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Peter Staudenmaier's Anthroposophy and Ecofascism

In his article Anthroposophy and Ecofascism Peter Staudenmaier, who claims for himself the status of an honest and thorough scholar, gives an overview of Rudolf Steiner, anthroposophy and anthroposophists during the Nazi era that few scholars of Rudolf Steiner or his era would recognize. Since this site is called "Defending Steiner" I have restricted my treatment to the first half, and omitted the second part of the article where Staudenmaier discusses the record of anthroposophists during the Nazi era, as beyond the scope of this site. Perhaps in the future I will have the time to go into this issue in depth. Readers wishing to read the entire original are directed to:

The article was published in a Norwegian periodical called The Humanist, and prompted a number of responses.[1] I went carefully through Staudenmaier's arguments paragraph by paragraph, citation by citation, in an attempt to determine whether the source material actually supports his conclusions. It was clear from the outset that Staudenmaier was heavily spinning his findings, but I was shocked by the level of inaccuracy and even outright fabrications that I found. In addition to some deliberately misleading and inaccurate translations and a number of quotes grossly out of context, Staudenmaier actually invented new content for anthroposophy - among other things the existence of a nordic-germanic sub-race. This was necessary in order to make anthroposophy fit his portrait of an Aryan-supremist religion.[2]

More responsible scholars, including the acknowledged expert in the field, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, do not group anthroposophy among ariasophist cults, and for good reason - an honest investigation of it does not find evidence to substantiate such a claim. A few superficial points, such as the use of the term Root Race in common with Blavatsky during the first years of anthroposophy is not enough to prove that a central or even a secondary aspect of anthroposophy is inherently racist. It is necessary to look at how the term was employed and what was meant by its use.

Staudenmaier's case against anthroposophy looks almost exactly like Goodrick-Clarke's case against Theosophy[3], but whereas Goodrick-Clark spent sufficient time with the source material to have noted that Steiner's influence on the occult subculture was actually counter to many contemporary trends[4], Staudenmaier essentially argues that anthroposophy is simply an unmodified continuation of Theosophy. This conflation of anthroposophy with Theosophy demonstrates a basic failure of understanding. And it is this basic failure to understand anthroposophy before criticizing it that has occasioned impassioned reactions from anthroposophy's supporters.

In this article Staudenmaier's sources for his most severe criticism (when he actually cites any) are almost exclusively hostile secondary literature. The scholarly quality of many of these books is often quite dubious, and none of those central to his arguments are published by mainstream publishers in Germany. And though many are only a few years old, they are all out of print and nearly impossible to find used.[5] And since they are only available in German, there is precious little an average English-speaking reader can do to verify the claims or further investigate the matter even if they were able to locate a copy. Indeed, it is quite curious that so many of the sources Staudenmaier uses to make his point are deliberately obscure. When Staudenmaier does cite sympathetic sources, for example Johannes Hemleben's Rudolf Steiner und Ernst Haeckel (available only in German) he gives no indication that they contain a central argument directly contradictory to his claims. In fact nowhere does he acknowledge the possibility that other views might have some validity.

Staudenmaier is quite passionate in his hatred of fascism, and that dark chapter of German history is something that everyone should pay greater attention to. Truly terrible things were done and we need to understand the reasons for such an unimaginably horrible breakdown of basic human values. In as much as that is his intent, Staudenmaier has my full support. To the degree which he falsely imputes values to groups or individuals that they did not hold in order to assign them responsibility for fascism's rise, I must object.

Daniel Hindes
November 2004

[1] The responses include one by Cato Schiøtz: Anthroposophy in Norway: Some remarks about its relation ship to Nazism, Racism and Eco-Fascism, two by Peter Normann Waage: Humanism and Polemical Populism, and New Myths about Rudolf Steiner - and one by Göran Fant: The Art of Turning Black into White. These responses, though well intended, responded to the claims of the original in general, challenging Staudenmaier on only a few specific points. Staudenmaier, joined by Peter Zegers, wrote several rebuttals (Anthroposophy and It's Defenders, The Janus Face of Anthroposphy, and The Art of Avoiding History), raising new points and asserting the validity of their argument. Lest this become a "he said, she said" debate, I have in my analysis attempted to go back to the original sources as much as possible, both those Staudenmaier cites, and further sources I think are relevant.

[2] This is what caused Sune Norwall to accuse Staudenmaier of creating a "Protocol of Steiner" myth.

[3] Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas. The Occult Roots of Nazism Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology. New York: New York University Press, 1992. See Chapter 2, "The Modern German Occult Revival 1880-1910". Staudenmaier later acknowledges having read the book, but fails to cite it here despite a suspiciously high resemblance between his argumentation and that of Goodrick-Clarke.

[4] "It may have been a desire to counter Steiner's influence in the occult subculture which lead Hartmann to encourage the publication of several new periodicals."
Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas. The Occult Roots of Nazism Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology. New York: New York University Press, 1992. Page 27.

[5] To test this claim, the reader is invited to search for these books at or through (Addall will search - the central registry of used book in Germany). For example, try to find:
Wolfgang Treher, Hitler Steiner Schreber, Emmingden 1966.
Oliver Geden, Rechte ökologie, Berlin 1996.
Peter Bierl, Wurzelrassen, Erzengel und Volksgeister: Die Anthroposophie Rudolf Steiners und die Waldorfpädagogik, Hamburg 1999.
Charlotte Rudolph, Waldorf-Erziehung: Wege zur Versteinerung, Darmstadt 1987.

Copyright © 2004-2007 Daniel Hindes