15966To Waldorf Critics
- Apr 2, 2008For some reason you are continually raising the subject of wanting to
link Rudolf Steiner's Waldorf education to Nazism let us look at it
from an Anthroposophy view; we never know what we might find.
First; Rudolf Steiner was not present (in an earthly sense) during
WW2 (full stop) He was though during WW1. I wonder if you have taken
the time to read this.
Rudolf Steiner Enters My Life
Translated by D S Osmond
Originally published in German under the title
Meine Lebensbegegnungen mit Rudolf Steiner
by Verlag Urachhaus in 1928. First published in English 1929
Friedrich Rittelmeyer: For nearly five years I had devoted
practically all the spare time I had from my profession to the
theoretical and, above all, the practical study of Anthroposophy. My
object was to take stock of my responsibility to humanity and then
have the right to speak with authority. Is there anyone among the
opponents who has applied anything like the same amount of time and
earnest investigation before writing against Anthroposophy? And above
all, is there any one of them who has really tested it in his own
Extract from part three
More than a year went by before I saw Dr. Steiner again. The Great
War had begun, and everyone had his own immediate duties. The
conversation I had with him early in the year 1915 at the Deutscher
Hof, in Nuremberg, was particularly significant. Dr. Steiner began at
once to speak of the War. "I have been glad to find that you have had
the same idea of world-events as I have," he said. "In what sense do
you mean that?" I asked, rather hesitatingly. "I do not know what you
have been saying about the War." "No," he said, "and I do not mean it
like that. But you have a great inner sensitiveness to what is really
going on." The appreciation implicit in these words embarrassed me a
little, and I went on: "Herr Doctor, I would be glad to know from you
where you think that my activity now during the War is not on the
This was the first, rather explosive challenge on the subject of
current affairs, to a knowledge that transcended ordinary knowledge.
For my work among my Nuremberg congregation was carried on far away
from the local Anthroposophists - as they were now, after the final
separation from the Theosophical Society - and it was highly
improbable that Rudolf Steiner had heard anything at all about it. He
took up the challenge at once. "It is not a good thing to tell people
that they ought not to hate England," he said. "That only excites and
does not help them. It is better to say: 'You do not really hate
England at all if you are true Germans.' When the German fights he
never hates the person, he hates the cause."
This was, as a matter of fact, the weak point in my work at that
time. People were not at all satisfied with my lack of hatred.
Naturally they expressed it quite differently, and said I had not
enough living sympathy. But, as a matter of fact, I was not
succeeding in giving them ideals great and worthy enough to take the
place of all-too-human feelings.
This was the weak point among all the spiritual leaders in Germany
during the War. They were not capable of inculcating spiritual
substance into the life-struggle of the German people. This helped me
to understand what Rudolf Steiner had been trying to do in the
lectures he had given in Berlin during the early years of the War.
In connection with the greatest figures of Germany's spiritual
history - Goethe, Schiller, Fichte, Hegel - he had tried to fill the
hearts of men with a realisation of the spiritual mission of Germany.
Those lectures richly deserve to be published by themselves. The
effect they had on me personally was that they contained something
which could have filled the hearts of the young in Germany with the
inspiration for which they were longing, something which, without a
single, false note, could have inculcated moral stability and have
kindled the greatness of spirit from which alone the true power of
Germans can be born. Not a word needs to be taken back to-day.
The noble inspiration kindled by the lectures, both the public ones,
and, to an even greater extent, those delivered to a more intimate
group, was one of the fairest gifts of Rudolf Steiner. A wisdom-
filled vision of the real place of Germany among the nations and of
the higher Will behind this, here became a pure and vital force,
radiant with light but also with sacrifice. But Germans were
listening to Chamberlain* and Traub and had no ears for Rudolf
* The German philosopher and essayist.
During the World War Rudolf Steiner was a wonderful experience to me.
Never once in those years did I hear him give a private lecture
without previously directing the thoughts of his hearers to those on
the battlefields and to the fallen. He always spoke a longish verse,
in which the power of helping thoughts was expressed. He had given
meditations of this kind for those fighting on the battle-fields,
those caring for the sick, those at home. And the words were pregnant
with inner, strength-giving power.
