Most people don't examine their deepest opinions very closely or carefully. We mostly know right from wrong, good from bad, quality from poverty simply on the face of it. We don't go into deep detailed examination because there's no obvious need to do so. And often the smarter we are the less we examine our opinions and attitudes, knowing that we're smart enough to know on the face of it this from that. That leaves those of us who aren't so smart to puzzle over the simplest thing. Ecology? I don't get it. So I look at it. This is what I find.
Anthroposophy and the World League for the Protection of Life
Political parties like these have an assortment of 'Old' Right -- that is, Nazi -- connections upon which they may draw in their search for 'ecological' modernization. One such connection is the World League for the Protection of Life (Weltbund Schutz des Lebens, or WSL). This group is not without a certain general appeal in the Federal Republic, since its outlook is based on Anthroposophy, a body of occult ideas formulated earlier in this century by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Steiner, the leading German figure in the nineteenth-century esoteric 'wisdom' cult Theosophy, founded the German Theosophical Society; he went on to found his own doctrine, Anthroposophy, and the Anthroposophical Society thereafter. He wrote many books on his occult spiritualistic philosophy.
Anthroposophy holds a particular attraction in the German counterculture today, as it did in the völkisch movement of the 1920s. The Waldorf Schools, for example, were founded on Steiner's educational principles and are respectable in many German and American countercultural circles. (There are more than sixty in the Federal Republic today.) Founded by Steiner in 1920, they provide children with an alternative, reformed education, one that is free from aggression and from pressures to achieve, one that places emphasis on the musical aspects of life and on feelings over understanding. Steiner is also the founder of biodynamic farming, a form of organic agriculture that does without pesticides and tries to foster a more organic relationship between cultivator and soil. Biodynamic agriculturists today produce a line of organic foods under the brand name Demeter and a line of cosmetics under the name Weleda. Many people have been and continue to be innocently attracted to these efforts and to Anthroposophy without any notion of the less savory aspects of Steiner's work.
Yet not all of Steiner's beliefs were benignly ecospiritual. For one thing, Anthroposophy classifies humanity into 'root races' in an esoteric evolutionary theory. 24 Building on a similar doctrine in Theosophy, the root-race theory is integral to Anthroposophy's cosmology. According to this doctrine, a series of root races of human beings evolved sequentially over the millennia, each superior to the ones that preceded it, each with a higher level of development of self-consciousness. The first two root races, the Polar and Hyperborean, were 'astral-etheric'; they are now extinct -- the evolutionary process superseded them. The next people to evolve were a bit higher, but they were still half animal, purely instinctive, lacking the capacity for conceptual thought and memory. The fourth root race finally began to be recognizably human; finally came the Atlantans, to which Europeans belong. The European whites, as the most highly developed so far, are at the summit of the hierarchical scale of humanity; they have brought everything that is good to humanity, since they "are the only ones who have developed humanity within themselves." 25 These various races have been mostly killed off in various catastrophes of one kind or another, after which only certain people -- presumably the fittest -- survived; "in the case of the inferior kinds of human beings," wrote Steiner, ". . . the life body was not sufficiently protected to enable it to withstand the Luciferic influence." 26 There are numerous subdivisions within these basic root races. Blacks, for example, must live in Africa, we learn, a land of much heat and light; blacks soak up this heat and light, and their brains are specially constructed to process it; their supposed highly instinctual nature results from all this processing.
