ANTHROPOSOPHY AND ECOFASCISM
by Peter Staudenmaier
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In June 1910 Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy, began a speaking tour of Norway with a lecture to a large and attentive audience in Oslo. The lecture was titled "The Mission of Individual European National Souls in Relation to Nordic-Germanic Mythology." In the Oslo lecture and throughout his Norwegian tour Steiner presented his theory of "national souls" (Volksseelen in German, Steiner's native tongue) and paid particular attention to the mysterious wonders of the "Nordic spirit." The "national souls" of Northern and Central Europe were, Steiner explained, components of the "germanic-nordic sub-race," the world's most spiritually advanced ethnic group, which was in turn the vanguard of the highest of five historical "root races." This superior fifth root race, Steiner told his Oslo audience, was naturally the "Aryan race."
If this peculiar cosmology sounds eerily similar to the teutonic myths of Himmler and Hitler, the resemblance is no accident. Anthroposophy and National Socialism both have deep roots in the confluence of nationalism, right-wing populism, proto-environmentalist romanticism and esoteric spiritualism that characterized much of German and Austrian culture at the end of the nineteenth century. But the connection between Steiner's racially stratified pseudo-religion and the rise of the Nazis goes beyond mere philosophical parallels. Anthroposophy had a powerful practical influence on the so-called "green wing" of German fascism. Moreover, the actual politics of Steiner and his followers have consistently displayed a profoundly reactionary streak.
Why does anthroposophy -- a blatantly racist doctrine which anticipated important elements of the Nazi worldview by several decades -- continue to enjoy a reputation as progressive, tolerant, enlightened and ecological? The details of Steiner's teachings are not well known outside of the anthroposophist movement, and within that movement the lengthy history of ideological implication in fascism is mostly repressed or denied outright. In addition, many individual anthroposophists have earned respect for their work in alternative education, in organic farming, and within the environmental movement. Nevertheless, it is an unfortunate fact that the record of anthroposophist collaboration with a specifically "environmentalist" strain of fascism continues into the twenty-first century.
Organized anthroposophist groups are often best known through their far-flung network of public institutions. The most popular of these is probably the Waldorf school movement, with several hundred branches worldwide, followed by the biodynamic agriculture movement, which is especially active in Germany and the United States. Other well-known anthroposophist projects include Weleda cosmetics and pharmaceuticals and the Demeter brand of health food products. The new age Findhorn community in Scotland also has a strong anthroposophist component. Anthroposophists played an important role in the formation of the German Greens, and Germany's current Interior Minister, Otto Schily, one of the most prominent founders of the Greens, is an anthroposophist.
In light of this broad public exposure, it is perhaps surprising that the ideological underpinnings of anthroposophy are not better known. Anthroposophists themselves, however, view their highly esoteric doctrine as an "occult science" suitable only for a spiritually enlightened elite. The very name "anthroposophy" suggests to many outsiders a humanist orientation. But anthroposophy is in fact a deeply anti-humanist worldview, which is why humanists like Ernst Bloch opposed it from the beginning. Its rejection of reason in favor of mystical experience, its subordination of human action to supernatural forces, and its thoroughly hierarchical model of spiritual development all mark anthroposophy as inimical to humanist values.
Who was Rudolf Steiner?
Like many quasi-religious groups, anthroposophists have a reverential attitude toward their founder. Born in 1861, Steiner grew up in a provincial Austrian town, the son of a mid-level civil servant. His intellectually formative years were spent in Vienna, capital of the aging Habsburg empire, and in Berlin. By all accounts an intense personality and a prolific writer and lecturer, Steiner dabbled in a number of unusual causes. At the age of 36, he reports, he underwent a profound spiritual transformation, after which he was able to see the spirit world and communicate with celestial beings. These ostensible supernatural powers are the origin of most anthroposophist beliefs and rituals. Steiner changed his mind on many topics in the course of his career; his early hostility toward Christianity, for example, gave way to a neo-christian version of spiritualism codified in anthroposophy. But interest in mysticism, occult legends and the esoteric was a constant throughout his life.
