In Defence of Rudolf Steiner – A Response to J. Paul Greenaway

This article was written as a response to J. Paul Greenaway’s article Is “spiritual science” science? The flawed legacy of Rudolf Steiner published in the Comment section of the UK Column website on 25 May 2023. UK Column declined to publish the article, and so it has been published here.

J. Paul Greenaway’s waspish hit-piece on Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) (published on the UK Column website on 25 May 2023) is an odd thing.  I shall not try to give an organised and systematic form to a piece which does not have such form. Instead, I shall take the reader through the rambling process of Greenaway’s article, commenting and critiquing as I go, and will seek to show that: it is inaccurate in various particulars in its account of Steiner’s work, which is known as  Anthroposophy (pronounced like the word ‘anthropology’) or ‘spiritual science’; it hardly manifests a “scientific” attitude, although its preoccupation with “science” is at the centre of its criticism of Rudolf Steiner; it bases much of its criticism on discussion of just two or three sentences from only two of Steiner’s 6000+ lectures given over 22 years and also on  personal experience relating to work in only two of the hundreds of anthroposophical institutions worldwide and to difficult experiences with a single individual in one of those institutions, and is therefore greatly exaggerated, very unbalanced and over-generalised; it draws on a number of sources which have nothing to do with the anthroposophical environment or else are hostile to it.

Greenaway’s introduction provides a reasonably correct thumbnail sketch of aspects of Steiner and his work, but it fails to put that work in historical context, and without context, one cannot appreciate or properly evaluate what Steiner was trying to do. Materialistic natural science had come to dominate most aspects of life in the West, including philosophy and religion, by the last decades of the 19th century, and was underpinned by the formidable progress of technology, which for many people seemed magical. But the rapid urbanisation that science and technology made possible tended not only to physically oppress many of the new urban working class and rob them of their human dignity but also to psychologically depress many in the middle and upper classes, who turned for solace to the arts and to spiritual pursuits such as Spiritualism and Theosophy. Traditional Christianity, many felt, was already being steadily undermined by the influence of critical academic theology which increasingly leaned, post-Darwin, Huxley and Haeckel, towards natural science. Nevertheless, many westerners still longed for a Christian path or for some other spiritual path that would relieve the grim but relentless pressure from modernism and materialistic urban life.

    One can notice that in history new developments have invariably been ‘balanced’ by counter-movements, so in this increasingly materialistic culture of the West, the Spiritualist movement (1848) and the Theosophical movement (1875) emerged to counter this materialism, both of which began in the USA, and soon made substantial inroads in Europe among people whose souls felt parched in the expanding desert of scientific materialism. Spiritualism, however, unfortunately drew many people into a morbid fascination with the world of the dead, while Theosophy, founded in New York by the Russian, Helena P. Blavatsky, pulled many others into the direction of Asian mysticism, notably Hinduism and Buddhism.

Anthroposophie Forum - Bibliothek: Rudolf Steiner - Zeittafel zu Leben ...

    Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) (pictured above aged 18, in 1879), as a child had had direct spiritual experience of a relative who did not live nearby and whose spirit visited him when she had only just died.  He also perceived elemental beings in nature in the countryside in which he grew up around the rural railway station where his father was employed as stationmaster. However, it was through his interest in geometry that he realised that invisible worlds can be grasped through thinking, and he went on to have a very modern natural scientific and technical education. In his 20s in Vienna, he met a wide-ranging constellation of searching individuals, some of them quite well-known, and his interests were in philosophy, where he sought a way to overcome what he saw as the nefarious influence of Immanuel Kant, and in pedagogy, where he worked as tutor in the home of a wealthy Jewish family, the Spechts, whose son suffered from a form of autism. Steiner’s PhD dissertation, directed against Kantianism, was titled Truth and Science, and he expanded greatly on the theme in his major philosophical work, The Philosophy of Freedom (1894). In both works Steiner opposed Kant’s concepts of duty and limits to knowledge and put forward a profound critique of the philosophical basis of materialistic thought, affirming   free will and the supreme importance of thinking as the individual’s prime human instrument, without which freedom, science, or any real human life are impossible. Greenaway, however, in his article’s section on “Higher Worlds”, dismisses the Philosophy of Freedom, which Steiner regarded as the most important of his thirty books, merely as “a philosophical approach to the psychology of perception (and not the most readable or concise, it must be said!)”. This is untrue because perception in the act of knowing takes up only two of the fifteen chapters of Steiner’s book, which deals with many things: the nature of knowledge, thinking, freedom, moral imagination, values in life, individuality and genus, the basis of ethics and morality and much more. Greenway expects a book on such themes to be “concise”! As for “readable”, Steiner did not intend the book to carry passive readers along but wanted them to work at it and become inwardly active in their thinking.

    For most of the 1890s, Steiner was in Weimar, where he worked on editing Goethe’s scientific writings. Until then, he would have called himself a radical libertarian and philosophical anarchist – not of the bomb-throwing kind, but someone who opposed excessive State control and  racial, national, religious or sexist dogmas of any kind that sought to restrict individuals’ efforts to think for themselves; his philosophy of life was what he called “ethical individualism”, as he wrote in The Philosophy of Freedom: “To live in love of one’s actions and to let live in understanding of the other’s  volition, this is the fundamental maxim of the free man.”  It was only in 1899, when he was 38, that he had his most profound experience of Christ. From then on, his life became something other. By 1902, convinced that western culture was heading for the abyss (it arrived 12 years later), he had become a spiritual teacher who was determined to do what he could to clarify and bridge various worlds: east and west, ancient and modern, men and women, Christians and non-Christians, the artistic and the scientific. He felt that modern people in the West had to find their way to Christ and to the spirit not as the Theosophists and others sought to do, by turning to ancient, non-western religions, or by returning to pre-modern collective states of ‘tribal’ consciousness, as modern totalitarians and many in today’s New Age would later do, but rather, by understanding themselves as beings of body, soul and spirit  – as modern individuals whose consciousness has developed over millennia from ancient blood-based collectives through modern individualism, the eye of the needle, towards a culture far off yet in the future, in which free individuals will freely choose or create their communities and societies. Our modern predicament, he felt, called for a modern understanding of karma and reincarnation in a Christian context, the need to see that we are each evolving spirits, ultimately unbound by body, blood, genes, race, nation and tribe. From life to life, we choose these for our needs in any one particular life. To understand myself fully, which will not normally be possible in a single life, I need to know my past lives, not only this one I am living now. Then I can understand the particular nature of the long path I have been taking from God, not back but forward, to God again. And what applies here to the individual also applies to human culture as a whole. History, Steiner taught, cannot be understood without taking into consideration the actions of spiritual beings (both human and non-human) incarnate and disincarnate. The teaching of karma and reincarnation in a modern context that took account of western, Christian development would become Steiner’s essential task.

79 best Rosicrucian images on Pinterest | Cross stitches, Crosses and ...