And since the sun, light, and heat are retained in his epidermis, [the black's] whole metabolism proceeds as if he were being cooked inside himself by the sun. From this results his instinctive life. Within the black, he is continuously being cooked, and what stokes this fire is his posterior brain. 27
Once blacks emigrate out of Africa, the balance of light and heat is different, and therefore they will die out -- "they are in fact a declining race, they will die out of their own nature, since they are receiving too little light and heat." 28 Such a theory would justify accelerating the extinction of races since they are presumably going to die off anyway. In the future, wrote Steiner in 1909, certain people who have not reached a "high level of development" will incline toward evil: "The laggard souls will have accumulated in their karma so much error, ugliness, and evil that there will form, for the time being, a special union of evil and aberrant human beings who voluntarily oppose the community of good men." 29
Perhaps this root-race theory was what appealed to Rudolf Hess about Anthroposophy, for he became an Anthroposophist. As Ditfurth points out, "The root-race ideology of the Theosophists and the Anthroposophists melded seamlessly into the National Socialist idea of the purity of the 'Aryan race.'"30 Certainly Steiner's ideas on biodynamic farming influenced some National Socialists. Anthroposophical ideas are eminently usable by ecofascists today, and there is a strong right wing within the Anthroposophists that is closely connected with the ultra-right. Author Günther Bartsch is an Anthroposophist who is also a National Revolutionary of the Solidarist variety; the author of an adulatory 1989 biography of Otto Strasser, he attempts in his publications to synthesize ecological themes based on Steiner's ideas with Strasser's political ideas. 31 It should be noted that Anthroposophy is also well funded by huge multinational corporations like Siemens and Bertelsmann. 32
Among the ultra-right adherents of Anthroposophy today are officials of the World League for the Protection of Life (WSL), a small but influential and very wealthy environmental organization in the Federal Republic. The garden at its educational center is cultivated according to biodynamic methods, and visitors are served organic refreshments. Yet this organization was founded in 1958 by former members of the National Socialist party, and today it links protection of 'life' (that is, 'right-to-life') themes and the environment with racism and a revival of völkisch ideology. The 'life' it is most interested in protecting is of course German 'life'; thus the WSL is rabidly anti-abortion, believing that German women should be devoted to giving birth to 'Aryan' babies.
The spiritual leader of the WSL and its key figure for most of its history has been Werner Georg Haverbeck. Born in 1909, Haverbeck became an active Nazi at an early age; it should be recalled that Nazism was largely a youth movement, so that members like Haverbeck are still alive. 33 Haverbeck joined the SA in 1928 and from 1929 to 1932 was a member of the Reich Administration for the National Socialist Student League (Reichsleitung der NSDAP-Studentenschaft) and a leader of the Reich Youth Leadership of the Hitler Youth (Reichjugendführung der Hitlerjugend). He served as a leading official of the Strength Through Joy organization, which controlled recreational activities under the Third Reich; in 1933 Rudolf Hess saw to it that Haverbeck's passport was stamped "This man is not to be arrested." He survived the Röhm purge to help organize the Nuremberg Party Congress and join Hess's staff. It was Hess who converted him to Anthroposophy. During the war he conducted radio propaganda in Denmark and worked in South America; by the end of the war he was an officer. 34
After the Allies rudely aborted Haverbeck's many efforts on behalf of the Third Reich, he contented himself for a time working as a pastor for the Anthroposophical Christian community. He founded an educational center called the Collegium Humanum in 1963, where today ecofascist, esoteric, völkisch, Anthroposophist, neopagan, and primitivist groups meet and hold workshops. He co-founded the WSL and served as its president from 1974 to 1982. In 1981, he was a signatory of the notorious Heidelberg Manifesto, a document drawn up by a group of professors to warn the German people of the dangers that immigration posed to them. Its first draft began:
With great concern we observe the subversion of the German people through the influx of many millions of foreigners and their families, the foreignization of our language, our culture, and our nationhood. . . . Already many Germans have become foreigners in their living districts and workplaces, and thus in their own Heimat.35
Routine as this language may sound now, when opposition to immigration in the Federal Republic is much more tolerated and neofascists pander to it relentlessly, the Manifesto had to be toned down at the time (1981) because of the public outcry it raised.
In accordance with Anthroposophical root-race beliefs, Haverbeck is notable for propounding the thesis that the two world wars in this century in fact constituted a thirty years' war waged by foreign aggressors against the German people and their spiritual life. Apparently, German spiritual life stood in the way of "the strivings for world domination by the Anglo-Saxon race," behind which lay "the intensive image of a call to world dominance, like the old Jewish consciousness." Indeed, Haverbeck maintains, the two world wars amounted to a conspiracy against the German people and spiritual life. It is a "historical lie" that the Nazis ran "mass-murder camps," argues Haverbeck, and is actually "enemy propaganda." It was Russia that was the aggressor in the Second World War. 36
In his 1989 book Rudolf Steiner: Advocate for Germany, Haverbeck lauds Steiner (who died in 1925) for understanding the existence of this ongoing conspiracy early on.
