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Breaking Anthroposophist News for Jews

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  • Peter Staudenmaier
    ... That is indeed the basic anthroposophist message, even apart from the myth of Jewish deicide. According to Steiner and his followers, there is no reason
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 7 9:26 AM
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      Diana wrote:

      > P.S. I'm sure we all agree that "finding Christ" is what's necessary
      > for Jews who want to be forgiven for killing Him.

      That is indeed the basic anthroposophist message, even apart from the myth of Jewish deicide. According to Steiner and his followers, there is no reason for Jews to remain Jews after the coming of Christ two thousand years ago. Anthroposophists held to this position even during the Nazi era. The basic message remains inextricably tied up with anthroposophy's racial theories. Here are some particularly pertinent examples:

      A March 1935 article by leading anthroposophist Sigismund von Gleich asserted that human evolution must be led by the “Aryan race” and that capitulating to spiritual attacks by the Turanians, Tartars, Mongolians and other “yellow peoples,” the carriers of physical and spiritual decadence, would endanger this all-important Aryan leadership. In Gleich’s depiction, Asian peoples were the offspring of archaic Atlantean sub-races who practiced “black magic,” and their present descendants included not only the Chinese and Turks but also the Jews. The Semites, Gleich explained, were “born financiers and clever merchants.” According to Gleich, the “Asiatic barbarism” of the Bolsheviks was due to the fact that most of their leaders were Turanians and Jews. These insidious influences represented an ominous “Ahrimanic and demonic world” threatening Germany from the West as well as the East. (Sigismund von Gleich, “Turanisch-mongolische Wesenszüge” Korrespondenz der Anthroposophischen Arbeitsgemeinschaft, March 1935, 5-12)

      The menacing specter of Jewish influence played a role in a variety of anthroposophical contexts. For many anthroposophists, Jewishness signified the very antithesis of spiritual progress and the epitome of modern debasement: materialism, intellectualism, egoism, rootlessness, dry abstraction, soulless pedantry, commodification, critical acuity rather than creativity, and the failures of liberalism and rationalism. Traditional antisemitic motifs formed a substantial part of anthroposophical reflections on racial and ethnic questions, and the Jews were often a favorite example of spiritual anachronism and evolutionary stagnation. In this esoteric variant of antisemitic belief, anthroposophy called for absorbing erstwhile Jews into the spiritual community of the nation in order to neutralize and eliminate their residual Jewish characteristics. Anthroposophist ‘solutions’ to the ‘Jewish problem’ generally centered on a radically assimilationist approach in which individuals of Jewish origin would wholly repudiate Jewishness, whether in an ethnic or religious or cultural sense, and become full-fledged ‘Germans’ without any trace of ‘un-German’ heritage. Crucially, however, anthroposophists at times adopted a much more ambivalent attitude toward assimilation, warning against intermarriage between Jews and gentiles.

      Anthroposophists thus proposed a variety of remedies for the scourge of Jewish influence on the German spirit. In their view, Judaism stood for an atavistic obsession with the decadent characteristics of the “group-soul” and its ill-fated effects on European cultural life. This message was stated with particular force in a 1925 polemic by the editor of the journal 'Anthroposophie,' who held Jews responsible for stubbornly refusing to accept their inevitable doom. (Kurt Piper, “Martin Buber und das Chaos” Anthroposophie, February 22, 1925, 29-31) Jews who obstinately remained Jews constituted a hindrance to spiritual advancement, and the ongoing reverberations of Jewish impact on the German essence and the vestiges of Jewish background in the present posed a perilous challenge to the German mission. Friedrich Rittelmeyer therefore urged his fellow anthroposophists in 1937 to work against “the repercussions of Judaism within Christianity.” (Rittelmeyer, “Über Christentum und Germanentum” Die Christengemeinschaft, November 1937, 209)

      Still, especially worthy Jewish individuals had the capacity to “lift themselves out of the defects of their race.” (Rittelmeyer, Deutschtum, 120) Even while holding out the possibility of assimilation into genuine Germanness and Christian salvation, Steiner’s followers stressed that Jews who were excessively attached to Jewish characteristics would be unable to achieve redemption, as another German anthroposophist argued in 1937 (Ludwig Paul, Krankheit und Heilung des Abendlandes, 142). Similar arguments could be found in anthroposophist journals as late as 1943: see e.g. Ernst Uehli, “Kosmologische Betrachtungen” Das Goetheanum, May 23, 1943, 165, which repeats the standard anthroposophist claim that Jews as a people do not have a fully developed ‘I’ but are instead “tied to the blood” and that esoteric Christianity offers the possibility of transcending this anachronistic state.

