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WALDORF SALAD WITH ARYAN MAYONNAISE?

by Toos Jeurissen

A mother challenges 'race' theories in Rudolf Steiner education

Translation by Benine Bloemen and Herman de Tollenaere, from the Dutch original (modified for this edition): Uit de Vrije School geklapt. Over antroposofie en racisme; een stellingname. Sittard: Baalprodukties, 1996 (with a subsidy from the Zutphen Turkish Solidarity League). ISBN 90-802315-5-X.

Incident in Zutphen

In 1994, Mrs Angelique Oprinsen, a parent of a pupil at a Waldorf School (Dutch: 'Vrije School', Free School) in Zutphen, The Netherlands, discovered something which shocked her. Her daughter Juliette came home with an exercise book, labelled 'racial ethnography'. In this exercise book she found statements by the teacher which, according to her, were racist. For instance, this table:

black race

baby

yellow race

adolescent

white race

adult

red race

old age

The 'racial ethnography' exercise books also contained stereotypes like 'Negroes have a sense of rhythm' and 'thick lips'. For 'yellow' fellow humans, they noted: 'the permanent smile hides emotions.'

Mrs Oprinsen immediately called the teacher to criticize this. The teacher invited her to the school where she spoke to three teachers. At the meeting, they told her they backed the curriculum. When she spoke to other parents of the Waldorf school children, she got the same reply. During a parents' and teachers' meeting at the school, those parents told Mrs Oprinsen:

If you would understand Rudolf Steiner, you would back his ideas on 'races'. The fact that you do not support his thought shows you do not understand Steiner.

Documents from the ARIC showed me that, ten years ago, another parent had tried to sound the alarm in vain. The two organizations 'Groep tegen Fascisme' and 'Nijmeegs Comité van Waakzaamheid' (Dutch anti-fascist and anti-racist groups) also met with a lot of resistance when they sounded the alarm. An open minded discussion with the school was impossible. The teachers dismissed the criticism of Rudolf Steiner as nonsense. According to the Anthroposophists, the organizations and Mrs Oprinsen were not initiated into the esoterics of Anthroposophy; and therefore, they did not have enough knowledge to have the right to criticize.

As she was not able to discuss the matter with the school, Mrs Oprinsen contacted De Volkskrant, a Dutch national daily. This newspaper published a front page article in its Saturday issue.

Not just the teacher: Steiner himself

An old discussion started all over again on a national level. The founder of Anthroposophy and of the Waldorf schools, Rudolf Steiner, based his ideas on clairvoyance. Was he, or wasn't he, a racist? Are children at the Waldorf schools indoctrinated with Steinerian racist ideas?

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

As a parent of two children at a Zutphen Waldorf school, I have been involved personally in this affair. That is why I have been studying a lot on the matter. The more I learned, the more concerned I became. The reaction of the teachers and the management of my children's school did not reassure me. In a short letter to the parents, the school said they condemned all forms of discrimination. The statement by the chairman of the Dutch Anthroposophical Society, the banker Baron Paul Mackay, published in De Telegraaf (national daily), did not reassure me either.

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

Over and over again, the Anthroposophical movement is unable to deal with this in a satisfactory way. I still have many questions which remain unanswered.

So, I am still very worried about Rudolf Steiner's statements and ideas. These ideas can, very possibly, lead to racist thoughts and acts.

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

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

The black person as a child

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

In 1984, the Dutch historian Gjalt Zondergeld, and Evert van der Tuin, attacked statements by Steiner. Maarten Ploeger then wrote:

Mark my words: the Negro is not a child, but the human being with a corporal instrument which is derived from the black race, has inner possibilities which become clear if we look at the characteristics of the age phase from birth till seven year old.

Ploeger claims that one can compare the spiritual development of a black adult to the level of a seven year old white child. His statement is hard to understand because of the lingo he uses. This, however, is what the statement says in plain language.

