Acknowledging the scale of the problem

In an interesting comment on “Why” about the Transition movement and its links with anthroposophy, reader Alan wondered whether we (maybe me especially?) have any idea about the sheer size of the problem we are facing, and attempting to tackle, in challenging the Steiner movement.

The comment was made on a page not a post, so I won’t continue the long trail of comments there, but instead discuss the issue here.

The answer is yes, I am indeed aware of the size of the problem of anthroposophy, and sometimes it is tempting just to give up and let them get on with it. It is difficult to rally support against an established cult, which as Alan says, has friends in high places, and as some have discovered, a history of trying to defend their reputation using the law (not always successfully).

Steiner is a seemingly unstoppable force if you look at the way it has grown internationally since Rudolf Steiner’s death, but the criticism grows internationally too. The internet has allowed better communication of the problems with the schools, and details about the way families have been treated have begun to emerge.

To return to the comment, Alan says

“Through the Transition Towns network, this increasingly strong nutcase cult with friends in high places is pushing an apocalyptic meme…”

I wrote in a comment early on the “Why” page that Transition was “heavily influenced” by Steiner. This was disputed by Helen Royall who stated that in Stroud there was bound to be a group of people involved in both movements, but that this was the extent of the Steiner influence.

“I am surprised to find that Transition Stroud is linked to Steiner. As I understand it the Transition movement has its routes in Permaculture, a very down to earth common-sense way of gardening and living. What we do in TS is about sustainability and supporting the community to work together towards a low carbon, enjoyable future, not dependant on cheap oil. The fact that people who live locally are involved will mean that there is a certain amount of cross over of interest but that can hardly be interpreted as ‘heavily influenced’.”

In my reply I agreed that “cross-over” was part of the problem but added

“The Transition movement has also been criticised for excluding those who don’t go along with the political or social attitudes of powerful members of the group- so if you don’t happen to think biodynamics is a sensible idea, for example, they may not be particularly welcoming and this I would say is heavily influencing the group.”

Certainly Transition and anthroposophy have a similar outlook, and you don’t need to be an expert on either ( I admit I am not) to understand that the effects of both are considerable in this area. I can imagine the scene if someone in Transition Stroud decided to lead a campaign against using the Steiner system of growing – “biodynamics”, because it is the product of a racist belief system. Nick wrote about his experience of doing just this in another group; they remained loyal to biodynamics proponents and the racist issues were ultimately ignored.

The links between the movements have been investigated here (Skepteco) and here (Nick Nakorn).

Transition has its attractive side for anyone interested in the environment and sustainability; for example it is great to encourage recycling; there is a scheme locally called the repair café where clever people will mend your broken table lamp or radio, repair clothing and try to slow the endless cycle of throwing away and buying new.

Transition’s stated aims are “supporting the local community to strengthen its’ local economy, reduce the cost of living and prepare for a future with less oil and a changing climate”, with the emphasis on the “challenges, and opportunities, of Peak Oil and Climate Change…”

Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Network is quoted

“A future without oil could be better than the present if we use our imagination and think creatively.”

So Transition thinks it is necessary to get used to living without oil. Helen Royall talks about “a low carbon future not dependent on cheap oil.” Despite the inclusion of words such as “enjoyable” and “opportunities”, I agree with Alan that the overriding image they conjure up is apocalyptic; a retreat into a kind of dark age where communities must be self-sufficient, eating only local, seasonal food, doing away with the hated car and generally isolating ourselves from the rest of the world.

To add to the general aura of doom and despair a new columnist in the Stroud News and Journal each week, Karen Eberhardt-Shelton, has been given the opportunity to vent her similarly apocalyptic, negative take on modern life; in each column she describes how selfish and bad humans are and how we are inexorably destroying our planet. Here is an exerpt from this week’s offering entitled “The Earth’s big struggle for survival”;

“The Earth ultimately can’t take our continual growth and development, so silently suffers and nurses its wounds while its parts disassemble as we spread and devour whatever we fancy regardless of consequences.”

No doubt the Steiner community (she may even be a member herself?) delights in this endorsement of their disdain for modernity, and regard her warnings as vindication for their mantra of “head, heart, hands”.

