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Re: [wc] Re: Did Hitler read Steiner?

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  • Dan Dugan
    ... I ll go with that. ... I don t think talking about occult forces is realistic. ... Not at all. I hold Hitler personally responsible for the crimes and
    Message 1 of 125 , Feb 7, 2011
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      Dan Dugan wrote:

      >> You have discovered that there is a huge body of pseudo-history about Hitler.
      >> Occultists -want- hitler to have been an occultist. It makes occultists feel
      >> that they are hooked into something powerful--that Hitler directed towards evil
      >> ends--but it's an affirmation anyway. <
      >
      > Stephen: Good point. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify my intention:
      >
      > 1. In one respect, you speak to an imprecision, on my part at least. I do not
      > think Hitler was an occultist. For one, he did not have the mental discipline to
      > do any of the focused attention or will that is required. At most he was an
      > inspired dabbler who had a canny knack for tapping into the worst of the
      > Zeitgeist, manipulating and amplifying it to suit his purposes, and feeding it
      > back to the public. No small feat and as such he was no dummy, but he was not a
      > great intellect and certainly not original in anything except his audacity.

      I'll go with that.

      > But he was a lightning rod for transpersonal forces and a hood ornament for more
      > deeply ensconsed players. As such, in referring to "Hitler", I was intending to
      > refer more to the phenomenon of Hitler, not so much Hitler the enigmatic person.
      > He may have seen himself as a capable agent, but I see him more as a bit of
      > flotsam, flung up by history onto its stage, but expressing "occult" forces that
      > only worked through him. Its another question as to whether those hidden forces
      > were economic, political - or mystical, or in what combination they combined.

      I don't think talking about "occult forces" is realistic.

      > I am unclear about your point I sense implied in the last sentence of yours
      > quoted above. I would think it hard to deny that, by any standard or usage of
      > familiar language, that much of what Hitler wrought was evil and that those ends
      > were directed efficiently; i.e.: intelligently. Usually that means there was a
      > powerful intention involved. Do you deny this, and instead attribute Hitler's
      > results to the blind forces of history and that no one including Hitler and/or
      > other less public figures bore individual responsibility?

      Not at all. I hold Hitler personally responsible for the crimes and would have supported his execution. And all the other Nazi leaders, and hundreds more who knew what they were doing. The task was so daunting, and the need to get on with recovery so great, that the Allies only skimmed the cream of the movement in the Nuremburg trials. Responsibility was much wider, and includes Anthroposophy as a movement.

      -Dan
    • ericwijnants
      Hello Peter (and those who read German or do not mind using google translate), In an interresing 4 page interview Stephan Malinowski mentions how intellectual
      Message 125 of 125 , Feb 16, 2011
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        Hello Peter (and those who read German or do not mind using google translate),

        In an interresing 4 page interview Stephan Malinowski mentions how intellectual history bridges the right movements of the Wilhelmine period with Nazi ideology, here:

