‘human beings are not descended from the apes’

If I were archiving things, I’d file this (with an ironic smirk on my face) under ‘anthroposophy is not taught to the children’.

Everyone knows the picture: the ape walking on all fours slowly turns erect in the course of evolution into the human being walking on two legs. Memorably and convincingly its clearly shows the basic paradigm of modern biology: we have descended from the apes – or more generally – from the animals. We are nothing other than a specialised type of animal. But we do not have to believe that human beings have descended from the apes.


Human beings and the higher animals are homologous down to the last bone but human beings are the least specialised. They form something like the universal pattern. The basic blueprint or the type in a Goethean sense comes to expression in its purest, most universal form in human beings. Human beings thus become the central creature in the animal kingdom. The question about evolution thereby gains a completely different basis, although of course still requiring an answer.

In the text, the author also remembered to hint at the soul of animals and humans, quite explicitly, but forgot to indicate what separates the human from the animal: the human I. Which is one reason the human is neither animal nor descended from animals. When it is said that the human is the universal pattern, the blueprint, that’s a reference to the anthroposophical idea that animals have descended from humans. However, this happened so long ago that we have to imagine the human in a different manner than the physical beings — incarnations — of humans today. It’s about the spiritual more than the physical, as you might have guessed. (There’s another question here of spirit vs matter, but I’ll leave that aside for now. It’s bad enough as it is.) The human, in this — spiritual — sense, has existed for longer than plants or animals, which are cast-offs, as it were, of human progression. Well, I suppose they aren’t teaching all of this, but somewhere in this (which, admittedly is more complicated than I’ve been able to hint at) lies the reason why teaching evolution in the conventional way is not always the main choice in waldorf schools. Anthroposophically speaking, the human being truly isn’t another animal — it might not even suffice to say that human beings are the ‘central creature in the animal kingdom’, because the human is not simply central but apart, not a central animal among animals, but a radically different kind of being altogether.

Erziehungskunst is the major waldorf education journal in Germany, now with an English edition. The title of the article from which I borrowed the quotes (and my own post title) is actually ‘Human beings are not descended from the apes. Zoology in upper school’. Thus, clearly, that human beings aren’t descended from apes is the major point.

(Of course, if you’re seeking truth, canineosophy has more enlightened answers.)