This idea of “living lightly on the land” may be desirable and even practical and is being adopted in some quarters.Certainly it appeals to many of those who unwittingly become members of an anthroposophical community by joining a Steiner kindergarten or school. They find themselves eating biodynamic food produced on small-scale local farms, drawn in by the word “organic”, which ostensibly has no connection to Steiner.

Organic food is attractive to many parents of small children, who make it a priority to provide what they think is best for their family, encouraged by media stories about harmful pesticides.

Through parent and baby groups and kindergarten parents learn that technology is bad, the “natural” world is good, and that the world outside Steiner is best avoided as much as possible, through adopting the habits of their chosen “community”.

The effect of the Steiner people on Transition is clear to see, when you look at the “Inner Transition” part of it, which is spiritual. The direction taken is away from science based evidence and towards an emotional interpretation of reports on climate change. Rob Hopkins himself appears enamoured by spiritual matters too. It is fine for individuals to take that line in their private lives, but to apply it to a movement such as Transition seems inappropriate.

Back to the comment from Alan again, and anthroposophy does appear to have “friends in high places”; it is difficult to see that Steiner schools would have been approved as free schools without the support of wealthy, influential families, as mentioned before.

In the case of Hereford Steiner Academy, the first state-funded Steiner school under Blair, it is interesting to note that Cherie Blair’s mother attended a Steiner school. The decision was made to push through “diversity” in state education.

I see no reason to give up fighting Steiner, and every reason to attempt to raise awareness of the effects of the Steiner cult. Maybe this is foolish and I should be more frightened of the consequences; time will tell.

John Marjoram (deputy Mayor, Quaker, Green, and anthroposophist by marriage) told me loudly and in no uncertain terms, instead of worrying about education issues, all I should be concerned about is climate change.

The powerful groups in Stroud do share concern on similar issues, and the Steiner movement enjoys the protection offered by all these movements; a disguise for their creed. Under the cloak of other environmentally and socially aware organisations, their beliefs do not stand out as controversial, merely forming part of an “alternative” lifestyle which has come to be accepted here as normal; what is not accepted as normal is to question these alternative lifestyle choices.

This blog is centred on problems in Stroud, but of course these stem from the national and international growth of the Steiner movement, and to tackle issues locally we have had to learn about the world-wide phenomenon of anthroposophy and its effects. Not a simple task at all, and the more you learn the worse the problems appear. It is daunting, I admit, but the solution is simple in a way; the more people know about anthroposophy the less respect they will afford it.

 

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57 comments

  1. Nick Nakorn

    Another good source is Mike Collins’ excellent and painstaking survey at:
    https://ukanthroposophy.wordpress.com/,

    These pages are particularly useful:
    https://ukanthroposophy.wordpress.com/recorded-uk-organisations/ .

    I partly share Transition’s apocalyptic world view, though for different reasons and thus I see the solutions differently too. But I fully agree that the Transition movement is much more concerned with spirituality, charismatic individualism, alternatives to evidence-based rationality, a lack of understanding concerning equality and access issues and so on. From that perspective it is very similar to Anthroposophy. The extent to which Rob Hopkin’s Steiner education has influenced his views is only known to Rob and his family. If his parents thought Steiner a good thing, their values will have influenced Rob’s whole childhood I would have thought. But it’s unfair to assume Rob is not fully aware of those issues. Yet I have not been successful in raising a positive response from either Rob, Transition or the Green Party when enquiring about issues of rationality or about issues of race and diversity.

    I was gratified to receive a Green Party diversity survey in my e-mail recently and hope they find the results useful. At the local level however, any mention of woo or racism results in a response that is so overly defensive that no progress can be made – it’s not that the green/transition/anthroposophical social scene is totally unaware of the issues, it’s that they do not want to examine their own parts in promoting racist woo; perhaps because, ultimately, they believe in it as normative behaviour and see the victims of those beliefs as lacking the spiritual and intellectual capacities to make valid comments; thus rational anti-racist campaigners and critics of Anthroposophy are excluded from the green/transition/anthroposophical social nexus that pretty much runs environmental campaigning in the UK; to the very great detriment of BME participation, rational discussion and linguistic and scientific rigour.

  2. David Clark

    I agree with Dan’s comment about clarity. Having read a number of Professor Perra’s posts, I appreciate his serious concerns about “anthroposophical milieux” and respect the rights of those who express their concerns.

