The focus of anthroposophy is the human being, in both the general, universal and the individual sense, and the origin and development of us as human beings, independently of our origin, gender, nationality, race, creed, or other more temporary, external characteristics.
1933-45, during the time of Hitler in Germany, this made the Nazi authorities, after thorough investigation of anthroposophy, persecute anthroposophists, the anthroposophical movement and the Waldorf movement, charging them for being individualistic, internationally oriented, pacifistic, of maintaining close ties to Jews, for being contradictory to the ideas of race and "Volk" upheld by the Nazis, and to be directly opposed and a threat to National Socialism.
During the last years, 60 years after Nazi accusations against and persecutions of anthroposophy and anthroposophists for being anti-racist, anti-Nazi and pro-Jewish, the opposite allegations, that anthroposophy is "racist", "proto-Nazi" and "anti-Semitic", at times are cultivated, nourished and propagated.
This is done by some individuals and small groups of people mainly for demagogical purposes, much as part of missionary secular humanist and dogmatic left wing campaigns against everything taking the soul and spirit of man seriously and lately using advertising on the internet to spread the allegations and mythologies in question.
They are used as rhetorical tools to bait especially people of color and of Jewish origin or creed into supporting the anti-Waldorf campaigns against anthroposophy and the waldorf movement.
The criticism to a high extent is connected with three concepts, two of them connected with the theosophical tradition, within which Steiner was General Secretary of the German branch of one of the theosophical societies of the time between 1902 and 1912.
One is the concept of "five main human races", that was central in the general discussion of human evolution from the end of the 18th up to the middle of the 20th century. Another is the theosophical concept and term "root race", with a concept "Aryan root race" named by the theosophical tradition as one "root race". A third is the complex theosophical concept and term "sub races of Atlantis".
In total, five of the c. 3.000 published lectures by Steiner, held over a period of some 22 years on every conceivable topic from A to Z in the dictionary, had the concept "five main human races", as it was understood at the time, as their main theme.
The mentioned theosophical terms "root race" and "root races" and the term "sub races of Atlantis" refer to stages in the evolution of mankind and are still used in the theosophical tradition. While Steiner at first used them for some time in a distanced way, during the time he was General Secretary of one branch of the Theosophical Society, when speaking or writing about what they referred to, as they were traditional terms of the tradition, he from c. 1906 increasingly ceased using them, and in 1909 characterized them as a "child disease" of the theosophical tradition, arguing that "the concept of race ceases to have any meaning/importance specifically in", what called "our" time.
"EARTH EPOCHS" - NOT "ROOT RACES" - AS STAGES IN THE
DEVELOPMENT OF OUR SOLAR SYSTEM
What is the general view of Steiner regarding the concept "race" in the biological sense of the word? And what is common and what is different in the way theosophy and anthroposophy, as developed separate from theosophy, differ in relation to the understanding and use of the theosophical terms "root race" and "Aryan root race"?
After in the beginning of his time as General Secretary of the main Theosophical Society in Germany from 1902 having used the traditional theosophical terms when speaking to theosophical audiences, Rudolf Steiner ceased using the theosophical racistically tinged "root race" concept and terminology in describing the evolution of humanity, when developing anthroposophy separate from the theosophical tradition.
One reason he expressed for this was that the term "root race" was and is an undeveloped, misleading and off the point concept in relation to the concept of "race" in its main, biological sense. Another reason is that the way it was understood in the theosophical tradition seems to imply that evolution consists in the repeated schematic formation of ever new "races". That is not the view of Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy, as developed separate from the theosophical tradition.
From an anthroposophical perspective, the theosophical term and concept "root race" has no biological meaning but refers to the stages in the common evolution of our solar system and humanity, as viewed from an anthroposophical perspective on the development of wo/man as a spiritual being. For these stages, Steiner and anthroposophy use the geocentrically oriented, and from an external perspective misleading term "Earth epochs".
The picture that anthroposophy gives of the evolution of our present solar system and humanity corresponds to the picture of the origin and development of it out of a contracting cosmic "gas cloud".
- THE "POLARIAN" EPOCH
In anthroposophy, as developed separate from theosophy, especially from about 1910, this stage, during which the human being according to anthroposophy lives as a soul-spiritual being in the womb of higher spiritual beings, partaking in the development of the contracting cosmic gas cloud developing as our present solar system, is not referred to in "racial" terms, but as the Polarian epoch or the first "Earth epoch".
- THE "HYPERBOREAN" EPOCH
It refers to the stage in the development of our solar system and humanity that took place from the end of the first formation or budding off of Saturn up to the separation of Earth from the further contracting Sun, together with what according to Steiner later was formed as the present Moon, separate from our present Earth. The name connects to one level of the mythological concept of "Hyperborea".