In 1902 Steiner joined the Theosophical Society and almost immediately became General Secretary of its German section. Theosophy was a curious amalgam of esoteric precepts drawn from various traditions, above all Hinduism and Buddhism, refracted through a European occult lens. Its originator, Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891), was the inventor of the "root races" idea; she declared the extinction of indigenous peoples by European colonialism to be a matter of "karmic necessity." Theosophy is built around the purported teachings of a coterie of "spiritual masters," otherworldly beings who secretly direct human events. These teachings were, of course, interpreted and presented by Blavatsky and her successor Annie Besant (1847-1933) to their theosophist followers, thus establishing the authoritarian pattern that was later carried over to anthroposophy.
Steiner dedicated ten years of his life to the theosophical movement, becoming one of its best-known spokespeople and honing his supernatural skills. He broke from mainstream theosophy in 1913, taking most of the German-speaking sections with him, when Besant and her colleagues declared the young Krishnamurti, a boy they "discovered" in northern India, to be the reincarnation of Christ. Steiner was unwilling to accept a brown-skinned Hindu lad as the next "spiritual master." What had separated Steiner all along from Blavatsky, Besant, and the other India-oriented theosophists was his insistence on the superiority of European esoteric traditions.
Immediately after the split, Steiner founded the Anthroposophical Society in Germany. Shortly before the outbreak of world war one he moved the fledgling organization's international headquarters to Switzerland. Under the protection of Swiss neutrality he was able to build up a permanent center in the village of Dornach. Blending theosophical wisdom with his own "occult research," Steiner continued to develop the theory and practice of anthroposophy, along with a steadily growing circle of followers, until his death in 1925.
The centerpiece of anthroposophical belief is spiritual advancement through karma and reincarnation, supplemented by the access to esoteric knowledge available to a privileged few. The spiritual dimension, in fact, suffuses every aspect of life. For anthroposophists every illness, physical or mental, is karmically determined and plays a role in the soul's development. Natural processes, historical events, and technological mechanisms are all explained through the action of spirits. Students in Waldorf schools are taught, for example, that good spirits live inside of candles and demons live inside of fluorescent light bulbs -- an instance of the anti-technological bias that runs throughout anthroposophical thought.
Steiner's doctrine of reincarnation, embraced by latter-day anthroposophists the world over, holds that individuals choose their parents before birth, and indeed that we plan out our lives before beginning them to insure that we receive the necessary spiritual lessons. If a disembodied soul balks at its own chosen life prospects just before incarnation, it fails to incarnate fully -- the source, according to anthroposophists, of prenatal "defects" and congenital disabilities. In addition, "the various parts of our body will be formed with the aid of certain planetary beings as we pass through particular constellations of the zodiac."
Anthroposophists maintain that Steiner's familiarity with the "astral plane," with the workings of various "archangels," with daily life on the lost continent of Atlantis (all central tenets of anthroposophic belief) came from his special powers of clairvoyance. Steiner claimed to have access to the "Akasha Chronicle," a supernatural scripture containing knowledge of higher realms of existence as well as of the distant past and future. Steiner "interpreted" much of this chronicle and shared it with his followers. He insisted that such "occult experience," as he called it, could never be judged or verified by reason, logic, or scientific inquiry. Modern anthroposophy is thus founded on blind faith in Steiner's convictions. Those convictions deserve closer examination.
Anthroposophy's Racialist Ideology
Building on theosophy's postulate of root races, Steiner and his anthroposophist disciples elaborated a systematic racial classification system for human beings and tied it directly to their paradigm of spiritual advancement. The particulars of this racial theory are so bizarre that it is difficult for non-anthroposophists to take it seriously, but it is important to understand the pernicious and lasting effects the doctrine has had on anthroposophists and those they've influenced.
