"[W]e each receive our allotted human task 
from our family, nation, or race soul."
— Rudolf Steiner


Peoples and Their Souls

by Roger Rawlings


Anthroposophist Spiritual Racism: Uehli

by Peter Staudenmaier

The racism embedded in Anthroposophy rarely surfaces as racial hatred. According to Anthroposophical belief, race is an index of spiritual evolution. All individuals are fundamentally alike, Anthroposophists usually say, but people evolve upward differing various stages of spiritual development, and these stages are often manifested in racial forms. Young, undeveloped souls incarnate in lowly — dark — racial forms. Later, as they rise to higher spirituality, these souls reincarnate in higher racial forms, culminating in the whitest races.

Because Anthroposophists generally do not hate members of "lower" races, they generally deny that there is any racism in their belief system. But in this they are, clearly, mistaken. According to Anthroposophical tenets, a white person is — virtually by definition — more highly evolved than a black person; any white person is likely to be — virtually by definition — more moral, mature, and thoughtful than virtually any black person. Anthroposophical racism may be unintended and even unconscious, but it exists. And, sadly, it exists near the core of Anthroposophical teachings. [See "Steiner's Racism", "Races", and "Differences".]

According to Anthroposophical belief, races, nations, and peoples work out their destinies under the aegis and guidance of the gods. Each race, nation, or people is overseen by a particular god, an archangel, who is in fact the spirit of that group — the archangel is that group’s “folk spirit” or “foul soul” (also sometimes called a "race soul"). Each human group, acting under the supervision of its folk spirit, has a particular mission to fulfill; and as such, each has its own karma. Thus, races, nations, and peoples embody the purposes and wisdom of the gods; they are, in this sense, divinely ordained.

Originally, the gods intended for races to exist sequentially, not simultaneously. Mankind would incarnate at a particular level of development; all humans existing at that time would be members of the same race. Later, as mankind evolved higher, all humans would reincarnate as members of the next, higher race. We would proceed together, evolving upward to higher and higher forms. This was the plan. However, the demons Lucifer and Ahriman interfered, which has caused multiple races to exist on Earth simultaneously. Older, lowly races have continued to exist even as newer, higher races have appeared — or so Steiner taught. [See "Lucifer" and "Universal".]

Eventually, according to Anthroposophical belief, we will evolve to a post-racial condition. Races as we now know them will cease to exist, and general equality will once again be apparent in the forms humans assume when incarnating. However, other sorts of “races” will develop then, and true, universal human equality will not be fully attained until all backward or evil souls have been ejected from the upward stream of human evolution. Anthroposophy foresees a distant future when everyone still within the human family will be truly equal. This may be an attractive vision, but it is very different from affirming that all human beings are fully equal now. Steiner's teachings indicate that human races today stand at different evolutionary/spiritual levels. Moreover, Steiner foresaw races of varying sorts, standing at various levels, continuing to play a key role in human evolution far into the future. [See, e.g., "Evil".]

These beliefs are woven deeply into the narrative of human evolution as propounded by Rudolf Steiner. We may hope that few if any Anthroposophists today hate members of “lower” races. But to the extent that Anthroposophists accept Steiner’s teachings — which they usually do without reservation — then racism remains a defining element of Anthroposophy today. Anthroposophists as individuals are not, by and large, racists. Probably the overwhelming majority of Anthroposophists today — like virtually all other individuals of good will today — sincerely deplore racism. But Anthroposophy as a world view contains clear racist strains. These strains may generally be hidden, unrealized, below the surface of Anthroposophy. But they lurk there, embedded in the assemblage of error and falsehood that is Rudolf Steiner's legacy. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Blunders" and "Summing Up".]

We may stipulate that Anthroposophical racism is more nearly an unconscious tendency than an actualized evil. But it exists; it is a disfigurement in a system of beliefs that was intended to be bright and uplifting. Steiner's racial views may have seemed relatively progressive in his period, when blatant racism was rampant, but today we recognize that they are wholly unacceptable.

• ◊ •

Below are statements made by Anthroposophists in recent times, long after Steiner's death. These statements reflect the continuing presence of Steiner’s ethnological teachings within the Anthroposophical community. Most of these statements are not overtly racist; most of them speak of "nations" or "peoples" rather than "races." But all of them conform to the Anthroposophical narrative about large human groups including races. In brief: There are deep, real divisions between various branches of the human family. Each significant subset of humanity has its own god, its own mission, and its own karma. Each nation, people, and race is spiritually different from the others, and these differences are built into the very fabric of reality. The import of such differences is thus inherent in the doctrinal structure of Anthroposophy, whether or not most Anthroposophists recognize the racist implications of this structure. 

Possibly none of the individuals quoted below harbors any antipathy directed toward the members of any racial or national group. But many of Steiner’s ideas about races, nations, and peoples are reflected in the statements you are about to read. Even when expressing the need to overcome racism, Anthroposophists often assert that there are very real differences between the subsets of humanity. When reading Anthroposophical statements about nations and peoples, pause to remind yourself that what is being said applies equally to races as described in Anthroposophical literature.

I have taken these quotations from Anthroposophical publications that are easy to find and purchase today. Because Anthroposophists often use terminology that is unfamiliar to most readers, I have highlighted certain key terms, placing them in bold type. I have also added some commentary, clearly separated from the quotations themselves. To provide additional guideposts, I have inserted some quotations from Rudolf Steiner's KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS - How Is It Achieved? (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004, reprinted 2009).

•• ◊ ••

While most Anthroposophists today speak more often of "nations" and "peoples" rather than "races," some Anthroposophists continue openly discussing race, using concepts that Steiner used. Much of this discourse —  drawing heavily from Theosophy — is akin to mythology, but Anthroposophists accept it as factually true. Thus, for example, mankind lived on Atlantis; it split into seven races; people's physical forms came to reflect their spiritual differences:

"...In the racial evolution of the post-Atlantean age, of the 7 sub-races, the physical form gradually mirrored this soul difference [i.e., bodily forms came to reflect spiritual differences], leading to the clearly recognizable physiognomic variations we see today in the 7 racial types." — Alan Whitehead, GAZE BOTH WAYS (Golden Beetle Books, 2005), p. 12. [1]

• ◊ •

Some human groups were more advanced than others; the most advanced people migrated to Europe and, in particular, Germany:

"[T]he races were differentiated in early Atlantis; the white race was under the guidance of the Jupiter Oracle [i.e., a source of spiritual wisdom with ties to Jupiter] ... The most advanced human beings...were led by Manu [i.e., Noah] across Europe ... Those from the Jupiter Oracle dropped off en route to form a great centre in northern Germany.” — Richard Seddon, EUROPA: A SPIRITUAL BIOGRAPHY (Temple Lodge Publishing, 1995), p. 16. [2]

• ◊ •

Races stand at different levels. Blacks, for example, are childlike, and Native Americans are senescent:

"In Lemuria [the continent where humanity lived before moving to Atlantis]...there was really only one race, Humanity. The Australian Aborigines are a dim reflection of this holistic condition ... The human race then divided into the 7 'sub-races' (as Rudolf Steiner describes them) in the following epoch, Atlantis.....

"[T]he first Atlantean sub-race...evolved to become the Negroid race ... Negro people always strike me as a 'young' folk ... [T]he negroid people's time has not yet come. Their contribution will be based on the Mercury Mysteries [i.e., occult spiritual truths associated with Mercury] — rhythm-based. Negro people really do 'got rhythm'....

"'Young' would not describe the second Aryan sub-race, the North American Indians ... I always get a feeling of venerability and great age with them — Saturn qualities ... [They] established the concept of RANK, exemplified by the Red Indians respect for the 'Chief'....

"By the way, the Being of a race [i.e., that race's spirit or god] does not require its individuals to remain constant through their incarnations. A person can be Chinese in one life, Jewish the next...." — Alan Whitehead, THE PEOPLE POOL (Golden Beetle Books, 1993), pp. 85-88.

Whitehead, a former Waldorf teacher trainer, also discusses other human races from an Anthroposophical perspective; e.g.:

"[U]s...the Caucasian race ... [O]ur high mission to firmly establish individualism into human evolution was, and is, an important one. That is why Caucasians look so different from each other; more than any of the [other] 7 races." — p. 89.

• ◊ •

Some races have evolved upward while others have declined. Separation into distinct races occurred after human souls migrated to various planets and then returned, altered, to Earth. All races except the future Aryans began deteriorating:

“The Atlantean (Tertiary) epoch saw differentiation of humanity into races, souls who had returned from the planets being guided by the corresponding oracles [i.e., spiritual guides] ... Except for a nucleus who were led to Central Asia [i.e., proto-Aryans], degeneration set in amid the rigours of the Ice Ages....” — Richard Seddon, THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY AND THE EARTH AS FORESEEN BY RUDOLF STEINER (Temple Lodge Publications, 2002), p. 66.

• ◊ •

Each developing human being recapitulates the evolutionary history of humanity. In the womb, the embryo recapitulates the transition from Lemuria to Atlantis, and it then passes through the Atlantean racial stages. Thereafter...

"[W]hat does the [embryonic] yolk sac do? It is burned up in the catastrophic fires of Lemuria ... [M]an is [then] recapitulating the transition to Atlantis. The whole of the embryonic development following upon this stage is nothing less than a recapitulation of the whole of Atlantean development ... [O]ntogeny [recapitulates] phytogeny. We see the Fall, we see the end of Lemuria, we see all the Atlantean periods with their early races." — Karl König, EMBRYOLOGY AND WORLD EVOLUTION (Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, 2009), p. 42.

Thereafter, according to Rudolf Steiner, the child is born as a member of a specific race, one that stands at the same evolutionary level as that incarnating soul. Later, the individual will return as a member of a higher or lower race, depending the progress s/he has made or failed to make. 

Individuals' racial status reflects the degree to which "they have worked their way from the physical and perishable to the supersensible and imperishable. The evolution of man [occurs] through reincarnations in ever higher ethnic and racial forms...." — KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS, pp. 207-208. [3]

• ◊ •

Anthroposophists today typically avoid speaking about races as such, preferring to speak of nations, peoples, ethnic groups, and the like. But, in Anthroposophical doctrines, what applies to one sort of ethnological category generally applies to the others. Nations and peoples have differing spirits and missions, and — as Steiner taught — so do races. The differences between nations, peoples, and races often blur in Anthroposophical discourse. [4]

The spirits guiding important human groupings are Archangels; in their capacity as guides for human groups, they are usually called "folk souls" or "folk spirits." They help human groups fulfill their missions. Here are three statements on such matters:

◊ “The Archangels are not concerned with individuals but with groups of people, e.g. nations. The expression 'folk-soul' or 'folk-spirit', although generally used in an abstract sense, can be taken to indicate a reality. The Archangels are the guiding spirits of particular nations or peoples.” — Roy Wilkinson, RUDOLF STEINER - An introduction to his Spiritual World-view, Anthroposophy (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2005), p. 197.

◊ “[Steiner] explained how each nation was guided from the spiritual worlds by a higher being of the rank of an archangel, who was indeed the folk spirit of that nation. Each nation thus had a mission to fulfill.” — Stewart Easton, RUDOLF STEINER: HERALD OF A NEW EPOCH (SteinerBooks, 1980), p. 223.

◊ "[E]ach human being has an Angel who has the spiritual task of helping that human being fulfill his or her pre-birth intentions. Archangels are on the next higher level. They concern themselves with groups of people who have basic background in common: a tribe, a race, people from a geographical region, people who share a language. These beings are sometimes known as the 'folk-soul' of a people." — Roberto Trostli, "On Earth As It Is In Heaven", Part 2, RESEARCH BULLETIN (Research Institute for Waldorf Education), Vol. 17, #1, Spring/Summer 2012.

• ◊ •

In addition to missions, peoples have their own karmas or destinies. As Steiner said, 

"[L]ineal or racial destinies are real Beings [i.e., spirits or gods], as real as the personality produced by the character and destiny of an individual." — KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS, p. 198.

No people can fulfill another people's karma or mission.

“If a people were to be interfered with...before it had completed its mission, no other people would be able to take its place ... Every nation is, in its karma, living through the things it has to live through in order to gain strength for its own task.” — Richard Seddon, EUROPA: A SPIRITUAL BIOGRAPHY (Temple Lodge Publishing, 1995), p. 76.

Steiner spoke of groups' and individuals' tasks thus: 

"[A] folk-soul, for example, makes use of each individual belonging to that people or folk for the execution of certain tasks ... [E]very individual receives his allotted task from his family-, folk-, or race-soul ... [T]he physical man...works unconsciously at the aims of his people, of his race, and so forth." — KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS, p. 198.

• ◊ •

Some peoples (and nations and races) are more worthy than others. This belief is rooted in Steiner's assertion that some races or peoples are "higher" than others. 

"A race or a people stands at a higher level in proportion as its members bring to expression the pure, ideal type of manhood." — KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS, p. 207.

This same concept, attributing varying degrees of worth to various peoples, is still found in Anthroposophical writings.

"Where was there to be found in [Parzifal's] time a people worthy of serving the Grail?" — W. J. Stein, THE NINTH CENTURY AND THE HOLY GRAIL (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2009), p. 281.

(You might mull over the difference between talking of worthy people, plural, and a worthy people, singular. To say that some people are more worthy than others, while invidious, is to distinguish between individuals. But to say that a particular people is more worthy than other peoples is to place entire ethnic groups at different hierarchical levels.)

• ◊ •

The gods assign and reassign missions to the various peoples:

“[T]he need had arisen for the higher guiding forces of earthly evolution [i.e., gods] to ‘transfer’ at least part of the karma of materialism that was threatening the further spiritual evolution of mankind from those peoples who have their principle mission in the fifth cultural epoch to another people or peoples, who were able to wait for their fulfillment of their own tasks....” — Sergei O. Prokofieff, THE SPIRITUAL ORIGINS OF EASTERN EUROPE AND THE FUTURE MYSTERIES OF THE HOLY GRAIL (Temple Lodge Publishing, 1993), p. 361.

• ◊ •

Different peoples have different "soul-spiritual configurations;" some peoples are more spiritually aware than others:

"[W]e have to do with the emergence in the 9th-10th centuries in the East of Europe of a people which in its soul-spiritual configuration [5] was open to the emanations of the light of Christ ... Herein also lies the key to an understanding of Rudolf Steiner’s observation that for over a thousand years a people has lived in Eastern Europe which has the task of ‘becoming the vehicle for the Christ-revelation over the coming centuries.” — Sergei O. Prokofieff, THE SPIRITUAL ORIGINS OF EASTERN EUROPE AND THE FUTURE MYSTERIES OF THE HOLY GRAIL (Temple Lodge Publishing, 1993)p. 129.

• ◊ •

Individual humans are born into specific ethnic groups for a reason; the "spiritual structures" of a people are basic to individual identity. As Steiner said, 

"The individual...belongs to a family, to a people, to a racehis activity in the physical world depends upon his relationship to this kind of community. His particular character is also connected with it.— KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS, p. 197.

The same concept is found in Anthroposophical texts written long after Steiner's death:

"[T]he child is rooted in the spiritual structures [6] common to a people, and saved from greedily grasping later at artificial national passions. [7] It is not for nothing that a child is born in a particular country." — Bernardus Cornelis Johannes Lievegoed, PHASES OF CHILDHOOD (Floris Books, Anthroposophical Press, 1987). 

• ◊ •

Seeking spiritual self-knowledge in order to awaken spiritual capacities is a central goal for Anthroposophists. The process entails understanding racial and national capabilities and qualities.

“On the path of self-knowledge, we come to know our powers of soul ... [W]e come to know both the limitations of our own nation and those of others ... [W]e are directly confronted with the powers determining our race and nation.” — Willem Zelymans, quoted by Emanuel Zeylmans in WILLEM ZEYLMANS VAN EMMICHOVEN (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2002), p. 189.

• ◊ •

Nations exist in a hierarchy, higher and lower; there are true nations and untrue nations.

“[S]ince 1879, when the guidance of [the Archangel] Gabriel came to an end, no new nations have been built that are demonstrably true nations [8] such as the nations of Europe that were created between the Middle Ages and the end of the Gabriel age in 1879.” — Stewart Easton, THE WAY OF ANTHROPOSOPHY: ANSWERS TO MODERN QUESTIONS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1985),  p. 49.

If Steiner and his followers had wanted to avoid attaching importance to race, here was one options: argue that races are untrue groupings, having no spiritual significance. But instead Steiner stressed his racial teachings, claiming they are benevolent: 

"The evolution of man through reincarnations in ever higher ethnic and racial forms is thus a process of liberation.”  — KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS, p. 208.