During the first world war, Rudolf Steiner delivered a multitude of lectures about contemporary history, and he toiled inexhaustibly for the truth about the question of "war guilt." . . . Steiner presented his listeners with maps that showed that goals that had been proclaimed back in 1889 were being fulfilled [during World War I]. These maps anticipated the separation of Central Europe that would be ultimately achieved with the loss of East Germany. . . . What was not fully achieved through the Versailles treaty in 1919 was in fact completed in 1945: the demolition of Germany. . . . The leading forces of both parties to the cold war were united in this common struggle against spiritual Germany. "This war [World War I] was a conspiracy against German spiritual life," said Steiner. 37
When Haverbeck's book on Steiner's nationalism was published, it caused an outcry of protest among outraged countercultural Anthroposophists who send their children to Waldorf Schools, use Demeter products, and are in no way racists or fascists. Yet as researcher Wölk points out, their protests were unwarranted, since Haverbeck was only presenting Steiner as what he actually was -- "a crude nationalist whose demonizations were shared by the völkisch groups of his day" -- to show his usefulness for nationalist and neofascist groups today. 38
This alleged conspiracy against German spiritual life pervades much of the WSL's current thinking, notes Wölk. WSLers consider the "flood of asylum-seekers," the destruction of the environment, and the ongoing transformation of the Federal Republic into a multicultural society to be part of the spiritual war against the Germans. They regard the protection of the environment as part of the protection of a people, of its biological "substance" and its national identity. Indeed, WSLers see the battle for a healthy environment as part of the all-encompassing spiritual struggle against the homogenizing forces of modernity and "Western civilization." Haverbeck's wife, Ursula Haverbeck-Wetzel, another former WSL president who "for religious reasons refuses to dissociate herself from any human being, including Adolf Hitler," 39 observes:
Whenever a person comes to feel that he belongs to the cultural strain that is deeply rooted in his people which has not only a material existence but a spiritual reality that is superior to the material plane -- he has broken out from being a manipulated consumer. He has escaped the mass homogenization of completely manipulated people who are "amusing themselves to death" (as Neil Postman put it), which is the goal of "One World" advocates, intent on power and domination. The person who is faithful to his religious convictions and attentive and caring to his culture and customs, they consider dangerous. 40
Ernst Otto Cohrs, the WSL's president since 1989, is another devotee of Rudolf Steiner, having been an Anthroposophist since 1961. Today Cohrs's interests seem to lie in promulgating race theories, and publishing and distributing anti-Semitic literature. In 1982, an official of the WSL's Bavarian chapter made a public issue of Cohrs's activities inside the WSL. He wrote a letter to a WSL membership assembly saying that it should dissociate itself from Cohrs because, among other things, he was sending anti-Semitic literature to WSL members, running advertisements in ultra-right magazines like Bauernschaft (the journal of the notorious Holocaust-denier Thies Christophersen), permitting neofascist periodicals to reprint WSL leaflets, and himself distributing such writings as There Were No Gas Chambers and The Auschwitz Myth.41 Many members withdrew from the WSL as a result of this letter; those who remained were overwhelmingly those who shared Cohrs's anti-Semitic ideas and were not disposed to contradict him. Among them was Baldur Springmann, the 'ecofarmer' who was involved in the Greens in the early days, whose book Partner Erde (Partner Earth) was published by an ultra-right publisher (Arndt Verlag), and who writes for the 'New' Right publication Nation Europa; and Dr. Arnold Neugebohrn, a Republican candidate for the provincial legislature who takes pride in his NSDAP 'gold medal.' Concludes Wölk, "The internal crisis caused by Cohrs's activities in 1981-82 may have diminished the ranks of the WSL, but it also strengthened the WSL's neofascist orientation." Cohrs's current activities are still primarily the dissemination of Holocaust-denial literature. 42