- THE "LEMURIAN" (PANGEAN) EPOCH
In anthroposophy, this first stage in the development of the Earth as separate from the present physical Sun is referred to as the Lemurian epoch or the third "Earth epoch".
Its name at the end of the 19th century comes from the name of the mythical continent "Lemuria", at the time assumed to have existed as a land mass connected with the continents around the Indian Ocean.
From an anthroposophical perspective, 100 years later, it probably against the background of geological research during the 20th century would be more proper to call this third "Earth epoch" the "Pangean" stage of the Earth (including part of the time of the split up Gondwanaland / Laurasia) ending with the extinction of the dinosaurs and other sauriers at the end of Cretaceous.
At one point during this time, from the time of first formation of the present planet Earth, separate from the further contracting Sun, up to the end of Cretaceous, what later has developed into the present Moon according to anthroposophy was formed as a planetary body, separate from the present Earth.
- THE "ATLANTEAN" (CENOZOIC) EPOCH
From a present perspective, what in the esoteric tradition and mythology is referred to as "Atlantis" can be understood to refer to all the development of humanity, of which parts of it is reflected in the fossil remains from Tertiary and Quaternary up to the end of Pleistocene.
This was also pointed out already by Steiner during conferences with teachers at the first Waldorf school, founded in 1919. He also suggested that the at the time new and revolutionary theory of Alfred Wegener from 1912, suggesting that all continents at one time had constituted one large continent, that then had broken to parts that had moved to their present location, be made a part of the Waldorf curriculum. Only slowly was the new and at the time revolutionary theory of Wegener accepted and made into the basis for the today widely accepted theory of plate tectonics.
Later radiometric dating indicates that Tertiary and Quaternary up to the end of Pleistocene, that in the late view of Rudolf Steiner parallels the development of the mythological Atlantis, started some 65 Million years ago and ended some 10.000 years ago.
- THE POST-ATLANTEAN CULTURAL EPOCHS
That is not the case with anthroposophy.
One of those who make this clear is Hannah Arendt, when she in her work The Origins of Totalitarianism, describes this not racial, but cultural-linguistic origin and meaning of the concept and idea of the "Aryans", pointing out: "... one cannot deduce ... that it constitutes the origin of a racial concept only because racial ideology later was particularly fond of this idea. The actual intentions of the linguists are not only - like the early anthropologists - neutral in this respect, but completely opposite those of racial ideologists in their basic intentions. It was not about separating the nations from each other through an assumption of independent racial origin, but on the contrary of uniting as many as possible with regard to a common origin."
It was to the common still not fully understood origin of both the Indian and European peoples and cultures in a mythical original Indian culture, according to Steiner and anthroposophy developing between c. 7.000 and 5.000 B.C., whose later descendants referred to themselves as "Aryans", that Steiner pointed, already when he wrote on the theosophical term "Aryan root race" during his time as General Secretary of the Theosophical Society in Germany and later when developing anthroposophy separate from theosophy.
Anthroposophy as developed separate from Theosophy does not use or refer to human development since the last glacial ages in "racial" terms but calls it the fifth "Earth epoch" or the "post-Atlantean epoch" and characterizes its phases not as "sub races" but as cultural epochs, as they are cultural in the sense pointed to by Arendt, and not racial in nature.
As the first central post-glacial culture, Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy point to the mentioned original Indian culture, developing in Central Asia during the 7th and 6th Millennium B.C. The later (Indian) Vedic scriptures describe this culture as being inspired and led by someone it refers to as "Manu", surrounded by the 7 mythical Rishis.
Only recently has it slowly started to become a possible understanding that the historical "Aryans" that one long lived theory describes as invaders of present day Pakistan and India c. 1.500 B.C. has a much older origin than usually assumed, pointing to the 3.500 - 5.500 year older culture, that anthroposophy and the Vedic scriptures indicates as the first main post-glacial culture, under the leadership of "Manu".
Steiner, as also later etymological analysis of the term "Manu", pointed to this mythical figure, referred to in the Vedic scriptures, as identical with the Noah, that Genesis describes as the one who saved and led a number of people from "pre-diluvian" times, ending c. 8.000 years B.C., to "post-diluvian" / post-glacial times. In the identification of Manu as Noah, Rudolf Steiner confirmed the description of Genesis as in his view reflecting a reality, as also the common origin of the later Semites and other Indo-European peoples.