• ◊ •

The divine connection between a people and its god is maintained by occult initiates who work through the etheric body:

"[T]he connection of the individual representatives of a people with the Archangelic Being who guides it is primarily through the forces of the etheric body.” — Sergei O. Prokofieff, ETERNAL INDIVIDUALITY (Temple Lodge Publishing, 1982), p. 310. [9] (The etheric body is the first of three invisible bodies that incarnate during childhood, Anthroposophists believe. See "Incarnation".)

• ◊ •

Under the guidance of the Archangel Michael, we are moving toward a time when the divisions between peoples, nations, and (implicitly) races will lose their importance — but we aren't there yet:

“The archangels influence peoples and nations, and the archai [gods a level higher than Archangels] [influence] whole periods of civilizations [10] ... Michael...has become the ruling spirit [of our evolutionary stage]. In the Michael age, which began in 1879, there is...a movement to overcome nationalism, but the counter-forces are strong.” — Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION (Sophia Books, 1996), p. 94. [11]

Steiner explained that people today are still the product of their folk groups: 

"Many people no doubt say: 'Oh, I have freed myself from all lineal and racial connections' ... But to these people one must reply: 'Who, then, brought you this freedom? ... Have not your lineage, your people, your race, made you what you are?' ... [I]f now, raised above all prejudices, you are one of the lightbringers and benefactors of your stock or even of your race, it is to their upbringing that you owe it." — KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS, pp. 199-200.

• ◊ •

Today, humans are separated because they have different folk souls. These differences must be overcome in the future. For the present, however, the differences are significant, and we will overcome them only by fully plumbing the essence of the "folk" (the ethnic group):

“We must...become free from the Folk Soul and turn instead to the all-human within each of us. But the common mission will only exist when people from the different Folk Souls acquire understanding of what one might call ‘self-knowledge of the Folk’.” — Richard Seddon, EUROPA: A SPIRITUAL BIOGRAPHY (Temple Lodge Publishing, 1995), p. 112. [12]

• ◊ •

The spiritual advancement of all humanity can hinge on the fulfillment of particular national or transnational missions (certain peoples lead humanity in certain periods). Central Europeans (especially Germans) will lead civilized humanity higher; uncivilized humanity will not receive this guidance:

“[T]he third stage — corresponding to Initiation — will be the highest culmination and fulfillment of the mission of Central Europe in earthly evolution, when Central Europeans will be dispersed throughout the civilized world [13] in order everywhere to sow seeds and lay the foundations for the spiritual epoch that is to come.” — Sergei O. Prokofieff, THE SPIRITUAL ORIGINS OF EASTERN EUROPE AND THE FUTURE MYSTERIES OF THE HOLY GRAIL (Temple Lodge Publishing, 1993), p. 376.

• ◊ •

The German spirit and mission are especially significant:

◊ “[N]ations of the northern part of the East are preparing something like a mighty marriage of spiritual thinking with the intellectuality of the West; but this can only be of value if the German Folk Spirit can find souls able to graft the Christ impulse into their astral bodies....” — Richard Seddon, THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY AND THE EARTH AS FORESEEN BY RUDOLF STEINER (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2002), pp. 39-40. (The astral body is the second of three invisible bodies that incarnate during childhood, Anthroposophists believe. See "Incarnation".)

◊ "[T]he German Folk Spirit [has its] principal task until the beginning of the sixth cultural epoch...to spread...a creative spiritual life from the source of Central Europe amongst mankind as a whole." — Sergei O. Prokofieff, THE SPIRITUAL ORIGINS OF EASTERN EUROPE AND THE FUTURE MYSTERIES OF THE HOLY GRAIL (Temple Lodge Publishing, 1993), p. 340. [14]

◊ "Germany's mission lies...in the mediation between East and West ... Woe to the world if Germany were permitted to fall into the clutches of Communism ... [That] might well put an end to all human freedom for centuries to come." — Franz Winkler, NATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS (Myrin Institute, Waldorf School of Adelphi University, 1956; reprinted 1976), p. 28.

• ◊ •

But other peoples also have important spiritual missions:

"The overcoming of [numerous] trials would lead to a mastering of those spiritual powers needed for the fulfilment of the Russian people's future mission on behalf of human evolution — establishing a kingdom of brotherly love, and spreading a new spiritual culture throughout the Earth. The spiritual science of Anthroposophy is required to understand [this].” — Publisher’s description of Sergei O. Prokofieff’s PROPHECY OF THE RUSSIAN EPIC (Rudolf Steiner College Publications, 1993).

All peoples, nations, and races have their own missions because all stand separate and apart from the others; all have their own gods, their own karmas.

• ◊ •

The influence of each folk soul extends throughout the people it guides and it reaches down to the individual human soul:

“In [the] ‘Angel-like figure' who inspires Faust and guides him in his spiritual strivings, it is possible to see a pictorial imagination of the German Folk Spirit (Archangel) — who guides the most populous of the Central European peoples....” — Sergei O. Prokofieff, THE SPIRITUAL ORIGINS OF EASTERN EUROPE AND THE FUTURE MYSTERIES OF THE HOLY GRAIL (Temple Lodge Publishing, 1993), pp. 341-342. [15]

• ◊ •

Various races — "leading races" — have led the way during various stages of human evolution. This will change, but not until far into the future. [16] And even then, folk or racial spirits will still have sway:

“[T]he Double [the human doppelgänger, the evil inner twin] must be fully recognized and overcome. This age [3573-5733 AD] is centred in Russia because Russian soil reflects back special forces in the cosmic light which awaken the capacity to do this (there is no leading race as such). The Slavonic Folk Spirit works in this vibrating light to affect the way in which ideas are formed in the head....” — Richard Seddon, THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY AND THE EARTH AS FORESEEN BY RUDOLF STEINER (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2002), p. 41. [17]

Anthroposophy looks forward to a time when humans will no longer be divided from one another, but it does not affirm full human equality now. Rather, it asserts that we are still the products of our folk souls, and we will continue to be such for centuries to come. Only truly enlightened human beings transcend our differences now, and even they must realize that their high fulfillment has resulted from their ascent through national and racial stages.

When a spiritual aspirant attains enlightment, 

"The family-, folk- and race-Spirits are revealed in their full reality, so that the pupil [i.e., the spiritual aspirant] sees clearly how he has been led up to now [by these Spirits]." — KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS, p. 201. 

This is a restatement of Steiner's assertion that we become liberated by rising from low folk/national/racial levels to higher levels. We advance by moving upward through these levels.

According to the Anthroposophical vision, humanity will not attain universal equality until trailing or inferior races cease to exist. In that "ideal" future, all humans who remain within the upward flow of evolution will incarnate as post-racial beings. The Anthroposophical solution to racism is to abolish races. This is quite different from affirming the equality of all races.

• ◊ •

Although races as we know them now will eventually cease to exist, races of a different sort will develop, specifically a good race and an evil race:

“This age [3573-5733 AD] in fact recapitulates the Persian (Gemini) age, especially its experience of the polarities between light and dark, good and evil, which is now an actual division between good and evil races.” — Richard Seddon, THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY AND THE EARTH AS FORESEEN BY RUDOLF STEINER (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2002), p. 53. [18]

• ◊ •

Affected by astrological powers, the good race will embody the best in humanity while the evil race will descend to animality and baseness:

◊ "[S]omeday there will be those in whose karma there is no longer any evil, but also a race evil by nature, among whom all kinds of evil will be developed to a higher degree than in the most savage animals." — Richard Seddon, MANI: His Life and Work (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2012), p. 61.

◊ “[T]he image of the Centaur (Archer) will, so to speak, divide spiritually into two parts, so that the good race will take into itself the forces of the upper, human part, while the evil race will take up its lower, animal, part.”  — Sergei O. Prokofieff, THE TWELVE HOLY NIGHTS AND THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2004), p. 13.

• ◊ •

The good race will evolve upward, whereas the evil race will descends lower. Which race you enter depends on your own actions:

“On a number of occasions Rudolf Steiner spoke of two future races — the Good and the Evil ... Steiner made the significant statement that a soul may incarnate in the evil race, which he characterized as being ‘on the down grade’, but that if that soul does not ‘commit evil’ during that lifetime, it may incarnate next time in the good race, the race ‘that is ascending.’” — Sevak Gulbekian, THE FUTURE IS NOW (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2000), p. 186.

• ◊ •

Even when expressing admirable sentiments for the whole of humanity, Anthroposophists tend to frame the subject in terms of peoples, nations, and races:

“During the course of human evolution what we could term 'blood-love' gradually spread from smaller to larger groups of human beings, from a family to a tribe and a people ... With the Advent of Christ...the whole of mankind — all nations and races — was endowed with the seed from which could grow spiritual love ... [I]t will be increasingly imperative for all human beings, for all nations and races, to acquire real ‘knowledge of spirit beings [i.e., gods] and of spiritual life.’” — Sevak Gulbekian, THE FUTURE IS NOW (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2000), p. 176.

•• ◊ ••

What does all this mean for Waldorf schooling? Here's one quick indication:

The standard Waldorf curriculum includes tales and myths from many lands. In other sorts of schools, this might be taken as a laudable effort at multiculturalism. But from an Anthroposophical perspective, relaying such tales to Waldorf students exposes the children to the spiritual experiences of peoples who stand at varying levels of evolutionary development, peoples who strive to fulfill varying national or racial missions, and peoples who receive guidance from varying spirits or gods. References to "various races and nations" have a different meaning in an Anthroposophical context than almost anywhere else.

"Story material for reading and telling [in class] should be sought in the folk-tales of various races and nations." — Gilbert Childs, STEINER EDUCATION IN THEORY AND PRACTICE (Floris Books, Anthroposophical Press, 1998), p. 174.

(You might ask yourself whether whether races have folk tales. Nations may have differing, characteristic folk tales, but do races? [19])

•• ◊ ••

Rudolf Steiner's followers do not mean to be racists. Most of them sincerely deplore racism, and they do not think that their belief system — Anthroposophy — is racist. In a sense, they are right. But in another, deeper sense, they are mistaken. Racism is embedded in the very structure of Anthroposophy; it is inherent in the doctrines that Steiner's followers — with the best intentions in the world — embrace. Anthroposophical racism is unintended. It is uncomprehending. We may stipulate that it is more nearly an unconscious tendency than an actualized evil. But it exists; it is a cancer gnawing at the internal organs of a system that is ostensibly humane and loving.

Can the racism in Anthroposophy be excised? Perhaps. The surgery would be complex, leaving scars and voids. Still, it might be achieved. But the first requirement on the path to moral and spiritual health — the very state Anthroposophists aspire to — is comprehension. Anthroposophists need to comprehend the nature of the racism they inherited from their master. Only then will they have any hope of freeing themselves from it.

••• ◊ •••

You and Your Race

A play written for Waldorf third graders presents the story of Noah and the Flood. Various Anthroposophical beliefs are worked in, including explict reference to races.

After the floodwaters subside, Archangels oversee the division of humanity into races. The Archangels address Noah's sons:

"MICHAEL: 'Shem, to the North and West you must go ... You and your race shall become those who know.'

"GABRIEL: 'Japheth ... Go to the East ... You and your race shall become those who do.'

"RAPHAEL: 'Ham ... Go to the South ... You and your race shall become those who love.'"

The Archangels specify where each race should dwell (in the north and west, the east, and the south), and they assign each race a distinct mission (knowing, doing, loving). As is typical in Anthroposophical texts, the play attempts to put a gloss on mankind's racial divisions. All races must work cooperatively if the future is to be bright. The future described is the Anthroposophical vision of human evolution in a harmonious tomorrow. Each race must contribute to realize this vision:

"URIEL: '...Not one race alone — oh, no, but all three
             'In brotherhood will strive for good
             'And help Man become loving and Free!'"

The play is clearly not intended to be racist. Yet the Anthroposophical narrative of division into races at about the time of the Flood is present, along with the proposition that there are significant differences between the races: The races belong in different regions and they have different missions.

The play, by Waldorf teacher Eugene Schwartz, can be found in the Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 5, pp. 1-9, and it can be bought as a download at the website MillennialChild.com. "Noah and the Flood" was also published in Plays for Children and Communities, released by the Rudolf Steiner College Press. [To read the complete text of the play, visit "You and Your Race".] 

To compare the play's Anthroposophical vision with the Biblical account of events following the Flood, see Genesis 9:18-19: 

"18 And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. 19 These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread." 

In these Bible verses, there are no references to Archangels or races, simply the statement that the progeny of Noah's sons overspread the earth.

• ◊ •

We should pause to reflect on the following passage from the play. It occurs at the end, at the culmination of the action. It is, in a sense, the final lesson of the play, or at least it is part of the final lesson. (The wording, originally published in 1984, remains essentially unchanged in 2017.)


— Eugene Schwartz, "Noah and the Flood", 
Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter
Vol. 2, No. 5, 1984.

— Eugene Schwartz, "Noah and the Flood", 
downloaded Jan. 28, 2017.

The Archangels specify where each race should dwell (in the North and West, the East, and the South), and they assign each race a distinct mission (knowing, doing, loving). Using euphemisms, the play endorses Steiner’s racial teachings. Steiner taught that white-skinned people, living in the North and West (i.e., Europe), lead “thinking lives” (in German, Denkleben), while yellow-skinned people, living in the East (i.e., Asia), lead emotional lives (Gefühlsleben), and black-skinned people, living in the South (i.e., Africa), lead impulsive lives (Triebleben). Steiner also said that blacks, who he said burn inside, have very powerful drives; he essentially endorsed the widespread stereotype of the time that blacks are sexually ravenous (which, in a manner of speaking, makes them “loving”). Schwartz generally echoes Steiner’s teachings on these matters, in a play written for third graders to perform. Euphemisms notwithstanding, this is horrifying. “You and your race… You and your race… You and your race…” If there was any justification for such thinking in Steiner’s time, there is absolutely none now.

A few more points should be made. What are the implications of the divisions between races as they are presented in the play? Note that the two races not assigned to “know” are, implicitly, consigned not to know — they, the non-European races, must be seen as comparatively ignorant. By the same token, two of three human races are implicitly identified as being less able to “do.” They presumably lack skills, dexterity, competence. Not as individuals, mind you, but as races. Likewise, two of three human races are implicitly tarred as being less loving. Their hearts are comparatively cold, it would seem; they are less empathetic, less kind. Perhaps they are prone to the antithesis of love: hatred. Not as individuals, mind you, but as races. These are all horrid, grotesque, racist propositions. Encouraging young children to think in these ways is awful; it is wicked; it should never be done. Yet here we see it being recommended, in Waldorf education, in accordance with Rudolf Steiner’s racist doctrines.

Racism should be yanked out by the roots, not prettied up in cute little pageants for young children to enact. And, certainly, in the 33 years between 1984 and 2017, authorities in the Waldorf movement should have noted the offending language in the play and either amended the text or withdrawn the play. But they did not.

••• ◊ •••

[R.R., 2013.]

To briefly examine the related 

issues of "racial temperament"

and "national temperament," 

see "Four Group Souls". 


“Souls previously incarnated in quite subordinate races, raised themselves to a higher level and could incarnate in the bodily descendants of the leaders in Europe [i.e., good souls rose up and became white people] ... This was the reason that the lower races had fewer and fewer descendants, while the higher races had more and more [i.e., as good souls moved upward to higher racial forms, there were fewer souls left in lower racial forms].” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY (SteinerBooks, 1995), p. 30.

••• ◊ •••

If children pick up the idea that differences between racial groups have spiritual significance, they will read far more into race than is warranted. They will have been taught to be racists, whether or not their instructors intended anything of the sort. Indeed, the indoctrination may be all the worse when the instructors truly believe that they are merely conveying objective facts about the varieties of human beings living on the Earth.

For instances of racist instruction 

in Waldorf schools, see, e.g., 

"Light and Dark",

"Spiritual Syllabus",


"My Education Toward Racism"

••• ◊ •••

“One can only understand history...if one pays attention to people's racial characteristicsAnd one can only understand all that is spiritual...if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin." — Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS (Verlag Der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, 1961), GA 349, p. 52.

••• ◊ •••

Here are two passages in which 
Steiner speaks of "race souls," 

and one in which he gives 

a "spiritual scientific" 

account of racial differences.

(Note that Steiner often obscured 

the difference between 

"races" and "nations.")

"Within our earth's evolution the Archangels’ task is to bring into certain harmonious relationship each single soul with the national or race-soul. For those who penetrate into spiritual knowledge, the souls of races are something quite different from what they are for the lovers of the abstract in the science of to-day, or for present day culture in general. On a certain territory (let us take Germany, France or Italy) live so and so many people, and because the physical eye sees only so many external human forms, such lovers of the abstract can imagine what is called the Soul of a nation or Spirit of a nation only as a comprehensive general idea of a nation. For the lover of abstractions the separate man only is real, not the soul of the nation, not the spirit of the nation. For one who truly sees into the inner working of spiritual life, that which is called the nation's soul or spirit, is a reality. In the soul of a nation there lives and weaves what we call a fire-spirit or an Archangel; he regulates, so to speak, the relation between separate men and the nation or race as a whole." — Rudolf Steiner. THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1928), lecture 6, GA 110.

