|Anthroposophy - a "destructive sect"?
Since long, Fredrik Bendz, representative of the skeptic association "Vetenskap och Folkbildning" ("Science and education of the people") in Sweden and today working as a pharmacist at Pfizer, publishes a page on the internet, titled "Destructive sects: Anthroposophy". It presents itself as a description of anthroposophy.
The page however contains a number of errors, indicating that it is rather superficial and misleading as a description of anthroposophy. Among other things, it cultivates the myth that anthroposophy as such is racist and anti-Semitic. For more on this, see here.
After I have contacted Fredrik in April 2005 and pointed out the errors to him, he still continues to publish the page uncorrected two years later (August 2007). It indicates that he does not consider it to be that important to apply a serious scientific attitude - which is the stated alleged goal of the association he represents, and that he otherwise maybe applies in his daily work at Pfizer - when it comes to the myths he cultivates about anthroposophy.
At the page, Fredrik Bendz among other things writes:
"In 1906 he [Steiner] started a loge (Mysteria Mystica Aeterna) of O.T.O (Ordo Templi Orientis)."He also hints at a relation between Steiner, "the Satanist Aleister Crowley and L. Ron Hubbard, creator of Scientology.", described as "other famous sect leaders who started as followers of O.T.O".
On Annie Besant, Bendz writes:
"she discovered Jiddu Krishnamurti."Comment:
According to "Hinduism Today", Charles Leadbeater, a theosophical colleague of Besant, more stands out as the discoverer of Krishnamurti (See also Wikipedia).
"Steiner has written many books about Atlantis and Lemuria."Comment:
The statement stands out as something of an exaggeration. The collected published works of Steiner, mostly transcripts of lectures, not corrected by himself, a number of them put together years after they were held, based on notes by members of the audience, comprise about 350 titles and 90,000 pages. The only thing that more directly corresponds to what Bendz writes could possibly be 'Aus der Akasha-Chronik' (Cosmic memory), a number of articles from the period 1902 -1908, later published as a book, and Esoteric Science - an Outline.
While Steiner in the articles later published as Cosmic Memory, written during a time when he still was leader of the Theosophical Society in Germany (one of the societies in question, 1902-12) uses the traditional terms and concepts "root races", that refer to the stages of humanity during the development of our present solar system, he also criticizes the way of using the concept of "race" in theosophy as off the point, and as something that only in a more proper sense is valid during a certain limited stage of the evolution of the human being on Earth.
According to Steiner, it started to loose its meaning after the last ice age with the development of the human being a a cultural being, is increasingly losing its relevance with regard to the individual being and completely will have lost its meaning as we know it in a number of thousand years.
"According to Steiner the population on Atlantis could not speak, but thought in pictures and communicated through telepathy. The most developed individuals gathered in Central Asia under a great leader. Anthroposophy claims that the Aryan race comes from that group, and that racial intermixing is bad."Comment on:
"According to Steiner the population on Atlantis could not speak, but thought in pictures and communicated through telepathy."This sound like a New Age description. According to Steiner, the term "Atlantis" refers to the development of humanity from the beginning of Tertiary up to the end of the last ice age appr. 10,000 years ago. According to Steiner (as also the theosophists) the main group of Atlanteans during the fifth of seven epochs during "Atlantean time" can be called "Primal Semites".
In his view, their advancement in relation to other groups during the time consisted in developing an abstract, less pictorial, thinking than the other groups. It indicates that it was his view that they spoke with words, and not primarily in pictures, or "telepathically".
"The most developed individuals gathered in Central Asia under a great leader. Anthroposophy claims that the Aryan race comes from that group, and that racial intermixing is bad."If you investigate this closer, it turns out that the most advanced during the time before the end of the glacial ages - in Steiner's view - was the group that in theosophy is called the "Primal Semites".