    For biographical reasons, my experience is different. I live about 100 miles away from Stroud in the English Midlands. Having met Rudolf Steiner’s indications in the “World Economy” (1922) cycle of lectures during the 1970’s, I have been able to engage with the material critically. Looking back, I had the good fortune to work with sceptical colleagues in an anthroposophical study group. In addition, I had just completed a B.Sc.(Econ.) degree and therefore felt the need to challenge my newly acquired understanding of social sciences from academic study. Finally, I was about to embark on professional training for a conventional career and valued the chance to gain fresh perspectives.

    This post prompts me to reflect on where these circumstances have led me. I suppose the main point is that my endeavours have not been self-referential. An interest in the “World Economy” cycle and related material has been tested logically against the wider circumstances of those around me. In this way, I would admit that my concerns have been more mundane than utopian. As part of this ongoing study, I am working to apply the work of David Hume and J.S.Mill in an empirical way to economic questions. Yes, I must also accept that web-based critical views are part of my social environment, potentially influencing others’ views in my everyday circle. Yes, I reckon this has happened already. C’est la guerre.

    Yet I feel prompted to continue. After all, from experience, I reckon there is some scope for debating public policy. Having canvassed opinion among local people, I have decided to speak publicly about results arising from my work. The first talk will extend Rudolf Steiner’s comment that the character of modern economic life follows the signature of military logistics during World War 1. While I reckon this explanation is now almost a truism, its implications for public policy have not been explored. My second theme will carry forward Rudolf Steiner’s review of mortgage creation and property values into assessment of local property markets. Despite continuing inflation in property values, this aspect seems to have been ignored or neglected in academic debates, perhaps being seen as premature.

    So now, I’m facing the practical details of arranging sensible dates and public venues in 2015. Having failed to arrange a meeting at a public venue in Stroud, I am much more optimistic about the prospects nearer home, closer to a University and with the prospect of a diverse audience in the public square.

  3. Helen

    Oh yes thanks for adding those links to UK anthroposophy.
    I see that Rob Hopkins is a fellow of Ashoka who devote themselves to changing systems in social and environmental issues. Number three on their list is
    •Full Citizenship and Empathetic Ethics: Significant portions of Ashoka Fellows achieve national impact to fully include marginalized groups in society and connect groups in society to foster empathy and reduce conflict.”
    According to this Transition Network should not be tolerating any kind of belief system which has at its core a racial hierarchy as does anthroposophy, and therefore excluding people who are aware of it.
    As you say, given his background he must know about the basis of anthroposophy, so it is a shame he has allowed it to become so bound up with Transition, with biodynamics and spiritual training courses etc. I wonder if he thinks its too late to say that these should not be such an important part of the Network. I think the Steiner people would still be involved in Transition, as their commitment to environmental concerns seems strong.
    A lot more people might be willing to take part if the less rational parts of Transition were abandoned. Or is that a large part of the attraction for most ?

    • Matt

      Hi Helen,
      Your objection to Steiner seems to me to be extreme, and I wonder what harm you think they are doing? Surely you can’t think the sort of difficult, disrespectful relations with neighbours or falling out with parents you describe is restricted to Steiner schools? Sure, Steiner had some funny ideas, but I must say that the vast majority of people I have met who have been associated with Steiner have been very pleasant. My (mixed race) daughter goes to the Steiner Academy Frome, they certainly don’t seem to be racist and the school is probably the most diverse in the town. I don’t feel like I inadvertently joined a cult, or even became part of an ‘anthroposophical community’.

      When your argument then expands to include psychotherapy, organic food, and concern for the environment, it seems to me that it is not really Steiner you are railing at, but perhaps something else? You talk in disparaging terms about those who object to ‘modernity’ whether that be for educational, environmental, or spiritual reasons. Are you therefore actually a defender of Business As Usual? How worried are you that these strange and new ideas might return us to the dark ages?

      I think that continuing to have this blog focused on Steiner is disingenuous. What is really bugging you? I’d love to hear about what you stand for, rather than what you object to.