The Waldorf teacher J. van Wettum comes to a similar conclusion in his article in the jubilee issue 'Vijftig jaar ontwikkeling {Fifty years of development]' in the Dutch Waldorf magazine Vrije Opvoedkunst [The Art of Free Pedagogy]:

that the black child is not yet an equal partner in the development of humanity.

Looking through the volumes of this magazine shows clearly that this is not an exceptional statement.

It worries me that there are still people who do not consider these statements racist. I think that we are going in the wrong direction if we label people in this way. I think that all stereotyping, by complexion, sex, culture, or religion, hinders the development of individuals. Of course, as individuals, we are all different. This, however, differs from so-called 'racial differences'. If aspects of character are linked to complexion, then we become prejudiced towards other people. When we look at another person through these prejudices, we will not be able to really perceive human beings. In this way, we imprison each other. This cannot be the purpose of life.

Steiner himself said that we can only really meet somebody if we are able to look deeper than the other person's exterior. Why, then, do all these hindrances exist? As a consequence, true meetings are rare; though we learn especially from those meetings.

For me, there is no connection between physical characteristics (like complexion) and psychical or cultural identity. Doesn't freedom mean we can discover that there are no 'racial differences', and that we are able to meet each other without prejudices, without paying attention to the exterior? The PAREL foundation states that:

From research, we know that traditional ideas of racial differences are untenable to science and have wrong social consequences. 'Pure' 'races' do not exist. One cannot find clear separation, based on humans' exteriors; still less, one can imply that exterior differences also imply differences in character or behaviour. 'Racial' categories really can be called more correctly social-cultural ones.

In the past, 'racial' distinctions were made especially to protect the interests of the men in power at the expense of certain categories of people. The idea that everyone reincarnates into different 'races' does not make this abuse of power right to me.

Therefore, I was very worried as I discovered that the teaching at the Waldorf schools might conceivably stimulate racist thinking. Is this what Anthroposophy stands for?

'Solar' and 'lunar' people

Are we fully aware of what this means? In the racial anthropology exercise book of Mrs Oprinsen's daughter, I found a drawing which to me very clearly symbolizes a wrong way of thinking. I still see the image in the drawing before me. I will describe it for you. The drawing showed 'racial' differences as linked to the difference between night and day. In the foreground, two white children stand in the bright sunlight. In the dark background, so in the night which is passing away, in the weak light of the moon and the stars, there is the hazy image of a little black boy. The teacher had told the children that the black 'race' belongs to the night, the yellow one to the morning, and the whites to the day.

Student's artwork

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

He taught the children from the teacher training material, made by Max Stibbe, one of the first Dutch members of the Anthroposophical Society, and editor-in-chief of the Waldorf review Vrije Opvoedkunst. This means we have to go back to Anthroposophy itself. If we wonder where Anthroposophists originally got the image in the drawing from, then, according to the Amsterdam historian Jan Willem de Groot, we have to go back even further in time, to 'cosmic' racial theorists, like Professor Gustav Carus in Germany.

In 1849, at the celebration of Goethe's centennial, Carus presented his Ueber ungleiche Befähigung der verschiedene Menschheitsstämme für höhere geistige Entwicklung; 'About the unequal capabilities of the different tribes of humanity for higher spiritual development'. It linked anthropology to the position of heavenly bodies to the earth. Carus wrote that the black 'race' belongs to the night, the yellow and red (Indian) ones to the twilight, and the whites to the day. Carus characterized those whom he called the white 'Caucasian' race, the 'day people', as the bearers of all culture. On the contrary, the 'twilight' and 'night people' were inferior and degenerated, and therefore unfit to create any form of culture.

Carus' later followers, especially in the late nineteenth century German Völkisch (racist and nationalist) movement, linked blond 'Aryans' to bright sunlight, 'dark' non-Aryans to the lesser moonlight.

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

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

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

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

And how about the table of races which the teacher told the pupils to make? In 1844, Robert Chambers linked black people with childhood, white people with adulthood, etc., in his The Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. In 1866, the doctor John Down first described in the London Hospital Reports so-called 'Down's syndrome' children as 'Mongols', based on, and repeating, Chambers' racist speculations. Down became well known. If Steiner also knew this, then, in this case, his inspiration came from nineteenth century writings, now discredited by progress in science, rather than from supernatural higher levels of clairvoyance.