• ◊ •

"You know that what is called Folk-soul, Race-soul, has become a somewhat abstract idea today. Many think nowadays that the individual soul of man that dwells in his body is the actual reality. And if one speaks of German, French, Russian National-souls, people look on that as more or less an abstraction, as a comprehensive concept, embracing the characteristics which the individual members of these nations possess. To the occultist this is not so at all. What one calls the Folk-soul, as the German, French, Russian Folk-soul, is to him an absolutely independent entity. It is only that in our present Earth-existence the Folk-soul is purely a spiritual being, perceptible only to one who can ascend to the astral plane; there you could not deny it, for there it is present as an actual living being. You would encounter the Folk-soul there, as on the physical plane you encounter your friends.
"On the Moon it would have still less occurred to you to deny this Group-soul, for at that time it had a still more real existence. It was the Folk-soul, the Race-soul, which guided the bloodstream down into the bodies, into those beings which circled round the Moon. It is the destiny of our age to deny the existence of such beings as possess an actual life on the astral plane, and are not perceptible here on the physical plane. And we are at the very height of this materialistic evolution which prefers to deny such beings as Folk-souls and Race-souls." — Rudolf Steiner, THE THEOSOPHY OF THE ROSICRUCIAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966), lecture 11, GA 99.

• ◊ •

"[I]n Atlantean times the human body could still form itself according to spiritual characteristics. Therefore it could also take on the form which enabled it to mould all the organs, heart, brain, and so on, in such a way that they could become the expression of an actual ego being, a being with self-consciousness. These capacities and characteristics, however, developed on innumerable different levels. There were people whose inner nature was correctly balanced and who were normal, for they had not developed egoism to too great an extent, nor had they developed their ego-feeling solely on a lower level. With them, devotion to the outer world and ego-feeling maintained a balance. Such people were scattered about everywhere. And these were the men that the Atlantean initiates could do most with. On the other hand, there were other men who had developed a tremendously strong ego-feeling, much too soon, of course; for human beings had not yet reached the point when they could make of their bodies an instrument for a strongly developed ego-feeling. This made the body hardened in egoism as it were, and it became impossible for it to develop beyond a certain point. There were other people again who had not reached anything like a normal ego-feeling because they were more susceptible to influences from the outer world than they should have been; peoples who had completely surrendered themselves to the outer world. Thus it was the normal human beings that were the best material for the initiates to use for the evolution of the future, and they were also the ones that the great sun initiate, Manu, gathered around him as being most capable of evolving. Those peoples whose ego impulse was developed too strongly, so that it permeated their whole being and made it a manifestation of egohood, these people gradually wandered to the West and became the nation the last survivors of which appeared as the Red Indians of America. Those people whose ego-feeling was too little developed migrated to the East, and the survivors of these people became the subsequent Negro population of Africa. If you look at those things in a really spiritual scientific way, you will see evidence of them right into the physical characteristics. If a man brings his whole inner being to expression in his physiognomy and on the surface of his body, then it permeates his external being with the colour of his inner nature as it were. Now the colour of egohood is red or copper or a yellowish brown. And an overpowering feeling of ego arising from offended self-respect can even nowadays turn a man as it were yellow with rage. They are absolutely connected, these two phenomena: the red colour of those peoples that migrated to the West and the yellow colour of the man whose ‘blood boils’ as we say, and whose inner nature is showing itself right into his skin. Those people, however, who had developed their ego being too little, and who were too exposed to the influences of the sun, were like plants: they deposited too many carbonic constituents beneath their skin and became black. This is why the Negroes are black. Thus both east of Atlantis in the black population and west of Atlantis in the red population we find survivors of the kind of people who had not developed their ego-feeling in a normal way. The human beings who had developed normally lent themselves best to progress. Therefore they were the ones chosen to infiltrate the various other regions from the place we know of in Asia."  — Rudolf Steiner, THE BEING OF MAN AND HIS FUTURE EVOLUTION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981, lecture 8 "The Manifestation of the Ego in the Different Races of Men", GA 107.

The formatting at Waldorf Watch aims for visual variety, 
seeking to ease the process of reading lengthy texts on a computer screen. 

Rudolf Steiner's teachings fed overt racism in his time and in the following decades. Anthroposophists today tend to ignore, deny, or actively suppress this history. But doing so creates the clear danger that the lessons of history will be lost. One such lesson is this: The core doctrines of Anthroposophy lead far too readily into racial prejudice of the most damaging sort. Although Anthroposophists now tend to tiptoe around the racism of their early leaders, while professing their own freedom from racial prejudice, they nonetheless continue to embrace those leaders and to republish their works (sometimes scissoring out the most embarrassing passages). Here is an essay that casts light on some of these matters; it has been posted at the Waldorf Critics website.

Anthroposophist Spiritual Racism: Uehli

by Peter Staudenmaier

Building on Steiner's work, anthroposophists have made significant contributions to the unfortunate tradition of spiritual racism. One of the most important examples is Ernst Uehli (1875-1959), a Swiss theosophist and anthroposophist and student of Steiner from 1905 onward.

Uehli was one of the foremost figures in the first generation of anthroposophists. He was the founding editor (appointed by Steiner personally) of the anthroposophist periodicals Die Drei and Anthroposophie, the premier German anthroposophical publications of the 1920s and 1930s; he was a prominent leader of the 'social threefolding' movement; and he taught at the original Waldorf school from 1924 to 1937. Steiner considered him one of the leading personalities in the entire anthroposophical movement, on the same level as Marie Steiner and Albert Steffen, and he was one of the most prominent anthroposophist authors and public speakers in the final years of Steiner's life, as well as one of the three members of the Central Council of the German Anthroposophical Society in the 1920s. At the original Waldorf school he taught religion, literature, German, and history, and according to anthroposophist accounts he profoundly shaped the curriculum and pedagogical practice. (Those interested can consult Gisbert Husemann and Johannes Tautz, Der Lehrerkreis um Rudolf Steiner in der ersten Waldorfschule 1919-1925, Stuttgart 1977, 227-240, and Hans Reichert and Jakob Hugentobler, Ernst Uehli: Leben und Gestaltung, Bern 1945, among others.)

Uehli's work continues to play a role in Waldorf contexts today; a heavily abridged English translation of one of the books discussed below is published and distributed by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America under the tile 
Norse Mythology and the Modern Human Being. It is one of the recommended "Waldorf curriculum guides" on "history, myth, culture" and was part of the original Waldorf curriculum program as well. The role of Uehli's works in the officially recommended curriculum for German Waldorf teachers sparked a public scandal twelve years ago, when the German government examined the works' racist content. The excerpts below will give a sense of the concerns.

Though his main point of reference was Steiner, Uehli's racial publications were also influenced by the works of Edouard Schure and Annie Besant. His 1921 book on the the mystery of the Holy Grail (Ernst Uehli, Eine neue Gralsuche, Stuttgart: Der Kommende Tag, 1921), written in personal consultation with Steiner, focuses on “Aryan” and “Nordic-Germanic” themes while contrasting Germans and Jews. According to Uehli, the Jews are the only people who refuse the present evolutionary trend and do not strive toward Universal Humanity. (141) This, says Uehli, explains the "rage of the Jews against Christ." (147)

In 1926 Uehli published a lengthy anthroposophist book on Nordic-Germanic mythology: Ernst Uehli, Nordisch-Germanische Mythologie als Mysteriengeschichte (Basel: Geering, 1926), dedicating the book to Steiner. It was re-published in 1965 and again in 1984 by anthroposophist publishing houses. Amidst long passages about Thule and Atlantis and proclamations about the deep connection between “language and blood,” Uehli’s book underscores the evolutionary differences between “the southern and northern peoples, the Semitic and Aryan peoples.” (139)

Celebrating the special qualities of the northern “Aryan peoples,” Uehli emphasizes “the blood of the Germanic peoples” which rendered them uniquely close to nature. (110) Uehli also claims that the spiritual mission of the Jews was completed two millennia ago. While “the early Germans were a people of nature,” he explains, “the Jews succumbed to Ahriman and could not recognize Christ in the flesh.” (142) Uehli further announces that “certain primitive peoples that are currently dying out” are “the decadent remnants of the Hyperboreans.” (129) In contrast, the "Aryan race" consists of "the most gifted and the most evolutionarily capable people." (39)

Uehli's 1936 book on Atlantis, published in Nazi Germany, highlights the spiritual facets of race and the divinely ordained nature of racial evolution: Ernst Uehli, Atlantis und das Rätsel der Eiszeitkunst: Versuch einer Mysteriengeschichte der Urzeit Europas (Stuttgart: Hoffmann, 1936). The book was republished in 1957 and again in 1980. It recounts a racial-spiritual selection process overseen by divine beings, beginning in Atlantis and continuing through subsequent stages of racial evolution, based closely on Steiner’s model. Uehli cites Steiner’s racial works throughout the book.

Offering a cosmic explanation for racial differences, Uehli emphasizes that the origin of race lies in the spiritual realm and is expressed in the physical realm. The leading protagonist in this unfolding racial drama is the “Aryan race,” whose members were carefully selected by their cosmically appointed guide. A sharp contrast between racial groups with exceptional biological and spiritual traits, like the specially advanced Aryans, and the large mass of people who do not share these superior traits, runs throughout the text. This fundamental contrast is coupled with the distinction between racial and ethnic groups that “lead” and those that “follow” and the divergence between “more advanced” groups and those that have failed to evolve. (see e.g. 100-02, 114-16)

Following Steiner’s model, Uehli held that while other races had devolved and were incapable of further progress, the “Aryan race” or the “Caucasian race” continued to evolve higher. The “red race” of the “American Indians” is “incapable of further evolution” and thus “dying out.” The “black race” is “unable to develop further,” hence its physiological and spiritual “symptoms of racial decline.” (66) In contrast, “the Aryan race, and with it the Germanic peoples, were born from spiritual foundations,” the basis of the “mission of the Germanic peoples in the cultural development of Europe.” (77) These racial characteristics are based on "cosmically anchored laws of evolution." (66)

Uehli’s book received a warm welcome in the anthroposophist press, and his Aryan arguments re-appeared in a number of his other works: cf. Wolfgang Moldenhauer, “Ernst Uehlis Atlantis-Arbeit” Das Goetheanum August 9, 1936, 252-54; Ernst Uehli, Kultur und Kunst Ägyptens: Ein Isisgeheimnis (Dornach: Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag, 1955); Uehli, “Die heilige Urschrift der Menschheit” Das Goetheanum July 16, 1933, 226-29; Uehli, “Ein Beitrag zu den Mysterien des Zeichens” Das Goetheanum July 23, 1933, 233-35; Uehli, “Eiszeitkunst II” Das Goetheanum, November 12, 1933, 363. Similar claims could be found in anthroposophist journals as late as 1943: see e.g. Ernst Uehli, “Kosmologische Betrachtungen” Das Goetheanum, May 23, 1943, 165.

Uehli was by no means alone in these views. Subsequent posts will provide additional material from a variety of other anthroposophist authors.

••• ◊ •••

[The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, 1999.]

"Uehli's work continues to play a role in Waldorf contexts today; a heavily abridged English translation of one of [Uehli's books] is published and distributed by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America under the tile Norse Mythology and the Modern Human Being. It is one of the recommended "Waldorf curriculum guides" on "history, myth, culture" and was part of the original Waldorf curriculum program as well." — Peter Staudenmaier.

••• ◊ •••

In addition to his essay about Ernst Uehli, 
Staudenmaier also posted essays about 
other Anthroposophists 
who contributed to spiritual racism.
These Anthroposophists include 
Richard Karutz, Ettore Martinoli, 
Massimo Scaligero, and Sigismund von Gleich.

The additional Staudenmaier postings can be found at

Here are two thought experiments.
(A shorter version of the first
appears in Steiner’s Racism.)


Try a thought experiment: A white person is standing next to a black person. You've never met either of these individuals, never talked to them, have no information about them except that one is white and one is black. What can you conclude about them?

According to Steiner,
 you can know that these two individuals partake of different "group souls" or "racial souls" — that is, they live under the aegis of different Archangels.

You can also know that the white person leads a "thinking life" whereas the black leads an "impulsive life" — that is, the white makes extensive use of his/her "forebrain," whereas the black is largely driven by urges and instincts processed by the "rear brain." The white tends to be coolly reasonable whereas the black is heated and excited internally, or so Anthroposophy teaches.

If your encounter with the two individuals occurs anywhere but in Africa, then you know that the black person has moved from the place where s/he belongs, and thus s/he is in danger of perishing. The white person, on the other hand, having evolved from a European lineage, is free to move virtually anywhere s/he wants.

You can know that the white is more highly evolved — spiritually and probably ethically — than the black. People evolve to higher racial forms because they are good, Steiner said. Thus, the white person you see before you is either morally superior to the black or s/he has been morally superior. Perhaps s/he is making moral errors in this life and therefore s/he will slip down a rung or two in the next life — s/he may incarnate in a lower race next time around. Still, even if s/he is morally wobbly just now, s/he is currently superior to any black person in an important sense: S/he occupies a higher level; because s/he is now, or has been, morally superior, s/he is now a member of a higher race.

Let's amplify on some of these points. The black person standing before you is a member of a low race, which means s/he is evil or at least spiritually retarded. According to Steiner, evil people move downward through the races until, in the end, they cease to be human at all. So any black person you see is quite likely an evil soul headed to deeper and deeper levels of depravity OR s/he is a soul who is becoming good but who for some reason lags behind in humanity's upward evolutionary march. Perhaps s/he started out in a low race, as we all do; s/he later evolved to a higher racial form; but then s/he regressed and sank to blackness again. That's one possibility. Another possibility is that s/he is spiritually abnormal — s/he is a spiritual infant who has not truly developed yet, so she has not progressed beyond blackness. Hence, s/he trails behind all good, mature whites walking the Earth today.

No matter how we cut it, according to Steiner, the black is currently lower than the white in an important sense: S/he occupies a lower level; s/he is a member of a lower race.

In sum, you know a lot about the two strangers you see standing before you.

Now, ending the thought experiment, ask yourself whether Steiner's views on race are helpful in the real world. What if there is no such thing as reincarnation? What if we are all now living our one and only earthly lives? Then blacks will not catch up with whites in future incarnations — there will be no future incarnations. Thus, in the real world, here and now, labeling anyone inferior due to race is a permanent judgment: The white is higher, the black is lower, and that's it. Period.

In the real world, in other words, Steiner's views are invidious, discriminatory, and prejudicial — they are racist. Presumably Steiner didn't mean to be a racist. Presumably he didn't understand the implications of his own teachings. But that is no excuse. His teachings are racist.

Three central racial types as discussed in Steiner’s 1923 lecture “Color and the Races of Humankind”: black ("Schwarz"), yellow ("Gelb"), and white ("Weiss"). The primary traits of each racial type are identified. Blacks, who Steiner says are largely guided by the "rear brain" ("Hinterhirn"), lead an “impulsive life” ("Triebleben"). Yellow people, in whom the "middle brain" ("Mittelhirn") predominates, lead an “emotional life” ("Gefühlsleben"). Whites, who have a well-developed "fore-brain" ("Vorderhirn"), lead a "thinking life" ("Denkleben"). If blacks go where they don't belong, they turn copper-red ("Kupferrot") and die out; if Asians go where they don't belong, they turn brown ("Braun") and die out; whites are far less limited and imperiled. [Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1993), p. 51. For improved clarity, I have reversed the black-on-white image so that it is white-on-black. To examine Steiner's lecture in detail, see "Forbidden".]


Try another thought experiment: You meet a group of people who are kindly, well-meaning, and spiritual. You ask them their views on human rights, and they respond affirmatively. The rights of all peoples should be respected, they reply. Every human being deserves respect; all human beings are fundamentally equal.

Of course, they add, different people stand at different levels of development. White people are the most highly evolved. Black people, by comparison — while wholly worthy of respect — stand at a lower level. They are childlike. They are less evolved. They are impulsive and not really very thoughtful: They lead "impulsive lives," using mainly their "rear brains." Whites, by comparison, lead "thinking lives," making great use of their "forebrains."

They tell you this without a trace of rancor or malice.

How would you respond? Would you consider these nice people to be virulent, hate-filled bigots? Surely not — they are too pleasant, too clearly well-intentioned for that. But would you accept their views on race? Would you agree with them about whites and blacks? Surely not — the racial views expressed by these nice people are clearly insupportable.