      • Helen

        Hi Matt. Where do I start?
        What harm are they doing? Well I guess you haven’t done much research or read the posts here about bullying, indoctrination, appalling treatment of families, and sadly, long term damage done to children and their families in the name of anthroposophy.
        The testimony of former students, parents and teachers is distressing to read, and is easily found on the internet these days. And yet you appear to know nothing about the controversy. Why is that? Did you research Steiner and anthroposophy at all before you signed your daughter up to the Frome Academy? Or maybe you were convinced by the “we do not teach anthroposophy” statements, or the admiring descriptions of Steiner and his “insights” found on the school websites.
        Parents who have found out about anthroposophy after suffering distressing ordeals are always incredulous when they look back and realise how little they knew at the beginning. Why didn’t they find out more to start with? Because they were told the Steiner belief system was not important. Funny that, when you remember all the teachers are trained in anthroposophy.
        Yes, the teachers (and a few privileged parents) know about it. So why don’t you?
        We have discussed the kind of racism found in Steiner schools here
        https://stopsteinerinstroud.com/2014/02/12/inherent-racism-in-steiner/
        Here I posted about how the indoctrination works
        https://stopsteinerinstroud.com/2013/11/16/whats-the-harm/
        The details about bullying are, sadly, to be found on personal blogs, which you cannot fail to find if you search the internet for “Steiner school bullying”, and in some comments on this blog.
        You may go and read up on these matters or you may be a parent who prefers not to know. If the latter, I hope you do not regret your decision later.

        Your second point is that you think I am against “psychotherapy, organic food, and concern for the environment”. I did not mean to give that impression. I am not against any of those, although before starting to look into Steiner I did not know the connection between anthroposophy and organic food, which I have bought and eaten, and still do sometimes.
        I am a “Green” in that I hate waste, recycle all the time, prefer natural fibres and materials and try to keep energy consumption to a minimum. I don’t know why I should be explaining this to you, but if you really misunderstand me maybe others do too.
        Where did you get the idea that I am against psychotherapy? I do object to the “inner” part of Transition, as I said. On their website there is an article saying it is important for the “spiritual” people not to give the impression they think they are more “sorted” than the other Transitioners. That says a lot.
        I am curious. I see on your blog you think ” What the world needs is people who have come alive”. So who hasn’t come alive in your opinion? Is it the people who do not share your values?
        You are a counsellor, shiatsu practitioner and coach, and you write about an appreciation of nature. A prime candidate for Steiner school. If only that was all there is to Steiner. There is much more to it, unfortunately, as many families have found to their cost.
        I do have other interests apart from warning parents about Steiner, but this is a priority at the moment. You see Steiner criticism as negative, I see it as positive; trying to prevent harm to children is worthwhile, wouldn’t you say?

        • Matt

          Hi Helen,
          The full quote from my website is:
          “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” attributed to Howard Thurman, an African American civil rights leader. So you can see that the quote is more self referential than prescriptive or judgemental, although I grant you that isn’t obvious from the small bit I have used on the website, perhaps I should change it.

          • Helen

            That does make more sense. So what makes us “come alive” means “what we enjoy doing”, right? And anyone who enjoys a pastime has come alive. Fair enough. And presumably those who have not “come alive” will benefit from your coaching
            However the phrase “people who have come alive” unfortunately reminds me of the anthroposophists’ phrase “fully Human” for those who have undergone spiritiual development. It sounds exclusive and elitist, as though non-spiritual people are somehow sub-human.

            • Matt

              Hmm, that could be your reading of it though, no? Howard Thurman had no connection with Rudolf Steiner or anyone from that world as far as I know. Seeing a Steiner conspiracy everywhere you look undermine’s your argument as far as I can see. You have to stretch Thurman’s statement to make it elitist, I think it reads as aspirational, and doesn’t exclude anyone – personally some things in my life make me feel alive, some don’t. This changes as life unfolds and Thurman is encouraging me to not stay in a place where I don’t feel alive, such as in a job I haven’t liked. I personally see far more hierarchy in your worldview of which divides the ‘rational’ from the ‘irrational’ than in Thurman’s quote. I feel very judged by that.

      • Nick Nakorn

        Matt, on one hand Steiner approved of inter-racial marriage because the ‘lower’ race blood line would be improved, while on the other hand he disapproves because the ‘purity’ of the ‘higher’ races is polluted. Indeed, as his racism increased he began to preach that reading books by ‘lower’ races would cause pregnant women to give birth to less clever children. Now I don’t suggest that all Steiner teachers believe that, though some might well do, but the people who control the Anthroposophical Steiner empire do believe that Steiner was infallible. By the same token, the organisation as a whole promotes the racist ‘spiritual hierarchy’ so a proportion of your child’s teachers will consider her and (either you or your spouse/mother of child) one of her parents to be inferior. Steiner schools love having non-white children to ‘improve’ towards reincarnation to a whiter skin colour but, make no mistake, the underlying belief system is profoundly racist and often very well hidden from parents.