One collective member of the WSL is a Hamburg-based organization known as the Society for Biological Anthropology, Eugenics, and Behavioral Research (Gesellschaft für biologische Anthropologie, Eugenik, und Verhaltensforschung, or GfbAEV), whose head is Jürgen Rieger, a "neo-Nazi in lawyer's robes" (as the newspaper Die Zeit called him) who is currently defending two fascist groups that the Federal Republic banned in 1992; one of the GfbAEV's fellows is the leading ideologue of the French Nouvelle Droite, Alain de Benoist. Its periodical is the notorious quarterly journal Neue Anthropologie, which maintains, among other things, that there has always been environmental destruction in the history of humanity, that in fact one could even say this was part of human nature were it not for one sole exception:
Only the Germans were different. In pagan times they worshipped groves and trees, and because of their closeness to nature, they had a caring orientation toward nature. Even the love of animals is much more pronounced among the Germanic peoples than it is, for example, among the Romance-language- speaking peoples. It is thus no coincidence that even today the most stalwart environmentalist efforts -- private as well as state -- are those conducted by peoples who have a larger proportion of the Nordic race. 43
Addendum on Steiner
We'll continue with one more piece from Biehl's excellent essay in a coming post. We'll see how our opinions are manipulated by fascists till we become sympathetic to fascism without realizing it. It doesn't mean we are bad people, and much of ecology and fascism is not as bad as the cliche would have it. But to know clearly what's good and what's bad about fascism we must know exactly what we're getting into when we accept ecology as a positive opinion we hold personally. Some of ecology leads us and our neighbours to mouth other unexamined opinions, such as "Islam is the religion of peace." Tat comes to us more easily, even naturally if we don't know why we say so and if it fits in comfortably with other dhimmi cliches such as those about ecology and multiculturalism.
Below we have parts of a longer essay on Rudoph Steiner, these dealing with anti-Semitism and racism.
Anthroposophy and its Defenders Reply to Peter Normann Waage, Humanism and Polemical Populism
Anthroposophy and Ecofascism has sparked a debate within Scandinavian humanist circles, with some humanists like Peter Normann Waage lining up to defend Anthroposophy as a harmless variant of humanism. 1) While we are encouraged by this long overdue debate, we are troubled by the degree of historical naiveté it has revealed. Waage's perspective seems to represent a view that is fairly widespread among educated and well-intentioned people. We hope that we can contribute to a more accurate view of the political implications of anthroposophy by correcting several of the misconceptions exemplified by Waage's reply. Although Waage has nothing to say about the article's main topic, the systematic collusion between organized anthroposophy and the so-called "green wing" of German fascism, he does raise several issues that lie at the core of that collusion. Waage would have us believe that Rudolf Steiner was a principled anti-racist, that he opposed private property, rejected militarism and nationalism, and was a staunch adversary of Nazism. These claims are not simply untrue; they betray a surprising unfamiliarity with Steiner's published work and a profound misunderstanding of anthroposophy's political history.