Greenaway in his introduction says that both Theosophy and Anthroposophy “can be seen as developments within, or from, the broad tradition known as Rosicrucianism. However, that does not mean that either or both of these late-nineteenth-century currents is broadly accepted, or accepted without adverse criticism, within the Rosicrucian tradition”. This is rather misleading, because Steiner always made clear that the essence of Rosicrucianism, with which he did indeed associate Anthroposophy, was esoteric Christianity and that the Rosicrucian stream began secretly in 13th century Europe and emerged somewhat more publicly in Central Europe (SW Germany) in the early decades of the 17th century. Steiner regarded H.P. Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy as a remarkably gifted woman but one who, unfortunately, was firmly opposed to Christianity, which is why she focused so much on non-Christian and non-European spiritual traditions. This was Steiner’s main objection to Theosophy. Most of what called itself “Rosicrucian” in the late 18th and 19th centuries had little to do with the Christian Rosicrucian stream of the early 17th century and far more to do with alchemy, Freemasonry and ancient Egypt. Greenaway implies that both Theosophy and Anthroposophy are regarded as ‘oddballs’ or worse within a single thing called “the Rosicrucian tradition”. However, much of what has come to be called “Rosicrucianism” today is not really interested in Christianity, whereas for Steiner, Rosicrucianism was unthinkable without Christianity; it was and is esoteric Christianity, and he saw his own work as a modern development of that Rosicrucian esoteric Christian stream.

Eurythmy Spring Valley | EANA

   In his brief overview of Anthroposophy and the practical activities that have sprung from it, Greenaway refers to “a therapeutic dance known as eurythmy”. Steiner never referred to eurythmy as “dance”. For him, eurythmy was an art of movement intended for performance on stage (see above), and out of it came two other applications, in pedagogy and therapeutics. It is therefore taught to children in Steiner schools to connect the growing human soul to physical movement, as distinct from gymnastics, which focuses only on the physical body. Curative Eurythmy therapy is used in medical contexts, like art therapy or music therapy. Steiner saw music, dance and theatre in his time as having reached a crisis point, a certain spiritual threshold, and the danger was that European artistic culture would descend below the threshold into what he called ‘sub-nature’ and into something essentially anti-artistic and anti-human but that this would erroneously be called ‘art’ and ‘humanity’. By the end of the First World War, this had certainly happened in forms such as Vorticism, Futurism, Constructivism, Serialism and Dadaism – all based for the most part on abstract intellectual ideas. He sought to find a new way forward, crossing the threshold in a more positive way by relating the art of movement to the formative forces that are objectively within speech and music. These forces are inherently healthy; they are the forces that shape our human organism, our soul life and the natural world as a whole. They are the formative forces that eurythmy works with.

   In all his work in the arts, Steiner rooted his impulse in the human “I” which holds the balance between two forces of radical imbalance, for example, between expansion and contraction. In his nine-meter-high wooden sculpture (see above) which he created together with the English sculptress Edith Maryon in Dornach, Switzerland, he portrays a Christ figure known as “the Representative of Humanity” between, and warding off, two spiritual counterforces: Lucifer and Ahriman (Satan), which Steiner always insisted are not the same, but polar opposite forces of radical imbalance (evil). Both are shown in two ways – within the human soul and in outer nature: within the soul, they struggle for dominance: in the sculpture, Lucifer above struggles with Ahriman below; externally, the two are separate, and the Christ figure’s raised lefthand gesture causes Lucifer to fall through the air from above, while his lowered righthand gesture holds Ahriman firmly in his subterranean place. This balancing “I” gesture between the two polar forces of radical imbalance is what we all struggle to achieve in our souls and what informs so much of the arts in general.

   Greenaway also refers to “a religious sect called the Christian Community” that has emerged from Anthroposophy. The Christian Community certainly does not refer to itself as “a sect”, any more than do Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Baptists or Methodists refer to themselves as “sectarians”. The Christian Community, which Steiner always regarded as completely separate and independent from the Anthroposophical Society, was formed when a group of pastors and priests (mostly from within the Lutheran tradition; see picture above) asked Steiner how the life of the Christian sacraments could become the basis of a Christian communal life in the modern age. On the basis of his indications, they formed their “Christian Community” (1922) and within it began to ordain priests and build congregations. Their priesthood included some of the first ordained women priests in Christian history.

   After Greenaway’s initial overview, the reader soon comes to an indication of Greenaway’s prejudice with the words “I offer a few pointers which I hope will assist interested readers to do some further research for themselves, beyond the propaganda of the devotees of the Steiner movement(my emphasis). And with that phrase, his article departs from balance and becomes an open attack.

Fifth Gospel

Instead of beginning where Rudolf Steiner himself began in the 1880s and 90s, with his philosophical work, which Steiner regarded as the basis of all his other activity, Greenaway goes straight to a cycle of what he mistakenly calls five lectures that Steiner gave in Oslo in 1913, whereas there are actually thirteen lectures and they were given in Oslo, Berlin and Cologne in late 1913 and early 1914. They have the title The Fifth Gospel – From the Akashic Record  (Steiner Collected Works GA 148). It is interesting that Greenaway begins his point of attack here, no doubt aware that for some readers, the very title “Fifth Gospel” will sound presumptuous, even blasphemous or heretical along the lines of: how dare anyone add something to the four canonical Gospels with which we have all become familiar!

Fifth Gospel: From the Akashic Record by Rudolf Steiner, Paperback ...

   Two points should be made here: 1) Christianity is not something frozen in aspic 1700 years ago by the dogmas, definitions and censorings of the early Church Fathers in the early Christian centuries, any more than “science” was frozen in aspic in the time of Francis Bacon in the early 17th century. Christianity is something that grows and develops as humanity grows and develops; Christ, after all, said He would be with us until the end of the world (Matt.: 28:20) 2) St. John’s Gospel ends with the words: “And there are also many things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” (John 21:25) St. Paul witnessed none of Jesus’ deeds in the Three Years from His Baptism to His Ascension yet all the pages in the New Testament written about or by Paul considerably outnumber those written by each of the Gospel writers. Paul, in his own words, was commissioned by the Ascended Christ and achieved remarkable things, but many great Christian teachers have appeared in the centuries since St. Paul, and any impartial observer of the life and activity of Rudolf Steiner would have to recognise that he too was a significant Christian teacher who achieved remarkable things. Paul was enabled to ‘hear’ the voice of the Ascended Christ. That was a suprasensory experience. Steiner, from childhood, had suprasensory abilities, and he gradually developed the ability to read in the ‘Akashic record’, that is, the cosmic memory of all that has happened in the evolution of the earth and of the activities of humans and spiritual beings. This does not mean that Steiner could read everything in that record or even read clearly what he could read. He was frank about how his abilities in this regard were developing over time. What he was able to do at one point, say, in 1913, he could not do years earlier. But why should a person with such an ability not communicate what he has been able to observe? Of course, everyone is free not to consider or to trust what he says. If we do not have that ability of suprasensory vision ourselves, we can, however, investigate the life of the observer and decide for ourselves whether he is trustworthy or not, just as people in St. Paul’s time had to decide for themselves whether or not to accept what he said.

