveda were understood as two conflicting groups differentiated particularly by skin colour, but also by language and religious practice, which doubtless underlined the racial interpretation of the terms. The Aryas developed Vedic Sanskrit as their language. The Dasas were the indigenous people, of Scythian origin, whom he called Turanians. The Aryan and the non-Aryan were segregated through the instituting of caste. The upper castes and particularly the brahmanas of modern times were said to be of Aryan descent and the lower castes and untouchables and tribes were descended from the Dasas. Max Mueller popularised the use of the term Aryan in the Indian context, arguing that it was originally a national name and later came to mean a person of good family. As was common in the nineteenth century, he used a number of words interchangeably such as Hindu and Indian, or race / nation / people / blood / — words whose meanings would today be carefully differentiated. Having posited the idea of a common origin for the languages included as Indo-European and among which was Indo-Aryan, common origin was extended to the speakers of these languages. Aryan therefore, although specifically a label for a language, came to be used for a people and a race as well, the argument being that those who spoke the same language belonged to the same biological race. In a lecture delivered later at Strassburg in 1872, Max Mueller denied any link between language and race. In spite of this, he continued to confuse the two as is evident from his description of Raja Ram Mohan Roy in an Address delivered in 1883.

Ram Mohan Roy was an Arya belonging to the south-eastern branch of the Aryan race and he spoke an Aryan language, the Bengali. . . We recognise in Ram Mohan Roy's visit to England the meeting again of the two great branches of the Aryan race, after they had been separated so long that they had lost all recollection of their common origin, common language and common faith. [12]

The sliding from language to race became general to contemporary thinking. An equally erroneous equation was the identification of Dravidian languages with a Dravidian race. [13]

This reconstruction of what was believed to be Aryan history, supercedes the initial Orientalist search for Biblical parallels or connections with early Indian history. There was now a focus on common origins with Europe, untouched by the intervention of the Semitic peoples and languages. As an Aryan text the Rigveda is said to be free from any taint of Semitic contact. Nor do the Puranas which were significant to Orientalist reconstructions of the past, enter Max Mueller's discourse for whom they were not only later but were in comparison, second order knowledge. The Puranas, in their descriptions of the past, do not endorse an arya-dasa separation in a manner which could be interpreted as different races. There was also an exclusion of anything Islamic in Max Mueller's definition of the Indian. He refers to the tyranny of Mohammedan rule in India without explaining why he thought it was so.

The theory of Aryan race became endemic to the reconstruction of Indian history and the reasons for this are varied. The pre-eminence given to the role of the brahmanas in the Orientalist construction of Indology was endorsed by the centrality of the Vedas. The Aryan theory also provided the colonised with status and self-esteem, arguing that they were linguistically and racially of the same stock as the colonisers. However, the separation of the European Aryans from the Asian Aryans was in effect a denial of this status. Such a denial was necessary in the view of those who proposed a radical structuring of colonial society through new legislation and administration, and in accordance with the conversion of the colony into a viable source of revenue. The complexities of caste were simplified in its being explained as racial segregation, demarcating the Aryans from the others.14 And finally, it made Indian origins relevant to the current perceptions dominating European thought and these perceptions were believed to be 'scientific' explanations.

Max Mueller's books were read in India and his views were endorsed in various influential publications, such as John Muir's Original Sanskrit Texts, (1858-1863), and John Wilson's Indian Caste (1877). Both authors were Christian missionaries and drew attention to the plight of the low castes, oppressed by brahmanas, an oppression which they claimed went back to the Aryan invasions. They referred to the conflict of the arya with the non-aryas. The term arya was used as a patronymic referring to the Aryan people. They launched an attack on the inequities of caste and therefore of Hinduism and maintained that Christianity alone could bring these to an end.

Missionary views in the later half of the nineteenth century were familiar to many Indians. Among these, Jyotiba Phule provided a radical exposition of the Aryan theory. He viewed caste relations as relations of inequality, where society had been divided into a hierarchy of ranked castes. By emphasising the importance of the non-Aryans he used the theory of Aryan race to argue a different origin and status for the lower castes. Referred to as the dasas and the shudras in brahmanical texts, the lower castes were, according to him, the indigenous people. They were the rightful inheritors of the land, whose rights had been wrongfully appropriated by the invading Aryans, and who had subjugated them and reduced them to a lower caste status. [15] The immediate context was for him the recent Peshwa rule in western India and the confrontation between the brahmanas and the non-brahmanas. The brahmanas were Aryan and therefore alien and the indigenous peoples were the shudras and others, whom he labelled as kshatriyas. The argument ran that the golden age was prior to the invasion of the Aryans when King Bali ruled and what are now the lower castes were then in the ascendant. The invasion of the Aryans was crucial to the creation of segregated groups in the form of castes, where the Aryans were the victorious aliens who kept the indigenous people permanently subordinated.

He used to good effect the well-known myth of the brahmana Parashurama destroying the / cs / iatnyas, in this construction of the past. Phule's radicalisation of the theory was popular among the lower castes and became central to many non-Brahmin movements in other parts of peninsular India. By stating that the upper castes were not indigenous, the theory was used to exclude the uppercaste dominated middle class-claiming an Aryan identity. From Phule's perspective, the theory endorsed a confrontation of castes.

The upper-castes had their own use for the theory and it was again given a twist which suited their social aspirations and political needs. The views of Phule were generally ignored. The theory was used to argue the superiority of the upper castes and promote their self-esteem by maintaining that not only were the upper-castes the lineal descendents of the Aryans but that they were also racially related to the European Aryan. Keshab Chunder Sen follows Max Mueller and John Wilson in his statement that, ' ... in the advent of the English nation in India we see a reunion of parted cousins, the descendants of two different families of the ancient Aryan race, [16] B.G. Tilak endorsed the antiquity of the Rigveda by taking it back to 4500 bc, much earlier than the 1500 bc suggested by Max Muller, basing his argument on what he interpreted as references to planetary positions. [17] Influenced by the theory of a Nordic homeland for the Aryans, Tilak suggested that they had migrated from the Arctic regions in the post-glacial age and then branched off, with one group going to Europe and the other coming to India. [18] The European Aryans according to him relapsed into barbarism but the Indian Aryans retained their original, superior civilisation which they re-established on conquering the non-Aryans of India. The introduction of geology into the argument was also seen as supporting an early date for the Rigveda. [19] Tilak's views were known to Max Mueller who of course did not agree with him but was incidentally, helpful in getting Tilak released from jail when he was incarcerated for nationalist activities.

Dayananda Sarasvati, seeking to return to the social and religious life of the Vedas, used the Vedic corpus as the blueprint of his vision of Indian society. [20] But he argued that the Vedas are the source of all knowledge including modern science, a view with which Max Mueller disagreed. He underlined the linguistic and racial purity of the Aryans and the organisation which he founded, the Arya Samaj, was described by its followers as 'the society of the Aryan race'. The Aryas were the upper castes and the untouchables were excluded. The innovation, or according to some the revival, of ritual called shuddhi or purification made it possible for those converted to other religions to be accepted back as caste Hindus. The same ritual, but with less frequency, was also used to 'purify' those outside caste, into being given a caste status. For Dayananda, it was said, castes were merely different professions or guilds established by the state and therefore the dejure status could change. A change in the de facto status had to be ordered by the state or by society regulating itself. [21] This was his reply to the criticism that he wanted to retain caste as practiced in the Vedas, despite its being projected as a rigid system in the Sutra texts.

These views coincided with the emergence of nationalism in the late nineteenth century in India, articulated mainly by the middle class, which was drawn from the upper caste and was seeking both legitimacy and an identity from the past. Origins therefore became crucial. To legitimise the status of this middle class, its superior Aryan origins and lineal descent was emphasised. It was assumed that only the upper caste Hindu could claim Aryan ancestry. This effectively excluded not only the lower castes but also the non-Hindus, even those of some social standing. Aryanism therefore became an exclusive status. In the dialogue between the early nationalists and the colonial power, a theory of common origins strengthening a possible link between the colonisers and the Indian elite came in very useful. For early nationalism, Aryan and non-Aryan differentiation was of an ethnic and racial kind, but was also beginning to touch implicitly on class differentiation.

Sympathetic to nationalism in India were the views of the Theosophical Society which changed the theory to suit its own premises. A prominent member of the Society, Col. Olcott [22] maintained that not only were the Aryans (equated with the Hindus) indigenous to India but that they were also the progenitors of European civilisation. Theosophical views emerged out of what was believed to be an aura of oriental religions and particularly Hinduism, as also the supposed dichotomy between the spiritualism of India and the materialism of Europe. The romanticising of India included viewing its civilisation as providing a counter-point to an industrialising Europe obsessed with rationalism, both of which were seen as eroding the European quality of life.

The theosophical reading of the Aryan theory was echoed in the interpretation of the theory by Hindu nationalist opinion. A group of people, close to and involved with the founding of the R.S.S. (Rashtriya Svayamsevaka Sangha) and writing in the early twentieth century, developed the concept of Hindutva or Hinduness and argued that this was essential to the identity of the Indian. [23] Since Hinduness in the past did not have a specific definition, the essentials of a Hindu identity had to be formulated. The argument ran that the original Hindus were the Aryans, a distinctive people indigenous to India. Caste Hindus or Hindu Aryas are their descendents. There was no Aryan invasion since the Aryans were indigenous to India and therefore no confrontation among the people of India. The Aryans spoke Sanskrit and were responsible for the spread of Aryan civilisation from India to the west. Confrontations came with the arrival of foreigners such as the Muslims, the Christians and more recently, the Communists. These groups are alien because India is neither the pitribhumi — the land of their birth — the assumption being that all Muslims and Christians are from outside India, nor the punyabhumi — their holy land. Hindu Aryas have had to constantly battle against these foreigners. Influenced by European theories of race of the 1920's and 1930's, parallels were drawn between the European differentiation of Aryans and Semites with the Indian differentiation of Hindus and Muslims. Justifying the treatment of the Jews in Germany, the threat of the same fate was held out to the Muslims in India.

The Hindutva version of the theory became a mechanism for excluding some sections of Indian society, specifically Indian Muslims and Christians, by insisting that they are alien. Inevitably it also ran into problems with the lower castes and the untouchables, who propagated Jyotiba Phule's view. There was a certain ambiguity among the Hindutva group as to whether or not the untouchables were Hindus and therefore Aryans. This posed the problem that if only caste Hindus are Aryans then the untouchables would have to be excluded, and this reduces the numerical count of Hindus; whereas, if the lower castes and Dalits are included as Hindus, then although this may upset some caste Hindus nevertheless the numbers listed as Hindu increases the Hindu constitution of the majority. The question of numbers also influenced the insistence that the Aryans are indigenous and not invaders. Such an increase in numbers is important to political mobilisation and to the assertion that since Hindus constitute the majority in India, it should be declared a Hindu state. The identity and origins of the Hindus was seen as crucial to the identity of the nation of the Hindus and of the nation-state. From this perspective, it is emphasised that the national identity has to focus on the antiquity and continuity of the Hindu Arya as the major component of the Hindu nation. This inevitably brings historians and archaeologists into a debate which is at one level about history but also touches on questions of political ideologies and national identities.

Mainstream historians writing on ancient India did not accept the Hindutva version of the theory. Going back to the views of Max Mueller they began their narrative with the coming of the invading Aryans. The Vedas therefore came to be seen as the foundational texts of Indian civilisation. With the growing influence of nationalism in the writing of Indian history, Max Mueller was seen as sympathetic and positive in his reading of the Indian past. The idyllic Indian lost in philosophic speculation could have been viewed as a condescending image, but in fact was appreciated. Indian historians were themselves largely from the upper castes and not averse to the highlighting of their own status. The acceptance of the Aryan theory underlined the Hindu idiom in nationalist historical writing. The Aryans were eulogised for laying the foundation of a civilisation thought to be at least equal, if not superior, to most others.