Until 1912, before Rudolf Steiner founded the Anthroposophical Society, he was General Secretary for Germany of the Theosophical Society. Ideas in this society about 'root races' influenced him greatly. Madame Helena Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, prophesied in her The Secret Doctrine (German edition of 1901, shortly after Steiner joined the Theosophists): 'Redskins, Eskimos, Papuans, Australians, Polynesians, etc., all die out.' She thought: 'So, their extinction is a karmic necessity'.

So, if we are looking for the causes why today's Anthroposophists think like they do, we will have to look at the statements by Rudolf Steiner, and not just at one individual teacher's course. We need thorough research on this.

I do not want to attack all aspects of Anthroposophy, or of Waldorf schools. I do not want to overlook good sides, like the dedication of many teachers. My only aim is to make people aware, and make sure they see the responsibilities they have to take. I think that mistakes have been made. Therefore, changes are necessary. In order to make these changes, first one has to acknowledge the mistakes made. So, as I said before, let us look, not at just one teacher, but at Rudolf Steiner's books.

Critical Anthroposophists in Flensburger Hefte

To defend themselves, some Anthroposophists will say that I am just a parent who is not spiritually advanced enough yet to understand Anthroposophy. To preclude this possibility, let us look at the German Anthroposophical magazine Flensburger Hefte. In the 41st issue, Anthroposofie und Rassismus, prominent members of the Anthroposophical movement report on their research on some questionable statements by Rudolf Steiner. In issue # 40, they had already written:

There are indeed some statements by Rudolf Steiner which one cannot justify in any way. One should unequivocally dissociate oneself from these statements.

In the 41th issue, they continue, saying:

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

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

These blacks in Africa characteristerically suck in, absorb, all light and all heat from the cosmos. And, humans being humans, this light and this heat from the cosmos cannot pass through the entire body. It does not flow through the entire body, but it stops at the skin. In this way, the complexion itself becomes black. Consequently, a black in Africa is a human who absorbs and assimilates as much light and heat from the cosmos as possible. As he does this, the forces of the cosmos work throughout that human. Everywhere, he absorbs light and heat, really everywhere. He assimilates them within himself. There really must be something which helps him in this assimilation. That something is mainly the cerebellum. This is why a Negro has an especially well developed cerebellum. This is linked to the spinal marrow; and they can assimilate all light and heat which a human contains. As a consequence, especially the aspects which pertain to the body and to metabolism are strongly developed in a Negro. He has a strong sexual urge -as people call it-, strong instincts. And as, with him, all which comes from the sun -light and heat- really is at the skin's surface, all of his metabolism works as if the sun itself is boiling in his inside. This causes his passions. Within a Negro, cooking is going on all the time; and the cerebellum kindles the fire. (...) And we, Europeans, we poor Europeans, we have the thinking life, which resides in the head. (...) Therefore, Europe has always been the starting point of everything which develops the human entity in such a way that at the same time a relationship with the outside world arises. (...)

When Negroes go to the west, they cannot absorb as much light and heat any more as they were used to in their Africa. (...) That is why they turn copper red, they become Indians. That is because they are forced to reflect a part of the light and heat. They turn shiny copper red. They cannot keep up this copper red shining. That is why the Indians die out in the West, they die because of their own nature which does not get enough light and heat, they die because of the earthly factor.(...)

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

Höfer quotes Steiner's speech he made to workers who were building the Goetheanum in Dornach, March 3, 1923.

Texts reproduced correctly

Thomas Höfer says that the speech is reproduced correctly. After checking the original text, it appeared that nothing was omitted that would make another interpretation of the text possible. Höfer:

Even if we read the statement in a wider context, it cannot be interpreted in another way. Rudolf Steiner speaks in this speech about the origin of colours and human complexion in particular.

