|A study shows that Rudolf Steiner
(1861-1925), the founder of anthroposophy, was an active opponent of anti-Semitism
(1). The study contradicts allegations, made especially
since a broadcast in Germany (Report Mainz) in February (2000), about Waldorf
schools and their founder. The allegations about Steiner are based on a
lack of overview and an understanding of his views.
STEINER REJECTED ANTISEMITISM AND RACISM
ALL THROUGH HIS LIFE
Already in the beginning of the 1880's, Steiner
condemned one of the most profiled representatives of anti-Semitism in
Germany, the socialist Eugen Dühring. Dühring argued in publications
for a violent final solution of the "Jewish question". Steiner described
Dühring's anti-Semitism as "barbarian and anti-cultural" and condemned
"racial struggle" as "the most repulsive form of party struggle".
In the 1890s' Steiner vehemently argued against
the "outrageous excesses of the anti-Semites" and condemned the "anti-Semitic
brutes" as enemies of the human rights. As a convinced liberal, whose position
coincided with that of liberal Jewry (reform Jewry), he actively supported
the integration and full legal and social status of the Jews in Europe.
In 1888 he wrote: "The Jews need Europe and Europe
needs the Jews" (2). Against the anti-Semitic propaganda
of hatred, he set his ideal: "One should only value mutual actions between
individuals. It is completely uninteresting if one is a Jew or a German
... That is so simple, that one almost is stupid saying it. How stupid
does one then not have to be to say the opposite."
ANTISEMITISM IS THE OPPOSITE OF A SOUND WAY
In 1900 Steiner described anti-Semitism as a "derision
of every cultural achievement" of modern time, as "an expression of spiritual
inferiority", as a "sign of triteness" and as "the opposite of a sound
way of thinking".
In a series of articles, that he wrote in 1901
for the Berlin "Association against anti-Semitism", he argued against the
"Germanen" myth of the German racists and their "senseless anti-Semitic
chatter". He compared the special legislation against the Jews in European
countries with "statutes of slavery". Anyone who believes in the ideas
of the human rights, must say to himself: "Anti-Semitism is an insult to
all beliefs in ideas. Most of all it is an insult against the idea that
humanity stands higher than any specific form (tribe, race, people) in
which it expresses itself" (3).
Steiner's clear criticism of anti-Semitism and
racism runs through his complete life's work. It is based on the philosophical
foundation of anthroposophy, the "ethical individualism", that Steiner
conceived already in the 1890s'. Its central concept is that of the self
determining individual and its emancipation from the thought- and life
forms that want to reduce man to an expression of racial and ethnical peculiarities.
ANTISEMITISM IS "A DANGER FOR JEWS AND NON JEWS"
What he expressed already at the beginning of the
20th century turned out to be prophetic, when he in anti-Semitism saw a
symptom of cultural and political degeneration and warned against it. Anti-Semitism
poisoned not only the political culture and was a danger not only to Jews,
but to all people.
"Anti-Semitism is not only a danger to Jews, it
is also a danger to non Jews" (3) Anti-Semitism (and with
it racism) is a symptom of spiritual decay, it is a symptom of a cultural
disease. Therefore it is a duty of everyone to "fight against it in all
areas as energetically as possible". (3)
Steiner condemned the at the time rampant racial
antipathies as an expression of "stale sentiments" and "instincts". They
were expressed in voelkisch and racist movements and summarized by national
socialism, that early turned against Steiner.
The National Socialist struggle against anthroposophy
started already in 1921 in the widespread National Socialist newspaper
"Völkischer Beobachter". Adolf Hitler in person blew the horn starting
the campaign against Steiner, in denouncing anthroposophy as a "Jewish
method of destroying the normal state of mind of the peoples". (4)
At this time, Steiner was aquainted with important
Jewish personalities. Among others he - in spite of his criticism of Zionism
- was a friend of the Zionists Ernst Müller and Hugo Bergman. Bergman
was a co-founder of the peace association "Brith Shalom", to which later
Gershom Sholem and Martin Buber belonged. As Principal of the Hebrew University
in Jerusalem, Bergman tried to realize Steiner's political ideas in Palestine,
as he thought that the solution to the "arabic question" only was possible
through overcoming the principle of the national state.
ZIONISM IS A RESULT OF ANTISEMITISM
Because of his general reservations against the
strives of the national states, Steiner also opposed Zionism. (5)
He saw in it a result of the increasing anti-Semitism: "Anyone who has
an open eye for the present, knows that it is incorrect, when it is asserted
that the affinity between Jews is greater than their affinity with the
strivings of modern culture. Even if it has looked that way during the
last years, it to a high degree has been the result of the anti-Semitism.
Anyone who, as I, with shudder has seen what the anti-Semitism has accomplished
in the souls of noble Jews, must come to this conviction." (6)
Here as also in other places we find an explicit
counter proof of what has been ascribed to Steiner as opinion; that the
Jews themselves should be guilty of the anti-Semitism and because of their
Zionism stand in the way for an understanding of the Jews. For Steiner
Zionism is a result of anti-Semitism and not the other way around.
The time of ethics based on moral precepts
- the future belongs to the ethics of freedom!
