Anthroposophy is a religion

Adherents have an outlook on life based on acceptance of the existence of a spiritual world they insist is around us, but for which the only evidence is the clairvoyant visions of Rudolf Steiner.

Guardian angels are to be communed with; “painful events…can be placed in to the lap of one’s angel” says the Handbook for Waldorf Class Teachers “…with a prayer towards the wisdom (and possibly repentance) of the following morning.”

Angels? Prayers? Repentance? Not the normal stuff of teaching guides.

A list in Wikipedia has Anthroposophy under Mysticism and Occult; Theosophy, which was the basis for Anthroposophy, is also there.

The NHS have decided that anthroposophy is a religion and their list of religions was drawn up for this reason;

“Consistent recording of a person’s religious or other belief system affiliation is required to support the planning, delivery and quality monitoring of holistic and pastoral care.”

Anthroposophy appears in the section called “other” between animist and black magic.

The Christian Community is the visible connection between Steiner followers and religious observance. In his post “Rudolf Steiner’s Christian Community” Gregoire Perra explains how this church seeks to distance itself from Rudolf Steiner in its public façade; the websites, including the one in Stroud, say that the church  “…was guided into being through the immeasurable and selfless help of Dr. Rudolf Steiner.” What they should say is that The Christian Community is entirely based on anthroposophy, Steiner’s belief system. Steiner himself presided over the first service at the Goetheanum in Switzerland.

As proof of the Community’s connection to Steiner schools and other manifestations of anthroposophy, Mr Perra recounts his involvement over many years with the sect, to the extent of taking part in funeral vigils over 3 days and 3 nights with the dead body where the Gospel of John , chapter 15 to chapter 18 is read in a continuous loop (as is required in this belief system to stop the elemental spirits making off with the spiritualised bodily substance). He  assisted as an official at ceremonies such as Christenings, funeral masses and marriages, and made sacrifices in his personal life in order to carry out these duties. When he wrote critically about Steiner education he was told his services were no longer required by the Christian Community.

Rejection by a religious group as a punishment for criticising Steiner schools? How very uncharitable…

He explains that the Christian Community exists to provide a venue for Steiner followers to carry out the rites associated with birth, death and marriage, and to save the need for attending other kinds of churches.

The Christian Community in Stroud is situated conveniently close to the anthroposophical medical centre and to Camphill Communities.

Mr Perra says that just as it is wrong for Steiner schools to say they are not anthroposophical, so it is wrong for the Christian Community to deny the extent of their involvement.

Camphill do not bother to deny their connection to anthroposophy, mainly because people do not ask the question very often. So too with biodynamics – the idea that a method of cultivation could be part of a belief system does not enter people’s heads.

A belief in supernatural entities and all the other features and rituals found in religion is what constitutes anthroposophy; a religion, certainly, and a nasty one at that. Its place in the list compiled by the NHS seems appropriate in every way.

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12 comments

  1. Jim

    Odd isn’t it that its adherents seek to deny that anthroposophy is a religion whilst scientologists are desperate to have their cult recognised as such? Tax status is one factor but I wonder how much it is due to the one being a European invention and the other a US one. In European countries religion is not automatically regarded as a good thing and something to be proclaimed to the world ( though sadly we seem to be going backwards in this respect ). Whereas in the US people seem to be much happier to claim that their beliefs constitute a church ( tax exempt naturally ).

    • Rain17

      I think a lot of it is time and place. I wonder if these religions operate the way they do because anthroposophy started in Habsburg era Germany and Scientology started here after WW2. In the US, the pervasive mythology that “our forefathers” — at least the European ones — left their home countries for religious freedom is inescapable. Equally pervasive is the idea that religion should stay out of government and government should not harass religion – even atheists here agree with that.

      But another thing: poor present-day anthroposophy and Scientology are both now operating in the post-People’s Temple era. It raised eyebrows in the State Department when Sen. Leo Ryan visited Jonestown, one of the most infamous instances of an abusive cult religion in history. The visit itself uncovered that, even as Sen. Ryan ended up murdered by them. Whereas the German government monitors the Church of Scientology in a way that would be illegal here.

      Difference too is People’s Temple and Jim Jones made little secret regarding their beliefs and their intents. Scientology and anthroposophy have both fallen into their own trap of looking like they have something to hide, even as they purport to reveal secrets and hidden truths. It’s a really sad day when one has to say “at least Jonestown was honest.”

  2. Rain17

    Helen said, “This question on whether anthroposophy is a religion was tested in court in the States, and there was found to be no proof that it was!”

    Because ..science!

    The most obnoxious and glaring anthroposophy gaslight of all is calling their not-a-religion “spiritual science”, while peddling outright contempt for actual science. Actual science is derided as “materialist” science and the bad people’s science, which by nature of its very misconceived existence is trying to deceive you. They share that tendency with New Thought/mindcure/supernatural healing derivatives like Christian Science, Church of Religious Science/Science of Mind, and Church of Divine Science. I find the Church of Scientology to tout its “religious technology”, and call Dianetics “the modern science of mental health”, in like manner.