   Greenaway describes The Fifth Gospel as a “core text” “in the sense of being much revered by all Steiner affiliates” (my emphasis). As someone who has been involved with Steiner’s work and his movement for 42 years, I can say with confidence that it is not true that all “Steiner affiliates” revere the Fifth Gospel lectures. There are many different streams of people within the anthroposophical movement, and they have many different interests within it. Steiner himself distinguished two broad streams in the movement: those he called ‘old souls’, who had already had one or two, or possibly even more Christian incarnations, and ‘young souls’ who had either had only one Christian incarnation or else were having their first Christian incarnation in the modern world now. These ‘young souls’ had had more non-Christian incarnations and still had leanings to the pagan world and to more cosmological themes, whereas ‘the old souls’ were more Christocentric and often more devotional. Some of the young souls can go through decades of interest in Anthroposophy before they develop an interest in Christ or Christology, whereas with others, it is precisely what Steiner has to say about Christ that attracts them from the very beginning. Contrary to Greenaway’s implication, The Fifth Gospel is not normally regarded within Anthroposophy as a “core text”. There are four such “core texts”: The Philosophy of Freedom (1894), Theosophy (1904), Knowledge of the Higher Worlds – How Is It Achieved? (1905/08) and An Outline of Esoteric Science (1909). Those with an especial interest in Christianity are usually drawn to Steiner’s work by reading his lectures on the four Gospels (1908-1912) or by his early lectures Christianity as Mystical Fact (1902), by The Fifth Gospel (1913-14) or by Christ and the Human Soul (1914).

    Greenaway describes The Fifth Gospel as having “a dense and driven style….hyper-conceptual and impenetrable to some”. This is much exaggerated. The Fifth Gospel is far from Steiner’s most difficult work nor is it “hyper-conceptual and impenetrable”; the style is not particularly “dense” nor is it “driven”. By contrast, there is his more difficult work such as his book The Riddles of Philosophy (1914), his ultra-condensed and cryptic lectures Anthroposophy – An Introduction (1924) or scientific lectures such as The Fourth Dimension – Mathematics and Reality (1905-1922). Many works of English theology are far less accessible or readable than The Fifth Gospel, for example, those of Steiner’s contemporaries in the English Lux Mundi movement (in the Church of England) of the 1890s. Nevertheless, Greenaway does admit, in a most unreligious turn of phrase, that with The Fifth Gospel, “perseverance pays dividends”, although this is rather disingenuous, as he omits to tell us what the “dividends” actually are.

   He chooses to “focus on Lecture 2, in which Steiner purports to examine the developing state of consciousness of some of Christ’s disciples in the period leading from the death of Jesus up to Pentecost.” But Greenaway doesn’t actually consider this developing state of consciousness of the disciples. Instead, he focuses on Jesus’ dead body in the tomb and what Steiner says about it. Greenaway is evidently disturbed by Steiner’s “clairvoyant observation” of what went on in the tomb at the time of the earth tremors following Jesus’ body being placed in the tomb. Steiner says that these tremors caused the body of Jesus to fall into a fissure and that further tremors closed the fissure over the body, so that later, the tomb seemed empty “for the Earth had received the dead body of Jesus”.

   Greenaway notes that “this assertion asserts new knowledge, not known to the historical record nor to archaeology. Any critical evaluation requires us to ask the question: How does Steiner know that Jesus’ body fell into a crevice? …. (Steiner) propagated the concept of “spiritual science”,  [so] it seems reasonable to ask: What evidence does Steiner adduce?” Greenaway brings in the word “science” here, because he suggests that Steiner’s “spiritual science” is not what he, Greenaway, thinks science properly is, as we see from the title of his article. Steiner would answer: “Jesus’ body fell into the crevice; that event is visible in the Akashic record”. A clairvoyant has access to things that non-clairvoyants do not. He has an ‘instrument’ that others do not, with which he can investigate reality. A natural scientist may have an instrument that others do not, such as an electron microscope, a radio telescope or even a super instrument like the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. But the natural scientist then has to interpret  – through thinking – what he claims to observe through his instruments. Do we believe and trust him? And if so, why? The astronomer or microbiologist uses his instrument and tells us: “this is what I saw, and this is what it means”. Steiner used his instrument and told people: “this is what I saw and this is what it means.” In both cases one has to look at the wider context in order to be able to make a judgment as to whether to trust the investigator.

    Greenaway says nothing here about the wider context of the lecture in question or about whether one can trust Steiner as investigator. Instead, he suddenly goes off at a tangent and brings in the concept of “the resurrection of the intellect” to “justify” his “critical approach”. “This concept” he claims, rather tackily, “permeates the vast Steiner corpus like the lettering through a stick of Brighton rock”. Having read a great deal of Steiner over the past four decades, I can assure readers that Greenaway is wrong and that this particular concept, “the resurrection of the intellect”, certainly does not “permeate the vast Steiner corpus” as he claims. Intellectual thinking, as first developed by the ancient Greeks, is only one kind of thinking, and a very abstract kind. Steiner was concerned to help people develop three kinds of thinking beyond the intellectual; he used three technical terms for these: Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition. But as preparation for this, he insisted that first, people need to think in a clear and organised way. Those who call Steiner a “mystic” simply have not read him.

    Greenaway does not help his readers even to understand what he means by this concept – “the resurrection of the intellect”. Instead, he uses it merely as a lever with which to attack Steiner’s teaching of reincarnation. He suddenly says that “Steiner regarded himself as a reincarnation of Aristotle, though with some other interesting incarnations in between, including Thomas Aquinas.” He puts this in such a way that readers might think that Steiner regularly spoke about himself as an incarnation of Aristotle or Aquinas, as though to give himself some kudos. On the contrary, Steiner never spoke about his former incarnations in public, saying “I was this person or that.” He made only some indirect allusions to his previous incarnations in a very few private conversations with individuals. Nowhere in the book (Rudolf Steiner’s Mission and Ita Wegman by Margaret and Erich Kirchner Bockholt, Rudolf Steiner Press (1977), to which Greenaway refers  as ‘evidence’ that Steiner regarded himself to have been Aristotle and Aquinas,  will the reader find Steiner saying “I was Aristotle…I was Aquinas”. Steiner was far too modest and tactful a man to make such statements. The distribution of that book, first published in English in 1977 and privately printed for members of the Anthroposophical Society, was even numbered and restricted; it was not generally available. Not even in the cycle of 82 lectures that Steiner gave on karma and reincarnation in the last year of his life did he say that he had previously incarnated as Aristotle and Aquinas. It was his pupils who worked that out in subsequent years and decades from reading between the lines and relating various things Steiner had said over the years. More to the point here than the book cited by Greenaway is Rudolf Steiner’s Core Mission: The Birth and Development of Spiritual-Scientific Karma Research (2010) by Thomas H. Meyer, which is available to the public through the usual channels. This book focuses on Steiner’s connection to Aquinas and to the subject of the nature of human thinking.