His lectures during the first year of the War have already been
mentioned. When I asked him, in the later years of the War, why his
lectures were no longer like they were at the beginning, he
replied: "Because now one would have to say many things which one may
not say." - And so he tried to help in other ways.
The inner participation with which he followed the events was vital
in the extreme. From time to time he would speak of detailed
happenings at the Front in a way that made one wonder whether he
could have gleaned them from the newspapers or whether he had not,
far more likely, seen them in direct vision.
He spoke so concretely, and with such vital concern that one shared
all the experiences of those at the Front. He was so permeated with
the world-mission of the spirit of Middle Europe, and desired so
intensely that it should be fulfilled, not merely chattered about. He
loved the world-mission of Germany, but it was a love born of hope
and of care. Spirit was there, not mere enthusiasm. Nor was an unjust
or even antagonistic word about other nations ever uttered -
naturally not. Dr. Steiner was no more a nationalist in the narrow
sense than he was a pacifist in the shallow sense. He rightly said
that the age of pacifism is the age of the Great War. He inaugurated
the beginnings of future fellowship among the peoples, and in the
land where the League of Nations holds its sessions there rose the
Goetheanum - the Building at which members of more than twelve
nations worked during the War.
At the beginning of 1917, when Woodrow Wilson launched his Fourteen
Points on the world, there began for Dr. Steiner a new period of
activity in connection with the War. "A word of the spirit must now
go forth from Middle Europe. If this does not happen we shall succumb
to this Wilson programme. It is having a much stronger effect than
Germany realises." . . . "Middle Europe cannot exist under Wilson's
Fourteen Points. But they must be answered from out of a spirit which
is the right and true spirit for Middle Europe. Otherwise they will
gain the day." About a year later, before the last offensive, a
friend of mine heard him say: "Wilson will bring great misfortune to
Middle Europe and achieve nothing he wishes to achieve."
Now that this spirit had spoken in the West, Rudolf Steiner thought
that the spirit on this side too should speak. Herein he felt his
call. It was then, at the beginning of 1917, that he once spoke after
a lecture of the occult methods which were being used with such power
in Western countries. I replied: "If false occultism is so active
nowadays, should not true occultism be able to bring something
about?" "Yes," he said, "and that is why I am trying to do something
now." - "What ought to happen?" I asked. "Two things. First, the
publication of a clear and documentary statement of what was going on
at the outbreak of war - hour by hour. Bethmann's declarations are no
use at all. One can believe them or not. But if everything that
happened then is ruthlessly told, the world will see that Germany was
not so cunning and much less to blame than people think.
But that is only one side of it. A word must be spoken about a future
régime in Middle Europe which corresponds truly to the historical
position, and in which it will be possible to live." He said that if
this were done, one would see the Statesmen of the Entente, while
saying little officially, immediately beginning to change their
tactics. They would realise the existence in Germany of a spiritual
power not so lightly to be brushed aside, and they would fear that
their own people might pay heed to what was going on and want to get
it for themselves too.
One must now act resolutely and on a broad scale. The people of
Austria would then say to themselves: "If that can really be carried
through among us, we have no interest in allying ourselves with
Russia." The working classes in Germany would also be able to win
back confidence in a State that goes forward with a true kind of
freedom. And among the peoples of the Entente, the feeling would
arise: We have been mistaken. There in Middle Europe a coming age is
actually speaking. We must come to terms with it. - Only so was there
now any possibility of a favourable outcome of the War.
Shortly after this Dr. Steiner gave me a copy of the manuscript he
was trying to bring before leading statesmen in Germany and Austria
through the intermediary of friends. Nothing was more remote from him
than personal ambition. But had he any right to remain silent when he
knew how to help? When I asked him what I could do in this matter, he
answered: "Articles are no use these days; the only thing to do is to
get at the men at the top. One must be alert to opportunities that
may offer themselves in this direction." In company with other
Anthroposophists at that time, and especially later on, I wrote
letters to leading men asking them to take the thing seriously. But
alas! it was all in vain. I often saw Rudolf Steiner come back
exhausted from conversations with leading men.
