‘the false promise of racial progression’

Ok! I now have your attention! I know I do. Nick wrote (in a comment I’m trying to reply to; well, I actually did, on paper, in the middle of the night, which makes it complicated):

Anthroposophy offers nothing that can not be found elsewhere other than the false promise of racial karmic progression.

I know there are people who agree. I know there are those who disagree. I know there are those who redefine spiritual racism as non-racism, or even anti-racism. Or who fail to see that Steiner speaks of racial progression at all. But is Nick’s estimation correct? Is there indeed nothing but ‘the false promise of racial karmic progression’ and is it necessary to judge everything else he taught in this light? Why? (Oh, yes, I know this is topic old. But why not do it again? Besides, I’m busy with other things and need to keep you entertained.)

Right now, on the critics list, there are (once again) interesting discussions on the topic of racism. Sadly, I’m far behind in list discussions in general. It may make sense to pick a few items that could inspire thought, though. I’m thinking of a few of the Steiner-quotes that have been posted. For example this (posted by Peter Staudenmaier in this thread), from a lecture on education:

This ‘Body of the Ego’ is the vehicle of the higher soul of man. Through it man is the crown of all earthly creation. Now in the human being of the present day the Ego is by no means simple in character. We may recognize its nature if we compare human beings at different stages of development. Look at the uneducated savage beside the average European, or again, compare the latter with a lofty idealist. Each one of them has the faculty of saying ‘ I ’ to himself; the ‘Body of the Ego’ is present in them all. But the uneducated savage, with his Ego, follows his passions, impulses, and cravings almost like an animal. The more highly developed man says to himself, ‘Such and such impulses and desires you may follow,’ while others again he holds in check or suppresses altogether. The idealist has developed new impulses and new desires in addition to those originally present. All this has taken place through the Ego working upon the other members of the human being. Indeed, it is this which constitutes the special task of the Ego. Working outward from itself, it has to ennoble and purify the other members of man’s nature. [Source.]

Or this one, posted by Pete (same thread as above):

In each root race various stages must also be gone through. There are always seven of these. In the beginning of a period identified with a root race, its principal characteristics are in a youthful condition; slowly they attain maturity and finally enter a decline. The population of a root race is thereby divided into seven sub-races. But one must not imagine that one subrace immediately disappears when a new one develops. Each one may maintain itself for a long time while others are developing beside it. Thus there are always populations which show different stages of development living beside each other on earth. [Source.]

For an anthroposophical perspective (or ‘seeing things from a higher plane’), please do read Rafael’s comments in that and other recent threads. For more anthroposophical quotes on race, see Roger Rawlings’ website and for analyses look up Peter Staudenmaier’s work (and his posts on critics are usually excellent in picking apart the arguments of anthroposophists).

25 thoughts on “‘the false promise of racial progression’

  1. Still reading unread forum threads, I found this post.

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/22665

    This, for example, is interesting from the perspective of racial progression:

    ***

    “Each person proceeds through race after race. Those that are young souls incarnate in the races that have remained behind on earlier racial levels. In this way, the races and souls that live around us take on a physical and spiritual structure. Everything makes sense, everything becomes clear and explicable. We are moving closer and closer to the solution of this puzzle and we can realize that in the future we will have other epochs to go through, we will have other paths to follow than the ones made by race. We must be clear about the difference between soul development and racial development. Our own souls once lived within the Atlantean race, and they then developed themselves upward to a higher race. That gives us an image of the evolution of humankind up until our time. In this way we can comprehend how to justify the principle, the core principle of universal brotherhood without regard to race, color, status, and so forth. I will explain this thought in particular later. Today I simply wanted to show how the same essence appears in different forms, and in fact in a much more correct sense than natural science would have us believe. Our souls march from one level to the next, which is to say from one race to the next, and we come to know the meaning of humanity when we examine these races.”

