Rudolf Steiner on Julius Langbehn
- and Peter Staudenmaier's and Peter Zeger's description of Rudolf Steiner's comments on Langbehn

As part of an argumentation by Peter Staudenmaier and Peter Zegers that Rudolf Steiner was an "enthusiastically active" "pan-German nationalist", they in the article "Anthroposophy and its Defenders" paint the picture of Steiner as someone who in his own words had been implicitly positively "influenced" by a Julius Langbehn, and refer to Steiner's autobiography as a source that allegedly should "document" this.

The way Staudenmaier and Zegers argue for this is one of the repeated examples of master demagogical argumentation, based on twisted and untruthful description of the sources that Peter Staudenmaier, partly in cooperation with Peter Zegers, says he refers to in his articles on Rudolf Steiner, anthroposophy and activities based on anthroposophy.

During the period 1890 to 1915, race became an organizing idea that took precedence over all other efforts in the West to formulate an understanding of the nature of nation and state, and racialist works attracted vast audiences in Germany, France, Britain and the United States. One of the more influential writers contributing to this was a Julius Langbehn (1851-1907).

In 1890, he published a work "Rembrandt als Erzieher" (Rembrandt as Teacher). It describes Rembrandt as an exemplar of the "race" that inhabited Lower Germany and that was intelligent, because it was "Aryan" and as Low German being of a "race" that was least defiled by race mixture. His work on Rembrandt as Teacher was widely read and popular in Germany before the First World War and appeared in 39 editions during the two years after its first publication.

In a foot note to their article "Anthroposophy and its Defenders", Staudenmaier/Zegers write on the book:

"Langbehn's book was the bible of the right-wing nationalist völkisch movement, the forerunner to the Nazis, during the period of Steiner's active involvement in pan-German circles."
In his autobiography, Rudolf Steiner comments on the book in question.

In the article by Staudenmaier and Zegers, they describe Steiner's comments on the book in his autobiography with:

"Steiner’s autobiography provides ample testimony to his German nationalist convictions. The paragraph following the one quoted above refers to Steiner’s numerous "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."
What Steiner himself writes in the paragraph, that Staudenmaier and Zegers refer to as if it should describe how Steiner was part of a "national struggle" and in the paragraph referring to his numerous friends from this struggle, is:
 "To all this was added the fact that many of my friends had taken on from their national struggle [not Steiner's national struggle. Italic and comment by the undersigned.] a tinge of anti-Semitism in their view of the Jews." 
As to Langbehn's "influence" on Steiner's thinking, what Staudenmaier and Zegers write on Steiner's relation to Langbehn is written in such way as if Steiner's description of Langbehn's book should demonstrate that the reading of the book had influenced Steiner into supporting the views expressed by Langbehn in the book.

What Rudolf Steiner writes in his autobiography on the book in question (for the original text, see here), is:

"There fell into my hands just then a book of whose “spiritual richness” men of all sorts were speaking: Rembrandt als Erzieher. In conversations about this book, which were then going on wherever one went, one could hear about the coming of an entirely new spirit. I was forced to become aware, by reason of this very phenomenon, of the great loneliness in which I stood with my temper of mind amid the spiritual life of that period.
     In regard to a book which was prized in the highest degree by all the world my own feeling was as if someone had sat for several months at a table in one of the better hotels and listened to what the "outstanding" personalities in the genealogical tables said by way of "brilliant" remarks, and had then written these down in the form of aphorisms.
     After this continuous "preliminary work" he could have thrown his slips of paper with these remarks into a vessel, shaken them thoroughly together, and then taken them out again After drawing out the slips, he could have made a series of these and so produced a book.
     Of course, this criticism is exaggerated. But my inner vital mood forced me into such revulsion from that which the "spirit of the times" then praised as a work of the highest merit. I considered Rembrandt as Teacher a book which dealt wholly with the surface of thoughts that have to do with the realm of the spiritual, and which did not harmonize in a single sentence with the real depths of the human soul.
     It grieved me to know that my contemporaries considered such a book as coming from a profound personality, whereas I was forced to believe that such dealers in the small change of thought moving in the shallows of the spirit would drive all that is deeply human out of man's soul."
In the foot note by Staudenmaier/Zegers on Steiner's comment on it, expressing his revulsion at reading the book that was "praised as a work of the highest merit" and describing that in his view it "did not harmonize in a single sentence with the real depths of the human souls", something they refer to as implicitly describing how positively the book should have influenced his thinking, Staudenmaier and Zegers summarize Steiner's criticism of it as "stylistic", keeping silent about his comment on the substance of the book.

When critiziced for his way of using and describing the sources he says he refers to in his writings on Steiner and anthroposophy, Staudenmaier's comment has been that the method he has applied is "methodologically boring and conservative" and following "the standard scholarly procedure" (in the case discussed referring to his first article as solo writer on anthroposophy; "Anthroposophy and Ecofascism").

For some more examples of the "boring and conservative" "standard scholary procedure" Staudenmaier's writes that he has been applying in describing, interpreting and commenting on the sources he asserts that he bases his works on, among them the mentioned article "Anthroposophy and Ecofacsism", see here.

Copyright 2003: Sune Nordwall
(The publication of the quote from Staudenmaier/Zegers is based on an at one time expressed permission from Staudenmaier to post anything I like from his published texts. The publication of the quote from Rudolf Steiner's autobiography is based on the expressed permission by Rudolf Steiner Press.)