According to Steiner, the "Manu" that in the Vedic scriptures is described as the leader of the first Indians is the same individual, that in the Torah is referred to as Noah. Etymology speaks in the same direction. This, and Steiner's view of the "Primal Semites" as the "most developed individuals" from the time before the "Flood" gives a completely different perspective on what Bendz writes about "the most developed individuals" from the time before the "Flood" as the origin of the "Aryan race".
In theosophy, humanity after the last ice age is called the "Aryan root race".
That is not the case in anthroposophy. While Steiner during the first part of his time as general secretary of the German Theosophical Society used the traditional theosophical term a number of times (like in Cosmic Memory), he among other things - except for his criticism of the term in Cosmic Memory - in 1909 pointed to the error of using the term "race" as a central concept to describe the pattern of human development since the last ice age, and instead used the neutral term "the post-Atlantean epoch" to describe it, and the stages of the development of humanity during the epoch as "the post-Atlantean cultural epochs".
According to Steiner, these epochs up to the time of the Middle Ages can be described as an "original Indian" cultural epoch, an "original Persian" cultural epoch, an "Egyptian-Chaldean-Babylonean" cultural epoch, and a GreekRoman Cultural epoch. According to him, each of the epochs also had the approximate length of a "Platonic world month", approximately 2,000 years. The first two of these epochs - according to Steiner - developed during what normally is described as prehistoric time.
Since the Middle Ages, the development of humanity up to the present to a high degree - for good and ill - has been influenced by impulses that have come out of a number of countries in Western Europe; England, France, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands. But it has become an ever more global epoch during the last century, carried forward and developed by people in all countries and out of all cultural and ethnic groups.
In a first summarizing overview of what he called "Esoteric Science - an outline" (1909), describing the origin and development of humanity and the cosmos, from its origin in the sacrifice by high spiritual beings of their own spiritual substance as the first origin of the physical body of man, he did not at all use the theosophical concept of "root race" or refers to the concept of "Aryans" as something central in the description of the development of humanity.
For a more penetrating description of and comment on the myth about Steiner and anthroposophy as implicitly anti-Semitic, that Bendz cultivates at his page, see among other things
"Anthroposophy claims that [...] racial intermixing is bad"This is untrue. As source for what he writes, Bendz quotes a lecture by Steiner from 1906, that can be found online on the internet. The lecture was a comment on a central and puzzling comment by the "Devil" to Faust in the drama "Faust" by Goethe (published in two parts, 1808 and 1833). The drama, that by many is considered to be one of the greatest plays of German literature, is regularly performed in its entirety at Goetheanum in Dornach, Schwitzerland.
When Faust at one point in the drama asks the Devil (Mephisto) why he must sign an agreement with him in blood, he gets the answer" Blood is a very special fluid". In the lecture in 1906, Steiner comments on something of the background to the answer by Mephisto.
What Bendz writes at his site is a typical example of how easy it is to misrepresent what Steiner expressed in different lectures, if you don't read them in their entirety and context.
What Steiner said in what Bendz quotes is among other things:
"clairvoyant power perishes under the influence of this mixing of blood"Bendz understands this as an argument by Steiner in the lecture against intermarriage between people of different ethnic origin. The argument by Steiner in the lecture is the opposite; that specifically intermarriage (the "mixing of blood") between people of different origin has been an important step in the development of humanity:
"In earlier times tribes held aloof from each other, and the individual members of families intermarried. You will find this to have been the case with all races and with all peoples; and it was an important moment for humanity when this principle was broken through, when foreign blood was introduced, and when marriage between relations was replaced by marriage with strangers, when endogamy gave place to exogamy. Endogamy preserves the blood of the generation; it permits of the same blood flowing in the separate members as flows for generations through the entire tribe or the entire nation. Exogamy inoculates man with new blood, and this breaking-down of the tribal principle, this mixing of blood, which sooner or later takes place among all peoples, signifies the birth of the external understanding, the birth of the intellect.The description by Steiner of intermarriage as something that has elevated humanity to a higher stage of development (not the contrary) if something is an argument for the opposite of what Bendz asserts, and telling that in Steiner's view one of the most central contributions to all our development to become ever more free and independent and self determining humans is that people of different ethnic origin form couples and bear children (a view one hardly would find expressed by a racist).