        http://www.zeit.de/zeit-geschichte/2010/04/Interview?page=1

        Regards,
        Eric

        --- In waldorf-critics@yahoogroups.com, Peter Staudenmaier <pstaud@...> wrote:
        >
        >
        > Stephen wrote:
        >
        >
        > > Another perspective: although I agree,there is no smoking gun for a direct
        > > Hitler-HPB or Hitler-Steiner connection, I think it plain that Hitler
        > > could not
        > > have risen on the tide of aggressive "racial" (actually nationalistic and
        > > ethnocentric, as there is nothing racially specific about Germans or Saxons)
        > > sentiment without a large substratum of racist theology legitimized through a
        > > tradition of ariosophist (sp?), occult, and other philosophical trends.
        > > Hitler
        > > would not have needed to have read HPB or Steiner in order to exploit the
        > > volatile components in them, ones which tended to confirm the dark side of
        > > long-standing and deeply inculcated cultural myths. Weimar Germany was a
        > > cultural reactor gone wild, and Hitler cherry-picked a particularly bad
        > > default
        > > combination to make his appeal to. That anthroposophists and other
        > > idealists did
        > > not do a better job of presenting a more viable alternative and failed
        > > is indeed
        > > a tragedy, but at least they - and here I mean Steiner - tried. That we have
        > > lost even the vision or courage to try is our tragedy, and a deeper one.
        >
        >
        > Some of the ostensible 'alternatives' to this sort of racist cultural background, particularly the idealist variants, were themselves part of the problem. As an illustration, here is a perceptive analysis of the 'Germanic ideology' that found so many supporters at the time, with a number of striking parallels to anthroposophical thought, from historian Roderick Stackelberg's fine book Hitler's Germany: Origins, Interpretations, Legacies (Routledge, 2008):
        >
        >
        > German ideology reflected, rationalized, and reinforced the lack of democracy in Germany. Throughout the nineteenth century, most of Germany's leading writers and thinkers defined the identity and ideals of their nation in contradistinction to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution of 1789. The increasingly radical attempts to create a more just and perfect society in France represented a challenge to all existing regimes. Because of the excesses of revolutionary terror in France and Napoleonic imperialism, but also because the conditions for a democratic revolution did not exist in Germany, even reform-minded Germans, such as the great classicists Goethe and Schiller, rejected the model of the French Revolution as unsuitable to the real improvement of society. Instead they called for the only kind of change that was at least theoretically possible under the conditions of absolutism and particularism: moral perfection, or a moral regeneration within each individual.
        >
        > In the absence of any possibility of external revolution in Germany, the only alternative seemed to be inner regeneration. From the German perspective the French had gone about it the wrong way; they had sought to bring about a better society through political action and institutional change, when in fact human character would first have to be improved before institutions and society could be reformed. As the German states, particularly Prussia and Austria, became increasingly embroiled in war against revolutionary and Napoleonic France, even German liberalism acquired an anti-revolutionary tinge. German writers like Johann Gottlieb Fichte in his famous Addresses to the German Nation (1807–8) attributed the wrong-headed approach of the French to their materialism. In their preoccupation with the pursuit of happiness and material improvement of their lives, the French supposedly neglected the spiritual dimension of life. Germany's mission was to regenerate the world through the spirit. The proper purpose of life was not the pursuit of material happiness, but the perfection of mind and soul. Even so sober-minded a scholar as the historian Leopold von Ranke hailed the Restoration of 1815 as the reaction of the Nordic-Germanic world against Latin revolution.
        >
        > The German idea of freedom
        >
        > German thinkers extolled their notion of moral freedom as far superior to the French definition of freedom in merely political terms. The German idea of freedom was to be free from the animalistic and materialistic weaknesses of human nature while the French only sought to gain freedom from the oppressive state. To be truly free in the German sense meant to be liberated from the internal bonds that prevented the full development of moral character. This idealist and apolitical conception of freedom, so characteristic of German thought, was in fact the only kind of freedom compatible with the absolutist and hierarchical systems that prevailed in most German states. A strong state may even be congenial to such a conception of freedom, for authoritarianism imposes the discipline that enables people to gain freedom from materialistic desire and temptation. If freedom to walk on the grass, for example, illustrates the Western conception of freedom from government regulation or control, then not wanting to walk on the grass epitomized the German notion of what it means to be truly free.
