Repost* on NON-ANTHROPOSOPHIST ANTHROPOSOPHISTS and the fear of the big bad wolf —
(*rewritten; originally posted in a thread named Inspiration, Intuition, etc. on Waldorf Critics, early 2009; it was about anthroposophy and the ‘essence’ of anthroposophy, the latter supposedly unreachable for materialists, skeptics and critics. Re-posted here for a reason, an up-coming post.)
Recently I had a discussion with someone (whom I won’t call an anthroposophist, because the epithet is apparently hurtful (I learnt), but the person nevertheless has a sort of position within anthroposophical circles). This person had repeatedly asserted that people — unknown who — have preconceived ideas — unknown what these were — about anthroposophy and anthroposophical settings, or something of that nature. I tried to make a case that if people associate an anthroposophical center — and the companies and people who work there — with anthroposophy, this might be because certain ‘phenomena’ are linked together. It’s quite peculiar to tell others that they are wrong if they call anthroposophic initiatives anthroposophical.
Anyhow, despite a position within anthroposophy and being ‘inspired’ by (living in the essence of, I guess) anthroposophy, he suddenly claimed two things that stood out: that he didn’t really know what anthroposophy was (thus the offence when I termed him an anthroposophist) and that he had read no more than a few pages of Steiner. If the claims are true, they’re remarkable, and for someone who’s obviously quite intelligent and educated, reading what Steiner actually said would be… interesting. Or so I would have thought.
But I suppose, on the other hand, scrutinizing Steiner (or simply starting to read Steiner, if that’s what’s lacking) is perhaps frightening — and maybe even more so for those who have the skills, knowledge, et cetera, enabling them to see flaws, to detect bad parts, including the not-so-essence-as-they-perceive-it-to-be-parts, in Steiner’s work. So, maybe, they rather not do it. Even thinking about what anthroposophy is, that is, defining it (if only in order to come up with a definition suiting oneself), means having to decide which leg to stand on. Any clearly stated definition enables others to ask whether you agree with it or not. (Obviously, I’m now speaking generally, and not about any particular person — the person mentioned earlier has nothing to do with these more general conclusions.)
If it’s not being afraid of Steiner, or of reading Steiner, then it’s certainly a fear of discussing Steiner and of acknowledging which parts of your own beliefs derive from Steiner and of considering all those steinerian beliefs which were too unpleasant to make their way into the cosy, cuddly essence and which definitely don’t work very well in the public presentation of anthroposophy.
Anyway, returning to the aforementioned person, he concluded that I must have misunderstood the whole thing (not specified — perhaps the ‘essence’, but defining what had been misunderstood, according to his estimation, would have helped to analyze it…). I suppose those people, who have ideas about what anthroposophy is, have all misunderstood. I probably have misunderstood things. I don’t see the logic, though: how can somebody be so sure people have misunderstood something he can’t define and sources he concedes he hasn’t read? Such an assertion only works for ‘essence’-type ‘misunderstandings’ and, I suppose, unwillingness to define anthroposophy also benefits ”essence’ considerations. Those annoying people — who frequently ‘misunderstand’ — are addressing other things or aspects, and if those things happen to be anthroposophical beliefs, it’s plain odd to say others are wrong about the beliefs, if you have remained willfully ignorant about these beliefs to preserve your own idea of anthroposophy. The feeling of anthroposophy is probably often much more agreeable than taking a closer look at it and confronting what anthroposophists wrote or said, but this head-in-the-sand approach turns into an issue when refusal to deal with a subject is considered a model behaviour that others — outsiders — are expected to mimic.
It sometimes seems to me that what anthroposophists really want is to disown anthroposophy and forget Steiner, but keep some kind of The Greatest Hits of Anthroposophical Essence. Of course, without having to call it anthroposophy; labelling seems, to the anthroposophic mind, like an infringement on the enjoyment of essence. Anthroposophy, then, should preferably be diluted to such a degree that it can be taken to mean anything and everything and nobody in the important in-group is offended.