So, what should you conclude? A nuanced evaluation might be that these kindly people are, as individuals, upstanding. But their views on race are, as ideas, false and (there's no other word for it) racist.

You might wonder how they came to hold such views. And thereby would hang a tale.

An item from the Waldorf Watch "news" page:

“[I]n one’s study of the so-called American ‘people’, it appears more justifiable to refer here to the formation of a new race [sic]. In checking off the characteristics of a race of people according to its own particular anatomical and physiological phenomena, taking into account such factors as skin color, hair growth, position of the eyes, the formation of the skull, etc., all in accordance with older racial theories, it becomes obvious that, [among you] in America, out of a large number of European peoples, there is something in formation which exhibits all the characteristics of a race in genesis.” — Anthroposophist F. W. Zeylmans von Emmichoven, AMERICA AND AMERICANISM (St. George Publications, 1984), p. 15

As of December, 2016, this booklet is still for sale at the Rudolf Steiner College bookstore, under the imprint of Rudolf Steiner College Press.

Rather than repudiating Rudolf Steiner’s racial teachings, his followers have tended to speak of nations and races is the same terms he used.

For Steiner’s racial views, see, e.g., “Steiner’s Racism”, “Races”, and “Differences”. We should note, in passing, that Emmichoven finds merit in "older theories;" in particular, he laments modern psychological and sociological work, preferring the old ways of looking at things, ways he finds in Steiner.

Here are a few additional quotations, culled from recent Anthroposophical publications, that reflect the continuing influence of Steiner's teachings about the special spirits that distinguish various peoples, nations, and races. It is quite likely that most of these authors would repudiate racism, yet all of them retain in their thinking the effects of Steiner's doctrines, such as the belief that nations, peoples, and races have their own distinct spirits, gods who guide and direct them. Thus, they tend to affirm that the differences between various peoples are far more than skin-deep; the differences reach down into the very souls of human beings, distinguishing various groups from one another in highly important ways. — R.R.

“[W]e experience and trust the higher archangels to watch over the diversity of groups on earth. Their task is to lead, guide and influence the healthy development of groups as large as nations because their vision is so great.” — Veronika van Duin, HOMEMAKING AS A SOCIAL ART (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 140. 

• ◊ •

"[A]nthroposophy should be able to 'heal' the young Russian national soul and help it to fulfil its mission between East and West." — Agnes Nobel, EDUCATING THROUGH ART — The Steiner Approach (Floris Books, Anthroposophical Press, 1996), p. 206.

• ◊ •

"Nation spirit — [this is an] archangel...that leads a population and endows its language ... The activities of an archangel as nation spirit are also expressed in the general character and disposition of a people, and their historical destiny." — Henk van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Sophia Books, Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011), p. 85.

• ◊ •

Folk soul. The spirit...which aids mankind during oracular dreams, and occurs in [a people's] fables, myths, and folklore [which are spiritually true]." — George Riland, THE NEW STEINERBOOKS DICTIONARY OF THE PARANORMAL (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1980), pp. 102-103.


• ◊ •

"For Rudolf Steiner a Spirit of the Age (Zeitgeist) or a Folk- Soul (Volkseele) were realities indeed, actual spiritual beings existing in the spiritual worlds with definite functions to perform on the Earthly plane." — Gilbert Childs, EDUCATION AND BEYOND (Floris Books, Anthroposophical Press, 1996), p. 112. [20]

• ◊ •

“The blood of the Englishman is dynamic, the bearer of his individual will; through this the Spiritual Soul in England finds its normal means of expression on the physical plane... Through this pure, receptive element — the blood of Lear, the blood of Arthur — England possesses the power to receive a Grail-Initiate, who can manifest the Will of God on earth with a force beyond what is possible to any human Ego as this stage of man’s evolution.” — Doris Eveline Faulkner Jones, THE ENGLISH SPIRIT: A New Approach Through the World Conception of Rudolf Steiner (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), pp. 215-216.

• ◊ •

“An archangel can serve as a national spirit, inspiring a whole nation with all its characteristics such as language, ethics and folk customs. Expressions such as `folk-soul' and `folk-spirit' indicate the same spiritual being.” — Henk van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Sophia Books, Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011), p. 9.

• ◊ •

"What is being prepared for the East depends on the German Folk Spirit finding souls who are able consciously to grasp the Christ impulse with their astral bodies over the next thousand years." — Richard Seddon, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND (Temple Lodge Publishing,1993), p. 44.

• ◊ •

"[I]t can be appreciated why the Wise Guidance of humanity caused the individuality of [the scientist Michael] Faraday to incarnate as an Englishman and thereby endowed him with a characteristic quality of the British Folksoul. This protected him from the danger of succumbing to the effect of the force [electricity] he was destined to raise to its cultural power through the spiritual gifts he had brought with him [into this incarnation].” — Ernst Lehrs, SPIRITUAL SCIENCE, ELECTRICITY, AND MICHAEL FARADAY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1975), p. 17.

• ◊ •

"It was inevitable that the decline of national spirit should be reflected in all aspects of Egyptian life." — Stewart Easton, THE HERITAGE OF THE ANCIENT WORLD (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970), p. 72.

• ◊ •

"[T]he folk spirit and the folk soul of the Israelite-Jewish people had taken the place of the old gods. The archangel, 'who has charge of your people' (Dan. 12:1), was Michael." — Emil Bock, KINGS AND PROPHETS (Floris Books, Anthroposophical Press, 1989), p. 363.

• ◊ •

.“[T]he art of singing...has to transmit the appropriate method of singing to humanity from epoch to epoch ... [I]t was the strength of more or less instinctive talent, and the support of mother tongue and folk-soul...that brought these singers [such as Enrico Caruso] to greatness....” — Valborg Werbeck-Svardstrom, UNCOVERING THE VOICE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2008), p. 186.

• ◊ •

“The destiny of a nation can be reflected in the destiny of an individual: this is what Rudolf Steiner can read in the tragic life of [Helmuth von] Moltke, whom he addresses as the representative of the German Folk Spirit....” — Johannes Tautz, “Helmuth von Moltke and Rudolf Steiner,” in LIGHT FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), pp. 7-8. 

• ◊ •

“[Steiner said:] ’To enable the Archangeloi [i.e., archangels] to lead the people aright, there must be Initiates of the fifth degree upon the Earth ‘... Elijah possessed both of the [needed] spiritual qualities ... To this testified his activity as the representative of the Folk-Soul of the ancient Hebrews and also his direct connection with...the Archangel Michael....” — Sergei O. Prokofieff, ETERNAL INDIVIDUALITY (Temple Lodge Publishing, 1992), p. 310.

• ◊ •

“For 12 years [1933-1945: i.e., during Nazi rule] the Ego centre of humanity [was] seduced and overpowered, possessed entirely by those anti-Sun forces that separated for this period of time the true folk soul and spirit of the German people from their physical life and existence.” — Jesaiah Ben-Ahron, THE SPIRITUAL EVENT OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2011), pp. 55-56. 

• ◊ •

"Maccabee was a rune for invoking the warring victorious sun-archangel. He had once been Israel's folk spirit, then the time spirit between the ages of the prophets and Alexander. Now, as the spiritual herald preparing his way, Michael stood exclusively before the countenance of Christ." — Emil Bock, CAESARS AND APOSTLES (Floris Books, Anthroposophical Press, 1998), p. 70.

• ◊ •

“[I]n the 15th century...the British Folk-Soul had then undertaken significant extensions of territory ... The British Folk-Soul is especially chosen [by the gods] for the unfolding and development of the Consciousness Soul.” — Joan M. Edmunds (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2008), THE MISSION OF JOAN OF ARC, p. 4.

• ◊ •

[A]rchangels...help individuals relate in a positive and harmonious way to their national group and to what may be termed the folk-soul that regulates the relationship between individuals and their nation's totality. The folk-soul is an individual spirit of considerable stature who exerts great influence on everything...within his sphere of influence.” — Werner Hartinger, THE ANIMALS ARE OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2005), pp. 139-140.

Here are two quotations drawn from a key book written by Rudolf Steiner.

◊ "Each of us belongs to a family, a people, a race. Our activity in this world depends upon our belonging to such a unit. Even our individual personality is related to it. In fact, our membership in a family, a nation, or a race affects not only our conscious activities [but also our unconsciousness], for every family, nation and race has its own destiny, just as each has its own particular character ... The life of families, nations, and races is affected not only by the individuals who belong to them but also by 'family souls,' 'nation souls,' and 'race spirits.' These are real beings. In a sense, as individuals, we are only the instruments — the executive organs, so to speak — of these 'family souls' and 'race spirits.' Indeed we may say, for example, that the soul of a nation or people makes use of the individual who belongs to it to accomplish certain tasks ... In the truest sense, we each receive our allotted human task from our family, nation, or race soul ... [A]s isolated individuals, we would wholly harden within ourselves and fall into ruin if we did not acquire the powers inherent in the spirits of our race and nation." — Rudolf Steiner, HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS (Anthroposophic Press, 1994) , pp. 190-192.

◊ "Peoples and races are, after all, merely different developmental stages in our evolution toward a pure humanity. The more perfectly that individual members of a race or people express the pure, ideal human type — the more they have worked their way through from the physical and mortal to the supersensible and immortal realm — the 'higher' this race or nation is. Human evolution, through repeated incarnations in ever 'higher' nations and races, is thus a process of liberation." — Rudolf Steiner, ibid., p. 201.

Note that HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS is one of Steiner's two most important books, books that his followers — including Waldorf teachers — study intently. Doctrines such as these lie near the heart of Anthroposophy. [For more on Steiner's two most important books, see "Knowing the Worldsand "Everything".]

We should also note that the word "higher" was not placed inside embarrassed quotation marks in earlier translations. Thus, here is the second passage as presented in a 1947 translation:

"[P]eoples and races are but steps leading to pure humanity. A race or a nation stands so much the higher, the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal human type, the further they have worked their way from the physical and perishable to the supersensible and imperishable. The evolution of man through the incarnations in ever higher national and racial forms is thus a process of liberation." — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND IT ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1947), p. 252.

Putting the word "higher" in quotation marks indicates that at least some of Steiner's followers had begun to be embarrassed by some of his racial teachings. But they did not become sufficiently embarrassed to renounce his teachings and quit republishing his works. Indeed, quite unembarrassed, the Rudolf Steiner Press recently released a translation that, reverting to previous practice, dispenses with the quotation marks around the word "higher":

“[P]eoples and races are only different stages of evolution on the way to a pure manhood [sic]. A race or a people stands at a higher level in proportion as its members bring to expression the pure, ideal type of manhood, and in so far [sic] as they have worked their way from the physical and perishable to the supersensible and imperishable. The evolution of man through reincarnations in ever higher ethnic and racial forms is thus a process of liberation.”  — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS - How Is It Achieved? (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2009), pp. 207-208.

To consider a lecture that 
Anthroposophists often cite
as "proof" that their 
worldview is not racist, 
see "Universal".

To read a suppressed lecture 
by Rudolf Steiner,
see "Forbidden".

To explore of Steiner's 
teachings about blood,
see "Blood".

•• ◊ ••

To consider a "study guide" 
used by Anthroposophists
when delving into Steiner's doctrines 
about nations and races,
by George Adams Kaufmann.
Published in 1938, the book is today 
ensconced in the Rudolf Steiner Archive
(December 2016).

[Anthroposophical Publishing Co.]

•• ◊ ••

For a statement about the identity of individuals 
quoted and paraphrased at Waldorf Watch, 
see "Trolls?"

In his book OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE — his most important publication — Steiner sketches the broad contours of his doctrinesVarious passages in the book deal with races, peoples, and other divisions among humanity. Here are a few examples. Some of these passages reiterate doctrines we have already reviewed; other introduce additional themes. All indicate, once again, the degree to which questions of human division, and distinctions drawn between various branches of the human family, are built into Anthroposophy. For Steiner and those who believe him, differences between peoples and races are far more than skin deep. Different peoples stand at "different levels of evolution — and also of corruption." They have different destinies, characters, and relationships with the spirit realm. Humanity has divided and divided again many times during the millennia of its evolution. Reunification beckons in the future, chiefly through the figure of Christ, the Sun God. But that future is distant.

The following quotations are all drawn from the edition of OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE published by Rudolf Steiner Press in 2005 and republished in 2009. I have highlighted significant terms, including some that take us back to matters we saw in previous quotations from Steiner and others.

“[Very early in Earthly evolution] human bodies were like wraiths, like shadows. Distributed as they were over the whole Earth, they came under different kinds of Earthly influence at different parts of the Earth's surface. While the bodily images, being in accordance with the soul of man that quickened them, were heretofore essentially alike over the whole Earth, diversity began now to appear among the human forms. Thus was the way prepared for what afterwards showed itself in variety of race.” — p. 170. 

• ◊ •

“[T]he souls, formerly translated on to Mars, Jupiter, etc., were guided once more to the Earth. For every human descendant born in the sequence of the generations, a soul was thus made available. And so it went on for a long time: the coming of fresh souls to settle on the Earth corresponded to the increase in the population. And when these souls left the body through Earthly death, they retained like a memory, in the body-free condition, the echo of their Earthly individuality. This memory worked in such a way that when a body proper for its habitation was born again on Earth, the soul would incarnate in it once more. Thus is came about that among the progeny of men, there were some with souls coming from outside — appearing again on Earth for the first time since the primeval ages of its evolution — and others with souls that were not reincarnating. As evolution continued, the ‘young’ souls appearing for the first time grew ever less and the reincarnated more in number. Nevertheless, for long ages of time the human race still consisted of these two kinds of human beings.” — pp. 187-188. 

• ◊ •

“Mighty and ominous powers of Nature were thus let loose by the deeds of men, leading eventually to the gradual destruction of the whole territory of Atlantis by catastrophes of air and water. Atlantean humanity — the portion of it, that is, which did not perish in the storms — was compelled to migrate. As a result too of the great storms, the whole face of the Earth changed. Europe, Asia and Africa on the one hand, and America on the other, began gradually to assume their present shape. Vast numbers of human beings migrated into these countries. For us in our time those above all are of importance who went eastward from Atlantis. Europe, Asia and Africa gradually became colonized by descendants of the Atlanteans. Peoples of many kinds took up their abode in these countries, peoples that stood at many different levels of evolution — and also of corruption. And in their midst went the Initiates, the Guardians of the secrets of the Oracles. In various regions the Initiates established holy places where the services of Jupiter, Venus, etc. were cultivated in a good — or in an evil — sense. Most detrimental of all was the betrayal of Vulcan secrets.” — p. 198.

• ◊ •

“In those times, the size, form and plasticity of man's physical body were still largely determined by qualities of soul. Hence the results of the betrayal [of Vulcan secrets] appeared in changes of this very kind in the human race. Where supersensible forces were placed in the service of lower instincts, passions and desires — where, that is, the prevalent corruption took this particular form — human figures [i.e., body types] would arise that were monstrous and grotesque in size and shape. These could not, however, survive beyond the Atlantean epoch; they died out. Physically speaking, post-Atlantean humanity evolved from Atlantean forebears whose bodily figure had already become firm enough not to give way to the soul-forces which had grown to be so contrary to their true nature. There was a period in Atlantean evolution when the laws prevailing in and around the Earth were such as to subject the human figure precisely to those conditions under which it had to grow firm. Human racial forms which had hardened before this time could continue to propagate themselves for a good while to come, but by degrees the souls incarnating in them found themselves so restricted that these races too had to die out. Many of the forms were nevertheless able to maintain themselves right into the post-Atlantean times; indeed, some of them that had remained mobile enough, survived in a somewhat altered condition for a very long time. On the other hand, the human forms which had retained their plasticity beyond the above-mentioned period, became bodies for those souls in particular who had suffered in a high degree the harmful influence of the betrayal. Such forms were destined to die out early.” — pp. 199-200.

• ◊ •

“As a result of the prolonged migrations from West to East ever since the beginning of the Atlantean catastrophe, a group of peoples had settled in the regions of Western Asia, the descendants of whom are known to history as the Persians and kindred races. Supersensible knowledge must however look back to far earlier times than those of which history tells. We are here concerned with very early forefathers of the later Persians. Among these arose, following upon the Indian, the second great civilization-epoch of post-Atlantean evolution. The peoples of this epoch had a different task. Their longings and inclinations were not directed solely to the supersensible world. They were a people well fitted for the physical world of the senses. They learned to love the Earth. They valued what man can win for himself on Earth and what he can then also acquire by making use of its forces. Their achievements as a warlike nation and the means they invented to possess themselves of the treasures of the Earth, correspond with this trait in their character.” pp. 205-206.