The discussion on caste as we have seen, also incorporated the Aryan theory. Caste as racial segregation separating the upper caste Aryans from the lower caste non-Aryans, was viewed as a scientific way of organising society in keeping with modern ideas, but this view was gradually discarded when there was evidence to the contrary. The Christian missionary criticism of caste was partially conceded by referring to the extreme rigidity of caste. This became a way of explaining the weakness of Indian society, particularly in its confrontation with Islam and 'in the face of Muslim invasions', for it was said that caste was divisive and the Hindus could not unite to meet the threat. But it was also argued that caste saved Hinduism from being absorbed into other religions such as Islam and helped maintain its continuing identity. There were only a very few analyses where caste was seen to have its own history of change and adaptation. Moralising on the evils of caste precluded the need to see it as an agency of power, dominance and subordination, or to recognise the large area of flexible negotiation which, to some degree, permitted certain castes to shape their status. For example, families of obscure origin and some even said to be of the lower castes, rose to political power and many legitimised their power by successfully claiming upper caste ksliatriya status. [24] To concede these facts would have contradicted the theory that the upper castes are the lineal descendants of the Aryans.

This varied exploitation of the theory received a jolt with the archaeological discovery of the Indus civilisation. The excavation of the cites of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro in the 1920's and subsequent excavations in India and Pakistan, revealing an extensive urban culture in the northern and western parts of the Indian subcontinent, created problems for the Aryan theory. Being predominantly urban, the Indus culture is distinctively different from the pastoral-agrarian society described in the Vedic texts. [25] The Vedas are primarily ritual texts and their depiction of society is ancillary to their main purpose. The archaeological evidence, more specific on data relating to the environment, technology and economy, covers a much wider area and goes further back in time. It has become therefore the primary data for the reconstruction of the earliest history of India. But because the Vedic texts were used in reconstructing the past, prior to the availability of archaeological evidence, there is a readiness to read the archaeological data in the light of the literary. [26]

The nature of the literary data is significant to the historical reconstruction of this period. It is virtually impossible to date the Vedic texts with precision since they are essentially ritual texts and in some passages are clearly anachronistic. [27] They are composed in the language of ritual and require explanatory and etymological commentaries. Among those surviving is the Nirukta of Yaska, generally dated to 700-600 bc. Panini in his grammar differentiates between the language of ritual and the spoken language. [28] The compositions were preserved orally for many centuries through careful methods of memorising. However, the question has been raised as to whether the systems of memorisation were fixed prior to the compilation of the hymns, and further whether this was also prior to the adoption of a script. On this opinions differ. A long period of a few centuries intervened between the composition of the earliest hymns and their compilation into the Rigveda as we know it. Even within a strictly monitored oral tradition there can be changes and if the memorisation extends over some centuries, then some degree of additions and subtractions may be expected. The use of astronomy in dating an entire text is regarded as unreliable since the references to planetary positions could have been incorporated from an earlier tradition which need not have been Vedic but was known in the area where the hymns were composed.

The Rigveda has been approximately dated to about 1500 bc by when the Indus cities had declined. Therefore in accordance with this chronology, the Indus civilisation was prior to the Vedic culture and precedes it as foundational to Indian civilisation. If however there is an insistence on 4500 bc as the date of the Rigveda, (which is unlikely on the basis of linguistic evidence), then the Vedic would precede the Harappan culture. Excavations in Baluchistan indicate that some settlements there go back to the seventh millennium and continue to the first millennium 29 thus vastly preceding even the early date which some have proposed for the Rigveda. But the pre-Harappan cultures of these sites are not present at the same date in the sites of the Punjab and the north-western borderlands of the Indian subcontinent, which is the location of the Rigveda. It is difficult to find an archaeological counter-part among the pre-Harappan settlements to the material culture as described in the Rigveda. The mutation to the pattern of the Harappan culture takes place at approximately the same period in both areas.

Pre-Harappan cultures in the areas where eventually the Harappa culture prevailed, are of diverse kinds and distinctively different. The Ghaggar-Hakra river system which some have sought to identify with the Rigvedic Sarasvati and are projecting it as the nucleus of what evolved into the Harappa culture, has a large number of sites but these cannot be regarded as the sole precursors to Harappan urbanisation. The contribution of the sites in the Indo-Iranian borderlands and in Baluchistan as also in the Indus system itself, appear to be more significant. The Harappan sites, although not entirely uniform, do maintain a pattern which is not only recognisable but marks a departure from the earlier cultures. Its major characteristics are the emphasis on an urban pattern with towns laid out on a grid and a rationalisation of streets in terms of direction and size, with an extensive drainage system, distinctive domestic and public buildings, artefacts such as seals and weights and measures associated with developed exchange, a variety of crafts and distinctive pottery. This was a motivated reaching out into a wide area through various networks of settlements. The requirement of manpower and the exploitation of resources was on a scale unfamiliar to preceding cultures. The sheer size of the area tapped by the Harappan culture led inevitably to some degree of regional variation.

The Late Harappan phase, from the early to mid-second millennium bc when the Mature Harappan began to decline, sees a return to a stronger regional articulation and a diversity in archaeological cultures which are geographically delimited. Once again there are a variety of cultures which emerge at this time, some with no ostensible links with other regions, some with continuities with the Harappan and some with evidence of the arrival of innovations from elsewhere. Settlements in Baluchistan suggest links with central Asia and Iran in the second millennium bc. Interestingly the overlap between the Late Harappan and a subsequent independent culture — that of the Painted Grey Ware — occurs in Punjab and Haryana. With the decline of the cities there appears to have been a ruralisation in the regions earlier associated with the Harappan culture, since it takes a few centuries before another urbanisation is witnessed and this time in the Ganga valley.

Rigvedic references to the grassy banks of the Sarasvati would predate the hydrological changes which led to the drying up of the Sarasvati just prior to about 1000 bc. The geographical location of the Rigvedic saptasindhu is generally taken to be the Punjab and the adjoining borderlands, although some scholars would place the geographical location of the Rigveda closer to central Asia and Afghanistan. 30 There is virtually no familiarity in the Rigvedic hymns with Sindh and Baluchistan, leave alone Gujarat (all these being areas where Harappan settlements have been found), nor with the middle Ganga valley. The last is part of the geography of the later Vedic corpus, when interestingly, the language of the north is described as superior. Thus the Punjab could have been the geographical overlap between a part of the area of the Harappan culture and the Rigveda.

Although the earlier notion of a systematic destruction of Harappan sites by Aryan invaders has been questioned from the evidence of archaeology, this does not allow us to maintain that the speakers of Indo-Aryan were therefore indigenous to India. Nor does the evidence support the identification of Vedic culture with the Indus/Harappan culture. That Indo-Aryan has cognates in a few words that occur in texts from Iran, Turkey and Syria, and that the links with Old Iranian suggest more than just a linguistic affinity, is well-established. Parallels from Iran occur in rituals, deities and social forms, but these were not imports from India as is also suggested by the deliberate reversal of some associated ideas in the two societies. The cult of soma/haoma and the emphasis on the worship of fire were common to Iran and India. The cult of soma does not occur elsewhere in the Indo-European speaking world suggesting a particularly close relationship of the Indo-Iranian culture, if not a common source. The ritual of soma has also been linked to some proto-type shamanistic rituals from earlier periods in Central Asia. The Indo-Iranian links tie into the chronology of the Rigveda since the earliest suggested date now for Zoroaster is circa 1200 bc. 31 There is also no evidence of a linguistic movement from India to Iran. The Vedic texts indicate to the contrary, that Indo-Aryan moved eastwards from north-western India to the Ganga valley. The problem for the historian then is to try and understand the mechanism by which Indo-Aryan was brought and adopted in India. For this it is necessary to go back a little in time and observe activities in west Asia and Iran since these are closely connected with events in North India.

Archaeological evidence from the third millennium bc confirms wide-ranging, overland contacts between north-western India, southern and eastern Iran and the Oxus region, and maritime contacts with Oman and Mesopotamia. [32] It was clearly a cosmopolitan world with people on the move, making languages mobile too. Traders from the Indus cities would have had to use diverse languages such as Akkadian, Elamite, and possibly Indo-European in the upper Oxus. This further complicates the decipherment of the Indus script, which so far has been divided between two main schools, one reading it as Indo-Aryan and the other as Proto-Dravidian, where the latter reading seems to be based on a greater reliance on the rules of linguistics. [33] One attempt however which remains controversial among linguists is the close connection which has been suggested between Elamite in southern Iran and Proto-Dravidian. The proto-Elamite script suggests comparison with the Harappan and it was being used in eastern Iran. Elamite was the language known in the area lying between the Harappan culture and Mesopotamia, prior to the arrival of Old Iranian when Indo-European place-names and proper names start being mentioned in cuneiform documents from northern Mesopotamia in the Second millennium bc. [34] This would also tie-in with the interaction in the area suggested by the archaeological evidence.

The decline of the Indus cities in the early second millennium bc is now attributed to environmental changes, the closing of trade with the Gulf and the collapse of political authority in the cities. However, the decline of the cities is not an abrupt termination of the Indus civilisation as there is some continuity of Harappan traits in post-Harappan cultures and an overlap at some sites in Punjab and Haryana. In relation to cultural traits from Iran and central Asia, the possibilities of small-scale migrations into India and the interaction of peoples and cultures over a long period of time, can be assumed. The emphasis is both on smallness and long duration as there was no massive migration such as to overwhelm the existing cultures. This is also much more likely to have been the mechanism by which the Indo-Aryan language came to be established in north-western India.

If the archaeological evidence is given primacy in establishing the roots of Indian civilisation then it is possible to reconstruct a picture of the evolution of various societies in the northern and western parts of the sub-continent. In this reconstruction, the Indus civilisation/Harappan culture, is a significant landmark and interest is shifting away from futile attempts to identify every new archaeological culture with the Aryans. A close examination of the archaeological evidence in various dimensions permits a comparison of Harappan society with that depicted in the Vedic texts and the two are diverse. The one characteristic which is striking in the archaeology of the Harappan culture is the strength of the urban organisation, reflected in the way the towns were planned and the amenities provided. Urban centres were central to extensive trade in Harappan life, whereas the Vedic society was pastoral and agricultural without descriptions of urban living. There are no references to granaries or large-scale storage systems under administrative authority. Craft production which was an established feature of the Harappan cities is mentioned in passing in the texts. The use of a script is evident from the seals but is absent in the texts. Vedic society gradually becomes more familiar with the use of iron and this is absent in the Harappan culture where the metal technology is of copper and bronze. Other technologies also point to major differences, as for example, the raja in the Vedic texts was equipped with a chariot run on spoked wheels neither of which are to be found at Harappan sites where oxen drew carts and the wheels were discoid. Chariots were drawn by horses but these are late arrivals and there is sporadic evidence of the horse at the time of the decline of the cities.

Despite these differences, an alternative view is being propagated. This interpretation seeks an unbroken genealogy for the Hindu as Arya and therefore supports the Hindutva reconstruction of events. The argument runs as follows: the Indus civilisation is said to be Vedic and Aryan and this, together with the lack of evidence of a large-scale Aryan invasion from archaeology, is said to further prove that there were people who called themselves the Aryans and who were indigenous to India. [35] The preferred date for the Rigveda is 4500 bc so that it precedes the Indus cities, but the two can also be made to coincide chronologically. [36] It is claimed that the Indo-Aryan language originated in India and spread from India westwards.

Such an early date for the Rigveda is untenable on the available linguistic evidence nor is there support for the argument of a westward flow of people from northern India, neither from linguistic nor from archaeological sources. Since language cannot be identified by an archaeological culture, the use of the term Aryan in this interpretation refers to a combination of people, culture and language, rather than strictly only to language. We are back once more to Max Mueller's confusion over language and race. The attempt to push back the chronology of the Rigveda is accompanied by the attempt to take the Harappan culture back to the fourth millennium or even earlier and the equating of the Harappan culture with the Vedic texts. There is a focus on those pre-Harappan cultures whose location is along the Ghaggar-Hakra which is identified with the now invisible Sarasvati river, important to the Rigveda. It is argued that the number of sites along the Ghaggar-Hakra river system is greater than along the Indus, therefore the former should be seen as the nucleus of the Harappan culture. The claim is then made that the Indus civilisation should more correctly be called the Indus-Sarasvati civilisation. [37]

This theory ignores the existence of a variety of pre-Harappan cultures in other areas, some of which were closely related to the process of Harappan urbanisation. It has also been contested by some archaeologists who disagree with the count and location of sites as with the implicit argument of what constitutes the nucleus of a civilisation. However, there are ideological and political dimensions to this theory which make it acceptable to those seeking origins in what they call indigenous identities. The equating of the Harappan and Vedic culture is not essentially an attempt at co-relating archaeological and literary sources in reconstructing the beginnings of the history of the subcontinent. There are other agendas which are being addressed in this attempt. If it can be argued that the Harappan culture is in fact Vedic or that the Rigveda is earlier even than the Harappan, then the Vedas continue to be foundational to the sub-continental civilisation of South Asia and also attract the encomium of representing an advanced civilisation, superior even to the pastoral-agrarian culture actually described in the Vedic texts. The Vedic culture then, has an unbroken flow, as it were, from the fourth millennium into the historical period, and in terms of the antiquity of civilisations (which was a nineteenth century obsession), places it on par with the earliest. The Sanskritic base of the civilisation is sought to be established by reading the Vedic into the Harappan. The label Indus-Sarasvati civilisation evokes the Rigveda.