Thomas Höfer rules out the argument, often used by Anthroposophists, that mistakes have been made in the shorthand report. He says the text was written by the professional stenographer Helene Finckh. She also expanded the shorthand into fair text. Höfer says:

Even if one, or even more than one, mistakes would have been made, the complete statement stands, because it has been repeated in other parts (which I am not going to repeat) several times.

He concludes:

Although it goes against the grain, we have to admit, knowing what we do about the reports of the speech, that Steiner really used these words in his speech.

Höfer continues, that if one wants to ridicule Rudolf Steiner, there are enough statements that cannot be taken seriously. He asks his readers the question:

You do not believe me? You have an unlimited faith in everything Rudolf Steiner has said? Well, what, then, do you think of the next statement?

'Of course, if a pregnant woman, let us say, enters a wood during her pregnancy's first months, and she is unlucky enough to find then, of all times, a hung man, that is, a man who hung himself from a tree and is already dead,--if he is still kicking, it is even worse--, if she finds him like this, she will be frightened to death.

'(....) then she will give birth to a child that is pale, has a pointed chin, has thin limbs and is not able to move well. Just one look is enough for this to happen to a pregnant woman.'

This quote is really by Rudolf Steiner. Many of his statements are based on supernatural clairvoyance, and therefore are hard, or impossible, to check. However, the widespread opinion that words by Steiner, which we do not understand, are supposedly based on such deep insights that we simply are not advanced enough yet to understand them, does not hold for me in this case.

Höfer asks himself the next question: Could we call Steiner a racist? To answer this, he limits himself to several statements by Steiner on certain population groups. Höfer:

'Indians died because of their own nature, women gave birth to mulatto children because they read 'Negro novels', French is a language based on lies'.

With statements like these, and other statements, in mind, one can hardly deny that Steiner's knowledge of blacks, Indians and others, even for his period, was not very progressive (to put it mildly). It also reflected the negative prejudices and cliche ideas of his times. These prejudices said that being different means being inferior. One's own nation was glorified. Steiner's opinion, that the Indians were dying because of their own nature, and that the whites really were the humans who develop the human essence within themselves, does fit perfectly into the racist supremacy theories. These theories came along with, and were used to justify, European expansion, colonialism, aggressive Christianisation and genocide. It would have been more progressive to deal with the claim for white supremacy, and the racist theories justifying them, in a more critical way, instead of backing them up occultly, indeed.

Among Anthroposophists, the supremacy theory that, according to Steiner, whites are the people that will transcend the racial character, is still alive. Or, like the Anthroposophical teacher Hans Peter van Manen says it:

One may indeed consider this as an advantage or a privilege of the white race, that this influence which extinguishes races, primarily originates with the European nations.

Think about this statement for a while; `it is a privilege that extinguishing of races primarily originates with the European nations...' The Groep tegen Fascisme (Dutch anti racist group) reacted to this in the following way. I fully support their statement:

We should see remarks like this in the light of past and present practices by European nations: like the slave trade, colonial exploitation, the holocaust, politics of starvation against the Third World. This gives us a foul taste in the mouth. It is a smack in the face of all people who, because of their complexion, suffer from racism all over the world. Being white, we are ashamed that supremacy ideas like this are still adhered to, and are presented as august esoteric insights.

In co-operation with Klaus-Peter Endres, Wolfgang Schad read the entire work of Rudolf Steiner to look for statements on human 'races'. In doing so, they made, for instance, the shocking discovery of Steiner's discriminatory views on black people. They could not detect one single positive statement on black people. It is not right to defend a thinker and founder of a movement by seeing him as a 'victim of his times'. With this in mind, his whole work has to be judged all over again.

So, I think one needs to dissociate oneself clearly, publicly, and unequivocally from Steiner's racist ideas; then we will be able to throw this lumber away.

Cosmic necessity?

In Flensburger Hefte 41, Professor Dr Karl Sommer states very clearly that it is not possible to speak of different 'races' anyway. He also states that the traditional racial distinctions are scientifically wrong. We do not have enough space to discuss every problematic statement by Steiner. I would like to refer the interested reader to the Flensburger Hefte. I do want to ask your attention for the next, probably most dangerous, idea of Rudolf Steiner; the idea that the extinction of certain nations is a cosmic necessity.