Rudolf Steiner's Mission and Ita Wegman by Margarete and Erich Kirchner ...Rudolf Steiner's Core Mission

Greenaway says that “Whether Steiner was factually correct in this insight is, of course, highly debatable, but that is a side-issue here.” “The point”, he says, “is that Steiner’s ‘Anthroposophy’ attempts to apply a further development of Aristotle’s thought to various issues and problems of our time.” (emphasis – TB) Again, this is highly misleading for those unfamiliar with Steiner, Anthroposophy, or Aristotle. First, Anthroposophy is not merely a “further development of Aristotle’s thought”, as Greenaway implies, since Anthroposophy considers all the major developments in western thought before and since Aristotle’s time, nor is it merely the attempt to apply some kind of neo-Aristotelian thought to various issues and problems of our time” which “further development” Greenaway then says is “not clear”. Actually, it could not be clearer. There have been few more powerful critics of modern society and its problems than Rudolf Steiner and few individuals who have offered as many profound practical solutions to those problems across a whole range of activities, from farming and banking to social issues, education, healthcare and the arts, from bees to Buddhism and from limestone to Lucifer. Greenaway says he has been able since the 1970s to discover only “one unvarying fundamental” in this “further development” of “Aristotle’s thought”, which is what, grossly overgeneralising, he claims Anthroposophy is. But Greenaway does not tell us what this single fundamental is, i.e., he does not give us a ‘what’; instead, he gives us a ‘how’. He claims that students of Anthroposophy invariably start addressing any topic by looking for an indication about it by Steiner. In other words, he seeks to accuse those interested in Anthroposophy (not Steiner himself, please note!) of dogmatism; he attacks how they consider things rather than what they come up with.

    Firstly, what Greenaway says is simply wrong, in my experience. In many anthroposophical groups I have attended, a subject is first approached, whether it is, for example, the question of the EU or COVID-19, by trying to understand the outer, descriptive aspects of it, e.g. the conventional natural scientific, objective explanation. Then, the group would consider their personal, subjective, response and feelings about it. Next, and only here would anthroposophical knowledge (e.g. indications from Steiner) perhaps enter the process, and not necessarily. The group members would seek to identify one or a few key gestures or identifying markers in the phenomenon; they would try to get at the essence of it.  Certainly, anthroposophical knowledge could be of help at this point in for example, relating the phenomenon to Steiner’s indications about spiritual history. They would try to distil the phenomenon, if possible, to a single key concept or word or picture. Then, and this is important, they would sleep on it, preferably, for more than one night, having taken the question about the phenomenon into sleep. They would then reassemble and see if any member of the group had had any illumination as to the spiritual origin of the phenomenon i.e. what spiritual being, or what kind of spiritual being, underlies or informs the phenomenon, the point being that all phenomena in this world have their origin in the spiritual world, the lowest level of which is the world of thought, of concepts and ideas, sometimes called (though not by Steiner) the ‘noosphere’, into which spiritual beings from higher realms can and do act, for good or ill. All this is very far from what Greenaway asserts is the anthroposophical approach, namely, simply to find what Steiner says about something and then repeat it. Steiner himself would have been appalled at such a dogmatic approach and said so many times. Freedom of thinking was his central concern from his earliest philosophical writings onwards, and if any person engaged in Anthroposophy merely regurgitates what Steiner said about something without any attempt to think it through by him or herself, that person would not have understood what Steiner was all about. But unthinking dogmatism, after all, can be found in just about every walk of life; we saw plenty of it during the COVID years.

National Sovereignty

By way of example of what he regards as anthroposophical dogmatism, Greenaway immediately goes to a subject that he surely knew would be of interest to UK Column viewers – national sovereignty. Without giving any indication of the depth and complexity of Steiner’s thinking about nations, nationhood, nationalism or national sovereignty, Greenaway grossly misrepresents Steiner’s view by saying simply: “if the topic is ‘national sovereignty’, then the permissible stance in a Steiner study group is to view it as a philosophical viewpoint which may or may not have been useful once, but which is now out of date.”

    This is another misrepresentation. Steiner strongly argued that what he often called the “unitary state” (Einheitsstaat) in which national governments claim to manage all aspects of society (e.g. cultural, political and economic) like the executive board of a corporation, is indeed out of date and must be superseded or else it will only cause more suffering and wars which result from economic competition between unitary nation states. He pointed out that two central facts have emerged in the modern age: 1) since the 19th century certainly, and arguably even since the 16th century, we all live in an increasingly interdependent world economy, and 2) individuals have been increasingly asserting their right to dignified treatment by others and to full participation in social affairs; Steiner saw this as the result of the gradual individualisation of western society under the growing influence of the Christian spirit. This second factor of the dignity of each individual human being has led inexorably to democracy, and the proper place for that is in the national community, not in any artificial ‘global citizenship’ or H.G. Wellsian ‘World State’, because individuals grow up in communities in which they share language, culture, traditions, history and natural environment. Steiner was therefore firmly opposed to world government in an abstract political sense but argued that humanity has to find a way to regulate the world economy by economic means through representation, not by socialistically inclined politicians, lawyers and bureaucrats, but by cooperation between those people involved in the three aspects of the economic process itself – production, distribution and consumption. This is a deeply social, not socialist process. In the modern economic world, we depend on each other (fraternity). In the political world, individuals and interest groups try to balance their mutual interests, rights and responsibilities (equality) within national communities, each of which has its own unique history and traditions different from those of other countries, and in the cultural world (the arts, sciences, “research”, philosophy, religion), individuals require the liberty to develop their individual talents, capacities, and insights, so here too the State has no place and no right to dominate or interfere. The cultural sphere is cosmopolitan, but in a different way from the economic sphere, which is intrinsically cooperative rather than competitive; in the cultural sphere, where competition is rightfully at home, artists and scientists, also those engaged in sports, need to be able to operate throughout the world, free from both political and economic interference.

Functional Threefoldness in the Human Organism and Human Society - Dr ...

    This is only a thumbnail sketch of the broadest outline of Steiner’s threefold picture of society which has sophisticated ramifications that can be extended throughout each of the three spheres[TB1] . While Steiner saw that cosmopolitanism and internationalism have inevitably developed over the past 500 years and therefore have to be reckoned with in the cultural and economic spheres, national sovereignty inherently belongs in the political/legal sphere and should continue to do so. This calls for a greatly reduced role for the State, but not in any traditional Tory Party sense. This is because the Christian spirit underlying the fact of economic interdependence requires a new ethos in economic life, one that is based on local, regional, national and international threefold economic associations of producers, distributors and consumers. This is a fully threefold, or trinitarian, ethos that will lead away from the current direction towards economic warfare between national economies fighting egoistically for resources and for profits for oligarchs and mega-corporations. Greenaway’s simplistic misrepresentation of Steiner’s view of national sovereignty is just that – a misrepresentation. Even Steiner’s lectures on economics were called the National Economy course (Nationalökonomischer Kurs) because at that point he was trying, to begin with, to get across the threefold ideas within the more national context of that time. The English title of those lectures is “World Economy”, a title with which he would no doubt agree today. If threefold economic associations linking networks of producers, distributors and consumers on an ongoing basis were active at local, regional and national levels in many countries, the world economy could likewise be regulated more ethically, unlike today’s WTO or GATT, which are controlled by financial, political/national and megacorporate oligarchical interests.