There is also in this interpretation, the advantage that an extensive territory can be claimed for the Vedic culture, since Harappan artefacts and sites are located in a widespread area from Badakshan in Afghanistan to northern Maharashtra and from the Ganga-Yamuna doab to Baluchistan. This vastly extends the geographical area as described in the Rigveda and which is much more limited. The discovery of Harappan sites on the Indian side of the border between India and Pakistan, is viewed as compensating for the loss of the cities of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa which are located in Pakistan. By insisting on the Ghaggar-Hakra being the cradle of the Indus civilisation, there is an element of recapturing the civilisation for India. The equation of the Harappan with the Vedic strengthens the notion of an unbroken Hindu Aryan origin for the historical beginnings of both India and Pakistan.

Another curious agenda is that of what is described as 'a critical mass' of Indians and a few others in America and Canada who refer to themselves as the Indo-American school (as against what they call the Indo-European school of scholars who work within the earlier Indian and European scholarship). The Indo-American school, according to one of its prominent spokesmen, consists of predominantly American-trained professional scientists researching on ancient India (presumably as a hobby), and using the resources of modern science and technology. [38] Obviously well-endowed, they run their own journal from their main office in Canada. They too are committed to proving that the Vedic and the Harappan cultures are the same and that their antiquity goes back to the fifth millennium bc and therefore the Aryans are indigenous to India and took the Aryan mission westwards from India. Much of their writing contributes to the invention of yet more methodologies about a complex subject. What is striking about their publications is their evident unfamiliarity with the methods of analysing archaeological, linguistic and historical data. Consequently their writings read rather like nineteenth century tracts but peppered with references to using the computer so as to suggest scientific objectivity since they claim that it is value-free. Those that question their theories are dismissed as Marxists! That Indian scientists in America should take upon themselves the task of proving the Harappan to be Vedic, to having influenced other civilisations such as the Egyptian, and to proving that the Aryans proceeded on a civilising mission issuing out of India and going westwards, can only suggest that the 'Indo-American school' is in the midst of an identity crisis in its new environment. It is anxious to demarcate itself from other immigrants and to proclaim that the Indian identity is superior to the others who have also fallen into the 'great melting-pot'.
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Re: The Art of Avoiding History, by Peter Staudenmaier

Postby admin » Tue Feb 06, 2018 6:24 am

Part 2 of 2

These reconstructions disregard the linguistic data, probably because it would puncture their argument. It is conveniently stated that the linguistic models arise out of political and cultural factors and presumably therefore may be ignored. Yet linguistics introduces another dimension, other than archaeological, which has a considerable bearing not only on the nature of the Vedic language but also on the reconstruction of the history of this period. Linguistic analyses, subsequent to Max Mueller and particularly those of the last few decades have led to the radical revision of many earlier views. The internal evidence of the Vedic texts points to Indo-Aryan travelling eastwards from north-western India to the middle Ganga valley. The Rigveda has its location in the saptasindhu region, but the later Vedic corpus indicates a shift eastwards and the crossing of the river Sadanira/ Gandak is specifically mentioned. Changes are apparent within the evolution of Vedic Sanskrit from the period of the Rigveda to that of the later Vedas. [39] There is also a greater incidence of non-Aryan linguistic elements in the later Vedic corpus as compared to the Rigveda. There is therefore an induction into Vedic Sanskrit from Indian non-Aryan languages registering an increase over time, and thus suggesting that Indo-Aryan was not indigenous. The recent linguistic analysis therefore is set aside by those who argue to the contrary.

Yet the linguistic evidence cannot be ignored as it forms part of a primary source — the Vedic texts — in the reconstruction of the history of this period. But this evidence has also to be seen in a wider context. Related languages, constituting what is called the Indo-European family are said to go back to an ancestral language spoken in the Indo-European homeland which has generally been located in central Asia and which is referred to as Proto-Indo-European. [40] Such reconstructions previously assumed that a proto form could be arrived at from words taken from later texts. This has been questioned and historical linguistics is now particular about possible changes in the history of words. Linguistics also places an emphasis on the structure of the language and does not limit itself to comparing similar sounding words.

A single homeland would imply a widespread diffusion from a small area, and the explanations for such a diffusion have been speculative. The drying up of the pasture lands in the steppe area has been suggested. In central Asia settlements tend to acquire simple fortifications in the third millennium bc perhaps indicating a more than normal movement of people. An alternative reconstruction might suggest that there was a wide belt of Indo-European speaking peoples inhabiting a large part of central Asia, from the Tocharian speaking region to the Slavonic. These would have moved in different directions and associated with a variety of pre-existing cultures, thus resulting in some similarities among Indo-European languages but with variant characteristics as well, the latter deriving from pre-existing languages. This would involve some variation in the ancestral languages and a wider spectrum of migrations and movements of peoples. The languages taken to new areas would have changed to some degree on coming into contact with non-Indo-European speakers and the establishing of languages related to Indo-European would have taken a few centuries. The imprint of Indo-European would vary from the maximum impact, namely that of gradually establishing an Indo-European language in the area, to the minimum, namely, that of the local language merely incorporating a few Indo-European words. Given the inter-relatedness of Indo-European languages and that these languages in contiguous areas have historical roots which are often connected, it is not possible to study the history of any single Indo-European language in isolation. Each has to be viewed in the context of the group with which it is associated. Thus Indo-Aryan has to be examined within the context of links with old Iranian and a possible Indo-Iranian phase at an earlier stage.

Some clarification in the use of these terms is necessary. Indo-Iranian descended from an original Indo-European would have preceded the division into Old Iranian and Indo-Aryan. The early sections of the Kvesta, associated with Zoroaster, provide evidence of Old Iranian. Indo-Aryan is available from the Rigveda onwards. However, there is another form which some scholars identify with Indo-Aryan and which they argue is perhaps a little earlier and therefore it is called Proto-Indo-Aryan. This would make it possibly earlier than the Rigveda. Its occurrence is not in south Asia or Iran, but in a few inscriptions from Turkey and Syria. There is however, no evidence of an Indo-Aryan language acting as a connecting link from an earlier location in south Asia towards the area to the west. Furthermore, these inscriptions are firmly dated to the second millennium bc and this has some relevance for dating the Rigveda.

The term 'Aryan' in the label Indo-Aryan, refers solely to the language and not to the people who spoke it or for that matter to any imagined race. The word airya in the Avesta is seen as the same as the arya of the Rigveda. Its etymology has been discussed at length and has been read as derived from meanings such as companion, enemy-friend, stranger, guest, a person of noble lineage or a person of status and possessions. [41] The inscriptions of the Achaemenid kings of Iran are also quoted where they identify themselves as descended from aryas. [42] But the earliest of these inscriptions are of the sixth century bc and therefore much later than the Avesta. Although the term has been associated with descent, it can also be read as referring to nobility of status. Since Indo-Aryan refers to a language and arya refers to a social status, attempts to identify either with archaeological cultures tend to be meaningless.

Cultural similarities recognised in the various Indo-European languages have given rise to theories concerning the organisation of the societies which use Indo-European. Of these the most influential is that of Dumezil who describes the tripartite function of Indo-European society as consisting of three categories — priests, warriors and hereditary-cultivators. [43] However, it has been shown that these divisions are so general that they can even be seen in non-Indo-European literatures such as the Bible. [44] A similarity of patterns and their traces have also been sought in the mythology and laws of Indo-European speaking societies. [45] The assumption that the speakers of Indo-European became the dominant group in the areas where the language spread, has now been superseded by the recognition that the diffusion of a language introduces some new ideas and institutions in an area, but that frequently there is a restructuring of existing ideas and institutions.

Tentative suggestions from this perspective have been made in relation to rituals. Some rituals characteristic of the Indo-Iranian area are not practised in other areas where Indo-European is spoken. This may be because of the close connections between north-western India and Iran, even prior to the establishing of Indo-European language in the region. One such ritual is the cult of soma (in Indo-Aryan) or haoma (in Old Iranian), which involves the consuming of the elaborately prepared juice of a plant with hallucinogenic properties as part of major sacrificial rituals. It has been thought that the tradition goes back to shamanistic practices in central Asia. The plant has been identified with either the ephedra, found in a ritual context at the site of Togolok 21 in Margiana (Turkmenistan) or else with the fly agaric, a mushroom which grows in a habitat associated with mountains of Afghanistan. [46] The geographical restriction of the cult may have arisen because the plant was specific to a limited location. A tentative hypothesis takes the cult back to the Harappans. [47] The argument is not that the Harappans therefore were the people of the Vedas, but that this cult had pre-Vedic and pre-Avestan origins and was incorporated into the Vedic and Avestan ritual. This underlines the need to examine how a ritual is constituted, and the extent to which it retains archaic features and introduces new ones.

The earliest definitive evidence of Indo-European, apart from a few names in Mesopotamian sources of the nineteenth century bc comes from Hittite and Mitanni inscriptions from Turkey and Syria in the period between about 1750 to 1300 bc and from the names of the Kassites whose short-lived presence in Mesopotamia is dated to the mid-second millennium bc. These data are not texts in Indo-European, but words; names of deities and rulers, and terms used in the training of horses. 48 The occurrence of Indo-European words is striking in an area which was non-Indo-European speaking prior to this and reverted to the same after this brief intrusion. 49 This does not indicate large numbers of Indo-European speakers, nor a substantial local population taking to the new language. That this form of Indo-European is close to Rigvedic Sanskrit has tended to endorse the date of about 1500-1200 bc for the early hymns of the Rigveda. Linguistic evidence of language or words close to Vedic Sanskrit prior to the second millennium bc in the area between the Indus and Turkey, is not forthcoming. This is also the period when the earlier connections between the Indus and west Asia begin to decline. In the absence of language links in the intervening area, it has been suggested that Proto-Indo-Aryan may have travelled originally from a more central point, perhaps in Iran, westwards to Turkey and eastwards to northern India. 50 Avestan references to the migrations of the arya mention places in northern and Eastern Iran and the direction would appear to be from the north to the north-east.

The assimilation of non-Aryan linguistic elements into Vedic Sanskrit [51] raises the question of whether there was bilingualism between the speakers of Indo-Aryan and of other languages, and if so, then to what degree; and who were the authors of these texts? It could be that groups of migrants over many centuries came from the region of Margiana and Bactria to northwestern India. [52] The migrants could have been slow-moving pastoralists, who also functioned as itinerant traders. This is suggested by the centrality of pastoral society in the Rigveda. They probably settled in places en route, so that those who entered India were already ethnically and culturally mixed and spoke what evolved into Indo-Aryan carrying traces of closeness to Old Iranian, but nevertheless distinct. It would have been more convenient for them to use local artefacts rather than carry items from their earlier settlements. Archaeology therefore would register their presence in indirect forms and not as a major change in material culture. They would have met with non-Aryan speakers in India, using Proto-Dravidian, Austro-Asiatic and possibly in some areas even Tibeto-Burman. Bilingualism would have followed, resulting in the induction of non-Aryan traits into Aryan, recognisable in morphology (word formation), phonology (sound), syntax (sentence pattern and grammar), lexical items (vocabulary) and semantics (meaning). Non-Aryan speakers were part of this bilingualism and over many centuries may have become proficient in Indo-Aryan. [53] Apart from elements of language, it is likely that custom and ritual were also incorporated into Vedic practice, amalgamating cultural items from local and distant traditions. This would result in some anachronisms. Bilingualism would have been a necessity. But the motivation for the adoption of Indo-Aryan by non-Aryan speakers may have been encouraged if the language being adopted gave access to artefacts, rituals, status and security. [54]

In order to strengthen this hypothesis, it would be necessary to examine the artefacts which are innovatory towards the early first millennium bc. Was the increasing use of the horse and the spoked-wheel chariot linked to the Aryan speakers? Or the introduction of iron artefacts? [55] The horse is an insignificant animal in the Indus cities and can be said to arrive, at the earliest, towards the decline of the cities and not before the second millennium bc. [56] It is noticeably absent in any ritual context such as a depiction on a Harappan seal or at places thought to be associated with rituals. This is in contrast to its presence in some post-Harappan cultures and its centrality to Vedic ritual and life. This centrality was probably because the horse, and certainly the quality livestock, was imported even in later times from central Asia or from Arabia.