At the request of the Anthroposophical Study Centre, Frank Wijnbergh held two lectures, titled 'Rassenproblematiek' (Racial problems) in Nijmegen, in 1985. A few members of the Comité van Waakzaamheid (anti racist group) attended both lectures. They made notes and recorded the second lecture on tape. At both lectures, the lecturer initiated those present in 'the secrets of the races'. "The racial problems" were dealt with in the framework of the Anthroposophical theory on reincarnation. According to this view, every human being, when returning to earth, chooses a race. Then, depending on individuals' needs, that race is supposed to bring both certain possibilities and certain impossibilities in the development to individuality. In this vein, Wijnbergh ascribed different characteristics and qualities to the various 'races'. Both because of the words he used, and because of the very negative image he gave of all races, except the white race, both lectures were extremely shocking. They were very insulting, especially to people of colour.

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

I think it will be the mixing of cultures.

To an almost completely uncritical Anthroposophical audience, Wijnbergh made the following statements, 'explaining' the extinction of certain nations, the American Indians in particular. Wijnbergh:

And you may see that the Indian race started to behave in a very definite way. I mean, they acquiesced. Then, the white race is unfriendly enough to speed up this process by exterminating them. This is something which occurs again and again in history. At the moment when an impulse is not strong enough any more, and out of place, then there will always be other nations and influences to finish them off (...) That is a law!

How does Wijnbergh get this completely demented idea into his head? Bernd Hansen did some research on Steiner's ideas on the fate of the Indians in Flensburger Hefte 41. He quotes Steiner:

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

We have found the American race as a primitive primordial people, which has remained far, far behind. They lag behind in religious views as well. (...) However, the Europeans have risen to a higher cultural level, while the Indians have remained static, and therefore they have become decadent. One can picture this like this:

In the course of time, our planet changes and this change stimulates a development of humanity too. The side branches, which do not fit into the situation any more, become decadent.

The Stoney Indian Samson Beaver and his family in 1906; "decadent and degenerated," as Steiner wrote in 1907? (Photo: Mary Schaffer; Whyte Museum # 2594)

In a drawing of the development of humanity, Steiner puts the Indians between the apes and the Aryans. Bernd Hansen's reaction to this is:

This horrifies us today. However, already in 1907 too, people knew more about the rich Indian culture which existed all over the Americas; so one was able to know more than Steiner apparently knew. [Then, how about Steiner being an occult Initiate?]

Steiner:

During the Atlantean period of development, the skeleton had to remain flexible for a certain time, so it could be modified. Certain population groups, however, lagged behind, their skeleton became solid too early. (....) and lagged behind as a degenerate human race.

They could not adapt to the situation in the post-Atlantean period; the last relics are the American Indians. They were degenerated. (....)

The Indian nation did not become extinct just by chance, because the Europeans wanted so, but because that nation had to acquire the forces, which led to extinction.

Bernd Hansen comments on this by saying:

Nations, however, usually do not become extinct spontaneously, they are murdered by their country's conquerors, be it by introduced and deliberately spread diseases, the destruction of their cultural identity, or by direct genocide. This happened to the American Indians too.

One should sound the alarm, if people exterminate people, and this is seen as, in some way, a necessary or karmically required consequence: this seems to take a burden away from the exterminators, as they are supposedly elevated to the level of executive instruments of the cosmic will. Ethics fade into the background here. Especially now, as genocides occur again and again, and after the Third Reich, statements like this become unbearable.

I would like to clarify this. Everywhere in the world indigenous peoples are fighting for their right to exist. Only few people are listening to their cry of distress. Power and money are the incentives for the extermination (without mercy) of nations by the white people who feel superior.

Not long ago, I saw a program on television on the Maya Indians in Guatemala. These people are continuously on the run. They are shot at from helicopters. They have to shelter in holes underground (Is this the so called 'acquiescence'?). They always live in great fear. They cannot make a fire, as the smoke would indicate their whereabouts. This is happening now, right now. Can this be called a karmic necessity?