• ◊ •

“We saw how the human beings have to be traced back in their soul nature to diverse beings who, coming down from other worlds, incarnated in the bodily descendants of the old Lemurians [Lemuria was a continent that sank before Atlantis]. The varieties of race are a consequence of this. And when the souls reincarnated, all kinds of different interests arose in them, as an outcome of their Karma. While all this was working itself out, there could not exist for man the ideal of a ‘universal humanity.’ Mankind went forth from unity in the beginning, but Earth evolution hitherto had led to diversity.” — p. 218.

• ◊ •

"In the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries A.D., a new civilization was preparing in Europe ... The peoples who after manifold wanderings and destinies came forward as the bearers of this epoch, were descended from those Atlanteans who had been least affected by what had taken place meanwhile in the four preceding epochs [i.e., the epochs since Atlantis sank]. They had not penetrated to the countries where the civilizations of these earlier epochs took root [i.e., non-European lands]. They had instead transmitted the heritage of Atlantean civilizations in their own way ... In the mythologies of the European peoples can be found traces of what the Initiates in the Mysteries were able to make known to men. Yet these mythologies also contain [other occult lore], though in a less perfect form than either the Southern or Eastern Mysteries ... The God of Light was indeed proclaimed, but not in such form and figure as would enable one to say with assurance that He would conquer Lucifer. Nevertheless these Mysteries too were irradiated by the figure of the Christ that was to come ... (The sagas that tell of the Twilight of the Gods, and kindred legends, originated in this knowledge of the European Mysteries.)" — pp. 219-220.

An Anthroposophical motif.

Anthroposophy is a religion 

(although Anthroposophists 

generally deny it).

Anthroposophy consists of 

spiritual visions and beliefs

(which Anthroposophists call 

spiritual-scientific knowledge).

The question for anyone 

assessing Anthroposophy

is whether its spiritual teachings

 contain any real knowledge,

truth, or — indeed — wisdom.

[R.R. sketch, 2014, based on a 

painting by Gerard Wagner, 

based on indications given 

by Rudolf Steiner 



(SteinerBooks, 2011), p. 153.] 

In Anthroposophical belief, human beings were the first creatures to appear in our universe, aside from the gods themselves. In Anthroposophical belief, this entire universe was created for us and around us. Other creatures existing in our universe are inferior beings who fell away from our central, upward-evolving line. They failed to evolve as they should have, so they became cast-off relicts — animals, for instance, or subordinate nature spirits. They showed themselves to be inadequate, so they fell out of evolution. They remained mired at low levels while we ascended ever higher.

The process of evolution continues, Anthroposophists believe. The process of casting aside abnormal, inadequate, or evil creatures continues. Among the beings who fall by the wayside, according to Anthroposophical teachings, are humans who become too embedded in a particular racial form — they fail to keep evolving upwards as they should. Steiner taught that such beings eventually fall out of evolution just as animals have done. Here is how Steiner diagrammed this Anthroposophical tenet (the diagram comes from a German-language Steiner text that has rarely been translated into English):


(Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1981), p. 245.

The long axis, running from lower left to upper right, shows the proper evolution of humanity (Entwickelung der Menschheit: the development of mankind) — mankind's evolutionary ascent as planned by the gods. This axis runs from the people of Atlantis (Atlantier) to modern Europeans (Europäer). The two lines branching off to the right show "decadent branching" (dekadente Abzweigung) — the descent of beings who fail to evolve properly. The lower branch shows beings who leave the proper human evolutionary line and become apes (Affengeschlecht). The upper branch show beings who leave the proper human evolutionary line and remain trapped as members of inferior races, in this case Indians (Indianer).

It is unlikely that many students in Waldorf schools are taught that some people become sidetracked from proper human evolution, failing to progress beyond inferior racial forms. (Some Waldorf students, however, are taught that animals branched off from the human evolutionary line. I was taught this as a Waldorf student. See "I Went to Waldorf".)

It is unlikely that many English-speaking followers of Rudolf Steiner have been wholly exposed to Steiner's doctrines about racial decadence. They may not yet have encountered Steiner's assertion that some people become sidetracked from proper human evolution, failing to progress beyond inferior racial forms.

But Steiner did teach these things. These teachings remain embedded in Anthroposophical doctrines today. They are part and parcel of Anthroposophy, and anyone who probes deeply enough into the Anthroposophical worldview will come upon them sooner or later. They lie in wait for anyone who truly wishes to follow Rudolf Steiner and accept his "wisdom."


Steiner's racial teachings are documented 
on several pages here at Waldorf Watch.

See, e.g., 


Some of Rudolf Steiner’s followers have occasionally attempted to deal forthrightly with his racism. Here is an example.

The authors of the report “Racism and Waldorf Education”, published by the Research Institute for Waldorf Education, make an admirable admission. Some of Steiner’s teachings are apparently racist, they say, and Waldorf schools may need to repudiate them.

This is commendable. But we need to recognize the limits of the admission. The authors refer to Steiner’s racial “speculations,” for instance. But Steiner did not speculate — he asserted “truths” that he claimed to confirm through the use of “exact clairvoyance.” [See "Exactly".] Steiner’s racial teachings are firmly located within the central body of his work; they cannot be glossed over as mere “speculations.”

Moreover, the authors greatly underestimate the depth and number of Steiner’s racial teachings. It is not possible to sanitize the record by excising a few unfortunate statements from his books and lectures. In truth,  if all traces of his racism were to be removed, the entire body of his teachings about Archangels, group souls, folk souls, nations, peoples, etc., would need to be thoroughly reworked. But this would fundamentally alter Anthroposophy. Steiner's racism is integrally woven into the tapestry of falsehood and fantasy that constitutes Anthroposophy.

The authors also indicate that Steiner’s racism may be at least partially excused if we do sufficient research and interpret his works properly. There is some truth in this — we certainly need to try to understand precisely what Steiner meant — but by and large it reflects a vain hope. Steiner was a racist, and racism obtrudes frequently in his writings and utterances. No amount of careful exegesis or apology can change this.

The authors use various devices to minimize or excuse at least some of Steiner’s racist statements. Still, they strike close to the truth, and within an Anthroposophical context they are distinctly bold. They raise a dramatic imperative: “[A]ll members of the Waldorf community will have to appraise critically whatever racism might be inherent in their world view.” In this, they stop short of the truth only by qualifying “racism” with “whatever,” and by saying that racism “might be” found embedded in Anthroposophy. A more forthright and accurate statement would be this: “[A]ll members of the Waldorf community will have to appraise critically the racism that is inherent in their world view.” 

All that being said, here are excerpts from “Racism and Waldorf Education”, RESEARCH BULLETIN (Research Institute for Waldorf Education), Vol. 1, #2, June 1996, written by Ray McDermott and Ida Oberman. 

This brief note addresses a specific issue that developed in the course of our [visit to one American Waldorf school], the reality of racism in Waldorf education as well as, apparently, in the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. One of our team members, on the basis of her time at the Urban Waldorf School, has written glowingly about the promise of Waldorf education for African American children (Dillard, 1996). If that promise is to be realized, all members of the Waldorf community will have to appraise critically whatever racism might be inherent in their world view.

...Is Waldorf education up to the challenge of leading American education away from the treachery of various racisms? ... One vestige of nineteenth-century German culture, phrased in its most pernicious and uni-lineal form as the progress that led to the triumph of the white, Christian and rational modes of thought, can be found in Steiner’s thinking about the evolution of consciousness ... [M]uch of Steiner’s writing can be read — some would say misinterpreted — through contemporary sensitivities as Eurocentric in the worst sense of the term.

... [Steiner spoke] freely about the five races of the world as if they were quite different kinds of humanity, each with a different place in the evolution of consciousness, right down to the blood that courses through their bodies ... In choosing to use the accepted folk terms for race — by color: black, red, white, yellow and brown — Steiner may have been using an unfortunate dimension of his own culture to explicate his inquiry into human evolution. In a later lecture, Steiner...exacerbates the difficulty with the claim that racial history is the key to understanding the different modes of thought available to people, and worse, he traces the various ways of thinking right down to the propensity of members of different races to rely on different parts of the brain. His speculations on the importance of skin color are uninformed, racist and far behind the intellectual developments even of his own time.

...Although Steiner urged his followers to think for themselves and to adjust his insights for new circumstances, a social study of anthroposophists in England found that many of them considered Steiner infallible (Ahern, 1984). If Steiner’s theories do not provide an adequate safeguard from being accepted uncritically by Waldorf teachers, then his writings on race could be dangerous. It is difficult to imagine how his speculations on the evolution of consciousness among different peoples could be applied to individual children from different traditions without being racist ... When a key category in the interpretation of the child’s karmic path through multiple lives is the individual child’s skin color or ethnic background, it is more than a risk: it is racism, and it is intolerable. It is time to sound the alarm against the possibility that Waldorf teachers could be using such ideas to guide their thinking about children in their classes.

Whatever Steiner did say, whatever he might say if he were alive today, if only a few Waldorf teachers can nurture what might be a Steiner derived anti-Semitic or anti-African American prejudice, then Waldorf educators will have to critique themselves before their pedagogy can be of systematic use across the country. The offending texts must be identified, criticized, explained if possible and disowned if necessary ... [Offending passages] can be read perhaps by scholars familiar with a wide range of Steiner’s writings as having nothing to do with the current arrangements among groups of persons designated by various racial terms either around the world or, now far from the soils that nurtured their races of origin, within American cities. Without an extensive explanation of the text, however, it is much easier to read the passage as simple racism, with black people once again treated as the simple children of the earth, close to their senses and instincts, and no doubt in need of guidance from those less driven by the instincts of the body. A non-critical reading of such texts could [account for a Waldorf faculty member] teaching her class about the exceptional sense of rhythm shared by contemporary black persons.

Waldorf teachers are going to have to add racism to the list of concerns they must worry about every day before entering the classroom. The legacy of color racism is karma to American democracy in much the same way that anti-Semitism follows Christianity. If Waldorf teachers do not take this challenge to heart, then Waldorf schools have no place in American education.

...Some of the [offending] texts, having been transcribed by friends from discussions with Steiner, can be questioned as to their authenticity; others...can be disowned as seemingly unconnected to the rest of Steiner’s thought; still others...are closer to the core of Steiner’s thought and can be either reinterpreted in terms of their historical context or disowned at the cost of radically reinterpreting a major theme in Steiner’s work.

Steiner's racial teachings are embedded in his doctrines about other, seemingly unrelated subjects. Consider, for instance, his teachings about nature spirits — the invisible beings that Steiner said dwell within the forces of nature. [See "Neutered Nature".]

Here are three items from the Waldorf Watch "news" page; they deal with passages found in the book NATURE SPIRITS.


“Man has either hardened or possesses the possibility of developing to higher stages [i.e., if you have not hardened your heart and soul, you have the potential to evolve upwards]. Races would not stay behind and become decadent if there were not men who wish to stay behind and are obliged to stay behind, since they have not developed their eternal life-kernel [i.e., their spiritual essence]. Older races only persist because there are men who cannot or will not move forward to a higher racial form ... There are sixteen possibilities of becoming merged with the [i.e., a] race. They are called the ‘sixteen paths of perdition.’ On these paths man would merge with the material [i.e., become almost wholly material rather than spiritual]. By striving forward, however, he [i.e., a moral person] is drawn up from race to race to ever higher stages.” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 69.

Most of Steiner’s teachings are absurd; some are also morally repugnant. When Steiner spoke of subhumans, people who are not really human, demons in human form, etc., he was not speaking metaphorically. He meant what he said, literally. In the passage above, Steiner is saying that we should evolve upwards toward increased spirituality. So far, so good. But in part, according to Steiner, the process requires us to evolve from low races to higher races: Each human soul should move upward through the hierarchy of races in successive incarnations. Old, low races continue to exist because some evil individuals do not move beyond them. And indeed, some people move downward, to lower and lower races. If an evil person makes profound moral errors in sixteen successive incarnations, s/he will become totally material — which is to say, totally unspiritual. Such a person ceases to be human. But good people, striving to evolve properly, rise to higher and higher races. 

• ◊ •


“We see then that it is actually possible for a man to combine with the one incarnation [i.e., to get stuck at one stage of development] in such a way that he remains behind in evolution. His other soul-brothers are therefore at a higher stage when he reappears in a new incarnation. He must then content himself with an inferior incarnation which has been left to him in a decadent race. This is something that positively takes place.” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 69.

According to Steiner, we evolve upward from low races (black is lowest) to high races (white is highest). We do this through the process of reincarnation, returning in successive lives to racial forms that are a step down or a step up from where we stood before. If you are good in one life, you will return in a higher race next time around; if you are bad, you will return in a lower race. However, sometimes people stall at particular levels. If you have incarnated in a race that perfectly suits your moral and spiritual development, you may stall there, unable to go further up or down. If this happens, you fall behind the other souls of your generation, who move on. Thus, in the next incarnation, you (the retard) will be racially inferior to your previous peers (the virtuous upward evolvers). The race you stay in should have died out when everyone evolved beyond it, but because you and other deficient individuals stay at that level, the race continues to exist, but only in a decadent form.

(Steiner said decadent races exist because demons interfered in our evolution: “While there should have been basically only one form of human being...Lucifer and Ahriman [interfered] ... That is how it came about that physically different races inhabited the earth and are still there in our time although evolution should really have proceeded.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), p. 75.)

• ◊ •


"Now let us take an extreme case and imagine that a man unites too fully with what is to constitute the character of an incarnation [i.e., he stalls at a certain racial level]. Let us suppose he reaches what is to be reached in sixteen incarnations; he takes the sixteen false paths. The earth does not wait for him, the earth goes forward and he finally arrives at a point where he can no longer incorporate in a human body, for none are in existence. There will be no more bodies in which souls that have grown too much involved in their bodily nature can incarnate. Such souls lose the possibility of incarnation and find no other opportunity ... They must therefore live a bodiless existence. They must cut themselves off entirely from the progress of evolution. Why have they deserved this? By reason of the fact that they have not made use of life! ... They do not advance with world evolution, they remain behind at a certain stage. Beings that stay behind at such stages appear in a later epoch with approximately the character of the earlier age. They have grown together with it, but not in the forms of the later epoch. They appear in a later epoch as subordinate nature-spirits." — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 69-70.

The entire Earth and all the good people on it are evolving upwards. Evil or deficient people get left behind. If, during sixteen incarnations, you continuously choose the path of evil and falsehood, you will be unable to incarnate again. The members of the good races will have risen high, beyond race, while you and the other incorrigibles lose the last vestiges of humanity. Races will cease to exist, so there will be no lowly race left for you to incarnate in. Therefore, you will become a subhuman nature spirit — that is, a being like a goblin who cannot evolve in the proper, human way and who will be excluded from the joyous destiny of all the good (white and whiter-than-white) humans on Vulcan and beyond. [To glimpse the future of good humans, see “Sixth Epoch” and the pages that follow it. To pick up the thread earlier in our evolution, start at “Prehistory 101”.]


Anthroposophists argue strenuously that their belief system is not racist. Look, they say, everybody passes through all the racial levels. We are all the same. If you happen to be black in this incarnation, you are low on the ladder, but you will rise in future incarnations. We all were black once. This argument overlooks a few things. According to Steiner, it is not true that everyone passes through all levels. Some people stall at a lower-than-white stage — which means some people never become white. Moreover, Anthroposophy teaches that every black person is less evolved — and almost certainly less moral — than any white person. (The other races fall between the white and black poles.) Moreover, to be realistic for a moment, reincarnation is a fantasy. Thus, the racial identity of every person alive today is the only racial identity s/he will ever have. So believing that blacks are less evolved than whites means passing a permanent racial judgment. Racism means judging people based on race. If you hate someone because of race, you are a racist. If you love someone because of race, you are a racist. If you, a high white Anthroposophist, lovingly try to prepare a lowly black to rise in a future incarnation, you are a kind, loving racist. Anthroposophy is racist.

— Roger Rawlings

(Myrin Institute, 1970); Sylvester M. Morley, editor.

Here is a semi-personal aside. Like all of my reports referring to events that occurred during or soon after my years as a Waldorf student, this report is dated. But you may find that it remains relevant today.

The image, above, is the cover of a booklet that details a meeting held between two Anthroposophists and a group of American Indian elders in 1968. Although Rudolf Steiner spoke and wrote slightingly of American Indians and, indeed, of America in general, American Anthroposophists have tried to alter the picture, positing spiritual powers and wisdom in people and a continent that Steiner viewed askance. [For Steiner's views, see, e.g., "Races" and "America".]