The use of the horse and of the bovine in ritual, especially the ritual of sacrifice, is not identical. The sacrifice of a bovine carries less status than that of a horse. In the dana-stuti hymns of the Rigveda in which the poets list the wealth they request from their patrons, the number of horses is far fewer than of cattle. [57] Excavated animal bones from Hastinapur in the first millennium BC when the use of the horse was more frequent, indicate that horse bones make up only a very small percentage of the bones, the largest amount being those of the bos Indicus, the humped cattle. [58] The horse being more valuable, its association was with the more spectacular sacrifices such as the ashvamedha. The eating of cattle flesh was limited to occasions when the animal had been sacrificed or on special occasions. It was not eaten routinely. This is a common feature among cattle pastoralists who thus preserve quality stock. [59] The horse sacrifice is mentioned in the Vedas and the number of horses said to have been sacrificed are sometimes excessive. Exaggerated figures may have been intended to suggest power and wealth and need not be taken literally. There is no evidence of the sacrifice of a horse from Harappan sites and even what is interpreted by some as evidence of the sacrifice of an animal is extremely limited. [60]

In the Indo-Iranian borderlands, horse remains date to the second millennium bc. The arrival of the horse in the Swat valley of Gandhara and in the Ganga valley dates to the first millennium bc. Found in the early part of the millennium at sites such as Atranjikhera, Hastinapur, Bhagwanpura, the remains increase in the subsequent period. [61] From the Vedic texts onwards the horse is symbolic of nobility and is associated with people of status. In the Avesta the suffix aspa meaning 'horse' is frequent in the names of those claiming status and even as late as the Mauryan period, a high official in Saurashtra carries the Iranian name, Tushaspa. Functionally, it could be used to substantially improve efficiency in controlling herds grazing in extensive areas, apart from being an important adjunct in combat and in the fast transportation of individual riders or those riding chariots. If the culture of the Rigveda is to be equated with the Harappan culture, then obviously the horse has to be found in the Harappan cities. But even allowing for a generous time margin, there are no horse remains prior to the second millennium bc, some of the earlier suggested identifications of bones being now confirmed as those of the onager and the ass. There is therefore a frantic search for horse bones from archaeological levels prior to the second millennium bc. [63] The point which also needs to be emphasised is that the discovery of a single tooth of a horse at Lothal [64] does not indicate the presence of the horse on the scale described in the Rigveda. Such single items are a striking contrast to the more substantial bones found at Hastinapur and other sites in the first millennium bc.

Associated with the horse was the chariot and the spoked wheel, appearing on the scene at the same time and with antecedents further west. Prior to this, the ox-cart and the discoid wheel were extensively used in northwestern India. Models of actual wheels for toy carts from Harappan sites are generally of the discoid variety. Occasionally there are wheels with four lines radiating from the hub painted over the solid wheel. These have been taken to represent spoked wheels. [65] But the construction of a spoked wheel is different and presumably would be represented with many more spokes and a rim.

Iron weaponry dates to about 800 bc although some iron artefacts from central India are said to be earlier. [66] References to iron therefore in the Vedic texts would date to the first millennium bc. Interestingly in peninsular India, megalithic burials in the first millennium bc reveal the extensive use of iron artefacts as well as the presence of the horse, but such burials are located in areas which are either still Proto-Dravidian speaking or else have had a proto-Dravidian substratum. Thus in spite of these innovations, there seems to have been little inclination to adopt Indo-Aryan. Two other non-artefactual innovations may be suggested: the binary system of measurement used in Harappan times may have been replaced by the decimal, more familiar to Vedic texts; and the use of the solar calendar in addition to the lunar calendar would have been a functional advance with the gradual reorganisation of agricultural activities. Did these technological changes provide a lever, giving an edge to the speakers of Indo-Aryan who may have introduced the innovations initially. Possibly the claims based on the power of sacrificial ritual was yet another lever. The redefinitions in culture, social organisation and economy resulting from technological innovations would have been a slow process. They also imply far more complex and varied dimensions of historical change, than the simplistic mono-causal explanations of either conquest or alternatively indigenous origins for everything.

Archaeology and language can provide separate evidence on some essential questions, as for example an enquiry into migrations. This would involve an explanation of why there was a need to move and of the numbers involved. The expending of wealth on the journey would have to be controlled so as not to be counter-productive and this would determine up to a point the goods with which people traveled. [67] Assessing linguistic change would indicate the adoption and modification of the languages of those migrating and the areas to which they migrate. In the case of pastoral migrants, the animals bred might provide clues to travel. The domestication of the bos Indicus breed of cattle, evident from excavations, links the Indus valley and Iran. Migrations may have been occasioned by the search for pastures and north-western India may have been familiar to herders from the borderlands. If exchange and incipient trade also featured as they often do with pastoral groups, then the circulation of items may have encouraged a larger circuit of travel and a greater mixing of the populations. Where the migration included farming communities, new agricultural land and the diffusion of crops would be part of the pattern.  

If the existing evidence is integrated then the emerging picture is one where the presence of Indo-European in the form of Old Iranian and Proto-Indo-Aryan and Indo-Aryan is registered in the second millennium bc. This period also sees the arrival of the horse, the chariot and spoked wheel, and the use of iron, all of which are more evident in the first millennium. At a few sites in India there is an overlap of Late Harappan with the Painted Grey Ware — the latter dated to the first millennium bc. This makes a more plausible picture for the entry of Indo-Aryan into India than the arbitrary shifting of the chronology of the Harappan culture and the Rigveda.

Equally important to the question of why Indo-Aryan was adopted is the nature of the interaction between the speakers of the various languages. I have suggested elsewhere that initially it involved a symbiotic relationship between agriculturalists and pastoralists, [68] a symbiosis which is evident in many such mixed societies. With the decline of the cities of the Indus civilisation and the breakdown of political authority, villages would have been open to predatory raids from various sources. In the collapse of the Harappan system, the erstwhile farmers and craftsmen and particularly those living in villages who had been deeply integrated into the Harappan system, would have been economically rootless. The Harappan agrarian system appears to have been more carefully controlled in the north-west, if the granaries can be regarded as an indication. This was the region which would have received settlers from the borderlands. The incoming groups may not have been averse to controlling what remained of the pre-existing hierarchical structure. Did non-Aryan speaking agriculturalists seek protection from the chiefs of pastoral clans who were Aryan speaking? This does not imply the conquest of the former by the latter, but a system of patronage, which may even have existed in Harappan times except that now the patrons were not from the Harappan cities. The familiarity which these chiefs had with the horse and with new weaponry would have enabled them to provide the required protection as well as place them in a status of superiority. Such a relationship may on occasion have led to localised conflict, but would have soon assumed a symbiotic pattern, involving bilingualism at first and subsequently the adoption of an evolving Indo-Aryan. Linguistic convergence may follow from the meeting of two languages. Curiously, words associated with agriculture in Vedic Sanskrit and as early as the Rigveda, are often non-Aryan. [69] At some sites of the Painted Grey Ware cultures in northern India, frequently identified as 'Aryan', there is an interesting mixture: the cultivation of rice and the domestication of the water buffalo are associated with developments in eastern India, but the horse is an importation from the west. [70]

The historical reconstruction of this period therefore presents a different picture from that envisaged in existing theories. Given the range of evidence, there can now be a greater exploration of reconstructions rather than an insistence on reconstructing a history for which the evidence has yet to be found. The identification of archaeological cultures as Aryan, which was methodologically untenable, becomes irrelevant. Archaeology does not provide evidence to identify language where there is an absence of a script. Even where languages are related as in Proto-Indo-Aryan, Old Iranian, and Indo-Aryan, the material culture of the societies associated with these languages is dissimilar.

The notion of an Aryan race identified on the basis of an Aryan language has now been discarded. Language and race are distinctly different categories. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to discard the term 'Aryan' as well, using only Indo-Aryan to identify the language, or else staying strictly within the definition of arya from Sanskrit texts where it is a linguistic and social qualifier, without the overlay of nineteenth century theories. The reconstruction of the societies of the period would draw substantially on archaeological data. How and when the Aryan language entered India and the process of its adoption and adaptation requires to be investigated as a process in social history and not as providing identities which we today can label as indigenous or alien for purposes of narrow nationalism. A comparative analysis of analogous situations might provide some clues. Interestingly, the Indian experience parallels that of Iran where Old Iranian as an Indo-European language was ancestral to later Iranian languages. This contrasts with the short-lived intrusion of Indo-European in Turkey and Syria.

Such a change of focus would require a search for a graduated interaction over many centuries between various settlements and cultures, where large-scale violent conflict would be limited. The Rigveda refers to relations between the arya-varna and the dasa-varna. These are generally identified as distinct peoples, although arya carries the connotation of a person of status and knowing Sanskrit. The presence of non-Aryan speakers are registered in the reference to those of obstructed speech, mridhravac and those who could not speak correctly, mleccha. The later Vedic texts provide evidence of regional variations. Whereas appeals are made to the gods to destroy the dasas, mention is also made of the generosity of wealthy dasa chiefs for whom rituals are performed. The hostility of the arya towards the dasa, refers more frequently to differences in worship and rituals, than to physical differences. Nor was the conflict always between arya and dasa. Conflicts also occur between established clans and arya enemies are mentioned. [71] Subsequent Vedic texts also acknowledge that some respected brahmanas are dasvputrah, the sons of dasis and this evidence has been used to suggest that Vedic brahmanas were, to a large extent, recruited from the priest class of the pre-Aryan population. It has even been hypothesised that the dasas were the remnants of the Indus civilisation. [72] It would seem then, that the relationship is more ambivalent than has been recognised so far.

This in turn relates to the subordination of the dasa by the arya. This is central to Jyotiba Phule's version of the Aryan theory revived in Dalit politics today and its reversal from the Hindutva perspective. With the emergence of varna, which some sociologists have described as ritual status, the lowest category came to be called shudra and was expected to be servile. Dasa was not a ritual status and the word eventually was used for a slave or a servant, its antonym being arya. In the post-Rigvedic Brahmana texts, the appeal to the gods to destroy the dasas declines, for by now they are already low in the hierarchy of stratification. In a situation as complex as this, the mechanisms of subordination may be less evident than in the projection of conquest, but nevertheless they cannot be ignored. The presumed identity and lineal descent of the supposed Aryan in this reading of the evidence becomes questionable and therefore, difficult to use for political mobilisation in contemporary times.

The process of the subordination of the dasa by the arya could provide clues to some aspects of relations of dominance and subordination in the social history of later times. Hierarchies, differentiations and regulations essential to caste, exist as part of its stratification and social functioning, irrespective of an Aryan component. The insistence on differentiating between the alien/foreign and the indigenous is historically untenable for earlier times when even the existence of such a differentiation based on the premises being suggested, is questionable. 'Indigenous' and 'foreign' as notions are neither permanent nor unchanging nor transparent. The identities of the indigene and the alien are constantly mutated throughout history. It is more pertinent to analyse the major historical processes of early times, namely, the emergence of dominant groups — thearyas, and the subordination of others referred to as shudras and dasas.