No personal sympathy or personal enthusiasm?

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

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

Why does every atom in my body cry out loud against this? Is this the growth towards more love and insight? Is it really necessary that indigenous nations disappear? Do we really have to ignore our feelings, like Steiner is suggesting, as, otherwise, we would hinder 'progress'? Does humanity get on a higher spiritual level, as we watch passively, as our fellow human beings are murdered?

There are also people who suggest that the Jews needed the holocaust in order to be able to create their own state. In this way, everything can be excused. However, it was neither the hand of God nor the hand of the devil who killed these people. It were the hands of humans with a certain ideology which told them that the disappearance of the Jewish people would be a good thing. It was an ideology they believed in and which they followed by neglecting their feelings of 'personal sympathy'. Read for instance Simon Wiesenthal. In the Dutch translation of his book Recht, keine Rache, an ex-prisoner in Mauthausen concentration camp tells about the camp doctor Aribert Heim who used to dissect prisoners who were still alive:

Just as terrible was the case of a twelve year old Jewish boy. When he was put on the operation table, he understood, more than the adults did, that he would be killed. He prayed aloud with folded hands. In his prayer, he said farewell to his parents. Dr. Heim listened attentively to him. Then, he started to explain in a friendly voice, as if he had to convince a child of the necessity of a tonsil operation, why the Jews had to die. They were to blame for the ills in the world and especially for this war. After he had explained to his victim the moral cause for his death, he killed the child with a poison injection in his heart.

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

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

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

Is everyone who agrees to this aware of the power of these thoughts? And do they take responsibility for these thoughts? The poison of similar ideas of the Nazis led to the uncritical acceptance of endless atrocities. To me, these atrocities are not alleviated by the idea that, in the end, everybody is going to reincarnate again. This way of thinking which 'explains' human suffering is very dangerous. So, I am extremely worried about the consequences of ideas like that.

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

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

This goes to the extent that people will accept fictional stories as truth. As an example, I would like to mention the book 'Mutant Message Down Under' by Marlo Morgan. A man in a 'biodynamic' [Steiner's doctrine on food] food store pointed it out to me. According to him, this book proved clearly that Steiner was right all along. He said: "Toos, you need not worry about the indigenous people. Read the book Mutant Message Down Under. It shows that the Aborigines (indigenous people of Australia) are choosing their own extinction."

He told me that Marlo Morgan was invited by the Aborigines to make a walkabout with them. She was supposed to spread 'their' message, that the Aborigines were transferring the world to the whites, because they were the race of the future. This was the reason why the Aborigines had decided not to have children any more.

I read an article, in the monthly review Indigo, published by the Netherlands Centre for Indigenous People, which made it very clear the Aborigines who read Marlo Morgan's book, feel indescribably hurt by it. An investigation by the Aborigines shows that the book is a fraud. Every Aboriginal community in the region Marlo Morgan describes has been questioned. They have never met one Aborigine who has ever heard of Marlo Morgan. According to the Aborigines, the book is insulting, racist and it should be withdrawn from all book outlets' shelves. One Aborigine called the book:

A continuation of the process of cultural genocide.

By 1996, the book has been translated into 16 languages. A movie was going to be made out of it. For 26 weeks in a row, the book has been on a list of five best sold books in the United States. Every year, Marlo Morgan lectures about 600 times to more than 2000 people. At these lectures, she poses as an authority on Aboriginal culture.

The danger of packaging

I think this is serious. A few years ago, a smiling white Australian said on television the whites preferred getting rid of the Aborigines. His solution was to poison the lakes where the Aborigines drink from. Of course, we all get angry when hearing this. However, when thoughts like these are presented in a more attractive way, like when Marlo Morgan's book presents the extinction of the Aborigines as something spiritually beautiful, then we are talking about something else. But there is no difference, not a real difference between the rude remark by the Australian and the beautiful story by Ms Morgan. Obviously, the Australian's remark is racist. So is the book, though it is nicely packaged.