        As for psychotherapy, Steiner’s view of therapy is based on eugenics and ‘humours’ and so is relevant. Organic food culture was largely high-jacked by Steiner followers and Steiner’s Biodynamic ‘system’ was instrumental in steering the modern organic industry up until recently when the Anthroposophical chair of the Soil Association stepped down after many years. So, very, very relevant – not least because Biodynamics is anti-rational and anti-science and not good for schools to follow.
        As for the environment, the way in which Steiner’s views on agriculture and technology have skewed the Green agenda in recent years is shameful – more Green voters seem enamoured with spiritual pseudo-science than with actual research so rational arguments at the local level rarely get a look in.

        Few here are Steiner-critical in order to promote ‘Business-As-Usual’. BAU is as steeped in myth (such as consumerism not harming the planet) as Steiner (all rationality and most technology is bad and only white people can be perfect). Indeed, most Steiner critics (not all) have a rational or scientific world-view that has been warning politicians and economists about the dangers of BAU for decades and have been promoting civil rights for as long.

        So I don’t think Helen or other Steiner critics are extreme, we just prefer honest, rational and non-racist education for our children and similar standards for discourse in local politics; much of which is now, sadly, run by anthroposophists and their supporters. Steiner’s followers are the extreme faction and they are worth opposing.

        • Matt

          Hi Helen and Nick,
          Google ‘Steiner school ruined my life’ and you will get plenty of hits. Google ‘Boarding school ruined my life’ and you will get more, and from more well know sources such as major British newspapers. Google ‘State school damages children’ and you again can read articles on this subject from reputable media sources, as well as plenty of first hand testimony. So, logically, if your aim is to protect children I think your time could be better spent. Have you noticed how most of your references are for other Steiner critical websites? Do you have any independent evidence of the damage done to children by Steiner education? I am always mistrustful of self referential truths found on the internet. You could do you research and find evidence for anything down one of those rabbit holes.

          I am not dismissing your work though, there is a lot of information on this site that is interesting to me. I did plenty of research before becoming involved with Steiner and I will do more, there are things about it that I find challenging. I guess I find your whole story hard to swallow, though.

          My feeling is that you, and Nick who more clearly spells it out, are warring primarily against irrationality. I am, however, a big fan of irrationality. Guy Claxton, in his book The Wayward Mind, traces the history of the idea of the unconscious and argues that we have, as a species, constantly invented ideas to explain this part of ourselves that trips us up, confounds are expectations and ensures the world appears to be a stranger place than logic suggests. The rub is though, that although he is able to explain this all rationally, with reference to cutting edge neurology, he (and you and I) is as subject to the vagaries of the unconscious as any human who ever lived.

          I would argue that rationality has failed as a species, judging by the state of the world right now. Perhaps an increasing number of people around the world feel the same, including many of those Steiner parents, perhaps. Children equipped to deal with the future as it well might be will need a different kind of education from the unambitious, uncritical, take-your-place-in-the-capitalist-machine education doled out in state schools. Perhaps this explains the increasing support for Steiner education.

          • Nick Nakorn

            Matt, you seem to think that to be pro-rationality is also to be pro-the-capitalist-machine; it isn’t. Many Steiner critics, as I have said, are highly critical of capitalism or, more accurately, consumerism (capitalism has not really been tried in the classical sense). Many of us have been active in the Green movement, or medicine, or childcare, or science, or education. When Ben Goldacre wrote Bad Science he was accused of being funded by Big Pharma even as he was writing Bad Pharma.
            Being opposed to irrationality is important because all communication and linguistics and all decision making relies on collegiate discourse and, for that, we need common terms of reference. Without rationality, the word ‘cat’ can mean ‘dog’ and the word ‘kind’ can mean ‘cruel’. Power will always fall to those with might rather than those with the best information and the best solutions to the problems at hand.
            If you are in favour of irrationality then it makes anything one says as ‘valid’ as anything anyone else says; that is not conducive to finding out what is real or likely to be helpful; for that we need the wealth of experience and knowledge of others because no individual is capable of understanding everything. Remember that the people most sceptical about science are other scientists and it is the constant checking, by rational means, that drives the search for ways to reduce suffering in the world against a tide of irrational politicians, business people, corporations and military powers; most of whom subscribe to your way of thinking irrationally.
            Don’t be fooled into thinking Steiner is an antidote to the world’s problems; he was appealing to the same far-right, racist and esoteric electorate as many others who came later and were more successful.
            Writers such as Orwell, Huxley, Swift, Golding and Kafka show us what a world without rationality leads to and while the european fascist movement, itself sprung from irrational esotericism, was largely defeated we now have irrational ISIS to contend with. To shun rationality is to return to the dark ages when all power of life and death is in the hands of those with the most violent temperaments who are closed to rational arguments for peace.