Steiner asserted that root races follow one another in chronological succession over epochs lasting hundreds of thousands of years, and each root race is further divided into sub-races which are also arranged hierarchically. By chance, as it were, the root race which happened to be paramount at the time Steiner made these momentous discoveries was the Aryan race, a term which anthroposophists use to this day. All racial categories are purely social constructs lacking any scientific meaning, but the notion of an Aryan race is an especially preposterous invention. A favorite of reactionaries in the early years of the twentieth century, the Aryan concept was based on a conflation of linguistic and biological terminology backed up by spurious "research." In other words, it was a complete fabrication which served only to provide a pseudo-scholarly veneer to racist fantasies.
Anthroposophy's promotion of this ridiculous doctrine is disturbing enough. But it is compounded by Steiner's further claim that -- in yet another remarkable coincidence -- the most advanced group within the Aryan root race is currently the nordic-germanic sub-race. Above all, anthroposophy's conception of spiritual development is inextricable from its evolutionary narrative of racial decline and racial advance: a select few enlightened members evolve into a new "race" while their spiritually inferior neighbors degenerate. Anthroposophy is structured around a hierarchy of biological and psychological as well as "spiritual" capacities and characteristics, all of them correlated to race.
The affinities with Nazi discourse are unmistakable. Wolfgang Treher makes a convincing case that Steiner's racial theories, especially the repeated scheme of a small minority evolving further while a large mass declines, bear striking similarities even in detail to Hitler's own theories. He concludes: "Concentration camps, slave labor and the murder of Jews constitute a praxis whose key is perhaps to be found in the 'theories' of Rudolf Steiner."
Steiner didn't shy away from describing the fate of those left behind by the forward march of racial and spiritual progress. He taught that these unfortunates would "degenerate" and eventually die out. Like his teacher Madame Blavatsky, Steiner rejected the notion that Native Americans, for example, were nearly exterminated by the actions of European settlers. Instead he held that Indians are "dying out of their own nature." Steiner also taught that "lower races" of humans are closer to animals than to "higher races" of humans. Aboriginal peoples, according to anthroposophy, are descended from the already "degenerate" remnants of the third root race, the Lemurians, and are devolving into apes. Steiner referred to them as "stunted humans whose progeny, the so-called wild peoples, inhabit certain parts of the earth today."
The fourth root race which emerged between the Lemurians and the Aryans were the inhabitants of the lost continent of Atlantis, the existence of which anthroposophists take as literal fact. Direct descendants of the Atlanteans include the Japanese, Mongolians, and Eskimos. Steiner also believed that each people or Volk has its own "ethereal aura" which corresponds to its geographic homeland, as well as its own "Volksgeist" or national spirit, an archangel that provides spiritual leadership to its respective people.
Steiner propagated a host of racist myths about "negroes." He taught that black people are sensual, instinct-driven, primitive creatures, ruled by their brainstem. He denounced the immigration of blacks to Europe as "terrible," "brutal," "dreadful," and decried its effects on "blood and race." He warned that white women shouldn't read "negro novels" during pregnancy, otherwise they'd have "mulatto children." In 1922 he declared, "The negro race does not belong in Europe, and it is of course nothing but a disgrace that this race is now playing such a large role in Europe."
But the worst insult, from an anthroposophical point of view, is Steiner's dictum that people of color can't develop spiritually on their own; they must either be "educated" by whites or reincarnated in white skin. Europeans, in contrast, are the most highly developed humans. Indeed "Europe has always been the origin of all human development." For Steiner and for anthroposophy, there is no doubt that "whites are the ones who develop humanity in themselves. [ . . . ] The white race is the race of the future, the spiritually creative race."
Anthroposophists today often attempt to excuse or explain away such outrageous utterances by contending that Steiner was merely a product of his times. This apologia is utterly unconvincing. First, Steiner claimed for himself an unprecedented degree of spiritual enlightenment which, by his own account, completely transcended his own time and place; he also claimed, and anthroposophists believe that he had, detailed knowledge of the distant future. Second, this argument ignores the many dedicated members of Steiner's generation who actively opposed racism and ethnocentrism. Third, and most telling, anthroposophists continue to repeat Steiner's racist nonsense to this day.