One of them said to him: "You may he right, but I am not your man." -
"You must be the man, because you have the position," was the
answer. Another said to him: "What you propose - the publication of
an account of what happened at the outbreak of war - would lead to
the abdication of the Emperor." "Then that is better now than later,"
answered Dr. Steiner. During those months I once met him with a
newspaper in his hand. He was deeply perturbed. "Here is Bethmann-
Hollweg making another idiotic speech. It will scare peace away for
another six months. Not a single concrete utterance about Belgium! It
does not help at all in the long run. It merely helps party politics."
Deeply engraved in my memory is a conversation I had with Dr. Steiner
in his room, during the first six months of 1917. Hindenburg's famous
retreat had come about.
All Germany was rejoicing at the unerring strategy of the new Chief. -
What was Dr. Steiner's opinion of the position? "It is really a
piece of good luck that we now have Hindenburg and Ludendorff," I
began. I looked at an unmoved face. "Well," he said
slowly, "Hindenburg is an old man who pulled off the affair up there.
(He was referring to the Mazurian Lakes.) But of course you know that
the main work is being done by the Chief of the General Staff." I
certainly did not know this at the time, but went on with my
questions: "So the bright spot for Germany is now Ludendorff?" I was
already uncertain. Dr. Steiner looked at me thoughtfully and
seriously. "It is not in the interest of Germany to have such
Generals!" came from his lips. "What do you mean?" I asked, in
astonishment. "Well, the two of them have managed to pull off this
retreat with all the devastations. Anyone who can estimate what that
means for the future of Germany, can only say that it is not in her
interest to have such Generals." It was a shock to me. When I look
back to-day, I ask: Who was there in Germany at that time who saw
things with this clarity of perception?
Every week I had conversations with men from University circles who
were regarded as leaders of thought. But what blindness they had in
comparison with Rudolf Steiner when one had just talked with him!
Even from the military point of view he was not to be impressed. So
far as the highest Army Command was concerned he thought nothing of
what was being achieved in the way of leadership. He also considered
that this war of materials and mass did not offer, as earlier wars
had done, any opportunity for really fine strategy. And political
interference on the part of the Supreme Command! In justice, he
said: "One really must not be too hard on them. They at least are
doing something, the others nothing at all."
A singularly interesting experience during those months shall be
recorded here for historical reasons. It was at Midsummer, 1917.
Kühlmann had resigned. Dr. Steiner said one day: "You are always keen
on knowing things that are confirmed afterwards. Now I will tell you
something. I have discovered that Moltke (not the Chief of the
General Staff, but his uncle, the Field Marshal) is now trying to
work for peace from the spiritual world. And now read Kühlmann's
speech. Again and again he quotes the old Moltke. It was agreed that
he should say nothing about peace in his speech. The others - I will
not mention names - went to Kühlmann afterwards and reproached him
for having broken his agreement. Kühlmann told them that he did not
know himself what made him do such a thing." And then Dr. Steiner
gave a poignant description of Kühlmann's bodily condition that
particular morning which resulted in a somewhat lowered
consciousness. This made him particularly susceptible to
supersensible influences, and they flowed into him under the most
One day in the summer of 1917 I again met Dr. Steiner with a
newspaper near by. He always made a point of reading a number of
papers of varied persuasions. "Have you yet read about the Pope's
gesture for peace? Woe betide us if we had to accept peace from the
hand of the Pope!" "Do you think it is coming to that?" I asked. "And
what do you think about it?" "I think," I replied, "that this new
gesture for peace will simply increase the universal war-weariness.
That is all that will happen." "There you are placing far too low an
estimate on the influence of the Pope," was the answer.