I have tried to show that the application of the Aryan theory to Indian history, which began as an attempt to uncover the beginnings of Indian history, to explain the origins of Indian society, and to establish what were thought to be the roots of Indian identity, has inevitably become entangled in Indian politics. The emphasis today on a particular kind of Aryanism is also a revival of nineteenth century historiography, moulded by specific ideological concerns of time and place. This historiography has undergone a radical change where the insistence on Aryanism as an essential ingredient of the civilisations of Iran and Greece is now passe, for civilisation is being viewed as a process and not the monopoly of a particular people. [73]

The Aryan theory in India, has been in some ways, a kaleidoscope where scholarly and political concerns have in the past been trying to change the configurations of the pattern. Used in the search for modern Indian identities by drawing on a definition of origins, it sought legitimation from history, and tried to justify the aspirations of one particular group or controvert those of others. In its contemporary incarnation it provides an important element in the search for collective identities in political contestation, quite apart from contested interpretations of early Indian history. I have tried to show that in reconstructing the beginnings of Indian history, the entire complex range of evidence — archaeological, linguistic and textual — has to be brought into play, relating both to India and the neighbouring areas. This is so formidable in itself, that historians have neglected to comment on the political appropriations of the theory in our time. Thus, when the theory is again becoming an agency of empowerment and entitlement, to include some and exclude others, historians will need to discard spurious history, irrespective of the insights it might provide into the politics and ideologies of the present.



* Emeritus Professor of History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

** This is an expanded version of the text of a lecture delivered at the 40th International Conference of Eastern Studies in Tokyo, 26 May 1995. The text is reproduced with the permission of the Toho Gakkai, the sponsor of the Conference.

1 . E. Leach, 'Aryan Invasions Over Four Millennia, in E. Ohnuki-Tierney (ed.), Culture Through Time, Stanford, 1990; L. Poliakov, The Aryan Myth, New York, 1974.

2. I have discussed some of these aspects elsewhere. See Romila Thapar, 'The Study of Society', Ancient Indian Social History: Some interpretations, New Delhi, 1978. p. 311 ff; 'The Archaeological Background to the Agnicayana Ritual', in F. Staal (ed.), Agni, II, Berkeley, 1983, pp. 1-40. journal of the Asiatic Society of Bombay, 1989-91, 64-66 (n.s.), pp. 249-268.

3. J. Majeed, Ungoverned Imaginings, Oxford, 1992.

4. J. W. Sedlar, India in the Mind of Germany, New York, 1982.

5. Majeed, op.cit.

6. R. Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance, New York, 1984 (trans.)

7. Isaac Taylor, The Origin of the Aryans, London 1892, (2nd. ed.)

8. Used in the Edinburgh Review of 1 851 .

9. L. Poliakov, The Aryan Myth, New York, 1974, p. 233 ff.

10. I. Taylor, op.cit.

11. F. Max Mueller, lectures on the Science of Language, 1862; Biographies of Words and the Home of the Aryas, 1 888; India What Can it Teach Us?, 1883; Chips from a German Workshop, 1884.

12. 'Raja Ram Mohan Roy 1774-1833' in Biographical Essays, Oxford, 1884, p. 11. This was an address delivered at Bristol Museum on 27 September 1 883 on the fiftieth anniversary of the Raja's death. See also, 7 Point to India, ed. by. N. Mookerjee, Bombay, 1 970, p. 24- 28.

13. R. Caldwell, A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South Indian Family of Languages, London, 1856.

14. An example of this is the influential study by Herbert Risley, The People of India, London, 1980.

15. R. O'Hanlon, Caste Conflict and Ideology, Cambridge, 1985. G. Omvedt, Jyotiba Phule : An Incomplete Renaissance, Surat, 1991.

16. Keshab Chunder Sen's Lectures in India, p. 323.

17. Orion or Researches into the Antiquity of the Vedas, Poona 1893.

18. The Arctic Home in the Vedas, Poona, 1903.

19. A.C. Das, Rigvedic India, Calcutta, 1920.

20. Satyarth Prakash, ed. Y. Mimamshak, Sonipat, 1972.

21. Lajpat Rai, The Arya Samaj, Bombay, 1915, p. 46.

22. J. Leopold, British Applications of the Aryan Theory of Race to India 1850-70, The English Historical Review, 1974, 89, pp. 578-603. The Aryan Theory of Race in India 1170-1920, Nationalist and Internationalist Visions, Indian Economic and Social History Review, 1970, VII, 2, 271-298.

23. V. D. Savarkar, Hindutva. Who is Hindu, Bombay, written and distributed 1922, published 1969; M.S. Golwalkar, We or Our Nationhood Defined, Bombay, 1938.

24. Romila Thapar, Clan, Caste and Origin Myths in Early India, Shimla, 1992.

25. Romila Thapar, 'The Study of Society', op. cit.

26. The tendency to give priority to textual and linguistic data over the archaeological goes back to the earliest major attempts to co-relate the two sources in the writings of G. Kossinna and G. Childe. The more recent attempt of C. Renfrew, Archaeology and Language, London 1987, draws on ideas from processual archaeology which makes it theoretically an interesting departure, but his reconstruction of Aryan origins remains unconvincing.

27. Romila Thapar, 'The Archaeological Background to the Agnicayana Ritual', in F. Staal (ed.), Agni, Berkeley, 1983, pp. 110.

28. V.S. Agrawala, India as Known to Panini, Varanasi, 1963, 2nd edn., p. 354.

29. J.F. Jarrige, 'Excavations at Mehrgarh-Nausharo,' Pakistan Archaeology, 1986, 10-22, pp. 63-131.

30. A. Parpola, 'The Coming of the Aryans to Iran and India and the Cultural and Ethnic Identity of the Dasas', Studia Orientalia, 1988, no. 64.

31. M. Boyce, Zoroastrians, London, 1979, 18.

32. H.P. Francfort, Fouilles de Shortughai, Paris, 1989; P.H. Kohl, 'The Balance of Trade in south-western Asia in the mid-third millennium B.C.,' Current Anthropology, 1978, 19, pp. 463-492; C.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, 'The Proto-Elamites on the Iranian Plateau,' Antiquity, 1978, 52, pp. 114-120. S. Ratnagar, Encounters, The Westerly Trade of the Harappa Civilisation, New Delhi, 1981.

33. I. Mahadevan, The Indus Script, New Delhi, 1 977. S. R. Rao, The Decipherment of the Indus Script, Bombay, 1982. A. Parpola, Deciphering the Indus Script, Cambridge, 1994.

34. D.W. McAlpin, Proto-Elamo-Dravidian; The Evidence and its Implications, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, No. 71. Philadelphia, 1981. A. Parpola, Deciphering the Indus Script, Cambridge, 1994, 128.

35. Swami Sankaranand, RigvedicCulture of the Prehistoric Indus, Calcutta, 1943-44; K.N. Sastri, New Light on the Indus Civilisation, Delhi, 1965. A.D. Pusalkar, 'Pre-Harappan and post-Harappan Culture and the Aryan Problem,' The Quarterly Review of Historical Studies, 1967-68, VII, 4, 233-44. K.D, Sethna, The Problem of Aryan Origins, Delhi, 1980.

36. V.N. Misra, "Indus Civilisation and the Rgvedic Sarasvati," in A. Parpola and P. Koshikallio (eds.), South Asian Archaeology, 1993 Vol. II, Helsinki, 1994, 511-525.

37. S. P. Gupta, 'Longer Chronology of the Indus-Sarasvati Civilisation', Puratattva, 1 992- 93, 23, 21-29.

38. N.S. Rajaram, 'Vedic and Harappan Culture,' New Findings 7 , Puratattva, 1993-94, 24, 1-11.

39. M. Witzel, 'Tracing the Vedic Dialects', in C. Caillat (ed.), Dialectes dans les litteratures Indo-Aryennes, Paris, 1989, p. 97 ff.

40. J.P. Mallory, In Search of the Indo-European, London, 1989, provides a useful summary of the evidence.

41. J. Brough, The Early Brahmanical System of Gotra and Pravara, Cambridge, 1953, xiii-xv. H.W. Bailey, 'Iranian arya and daJia,' in Transactions of the Philological Society, 1959.

42. R.G. Kent, Old Persian: Grammar, Texts, Lexicon, New Haven, 1953 (2nd. ed.).

43. C. Scott-Littleton, The New Comparative Mythology, Berkeley, 1973.

44. J. Brough, 'The Tripartite Ideology of the Indo-Europeans; An Experiment in Method', BSOAS, 1959, 22, 69-85.

45. J. Puhvel (ed.), Myth and Law among the Indo-Europeans, Berkeley, 1970.

46. F. Hiebert (ed.), New Studies in Bronze Age Margiana (Turkmenistan), International Association for the Study of the Cultures of Central Asia, Bulletin, No. 19, Moscow, 1993. G. Wasson,' 'The Soma of the Rigveda: What Was It?' JAOS, 1971, 91, 169-187.

47. I. Mahadevan, 'The Sacred Filter Facing the Unicorn: More Evidence, South Asian Archaeology, Helsinki 1993, 1, Helsinki, 1994, pp. 435-450.

48. J.P. Mallory, In Search of the Indo-Europeans, London, 1989, pp. 24 ff. 37 ff.
49. Mallory, op. cit.  

50. T. Burrow, 'The Proto-Indo Aryans', Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1973, 2, pp. 123- 140.

51. T. Burrow, The Sanskrit Language, London, 1965, p. 373 ff. M.M. Deshpande, 'Genesis of Rgvedic Retroflexion,' in M.M. Deshpande and P.E. Hook (eds.), Aryan and non-Aryan in India, Ann Arbor, 1979. F.B.J. Kuiper, Aryans in the Rigveda, Amsterdam, 1991.

52. FT. Hiebert and C.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, 'Central Asia and the Indo-Iranian Borderlands,' Iran, 1992, 30, pp. 1-15. FT. Hiebert (ed.), New Studies in Bronze Age Margiana (Tmkmenistan), IASCCA Information Bulletin No. 19, Moscow, 1993; A. Parpola, 'The Coming of the Aryans to Iran and India . . .' Studia Orientalia, 64, Helsinki 1988. A. Parpola, Deciphering the Indus Script, 148 ff.

53. M.B. Emeneau, 'Indian Linguistic Area Revisited', International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, 1974, 3, 1, p. 93 ff.

54. Mallory, op cit.

55. Romila Thapar, 'The Study of Society', op. cit.

56. R. Meadow, 'Continuity and Change in the Agriculture of the Great Indus Valley: the Palaeoethnobotanical and Zooarchaeological Evidence', in J.M. Kenoyer (ed.), Old Problems and New Perspectives in the Archaeology of South Asia, Madison, 1989.  

57. Romila Thapar, 'Dana and Daksina and Forms of Exchange', in Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations, New Delhi, 1978, 105-121.

58. B.B. Lai, 'Exacavations at Hastinapur,' Ancient India, 1954 and 1955, 10 and 11, p. 109 ff.

59. E. Evans-Pritchard, The Nuer, 82-83. B. Lincoln, Priests, Warriors and Cattle, Berkeley, 1982, 43ff.

60. S.R. Rao, Lothal, 218. B.K. Thapar, 'Kalibangan', Expedition, Winter 1975, pp. 19-32.

61. A. Ghosh, The Encyclopaedia of Indian Archaeology, I, Delhi, 1985.

62. Romila Thapar, Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas, Oxford, 1961, p. 128.

63. An example of this is A.K. Sharma, 'The Harappan Horse was buried under the dunes of . . .', Puratattva, 1992-93, 23, 30-34.

64. S.R. Rao, Lothal, New Delhi, 1985, 641.  

65. A. Ghosh (ed.), op cit, I, 337.

66. D.K. Chakrabarti, 'The Beginning of Iron in India,' Antiquity, 50, 1976, pp. 114-24.

67. F. Kortland, 'The Spread of Indo-Europeans', Journal of Indo-European Studies, 1990, 18, 1 and 2, pp. 131-140.  

68. From Lineage to State, Delhi, 1984. The symbiosis involved for instance, pastoralists grazing their animals on the post-harvest stubble in the fields and thereby helping to manure the fields. This initial simple, inter-dependence can lead to more complex relationships.

69. Burrow, op cit. Kuiper, op cit.

70. D.K. Chakrabarti, 'The Aryan Hypothesis in Indian Archaeology', Indian Studies: Past and Present, 1968, IX, 4, pp. 343-58.

71. Rigveda, 7, 33; 7.83.  

72. D.D. Kosambi, 'On the Origin of the Brahmana Gotras', Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1950, 26, pp. 21-80.

73. An example of such a revision, although rather extreme, can be seen in M. Bernal, Black Athena, London, 1987. See also M.A. Dandamaev and V.G. Lukonin, The Culture and Social Institutions of Ancient Iran, Cambridge, 1989.
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Re: The Art of Avoiding History, by Peter Staudenmaier

Postby admin » Fri Feb 09, 2018 6:21 am

Steiner's Early Nationalism
by Peter Staudenmaier
Posted to the Waldorf Critics discussion list January 21, 2009



A while ago I told Volker that I'd get back to the topic of Steiner's early nationalism in the Austrian context. Here is my analysis of that subject.