In 1995 there was a scandal in the Netherlands when it became publicly known that Dutch Waldorf schools were teaching "racial ethnography," where children learn that the "black race" has thick lips and a sense of rhythm and that the "yellow race" hides its emotions behind a permanent smile. In 1994 the Steinerite lecturer Rainer Schnurre, at one of his frequent seminars for the anthroposophist adult school in Berlin, gave a talk with the rather baffling title "Overcoming Racism and Nationalism through Rudolf Steiner." Schnurre emphasized the essential differences between races, noted the "infantile" nature of blacks, and alleged that due to immutable racial disparities "no equal and global system can be created for all people on earth" and that "because of the differences between races, sending aid to the developing world is useless."
Incidents such as these are distressingly common in the world of anthroposophy. The racial mindset that Steiner bestowed on his faithful followers has yet to be repudiated. And it may well never be repudiated, since anthroposophy lacks the sort of critical social consciousness that could counteract its flagrantly regressive core beliefs. Indeed anthroposophy's political outlook has been decidedly reactionary from the beginning.
The Social Vision of Anthroposophy
Steiner's political perspective was shaped by a variety of influences. Foremost among these was Romanticism, a literary and political movement that had a lasting impact on German culture in the nineteenth century. Like all broad cultural phenomena, Romanticism was politically complex, inspiring both left and right. But the leading political Romantics were explicit reactionaries and vehement nationalists who excluded Jews, even baptized ones, from their forums; they were bitter opponents of political reform and favored a strictly hierarchical, semi-feudal social order. The Romantic revulsion for nascent "modernity," hostility toward rationality and enlightenment, and mystical relation to nature all left their mark on Steiner's thought.
During his Vienna period Steiner also fell under the sway of Nietzsche, the outstanding anti-democratic thinker of the era, whose elitism made a powerful impression. The radical individualism of Max Stirner further contributed to the young Steiner's political outlook, yielding a potent philosophical melange that was waiting to be catalyzed by some dynamic reactionary force. The latter appeared to Steiner soon enough in the form of Ernst Haeckel and his Social Darwinist creed of Monism. Haeckel (1834-1919) was the founder of modern ecology and the major popularizer of evolutionary theory in Germany. Steiner became a partisan of Haeckel's views, and from him anthroposophy inherited its environmentalist predilections, its hierarchical model of human development, and its tendency to interpret social phenomena in biological terms.
Haeckel's elitist worldview extended beyond the realm of biology. He was also "a prophet of the national and racial regeneration of Germany" and exponent of an "intensely mystical and romantic nationalism," as well as "a direct ancestor" of Nazi eugenics. Monism, which Steiner for a time vigorously defended, rejected "Western rationalism, humanism, and cosmopolitanism," and was "opposed to any fundamental social change. What was needed for Germany, it argued categorically, was a far-reaching cultural and not a social revolution." This attitude was to become a hallmark of anthroposophy.
In the heady turn-of-the-century atmosphere, Steiner flirted for a while with left politics, and even shared a podium with revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg at a workers' meeting in 1902. But Steiner consistently rejected any materialist or social analysis of capitalist society in favor of "looking into the soul" of fellow humans to divine the roots of the modern malaise. This facile approach to social reality was to reach fruition in his mature political vision, elaborated during the first world war. Steiner's response to the war was determined by the final, decisive component in his intellectual temperament: chauvinist nationalism.
Steiner was by his own account "enthusiastically active" in pan-German nationalist movements in Vienna at the end of the nineteenth century. He saw world war one as part of an international "conspiracy against German spiritual life." In Steiner's preferred explanation, it wasn't imperialist rivalry among colonial powers or fanatical nationalism or unbounded militarism or the competition for markets which caused the war, but British freemasons and their striving for world domination. Steiner was a personal acquaintance of General Helmuth von Moltke, chief of staff of the German high command; after Moltke's death in 1916 Steiner claimed to be in contact with his spirit and channeled the general's views on the war from the nether world. After the war Steiner had high praise for "German militarism" (his own term), and continued to rail against France, French culture, and the French language in rhetoric which matched that of Mein Kampf. In the 1990's anthroposophists were still defending Steiner's jingoist nonsense, insisting that Germany bore no responsibility for world war one and was a victim of the "West."