        >
        > This notion of freedom owed much to the Lutheran and pietist traditions as expressed in Luther's famous pronouncement, "Flesh shall have no freedom." Freedom defined exclusively in terms of spiritual conscience is the kind of freedom that can be enjoyed even, or perhaps especially, behind prison walls. The Lutheran notions of inner freedom and subjection to moral law (or self-induced subjection to external law) perfectly complement the Lutheran requirement of absolute obedience to secular authority. There is an undeniably heroic quality in this conception of freedom as internalization of the law, which helps to explain the great creativity of German culture. The equation of heroic self-discipline with the highest form of freedom provided the ideological medium in which both high culture and militant destructiveness could flourish.
        >
        > German idealism
        >
        > The great age of German idealism, the age of Goethe and Schiller, Kant and Hegel, gave Germany not only a heritage of great literature and philosophy, but also a legacy of quiescent political attitudes, attitudes that reflected subservience to authority and the futility of political action to effect rational reform. In the German tradition, idealism came to mean more than the conventional usage of pursuing a dream, a lofty vision, or a standard of perfection. It embraced both the Platonic philosophic doctrine of the prior and separate existence of ideas in a realm beyond temporal reality (beyond the world of appearances) and the commitment to put timeless moral ideas—ideals—into practice in the world. Corrupt temporal reality —the everyday world of politics, commerce, and human affairs—would thereby be morally redeemed and regenerated. The Kantian assumption that humans could never know ultimate reality (the ideal realm) through their intellect but only through their moral will — their courage and willingness to follow moral commandment — reinforced the practical imperative of German idealism to regenerate the world, not through reason, but through moral ideals and will.
        >
        > Idealism, then, reflected both discontent with the stultifying social and political reality in Germany as well as impotence to do anything about it in the realm of political affairs. On a political level, at least, idealist thought can be interpreted as an effort to harmonize and overcome social conflicts and problems that were impervious to resolution through action in the real world. Hegelian idealism could, of course, inspire social and political activism, as in the case of Karl Marx, who, in applying Hegel's dialectic to social reality, claimed to be standing Hegel "back on his feet." The predominant effect of idealist attitudes in Germany, however, was not to mobilize energies for social or institutional reform but instead to channel them into quiescent self-improvement.
        >
        > Vulgarized idealism (Vulgäridealismus)
        >
        > Popular forms of apolitical idealism pervaded the public consciousness in Germany in the course of the nineteenth century and served to discourage and discredit social and political reform. On a popular level idealism often degenerated into anti-intellectualism and irrationalism. Most educated Germans embraced idealism as the quintessentially German alternative to Western materialism, utilitarianism, rationalism, and self-interest. Self-styled idealists prided themselves in their opposition to materialism, whether this was understood as a positivist interpretation of the world in terms of matter (a view that involved rejection of the ideal or spiritual realm as a prior or "higher" reality), or, on a more mundane level, as acquisitiveness, greed, or sensuality. "Idealism is present," wrote the influential publicist Paul de Lagarde (1827–91) in 1880, "wherever man acts out of inner needs against his own advantage, against his own comfort, against the world surrounding him." Such a definition rebutted the liberal (and socialist) stress on the benignity of rational self-interest, as did Richard Wagner's (1813–83) definition of German idealism as doing something for its own sake rather than for pleasure or reward.
        >
        > Idealism—the renunciation of selfishness—seemed to provide a code of heroic conduct superior to the profit-oriented commercialism of liberalism and the resentful leveling of socialism. Liberalism and socialism stood condemned as doctrines that enshrined the basely acquisitive, egotistical instincts in humankind. In their materialist aims, liberalism and socialism seemed closely related, even if these two doctrines offered quite different models of social organization. After all, both doctrines presumed to achieve a better society primarily by promoting and regulating the production and distribution of wealth and worldly goods. From an idealist perspective, the ideas of social progress and social justice merely masked the degeneracy of an era in the thrall of materialistic values.
        >