          • Jim

            Hi Matt. I would agree with you that opposition to irrationality is a strong thread in our objection to Steiner and would also agree that the irrational runs deep and manifests itself in many ways other than the Steiner cult. As has been pointed out many times before this site is concerned with Steiner in Stroud because of the way the cult has embedded itself in the area, not just in education but in so many other ways. Had some other form of irrationality such as Scientology done the same instead of Steiner then no doubt we would have had a Stop Scientology in Stroud site.
            The problem with irrationality is that it is the seedbed in which so much that is bad can grow – whether comical new age beliefs ( dream catchers etc ) to the racism that is undeniably part of Steiner’s teaching. I would include at the comical end of the scale your own practice of Shiatsu, for which there is no evidence of efficacy nor any plausible mechanism.
            It is unfair to say that rationality has failed us – can you really argue that the world would be better if irrationality had prevailed? Look at parts of the world where it does – whether through religious fundamentalism or superstitious attitudes to the nature of diseases such as ebola or polio. I don’t think that is something to admire.
            One curious thing is that irrationality is not black and white – they co-exist. Sorry to bring up the Nazis but an extreme case does focus the issue. Their irrationality was the basis for their genocidal beliefs but we might think it was their rationality which enabled them to carry them out on an industrial scale. Is that one of your examples of a failure of rationality? Yet the Rwanda massacre had equally irrational roots but was carried out with little more than knives and petrol and comparable “efficiency”.
            I suppose the point is that rationality is not fundamentally a moral quality and can be misused. And yes, some people can hold some irrational beliefs and still be perfectly decent moral beings. But systematised irrationality, of which Steinerism is an example, seems invariably to bring out the worst in us.

            • Matt

              Hi Nick and Jim,

              Firstly, just for the record, I wasn’t equating rationality with the capitalist machine, but rather suggesting that currently there is a monoculture in education, at least for those who can’t afford to send their children to fee paying schools, that focuses on preparing people for mediocre employment, and is worried primarily, at least at a policy level, in competing with other countries on an international league table. Ken Robinson has been highly critical of our current education system, and I agree with most of what he says. While Steiner definitely isn’t my ideal solution their focus on educating human beings (not achieving statistical ‘success’ measured across millions of human beings) and their focus on nurturing creativity are, I feel, closer to what I want for my children than the conventional state system provides.

              Your strong belief in rationality is fine, I’m just asking that you be clear that this is what motivates you, rather than, say, harm caused to children, which you seem to be able to produce only the most circumstantial evidence for. A similar level of evidence exists for, say, the efficacy of shiatsu, meaning first hand accounts and a couple of disputed studies. Yet you chose to believe in one (that Steiner is harmful to children) but not the other (that shiatsu works). Note that I am not committing either way, I am merely highlighting, low and behold, the irrationality in your stance.

              I suspect your decision to stand against Steiner is far more emotionally motivated (and therefore unconscious, and therefore irrational) than you are willing to let on. And this is just the problem with rationality alone, it denies the truth – that on some fundamental level we are not in control, someone else is driving the bus! For example, have a look here:

              http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080411/full/news.2008.751.html

              Nick, your linguistic example is telling: it is easy to say that cat means cat, and dog means dog in most cases, because they are simple nouns for real categories of things. It is much, much harder to say, definitively what is kind or cruel. I would love to hear your definitions of kind and cruel so that we can start applying them to real life situations to see how they stand up. I often suspect with staunch rationalists that this is exactly the problem – things start to slip out of control, and then things get very scary, when we can’t pin them down, can’t know for sure what they mean and how they are going to behave. But in my experience human life is exactly like this, there is a huge amount of uncertainty about what is going on, and it can be anxiety producing. Rationally you ought to know exactly what I mean right now, just from the words I am using, right? But I suspect that won’t happen. People misunderstand each other all the time, and it is arrogant to think you understand everything and know what is right on behalf of others.