In the midst of the war's senseless savagery, Steiner used his military and industrial connections to try to persuade German and Austrian elites of a new social theory of his, which he hoped to see imposed on conquered territories in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately for Steiner's plans, Germany and Austria-Hungary lost the war, and his dream went unrealized. But the new doctrine he had begun preaching serves to this day as the social vision of anthroposophy. Conceived as an alternative to both Woodrow Wilson's self-determination program and the bolshevik revolution, Steiner gave this theory the unwieldy name "the tripartite structuring of the social organism" (Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, often referred to in English-language anthroposophist literature as "the threefold commonwealth", a phrase which obscures Steiner's biologistic view of the social realm as an actual organism). The three branches of this scheme, which resembles Mussolini's corporatist model, are the state (political, military, and police functions), the economy, and the cultural sphere. This last sphere encompasses "all judicial, educational, intellectual and spiritual matters," which are to be administered by "corporations," with individuals free to choose their school, church, court, etc.
Anthroposophists consider this threefold structure to be "naturally ordained." Its central axiom is that the modern integration of politics, economy and culture into an ostensibly democratic framework must falter because, according to Steiner, neither the economy nor cultural life can or should be structured democratically. The cultural sphere, which Steiner defined very broadly, is a realm of individual achievement where the most talented and capable should predominate. And the economy must never be subject to democratic public control because it would then collapse. Steiner's economic and political naiveté are encapsulated in his claim that capitalism "will become a legitimate capitalism if it is spiritualized."
In the aftermath of the bloody world war, at the very moment of the greatest upheavals in history against the violence, misery, and exploitation of capitalism, Steiner emerged as an ardent defender of private profit, the concentration of property and wealth, and the unfettered market. Arguing vehemently against any effort to replace anti-social institutions with humane ones, Steiner proposed adapting his "threefold commonwealth" to the existing system of class domination. He could scarcely deny that the coarse economic despotism of his day was enormously damaging to human lives, but insisted that "private capitalism as such is not the cause of the damage":
"The fact that individual people or groups of people administer huge masses of capital is not what makes life anti-social, but rather the fact that these people or groups exploit the products of their administrative labor in an anti-social manner. [ . . . ] If management by capable individuals were replaced with management by the whole community, the productivity of management would be undermined. Free initiative, individual capabilities and willingness to work can not be fully realized within such a community. [ . . .] The attempt to structure economic life in a social manner destroys productivity."
Though Steiner tried to make inroads within working class institutions, his outlook was understandably not very popular among workers. The revolutionaries of the 1919 Munich council republic derided him as "the witch doctor of decaying capitalism." Industrialists, on the other hand, showed a keen interest in Steiner's notions. Soon after the revolutionary upsurge of workers across Germany was crushed, Steiner was invited by the director of the Waldorf-Astoria tobacco factory to establish a company school in Stuttgart. Thus were Waldorf schools born.
Anthroposophy in Practice: Waldorf Schools and Biodynamic Farming
The school in Stuttgart turned out to be the anthroposophists' biggest success, along with the nearby pharmaceutical factory that they named after the mythical Norse oracle Weleda. Waldorf schools are now represented in many countries and generally project a solidly progressive image. There are undoubtedly progressive aspects to Waldorf education, many of them absorbed from the intense ferment of alternative pedagogical theories prevalent in the first decades of the twentieth century. But there is more to Waldorf schooling than holistic learning, musical expression, and eurhythmics.