In all the things Dr. Steiner said to me during the War, this was the
point where he proved to be not entirely correct. At all events his
words seemed to suggest more hope than was afterwards fulfilled. But
nowadays one knows that fundamentally he was right. It is now known
how real were the possibilities of peace at that time. If the
Reichstag had been correctly informed everything might have turned
out quite differently:
Michaelis was made Imperial Chancellor in those days, and at the very
beginning I expressed the view - which was contrary to prevailing
opinion - that, once again, he was not the right man for the
position. "He is not," Dr. Steiner said. "The best thing one can say
about him is that for the time being he is keeping the position away
from someone still less suitable." "And who is that?" I asked with
some curiosity. "Hertling," was the reply. And when, in spite of
everything, Hertling became Chancellor, Dr. Steiner said: "It is
simply outrageous that there should be such a Chancellor!"
Kerensky's régime was overthrown. "Surely we shall have peace with
Russia now?" I asked. Rudolf Steiner shook his head. "Peace with
Russia would have had to be made at the latest by August, 1917. It is
now too late." At the turn of the year 1917-18 Dr. Steiner grew more
and more sorrowful and hopeless. "Peace ought to have been made in
the year 1916. In 1917, with a widely conceived spiritual plan, it
was still a possibility. In 1918 it is no longer possible. Of course
I do not mean that an outer ending of the war is impossible. But it
will not be peace as peace has previously been made. The war will go
on merely in a different guise." I remembered something Dr. Steiner
had said in the early days of the war: "In the year 1916 the war will
essentially be at an end." His words had come true in a sense other
than I had understood at the time.
Dr. Steiner took an extraordinarily grave view of the menace of
Bolshevism. I never saw a more serious expression on his face than
when he said: "If Bolshevism were to come it would be worse than the
whole of the war. When they carry Bolshevism over to Russia and
conduct leaders in closed carriages through Germany, these Statesmen
seem to imagine that Bolshevism will hereafter stop at the boundaries
of their own country!"
The deepest disquietude I ever saw him manifest was after the peace
of Brest-Litovsk. I met him in the street on the way to his
lecture. "What do you think of this Peace Treaty?" he asked me. "I do
not like it at all," I said, "but at least we have now a breathing-
space in the East. And perhaps it will be possible, after general
peace has been made, to atone for the acts of military violence." "It
is terrible, simply terrible!" Dr. Steiner said. "You should see what
effect it is having on the dead, especially on those who are
connected with us and who have themselves been taking part in these
events. It is like an explosion; it simply hurls them back. - Oh! it
is awful!" From then onwards he seemed to have lost all hope of a
bearable termination of the war. "Now things are heading straight
The offensive in the spring of 1918 awakened new hope in many
Germans, myself included. Dr. Steiner never had it for a
moment. "What do you mean," I asked him, don't you think we shall get
to Calais?" "Well, we may," he replied. "But I cannot see how that
will help us. That is not the way to end the war." His words about
Calais were the other small inaccuracy I heard from his lips. I do
not withhold it, and in any case it is of no significance compared
with the amazing clarity with which he perceived hundreds of things
of which others were hardly even aware. Nothing essential is omitted
from this narrative and nothing glossed over. It is for everyone to
judge for himself whether Dr. Steiner's knowledge has stood the test
of the subsequent years.
When I look back on these experiences to-day: Wilson's Fourteen
Points, the needs of the German position, the possibilities of peace,
the personalities of the leaders, the significance of single events,
the happenings in Russia - compared with Rudolf Steiner's political
insight, everyone else with whom I spoke, even the highly-placed,
seemed to be mere dreamers. Here there was real vision, real action,
and everything else - I know of no exception - seemed, in comparison
with it, a blind stumbling through events.
In those early months of the year 1917, when Rudolf Sterner came upon
the scenes, the historical picture was remarkable in the extreme. Out
of unknown obscurity appears a man. He goes to the Statesmen of
Middle Europe and shows them the way to salvation. To-day it can be
clearly seen that this indeed would have been the only way.
The Statesmen listened to him with interest and partial agreement,
but not one of them had the strength and the courage to act. Dr.