              Jim, you say that ‘systematised irrationality, of which Steinerism is an example, seems invariably to bring out the worst in us’. Is that based on evidence? Can you even imagine how you would do that research? For starters how would you define ‘worst’? Whose definition would it be? Surely that would be a subjective opinion, which therefore wouldn’t be rational in a strictly materialist scientific sense. It is fine to have opinions, of course, just please stop dressing them up as fact.

              Liberal democratic ideas have a decent track record of extending rights to marginalised people, but whether this is to the credit of rationalists I am not so sure. Many great civil rights leaders were deeply religious (and therefore, I imagine you feel, deeply irrational) – Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Thich Nhat Hanh, The Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu. In contrast the heros of rationality, such as Richard Dawkins, come across, to me at least, as bigoted and close minded and every bit as fanatical as many of the religious extremists they despise. MLK nominated Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel peace prize. One was a Christian minister, one is a Buddhist monk, yet there was mutual respect and acknowledgement, there was room for both worldviews in their worldview. In contrast Dawkins is a hater, and there is only room in his world for those who think like him.

              Rupert Sheldrake has written plenty challenging the underlying, unquestioned assumptions of science. He spoke at a TED event in London a couple of years back and his talk was subsequently banned by TED at the behest of the, reportedly militantly atheist, TED ‘Science Panel’. Open for debate or not? Which is the more worrying and, since you introduced the subject, fascist behaviour? Please don’t assume I am a Rupert Sheldrake fan and attack me on that basis, you would be wrong in that assumption. I just struggle to understand the militancy in the rational atheist movement, and the failure of good people like yourselves to see the damage done, to peace in your community, your heart and therefore the world, by not being able to make room for a plurality of views.

              Nick, you talk about ‘those with the most violent temperaments who are closed to rational arguments for peace’. Is rational synonymous with atheist in this case? Do you have evidence that ‘rational’ people, as you judge them, are more peaceful? How have you gathered this evidence? Was it gathered in a rational, materialistic, scientific way? It is estimated that 90% of the world’s population have some sort of religious or spiritual belief, how do you propose to make peace with them if your starting point is that they are wrong and irrational?

              For me you folks on this blog have beliefs about Steiner education, and other forms of ‘irrationality’, that you have no scientific, rational evidence for whatsoever. That’s OK, in my world people are allowed their beliefs. Things would be much more straightforward, though, if you could get real about holding these beliefs, rather than claiming your beliefs as fact and other people’s beliefs as fancy.

            • Rain17

              I am always mistrustful of self referential truths found on the internet.

              Hello Matt – if you’re still here.

              I hope you’re serious about mistrusting self-referential truths on the internet. Have you been to the Rudolf Steiner Archive? It is a whole treasure trove of Steiner’s self-referential truths. What else is Steiner-Waldorf “education” but the lived imposition of Steiner’s self-referential truths onto young children?

              I have noticed that most of your protests about the community here boil down to either some form of “they do it too” or “I know you are but what am I.” That line of reasoning also goes by tu quoque, whataboutism, “…and you are lynching negroes…”, and pots calling kettles black.

              King, Gandhi, Mandela, Thich Nhat Hanh, Mandela, Tutu – all of those guys are the Untermenschen according to the anthroposophist white-is-right German-supremacist philosophy that underpins every Steiner-Waldorf school.

              Atheism is a red herring in this conversation, because the issue here is not about belief or rationality. Anthroposophists and their enablers, at least in the UK and US, are free to believe whatever racist, quasi-Nazi late-Victorian era philosophy suits them. They are also perfectly free to educate their children into it on their own dime, free of taxpayer funding.

              Fact is, anthroposophist institutions misrepresent themselves to the taxpaying public as well as paying parents, much in the way that you have in this thread: as victims — somehow, miraculously — allied with oppressed communities that produce Kings, Gandhis, Mandelas, and 14th Dalai Lamas.