  3. Helen

    Jim and Rain, in reply to your comments, yes, I agree a lot of it is time and place. Also here although there is considerably less respect for organised religion, there is a fairly big demand for what David Webster in his book “Dispirited” calls Religion Lite, In some people’s minds anything to do with spirituality in any way at all, including Steiner and Quakerism for example, represent a more acceptable alternative to the uncompromising position of atheism.
    These ‘lite’ choices do not demand church-going but provide a label to attach to oneself for the purpose of being part of an identifiable group which in their minds does not have the baggage of specific beliefs to stick to.
    Our local Green district councillor for instance has told me personally two or three times that he is a Quaker, as though this is supposed to impress me. There is nothing to object to in Quakerism because it is in fact nothing at all; it is meaningless as a religious group as Quakers apparently do not even necessarily believe in God. It just ticks a box.
    (However a meeting I went to once was very much imbued with Christianity, and there were readings about God during the silence.)
    I have been interested to read on the Why Evolution is true blog about the controversy over a school in Lebanon Missouri where the principal prayed at the graduation ceremony and has had to apologise.
    Obama upset Catholics in Ireland last year by criticising faith schools as divisive. So in a country where religion is much more respected, there is more opposition to it in school than there is here.
    It is also worth noting that the schools under investigation for religious extremist practices in Birmingham are not faith schools, but are as free schools and academies able to employ whoever they like and teach their own curriculum. A third of state schools here are faith schools, but clearly there are problems with those that are not in this category, and that officially includes Steiner schools, of course.

    • we escaped!

      When we complained to the steiner school that our child attended, regarding the fact that they made him chant and pray, (without our knowledge or consent) they told us that we had been mistaken and that they were in fact a christian school and deeply religious. If we didnt like that fact, then maybe it wasn’t the school for us! Too right! You can imagine our surprise, as we had asked and checked their religious stance on many occasions prior to enrolling and whilst we were at the school. When our son questioned the teacher about the existence of god, she quite firmly told him that god DID exist. When we asked for him to be excused in participating in such nonsense we were told that it would be viewed as him being disruptive! They are very keen to state that they are verses not prayers, call it what you like, we consider thanking god and chanting to be unacceptable in a non – religious school, especially as they promote they are not religious and state that fact on their website. When we asked them to explain, we received an answer full of jargon. We have actually got it in writing from a member of the management team admitting that they had in fact been misleading and they would ensure that the website and promotional material was updated. Guess what? It still states that they are non denominational and impart no particular doctrine! The minute you question them you soon find that you are asked to leave. Grateful we realised sooner rather than later. They are devious and have no problems to blatantly lie and mislead people.

      • Helen

        Good to hear this “straight from the horse’s mouth”!
        If it really was as simple as being a Christian school, then surely Steiner schools would just put this on their literature and be done with it.
        The thing is, a lot of Christians would be shocked at what happens at these schools in the name of their religion. There would be a lot more questions asked, I am sure, if Christian parents sent their children here and encountered the notions of karma and so on – I guess that those in search of a Christian school would soon smell a rat and back away.
        It’s easier in the light of your comment to see why so many parents just grin and bear it when they realise Steiner education is not what they thought, rather than make a fuss; the reaction to questioning or criticism can be hostile and uncompromising.

    • Rain17

      Yes Helen I get what you mean. Over here, there is also a notable trend of people either leaving mainline Christianity and Judaism. It’s a real problem for the moderate-liberal church denominations like the Lutherans, Episcopalian/Anglicans, Methodists, and such. Here this has been happening since after WW2 – significant for the Pentecostals and Evangelicals, i.e. fire/brimstone types; fringe groups like Scientology, and also unrelated non-western traditions like Zen Buddhism.

      Here also, mainly after the immigration laws were relaxed in 1965, there have been many more people from Muslim countries, and many South Asians who bring Islam, Hinduism, and Sikhism. Buddhism as well.

      And now we get the Evangelical hardliners, angry for the same old reasons: they want prayer at town hall meetings (which the Supreme Court recently upheld) in schools, led by teachers and principles. But their prayers, and theirs only. So back in 1963 when teacher-led prayer was outlawed in public schools, it wasn’t a minute too soon, in my opinion – our poor history of xenophobia and insane inter-Christian sectarianism makes it necessary.

      6,000 Protestant denominations alone here, so no one can agree on how to even begin or end the prayer — “in Jesus’ name” or “in the name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit”, just “amen,” etc. No one can even agree what Christian Bible to use — King James Version, New World Translation (Jehovah’s Witness), Revised Standard Version, American Standard Version, New American Standard Version, New International Version, New King James Version, the list is endless.

      There’s also that new thing, “spiritual but not religious” (SNBR) and the newest iteration, the Nones, which is also driving the mainline denominations nuts. The United Church of Christ, probably the most theologically and politically liberal denomination in the US, tries to kind of eyeroll it away but it still persists.

      You’re right: duplicitous people like the Anthroposophists, New Thought purveyors, New Age flakes and other well-established snake oil suppliers see a good old fashioned pain point, and are able to peddle their wares by maintaing that “spiritual” label. And gluten-free, locally-grown, certified organic snake oil? they’ll always have a market.

  4. greta fields

    It seems to me that Steiner’s book The Philosophy of Freedom settles the philosophical debate between Luther and Erasmus over whether or not man has a free will. That book seems to me to be an elaboration and extension of Aristotle/s philosophy, particularly the Metaphysics. It can also be read as a reply to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. He answers issues that Kant raised in the opening pages of that book, but which Kant did not himself answer, as far as I know. It can also be read as an influence on Einstein, perhaps. I have an idea that Einstein may have been influenced by Steiner, but don’t know if he ever mentions Steiner. In short, people should study him very carefully before jumping to conclusions about him. I think he was a genius, to have written that book at such a young age.

    • Nick Nakorn

      “A racial group is a totality and all the people belonging to it bear the characteristic features that are inherent in the nature of the group. How the single member is constituted, and how he will behave, are determined by the character of the racial group. Therefore the physiognomy and conduct of the individual have something generic about them. If we ask why some particular thing about a man is like this or like that, we are referred back from the individual to the genus. The genus explains why something in the individual appears in the form we observe.”

      Not genius and abhorrent.

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