Steiner had no personal ambitions whatever. He would have been quite
content to remain in the background and give help to those who were
responsible in the world of affairs. But before help can be given,
two are necessary: one who helps and another who allows himself to be
helped. Men of a religious turn of mind might say: It was as though
prayers had been heard from a thousand hearts: the helper appeared -
but his help was not accepted.
It is easy to imagine the feelings of those who had experienced such
things during the war, when, after its conclusion, Rudolf Steiner
made one more effort to help. To the public this will seem like the
exaggerated, inept words of a "Steinerite". But the public does not
realise how things looked to those who said to themselves: "He was
not listened to the first time. Nor will he be listened to the second
time. And then for many years, perhaps for decades, it will be too
When the collapse came I was not near Rudolf Steiner, for I did not
see him between the end of July, 1918, and September, 1919. What he
was saying and doing during that period is preserved in many lectures
and in the memories of others. In this book I am only recounting what
I myself experienced. At that time he was waging a superhuman fight
for two things: to save the workers of Germany from the menace of
Bolshevism and the German nation from the Treaty dictated to them at
In September, 1919, when I saw Dr. Steiner again in Berlin, he told
me that great offence had been caused in educated circles by his
appearance at "Workers'" Meetings. - He could only say that if he had
spoken as these people wished, the workers would simply not have
understood him. In a discussion with workmen in Berlin at that time,
I saw Rudolf Steiner from a new angle - amazingly quick and alert as
always, but at the same time imposingly active and energetic.
His counter-arguments poured down with devastating force on those who
were opposing him. One of the lesser leaders, a man not without some
knowledge of his own, but who made a conceited little speech, was so
flattened by Rudolf Steiner that he left the hall and wept in the
vestibule. "It would not be exactly a pleasure to come up against him
here," I thought to myself. "But to see him like this is a real joy!"
In conversation he was all the more peaceable.
On the way to a lecture he chatted pleasantly about India. I had
asked him if it was possible, in order to save time, to carry through
one or more spiritual tasks at the same time. He said that it
certainly was. Occult investigations could be made while a
conversation was actually going on. But one could not expect the same
of a European body as of an Indian. Indians might be capable of
sending their bodies into a town to do something and at the same time
of remaining where they were, in deep meditation. He said that our
European bodies were not suitable for such separations. At the same
time, with his usual sympathy, he noticed that I had injured my foot,
went on to speak of earlier incarnations - and the next minute was
engaged in lightning-like spiritual battles.
At that time - the autumn of 1919 - he said in public: The Threefold
Social Order is coming. In about fifteen to twenty years it will be
there. But then it will come in the midst of many catastrophes.
Since all help in the political sphere was out of the question, he
turned his attention to domains where it could be given, and where
there were men willing to accept it: education of the young,
agriculture, therapeutics. The unabated energy with which he did
this, without a trace of embitterment, was in itself an evidence of
world-historic greatness. But from then onwards, in the cultural-
political world, the West-East problem stood in all its magnitude and
many-sidedness before his spirit.
But now, as I look back, my thoughts carry me farther. - What
experiences might Rudolf Steiner not have had during a single
lecture! I heard of other examples of different supersensible
impressions he had while he was lecturing, in connection with various
There were occasions - so I gather from many statements I have heard -
when his lecture would be addressed chiefly to one individual. But on
the other hand his large public lectures were often veritable battles
In a dim way people sensed this. But as they only looked at Rudolf
Steiner with physical eyes, they held him for a demon, whereas the
truth was that he was waging war against the "demons".
If they had paid heed to what he said at such times instead of
letting themselves be carried away by superficial first impressions,
they would have been able to recognise this.
As John Jocelyn says under Aquarius:
Thomas Paine wrote:
`These are the times which try men's souls Tyranny, like hell, is
not easily conquered. The harder the conflict the more glorious the
victory. That which is won too cheaply is esteemed too lightly.
Heaven knows how to put the proper price upon its goods and it would
be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom be not highly
rated. Up! Lay shoulders to the wheel! Show faith by work, that God
may bless you. `Tis the business of little minds to shrink. He
whose conscience is firm pursues principles unto death'.
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