Waage reminds readers of Humanist that Steiner "at the end of the century was involved in 'the Association Against Anti-Semitism'." Indeed, Steiner was a friend of Ludwig Jacobowski, an employee of the Verein zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus (Society for Protection Against Antisemitism). The association with Jacobowski, however, does not speak well for Steiner's confused attitude toward anti-Semitism. In fact, a look at Jacobowski's writings on Jewish affairs shows that it was a familiar appeal to German nationalism which drew Steiner's attention. Jacobowski advocated the "complete assimilation" of Jews to what he called the "German spirit," and his best-known work, Werther der Jude, "can easily be read as . . . an antisemitic text." (Ritchie Robertson, The 'Jewish Question' in German Literature 1749-1939, Oxford 1999, p. 279) In a much-discussed pamphlet attacking a prominent antisemitic agitator, Hermann Ahlwardt, Jacobowski called Ahlwardt "un-German" (and also accused him of being a Social Democrat); the same pamphlet spoke of "an honorable anti-Semitism" in contrast to Ahlwardt's variety, and declared in assimilationist-patriotic style that "a young Jewish generation is being prepared which is German and feels German." (All quotes from Sanford Ragins, Jewish Responses to Anti-Semitism in Germany, 1870-1914, Cincinnati 1980, pp. 43-44) Jacobowski also referred to some of the anti-Jewish arguments put forth by pan-German antisemites as "important and correct" (Jacobowski quoted in Fred Stern, Ludwig Jacobowski, Darmstadt 1966, p. 159). One of the leading scholars on the topic, Ismar Schorsch, describes Jacobowski's position thus: "Anti-Semitism is indeed based upon fact and can only be overcome by a drastic ethical reformation of the entire Jewish community." Schorsch comments: "The response to anti-Semitism of this alienated Jew [Jacobowski] was thus marked by extreme vacillation between criticism of his coreligionists and defiant reaffirmation of Judaism." (Schorsch, Jewish Reactions to German Anti-Semitism, 1870-1914, New York 1972, pp. 47 and 95). Steiner himself emphasized Jacobowski's exclusive commitment to German culture and believed that his friend had "long since outgrown Jewishness" (Steiner quoted in Moses and Schöne, editors, Juden in der deutschen Literatur, Frankfurt 1986, p. 200). This is hardly a convincing testament to Steiner's pro-Jewish sympathies.
What Waage doesn't mention is that throughout his life Steiner consorted with notoriously bitter antisemites and was by his own account on entirely friendly terms with them. The passages in Mein Lebensgang on his relationship with Heinrich von Treitschke, for example, are straightforwardly admiring of this towering figure on the German right, who was the foremost intellectual ally of militant anti-Semitism (Treitschke coined the Nazi slogan "The Jews are our misfortune"). Steiner never so much as mentions Treitschke's infamous stance on the "Jewish question." The same is true of Steiner's appraisals of Haeckel and Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, among others. In fact it is abundantly clear from Steiner's own writings on the subject that he had an extremely rudimentary understanding of anti-Semitism and that he was himself beholden to a wide variety of antisemitic stereotypes, which he frequently broadcast to his followers.11) On more than one occasion he expressed the wish "that Jewry as a people would simply cease to exist" (Steiner, Geschichte der Menschheit, Dornach 1968, p. 189 and elsewhere). This wish was consistent with Steiner's categorical rejection of the Jewish people's right to existence: "Jewry as such has long since outlived its time; it has no more justification within the modern life of peoples, and the fact that it continues to exist is a mistake of world history whose consequences are unavoidable. We do not mean the forms of the Jewish religion alone, but above all the spirit of Jewry, the Jewish way of thinking." (Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Literatur, GA 32, p. 152) It would seem that Waage's portrait of Steiner as an opponent of nationalism and anti-Semitism is at odds with the facts.
In 1910 - that is, after Waage claims Steiner had "stopped using" the terminology of root races and Aryans - Steiner gave the lectures in Oslo which served as the opening device for Anthroposophy and Ecofascism. The Norway lecture cycle on "national souls" was revised and edited by Steiner in 1918 and published in book form that same year. The term "root race" is used throughout this book. The fifth chapter, Steiner's lecture in Oslo from June 12, 1910, is titled "The Five Root Races of Mankind", and refers to the racial superiority of "the Aryans" (Steiner, The Mission of the Individual Folk Souls in Relation to Teutonic Mythology, London 1970, p. 106). 12) But Waage would no doubt complain that we have taken Steiner's unequivocal words "out of context" if we did not go on to mention that the book also contains these curious sentences: "Since all men in their different incarnations pass through the various races the claim that the European is superior to the black and yellow races has no real validity. In such cases the truth is sometimes veiled, but you see that with the help of Spiritual Science we do after all light upon remarkable truths." (ibid. p. 76)
Aside from the vexing question of just what that ominous reference to "veiled truth" is supposed to mean - do black and yellow skins "veil" an inner truth? - this passage can only be interpreted as anti-racist if one accepts the anthroposophist version of "Spiritual Science," and the sentence makes no sense at all unless one believes in reincarnation. Moreover, any anti-racist interpretation of this passage is immediately contradicted by the context which Waage thinks Anthroposophy and Ecofascism systematically obscured. On the page directly before the above quote, Steiner prints a diagram showing Africa on the bottom, Asia in the middle, and Europe on top, and on the same page he explains that the "Negro race" is tied to humanity's childhood, "the yellow and brown races" to adolescence, and Europeans to adulthood and maturity. Steiner then insists that this racially stratified hierarchy "is simply a universal law" and indeed a product of inescapable destiny: "The forces which determine man's racial character follow this cosmic pattern. The American Indians died out, not because of European persecutions, but because they were destined to succumb to those forces which hastened their extinction." (ibid. p. 76 � the very same page as the quote which to Waage represents "a sound anti-racist view.")