The two Anthroposophists at the conference were Dr. Franz Winkler, an Anthroposophical physician, and Sylvester M. Morley, who had undertaken studies of American Indian culture. Dr. Winkler was my own doctor, as well as a board member at the Waldorf school I attended. Sylvester Morley, chairman of the Myrin Institute, delivered the commencement address during my Waldorf class's eighth grade graduation ceremony. He spoke to us about the spiritual wisdom of American Indians.

CAN THE RED MAN HELP THE WHITE MAN? was published in 1970 by the Myrin Institute, an organization that in those days was deeply committed to Waldorf education. H. AlarIk W. Myrin, founder of the institute, was the major financial backer of the Waldorf school I attended. Without his support, our school would not have been built. I met Mr. Myrin on several occasions.

The main point worth considering here, in our examination of embedded Anthroposophical racism, centers on the title of the booklet. The title refers to "the red man" and "the white man." We should pause to ask ourselves whether these terms have any real meaning. Is there such a thing as "the red man"? Are all American Indians alike? Can we characterize all American Indians, as individual human beings, by discussing the racial category designated by the term "the red man"?

Likewise, is there any such thing as "the white man"? Are all whites the same? Can we characterize all whites (Germans, Russians, Canadians, Britons...), as individual human beings, by discussing the racial category designated by the term "the white man"?

Clearly not. There is no such thing as "the red man"; there is no such thing as "the white man." These labels represent unjust, unfounded racial stereotypes. Yet to Anthroposophists, such labels are perfectly sensible. Indeed, Anthroposophists have used such terms even when their intentions have been to counteract racial prejudice, as when publishing booklets that praise "the red man." The racism embedded in Anthroposophy often goes unnoticed by Anthroposophists themselves; it often exists within the context of self-affirmed racial "enlightenment;" yet it exists, embedded in the Anthroposophical worldview.

"The Indian way of life — the Indian manner of thinking and observing the world — is different from the white man's way ... Indians...think with their hearts ... White men think with their brains." — Sylvester M. Morley, Introduction to CAN THE RED MAN HELP THE WHITE MAN?, p. ix.

Have Anthroposophists cleansed themselves 
of the racism Rudolf Steiner bequeathed them? 
Here’s a quiz. 
Who made the following statement? 
a) Rudolf Steiner in 1911. 
b) One of Steiner’s followers in 2011.
(I have highlighted some key terms.)

“I had the opportunity of working alongside a South American couple today. Both were of dark skin; the man had small eye sockets yet the woman had large ones. The woman struck me as being racially mixed in an obvious way in that not only did she have large eyes, but her entire physique carried quite defined and fine characteristics which I recognized as typical of 'northern races'. As well, the way in which she dealt with issues facing her was through imposing a slow, reflective outward mannerism. What impressed me in this, was that this woman seemed to engage the activity of 'thought' not only as an instrument for determining an outward task but also as an instrument for the maintenance of the various levels of her physical composure, even to the biological level. I personally found this tendency familiar in that it relates in a generalized way, to northern peoples. The man on the other hand had a little more of a coarser [sic] demeanor and possessed a predominantly stalky [sic: stocky] physique yet I found him to be surprisingly tall. He could very well have a little racial mixing to his background though I did find 'elements' to physique [sic] quite imposing. I suspect that this impression reflected the fact that the man engages an instinctual force through his body.

“I've been reassured by several 'white' South American acquaintances that there is indeed a strong European presence in South America, in fact a couple of my own maternal grandfather's brothers immigrated there ... I hope these observations [help in] your ongoing reflections on race.“


b) One of Steiner’s followers in 2011. 


Perhaps some of Steiner’s followers have cleansed themselves of the racism Rudolf Steiner bequeathed them. But the evidence is not reassuring. In the quotation we have seen, the writer (“organicethics”) analyzes racial characteristics almost precisely as Steiner did. [See, e.g., "Forbidden".]

According to Steiner, different nations and races 
stand at different levels of spiritual development.
Thus, the "initiates" of one people have different 
spiritual insight than the initiates of other peoples.
This is "the Egyptian initiate." 
(SteinerBooks, 2011), p. 125; R.R. copy, 2013.
For more on initiation, see, e.g., "Inside Scoop".]

We have seen more than enough statements by Steiner and his followers dealing with the topics we are considering on this page. Nonetheless, I will now offer more. Read them on not, as you choose.

The following are all statements made by Steiner in his book THE MISSION OF FOLK-SOULS (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1929), GA 121. All of these statements are pertinent to our discussion — they reinforce our understanding that racial concepts are embedded deep in Anthroposophy. I leave it to you to decide whether these statements provide enlightenment.

(The English translation of this book is particularly turgid. I have attempted to improve readability by adjusting the translation slightly, from place to place, without altering Steiner's meaning. Most of my adjustments are clearly signaled by ellipses and brackets.) — R.R.

Lecture 1

“[W]hat after all is...the soul or spirit of a nation?  ... It is...a being [i.e., a spirit, a god] just as man himself is a being ... A human being presents himself to the external organs of perception [i.e., he is perceptible to our ordinary senses]; a Folk-spirit does not present himself in an external form that can be perceived or felt by the outer senses, but [it] is nevertheless an absolutely real being.”

• ◊ •

“[T]he individuals belonging to the several peoples will only be able to bring their free, concrete contributions to [humanity’s overall development], if they have, first of all, an understanding of the folk to which they belong, an understanding of what we might call ‘The Self-knowledge of the Folk.’ In ancient Greece...‘Know thyself’ played a great role; in a not far-distant future this sentence will be addressed to the Folk-souls; ‘Know yourselves as Folk-souls’.”

• ◊ •

“If we contemplate the various peoples on the earth and draw special attention to some of them, then in the characteristics and qualities peculiar to these peoples, we see a reflection of what we may consider as the mission of these peoples ... [W]e can then say what a nation really is: it is a group of persons belonging together, guided by one of the Archangels.”

• ◊ •

“[Y]ou can distinguish the periods influenced by the great peoples from whom the post-Atlantean civilizations came forth [i.e., since Atlantis, there has been a succession of civilizations, each led by a particular people]: the old Indian, the Persian, the Chaldæan-Egyptian, the Græco-Latin and our present-day civilization ... [T]he inspirers [i.e., spirits] of the peoples have been at work in those civilizations, working successively ... Thus we can observe the peoples side by side as well as following one after another." [21] 

• ◊ •

“[I]n everything which evolves in and with the peoples there is something else that evolves also. Human evolution progresses. Whether we consider one civilization higher than another is of no consequence

• ◊ •

“[Y]ou can distinguish the periods influenced by the great peoples from whom the post-Atlantean civilizations came forth [i.e., since Atlantis, there has been a succession of civilizations, each led by a particular people]: the old Indian, the Persian, the Chaldæan-Egyptian, the Græco-Latin and our present-day civilization ... [T]he inspirers [i.e., spirits] of the peoples have been at work in those civilizations, working successively ... Thus we can observe the peoples side by side as well as following one after another." [21] 

• ◊ •

“[I]n everything which evolves in and with the peoples there is something else that evolves also. Human evolution progresses. Whether we consider one civilization higher than another is of no consequence ... [F]or every epoch we can find the ‘Spirit of the Age’ [i.e., a zeitgeist or archon] ... From epoch to epoch they pass on their task to the next one. The Spirit of the Age who worked during the Greek age, handed on his mission to the one who came after him [and so on]....” [22]

Lecture 2

“[I]n the different parts of our earth there are very different conditions [that contribute to] the unfolding of the characteristics peculiar to the various peoples ... To clairvoyant consciousness there arises over every part of our earth a peculiar spiritual cloudlike formation which we must designate as the etheric aura of that special part of the earth. This etheric aura is quite different over the land of Switzerland [for example] from what it is over the land of Italy, and again different over the lands of Norway, Denmark or Germany [etc.] ... [T]hose who wish to follow the destinies of our human race in their true form on earth, endeavor to follow the interpenetration...of the etheric auras of the different parts of our earth ... In truth that which mysteriously confronts us in the part of the earth inhabited by a certain people, is the etheric aura of that particular part of the earth.”

• ◊ •

“The etheric aura of the folk acts upon the choleric, the phlegmatic and the sanguine temperaments [23]; on the whole, therefore, the power of the etheric aura of the folk flows into these three temperaments. Now these three may be mingled in many different ways and may co-operate differently in different human individuals. You may think of an endless variety of ways in which the three forces co-operate, when one influences another, or conquers it, etc. Thus arise the many configurations which we meet with, e.g., in Russia, in Norway or Germany. That which works into the temperaments constitutes the national character of man ... National temperaments are therefore mingled according to the interpenetration of the folk aura.”

• ◊ •

“[W]e shall only understand the history of the world, in so far [sic] as it consists of the histories of peoples, if we follow up the normal and abnormal Archangels, [and] the normal and abnormal Spirits of Personality [i.e., Archai]...and at the same time follow up their work in peoples that succeed each other in the course of the world's history.” [24]

Lecture 3

“By means of [cooperation among the gods] the shaping of what we call the human races takes place, which we must distinguish from the peoples.... [W]e must not confuse all this. A nation is not a race ... [R]aces are different communities from nations. We are certainly right in speaking of a German, a Dutch, a Norwegian nation, but we speak of a Germanic race. Now what acts in the idea of a race? The Beings whom we describe as normal Spirits of Form or Powers act therein in combination with those Beings whom we have learnt to know as the abnormal Spirits of Form, but who in reality are Spirits of Motion [25] ... That is why mankind is divided into races. That which makes man the same over the whole globe, which makes each man...a member of the whole human kingdom, is brought about by the normal Spirits of Form. But that which...divides the whole of humanity into races, is brought about by the abnormal Spirits of Form, who have denied themselves so that there should not be one humanity only upon the earth but a variety of peoples.” [26]

• ◊ •

“Think of [folk spirits or archangels] as gazing into a world which does not extend to the minerals, plants or animals. Think that instead of this, their vision [focuses on] human egos, around which...is gathered something that appears as a sort of aura. You have then the picture of how the Archangelic Being looks down upon...the folk belonging to him ... His world consists of an astral field of perception in which there are certain centers; these centers, these central points, are the several human personalities, the several human egos [who are members of that folk spirit's people]. Just therefore as to us, colors and sounds, warmth and cold are within our field of perception...so to the Archangelic Beings, to the Folk-spirits, we ourselves...are the field of perception ... [We are] the scene of action for the Archangels or Folk-spirits.” [27]

• ◊ •

“[For an] Archangel...the rise and decline of a nation...gives him the occasion to incarnate in some particular people at a certain time. When the possibility of incorporating himself occurs, when there is a people living in the ascending period of its life...then the Archangel goes down [to the physical plane] ... [T]he Archangel goes down into a people and embodies himself in it. In the same way too, does the Archangel feel his death, the necessity of withdrawing from the people in question, when [they begin to decline] ... Then comes the time when he forsakes that community of people and enters...into his life between death and a new birth, in order at a later opportunity to seek out in another way a community of people. Thus the youthful upward life of a people signifies the youth of its Folk-spirit ... The descending period of a people's life he perceives as a withering of the [people] in his domain of perception.” [28]

Lecture 4

“[M]an has thoroughly grown together with his mother-earth through being so closely connected with the place, with that part of the earth on which he is born ... [H]e is determined by those attributes which he thus receives, by the earth-forces connected with that particular place ... All these things determine his racial character, and in this indirect way the abnormal Spirits of Form...are the originators of the racial differences in mankind over the whole earth, which therefore depend upon the part of the world in which a man is born.”

• ◊ •

“At a later epoch race began to assume the character of being bound up with heredity and no longer with place. So that in race we see something which was originally connected with one special part of the earth and which afterwards propagated itself in mankind through heredity, but became more and more independent of place.” [29]

• ◊ •

“We must look for the beginning of racial characteristics, of racial peculiarities, in the old Lemurian epoch, and we must then follow their propagation down into our own times, but in doing so we must be quite clear, that when our present fifth epoch of evolution shall have been succeeded by the sixth and seventh, there will be no question of a condition which we may describe as race.” [30]

• ◊ •

“[There is] a point which lies in Africa; at this spot there radiate out from the earth...all those forces which could affect man particularly during his early childhood ... [T]his spot imprints the characteristic of his early childhood permanently upon him ... What we call the black race is particularly determined by these [childish] attributes.

“If you now pass on further into Asia, you find a spot on the earth's surface where the characteristics of youth are imprinted permanently on man from the forces of the earth...[giving] him this racial character. The races which come into consideration here are the yellow and the brownish races of our epoch.

“If we then go further from the East to the West, we find towards Europe a point which permanently imprints more mature characteristics upon man, those [characteristics] which belong to the years following early youth ... [These] ripest characteristics are imprinted on man by [this] spot in Europe. This is simply a law. As all persons in their different incarnations pass through the various races, therefore, although it may be argued that the European has the advantage over the black and the yellow races, we should not be prejudiced thereby ... [Y]ou see that with the help of spiritual science [i.e., Anthroposophy] we really do come upon remarkable truths. [31] 

“If we continue...far to the West, to America, [we come to] the region where those forces are active...which have a great deal to do with the decline and death of man, with what in man belongs to the last third of his life. The line [we have traced, from east to west] is laid down by law, it really does exist, it is a reality, a real curve, and it expresses the law according to which our earth acts upon man. The forces which determine man with respect to race take this course. The American Indians did not die out because it pleased the Europeans that they should do so, but because they had to acquire those forces which lead them to die out... Where racial character comes into consideration [the gods] work in this way; but in our age the racial character is gradually being overcome.” [32]

• ◊ •

“The further we come over towards the West, the more do we see how the attributes of a riper age of civilization are imprinted ... [M]en no longer proceed towards the West exclusively with attributes of the race ... [T]he tendency of civilization is such, that the full freshness of its youth, of its productive element, declines more and more the further it goes towards the West." [33]

Lecture 5

“[I]t will certainly be necessary for one to rise above all the feelings that may easily come to a person from what we must now describe quite objectively. As long as one has the smallest tendency to take an objective description of this or that race, or of this or that people, as a personal matter, so long will it be difficult to obtain an unprejudiced understanding of [our evolution through the diverse racial forms] ... [F]or whatever we may hear about the character of this or that people, and however our feelings and so on may be affected because we belong to a certain race or people, yet [Anthroposophy] gives us the outlook that, with the inmost kernel of our being [i.e., our inviolate inner identity], we shall be reincarnated in successive ages in many different races and peoples. We may therefore be sure, when we contemplate this kernel of our being, that we shall take part with it, not only in the sunny or perhaps also in the shadow-side of all races and peoples, but we may be sure that in our inmost being we shall receive share after share of the blessings of all races and peoples through being incarnated first in one place and then in another.” [34]

Lecture 6

“[T]here are five possible centers of [spiritual] influence [on the surface of rhe Earth], and these, in their reflection upon humanity from the centre of the Earth, really produce what we know as the five main races who inhabit the Earth. [35]

“If we now more closely characterize the spot which in our recent statements we placed in Africa [where the forces of Mercury are dominant, and where] the negro race came into existence, we are then...quite correct in describing...the black race as the ‘Mercury race’.

“...We [next] come to Asia and find there the Venus race or the Malay race. We then pass on across the wide domain of Asia and in the Mongolian race we find the Mars race. We then pass over into the domain of Europe and we find in the Europeans...in their racial character, the Jupiter men. If we cross over the ocean to America, where...races or civilizations die, we then find the race of dark Saturn, the original American-Indian race ... The American-Indian race is the Saturn race.”

• ◊ •

“What [can we say about] a man of the Mercury race, of the Ethiopian race? ... This man is originally destined and organized by the Elohim [i.e., normal spirits of form] to express in himself the whole of human nature. But...from the Mercury centre the abnormal Spirits of Form worked with great power and caused man to be so varied that the form of the Ethiopian race arose; and it was the same with each of the other races.” [36]

• ◊ •

“Thus were the great foundations of the races created, and when man looks up into the infinite expanses of the heavens, he must there seek the forces which constitute him. They constitute him however in their rays which [are reflected by] the Earth. When he looks up to the normal Spirits of Form, to the Elohim, he is looking up to that which really makes him into man; and when he looks up to what is centered in the several Planetary Spirits...he sees that which makes him belong to a particular race.” [37]

• ◊ •

“Everything which gives the Ethiopian race its special characteristics comes from the fact that the Mercury forces seethe and surge in the glandular system of this people. What modifies the universal human form into the special form of the Ethiopian race with black skin and woolly hair and so on, is the result of [the Mercury forces].” [38]

• ◊ •

“Venus Beings [exert their influence] in the Malay race, in the yellow tinted races of Southern Asia ... [O]ver these parts of Malaya there is spread the type of man in whom the abnormal Spirits of Form work upon the nervous system indirectly through the respiratory system ... In the nervous system is brewed that which...produces the more or less yellow-colored part of humanity ... The Venus-forces which work in this race, [they] seethe deep down in the unconscious organism.”