In early 20th century Germany, anthroposophy promised a thoroughgoing spiritual renewal that would bring salvation not only to the German people but to the rest of the world as well. What was necessary to reach this goal, according to Steiner, was a return to Germany's authentic spiritual mission. For a fuller understanding of how these ideas functioned within Steiner's mature worldview, it can help to examine Steiner's early German nationalist period before his turn to esotericism. Steiner's involvement in the German nationalist movement in Austria in the 1880s revealed a number of themes that re-appeared in spiritualized form after 1900 and powerfully shaped his later teachings.

Foremost among these themes was an abiding commitment to the notion of a German 'Kulturmission', a cultural and civilizational mission.
To appreciate the full extent of this fundamental conviction, a review of its origins in the ethnic German communities of Austria-Hungary is in order. Steiner described himself as "German by descent and racial affiliation" and as a "true-born German-Austrian," emphasizing the crucial importance of this German identity within the threatening multinational environment of the Habsburg empire in his youth. (Steiner, From Symptom to Reality in Modern History, 162-63) This retrospective self-assessment is consistent with Steiner's activities during his Vienna period.

Throughout the 1880s, Steiner participated actively in the somewhat nebulously defined 'deutschnational' movement in Austria, a tendency that is usually rendered in English as 'pan-German.' These youthful pan-German sympathies are attested in Steiner's early correspondence as well as in his student activities, and are recalled in his autobiography. Christoph Lindenberg's biography of Steiner notes that already in the early 1880s Steiner considered himself a member of the pan-German movement and that his involvement in pan-German organizations went well beyond the usual level of commitment typical for Austro-German university students at the time (Lindenberg, Rudolf Steiner: Eine Biographie, 61-62).

Above all, Steiner's nationalist convictions are displayed in the dozens of articles that he wrote for the pan-German press in Austria between 1882 and 1891. Steiner's pan-German journalism from the 1880s and 1890s is collected in volumes 29, 30, 31 and 32 of the Rudolf Steiner Gesamtausgabe, his Complete Works. Among other outlets, Steiner contributed articles to the Deutsche Zeitung, the Nationale Blätter, and the Freie Schlesische Presse. Steiner first published in the Deutsche Zeitung in 1884, and may have published in the Freie Schlesische Presse as early as 1882 and 1883.

The Nationale Blätter were the organ of the "Deutscher Verein" in Vienna, while the Freie Schlesische Presse was the organ of the "Deutscher Verein" in Troppau, a city in the Sudetenland. By the mid-1880s the Deutscher Verein was one of the major political organizations within the German nationalist movement in Austria, alongside parliamentary factions such as the Deutscher Klub and the Deutschnationale Vereinigung, both of which Steiner wrote about positively. (On the political development of the Deutscher Verein see William McGrath, Dionysian Art and Populist Politics in Austria, 199-202; McGrath notes that during the period of Steiner's association with the group, the Deutscher Verein "placed the strongest emphasis on German nationalism," which was the major unifying factor of the group.)

The Deutsche Zeitung was originally founded by the German Liberals and came to be considered "the organ of German nationalism in Austria" (Kurt Paupié Handbuch der österreichischen Pressegeschichte 1848-1959, 158). It was among the most prominent voices of German nationalist politics in the Habsburg empire until the rise of Schönerer and Lueger in the 1890s. For background on the Deutsche Zeitung see among others Pieter Judson, Exclusive Revolutionaries: Liberal Politics, Social Experience, and National Identity in the Austrian Empire 1848-1914, 169, and Hildegard Kernmayer, Judentum im Wiener Feuilleton 1848-1903, 284-86. Extensive information on each of these papers, and on others to which Steiner contributed, is also available in Lothar Höbelt, Kornblume und Kaiseradler: Die deutschfreiheitlichen Parteien Altösterreichs 1882-1918.

While Steiner's writings in these newspapers are forthrightly German nationalist, they do not espouse a state-centered power politics or call for authoritarian solutions to the interethnic conflicts of the Habsburg realm; instead they preach a kind of cultural supremacy in which non-German communities are urged to embrace purportedly German standards of civilization. The culmination of Steiner's pan-German journalism came in 1888, when he took over editorship of the Deutsche Wochenschrift for six months. This weekly paper, which carried the subtitle "organ for the national interests of the German people," was a major mouthpiece of radical German nationalism.

(On the central role of the Deutsche Wochenschrift in promoting the "sharper-key politics" of radicalized German nationalism in Austria see McGrath, Dionysian Art and Populist Politics in Austria, 201-06. For further background on the Deutsche Wochenschrift see also Helmut Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland, 1242-45. Other scholars have emphasized the paper's German nationalist radicalism as well; see e.g. Jacob Toury, "Josef Samuel Bloch und die jüdische Identität im Österreichischen Kaiserreich" in Walter Grab, ed., Jüdische Integration und Identität in Deutschland und Österreich 1848-1918, 55. Steiner first wrote for the Deutsche Wochenschrift in 1885.)

In addition to writing a weekly column on politics and current affairs for the Deutsche Wochenschrift, Steiner contributed substantial programmatic essays with titles such as "The Pan-German cause in Austria." (Rudolf Steiner, "Die deutschnationale Sache in Österreich" originally in Deutsche Wochenschrift: Organ für die nationalen Interessen des deutschen Volkes, Vienna, 1888 vol. VI nos. 22 and 25; reprinted in Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte, 111-20) Steiner's 1888 articles for the Deutsche Wochenschrift portray the Germans in Austria as threatened by an "onslaught from all sides," referring in particular to "Czech agitators" and "the evil Russian influence" along with Poles, Magyars, and other non-German ethnic groups, while at the same time celebrating "the cultural mission that is the duty of the German people in Austria." (Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte, 112, 85, 69)

According to Steiner in 1888, "modern culture" has been "chiefly produced by the Germans." He thus condemns not only any accommodation to non-German ethnic groups but indeed any cooperation with ethnically German parties that are insufficiently nationalist, calling these parties "un-German." (ibid., 119) Steiner blames the Austro-German Liberals in particular for failing to insist strongly enough that the Slavs must subordinate their own cultures to German culture; this failure "forced the German people to form a party in which the national idea is paramount" (113), namely the German nationalist party. But even the forthrightly nationalist party, in Steiner's eyes, did not do enough "for the national cause" (114).

Contrary to Steiner's implication, Austro-German liberalism itself had become thoroughly nationalist by the late 1880s; his polemics against it indicate an especially zealous stance on his part at this time. Indeed Steiner's harsh denunciations of the German Liberals for betraying their people reveal a firmly ethnocentric intransigence: "If we must be ruled in an un-German fashion, at least our tribal brothers ought not to take care of this business. Our hands should remain clean." (ibid., 143) Steiner similarly rejected liberalism as un-German in an 1891 article (see Steiner, Methodische Grundlagen der Anthroposophie, 298). For further context see Pieter Judson, ""Whether Race or Conviction Should Be the Standard": National Identity and Liberal Politics in Nineteenth-Century Austria" Austrian History Yearbook 22 (1991), 76-95.

In the young Steiner's view, "the Slavic enemy" both within and outside of Austria-Hungary is marked by an "empty national ego" and "spiritual barrenness," which is why the Slavs "would like nothing more than to annihilate the achievements of our European culture." (Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte, 117) Steiner also fulminates against "the culture-hating Russian colossus" and condemns the abuse of the Austrian state "for un-German purposes" (140). Portraying Czech demands for political participation as a direct threat to German cultural superiority, Steiner's pan-German essays exclaim:

"The Slavs will have to live a very long time before they understand the tasks which are the duty of the German people, and it is an outrageous offense against civilization to throw down the gauntlet at every opportunity to a people [i.e. the Germans] from whom one receives the spiritual light, a light without which European culture and education must remain a closed book." (ibid., 141-42)

In contrast, Steiner exalts "what the German is capable of, when he depends completely on his Germanness, and solely on his Germanness." (ibid., 113) Finally, Steiner's 1888 articles demand that the Habsburg empire's political agenda be set by "the exclusively national elements of the German people in Austria," namely "the pan-Germans." (143) These arguments did not cease with the end of Steiner's Vienna period, however. In Berlin in 1897 Steiner repeated the same refrain: "The Slavs and the Magyars are a danger to the mission of the Germans; they are forcing German culture to retreat." (214) The same 1897 article rails against the "non-German elements" in Austria and regrets the Austro-Germans' ostensible loss of their "privileged position within the monarchy" while looking forward to the day when "the Germans of Austria regain the position of power which corresponds to their cultural level." (215-26)

Similarly, Steiner's 1898 essay "On Pan-German Poets of Struggle in Austria" describes for his Berlin-based readership "the essence of the German national soul from the viewpoint of the German nationalist-minded Austrian." (Rudolf Steiner, "Über deutschnationale Kampfdichter in Österreich" originally in Magazin für Litteratur 1898, vol. 67, no. 34, reprinted in Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Literatur, 448-49)

Steiner's early German nationalist essays do not merely celebrate the wonders of the German national soul; they develop a specific theory of the relationship between German national capacities and objectives and those of other ethnic groups. This distinction between Germans and non-Germans is central to Steiner's later works on the spiritual significance of race and nation. An 1890 article, for example, extols "the world-historical mission of the Germans" (Rudolf Steiner, "Zwei nationale Dichter Österreichs" from Nationale Blätter 1890, in Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsäze zur Literatur, 127). In the same article Steiner unflatteringly contrasts "the Jewish people" to "the Germans," claiming that the Jews have no appreciation for the "religion of love," in stark contrast to the German people, who "unselfishly live for the ideal." (ibid.)

In 1888, Steiner strongly emphasized "the deep contrast" between "the national idea of the Germans and that of the non-German nationalities," defining this difference as a struggle between a cultural duty incumbent upon the Germans because of their history, and the merely chauvinist strivings of the Slavic peoples: "The Germans are fighting for a cultural obligation which has been granted them by virtue of their national development, and their opponent in this struggle is national chauvinism." (Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte, 116; Steiner refers here explicitly to "the Slavic enemy," which he also terms simply "our national enemy," as the bearers of this national chauvinism.)

This position has sometimes been construed as a principled opposition to nationalism as such. Even non-anthroposophist accounts occasionally deny that the young Steiner's stance was German nationalist. Such analyses may be based in part on a foreshortened understanding of the late nineteenth-century Austrian context. The distinctive Habsburg ethnic-political crucible within which Steiner's national views were formed was undoubtedly complex, with numerous rival parties and national groups vying for influence. Within this Byzantine multinational landscape, however, the Austro-Germans enjoyed overwhelming hegemony during Steiner's era. Despite widespread perceptions among ethnic Germans of a 'national' peril from non-German groups within the state, there was no real "struggle for national existence" among the Germans in the Habsburg empire in the 1880s, as Steiner held; on the contrary, ethnic Germans formed the administrative, economic, and cultural elite throughout the Austrian half of the far-flung multiethnic empire.

Germans were not only the largest single ethnic group in the empire, they had successfully established and defended a paramount position across Austrian society. John Mason observes that the Austro-Germans were "the leading national group in the Empire and exercised an influence out of all proportion to their numbers." (Mason, The Dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire 1867-1918, 10) Mason further notes that "the modern centralized administration" of the country was "thoroughly German in character" (ibid.). "The official language of the Empire was German and the civil servants were overwhelmingly German [...] 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." (11) Robert Kann notes that German nationalism in Austria sought "the preservation and enhancement of a privileged position." (Kann, The Habsburg Empire, 19) For further background see among others Jörg Kirchhoff, Die Deutschen in der österreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie; Emil Franzel, Der Donauraum im Zeitalter des Nationalitätenprinzips; and Robert Kann, The Multinational Empire.

Slav efforts toward greater access to political participation in the Habsburg framework were indeed perceived as a disconcerting challenge by German nationalists, but these efforts did not pose an immediate threat to widespread German predominance under the monarchy in this period. The Germans had not lost their privileged position within the Habsburg system, and by the late 1880s, moreover, virtually all German political parties and social organizations, with the partial exception of the clerical parties that Steiner despised, had gone through a process of intense nationalist radicalization such that figures who a decade earlier had counted as strident nationalists were now seen as ineffectual moderates. (For a penetrating study of the dynamics of increasing nationalist radicalization among Austro-Germans at the time see Pieter Judson's chapter "From Liberalism to Nationalism: Inventing a German Community, 1880-85" in Judson, Exclusive Revolutionaries, 193-222.)