Thus we can see that Waage's claim that Steiner rejected the ideology of root races and Aryan supremacy is flatly untrue, and that Steiner's occasional trite phrases about the spiritual insignificance of race are obviously disingenuous.13) But have his anthroposophist followers managed to free themselves from their master's xenophobic prejudices? 14) The article already offered numerous examples of the continuing virulence of racist thinking within contemporary anthroposophy, but let us examine one further instance which highlights Waage's indefensible claims. One of Steiner's early devout followers was Ernst Uehli, a teacher at the original Waldorf school and an officer of the Anthroposophical Society. In anthroposophist circles Uehli is regarded as an outstanding anti-fascist; Uwe Werner makes special mention of him as having been "extremely critical" of National Socialism (Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, Munich 1999, 97).
In reality Uehli was an ugly racist, an Aryan supremacist and antisemite with a marked penchant for blood-and-soil ideology. In 1926 he published a book on "Nordic-Germanic Mythology" and dedicated it to the recently deceased Steiner, who is quoted and referred to constantly throughout the book. Uehli uses the terms "root races" and "Aryan" repeatedly (Ernst Uehli, Nordisch-Germanische Mythologie als Mysteriengeschichte, Stuttgart 1965, 134-144). Why would a close follower of Steiner continue to promote ideas that the master had supposedly renounced? But Uehli doesn't content himself with simply repeating the anthroposophist orthodoxy on root races and Aryan superiority; he constructs a grand historical-evolutionary-racial narrative in which the two rival forces, separated throughout the millennia by their fundamentally different racial makeup, are "the Semitic and the Aryan peoples" (ibid. 144). But whereas "the early Germans were a people of nature" and thus pure and strong, "the Jews succumbed to Ahriman" (ibid. 147; "Ahriman" is the anthroposophist term for demonic forces that promote materialism). Alongside the world-historical struggle between the nature-loving Aryans and the materialistic and diabolical Jews, Uehli notes that there are still a few "primitive peoples that are dying out" as a result of cosmic necessity, since they are nothing more than the "decadent remnants" of an earlier root race (ibid. 135).
One might think that latter-day anthroposophists would be sensible enough to quietly ignore such repellent racist nonsense from their not so distant past. But in the year 2000 Uehli's works were still part of the officially recommended curriculum for Waldorf teachers in both Germany and the United States. This fact sparked yet another public scandal around anthroposophist racism when a book of Uehli's about Atlantis, evidently even more offensive than the one we've quoted, was brought to public attention earlier this year. The German youth ministry responded by putting the book on its index of racist literature. If even German government bureaucrats have no trouble recognizing anthroposophy's racist content, why does Waage stubbornly deny it? Anthroposophy's ongoing racist legacy has led to public investigations in the Netherlands, Switzerland, France and Belgium as well. Limits of space prevent us from elaborating on this crucial topic, but interested readers can consult the outstanding treatment of the German case by Peter Bierl in his Wurzelrassen, Erzengel und Volksgeister. Die Anthroposophie Rudolf Steiners und die Waldorfpädagogik (Konkret Literatur Verlag, Hamburg (1999).
Our next installment will be the last from this essay. We'll look at ecology in later posts, examining the early years from Haeckel to Darre and Hiedegger. Please join us.