FROM A CULTURE ORIGINATING WITH NOAH
TO THE FINAL MIXING OF PEOPLE OF ALL RACES
One of the many myths about Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy, cultivated by anti-Steiner ”rationalists” crusaders is
”Steiner’s theory of reincarnation states that souls travel an upward path of consciousness, beginning with the ‘sub-races’ (Africans) and ending with Aryans — the most ‘enlightened’ race.”
The myth is a typical distorted misconstruction.
Steiner’s ”theory of reincarnation” does not state that ”souls travel an upward path of consciousness, beginning with the ‘sub-races’ (Africans)”. It was his much more radical view that we as humans in the early stages of our development started our ”upward path of consciousness” long before there was something that could be called human ”races” on Earth, and long before the time for which fossil remains can be found.
Rudolf Steiner did not consider Africans to be, or describe them as a ”sub-race” as sometimes stated. Instead he considered both Caucasians and Africans, as well as the three other of the ”five main races of humanity” (a term commonly used at the beginning of the 20th century), to constitute an abnormal differentiation of humanity. In Steiner’s view, these ”main races” arose before the end of the last glacial age, but started to lose their reality and significance after that, and today constitute only vestiges of the past, which will disappear in the future (1).
Closer reading of Steiner also tells us that he was of the view that intermarriage, the breaking down of the tribal principle, was a natural step in the history of every race and people, and considered the beginning of intermarriage between people of different ethnic backgrounds to have constituted an important step in the development of mankind.
The reason was that, in Steiner’s view, intermarriage contributed to the disappearance of an instinctual clairvoyance and wisdom of the past and to the development of the waking consciousness of the present day, bringing humanity to a higher stage of development (2).
He also considered it to be one of the central tasks of anthroposophy to work especially in support of overcoming that which relates to ‘racial character’ and to support that which is individual in each of us as human beings (3), independent of our ”race”, gender and other temporal, external characteristics we happen to have.
For more on Steiner’s view on the relation between us as individuals, and the ”race” or other temporal external qualities we might have, see here.
Steiner’s ”theory of reincarnation” also does not state that our ”upward path of consciousness” ends with ”Aryans — the most ‘enlightened’ race” as the article states.
Instead, Steiner’s ”theory of reincarnation” states that our reincarnations during the cultural development of humanity, since the last glacial age, will ”end” with something quite else. This ”end” in his view will be a culture thousands of years in the future, developing as what he called a global ”American cultural epoch”. The history of this culture so far indicates that one of its main characteristics will be that it will develop out of a mixing of people of all ”races”. In Steiner’s view, the time in question will lead finally to the end of the meaning of the concept ”race” as we understand it.
The concept ”Aryans”, controversial today because of the way it was misused by the Nazis, in its original sense does not refer to white Europeans, as is often thought, but to a little known and little understood group of people, whose descendants, according to a commonly held historical theory, invaded the Indian subcontinent some 1500-1800 years B.C. along the river valleys of the Indus and Ganges. Among those who have the most right to call themselves ”Aryans” in the West today, would be the ”Roma” or gypsies.
In the theosophical tradition, in which Steiner worked for some years at the beginning of the 20th century, the cultural development of humanity from the end of the glacial ages and far into the future, was referred to with the misnomer ”the Aryan root race”, a concept that Steiner early on criticized as an expression of a childhood illness of the theosophical movement (4). Steiner did not use this concept when developing anthroposophy separate from theosophy.
This misnomer came from the assumption that the main post-glacial cultures originated in the previously mentioned, little understood Asian cultural-linguistic group, which called itself the ”Aryans”, which was considered by historians to be the origin of the so-called Indo-European cultures and languages.
Later however, this original cultural-linguistic concept was distorted into a racial concept by people of the 19th and early 20th century who were obsessed with the concept of ”race”. The term ”Aryan” was used by the Nazis in a way which today understandably evokes an almost instinctual aversion.
Steiner’s view on the issue is quite different from what the theosophical misnomer ”Aryan root race” may seem to indicate.
The main post-glacial development of humanity, in Steiner’s view, began in this mythical Indian ”Aryan” culture. This culture was however — in the unexpected view of Steiner — initially led by Noah, in Indian mythology referred to as ”Manu”. In Steiner’s view, the ”Aryans” in question in turn had their origin in a group of ”original Semites” from the time preceding the end of the glacial ages, a group which Steiner considered to have been the most developed group before the end of the glacial ages.
He also considered the essence of the myth of the Flood, as described by the Torah, to be a reflection of the transition from the time preceding the end of the glacial ages to the following time.
This shows that Steiner’s view of the actual meaning of the misleading theosophical concept ”Aryan root race” differs radically from the associations generally evoked by the term today.
In Steiner’s view, the original postdiluvian ”Aryan” (meaning ”noble”) high culture, under the leadership of Noah, was later followed by a mythical Persian culture, also occurring far in the past. Like the preceding mythical original Indian culture, the original Persian culture developed, in Steiner’s view, before the more well-documented cultures of historical time, starting out later as river cultures in China, India and the fertile crescent of the Middle East from around 3,000 B.C.
As to the time up to the future “American cultural epoch”, predicted by Steiner, which in his view will mean the end of the meaning of the concept “race” as we still experience it as a vestige of the past,
Steiner described in 1924 (5) what he considered increasingly in the future will characterize people who, in the spirit of our time, make themselves free of their bonds to nationality and ”race”.
”It will be said: Where does that person come from? He does not belong to one people, he is not from one race. He is as if he had grown out of all races and peoples.”
It shows the degree to which the typical misconstruction by Steiner critics distort and misrepresent the views of Steiner, as the founder of Waldorf education.
(1) Rudolf Steiner: Lecture December 4, 1909. In: The Deeper Secrets of Human Evolution in the Light of the Gospels (GA 117).
(2) Rudolf Steiner: Lecture October 25, 1906. In: Supersensible Knowledge (in Our Time, and its Significance for Life Today) (GA 55).
(3) Rudolf Steiner: Lecture December 4, 1909. In: The Deeper Secrets of Human Evolution in the Light of the Gospels (GA 117).
(5) Rudolf Steiner: Lecture August 3, 1924. In Karmic relationships (GA 237).