The context for Steiner's early nationalism was thus a shifting situation in Austria-Hungary that thoroughly unsettled inherited notions of German superiority while giving rise to rival national movements among non-German communities. Many of these inter-ethnic struggles concerned disputes over language politics, particularly challenges to German as the sole official language in a variety of administrative contexts. German anxieties over their predominance within the Austrian half of the empire were exacerbated by the conservative 'Iron Ring' government of Count Taafe, which pursued a policy of mollifying Slav constituencies, particularly Czechs and Poles, thus antagonizing both the German liberal and pan-German opposition. (For a relatively balanced account see William Jenks, Austria under the Iron Ring, 1879-1893.)

Even if the ambitions of the Habsburgs' Slav subjects did not constitute a genuine danger to the privileged position of the Germans at the time, Slav campaigns for increased representation and greater autonomy did appear to be a potential menace to the stability of German hegemony. One outcome of this dynamic was that originally universalist visions of Germanness, seemingly embattled and undoubtedly embittered by non-German resistance to their assumed right to cultural pre-eminence, gave way to increasingly intolerant variants of nationalist defensiveness. Steiner's early works partook of this broader transformation, and his emphasis on the German cultural mission thereby conjoined elements of cosmopolitanism with obstinate avowals of ethnic superiority.

When viewed within this context, Steiner's early foray into national politics takes on a different significance. 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. Rather than either condemning or defending the young Steiner's views, however, a more fruitful approach may be to re-examine the particular contours of his conception of the nation. Here the Austrian origins of Steiner's national thinking are once again decisive.

But even across the broader framework of German-speaking Europe as a whole, the protean phenomenon of nationalism assumed a remarkable variety of forms. In order to comprehend Steiner's conception of the nation, both before and after his turn to esoteric spirituality, it will be helpful to keep in mind the "wide spectrum of nationalisms" that existed in Germany in the decades surrounding 1900. (Geoff Eley, Reshaping the German Right: Radical Nationalism and Political Change after Bismarck, 168) Steiner's particular version of German nationalist thought may be considered an instance of "informal nationalism" in the terms of Thomas Hylland Eriksen, "Formal and informal nationalism" Ethnic and Racial Studies 16 (1993), 1-25; while formal nationalism focuses primarily on the state, informal nationalism concentrates on civil society, collective events, rituals, beliefs, etc. George Mosse analyzes a similar variety of nationalism as a 'secular religion' in Mosse, The Nationalization of the Masses. Also worth consulting are Jost Hermand and James Steakley, eds., Heimat, Nation, Fatherland: The German Sense of Belonging; Reinhart Koselleck, "Volk, Nation, Nationalismus" in Koselleck, Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe vol. 7, 141-431; and Dominic Boyer, "The Bildungsbürgertum and the Dialectics of Germanness in the Long Nineteenth Century" in Boyer, Spirit and System: Media, Intellectuals, and the Dialectic in Modern German Culture, 46-98.

Steiner's interpretation of German national identity and national destiny can perhaps best be understood as a variant of what historian Michael Steinberg has termed "nationalist cosmopolitanism." (See the chapter "Nationalist Cosmopolitanism" in Michael P. Steinberg, The Meaning of the Salzburg Festival: Austria as Theater and Ideology, 1890-1938) This notion is based on "the principle that enlightenment and even more specifically cosmopolitanism are German virtues." (ibid., 86) According to Steinberg, nationalist cosmopolitanism "assumed the cultural superiority of the Austro-Germans" and was intimately bound up with the concomitant conception of a "German mission" in Austria, in Europe, and in the world at large. (ibid., 90, 113) "German culture," in this view, "is superior to other European cultures precisely because it is the only national culture to be possessed of a true spirit of cosmopolitanism. In other words, it is a German cultural virtue to understand foreign nations and cultures." (ibid., 108)

In many ways, this diagnosis coincides with Pieter Judson's examination of the "universalist rhetoric of German nationalism" that came to the fore among Germans in Austria in the 1880s. (Judson, Exclusive Revolutionaries, 270) Judson observes that German nationalists in Austria demanded "a strict assimilation to cosmopolitan German values" by other ethnic communities within the empire. (ibid., 269) Such an analysis can help account for the contradictory aspects of anthroposophical thinking on ethnicity and on national questions, contradictions which are already manifest in Steiner's early works. What emerges clearly from these early essays is that Steiner's espousal of a unique cultural mission for the German people – a thread that runs throughout his mature anthroposophical teachings – was a prominent presence in his public career from its very beginnings.

For further historical context on the 'deutschnational' movement in Austria in Steiner's day, I recommend the following: McGrath, Dionysian Art and Populist Politics in Austria; Höbelt, Kornblume und Kaiseradler; Andrew Whiteside, The Socialism of Fools: Georg von Schönerer and Austrian Pan-Germanism; the chapter on "Deutschnationalismus" in Albert Fuchs, Geistige Strömungen in Österreich 1867-1918; Donald Daviau, "Hermann Bahr and the Radical Politics of Austria in the 1880s" German Studies Review 5 (1982), 163-85; Günter Schödl, "Alldeutsch-deutschnationale Politik in der Habsburgermonarchie und im Deutschen Reich" in Schödl, Formen und Grenzen des Nationalen, 49-89; Kann, A History of the Habsburg Empire 1526-1918, 432-35; Kann, The Multinational Empire: Nationalism and National Reform in the Habsburg Monarchy 1848-1918, 98-101; Arthur May, The Hapsburg Monarchy 1867-1914, 210-12; Carl Schorske, Fin-de-siécle Vienna, 120-33; and the massive recent study by Michael Wladika, Hitlers Vätergeneration: Die Ursprünge des Nationalsozialismus in der k.u.k. Monarchie (Vienna 2005).


The next four years, between 1909 and 1913, turned out to be a time of utter misery and destitution for the conquering young man from Linz. In these last fleeting years before the fall of the Hapsburgs and the end of the city as the capital of an empire of fifty-two million people in the heart of Europe, Vienna had a gaiety and charm that were unique among the capitals of the world. Not only in its architecture, its sculpture, its music, but in the lighthearted, pleasure-loving, cultivated spirit of its people, it breathed an atmosphere of the baroque and the rococo that no other city of the West knew.

Set along the blue Danube beneath the wooded hills of the Wienerwald, which were studded with yellow-green vineyards, it was a place of natural beauty that captivated the visitor and made the Viennese believe that Providence had been especially kind to them. Music filled the air, the towering music of gifted native sons, the greatest Europe had known. Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, and, in the last Indian-summer years, the gay, haunting waltzes of Vienna's own beloved Johann Strauss. To a people so blessed and so imprinted with the baroque style of living, life itself was something of a dream and the good folk of the city passed the pleasant days and nights of their lives waltzing and wining, in light talk in the congenial coffeehouses, listening to music and viewing the make-believe of theater and opera and operetta, in flirting and making love, abandoning a large part of their lives to pleasure and to dreams.

To be sure, an empire had to be governed, an army and navy manned, communications maintained, business transacted and labor done. But few in Vienna worked overtime -- or even full time -- at such things.

There was a seamy side, of course. This city, like all others, had its poor: ill-fed, ill-clothed and living in hovels. But as the greatest industrial center in Central Europe as well as the capital of the empire, Vienna was prosperous, and this prosperity spread among the people and sifted down. The great mass of the lower middle class controlled the city politically; labor was organizing not only trade unions but a powerful political party of its own, the Social Democrats. There was a ferment in the life of the city, now grown to a population of two million. Democracy was forcing out the ancient autocracy of the Hapsburgs, education and culture were opening up to the masses so that by the time Hitler came to Vienna in 1909 there was opportunity for a penniless young man either to get a higher education or to earn a fairly decent living and, as one of a million wage earners, to live under the civilizing spell which the capital cast over its inhabitants. Was not his only friend, Kubizek, as poor and as obscure as himself, already making a name for himself in the Academy of Music?

But the young Adolf did not pursue his ambition to enter the School of Architecture. It was still open for him despite his lack of a high-school diploma -- young men who showed "special talent" were admitted without such a certificate -- but so far as is known he made no application. Nor was he interested in learning a trade or in taking any kind of regular employment. Instead he preferred to putter about at odd jobs: shoveling snow, beating carpets, carrying bags outside the West Railroad Station, occasionally for a few days working as a building laborer. In November 1909, less than a year after he arrived in Vienna to "forestall fate," he was forced to abandon a furnished room in the Simon Denk Gasse, and for the next four years he lived in flophouses or in the almost equally miserable quarters of the men's hostel at 27 Meldemannstrasse in the Twentieth District of Vienna, near the Danube, staving off hunger by frequenting the charity soup kitchens of the city.

No wonder that nearly two decades later he could write:

To me Vienna, the city which to so many is the epitome of innocent pleasure, a festive playground for merrymakers, represents, I am sorry to say, merely the living memory of the saddest period of my life.

Even today this city can arouse in me nothing but dismal thoughts. For me the name of this Phaeacial city represents five years of hardship and misery. Five years in which I was forced to earn a living, first as a day laborer, then as a small painter; a truly meager living which never sufficed to appease even my daily hunger. [38]

Always, he says of these times, there was hunger.

Hunger was then my faithful bodyguard; he never left me for a moment and partook of all I had ... My life was a continual struggle with this pitiless friend. [39]

It never, however, drove him to the extremity of trying to find a regular job. As he makes clear in Mein Kampf, he had the petty bourgeoisie's gnawing fear of sliding back into the ranks of the proletariat, of the manual laborers -- a fear he was later to exploit in building up the National Socialist Party on the broad foundation of the hitherto leaderless, ill-paid, neglected white-collar class, whose millions nourished the illusion that they were at least socially better off than the "workers."

Although Hitler says he eked out at least part of a living as "a small painter," he gives no details of this work in his autobiography except to remark that in the years 1909 and 1910 he had so far improved his position that he no longer had to work as a common laborer.

"By this time," he says, "I was working independently as a small draftsman and painter of water colors." [40]

This is somewhat misleading, as is so much else of a biographical nature in Mein Kampf. Though the evidence of those who knew him at the time appears to be scarcely more trustworthy, enough of it has been pieced together to give a picture that is probably more accurate and certainly more complete. [v]

That Adolf Hitler was never a house painter, as his political opponents taunted him with having been, is fairly certain. At least there is no evidence that he ever followed such a trade. What he did was draw or paint crude little pictures of Vienna, usually of some well-known landmark such as St. Stephen's Cathedral, the opera house, the Burgtheater, the Palace of Schoenbrunn or the Roman ruins in Schoenbrunn Park. According to his acquaintances he copied them from older works; apparently he could not draw from nature. They are rather stilted and lifeless, like a beginning architect's rough and careless sketches, and the human figures he sometimes added are so bad as to remind one of a comic strip. I find a note of my own made once after going through a portfolio of Hitler's original sketches: "Few faces. Crude. One almost ghoulish face." To Heiden, "they stand like tiny stuffed sacks outside the high, solemn palaces." [41]

Probably hundreds of these pitiful pieces were sold by Hitler to the petty traders to ornament a wall, to dealers who used them to fill empty picture frames on display and to furniture makers who sometimes tacked them to the backs of cheap sofas and chairs after a fashion in Vienna in those days. Hitler could also be more commercial. He often drew posters for shopkeepers advertising such products as Teddy's Perspiration Powder, and there was one, perhaps turned out to make a little money at Christmas time, depicting Santa Claus selling brightly colored candles, and another showing St. Stephen's Gothic spire, which Hitler never tired of copying, rising out of a mountain of soap cakes.

This was the extent of Hitler's "artistic" achievement, yet to the end of his life he considered himself an "artist."