• ◊ •

“Now let us go up over the wide Mongolian plains. In those plains those [abnormal] Spirits of Form are principally active who work indirectly through the blood. There in the blood is brewed that which brings about a modification of humanity and produces the basic character of this race. There is, however, something very peculiar in the Mongolian race. There the Mars-spirits enter the blood: But they work in it in quite a definite way, viz., they are there able to work towards the six Elohim who are centered in the Sun. In the Mongolian race, therefore, they work towards these six Elohim, and in doing so they make a special attack in the other direction towards Jahve or Jehovah who has separated his field of action from that of the six Elohim.” [39]

• ◊ •

“We shall now go back still further and trace how the Spirits and Beings who have their centre in Jupiter seethe and boil in man ... The attack proceeding from Jupiter goes indirectly through the sense-impressions and streams out from thence upon those portions of the nervous system which are centered in the brain and spinal cord. [40] Here flow in, in those races belonging to the Jupiter humanity, those forces which give the special stamp to the racial character [of Jupiter humanity]. This is more or less the case in the Aryans, in the peoples of Asia Minor and Europe, those whom we reckon as belonging to the Caucasian race. In these arises that modification of universal humanity which comes from the abnormal Spirits of Form whom we may describe as Jupiter Spirits, working upon the senses. The Caucasians therefore are determined through the senses [i.e., they are characterized by the presence of Jupiter forces in their sense organs].”

• ◊ •

“Finally, what we may describe as the abnormal Spirits of Form who have their centre in Saturn, act upon the glandular system ... Therefore in all that we must describe as the Saturn-race...we must look for something which draws together and embraces that which leads again to the evening twilight of humanity...to a dying away. The expression of this action on the glandular system is seen in the American-Indian race. From that action comes its mortality, its disappearance. [41] The Saturn influence...separates out the hardest parts of man, and we may therefore say that this dying-out consists in a sort of ossification ... If you look at the pictures of the old American Indians, the process [of ossification] is palpable in the decline of this race. In a race such as this, everything which existed in the Saturn-evolution is now present in them ... [I]t has withdrawn into itself and left man alone with his hard bone system, and brought him into decline.”

• • •

Steiner taught that we are heading toward a post-racial future, and along the way the racial evolution of mankind is giving way to the evolution of civilizations. The peak of human civilizations is currently to be found in Europe, and especially in Germany. Waldorf education is particularly intended to assist in the German national/spiritual mission. [See "The Good Wars".] If we look farther West — to America — we see the destructive forces that may lead to civilization's decline. "[I]t is America’s endeavor to mechanize everything, to push everything into the realm of pure naturalism, thus gradually extinguishing Europe’s culture altogether.” [See America”.]

We have reviewed a bit over half of THE MISSION OF THE FOLK-SOULS. There are several more lectures the book — I urge you to read them. Some readers will find those lectures hopeful and uplifting. Others will see very different attributes in them. Steiner offers a vision of human betterment, an evolution to higher and higher stages. He foresees a future in which humanity will become godlike. All humans who rise to such heights will be equal and superb. Our future will be, in this sense, grand.

But what Steiner does not offer is an affirmation that all races existing today are equal. He does not say that all human beings alive today stand at the same evolutionary level or that the differences between races are only skin deep. Human equality, in Steiner’s vision, is a future goal, not a present reality. The reality today, he teaches, is that there are important differences between human races; some races are lower (darker, less competently adult) and others are higher (lighter, more competently adult). Thus, the race you are born into defines, to a great extent, who you are. This is the “reality” of the world today, as painted in Anthroposophy. “With the help of spiritual science we really do come upon remarkable truths.”

The question I would leave you with is straightforward: Do you consider Steiner's “truths” to be true? 

Some parents have reported encountering racism (apparently institutional racism) in Waldorf schools.
Here are two examples:

“Have you seen it written somewhere that Steiner believed white people were most evolved??? This was blatantly apparent in the curriculum of the Waldorf school we visited.

“My daughter is African American, and this is one of the two reasons (along with the sexist dynamics) that we decided against the school. The teacher, telling me about the history part of the curriculum, said that since 5th graders are becoming rational, and rationality ‘came in with the Greeks,’ that's what they study in 5th grade.

“The whole ‘history as a developmental process paralleling children's development, with Western civilization at the pinnacle’ is inherently racist.

“I saw the unit study books one class had done about Africa. At the beginning, under their identical paintings of a traditional African man hunting in silhouette, they all had the same saying copied: ‘Perhaps this life of ours which begins as the quest of the child for the adult, ends as a journey by the adult to rediscover the child ... It is in the Bushman wherein the two are finally and lovingly joined.’ (Laurens van der Post) I shudder to think of my daughter learning about her heritage in this way.” — waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/WomanSeesRacism.html.

• ◊ •

“To belittle the experiences of families who have been through these schools and seen the worst of Anthroposophy in action would be a grave mistake. Where our children went, not only was there unnecessary physical force from teachers (apparently quite violent), and bullying amongst the children. There were occasions when dark children with some non-European roots (including ours) were singled out; questioning this brought rage from the teachers; I constantly question the motives for this now; at the time, we hadn't read enough Steiner.

"Moving them [from the school] was traumatic. But the relief on our children's faces was palpable. Guilt, too, plays a huge part; if a parent can't shield their children from harm, but actually throws them into the arms of the perpetrators, it's not unnatural to react." — http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/messages/9085.

message posted online by Dan Dugan

on July 28, 2016


Today James Davidson posted the following text in the Facebook group “Independent Anthroposophical Research Examination.”

Something important to consider with regard to the events occurring in Europe and America at present.

“[Future human evolution] cannot happen in the world without the most violent struggle. White mankind is still on the path of absorbing spirit more deeply into its essence. Yellow mankind is on the path of preserving the period when the spirit was blocked from the body [i.e., colored peoples are stuck at a level where spirit and body are separated] ... But the result will have to be that the transition from the fifth cultural epoch [i.e., the present] to the sixth cultural epoch [mankind's next evolutionary stage] cannot happen differently than as a violent fight between white mankind and colored mankind in the most varied areas.” — Rudolf Steiner, DIE GEISTIGEN HINTERGRÜNDE DES ERSTEN WELTKRIEGES, p. 38.

“If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense ... In the case of fair people, less nourishment is driven into the eyes and hair; it remains instead in the brain and endows it with intelligence. Brown- and dark-haired people drive the substances into their eyes and hair that the fair people retain in their brains.” — Rudolf Steiner, HEALTH AND ILLNESS, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1981), pp. 85-86.

Amazing, just amazing. Anthroposophists have accused critics of making quotes like these up. The second quote was the one I read at the San Francisco Waldorf School in 1988, that made me ask the faculty to disavow Steiner’s racism. They wouldn’t. Here we are in 2016, after 28 years of public discussion, and an Anthroposophist says these sayings are “important to consider.”

— Dan

A Final Note — 
On Language and the Folk Souls

The study of foreign languages is an integral part of Waldorf education. This could be very good — children may be led to appreciate many world cultures and their traditions.

Unfortunately, Anthroposophical conceptions of language study are bound up with Steiner's doctrines about folk souls.

Steiner was a German nationalist. One consequence was that he considered the French language to be a spiritually inferior.

“The use of the French language quite certainly corrupts the soul." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 558.

Steiner said that languages reflect the folk souls of various peoples. The differences between various families, nations, and races reflect different spiritual conditions, different levels of spiritual evolution. We receive our tasks in life from our folk souls.

"In the truest sense, we each receive our allotted human task from our family, nation, or race soul ... [A]s isolated individuals, we would wholly harden within ourselves and fall into ruin if we did not acquire the powers inherent in the spirits of our race and nation." — Rudolf Steiner, HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS (Anthroposophic Press, 1994) , pp. 191.

The languages of the peoples arise from their unique gods, their folk souls, Steiner said. The French language corrupts because, from Steiner's perspective, the French soul is inferior.

One of Steiner's key texts about foreign languages is THE GENIUS OF LANGUAGE. A "genius," as Steiner uses the term, is a divine capacity, a spirit, a god. In this case, it is the transcendent god of all language. The genius of language stands, as it were, above the folk souls — the gods of individual peoples. The genius of language expresses itself through all peoples, albeit differently from one human group (a people, a nation, a race) to another.

Interpreted somewhat differently, the genius of language may be considered essentially equivalent to each individual folk soul in its turn; the genius takes particular form in each particular instance.

"[T]he conscious and the unconscious are interwoven in the marvelous being called the genius of language that expresses itself through the totality of a folk, tribe, or people." — Rudolf Steiner, THE GENIUS OF LANGUAGE (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), p. 34. 

Considered either way, language and its genius are interconnected with the folk souls. Thus, to understand the real nature of the German language, Steiner said, we must cleanse it of all the foreign terms that have invaded it, to find its true folk soul beneath the surface.

"[W]e have to sift off [these importations] if we want to study the character of the German language proper. Almost all the specifically foreign words must be lifted off, because they do not express what comes out of the German folk soul but have been poured over its real being, forming a kind of varnish on its surface. We have to look for what lies underneath the surface." — Rudolf Steiner, THE GENIUS OF LANGUAGE, p. 19.

A folk soul is "active, creative," Steiner said; it is the spiritual essence of a country and its culture. [p. 27] When a culture evolves, its language evolves. And this evolution is an outward manifestation of the inner life of the evolving folk soul.

"[Y]ou can follow language changes by noting how they shine through the accompanying changes in the feelings and perceptions of the folk soul." — Rudolf Steiner, THE GENIUS OF LANGUAGE, p. 65

The Anthroposophical perspective on these matters — as on virtually all other matters — is esoteric and occult. It separates Anthroposophy profoundly from ordinary, rational perspectives.

"The present book will be understandable in a general way to readers familiar with anthroposophy. They will read it as an extension of what they know of anthroposophy, the folk soul, and certain principles of Waldorf education ... But the non-anthroposophist linguist will not know what to make of concepts like that of the folk soul, the ether body, the 'Genius of Language,' [etc.]." — Adam Makkai, Afterword to THE GENIUS OF LANGUAGE, pp. 97-98.

These esoteric, occult conceptions (the folk soul, the ether body, the 'Genius of Language'...) continue to be embedded in the beliefs of Anthroposophists today. It is for this reason that, as Makkai puts it, "the present book will be understandable" to them.

Anthroposophists tell each other that you and I cannot understand.

— R.R.


[1] For explanations of terms such as "sub-race," see THE BRIEF WALDORF / STEINER ENCYCLOPEDIA.

Note that Steiner sometimes specified five main races, and sometime he spoke of three or four; here Whitehead refers to seven extant races.

[2] A play written for Waldorf third graders presents the story of Noah and the Flood without reference to Atlantis, but with explicit reference to races. See the section "You and Your Race" in this essay.

[3] Steiner's statement stresses the positive: We evolve upward as we improve. However, he also taught that it is possible to regress, in which case we fall to lower levels or, at least initially, remain caught at a particular level (we then "merge with" a particular race). The result is that we fall behind mankind's evolution, and we may eventually fall out of the evolutionary stream altogether. Doing so is difficult and thus potentially rare; it requires making deep moral errors in sixteen successive incarnations. But it can happen. 

"Think of the Atlantean race; souls have gone through it, but not all have passed out of it. There are sixteen possibilities of becoming merged with the race. They are called the 'sixteen paths of perdition' ... Let us suppose [a man]...takes the sixteen false paths. The earth does not wait for him, the earth goes forward and he finally arrives at a point where he can no longer incorporate in a human body, for none are in existence. There will be no more bodies in which souls that have grown too much involved in their bodily nature can incarnate. Such souls lose the possibility of incarnation and find no other opportunity ... They appear in a later epoch as subordinate nature-spirits." — Rudolf Steiner, THE INFLUENCE OF SPIRITUAL BEINGS UPON MAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1961), lecture 8, GA 102. 

Nature spirits, also called elemental beings, are subhuman beings that have no true spirits. [See "Neutered Nature".] We will see this quotation again.

Recapitulation is a central theme in Steiner's teachings. Not only do individuals recapitulate previous stages of evolution, but so do nations. 

"Italy and Spain are a recapitulation of the third post-Atlantean epoch, the French people a recapitulation of the culture of ancient Greece." — Rudolf Steiner, THE DESTINIES OF INDIVIDUALS AND OF NATIONS (SteinerBooks, 1986), pp. 22-23.

[4] Nations and races, as usually understood, are different. However, Steiner frequently blurred the difference, effectively equating nations with races. Thus, for instance, he identified the French nation as a race, saying: 

"The French as a race are reverting.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 559.

The difference between peoples and races, as usually understood, is more subtle. A "people" may be the residents of a nation or community, or it may consist of the members of an ethnic group, in which case it is (at least by some definitions) the same as a "race." Here, again, Steiner blurred ordinary distinctions, as for instance: 

"Austria encompasses thirteen racial stocks: Germans, Czechs, Poles, Ruthenians, Rumanians, Magyars, Slovaks, Serbs, Croatians, Slovenes (among whom there is a second and separate dialect), Bosnians, Dalmatians and Italians." — Rudolf Steiner, REVERSE RITUAL (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 216.

[5] Steiner taught that human beings have both souls and spirits. The "soul-spiritual configuration" of a people is the unique combination of soul and spirit found in that people.

[6] The "spiritual structures" of a people are the unique spiritual strengths and weaknesses of that people — their spiritual configuration and capacity. It is closely related to their "soul-spiritual" configuration.

[7] According to Anthroposophical belief, different peoples, nations, and races have different dispositions and, thus, different emotional characteristics and inclinations — different "national passions." Artificial national passions are arbitrary or unreal passions to which a people may be inclined, but against which it is protected by its spiritual structures.

[8] A "true nation" is one that has its own god, mission, and karma. An untrue nation is one that has been arbitrarily cobbled together.

Gabriel is an Archangel. Like other Archangels, he has periodically overseen all of human evolution for specific periods.

[9] The "representatives" of a people are its truest, wisest members — initiates. They maintain contact between the people and its folk soul (the Archangel who is that people's presiding god).

[10] In Anthroposophic belief, Angels are gods one step higher than humans; each Angel oversees one human. Archangels are gods two steps higher than humans; each Archangel oversees one family, tribe, nation, people, or race. Archai are gods three steps higher than humans; each Archon oversees one human civilization (comprising several nations, peoples, or races).  

[11] Statements like this express opposition to racism, nationalism, etc. And, indeed, Anthroposophy posits a basic equality between individuals. But note the countervailing premise, which is that there are truly significant differences between human social groupings. Most people today are likely to say that racial differences, for instance, are only skin-deep. But according to Anthroposophy, these differences run far deeper. Thus, in Anthroposophy, it seems sensible to discuss matters that most people would find meaningless, such as the "mission" of a race or nation.

[12] "Self-knowledge of the folk" is the deep spiritual knowledge available to a nation, people, or race. Plumbing the depths of such knowledge presumably leads to an understanding that goes beyond the limits of "the folk" — it leads to a more universal human perspective. But, belonging to a folk soul, an individual can gain this perspective only by delving into the folk. Steiner said that knowing who you are means, to an important degree, knowing that you are a member of a folk — in other words, it means knowing that you have the capabilities and limitations of a particular people. Steiner also said (as we will see later) that the folk soul itself — the Archangel that is the spirit of a folk — needs to gain self-knowledge. This "self-knowledge of the folk" may then be passed to the individuals who are members of that folk.

[13] The distinction between the "civilized" and the uncivilized (barbaric, heathen...) worlds is a holdover from an antiquated, racist perspective that we find preserved here in modern Anthroposophical discourse. Steiner himself did not hesitate to speak of savages. Racism is implicit in such discussions. E.g.,

"How can a negro [sic] or an utterly barbaric savage become civilized?" — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT SIGNIFICANCE OF BLOOD (Health Research Books, 1972), p. 13. 

The differences between civilized and barbaric peoples may be found in their differing forms of blood, Steiner taught. Bringing civilization to barbarians will take centuries if not millennia; the lowly peoples must evolve to higher spiritual/physical levels first.

[14] Steiner taught that we currently live in the fifth cultural epoch since the sinking of Atlantis. Thus, the German national mission will continue through this cultural epoch and the next.

[15] The Faust legend is one of the most significant legends in Anthroposophical belief. [See "Goethe" and "He Went to Waldorf".] Here we find Faust being guided by the German folk soul.