      These concerns about Jewish influence were not confined to recognizably Jewish individuals or those with Jewish ancestry. For anthroposophist Richard Karutz, “the Jew in every person is the enemy.” Karutz condemned “the cliquish, petty, narrow-minded spirit of Jewry, which is rigidly tied to the past, devoted to dead conceptual knowledge, and hungry for world power,” noting that this spirit could appear in anyone, not just in Jews themselves. (Karutz, Von Goethe zur Völkerkunde der Zukunft, 57)

      A 1931 book on “the enigma of Jewry” by anthroposophist Ludwig Thieben spelled out this perspective in great detail: Ludwig Thieben, Das Rätsel des Judentums (Düsseldorf: Pflugschar-Verlag, 1931). The book was reprinted unabridged by the anthroposophical Perseus Verlag in Basel in 1991. The Austrian-born Thieben (1891-1947) came from a family of Jewish background and converted to Christianity before encountering anthroposophy at the end of World War I. He played a prominent role in the Viennese anthroposophical milieu and emigrated to Holland after the Anschluss. Thieben's book contrasted “the Semitic race” to “the Nordic-Germanic peoples,” emphasizing the “significant difference between the Aryan and the true Jew,” and decried the “manifold harmful influence of the Jewish essence” while describing modern Jewry as “the people which like no other resists Christianity, through the very nature of its blood.” (Thieben, Das Rätsel des Judentums, 202, 174, 164)

      Thieben shared the anthroposophical premise that the Jews’ mission was fulfilled two thousand years ago; Jewish existence since then had been a “tragedy” because the Jews failed to recognize Christ and did not dissolve into the other peoples (126-27, 139). Alongside lengthy quotations from Steiner, Thieben’s book relies heavily on Werner Sombart’s tome The Jews and the Economy as well as Otto Weininger’s antisemitic classic Sex and Character. Thieben associated Jews with all of the purported evils of modernity: “The rationalism which pervades all of Jewry is intimately linked to the Jews’ basic heteronomous disposition. From here there is an essential internal connection to […] modern natural science, to modern capitalist economic forms as well as to Communism and its materialist-intellectualistic ideas.” (134) Thieben then explains that the Jews themselves are primarily responsible for their persecution, and that the dissolution of the Jewish people is the only possible solution. (183) Other anthroposophists applauded Thieben’s book: see Hans Erhard Lauer’s lengthy and very positive review in Anthroposophie, July 5, 1931, 213-15; Lauer’s repeated praise for the book in Ein Leben im Frühlicht des Geistes, 54; and the enthusiastic endorsement in Gleich, Die Menschwerdung des Weltenwortes, 36.

      Near the end of the second world war, a 1944 pamphlet printed in Britain presented an anthroposophical analysis of the ‘Jewish question’ under the impact of the Nazi persecution of the Jews. Authored by émigré anthroposophist Norbert Glas, the text discussed the tragic “Karma of the Jewish race” and the sufferings of Jews at the hands of non-Jews, presenting Steiner’s esoteric version of Christianity as the solution to both: Norbert Glas, The Jewish Question: A Problem of Mankind (Sheffield: Sheffield Educational Settlement, 1944). Glas (1897-1986) was born into a Jewish family in Vienna, became an anthroposophist in 1919, and emigrated to England in 1938. An important figure in anthroposophical medicine, he was also active in the Waldorf movement and served on the executive council of the Anthroposophical Society in Austria.

      Modern Jews, Glas explained, suffered from “soul-sickness” because of their refusal to recognize Christ as their salvation. The mission of the Jews, according to Glas, consisted of providing the physical vehicle for the incarnation of the Christ spirit: “The Jewish race had to prepare the physical body for the descending Sun-Being.” (Glas, The Jewish Question, 11) “This incarnation could only take place if a suitable body were formed which could serve as an instrument for the Divine Spirit. Such a body was evolved by the Jewish people.” (13) Honorable as it was, the Jewish mission was fulfilled two thousand years ago, and since then the Jews had failed to recognize that their time was past:

      “While everything in the Jewish race was designed to prepare for the embodiment of the Messiah, the tragic fact remains that only a few faithful ones amongst whom these great events took place realised the mystery. Quite the contrary. They mocked, judged and crucified the Christ; the very race which had been preparing for his advent.” (18)

