Is it a cult?

It has been described so.

Cult is a pejorative term, and I can see why people may not like the word being used in connection with Steiner. However, it is interesting to look at why the accusation is made sometimes.

This is one definition (from the online dictionary);

“An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest”.

I would say this could fit the description of some Steiner people reasonably accurately. The “persons” can be fairly easy to spot. (although interestingly, you can mistake people for members of this group, when they are not, as happened to me recently!)

Often they share broadly similar political, social and aesthetic opinions, and may be part of other similar groups – say Transition or the Green Party-  or maybe agree on the kind of food or leisure activities they enjoy.

However, becoming part of the Steiner culture, which will often happen initially through kindergartens (there are many here), families will gradually assume more and more of the habits and values of their group. Maybe they do the same kind of arts and crafts, cook the same kind of meals, wear similar clothes, shop in the same places and drink coffee in the same cafe.

In addition to this there may be recommendations or advice provided by kindergarten or school teachers on what kind of books to read, crayons to use (black is not used in Steiner circles as it is considered to represent the” lifeless” – awkward if the child wants to draw herself and she has black hair…) what shapes to draw, even whether to have a tv or computer in the house.

This to me is where Steiner begins to look like a cult.

It is one thing to say too much tv may not be good for young children (I wholeheartedly agree) but to start issuing advice on other matters looks kind of odd.

When a group starts to reject aspects of mainstream culture they will stick together more and more. They do not have to move in to a compound and cut themselves off from their families to present an image of a separate society, aloof from the townspeople outside.

Maybe people enjoy being part of what they feel is an exclusive group, or just pleased to be part of a crowd.

The danger is that it will become more and more difficult to depart from the norms of this group, and should there ever arise a reason to withdraw from it, a traumatic period of readjustment to life outside will follow.

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8 comments

  1. Helen

    I have restored this post from trash – I waver between not wanting to offend people, and wanting to discuss things fully.
    Other people have used the word “cult” so now I think it is ok to post this.

  2. Chris

    The Element Encyclopaedia of Secret Societies (Yuk!) describes anthroposophy as occult, and you don’t have to scratch deep to find Hibernia taught occult science at the old college of art on Lansdown. Occult = hidden, same root as cult.
    I think the hidden nature of the true beliefs and even denials that they exist is the thing that I find creepy. There is a huge amount more that I know about them that people in the Green Party, Transition, or the Quakers just would not realise, so those organisations get infiltrated without the good people within them, who tend to be accepting and uncritical, remotely realising it. I am confident that these organisations are not controlled by anthroposophical beliefs, I know, I belong to two of them, but there will certainly be a measure of subtle influence on the surface.
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_groups_referred_to_as_cults_or_sects_in_government_documents where anthoposophy is registered as a cult by at least the Belgian government, see also http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2009/10/cult_busters.html

    Chris

    • Helen

      Yes, I agree, there is so much people do not know – because how would you even suspect anthroposophy exists? No-one talks about it openly.
      I am sure some of it is a reluctance to believe anything so insidious could be operating on the kind of scale it has reached now. It is a disillusionment with something which appears attractive, that people do not want to face.

    • Helen

      Chris, You say the influence is subtle, I have said “heavily influenced”. I suppose that depends on your point of view.
      I think it is a shame that an organisation like Transition should be seen to give credence to something like biodynamics.(See earlier post “Biodynamics – a fascinating little ritual”).
      This bizarre practice is completely anthroposophical, and whilst in itself may be harmless, to allow this kind of mystical nonsense to gain acceptance is a step along the way for the rest of the (sometimes very unpleasant) aspects of anthroposophy to be deemed acceptable.

      • Chris

        Actually, I completely agree with you. I see Biodynamics as being often good organic practice, but with added Steiner magic. As we agreed with Helen Royall, the problem in Stroud is the reality of the huge amount of crossover between organisations. Do you somehow ban Steiner people from joining Transition or the Green Party? Of course not – we encourage a free and open society BUT you then have to live with the consequences and the influences.which we see in Stroud and Totnes. So actually I see the answer in forcing openness by pointing to relevent usually concealed material and demanding a valid response rather than the usual half truths. I think a lot of people who see Steiner influence as a good thing have no idea of the core ideas. Incidentally, I do not decry the good work that is done by Ruskin Mill and some Camphills in dealing effectively and sympathetically with badly damaged people, both physically and emotionally BUT BUT the techniques used are equally valid without the anthroposphical add-ons. But to those being helped perhaps it doesn’t really matter.

        • Helen

          “Forcing openness” – you have just summed up what I am trying to do!
          I agree that there is good work being done, and also that it would be better done without the occult elements. Unfortunately the proliferation of these kind of institutions and the occultism therein results in the further expansion of anthroposophical businesses as the workers look for ways to occupy themselves and their families in the area.
          It has got silly now. I think Stroud may soon be twinned with Dornach.

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