[16] There have never been "leading" races, if by this we mean (as Steiner did) races that are more evolved or spiritually advanced than others. [See "Steiner's Racism".] Steiner forecast a post-racial future, and he said such a future is already dawning, but he also asserted that there have been "leading" races throughout human history up to the present:

"It is contrary to every principle of true Spiritual Science to say that just as there was one leading race in each of the culture-epochs in the past, so in the future, too, there will be another such race, distinguished by physical attributes. The ancient Indian culture was borne and sustained by a leading race; so, too, was the culture of ancient Persia, of the Egypto-Chaldean and Graeco-Latin epochs. But already today it is apparent that culture, instead of being borne by one specific leading race, spreads over all races." — Rudolf Steiner, EARTHLY AND COSMIC MAN (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1948), lecture 9, GA 133.

[17] In Anthroposophic belief, each nation, people, or race belongs at a certain spot on the Earth, where particular forces arise from the soil to empower that group. Thus, for instance, Steiner taught 

[A] centre of cosmic influence [is] situated in the interior of Africa. At this centre are active all those terrestrial forces emanating from the soil which can influence man especially during his early childhood ... The black or Negro race is substantially determined by these childhood characteristics.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 75.

For more on human doubles, see "Double Trouble".

[18] Steiner foresaw that in the future mankind would recapitulate, at a higher (more spiritual) level, evolutionary stages of the past. Astrological influences play a role in all such Anthroposophical teachings.

[19] The answer, of course, is no. Races do not have folk tales. Yet in the Anthroposophical worldview, attributing particular myths, ideas, perspectives, etc., to races has been far from unthinkable. Thus, for instance: 

"[A]ll races have their version of the Fall [i.e., they have differing versions of the story of the Fall of Man]." — Eileen Hutchins, "Religion with Adolescents", CHILD AND MAN (Steiner Schools Fellowship, 1968), Vol. 5, #1.

Anthroposophists often have an unintended insensitivity on matters of race, one that they need to correct if they want to be perceived as racially unprejudiced. Consider the following, from a Waldorf teacher who told his students a story in which a bad little girl is punished by being painted black (pitch is poured over her)

"A number of years ago, I chose to tell 'Mother Holle' to my kindergarten. It is a story that I have a relationship with, [and] had told for years ... An African-American parent in my kindergarten came to me in distress and wanted to talk about the story. To him it was simple. The industrious girl who did the good was rewarded with gold. The lazy girl turned black. This was a familiar, unpleasant stereotype for him. He did not appreciate my telling of the story." — Steve Spitalny, "Diversity and Story in the Kindergarten", GATEWAYS, Autumn 1997, #33. 

Spitalny's point is that he learned to be more sensitive, and he stopped using that story in class. But what is striking is that he did not realize beforehand that the story is, by today's standards, inherently offensive. He did not even realize that the story could wound any black students in the class. [For another example along the same lines, see "N-Word".]

At least some Anthroposophists indeed need to learn greater sensitivity concerning race. If they do, they may more readily see that Steiner's racial pronouncements — even when presented in the best possible light — are racially offensive.

[20] Actually, Steiner generally differentiated between folk souls and Zeitgeists. The latter are the Archai, gods one step higher than Archangels. The Zeitgeists establish the overall direction of human evolution in a given historical period; the folk souls work under the Zeitgeists, directing individual peoples during these periods.

[21] In Steiner's account, humanity progresses as new civilizations supplant old ones. The various peoples he names all exist today, "side by side." But their civilizations have developed in a succession, from old to new: from the ancient Indian civilization up to today's European civilization, "following one from another." The folk spirits have guided this progression, working in cooperation with one another.

Note that the India Steiner means here is subcontinental, Asian India. Steiner also spoke of American Indians in a different context, as we will see.

[22] This is not to deny that some civilizations are higher than others, according to Steiner. But our opinions are irrelevant. What matters, from Steiner's perspective, is objective reality. A civilization would be truly higher than another if it represented a more advanced stage of evolution. 

As we have seen, Zeitgeists are Archons, gods three levels above humanity. The Zeitgeists work to carry humanity to higher and higher stages of evolution: Humanity evolves upward through a series of successive civilizations, spearheaded by various peoples under the guidance of their folk souls. 

"[T]he inspirers [i.e., spirits] of the peoples have been at work in those civilizations, working successively ... Thus we can observe the peoples...following one after another." 

Each folk soul has 

"handed on his mission to the one who came after him."

We should also remember that Steiner spoke of objective differences in the evolutionary levels of various races and peoples — the human beings who exist within civilizations. The objective reality, he taught, is that some races and peoples really are higher than others. In his seminal work, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS, he says so, and he even defines how some races stand higher than others: 

"A race or a people stands at a higher level in proportion as its members bring to expression the pure, ideal type of manhood." [p. 207.]

[23] Steiner taught that human beings, as individuals, fall into four categories of “temperament”: melancholic, choleric, phlegmatic, and sanguine. [See “Humouresque.] Here he extends this analysis to groups of human beings: nations or peoples also have characteristic temperaments. 

"That which works into the temperaments constitutes the national character."

Steiner likewise taught that the parts of the earth have auras, and peoples (folk) also have auras. A locality and its people have 

"the etheric aura of that particular part of the earth" 

and also 

the etheric aura of the folk." 

The two types of auras affect one another.

[24] “Normal” spirits are those that evolve in the proper way at the proper pace. “Abnormal” spirits lag behind, failing to evolve in the usual way. As we have seen, Steiner taught that gods of various ranks have influenced human evolution. Likewise, he taught that both normal and abnormal gods of particular ranks have played roles. An abnormal Archangel, lagging behind, may function as an Angel (that is, a god who normally would be two levels above humanity may sometimes act as a god just one level above humanity). Likewise, an abnormal Archon or "Spirit of Personality" may sometimes act as an Archangel (that is, a god who normally would be three levels above humanity may sometimes act as a god just two levels above humanity).

[25] As we have seen, in Anthroposophical discourse, distinctions between such terms as “race,” “people,” and “nation” are often lost. But Steiner frequently contradicted himself [see “Steiner’s Illogic”], and here he insists on distinguishing these terms.

Spirits of Motion are gods five levels above humanity. Spirits of Form or Powers are gods four levels above humanity. Archai or Principalities or Zeitgeists are gods three levels above us. Archangels are gods two levels above us. Angels are gods one level above us.

[26] Spirits of Form are gods one step higher than Archai (and thus two steps higher than Archangels), and Spirits of Motion are a step higher than Spirits of Form. [See “Polytheism”.]

Steiner gave varying reasons for mankind's division into races and for the simultaneous existence of different races on the Earth now. In these lectures, he attributes virtually everything to the operations of the spirits or gods whom he names. The operations of the normal Spirits of Form, in particular, made us all human. If only the normal Spirits of Form had influenced our evolution, we would all be the same. But abnormal Spirits of Form (such as Ahriman) also were at work, and due to them we were divided into races. The abnormal Spirits of Form "denied themselves" the opportunity to evolve upward alongside their normal kindred so that they could remain behind and divide humanity. (In other places, Steiner gives somewhat different accounts of our division into races and peoples. His various statements may or may not be reconcilable, depending on how liberally one interprets Steiner's words in the various texts.)  

[27] We “belong” to the folk spirits; we are, in effect, their field of vision — we are what they perceive, the “folk belonging” to them. Each folk spirit sees and acts on one people, and his influence therefore extends down to the individuals who are members of that people. The folk spirit does not look down lower than humanity — he does not perceive animals, plants, or minerals.

[28] A people, nation, or race is effectively the incarnation of an Archangel or folk spirit. The folk spirit is young when its folk is young, and it "dies" (i.e., it withdraws to the spirit realm) when its folk declines. Later, the folk spirit will find another people in which to incarnate.

[29] This is one of the evolutionary changes Steiner outlines: Racial differences originally were connected to the forces coming out of the Earth at various locations, but later racial difference resulted more from heredity than from physical location on the Earth. Nevertheless, Steiner sometimes indicated that race is still tighly bound up with location: If a race moves away from its proper place on Earth, it is in danger of going extinct. 

On one side you have the black race, which is the most earthly. When it migrates to the west, it dies out. We also have the yellow race ... When it migrates to the east, it becomes brown, attaches itself too much to the cosmos, and it dies out. The white race is the future, it is the most spirit-building race. — Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS (Verlag Der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, 1961), GA 349. 

In this sense, Steiner taught that each race should stay where it belongs. He strongly objected, for instance, to the immigration of black Africans to Europe. 

"The Negro race does not belong in Europe, and of course it is absurd that blacks now play a large role in Europe." — Rudolf Steiner, ibid. 

[See "Forbidden".]

[30] In Anthroposophical belief, Lemuria was a continent where humanity lived before Atlantis. Here Steiner says that division into races began while we lived in Lemuria and it will end when our present historical period ends. (We currently live in the fifth historical period since the sinking of Atlantis. This period will be followed by the sixth and seventh such periods. [See "Matters of Form".])

[31] Steiner’s followers often point to this passage as “proof” that there is no racism in Anthroposophy. We should not be prejudiced against any races since all humans pass upward from the low races to the high races. 

Of course, no one actually advocates prejudice; even an extreme racist will often decry prejudice, which is pre-judgment, passing judgment without good reason. A racist thinks he has very good reasons for looking down on "lower" races — such races truly are inferior, he thinks. If Steiner did not build extreme racism into his belief system, he nonetheless claimed that, factually, there are very real differences between the races. (“We come upon remarkable truths.”) Indeed, he outlines such differences in this very set of paragraphs: Some races are childish, others are youthful, still others are mature....

We should also note that Steiner did not always say that everyone passes upward “through the various races.” He sometimes indicated that evil, backward, or abnormal people fall downward into lower racial forms, and the worst individuals actually fall out of human evolution altogether. [See, e.g., “Secrets”.] Thus, we cannot exonerate Steiner on the basis of his claim that "all persons in their different incarnations pass through the various races." He made this assertion on some occasions, but on other occasions he contradicted it. 

(Steiner's followers often repeat the idea that every human being passes through all the racial levels. Thus, for instance, Wolfgang Schad has said 

"[E]ach of us has, in the course of his or her incarnations, passed through all the races." — "I and Body", MICHAELMAS, 2012 #45, Paedagogik-Goetheanum, p. 23. 

Probably without meaning to, Schad speaks here as a member of a "high" racial group addressing others of the same order — only they have "passed through all the races." According to Steiner's teachings, no people of color have completed the same journey; they have not yet reached the higher, lighter racial forms.)

[32] Here is the turgid beginning of this paragraph without my efforts at clarification:

"If we continue this line, we come far to the West, to America, the region where those forces are active which lie on the other side of the middle third of life. We come, — I beg you not to misunderstand what is now being said, it only refers to man in so far as he is dependent upon the physical organizing forces, not upon those forces which constitute his essence as a human being but the forces in which he lives, — we come then to those forces which have a great deal to do with the decline and death of man, with what in man belongs to the last third of his life."

Steiner begs us not to misunderstand what he says here, and he reassures us that the importance of race is beginning to wane. Nonetheless, he tells us that racial differences result from real forces, and they express natural/spiritual laws. 

We might also note that although Steiner speaks of American Indians as extinct (he says they died out), he is mistaken. American Indians were victims of genocide, but they were not exterminated — many American Indians are alive today. By the logic of Steiner’s schema, all upward-evolving humans would incarnate originally with black skin, then reincarnate with yellow skin, then white skin, and eventually red skin. But he treats the red race as if it no longer exists, so he offers us a vision of humanity evolving from black incarnation to white incarnation. This is the upward journey "through the various races" that he affirms.

[33] Here Steiner extends his argument from races to civilizations. In the east, we have found youthful civilizations; in the west, we have found mature (ripe) civilizations; and, farther west, we have found dying civilizations. He will return to this point.

[34] This is a restatement of the most affirmative way to view Steiner’s racial teachings. Steiner offered it as reassurance to his followers, who were originally almost uniformly Germans and hence white. (The lectures in MISSION OF THE FOLK-SOULS were delivered in Germany, in 1910.) Steiner knew that his followers might dislike the notion of reincarnation in various non-white races. (Presumably, many would prefer to think that they had always been white.) He told them they may need to “rise above” the feelings that such a notion might evoke. Incarnating in differing races bestows “blessings,” he assured them, and one's innermost "kernel" does not change.

In a passage such as this, we see Steiner assuming a progressive position on racial matters, as judged by the standards of his day. Standards have changed, however, and we can assess Steiner's position in a very different light today. Steiner spoke of the blessings to be obtained by incarnating in various races, but his premise was that the races stand at different evolutionary/spiritual levels — the blessings he mentioned would come as individuals climbed from incarnation in low races to incarnation in high races. Such differentiation between races, judging some to be less elevated than others, is generally recognized today as inexcusably racist.

[35] In other texts, Anthroposophists speak of three, four, and seven main races.

[36] As we saw previously, Steiner taught that all humans would be the same if only the normal Spirits of Form had influenced our evolution. But due to the work of the abnormal Spirits of Form, we separated into races. The abnormal Spirits of Form worked through the planetary influences that are reflected at various locations on the Earth.

[37] The "planetary spirits" are gods residing on various planets. In these passages, Steiner equates them with abnormal Spirits of Form. They send their influence down to the Earth; it is reflected upward into human beings living at various places on the Earth; this causes the human beings to assume different racial forms.

We should recognize that not only are Steiner's racial teaching deplorable by today's standards, but they are rooted in mystical/astrological nonsense.

[38] The "universal form" is the form humanity would have taken if it had not divided into races. Steiner taught that we will become "universal humans" in the future, when we evolve beyond race. [See "Love and the Universal Human".] But we did divide, and thus "Mercury forces seethe and surge" in the bodies of black people. Other forces play predominant roles in the bodies of other races. 

[39] Steiner taught that the god Jehovah was one of the seven Elohim, but Jehovah separated from the other Elohim and took up residence on the Moon. From that orb, Jehovah ruled over the Hebrew people. 

"As you know, we distinguish the Jews from the rest of the earth's population. The difference has arisen because the Jews have been brought up in the moon religion for centuries [i.e., they worship the Moon being, Jehovah] ... The Jews have a great gift for materialism, but little for recognition of the spiritual world." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM BEETROOT TO BUDDHISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 59.

In a "study guide" to THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS, we find the following explication:

"Dr. Steiner reminds us of how the normal Spirits of Form, the Elohim of the Old Testament, by virtue of whom all humanity are one, are in their number seven. Six of them work from the Sun; in the Sun's light we have the outward garb of their activity. The seventh, Jahveh or Jehovah, took up His abode on the present Moon; He it was who by His power severed the Moon out of the body of the Earth, as described in [Steiner's book] OCCULT SCIENCE. It was indeed, says Dr. Steiner, to counteract the potent forces of the backward Spirits of Movement that Jahveh had to detach Himself from His six colleagues and go with the Moon instead of with the Sun.

"Now by co-operation — or by polarity and antithesis — between the normal Spirits of Form, including Jahveh, and the abnormal (Spirits of Movement working as Spirits of Form), the different races of mankind are brought about. Moreover, even as the normal Elohim and Jahveh work from Sun and Moon, so do the abnormal Spirits work from the five planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Their forces ray down from these planets to the Earth; thence reflected, in their reflection from the Earth-centre they bring about the five fundamental races of mankind." — George Adams Kaufmann, SOULS OF THE NATIONS (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1938), lecture 6.

[40] Note that the activities of the abnormal Spirits of Form, who caused the division into races, are referred to as "attacks," and the results of these attacks are forces that "seethe and surge" (Mercury forces), or "seethe deep down" (Venus forces"), or "seethe and boil" (Jupiter forces).

[41] Here again Steiner refers to the extinction or disappearance of the American Indian race. At other points, however, he pulls back a bit and refers to their "decline." American Indians do still exist, of course, but Steiner treats them as essentially absent from contemporary reality and from the upward evolution of humanity. As people evolve, reincarnating in higher and higher forms, we move toward fulfillment in white racial form. This is the glorious future that will allow us to move on to a post-racial existence, a more completely spiritualized existence. As we have seen, "The white race is the future, it is the most spirit-building race. [See "Forbidden".]

To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, 
use the underlined links, below.

◊◊◊ 8. THE WORST SIDE ◊◊◊

The racial teachings deep in Anthroposophy that surface sometimes at Waldorfs


A lecture that exculpates?

One of Steiner's suppressed lectures



Two fundamental legends embraced by Steiner


Ties to Nazism? Allegations and denials

Steiner’s strange version, tied to his racial teachings


Anthroposophical racism, recapped

You may also want to consult the following pages:

America : death

blood : and race

decay : Attila and leprosy

differences : Steiner on

n-word : the worst word, used in a Steiner school

"Negro" : Steiner on

races : Steiner on

RS on Jews : Anthro anti-Semitism

RS on Races : title search

[R.R., 2017.]