As mentioned, Steiner viewed an original Semitic group of "pre-diluvian" times as the main origin of much of "post-diluvian" human cultural development, that theosophy inappropriately refers to as the "Aryan root race", based on its origin in the central Asian culture, whose descendants called themselves "Aryans". He also pointed to Noah as identical with Manu as the leader and main original inspirer of much of this human post-diluvian cultural development.
Both factors, and especially the understanding of Noah/Manu as leader and inspirer of the mythical "Aryan"-Indian culture during the first phase of this first post-glacial time during the 7th and 6th Millennium B.C., from an anthroposophical perspective basically would make "a Semitic root race" or even more a "Noaitic root race" be just a good description of many the post-glacial cultures in terms of their origin in early "post-diluvian" /post-glacial times, originating with Noah/Manu, as the theosophical concept of "an Aryan root race", if one were to use theosophical terms.
As pointed out, anthroposophy as developed separate from the theosophical tradition does not describe human evolution in terms of "root races". Instead it simply refers to the postglacial human cultural development, taking its beginning some 9.000 years ago with the today somewhat confusing geocentric term "the fifth Earth epoch", "the post-Atlantean epoch", or the post-Atlantean cultural epochs.
While the first term refers to it from the more long term perspective of the development of our present solar system, the latter terms refer to it from the perspective of a time following the time of the mythical "Atlantis", and reflecting the view that development since the last glacial ages through a number of phases is cultural (not racial) in nature.
In his view, "races" in a biological sense have arisen at different times in the past, but started to loose their reality beginning with the end of the last glacial ages, and will also cease to exist as such in the future with the increasing individualization of wo/man, that is the main focus of anthroposophy, independently of the gender, race, culture, nation or religion one happens to have, belong to or profess to.
As mentioned above, the theosophical concept "root race" is not a "race" concept in our present meaning, but just uses the term "race" as often was done in Victorian times to refer to "group of humans", be it humanity as a whole referred to as "the human race" in general, defined by some form of biological criteria ("the Malayan race"), geographical criteria ("the Irish race") or sociological criteria ("the race of scholars").
As mentioned, the two first "root races" described in theosophy does not even refer to humanity as it comes to expression on the present planet earth, but to stages in the development of humanity as it according to theosophy and anthroposophy existed in a spiritual form from the first stage in the formation of our present solar system up to the first formation of the present earth as a planetary body, separate from the present sun.
"Sub races of Atlantis"
The distinction from a present perspective can be understood as tentative efforts at the end of the 19th century to understand the origin of the people mentioned in a long term perspective also from a spiritual perspective.
In the from a present perspective unusual view of Steiner, the whole world of the organisms of nature constitute living forms that have branched off from the developing form of the human being at different stages of our development. It was also his view that this human form, that at first not very much had a form recognizable as human in the present sense, only slowly developed this present human form from the time corresponding to Palaeozoic over Mesozoic up to Cenozoic.
In his view, the main part of the developing human forms also were not dense enough to leave any physical traces as fossils until after the branching off of the anthropoid apes from the developing human form. The markedly human characteristics of young anthropoid apes, before they develop the ape characteristics of the adult ape, can be understood to point to the human origin the apes in question as branched off forms from a markedly human form in the present sense, not yet dense enough to leave physical traces at the time of the branching off of the apes.
Only during the middle phase of "Atlantean" time, that can be understood to correspond to the time of Pliocene, marking the transition from Tertiary to Quaternary, did that slowly start to take place with an impulse to a new form of self consciousness of man at the time. In the view of Steiner, this impulse originated from what in the Torah is described as the Elohim. It is also from this period that the fossil remains of "Lucy" in Eastern Africa originate.
In Steiner's view one can however only talk of human "races" in a proper sense of the word from late "Lemurian" time, that is the end Mesozoic, when the human form not yet was dense enough to leave fossil traces, up to the end of "Atlantis" (Cenozoic) with the mythical deluge.
After the end of the time of "Atlantis" with what in mythology is described as a deluge, the concept of "race" in a biological sense in the view of Steiner continuously and increasingly started to loose its meaning as a biological concept in human contexts and will have lost its meaning as we now know it in a foreseeable future.
The "five main races" of humanity
The tentative distinction between these five groups of people as the five main "races" of humanity can be found already in 1795 in a work on The Natural Variety of Mankind by the father of anthropology, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, like later Steiner focussing on the unity of the human species as the grand idea.
In commenting on them in a lecture series 1910 in Oslo (Mission of Folk Souls) with regard to their origin and nature when they were formed before the end of the last glacial time, Steiner expressly begged his audience not to misunderstand that his characterizations of the races in the lecture series in question referred to bodily characteristics and that they not were descriptions of the inner being of man that constitutes his or her being as a human.