"Anthroposophy is mainly based on theosophy and goes back to gnosticism and eastern "wisdom". The connection with gnosticism makes it hostile to earthy pleasures."This sounds like something originating in what someone I know personally has written about anthroposophy. If you look closer at Steiner's own view, it probably gives a more truthful picture to tell that he did not recommend refraining from pleasures (except over-indulging in them), but learn from them.
"If the soul is too closely bound to earthy pleasures it will be reincarnated in a new body and will not be able to reach the higher worlds where it will eventually be aligned with the spirit."Comment:
It would probably be more true to say that - in Steiner's view - you normally reincarnate independently of if you have been have lived a life markedly bound to earthly pleasures or not in an earlier life, as he saw it. It also is not the case that it was his view that indulging in pleasures in one life would make it impossible to engage in more of self discipline in a following life and in time also develop an understanding also of not bodily based experiences and spiritual connections.
"Hence it is important for an Anthroposophist not to be too engaged in pleasures such as rock music, parties, etc, but instead to live an ascetical spiritual life."Comment:
This is a rather great exaggeration by the source of what Bendz writes. Even if people with an anthroposophical inclination maybe not immediately are found in hard rock groups, or devote a great part of their time to parties (how many normal people do that?), at least I personally have never encountered any "anthroposophist" who asserted that it is important to live an ascetic life - or does that.
Instead, it stands out as a pure projection by the person I know, from whom Bendz seems to have gotten what he writes, based on this person's personal experiences of a self educated nature therapist and not primarily anthroposophist, dedicated to living a pure life, named Birger Ledin, that his parents happened to know, and the advises by this nature therapist to the parents of my acquaintance with regard to him. in Stockholm, there since long has existed a natural remedies pharmacy, based on the work of Ledin, and a company with his name ("Ledins") still today produces and markets herbal remedies.
"Furthermore the Anthroposophical movement is an enemy of allopathic (i.e. "regular") medicine, ...":Comment:
It probably would be difficult to demonstrate in a more practical sense, based on actual anthroposophical physicians, of which all have the same training as other physicians and use allopathic remedies, even if they do not always or primarily do it. It is always a question of judgment what every patient needs in the individual situation, in a short perspective as emergency measures, and to support healing processes in a more long term perspective.
Bendz also writes:
"Anthroposophical movement [...] advocates homeopathy and is partly based on Paracelsus' (1493-1541) theories that a plant treats diseases in organs which look similar to parts of the plant. For example do the leaves of the flower Euphrasia officinalis look much like eyes, and the plant has therefore been used in traditional medicine for eye diseases. Scientifically unsound theories such as this still survives in Anthroposophy."Comment:
Maybe choosing specifically Euphrasia officinalis and its use in the treatment of eye diseases as an example of how unsound anthroposophical medicine is not the most outstanding choice.
The public information "Smittnytt, Information från Smittskyddet och Mikrobiologen", (Prevention against contagious diseases ..., published by "Landstinget i Östergötland" (nr 29, 2000) (earlier also published online) writes on the anti-inflammatory and astringent effect of Euphrasia Officinalis in connection with an article on viral infections of the retina
"As is clear from the latin name, Euphrasia Officinalis is an old medicinal plant. The flowers are quite small and it has been a general view that they looked "eye like". Euphrasia has a Greek origin and can be interpreted as "well-being". The plant is found generally in Sweden and as several species. it lives as a half parasite in the sense that it takes its nourishment from the roots of other plants.Fredrik Bendz also writes a number of other things about anthroposophical medicine and biodynamical farming at his page, that in spite of all errors stands out as an effort to understand anthroposophy, even if it has fallen victim to and republishes a number of unpenetrated myths about anthroposophy.
For some more comments on them, see