      Glas lamented “the misapprehension by the Jews of the nature of Christ” (19), insisting that “Judaism had fulfilled its world-historic mission – but unfortunately had not understood it.” (22) He portrayed the Jews of the last two millennia as rigidly following obsolete rules and customs: “This strict adherence to the old law gave rise to all the soul-sickness to which Judaism has since been subject.” (22) Thus the Jews continued to follow their outmoded traditions even after “their mission had come to an end.” (28) Their “non-recognition” of Christ explains “the Ahasveric survival of the Jews.” (38)

      Describing Jews as not only spiritually but physically different from non-Jews, Glas argued that Jews clung tenaciously to their outdated traditions and isolated themselves from the rest of humankind. Because of their cultivation of “hereditary forces” and concomitant “hardening of the body,” Jews were generally “less receptive to the spiritual.” (32; see also 35 on the peculiarities of “the physical organism of the Jew.”) Modern Jews are characterized by an “excessive cultivation of their blood-relationship” (23), and this unfortunate attachment to “heredity” constitutes part of “the guilt of the Jewish people.” (24) “All the persecution to which the Jews have been subjected during the centuries have really been directed against Ahasverus. He is the symbol of the hardened forces of heredity, as well as of the man who sinned against Christ.” (24) Gentile hostility toward Jews is a reaction against this Jewish guilt: “How much the other nations turned against the guilt of Judaism can be seen by the intensity of persecutions at various times.” (25) Jews, for Glas, also represented “materialistic forces,” and this was the reason for much of “the hatred which is directed against Judaism to-day.” (34) Judaism “bore all the senile characteristics of the culture, which to-day, even though unconsciously, is responsible for all our troubles.” But all Jews, he re-assured his readers, can be redeemed by embracing Christ.

      Even before the arrival of the Nazi regime, views such as these occasioned divisive internal debates among anthroposophists about the proper response to Jewish members within their ranks. An exchange from 1931 captured the contrary positions involved. According to Stuttgart anthroposophist Hermann Weinberger, Jews always have the opportunity to become Christians, but those who decline to do so and instead remain Jewish represent an internal threat to the anthroposophical movement; their "corrosive influence" is degrading anthroposophy from within and impeding “the German mission.” Jewishness thus represented “treason against Germanness.” Weinberger charged the crypto-Jews in anthroposophical ranks with continuing their “crucifixions” as they had done at Golgotha. He cited several passages from Steiner in support of his claims. Weinberger raised the same concerns at the January 1929 general assembly of the Anthroposophical Society in Germany. In contrast, anthroposophist C.S. Picht held that “those Jews who become anthroposophists" were “especially valuable” and claimed that in Steiner’s view, Jews who become anthroposophists “can no longer be considered Jews.” (See Hermann Weinberger, “Erklärung,” March 20, 1931, BA R58/6193/1: 281-284, and C.S. Picht to Karl Heyer, April 22, 1931, BA R58/7408.)

      In both private and public utterances during the Nazi era, anthroposophists emphasized that the “Jewish spirit” must be “overcome” particularly in its three principal forms of intellectualism, materialism, and egoism, the chief illnesses of the modern world. (See for example Korrespondenz der Anthroposophischen Arbeitsgemeinschaft, February 1934, 20-21) Steiner’s followers credited him with revealing “how deeply the Jewish spirit has penetrated into all the sciences.” (Eingabe from Wulf Rabe, Potsdam, to Preussisches Staatsministerium, December 5, 1938, GSAPK I. HA Rep. 90 P Nr. 108: 6) Biodynamic advocates blamed profit-oriented chemical agriculture on the Jews, and indeed blamed all of the negative aspects of modern agriculture on “Jewish influence," while also claiming that immunization campaigns are promoted by “Jewish doctors” and constitute “contamination of healthy blood.” (Akten-Vermerk für Herrn Hanns Georg Müller, BA R9349/3/M) The allegedly problematic nature of Jewishness and its contrast with Germanness resurfaced again and again in anthroposophical literature; prominent examples include Emil Bock’s 1936 book Das Alte Testament und die Geistesgeschichte der Menschheit, Valentin Tomberg's Anthroposophische Betrachtungen über das Alte Testament, and Rittelmeyer’s 1933 book Rudolf Steiner als Führer zu neuem Christentum.

      Greetings to all,

      Peter Staudenmaier
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