Top 10 things wrong with Peter Staudenmaier's
Anthroposophy and Ecofascism
10. Misusing common anthroposophical terminology.
This error is not particularly bad or particularly misleading, but it does show that Staudenmaier has very little familiarity with anthroposophical discourse. Nobody who has spent even a day with the primary materials would ever talk about an "ethereal" body; that formulation is simply never used. In this and several other ways Staudenmaier shows that he really does not know what he is talking about.
9. Inadequate footnotes.
As many footnotes as Staudenmaier put in the article, there are very many more claims that require them. It is as though he sprinkled a handful of footnotes throughout to give the article a veneer of scholarship. Such footnotes as there are point almost exclusively to secondary sources, and hostile ones at that. There are quite a few highly controversial claims that have no citations whatsoever, things that I cannot even imagine where he got them from. If you are going to simply make up the whole article, then do not bother pretending by footnoting it. But if you make it look scholarly, then it needs to meet that standard.
8. Gross overgeneralizations.
In his zeal to make Rudolf Steiner and the Waldorf movement look as bad as possible Staudenmaier resorts to numerous gross overgeneralizations, things that clearly cannot possibly be true if you consider it just for a moment. For example his claim that (all?) Waldorf students are taught that demons live in light bulbs. With over a thousand Waldorf schools graduating an average of 30 students per year, you would think at least some of them could remember about the demons in the light bulb thing. But of the dozens and dozens of students I have asked not one can recall ever hearing this. And if Waldorf schools have an anti-technological bias, this appears to be lost on a large number of college admissions directors, who seem quite happy to accept Waldorf graduates into science and engineering programs throughout the country. Likewise the claim that sports play no role in Waldorf schools is laughable to anyone who has visited one.
7. False citations.
False citations fall into two categories, those that directly contradict the point they are supposedly called upon to support, and those that simply do not address the point at all. Of the footnotes that Staudenmaier does provide, many fall into these two categories. A quite common problem is for Staudenmaier to reference a book which by its title appears to support his point. But if you actually get the book and read the section that he references it does not say anything about the point he is trying to make. In fact, you get the distinct impression that he has not actually opened the book and simply cites it to look authoritative.
6. Painting Steiner and anthroposophists as political right wing reactionaries.
This is done entirely on a guilt-by-association basis, for example showing that Steiner had some admiration for Ernst Haeckel, and Heckel's views were influential among Nazis, and therefore Steiner was a fellow traveler with the Nazis. And if Steiner was a proto-Nazi, well all his followers have to be right-wingers as well. What is lost is a clear view of Rudolf Steiner's actual views, and minor points such as the open hostility of Nazis to the person of Rudolf Steiner and to the work of his followers. In point of fact the overwhelming majority of anthroposophists at the time and especially since the end of the Second World War are left-leaning liberals.
5. Substituting "national" for "folk"
In attempting to portray Steiner as a nationalist, Staudenmaier consistently translates the German word “volk” – meaning folk or people – as "nation" or "national". While there are some occasions when it is appropriate to conflate people with nation, in Steiner's work it is clearly not. The effect is to make Steiner look like a raving nationalist, clearly what Staudenmaier intends, but a long ways from Steiner's actual views. For example, Steiner's series of lectures titled "The Mission of the Individual Folk-Souls" becomes "The Mission of the Individual European National Souls". There was no European nationalism in the original title at all, but by a deliberately deceptive mistranslation Staudenmaier has slipped it in. This is intellectually dishonest.
4. That Steiner claimed the Aboriginal Australians were devolving into apes.
In attempting to paint Steiner as a Eurocentric white racist Staudenmaier claims that Steiner wrote that aboriginal Australians were devolving into apes. This is a horrible image, and if true would force a radical reevaluation of Steiner's work. The section even has a citation. The citation, however, does not bear out the claim, or rather, only bears out the claim in Staudenmaier's mistranslated version of the original. Steiner actually said that the original aboriginal culture had degenerated over time. The unfortunate word degenerate was applied by Staudenmaier to the aborigines physically, and the ape thing was thrown in from thin air for good measure. It is nowhere in Steiner's work, despite a nice a scholarly footnote to a place where you can verify that indeed it is not in Steiner's work.
3. Claiming that Steiner's threefold social order was to be "imposed on conquered territories in Eastern Europe".
Steiner’s remarkably egalitarian if somewhat utopian proposal for a restructuring of central European society after World War One has an interesting history. It was conceived as the basis for a peace treaty to end hostilities at a point where it was clear that Germany and the Axis would lose, though the most that Steiner as a private non-citizen could do was offer it to politicians through mutual acquaintances. Staudenmaier has completely twisted the intention and defamed Steiner by declaring – without references – that the entire plan was conceived as tool of German imperialism to be "imposed on conquered territories in Eastern Europe". This insidious twist in the origin of Steiner’s proposal makes him out to be a fanatical German imperialist, when in fact he spoke out strongly against European – and not just German – militarism throughout the war, even when it was unpopular to do so. Turning an anti-war position into a pro-war position in one sentence is a bold reinterpretation indeed.
2. Deliberately mistranslating Steiner’s position in "enthusiastically active"
Staudenmaier quotes Steiner as being "enthusiastically active" in the pan-German nationalist movements in the Vienna of his early adulthood. However this “confession” of Steiner’s to rabid nationalism is manufactured through a deliberate mistranslation. In the original Steiner states, “At that time I took a lively interest in the battles that the Germans in Austria were fighting concerning their national existence.” This is in the context of Steiner reminiscing forty years after the fact about his early twenties and the interesting people that he met. Staudenmaier mistranslated "lively interest" as "enthusiastically active" while brazenly citing the original German.
1. Inventing a “Nordic-Germanic” sub-race.
The remarkable discovery of the nordic-germanic sub-race was quite a surprise to most anthroposophists. While Steiner's body of work is so large that few have a truly comprehensive overview, many wondered why they had not previously heard of this important nordic-germanic sub-race. A conspiracy, perhaps? Historical revisionism? or "unfortunate" statements swept under the carpet? No. The reason is far simpler: There is no nordic-germanic sub-race in anthroposophy. There is no nordic-germanic sub-race anywhere in Rudolf Steiner's work. Let me repeat: the phrase "nordic-germanic sub-race" appears nowhere in Steiner’s complete works. Peter Staudenmaier simply invented it, made it up, and then made it central to the case for Steiner’s alleged germano-centric militaristic nationalism. That is pure propaganda.