    Greenaway’s critique then wanders, via reference to Thomism and Aquinas’ own apparent acknowledgment, at the very end of his life, of the limitations of thinking (Steiner never accepted that there were limitations to human thinking), into the difference between Steiner’s approach and negative theology or mysticism. Greenaway insists that the dogmatism in the anthroposophical movement which he personally encountered (it can, however, be encountered in just about every sphere of human social life, in academia, for example)  has led to friction and splits within the ‘Steiner movement’.  There has indeed been some friction and splits in the movement, but again, of what part of human social life has that not been true? For support, Greenaway points us to a book that is markedly hostile to all the main esoteric and spiritual endeavours of the past 150 years or so – The Occult Establishment by James Webb (1986), which he calls a “somewhat neglected classic”. Webb’s book, however, fails to examine the real “occult Establishment” operative in British society for over 300 years, namely Freemasonry, which is only mentioned on 11 of the book’s 535 pages. There was a serious split in the Anthroposophical Society from 1935 until c.1970, after which it was overcome, and the two wings came back together again. Since then, the broad movement has remained unsplit, a rather unusually positive development in such movements. Greenaway asserts that “the more independent-minded tend to leave the Steiner movement, or to maintain only partial linkage”. This may be true, I do not know, but Greenaway offers no numbers to back his claim. I can only say that in 42 years I have met countless people within the movement who are independent-minded, just as I have met many who are not.

    After this superficial effort to smear the anthroposophical movement as being “dogmatic” and which always follows the Master’s indications and nothing else, Greenaway suddenly cuts back to that crevice in the tomb in The Fifth Gospel, and again to lecture 2. Indeed, throughout his whole article, he refers to no other specific lecture but this single one from Steiner’s 6000+ collection of lectures. Now he tries to undermine the concept of the Akashic record and refers us to an online talk and a single phrase by Teal Swan, (aka Mary Teal Bosworth) an American New Age spiritual teacher, who he freely admits is “not herself an Anthroposophist.” She is 39 and only began her career as a self-help spiritual teacher in 2011, thus in her late 20s! This unserious diversion leads Greenaway to question Steiner’s statements about the prehistory of the Earth, accessed via the Akashic record, as presented in one of his four core texts –– An Outline of Esoteric Science (1909). Greenaway writes: “Anyone who seriously wants to get to grips with Steinerology should obtain this book and read this incredible chapter [Chapter 4]; but without expectation of historical or scientific evidence, as it will be found wanting.” In fact, what Steiner presents there is hardly any more incredible than what cosmologists, astrophysicists and evolutionary biologists urge us to believe. The main difference between what they, and Steiner, present as explanation of how our solar system, the Earth and humanity came to be, is that Steiner’s complex picture is all about the formative activities of conscious intelligent beings – divine servants of God, who used to be called spiritual hierarchies, from the lowest (angels) to the highest (seraphim), whose activities fulfilled a divine plan for humanity, whereas the cosmologists,  astrophysicists and evolutionary biologists  would have us believe that the solar system, the Earth and humanity came about as the result of the materialistic mysticism of the Big Bang and the later lottery of random natural selection – mere accidental meaninglessness. Most people never even think about it, but this is the abysmal level of today’s materialistic explanations of why or how we are here, which bamboozles so many people because they are overawed by the more earthbound and seemingly ‘magical’ achievements of technology: ‘if the scientists can produce the Bomb and AI, surely they can understand what space and energy are?’ But no. Even the more honest cosmologists now finally admit, after some 150 years of scientific materialistic hubris, that they have no clue what 95% of the matter and energy of the universe consists of. That honesty at least is a step in the right direction – though obviously not for Mr Greenaway, who continues to adhere faithfully to “the science”. Steiner’s picture, by contrast, is complex, intelligent, internally coherent, beautiful and awe-inspiring. Above all, it is permeated by meaning, which relates all levels of creation to each other and to the divine.

Higher Worlds

Greenaway next moves to critique Steiner’s book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds but not without another swipe at the concept of the Akashic record: “It seems there is some disagreement as to the level on which the Akashic record is located— ‘you can’t expect experts in any field to agree’ is Teal Swan’s comment.” Greenaway thus implies that there is disagreement among spiritual scientists who speak of the Akashic record, and yet in the natural sciences, which he obviously esteems, there is disagreement among experts in all fields of knowledge – that is, after all, part of the process of how science advances.

    Greenaway follows this swipe with an anecdote, obviously intended to be humorous, about one lady who ran an anthroposophical institution (Camphill Delrow in the UK, for adults and children with special needs) where he worked some 45 years ago (!). This lady spoke of “a buzz of energy” which the exercises in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds produced “at the end of her nose, which indicated to her that she was on the right track”. Clearly, this anecdote was included to stimulate ridicule in the reader. He then says: “no aficionado of Steiner has ever developed an ability to ‘read’ the Akashic record; not even in part, so far as I am aware.” To this, one can only reply: has Greenaway then been aware of all the people in the anthroposophical movement across the whole world since the 1970s? And even if he were correct in his surmise, one has to remember that our culture has been deeply enmeshed in materialist thought and action for some 400 years; it is only reasonable that it will take quite some time for individuals to develop really effective spiritual capacities such as reading the Akashic record. Even in ancient cultures and also in tribal cultures today, only a very few people within those cultures (wizards, witches, sadhus, ‘medicine men’) developed effective spiritual skills. When our culture seriously begins to expand its view of what “science” is – beyond the conceptual limits of natural science asserted since the early 17th century  - into  suprasensory realms, then we can expect that more and more people will become spiritual scientists, some of whom will also have the capacity to read the Akashic record. Indeed, Steiner claimed that from 1900, humanity was slowly emerging from a 5000 year-long period of spiritual darkness (in which, paradoxically, it developed individual freedom apart from its divine parentage though with constant help from reincarnating human beings who have been at higher stages of spiritual or ethical development) and he predicted that more and more people from the 1930s onwards (he died in 1925) would begin to have natural clairvoyant vision again, as most human beings had had over 5000 years earlier but had since lost. But that would be very problematic, he said, because most, due both to the materialism of modern culture and the lack of any spiritual education, would not be able to make sense of what they were experiencing i.e. they would not be able to bring the right concepts to what they were perceiving. It was one of Anthroposophy’s main tasks to help with this.