    (Steiner, Die Welträtsel und die Anthroposophie, pp. 153-54, from his 1905 lecture on “Basic Concepts of Theosophy: The Races of Mankind”)

    ***

    Perhaps I didn’t finish my post above. I think I’ve said these things before, and I’ll say them again: I think it’s up to anthroposophy to deal with this line of thought. It’s definitely there, and pretending it’s not is just silly. But I don’t think it’s impossible. It seems to me there’s more than the false promise of racial progression — people who believe in reincarnation need to reinvent it in such a way that it’s not dependent on reincarnation through a racial hierarchy.

  2. http://www.healpastlives.com/future/rule/rureincr.htm

    Here is a set of rules about reincarnation – in which we evolve by living successive lifetimes under different conditions – including going through each race (see #3). NOWHERE does it mention one race standing above another – in any way. If Steiner wasn’t a racist, he could easily have come up with a system like this. He didn’t because he believed the white race was superior to other races.

  3. Thanks for finding an appropriate link!

    Yes. So… if modern anthroposophists want to retain anthroposophy but discard the, er, bad stuff, there’s a way to think about reincarnation. And they already use the excuse: Steiner was a child of his times (which I take to mean: influenced by his times, Steiner was capable of being mistaken about the ‘facts’ of reincarnation)… why not take it to its end and say, well, the race stuff in the reincarnation idea was junk, we’d do better without it. Why not say: Steiner could have done better, but his ideas about races came to be, unfortunately, influential on his take on reincarnation.

    There are anthroposophists who think that way, I suppose. And then there are the Rafaels. (I’m still catching up on threads. But he’s such a prime example: denying there is racism, then claiming the racism isn’t racist because it’s spiritual, then ending up agreeing with actual racist statements of Steiner’s. Plus being confused about ‘facts’.)

  4. I hope your trolldar is on to something… because he is indeed a bit too much. Not perhaps the claims on their own — most of them have been heard before — but the combination… and the ways he reads and interprets things (although, again, some basic problems seem familiar…).

  5. It’s always a challenge to guess which is more unbelievable … the fact that someone like Rafael might be a troll or the fact that he quite well might not be. Personally, I don’t think he is a troll. I know he can seem unbelievable, but there’s also something very familiar about the types of confusion he shows, and the way sometimes the confusion is interspersed with moments of lucidity, then moments later, blank incomprehension of obvious reality.

  6. Stumble, trip…

    Wasted words and wasted time abound.

    Astonishing that someone should devote such a portion of their priceless existence to breathlessy expounding upon the misconstrued analyses of an archaic lexicon. Your core must be gnarled as a walnut.

    Frightening. Really.

  7. Ivy, hardly archaic; Anthroposophy is a very, very new religion and Steiner himself only died in 1925 – within living memory. Currently there are, according to Wiki, 1,003 independent Waldorf schools, 2,000 kindergartens and 629 institutions operating as anthroposophical organisations located in 60 counrtries. Many millions of individuals currently support the ideas critiqued here and many of those individuals are prominent in the media and government. In the immediate locales around Steiner Schools and institutions such value systems have a great deal of influence and directly affect the way in which non-white individuals are able to live in those areas. In Europe and elsewhere, xenophobia is on the rise and being enshrined in law in France and elswhere. These issues are current and ‘hearts’ are not gnarled in the pursuit of understanding, explanation and political action; far from it.

  8. the problem you have, Sune, is Steiner’s own words. The moment you recognize them for what they are and deal with them in a sensible manner, in that moment the problem ceases to exist. Steiner left you with a ghost that haunts you.

  9. Steiner admittedly can be confusing and not fully clear at times, if you just read the transcripted words and don’t understand the background and context for what he says at different times.

    The articles I mention and link to try to do that.

  10. Pete’s link is a good one. It is a feasible account of re-incarnation which doesn’t involve a hierarchy of races. I would say, on first reading, it only lacks an understanding of the role of the Christ- Being, and this makes the concept of karma mechanical, there is no room for mercy and not enough attention is paid to the healing power of love.

