New conversations on diversity & race in Steiner’s Spiritual Science

Camphill Academy will host two upcoming events with Cory Eichmann exploring diversity and race in Steiner’s work with a critical lens. On December 14, Cory will give an open lecture introducing the subject and contemporary research. Beginning on January 11, Cory will lead an 8-week Continuing Education course diving deep into the primary source materials. This will be the third iteration of the course, which Cory has modified specifically for Camphill communities in the Americas. Nevertheless, the material is relevant to anyone working with or out of anthroposophy today.

Read Cory’s introduction to the material below.

Over the past two decades, there have been several publications exploring the question of racism within Rudolf Steiner’s work and Anthroposophy.  One extreme position sees Steiner as holding a racist worldview that contributed to the rise of Nazi Germany[i].  The other extreme defends Steiner as a teacher of universal spiritual principles that hold no racist views whatsoever[ii].  It is challenging to have a constructive dialogue with either of these extremes: those who cannot see the positive work being done out of Anthroposophy and the benefits a spiritual science can bring to humanity; or those who don’t see the hurt and repulsion that some views and ideas of Steiner’s and Anthroposophy have caused and continue to cause.  There are those, however, who have recognized the benefits of spiritual science and at the same time acknowledged some of the problems around Steiner’s work and race [iii]. I believe what is needed now, in these polarizing times, is a nuanced and ever-deepening conversation.

Often the arguments are centred around the question of whether Rudolf Steiner was racist or not.  I think this is the wrong question.  I think it’s more constructive to ask: was Steiner, or is Anthroposophy, immune to the systemic racism that has shaped human relationships over the last 500 years through colonialism?  It is no coincidence that European colonialism began with what Steiner called the “Spiritual Soul Age.”  What are the forces that encourage us to see each other in terms of race?  Steiner wrestled with these forces.  It’s possible to see a progression of his ideas and his attempts to be free of the colonial mindset of 19th and early 20th century Eurocentric views.  But he did not finish this work, nor could he, I think, without the help of what he called the ‘Reincarnation of Christ in the Etheric’.  This came after his death, and can be seen influencing the social justice movements throughout the last 70 years.

Steiner’s work is complex in its depth and breadth, and its sheer volume.  Critiquing his work is challenging.  There are contradictions around equality, individuality, and racial hierarchy.  Approaching these contradictions, not with an eye to condemn, nor with an eye to defend, I’ve found, can lead to a deeper appreciation for spiritual science, for our relationship to the Earth, and to each other.  Steiner’s work offers a powerful counter-narrative to the picture of a mechanistic natural world, and some hopeful visions of humanity’s future.  Not working through these race issues, I feel, holds that potential back.

[I] 2010 Peter Staudenmaier, Between Occultism and Fascism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race and Nation in Germany and Italy 1900-1945
[ii] 2013 Robert Rose, Evolution, Race, and the Search for Global Ethics: Transforming the Criticisms of Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education; also, 2021 Peter Selg, Constanza Kaliks, Justus Wittich, Gerald Häfner, “Anthroposophy and Racism”
[iii] 2000 “Dutch Commission on Anthroposophy and Race” and 2008 Ramon Brüll and Dr. Jens Heisterkamp, “Frankfurt Memorandum on Anthroposophy and Racism”

Cory Eichmann, 2022
Cory Eichmann

About Cory

Cory Eichmann became involved with Steiner’s work over 30 years ago.  He spent three years living at the Camphill Village Kimberton Hills from 1992-4.  He founded the Saugeen River CSA in 1997, an 80-acre mixed biodynamic farm in Durham, Ontario, Canada.  He began teaching courses on biodynamics in 2005, working with the Rudolf Steiner Centre in Toronto, through the Ontario Biodynamic Society, and the Biodynamic Association.  Through his participation in the BDA Social Justice Advisory committee, he was invited to lead a course on Steiner and race by the Council of Anthroposophical Organizations in 2021 and has continued to refine the course since.

Click here to see the event page for Cory’s open lecture.

Click here for more information on the 8-week Continuing Education course.

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