He description also made clear how all the five main races of mankind, including the "Caucasians", in their origin and nature before the end of the last glacial ages, in his view needed to be understood as onesided in nature, originating in the activity of abnormally developing higher spiritual beings.
He also expressed the view that what at the time were called the "five main races of humanity", in contrast to the successive human forms developing during "Atlantean" time (Cenozoic), that more properly can be called "races" (and that in theosophy are described as "sub races of Atlantis"), were an irregular form of "race" formation, and that they only together reflected the whole of the human being.
As mentioned, in his view, these differentiations of peoples arising far back in the past also in Steiner's view are continuously loosing their reality and meaning since the end of the last ice ages and they all will cease to exist as such in a number of thousand years into the future with the developing individualization of man, even if at different times revealing darker sides of their nature.
Against the increasing propaganda for a development into the future based on ideals of races and nations in many countries around the world at the beginning of the 20th century, including by the National Socialists in Germany, he argued that this was to speak of decaying impulses of humanity and that nothing would bring humanity more into decay, than if the ideals of races, nations and blood (biological heritage) were to continue.
As mentioned, Rudolf Steiner pointed to Noah as identical with the individuality that the Vedic scripture describe as the leader of the mythical "original Indian culture" far in the past, that in his view was the first high culture that developed after the last ice ages and the disappearance of the mythical "Atlantis" out of the original Semites of pre-diluvian times.
Both during his time as General Secretary of the main Theosophical Society in Germany 1902-1912, when criticism alleges that Steiner should have been "anti-Semitic" in for a time using the theosophical terms "Aryan root race", and later within the frames of the Anthroposophical society, Rudolf Steiner held a number of lectures commenting on the depth and importance of the Hebrew tradition as the basis of the development of Christianity. In these lectures he points to the importance of Abraham and the continuing importance of Moses as something that did not end in the past, but will continue into the future.
In Waldorf education and schools the Hebrew tradition at the suggestion of Rudolf Steiner probably is given more attention than in any other not explicitly Jewish education, and the Torah and the drama it describes as the origin and development the Hebrew culture is a main subject in grade 3, preceding the description of Nordic mythology in grade 4 and Greek mythology in grade 5. One motive for this is to support and provide the pupils with the picture of the caring God father given in the Torah, as a pedagogical therapeutical tool in relation to the at times half-conscious identity crises of pupils at the age in question (around 9) in relation to their origin.
With the advent of Christianity and the following Diaspora, Jewry as one of the most developed cultures of humanity has been central in contributing to the development of other cultures and of a consciousness that not is bound to a specific race or nation, but that is cosmopolitical.
Anti-Semitism and political Zionism are both expressions of a thinking in terms of ethnicity and nationality that belongs to the past, not the future. As integrated or assimilated parts of other cultures and nations, Jewry for two Millennia has played an important role in their development and constitutes an essential contribution to the development of a universal humanity.
As in human culture in general, people of Jewish origin also have played an essential and central part in the founding of anthroposophy, the Waldorf movement and the anthroposophical movement world wide, and for more than 80 years have played and continue to play an important and central part in the development of anthroposophy and Waldorf education.
For more on the relation between anthroposophy and Judaism and on Rudolf Steiner's work as an active opponent of anti-Semitism, see the articles linked to.
To one of the forms of perversion developed by Nazism belong an outdated cultivation and worship of "the Nordic hero" with ritual and half-magical means, based on a reenlivening of an outdated instinctual clairvoyance of the past. Anthroposophy completely rejects and condemns everything that Nazism developed in this context.
Nazism constituted a total perversion of the cultural development of humanity and the meaning of the concept "human", and made the Jewish people into a victim of this perversion in the Holocaust to an extent that has few counterparts in history with its estimated 6 Million victims. In terms of numbers it is possibly only surpassed by the estimated 20 Million victims of the Soviet Gulag during 1922-1960 and the estimated 10 Million African victims of Belgian colonialism under King Leopold II in Congo during the period 1880-1920, earlier estimated to 5-8 Millions by Mark Twain, now increasingly documented.
More recently, the estimated 1,7 Million victims of the Cambodian genocide by the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot and later the estimated 1 Million victims of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 have continued to add to the atrocities and crimes beyond human comprehension against humanity between different cultural and ethnic groups.
Anthroposophy completely rejects every form of racism including the white Aryan supremacy propagated for by National Socialism and its later offshoots and membership in the Anthroposophical Society is incompatible with membership in any organization advocating nationalist or racists ideals.
Copyright 2001-2004: Sune Nordwall.
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This page was created at Christmas 2001.