    For example, “there are no innocent people in prison. If they “did not do it” in this life, they were sure to have “done it” in another life where it seemed that they “got away with it”. Yet the Lords of Karma are totally patient – time being nothing to them – and eventually those who have sown the wind will reap the whirlwind. This is not to punish but to teach them the laws of life and the laws of love.” There are people in prison who are innocent but may have chosen to undergo imprisonment for other reasons. The site mentions the ‘Lords of Karma’, Steiner taught that the Christ was now the Lord of Karma, so love and mercy are now involved in karmic outcomes.
    It is just silly to imagine that all feminists were Victorian chauvinists. many of those people who fight for the empowerment of women do it simply because they see it is right. Their actions may have consequences in the future in the sense that even greater possibilities may be open for them of serving justice.

    I usually don’t get involved in debates involving references to Staudenmaier – for a number of reasons.
    1. He is very clever, much cleverer than me – I guess many people are – and I have learnt that cleverness does not automatically make one ‘good’, i.e., honourable, truthful and just. (For English people reading this post, think Peter Mandelson or Alastair Campbell and you will see what I mean.) I am not questioning Staudenmaier’s integrity – but I am saying I have no way of knowing whether he speaks in a balanced or objective way or whether he has his own agenda which is hidden from me. I do not trust many politician’s. It is part of their art to sway people’s opinion. Once one knows this one has to use other means to arrive at decisions about what is important to one and how one will act in life.
    2. I can’t read Steiner in the original German – so I have no idea how accurate Staudenmaier’s translations are.
    3. I think what Staudenmaier does – as any clever rhetorician does – is to go through Steiner’s works very selectively culling what supports his case and ignoring what would weaken it.

    For example, Steiner says quite clearly that the human race has passed the time in it’s evolution when race has any significance in terms of spiritual development. (I am not denying the fact that race has significance for a particular life experience). He says this, for example, in ‘The work of the Angels in the Astral Body’.
    I do not doubt that he held wrong headed views about race, but I feel that his intention was, as he says in the lecture referred to, that every human being, and he meant every single one, should be seen as a revelation of the divine and honoured as such. This belief leaves no room for negative racial stereotyping, nor any kind of destructive discrimination.

    He was ahead of his time in his thoughts about women, but a man of his time in his thoughts about race.

  11. Steiner can be even more confusing when you make shit up Sune. Why not stick to what he actually said instead of inventing it. You know damn well Steiner did NOT believe the races are equal today. He believed some races are more advanced (white) and others are in decline (everyone else). You continue to attempt to mislead people on your website about what Steiner believed- and that’s dishonest. You’re messing with people’s children, remember.

    If readers will simply stick to his words, and not your ridiculous analysis, it’s very clear (not confusing at all) what Steiner said and meant. If you would have told Steiner at the time that some little pipsqueak from the future would be revising his lectures and appending them with his own ridiculous analysis, I’m sure he would have had a lot to say about it. Steiner would have despised you Sune!

  12. Falk wrote: “For example, Steiner says quite clearly that the human race has passed the time in it’s evolution when race has any significance in terms of spiritual development.”

    Do you have the actual quote?

  13. ‘For example, Steiner says quite clearly that the human race has passed the time in it’s evolution when race has any significance in terms of spiritual development.’

    If I’m not mistaken, in other contexts he’s saying things that can be interpreted in the opposite way, i e, that it still matters. It’s just days ago I saw such quotes. But, yes, he’s often contradictory. Even confusing. (But not the way Sune imagines it, because Steiner is perfectly clear in many ways that gives Sune problems…)

    Although I like reading Peter’s posts on critics, I would actually recommend his dissertation (and that although I haven’t finished reading it myself… but it’s very readable) — more dry and academic, surely, but that, too, has its benefits. The translations I have read (ie, read in both languages) are very good… but these have usually been instances where Steiner is saying pretty appalling things in the original so there would surely be no need to embellish (which I’m sure Peter wouldn’t have any interest in doing anyway).

    *

    But, there’s a new post on the root races; it’s worth looking at:
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/22813

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