Classical anthroposophy, with its root races and its national souls, is the "covert curriculum" of Waldorf schools. Anthroposophists themselves avow in internal forums that the idea of karma and reincarnation is the "basis of all true education." They believe that each class of students chooses one another and their teacher before birth. Steiner himself demanded that Waldorf schools be staffed by "teachers with a knowledge of man originating in a spiritual world." Later anthroposophists express the Waldorf vision thus:
"This education is essentially grounded on the recognition of the child as a spiritual being, with a varying number of incarnations behind him, who is returning at birth into the physical world, into a body that will be slowly moulded into a usable instrument by the soul-spiritual forces he brings with him. He has chosen his parents for himself because of what they can provide for him that he needs in order to fulfill his karma, and, conversely, they too need their relationship with him in order to fulfill their own karma."
The curriculum at Waldorf schools is structured around the stages of spiritual maturation posited by anthroposophy: from one to seven years a child develops her or his physical body, from seven to fourteen years the ethereal body, and from fourteen to twenty-one the astral body. These stages are supposed to be marked by physical changes; thus kindergartners at Waldorf schools can't enter first grade until they've lost all their baby teeth.
Along with privileging ostensibly "spiritual" considerations over cognitive and psycho-social ones, the static uniformity of this scheme is pedagogically suspect. It also suggests that Waldorf schools' reputation for fostering a spontaneous, child-centered and individually oriented educational atmosphere is undeserved. In fact Steiner's model of instruction is downright authoritarian: he emphasized repetition and rote learning, and insisted that the teacher should be the center of the classroom and that students' role was not to judge or even discuss the teacher's pronouncements. In practice many Waldorf schools implement strict discipline, with public punishment for perceived transgressions.
Anthroposophy's peculiar predilections also shape the Waldorf curriculum. There are no sports at European Waldorf schools and no jazz or popular music; these phenomena are considered to harbor demonic forces. Instead students read fairy tales, a staple of Waldorf education. Taken together with the pervasive anti-technological and anti-scientific bias, the suspicion toward rational thought, and the occasional outbreaks of racist gibberish, these factors indicate that Waldorf schooling is as questionable as the other aspects of the anthroposophist enterprise.
Next to Waldorf schools, the most widespread and apparently progressive version of applied anthroposophy is biodynamic agriculture. In Germany and North America, at least, biodynamics is an established part of the alternative agriculture scene. Many small growers use biodynamic methods on their farms or gardens; there are biodynamic vineyards and the Demeter line of biodynamic food products, as well as a profusion of pamphlets, periodicals and conferences on the theory and practice of biodynamic farming.
Although not a farmer himself, Steiner introduced the fundamental outlines of biodynamics near the end of his life and produced a substantial body of literature on the topic, which anthroposophists and biodynamic growers follow more or less faithfully. Biodynamics in practice often converges with the broader principles of organic farming. Its focus on maintaining soil fertility rather than on crop yield, its rejection of artificial chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and its view of the whole farm or plot as an ecosystem all mark the biodynamic approach as an eminently sensible and ecologically sound method of cultivation. But there is more to the story than that.
Biodynamic farming is based on Steiner's revelation of invisible cosmic forces and their effects on soil and flora. Anthroposophy teaches that the earth is an organism that breathes twice a day, that ethereal beings act upon the land, and that celestial bodies and their movements directly influence the growth of plants. Hence biodynamic farmers time their sowing to coincide with the proper planetary constellations, all a part of what they consider "the spiritual natural processes of the earth." Sometimes this "spiritual" approach takes unusual forms, as in the case of "preparation 500."
To make preparation 500, an integral component of anthroposophist agriculture, biodynamic farmers pack cow manure into a steer's horn and bury it in the ground. After leaving it there for one whole winter, they dig up the horn and mix the manure with water (it must be stirred for a full hour in a specific rhythm) to make a spray which is applied to the topsoil. All of this serves to channel "radiations which tend to etherealize and astralize" and thus "gather up and attract from the surrounding earth all that is ethereal and life-giving."