In his essay on Hamerling's "Homunkulus" (1888),
in which he defends Hamerling against accusations of anti-Semitism, one
finds a sentence that needs an explanation. It has from time to time -
in spite of the trend of the essay - been quoted as an indication or even
proof of Steiner's anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic attitude. The fact, Steiner
writes, that Jewry has been preserved within the modern life of the peoples,
should be a "mistake of world history". He continues: "We don't mean only
the forms of the Jewish religion, we mean most of all the spirit of Jewry,
the Jewish way of thinking." (7)
In the following text it becomes clear what Steiner
sees as the mistake: that Jewry represents "a from the past into the present
transplanted and here quite unusable moral ideal". These comments, that
are embedded in his unconditional argument for the Jewish existence in
Europe ("the Jews need Europe and Europe needs the Jews"), must be read
in the perspective of the history of ideas. With the "moral ideal" and
the "Jewish way of thinking", Steiner's target is the belief in an abstract
monotheism and an ethics of moral precepts and duties, based on revelation.
Out of the same conviction Steiner criticized the
contemporary "Christian way of thinking", that wanted to submit the emancipated
individual to [external] moral norms. Against this, Steiner held it to
be necessary to overcome the constraints of the moral law in favour of
individual freedom. Leading representatives of the Jewish Enlightenment
(Haskala) expressed themselves much more radically than Steiner.
As one extreme representative one can mention Moses
Hess. The Mosaic religion is dead, he writes, the by God chosen people
must disappear for ever, to make it possible for new precious life to arise.
(8) On other occasions Steiner developed comments on other
aspects of the Mosaic religion, that stood out as eternal to him.
A POSITIVE EVALUATION OF JUDAISM
He emphasized the central importance of Judaism
for the development of the modern epoch of the West. In a public lecture
(9) from 1910 he recognized a task of Moses, that has
continued to have an impact up to the present and still has not come to
"What the later humanity is indebted to Moses for,
is the power to develop reason and intellect" and "to think about the world
... out of the full ego consciousness in a state of full wakefulness..."
(10) "Moses stands out as the founder of the new, intellectual
world view, that in no way has come to an end, and that still remains to
teach people to bring practical life in accordance with the natural phenomenon,
as Moses did." (11)
Through the development of monotheism and the proclamation
of a moral law, Moses had transferred the godly will to the inner life
of man. Thereby the foundation for the emancipation of the human ego ("I")
from the Law had been laid. In that sense, Steiner considered the progress
from the ethics based on precepts to an ethics based on freedom as a consequent
development of Judaism. The human being should be its own legislator.
Therefore he brought Jewish (and also Christian)
elements into the curriculum with the foundation of the Waldorf school
to an extent that has no counterpart among other well known pedagogical
movements. The story of Moses and the formation of the historical Israel
should not only in thoughts, but also in feelings make it possible to walk
through the great narrations of our cultural context.
Steiner's discussion of Jewish mysticism in 1902
and 1924 also show (12) that he in Judaism, as also with
other world religions, differentiated between different levels of the tradition
and was capable of forming exceedingly differentiated judgements.
Also judgements by the National Socialists show
how off the point the accusations against Steiner are. In 1935/36 the Nazis
in several reports, that among other things led to the prohibition of the
Waldorf schools, classified anthroposophy as "extremely hostile to race
[racial thinking]" and "as such incompatible with the National Socialist
The extensive evidence in Steiner's work of his
active opposition against anti-Semitism show that all other statements
on issues related to Judaism (especially in lectures), must be read
in the context of his opposition against racism and anti-Semitism (14).
In view of his expressed, public, permanent and partly polemic dissociations
from such ideologies, contrary interpretations are untenable.
of Free Waldorf Schools, Wagenburgstr. 6, D-70184 Stuttgart
1) Ravagli L: Rudolf Steiner als
aktiver Gegner des Antisemitismus. See also the study: "Racial Ideals Lead Mankind Into Decadence", Anthroposophy and anti-Semitism:
Was Rudolf Steiner an Anti-Semite? - A Study by Leist/Ravagli/Bader.
2) GA 32, a.a.O., S. 148.
3) GA 31, S. 412/413
4) Adolf Hitler in: Völkischer
Beobachter, 15. März 1921, 35. Jg., Ausgabe 22, S. 1.
5) as also during his time most
of the German Jews. Against the background of a temporarily lost importance
of anti-Semitism, he even once, at the time of a Zionist congress, classified
Zionism as more dangerous as the anti-Semitism, something that clearly
was meant as polemic.
6) GA 31, S. 409.
7) GA 32, Dornach 1971, S. 152.
8) Walter Laqueur: Der Weg zum
Staat Israel. Geschichte des Zionismus, Wien 1972, S. 65.
9) GA 60, Dornach 1959, Vortrag
vom 9. März 1911, S. 410 f.
10) Ebenda, S. 426.
11) Ebenda, S. 434. 1910 Steiner
held a series of lectures on the Genesis (GA 122) showing the great value
he saw in it.
12) See Rudolf Steiner: Christianity
as a mystical fact and the mysteries of the past (full
text) (GA, 8, 1902) as also GA 353, 12th lecture.
13) Jakob Wilhelm Hauer to the
Security Service RFSS, Oberabschnitt Süd-West, Stuttgart, of 7. Februar
1935. BAD R 4901-3285 as also a report from the Head Office in Berlin of
the Secret Service on "Anthroposophie" from May 1936, BAD Z/B I 904.
14) An important contribution
to this work has been made by David Schweizer with his essay "The cosmic
Christ in Judaism" (Der
kosmische Christus im Judentum), Info3, 6/2000, Kontemporär, S.