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Some thoughts on how to define Anthroposophist

The case of Rudolf Hess raises the question of what constitutes an Anthroposophist. In establishing a definition we could go for either a broad or a narrow definition. A broad definition might define as an Anthroposophist anyone who finds value in Steiner's work. Yet this definition is overly broad. For one, it would include many people who disagree with Steiner on many points yet also find some his work valuable in a narrow field. It also defines as an Anthroposophist anyone who consumes products or services provided by others who are inspired by the practical results of Rudolf Steiner's spiritual insights. That is, it includes anyone who regularly buys Demeter-, Weleda- or Dr. Hauschka-labeled products, as well as all Waldorf parents and anyone who happens to be treated in an anthroposophical hospital. Now even if a person's patronage of any of the above-named products borders on fanatical (as was case with Rudolf Hess) I don't feel that this is sufficient to consider that person an Anthroposophist.

An Anthroposophist should, at the very least, be someone who studies Steiner's actual thought actively. Yet even this definition is not fully accurate because a number of very hostile critics also fit this description. Thus, whether or not a person is an Anthroposophist is very much a question of inner attitude towards Steiner's work as they actively study it. If they feel a sort of warm enthusiasm, then they are part of the way to meeting a narrow definition.

Approaching the question from another angle we could ask, "Who would Anthroposophists recognizes their own?" Those who qualify for the label Anthroposophist would be those who in general accept the greater portion of Rudolf Steiner's teachings. At the very least such an Anthroposophist would not actively reject significant portions of Steiner's thought. This disqualifies those who pick and choose and make their own philosophy of racial superiority out of bits and pieces of Rudolf Steiner's work (in doing this they reject Steiner's guiding principles). This also disqualifies those who go through a shorter or longer phase of their life in which they are enthusiastic supporters of Anthroposophy only to reject it later, either from neglect or by actively turning against it. These can be said to have had an anthroposophical phase in their life, but the description 'Anthroposophist' cannot be applied to describe their life as a whole. This excludes Max Seiling and Gregor Schwartz-Bostunitsch, among others.

We have examined the implications of defining the term Anthroposophist both narrowly and broadly. The narrow application is the most accurate; it is the most specific. Using the term broadly is, of course, most useful for polemic. It allows a writer to draw from a far larger group when searching for examples of negative behaviors among so-called Anthroposophists. Rudolf Hess is a perfect example. He was fanatical about his diet and felt that biodynamically grown vegetables were the best. But he did not know the first thing about Steiner, and there are no indications that he ever read any of Steiner's books. His wife even testified that he had no knowledge of anthroposophy or contact with Anthroposophists. Yet, where convenient he is quickly trotted out as an example of the Nazi element in Anthroposophy. If we limit our definition to those people who have exhibited a lifelong enthusiastic support for Anthroposophy and Rudolf Steiner's teaching, in whole and not just portions thereof, then the list of historically tainted personalities that can be labeled Anthroposophists becomes much shorter. And the simple fact remains that the overwhelming majority of Anthroposophists at the time, both inside and outside Germany, deplored fascism and Hitler's regime.

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