"You catch a fairly young field-vole and flay it... We take the skin, when Venus stands in the sign of the scorpion, and combust the skin... Now take the ash, which you got this way, and pepper it out on the fields"
-- Rudolf Steiner (En Lantbrukskurs, Stockholm, 1966)
Non-anthroposophist organic growers are often inclined to dismiss such fanciful aspects of biodynamics as harmless, albeit pointless, appurtenances to an otherwise congenial cultivation technique. While this attitude has some merit, it is not reciprocated by biodynamic adherents, who emphasize that "The 'organic' farmer may well farm 'biologically' but he does not have the knowledge of how to work with dynamic forces -- a knowledge that was given for the first time by Rudolf Steiner." For better or worse, biodynamic farming is inseparable from its anthroposophic context.
Enthusiasm for biodynamics, however, has historically extended well beyond the boundaries of anthroposophy proper. For a time it also held a strong appeal for others who shared anthroposophists' nationalist background and occult orientation. Indeed it was through biodynamic farming that anthroposophy most directly influenced the course of German fascism.
Anthroposophy and the "Green Wing" of the Nazi Party
The mix of mysticism, romanticism, and pseudo-environmentalist concerns propagated by Steiner and his cohorts brought anthroposophy into close ideological contact with a grouping that has been described as the green wing of National Socialism. This group, which included several of the Third Reich's most powerful leaders, were active proponents of biodynamic agriculture and other anthroposophist causes. The history of this relationship has been the subject of some controversy, with anthroposophists typically denying any connection whatsoever to the Nazis. To understand the matter fully, it is perhaps best to set it in the context of anthroposophy's attitude toward the rise of fascism.
As the extremely thorough research of independent scholar Peter Bierl demonstrates, there was considerable admiration within the ranks of anthroposophists for Mussolini and Italian fascism, the precursor to Hitler's dictatorship. But it was the German variety of fascism which shared anthroposophy's preoccupation with race. During the 1920's and 1930's the leading anthroposophist writer on racial issues was Dr. Richard Karutz, director of the anthropological museum in Lübeck. Karutz wanted to protect anthropology as a discipline from what he termed "the sociological flood of materialist thinking," favoring instead a "spiritual" ethnology based on the root race doctrine. Flatly denying the anthropological research of his own time, he insisted on the cultural and spiritual superiority of the "Aryan race."
Karutz was more openly antisemitic than many of his anthroposophist colleagues. He denounced the "spirit of Jewry," which he described as "cliquish, petty, narrow-minded, rigidly tied to the past, devoted to dead conceptual knowledge and hungry for world power." During the last decade of the Weimar republic, Karutz and other anthroposophists had to contend with the growing notoriety of Nazi "racial science." Karutz criticized the Nazis' eugenic theories for their biological, as opposed to "spiritual," emphasis, and for neglecting the role of reincarnation. But he agreed with their proscription of "racial mixing," especially between whites and non-whites.
In 1931 the foremost anthroposophist journal published a positive review by Karutz of Walther Darré's book Neuadel aus Blut und Boden ('A New Nobility out of Blood and Soil'). Darré, a leading "racial theorist" and pre-eminent figure in the Nazis' green wing, was soon to become Minister of Agriculture under Hitler. This cozy relationship with major Nazi officials paid off for Steiner's followers once the party took command of Germany. According to numerous anthroposophist accounts of this period, the Nazis hounded the Steinerites from the beginning of the Third Reich. But this self-serving tale is incompatible with the historical record.
Immediately after the NSDAP attained state power in early 1933, the leaders of organized anthroposophy took the initiative in extending their support to the new government. In June of that year a Danish newspaper asked Günther Wachsmuth, Secretary of the International Anthroposophic Society in Switzerland, about anthroposophy's attitude toward the Nazi regime. He replied, "We can't complain. We've been treated with the utmost consideration and have complete freedom to promote our doctrine." Speaking for anthroposophists generally, Wachsmuth went on to express his "sympathy" and "admiration" for National Socialism.