    Even Greenaway admits that he accepts or at least tolerates the idea of the Akashic record as a hypothesis – “unproven, though possibly useful”. A theory then, as are those of Darwin and Einstein. He leans for support here on biblical references to “records in the ‘Book of Life’” but insists that reading the Akashic record “does not of itself constitute proof of the facts read therein, at least not if we feel beholden to ideas of scientific method or historical evidence.” The first part of his statement here is true: a natural scientist can observe something with his microscope or telescope, but the concepts he brings to interpret the percepts he observes may not necessarily be the correct ones. The same is true of a spiritual scientist reading the Akashic record. However, the second part of Greenaway’s statement shows the limitation of his own thinking, as he speaks of feeling “beholden to ideas of scientific method or historical evidence”. These ideas are not something fixed, as he seems to think; they are not stuck in the period from 1600 -1900. We cannot speak of “the science”, as Greta Thunberg and others do; there is no such thing. Science simply means “knowing”. The knowing of the ancient Egyptians was different from that of the ancient Greeks, which differed from the mediaeval period, which differed in turn from that of the rigid materialism of the 19th century, which differed again from the more fluid approaches to science that are beginning to emerge in our time and for which Steiner was one of the early and significant pioneers.

    Greenaway, once again referring to the only lecture he cites  (lecture 2 in The Fifth Gospel) from Steiner’s enormous oeuvre, points out that Steiner himself admits in that lecture that it is not easy to read the Akashic record with precision. Greenaway then cites the last sentence of the lecture: “‘Nevertheless’, concludes Steiner, ‘when you hear these words, you may feel an indication of what lives in me when I speak about the secrets which I would like to call the secrets of the so-called Fifth Gospel’.” This quotation by Greenaway lacks context. Firstly, in those years before the First World War, Steiner was quite open about the fact that his spiritual vision was not perfect or fully formed but that it was developing. In this particular lecture, after describing the difficulties he had in reading the Akashic record, Steiner suggested a reason why and said: “I am certain it would have required less effort if, like many people today, I had received a truly Christian education in early youth. I did not have this. I grew up in an entirely freethinking environment and my studies also went in that direction. My higher education was purely scientific. I now have some trouble finding the things of which I am obliged to speak.” But he then points out that he also felt obliged to mention this because there were those (e.g. Annie Besant, the head of the Theosophical Society) spreading lies that he had been trained by Jesuits. Also, he says, he felt that his lack of an ordinary Christian upbringing made him less biased towards Christianity; he came to it out of his own spiritual experience, not out of family conditioning. He felt also that in the modern age, many people would place more reliance on a scientifically trained person speaking about Christianity who had not had a typical Christian upbringing. It is after this that he speaks the last words of the lecture, which are quoted by Greenaway: “If you take my words seriously, you will feel an indication of what lives within me when I now speak of the secrets that I would like to call the secrets of the so-called Fifth Gospel.”

     Providing none of this context, and after considering a few lines from only one of Steiner’s 6000+ lectures given over a period of 22 years, Greenaway comes to a colossal, exaggerated generalisation: “Thus—as happens over and over again when we try to close on some aspect of so-called “spiritual science” according to Rudolf Steiner—we encounter a nebulous morass.” Certainly, Steiner could sometimes be unclear, but then most of his teaching was oral and given in the form of lectures not in books (of which he wrote about 30), so it could be affected by conditions such as health, tiredness, travel etc. Some of his lectures absolutely sparkle while others may feel more laboured. Also, he was not exactly helped by the German language, which does not have clarity as its forte, and Greenaway was dependent on translations, some of which can further obscure matters. Nevertheless, on the whole, Steiner was a very clear, sober, comprehensive and remarkably incisive and insightful thinker whose presentations, in print and at the podium, were very well-organised, aesthetic, humane, engaging and full of warmth. There is much testimony to this, even from those who were not his pupils or supporters. To characterise his work as a “nebulous morass” is the language of an ‘intellectual’ vandal.

    Greenaway at least recognises that Steiner did acknowledge that his insights should be tested—in various applications—for their efficacy, and indeed Steiner repeatedly said that he did not want to be “believed”, but rather, urged people only to be open-minded enough to keep his statements in mind as they experienced life. “Many of his leading so-called clairvoyant insights”, says Greenaway, “are simply untestable”. It is true that some are untestable, but how many people have “tested” the Big Bang, or Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection or Hawking’s black hole theories? Natural science is full of “untestables” for ordinary people. In Steiner’s work there are also many testable and also ‘semi-testable’ insights and indications. There are statements which one can immediately recognise from one’s own experience, others which one hasn’t experienced but which one can make sense of and can at least entertain as possibilities, and then there are more bizarre statements, which might seem incredible, until one recognises that many bizarre statements by other people have been proven correct in the past. There was the ‘bizarre’ statement by Steiner on 13 January 1923 (See Health and Illness, Volume 2, Anthroposophic Press) that if farmers began to feed dead animals to cattle, the cattle would start going ‘mad’! This was shown to be true in the BSE crisis of the 1990s.

    Greenaway then claims that in his experience every “Steiner aficionado” is a blind devotee who believes everything Steiner said. “Such blind devotion constitutes a theocracy, the polar opposite of science in any meaningful sense of the word.” Devotion, he says,  cannot “constitute a theocracy”.  Devotion, however, is a feeling; “theocracy” is a system of rulership. Devotion may be useful to a theocracy but cannot be said to constitute one i.e. to be one. A theocracy is the polar opposite of science, says Greenaway, but in the theocracy that was ancient Egypt, who were the men of science, the men of knowledge? The priesthood! Something similar was held to be true in medieval Europe. And who are today’s cardinals, who constitute today’s theocracy, if not the scientists who the media constantly urge us all to look up to? Whose strictures were the politicians in governments throughout the world following when they imposed their totalitarian controls on their populations in 2020-2022? Those of “the scientists”, whose science at that time turned out to have feet of clay. An Outline of Esoteric Science: (CW 13) (Classics in ...


Here we arrive at the nub of Greenaway’s critique of Anthroposophy and Steiner’s work, namely, that it is not “science”. His claim about the blind devotees is based only on his own personal experience. I have met many thousands of people in my 42 years of experience of Anthroposophy and I have certainly met some blind devotees, but I have met many more who were the opposite, who strove to think for themselves as well as quite a number who challenged or questioned what Steiner said. I have also met, seen, witnessed or read blind devotees in universities, in academia, in “science”. The very world of academic “science” is built on authority; it should not be, but it is. Most scientific progress has been halted or held up when scientific authorities have blocked the work and research of the brave few who dare to question. Again, we have seen this during the COVID-19 years. Progress in science, in anything in fact, has very often come from the periphery, not so often from the centre. Greenaway uses the word “theocracy” incorrectly: “theocracy”, as a system of rulership, belongs to the world of politics and society, not science. Only in his last two years, in 1923, did Steiner take on the leadership of the Anthroposophical Society, after the remarkable building he had spent 10 years constructing had been destroyed by an arsonist influenced by a local Catholic priest, and the Anthroposophical Society, which had been founded 10 years earlier, fell into a crisis due not least to the rampant hyperinflation of that year 1923, Until then, he had been the teacher of the Society, not its leader or administrator.