That some Anthroposophists see the beautifully wrapped story by Marlo Morgan as the truth, that they even see it as proof of Steiner being right, proves that my concerns are well-founded. Then, the question is not any more whether you want these people to become extinct, but one of co-operation in keeping these dangerous ideas alive. Then, we take the risk of ignoring racist extermination methods, and looking at them happening, without personal feelings.

Therefore, it is very important that we dissociate ourselves from the mistakes, including racist ideas, made by Steiner, like Steiner himself would have wanted. Doing this, we give back to readers of Anthroposophical writings their capability of thinking for themselves, the possibility of having ideas of their own. Some Anthroposophists fear that then, we will throw the baby out with the bathwater. They who think this obviously are pessimistic about the strength of positive elements in Waldorf education.

Let us keep in mind that Rudolf Steiner was a human being, influenced by the ideas and prejudices of his times. We should stop seeing him as infallible. We should read his words like those of any other fellow human. Those words can be wrong, as well as right. In order to judge we have to think about this ourselves, instead of looking at Maarten Ploeger or Jelle van der Meulen in their articles in Jonas. We have to see the world through our own eyes, we have to listen to our own heart and do as our heart tells us to. Then we will build together at our future, because the future is not what will happen, but what we will do in the future.

Addendum

A letter by Jaap de Boer, who works at the Dutch Waldorf Schools' Advisory Board, to Waldorf schools ['orthodox' Anthroposophists have criticized him sharply for writing this letter]:

Dear reader,

The author of this booklet has asked me to recommend it for discussion in your school. I do this willingly, as I think it is important. I do it as I think it is really important to make up one's own mind on questions which are linked to Waldorf schools. Surely, Anthroposophy aims to develop individual thinking and capabilities of judging for oneself.

The anti-racist movement is an emancipation movement with related ideas; essentially, they are allies. Now, we face the challenge of our capability to react positively to criticism, especially also when one does not agree completely with all aspects.

It is important to the Waldorf education movement that it has a convincingly anti-racist position within society. To do this, one has to make clear as an organization what views one has on those statements in this booklet. To the anti-racist movement, to human rights, so, for a really human society, I would really want that the Waldorf schools' position is unequivocal. To many people, it is hard to dissociate themselves from certain statements by Steiner. It does not have to be hard. It is not adultery if one does this. Steiner, like the Pope, is not infallible. I would especially like to say: take him seriously as a human being. It really is also dehumanization if one puts him up on a pedestal too much, as he was an Initiate. We should vanquish the personality cult, which appears, though people may not intend it to. This does not mean dissociating oneself from Steiner; on the contrary, according to my view; then, one links oneself more to what is really important.

I probably will not have to explain that I am not a co-author of this booklet. However, I, too, think that one should reject the statements quoted here. Everyone should do this in his or her own way. I recommend this booklet as a relevant stimulus for discussion, to be able to do this. Finally, I tell you that I do this as a person, not on behalf of the Waldorf Schools' Advisory Board. We have made that agreement, as supportive organizations cannot have views on this subject. However, at the same time one cannot work ethically rightly in this field without a personal viewpoint. That also means that I think that this conforms to my responsibility as a schools' adviser. Of course, you can always call upon the Board to work on this theme, independently from the viewpoints which I discussed above.

With kind greetings, Jaap de Boer

Author's acknowledgements

I want to thank some people who have helped me greatly. Primarily, Gjalt Zondergeld. His scientific research, which he did with Evert van der Tuin, showed the links of Anthroposophy to racism.

I want to thank Bram Moerland for his philosophical insight and his boundless optimism. In this way, he managed to motivate me to hold on, whenever I felt discouraged.

I also want to thank Paul Smulders, my very best friend on the telephone; his capability for listening, involvement, and sensible advice were my greatest support.

Angelique Oprinsen, because she understood that this question was important and because she then had the courage to start a public debate on this.

Last, I want to thank my friends Senay and Murat Kizginel, and Joan.

Toos Jeurissen

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