Wachsmuth, one of three top officers at anthroposophy's world headquarters in Dornach, was hardly alone among Steiner's followers in his vocal support for the Hitler dictatorship. The homeopathic physician Hans Rascher, for example, proudly proclaimed himself "just as much an anthroposophist as a National Socialist." Steiner's widow herself, Marie Steiner, refused even after the war to distance herself from Hitler. In 1934 the German Anthroposophic Society sent Hitler an official letter pointing out anthroposophy's compatibility with National Socialist values and emphasizing Steiner's "Aryan origins" and his pro-German activism.
At the time Wachsmuth gave his interview, thousands of socialists, communists, anarchists, union members, and other dissidents had been thrown into concentration camps, and independent political life in Germany had been obliterated. But for years most anthroposophists suffered no harassment; they were accepted into the compulsory Nazi cultural associations and continued to pursue their activities. The exception, of course, was Jewish members of anthroposophist organizations. They were forced, under pressure from the state, to leave these institutions. There is no record of their gentile anthroposophist comrades protesting this "racial" exclusion, much less putting up any internal resistance to it. In fact some anthroposophists, like the law professor Ernst von Hippel, enthusiastically endorsed the expulsion of Jews from German universities.
Despite this extensive public support by anthroposophists for the nazification of Germany, a power struggle was going on within the byzantine apparatus of the Nazi state over whether to ban anthroposophy or co-opt the movement and its institutions. This struggle was primarily conducted between Rudolf Hess, Hitler's personal representative and a practicing anthroposophist in his own right, and Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS and devotee of the esoteric and occult who viewed anthroposophy as ideological and organizational competition to his own pseudo-religion of Nazi paganism. It was not until November 1935, long after most other independent cultural institutions had been destroyed, that the German Anthroposophic Society was dissolved on Himmler's orders.
"It is a plain lie to the German people when, on the order of the German government, one maintains that Simons would have refused. The fact is that Simons had declared himself ready to accept the Treaty of Versailles for five years and, thereby, practically forever. It is straight-on monstrous impudence when this Mr. Simons, who is not a reactionary man of god but, on the contrary, an employee of the German people, presumes to announce that the German people cannot correctly value their own capacity for work. It is possible that Simons can actually value it better; the man appears to have exactly valued the capacity for work of the German people. In the course of the London affair there now rises to the surface, by degree, such mysterious accompanying circumstances that it is not only appropriate but also quite necessary to inspect somewhat closer this Mr. Minister -- the intimate friend of the Gnostic, Anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner himself the adherent of the Threefold Social Order which is one of the many completely Jewish methods of destroying the peoples’ normal state of mind – to see whether his mindless face, mindless according to the opinion of Lloyd George, is really only the result of the lack of spirit or whether it is the larva behind which something else is concealed…
Poland will occupy Upper Silesia. Germany will rebel. France rumbles occupation of the Ruhr in the event of German opposition, and then Mr. Simons with his mindless, stupid face, as Mr. Lloyd George said, will again represent the German people. Then this friend of Germany and of Rudolf Steiner will again make us observe that, in order to keep the Ruhr, we could trade-off Upper Silesia more quickly because Upper Silesia dispatches 43 million tones of coal and the Ruhr 115 million tons. So will he persuade us, a god and reason forsaken people, only yes, in god’s heavenly will no real opposition, only peace and prudence, the recognized war cry of the German newspaper lion and the Levite. We will for the sake of peace, of quiet, and of the Ruhr region renounce Upper Silesia and six months later, due to some other cause, will lose the Ruhr region anyway to the amusement of the whole world. Mr. Simons will still have his stupid gaze. As Lloyd George says, he has no mind.
And this is one of the chief reasons for the disarmament of the German people. It is the intention to make the German people defenseless and this does not apply only to the Bavarian militia. And therefore we protest against it and not form a narrow-minded, bird-brained perspective. And what is the driving force behind all this devilishness? The Jews, friends of Dr. Rudolf Steiner, who is friend of the mindless Simons.
-- Adolf Hitler, Staatsmaenner ode Nationalverbrecher ("Men of the State or National Criminals"), in Voelkischer Beobachter, 35.Jg., 15 March 1921, S.2. (original German text)