Bohemian he certainly looked in those vagabond years in Vienna. Those who knew him then remembered later his long black shabby overcoat, which hung down to his ankles and resembled a caftan and which had been given him by a Hungarian Jewish old-clothes dealer, a fellow inmate of the dreary men's hostel who had befriended him. They remembered his greasy black derby, which he wore the year round; his matted hair, brushed down over his forehead as in later years and, in the back, hanging disheveled over his soiled collar, for he rarely appeared to have had a haircut or a shave and the sides of his face and his chin were usually covered with the black stubble of an incipient beard. If one can believe Hanisch, who later became something of an artist, Hitler resembled "an apparition such as rarely occurs among Christians." [42]

Unlike some of the shipwrecked young men with whom he lived, he had none of the vices of youth. He neither smoked nor drank. He had nothing to do with women -- not, so far as can be learned, because of any abnormality but simply because of an ingrained shyness.

"I believe," Hitler remarked afterward in Mein Kampf, in one of his rare flashes of humor, "that those who knew me in those days took me for an eccentric." [43]

They remembered, as had his teachers, the strong, staring eyes that dominated the face and expressed something embedded in the personality that did not jibe with the miserable existence of the unwashed tramp. And they recalled that the young man, for all his laziness when it came to physical labor, was a voracious reader, spending much of his days and evenings devouring books.

At that time I read enormously and thoroughly. All the free time my work left me was employed in my studies. In this way I forged in a few years' time the foundations of a knowledge from which I still draw nourishment today. [44]

In Mein Kampf Hitler discourses at length on the art of reading.

By "reading," to be sure, I mean perhaps something different than the average member of our so-called "intelligentsia."

I know people who "read" enormously ... yet whom I would not describe as "well-read." True, they possess a mass of "knowledge," but their brain is unable to organize and register the material they have taken in ... On the other hand, a man who possesses the art of correct reading will ... instinctively and immediately perceive everything which in his opinion is worth permanently remembering, either because it is suited to his purpose or generally worth knowing ... The art of reading, as of learning, is this: ... to retain the essential, to forget the nonessential. [vi] ... Only this kind of reading has meaning and purpose . . . Viewed in this light, my Vienna period was especially fertile and valuable. [45]

Valuable for what? Hitler's answer is that from his reading and from his life among the poor and disinherited of Vienna he learned all that he needed to know in later life.

Vienna was and remained for me the hardest, though most thorough, school of my life. I had set foot in this town while still half a boy and I left it a man, grown quiet and grave.

In this period there took shape within me a world picture and a philosophy which became the granite foundation of all my acts. In addition to what I then created, I have had to learn little; and I have had to alter nothing. [46]

What, then, had he learned in the school of those hard knocks which Vienna had so generously provided? What were the ideas which he acquired there from his reading and his experience and which, as he says, would remain essentially unaltered to the end? That they were mostly shallow and shabby, often grotesque and preposterous, and poisoned by outlandish prejudices will become obvious on the most cursory examination. That they are important to this history, as they were to the world, is equally obvious, for they were to form part of the foundation for the Third Reich which this bookish vagrant was soon to build.


They were, with one exception, not original but picked up, raw, from the churning maelstrom of Austrian politics and life in the first years of the twentieth century. The Danube monarchy was dying of indigestion. For centuries a minority of German-Austrians had ruled over the polyglot empire of a dozen nationalities and stamped their language and their culture on it. But since 1848 their hold had been weakening. The minorities could not be digested. Austria was not a melting pot. In the 1860s the Italians had broken away and in 1867 the Hungarians had won equality with the Germans under a so-called Dual Monarchy. Now, as the twentieth century began, the various Slav peoples -- the Czechs, the Slovaks, the Serbs, the Croats and the others -- were demanding equality and at least national autonomy. Austrian politics had become dominated by the bitter quarrel of the nationalities.

But this was not all. There was social revolt too and this often transcended the racial struggle. The disenfranchised lower classes were demanding the ballot, and the workers were insisting on the right to organize trade unions and to strike -- not only for higher wages and better working conditions but to gain their democratic political ends. Indeed a general strike had finally brought universal manhood suffrage and with this the end of political dominance by the Austrian Germans, who numbered but a third of the population of the Austrian half of the empire.

To these developments Hitler, the fanatical young German-Austrian nationalist from Linz, was bitterly opposed. To him the empire was sinking into a "foul morass." It could be saved only if the master race, the Germans, reasserted their old absolute authority. The non-German races, especially the Slavs and above all the Czechs, were an inferior people. It was up to the Germans to rule them with an iron hand. The Parliament must be abolished and an end put to all the democratic "nonsense."

Though he took no part in politics, Hitler followed avidly the activities of the three major political parties of old Austria: the Social Democrats, the Christian Socialists and the Pan-German Nationalists. And there now began to sprout in the mind of this unkempt frequenter of the soup kitchens a political shrewdness which enabled him to see with amazing clarity the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary political movements and which, as it matured, would make him the master politician of Germany.

At first contact he developed a furious hatred for the party of the Social Democrats. "What most repelled me," he says, "was its hostile attitude toward the struggle for the preservation of Germanism [and] its disgraceful courting of the Slavic 'comrade' . . . In a few months I obtained what might have otherwise required decades: an understanding of a pestilential whore, [vii] cloaking herself as social virtue and brotherly love." [47]

And yet he was already intelligent enough to quench his feelings of rage against this party of the working class in order to examine carefully the reasons for its popular success. He concluded that there were several reasons, and years later he was to remember them and utilize them in building up the National Socialist Party of Germany.

One day, he recounts in Mein Kampf, he witnessed a mass demonstration of Viennese workers. "For nearly two hours I stood there watching with bated breath the gigantic human dragon slowly winding by. In oppressed anxiety I finally left the place and sauntered homeward." [48]

At home he began to read the Social Democratic press, examine the speeches of its leaders, study its organization, reflect on its psychology and political techniques and ponder the results. He came to three conclusions which explained to him the success of the Social Democrats: They knew how to create a mass movement, without which any political party was useless; they had learned the art of propaganda among the masses; and, finally, they knew the value of using what he calls "spiritual and physical terror."

This third lesson, though it was surely based on faulty observation and compounded of his own immense prejudices, intrigued the young Hitler. Within ten years he would put it to good use for his own ends.

I understood the infamous spiritual terror which this movement exerts, particularly on the bourgeoisie, which is neither morally nor mentally equal to such attacks; at a given sign it unleashes a veritable barrage of lies and slanders against whatever adversary seems most dangerous, until the nerves of the attacked persons break down ... This is a tactic based on precise calculation of all human weaknesses, and its result will lead to success with almost mathematical certainty ...

I achieved an equal understanding of the importance of physical terror toward the individual and the masses ... For while in the ranks of their supporters the victory achieved seems a triumph of the justice of their own cause, the defeated adversary in most cases despairs of the success of any further resistance. [49]

No more precise analysis of Nazi tactics, as Hitler was eventually to develop them, was ever written.

There were two political parties which strongly attracted the fledgling Hitler in Vienna, and to both of them he applied his growing power of shrewd, cold analysis. His first allegiance, he says, was to the Pan-German Nationalist Party founded by Georg Ritter von Schoenerer, who came from the same region near Spital in Lower Austria as had Hitler's family. The Pan-Germans at that time were engaged in a last-ditch struggle for German supremacy in the multinational empire. And though Hitler thought that Schoenerer was a "profound thinker" and enthusiastically embraced his basic program of violent nationalism, anti-Semitism, antisocialism, union with Germany and opposition to the Hapsburgs and the Holy See, he quickly sized up the causes for the party's failure:

"This movement's inadequate appreciation of the importance of the social problem cost it the truly militant mass of the people; its entry into Parliament took away its mighty impetus and burdened it with all the weaknesses peculiar to this institution; the struggle against the Catholic Church . . . robbed it of countless of the best elements that the nation can call its own." [50]

Though Hitler was to forget it when he came to power in Germany, one of the lessons of his Vienna years which he stresses at great length in Mein Kampf is the futility of a political party's trying to oppose the churches. "Regardless of how much room for criticism there was in any religious denomination," he says, in explaining why Schoenerer's Losvon-Rom (Away from Rome) movement was a tactical error, "a political party must never for a moment lose sight of the fact that in all previous historical experience a purely political party has never succeeded in producing a religious reformation." [51]

But it was the failure of the Pan-Germans to arouse the masses, their inability to even understand the psychology of the common people, that to Hitler constituted their biggest mistake. It is obvious from his recapitulation of the ideas that began to form in his mind when he was not much past the age of twenty-one that to him this was the cardinal error. He was not to repeat it when he founded his own political movement.

There was another mistake of the Pan-Germans which Hitler was not to make. That was the failure to win over the support of at least some of the powerful, established institutions of the nation -- if not the Church, then the Army, say, or the cabinet or the head of state. Unless a political movement gained such backing, the young man saw, it would be difficult if not impossible for it to assume power. This support was precisely what Hitler had the shrewdness to arrange for in the crucial January days of 1933 in Berlin and what alone made it possible for him and his National Socialist Party to take over the rule of a great nation.

There was one political leader in Vienna in Hitler's time who understood this, as well as the necessity of building a party on the foundation of the masses. This was Dr. Karl Lueger, the burgomaster of Vienna and leader of the Christian Social Party, who more than any other became Hitler's political mentor, though the two never met. Hitler always regarded him as "the greatest German mayor of all times . . . a statesman greater than all the so-called 'diplomats' of the time . . . If Dr. Karl Lueger had lived in Germany he would have been ranked among the great minds of our people." [52]

There was, to be sure, little resemblance between Hitler as he later became and this big, bluff, genial idol of the Viennese lower middle classes. It is true that Lueger became the most powerful politician in Austria as the head of a party which was drawn from the disgruntled petty bourgeoisie and which made political capital, as Hitler later did, out of a raucous anti-Semitism. But Lueger, who had risen from modest circumstances and worked his way through the university, was a man of considerable intellectual attainments, and his opponents, including the Jews, readily conceded that he was at heart a decent, chivalrous, generous and tolerant man. Stefan Zweig, the eminent Austrian Jewish writer, who was growing up in Vienna at this time, has testified that Lueger never allowed his official anti-Semitism to stop him from being helpful and friendly to the Jews. "His city administration," Zweig recounted, "was perfectly just and even typically democratic ... The Jews who had trembled at this triumph of the anti-Semitic party continued to live with the same rights and esteem as always." [53]

This the young Hitler did not like. He thought Lueger was far too tolerant and did not appreciate the racial problem of the Jews. He resented the mayor's failure to embrace Pan-Germanism and was skeptical of his Roman Catholic clericalism and his loyalty to the Hapsburgs. Had not the old Emperor Franz-Josef twice refused to sanction Lueger's election as burgomaster?

But in the end Hitler was forced to acknowledge the genius of this man who knew how to win the support of the masses, who understood modern social problems and the importance of propaganda and oratory in swaying the multitude. Hitler could not help but admire the way Lueger dealt with the powerful Church -- "his policy was fashioned with infinite shrewdness." And, finally, Lueger "was quick to make use of all available means for winning the support of long-established institutions, so as to be able to derive the greatest possible advantage for his movement from those old sources of power." [54]

Here in a nutshell were the ideas and techniques which Hitler was later to use in constructing his own political party and in leading it to power in Germany. His originality lay in his being the only politician of the Right to apply them to the German scene after the First World War. It was then that the Nazi movement, alone among the nationalist and conservative parties, gained a great mass following and, having achieved this, won over the support of the Army, the President of the Republic and the associations of big business -- three "long-established institutions" of great power, which led to the chancellorship of Germany. The lessons learned in Vienna proved useful indeed.

Dr. Karl Lueger had been a brilliant orator, but the Pan-German Party had lacked effective public speakers. Hitler took notice of this and in Mein Kampf makes much of the importance of oratory in politics.

The power which has always started the greatest religious and political avalanches in history rolling has from time immemorial been the magic power of the spoken word, and that alone.

The broad masses of the people can be moved only by the power of speech. All great movements are popular movements, volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotional sentiments, stirred either by the cruel Goddess of Distress or by the firebrand of the word hurled among the masses; they are not the lemonade-like outpourings of the literary aesthetes and drawing-room heroes. [55]

Though refraining from actual participation in Austrian party politics, young Hitler already was beginning to practice his oratory on the audiences which he found in Vienna's flophouses, soup kitchens and on its street corners. It was to develop into a talent (as this author, who later was to listen to scores of his most important speeches, can testify) more formidable than any other in the Germany between the wars, and it was to contribute in a large measure to his astounding success.

-- The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, by William L. Shirer
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