    Forgetting the abominations that happened in the name of “science” in the COVID years, when the whole world could arguably be described as having been “on the cultic spectrum”, Greenaway declares that Anthroposophy is a theocracy and that although “a theocracy is not necessarily a cult”, Anthroposophy is “on the cultic spectrum”. He goes on to concede, however, that the anthroposophical movement is not actually a ‘cult’ and even grudgingly admits, though without giving details, that its practical ‘draw-downs’ (his term) “can be useful to the broader community” but he insists once again that Anthroposophy’s “cornucopia of ideas…barely adds up to ‘spiritual science.’” Evidently, he thinks ‘spiritual science’ must be the same as ‘natural science’. But this is by no means the case. What the two have in common is observation and the attempt to think clearly and precisely. However, natural science since Francis Bacon has proceeded by way of hypothesis and induction, from the particular to the whole; spiritual science proceeds by way of vision and deduction, from the whole to the particular.

    Greenaway now asks if spiritual science (Anthroposophy) is ‘proved’ by Anthroposophy’s practical activities (e.g. biodynamic agriculture, viticulture, and healthcare). The evidence is mixed, he says: anthroposophical products (e.g. wine, biodynamic agricultural produce) “compare well with other comparable produce, though the devotion applied in their production renders scientific comparison virtually impossible” – what does that latter part even mean? That one is not supposed to strive for quality? That one is not supposed to work hard to make quality products? Either the products are tasty, healthy or efficacious, or they are not.

    He recognises that the British Medical Association has a “generally dismissive”, “blinkered attitude” towards alternative remedies such as homoeopathic and anthroposophic medicines but he continued to use them “for over forty years” even though “objective testing of them is virtually impossible” “as there is no agreed common methodology”. But the point is: if they work, then surely, they should be used. Anthroposophic remedies have been used for a hundred years, and customers continue to use them. One can only say that if they did not work, all those customers must be fools. People must have had success with them; otherwise anthroposophic medicine would have withered on the vine many decades ago.


Now Greenaway comes to a significant institutional offshoot of Anthroposophy: the Camphill Communities (for people with special needs), founded by Dr. Karl König in 1939 near Aberdeen, Scotland. There are over 100 of these communities in more than 20 countries. The Camphill Movement, Greenaway says, “has had some notable success through provision of curative education in a supportive environment for mentally less able members,” especially in relation to childhood autism. But, as usual, he doesn’t detail that and prefers to focus on downsides – the exhaustion of staff members and cases of bullying, which he experienced at two Camphill communities, where he worked, it has to be said, not for a very long time, and he acknowledges that he was not Camphill-trained when he was working there. His lack of education in the Camphill ethos might explain his lack of sympathy with the “village community lifestyle” that he dismisses as excessive “busyness”. He also acknowledges, “in mitigation”, that in his experience, the bullying he witnessed was “staff-on-staff, never staff on vulnerable members”.

I shall omit further discussion of Greenaway’s negative judgment of Camphill, which is by far the longest section of his whole article, because much of it is his complaints about a particular individual under whom he worked, a personal experience and one in which he obviously suffered a great deal. Instances of bullying or other wrongdoing in any institution should of course be acknowledged and dealt with. However, to generalise negatively about an entire institution largely on the basis of one’s resentment or antipathy towards a single individual and then to generalise further that one’s negative judgments about that one anthroposophical institution somehow ‘prove’ that Rudolf Steiner or Anthroposophy as a whole are at fault is, in the view of this writer, poor judgment indeed. One can encounter unpleasant, domineering or even bullying individuals in any institution, including churches and scientific institutions. Just because an individual within a spiritual movement or institution clearly has not sufficiently (or even not at all) internalised the teachings of that movement does not mean that that movement should be condemned in toto. “By their fruits ye shall know them” – fair enough, but for that criticism to stand across the board in this case, Greenaway would have needed to  have worked in a number of Camphill communities around the world, or to have detailed knowledge of people who had done so over a long period of time; alternatively, lacking such personal experience, he would need to have carried out a systematic survey of such institutions in various countries over a considerable period in order to substantiate a public criticism of, or accusation against, Camphill or Anthroposophy as a whole. Such would surely be more in the line of a “scientific” approach. Instead of this, Greenaway has chosen to present only his own personal experience and anecdotes, in which a strain of long-held personal antipathies towards a particular individual would appear to be admixed.

    Greenaway seems to be conscious of his lack of a “scientific” stance here, because he then refers to “some research” (undetailed) by a “Jungian analyst”, Kevin O’Dowd, in the early 1970s (50 years ago!) “on the efficacy of western ashrams”. He does not say whether anthroposophical communities or institutions were included in this research. O’Dowd’s conclusions were that “in every instance he investigated, these structures eventually devolved into two groups of people who needed each other in symbiotic relationship. These two groups were: 1. people who needed to dominate, and 2. people who needed to be dominated”, and Greenaway then declares that “Camphill-trained staff… appeared to fit that study at the two Camphill communities that I worked in during the 1970s. People who did not fit this dichotomy tended to leave.” How many Camphill-trained staff  “appeared to fit the study” and how many of those “who did not fit the dichotomy tended to leave” he does not tell us.

    Such is the extent of the “scientific proof” of the “downside” of Camphill offered by a man who has chosen to attack Anthroposophy and Rudolf Steiner on the basis that they are not “scientific”.



Perhaps because his attack lacked sufficient “scientific” backing, in the final part of his argument, Greenaway, in the section – very appropriately – titled Prejudice? turns for support to an article co-written by Peter Zegers, a bookseller from Amsterdam, and the American Leftist academic Peter Staudenmaier  – not exactly an impartial and balanced scholar. Staudenmaier (pictured below), a left-wing anarchist and radical Green professor at the private Marquette University in Milwaukee, one of the largest Jesuit universities in the USA, is an academic ‘pugilist’ who has spent much of his career trying to smear Steiner with the tarbrush of racism and anti-semitism. Greenaway nowhere acknowledges these aspects of Staudenmaier’s background; instead, he refers to the “carefully-referenced article” (i.e. it has many footnotes), which brings up the racism question. This is not the place to enter into a detailed discussion of Staudenmaier and his “academic” methods[TB2]  – that has been done elsewhere, but two points should be made very clearly. First, Staudenmaier often claims to be open and honest in his approach to debate and to Anthroposophy, but he often quotes things out of context or else provides no context. Secondly, he is so determined to prove that specific remarks by Steiner were racist and/or anti-semitic that he fails to look at Steiner the whole man. For someone who has written much about eco-fascism, he pays little regard to the holistic context of Rudolf Steiner’s biography and therefore does not see that that particular individual could not possibly have been what we call a “racist” or “anti-semite” who saw white people as intrinsically superior to other races because of the colour of their skin. Indeed, no-one with a genuine Christian viewpoint and who regards reincarnation to be true, as Steiner did, could possibly hold that view.