        > In vulgarized idealism the absence of democracy in Germany was interpreted as a mark of German superiority. Idealism, like nationalism, became a powerful weapon in the arsenal of political conservatives who sought to discredit efforts to introduce democratic reforms. The motives of reformers who advocated the improvement of the material conditions of the lower classes could be impugned as basely materialistic. A symbiosis of nationalism and idealism was easy to attain, because both doctrines demanded the subordination of self-interest and class- interest to the good of a higher entity, the nation or the idealized moral authority of the state. Both nationalism and idealism celebrated courage and self-sacrifice. In the years before the First World War, many groups preached a revival of idealism to strengthen the moral fiber of the nation. In the ideology of the youth movement, for instance, a revolt of middle-class youth against materialistic urban life in the early 1900s, the values of nationalism, idealism, and authoritarianism were combined.
        >
        > Anti-Semitism
        >
        > Anti-Semitism frequently accompanied the idealist world view in its vulgarized form, if only because vulgarized idealism inherited the ancient Christian prejudice that Judaism was a materialistic religion and the Jews a materialistic people. The thread that links all historical forms of anti-Semitism, whether religious, economic, political, or racial, is the identification of Jewishness with materialism and immorality. For centuries Jews were held to be immoral because they stubbornly refused to accept the "superior" teachings of Christ. Jews supposedly rejected the Christian path to salvation through renunciation of the world in order to be free to pursue worldly gain for selfish ends. According to Christian anti-Semites, Jews perversely refused to abjure material possessions and power for the higher "kingdom within" or "beyond." Unencumbered by the Christian prohibition of usury, Jewish money-lenders grew rich through practices Christians repudiated as sinful.
        >
        > Jewishness thus came to stand for worldliness, selfishness, intellectual cunning, and lack of Christian self-denial or self-restraint. The very mind-set of idealism reinforced such stereotyping, for the "idea" of Jewishness was deemed more real and significant than the evidence of empirical reality. Many self-styled idealists (such as Richard Wagner and his Bayreuth Circle) saw no contradiction between their professed anti-Semitism and their friendship with or tolerance of individual Jews.
        >
        > To such "principled" anti-Semites the danger to be averted was the corruption of German society by the "Jewish spirit." Idealist anti-Semitism seemed a mark of virtue and respectability, for it signified rejection of the selfish and profit-oriented traits that Jewishness supposedly represented. First used by the German freelance journalist Wilhelm Marr (1819–1904) in 1879 in a book entitled The Victory of Jewry over Germandom, the term "anti-Semitism" had for its adherents a distinctly positive connotation. Paradoxical though it may seem, in the nineteenth century ideological anti-Semitism was frequently voiced as a token of virtue, lack of commercialism, and unselfishness.
        >
        > Anti-Semitism was, of course, pervasive among Europeans of all classes in the nineteenth century. No predominantly Christian country was entirely free of the feeling that Jews did not belong. But in countries with liberal political systems anti-Semitism could not be mobilized politically to the extent that was the case in the Russian, Austrian, and German empires. Anti-Semitism was particularly susceptible to political exploitation and manipulation in Germany. Here the tendency to define the national identity against an ideal-type conception of Jewishness was especially pronounced. Where national consciousness is weak or insecure, historically there has been a tendency to compensate by defining the national character in contrast to some actual or mythical outside group. In the course of the nineteenth century, the Jews displaced the French as the chief foil of Germany's self-definition. To be authentically German involved commitment to idealism and rejection of "Jewish" materialism.
        >
        > [...]
        >
        > In the vast propaganda literature generated by the war [i.e. World War I], German publicists juxtaposed German idealism to the materialism of 1789. They rejected the French revolutionary values of liberty, equality, and democracy in favor of the Germanic ideals of loyalty, duty, and spiritual regeneration. In the passions of war German ideology evolved into a Messianic cult.
        >
        > While the war against Russia was widely portrayed in racial terms as a battle against the "Mongolized" and "Tartarized" Slavic hordes, the war against the West was framed in grandiose ideological terms as a struggle to determine the cultural direction of humankind and the future development of human nature. War-time propagandists proclaimed the mission of German idealist culture to save the world from the merchant mentality of England and the shallow rationalism of France. Even so moderate a conservative as the writer Thomas Mann celebrated the superiority of German Kultur over Western Zivilisation in his war-time Reflections of an Unpolitical Man, a work he later repudiated. If for Americans the war would be fought, in Woodrow Wilson's words, to make the world safe for democracy, for many Germans it became a war to save the world from the democratic and materialistic temper of the modern age. In the titanic struggle between the forces of light and darkness, good and evil, spirit and Mammon, the salvation of the world supposedly lay in the hands of the German race.
        >
        >
        >
        > Peter S.
        >
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