Peter Staudenmaier: From Fascist Italy to the Alt-Right: J. Evola and ...

Following the accusations of racism by Staudenmaier and Zegers, Greenaway then provides his own and refers to a lecture (13.12.1922[TB3] ) in a cycle titled Health and Illness where, without any context whatsoever, he quotes Steiner simply as saying “Blond hair actually bestows intelligence.” On the surface, this certainly seems like one of Steiner’s more bizarre statements, but what is the context? Before the lecture, Steiner had been asked why people with blond hair were becoming increasingly scarce. Greenaway claims that Steiner’s argumentation “descends from premises or assertions that can only be seen by Steiner, often nebulous, and some of which must sound to non-devotees as sheer nonsense.” In fact however, Steiner first describes the eyes in some detail in a completely natural scientific manner. He begins by noting the connection between blond hair and blue eyes and goes on to talk about the different ways in which food substances penetrate people’s heads – either only as far as their brains (blonds) or all the way to the hair and the eyes (dark-haired and dark-eyed people). From here he develops an argument to show that, within the broader context of an ageing planet, blond and fair-haired people are gradually becoming extinct faster than dark-haired people and why it is vital for the human race to develop new sources of intelligence and wisdom that are not based on the physical body as intelligence and wisdom were in ancient times throughout the world. It is a complex and sophisticated discussion, far too long to repeat here, and it is one that Greenaway completely ignores with his simplistic one-sentence quote.

     With regard to the issue of racism, Greenaway does at least mention – although it is tucked away in his footnotes  – A Refutation of the Allegation of Racism against Rudolf Steiner by Richard House, a Steiner Waldorf teacher, in New View Magazine, (Issue 68, Summer 2013) and quotes from House that: “anyone harbouring the slightest doubts about Steiner’s alleged racialism should actually visit a Steiner School [...] or a Camphill Community, or a bio-dynamic farm, or any anthroposophically inspired company [...] and reach [their] own informed conclusions.”

    After leaning on the antipathies of Staudenmaier and Zegers, Greenaway then briefly proffers three points summarising an article carried on the PLANS anti-Anthroposophy website run by veteran anti-Waldorf campaigner Dan Dugan in California. The article is a lengthy sustained diatribe against Steiner and Anthroposophy in general and Waldorf education (aka “Steiner schools”) in particular by an American parent, Sharon Lombard, originally from S. Africa, whose family clearly had a negative experience when their child attended a Waldorf school in the USA. It contains many inaccuracies and also draws heavily on the racialist and utterly biased discourse of Peter Staudenmaier. The first part is a full-on attack on Steiner and Anthroposophy; the second part describes her family’s experience at the school. I would make just two observations here about two things that should have happened before the Lombards’ child joined the school: 1) The school should have made the anthroposophical basis of its educational approach absolutely clear to the parents. The parents’ letter to the school when they later removed their child shows that the school had not done that. 2) The Lombards should have fully informed themselves about Waldorf education before opting to put their child in the school. Sharon Lombard’s article makes very clear that the parents had not done that. There is not the space here to go into Lombard’s article; it is much more detailed than Greenaway’s and contains far more points of interest than his but also far more inaccuracies and untruth. Many parents have unhappy experiences at many different types of schools, private or State-run. Equally, countless parents and children around the world have had very positive experiences indeed at Steiner schools over the 104 years of their existence.

Finally, Greenaway arrives at his disingenuous conclusion in which he allows himself to say that “there are commendable aspects of the Steiner legacy, aspects of its school education” but no more than that; he has not mentioned what these “commendable aspects” are in his article, which has been almost entirely a one-sided attack on Steiner and Anthroposophy. In his brief concluding paragraph, he makes more sideswipes at the “blind”, “faithful followers inhibited by their totalist attitude to the words of the Master” and contrasts “proven (or at least plausible) science” with “inflated, pretentious conjecture, both of which can be found in plenty in Steiner’s work”. He admits therefore that some “science” is only “plausible”, but he does not extend that plausibility to what Steiner has to say. This man, whose experience of Anthroposophy and its institutions, as revealed in his article, is based largely on the 1970s (!), shows that he is not up-to-date with the latest developments when he writes that “within the new Academy/Free Schools structure in the UK, three Steiner-based schools have been able to open as Free Schools.” In fact, by early 2019, four State-supported Steiner Academies were in existence, but in that year, three of the four (Exeter, Bristol, Frome) were judged inadequate by Ofsted, then were closed and handed over to the Avanti Schools Trust, which operates under the I-Foundation, the religious authority governing Avanti schools. The I-Foundation is part of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the Hare Krishna movement). In 2023, one of the three former Steiner Academies (Exeter) has been transferred from the Avanti Academy Trust to the Reach South Academy Trust.  This champion of the free spirit and former State bureaucrat ends his article by calling for more “informed probing” by the State: “Due critical attention must…be applied from outside, particularly in the form of informed probing by appropriate regulatory authorities.”


Greenaway has little positive to say about Steiner and Anthroposophy beyond a few begrudging remarks made perhaps to give the appearance of a ‘balanced’ viewpoint, but it is in fact hardly a balanced critique. Inaccurate and incorrect in various particulars, it is overly subjective and over-generalised. It attacks Steiner and Anthroposophy for not being “scientific” but itself can hardly be called scientific.

Steiner’s Anthroposophy appeared at a time when the West seemed like it was about to emerge from several centuries of gross materialism. The decade before the First World War was a time both of great pessimism and tension in politics and economics and of great optimism in the arts and sciences. The two world wars then arguably set that optimistic emergence from materialism back, and within twenty years of Steiner’s death in 1925, another Austrian of a very different kind had brought Europe to ruin. 80 years on, and Europe and the West are still racked with profound crises and problems, at the root of most of which is still materialism. Steiner was a remarkable modern polymath who stood at the crossroads of Europe’s deep-rooted spiritual, social and scientific problems and tried to offer practical solutions on the basis of a profound understanding of the human being and history. However, he has been largely and consistently ignored, almost deliberately overlooked, especially in the English-speaking world, whose elite claims both that its culture leads, and should lead, the globe. But every now and then, articles or news items appear which reinforce the ignoring, and which say, in effect: “Ignore Rudolf Steiner. Do not look to him for new ideas and solutions.” John Paul Greenaway’s article would seem to be another example of this. This ignoring is an interesting phenomenon in itself, but history is full of examples of how people with genuinely constructive impulses who are ignored for long periods are eventually rediscovered by later generations and their ideas taken up anew as seeds of healing and rebuilding.

Terry Boardman  1 July 2023