  4. Jim

    I don’t doubt that many of those involved in Transition are quite rational but I’m afraid it does seem that irrationality is very appealing to a growing number of people. I suppose we all have it to some extent, and that’s part of the appeal of ghost stories and the sort of fantasy literature and games that are so popular. But most of us can recognise it as fantasy – it’s just a temporary escape for fun or relaxation. What sets the Steiner fundamentalists ( and other similar belief groups ) apart is the substitution of this fantasy for reality.
    So I suspect that if you took the fantasy away from Transition you’d be left with hard slog and fewer takers.

  5. David Clark

    Hi Jim,

    In my area, Transition is quite active at “grass roots” level, encouraging people. I’m reminded of local food swaps, food education and support for low cost cookery. In the main, I reckon the group’s activities have been in a relatively diverse locality where people from different ethnic communities may also benefit from meeting around everyday matters. While seeming to be low key, I reckon such small initiatives are really exciting and probably enjoyable. Sorry, I’m not a member and therefore can’t give more detailed information.

  6. Jim

    Oh, and another thing. One of the reasons that so few bodies, including politicians, will openly criticise the fundamental beliefs of groups such as the anthros is the current notion that “faith” is an inherent good to be respected. They will criticise specific policies, as Labour does locally with the free school, but not the belief itself.
    That is like treating the symptoms of Ebola whilst asserting the fundamental right of the Ebola virus to go about its business unchecked. It’s absurd.
    Of course I’m not suggesting anthros should be burned at the stake unless they recant but their ideas should be shown up for the nonsense they are.

    • Helen

      Yes that’s a good analogy. Religious belief is a sacred cow.
      Steiner schools are not officially classed as faith schools of course, because they have managed to conceal the way they use anthroposophy.
      In a survey last year 70% of respondents said the taxpayer should not be funding the promotion of religion in schools. Fewer than one in three (30%) said they had no objections to faith schools being funded by the state, according to a report in the Guardian which also provided these stats;
      “There are currently 6,844 state faith schools – a few more than in early 2010, before the coalition government came to office, when there were 6,832. Of these, 4,601 are Church of England, 1,986 Roman Catholic, 26 Methodist, 152 of other Christian faiths, 48 Jewish, 18 Muslim and eight Sikh; and 763 of these faith schools are academies or free schools.”
      http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jun/14/taxpayers-should-not-fund-faith-schools

  7. Helen

    I think Transition appeals to people who like joining groups and going to meetings etc. if you look at the website, on a page called “ingredients” there is great emphasis on the importance of the “group” and a detailed recipe card for how to manage it.
    http://www.transitionnetwork.org/ingredients
    A lot of the ideas picked up by Transition Towns are already being implemented by individuals, for example growing your own food, recycling, keeping energy use down and not overindulging in consumer goods. It’s common sense for a lot of people who share those values and you don’t need to be in a group to do those things; even if you don’t have a garden you can have an allotment, and contrary to popular opinion, those who call themselves environmentalists are not the only people who walk or cycle rather than driving.
    Steiner people jump in seeing an opportunity for promoting biodynamics to groups of people and through that attract them to other aspects of the anthroposophical lifestyle. It seems to work a treat.

  8. alan

    Excellent article – thanks very much for this reply to the comment I posted elsewhere on this site. I am going to start my own website against Steiner stuff, probably within the next few months, and will keep you informed. For the time being, I’ll say a couple of things only.

    I strongly advise caution regarding the concept of the ‘organic’. All food is organic by definition, and no-one likes artificial additives whether they are introduced into the soil or later. But ‘organic’ is an ideology, and if you trace its history you will find some very unpleasant material and quite a few strands leading back to Steiner-influenced ideas. I have not got the time to post a detailed rundown of this now – I’ve taken a lot of notes, and have got a lot more to read too, and intend to publish about it when I set up my site – except to give two quick leads: Viscount Lymington in England and Rachel Carson in the US. Carson, who wrote the very influential Silent Spring, was herself heavily influenced by anthroposophy through her association with Marjorie Spock, sister of Benjamin Spock.

    The other thing to mention – I am surprised it isn’t talked about more in a site focused on Gloucestershire – is the role of Prince Charles.

    Lastly, one of the things I think is needed is a short list of points regarding Steiner schools: e.g.

    * why the 7 and 14 year olds business;
    * what they do with cows’ horns;
    * how they use personality typing to categorise children (and adults);
    * what eurythmy is all about;
    * what the Steiner morning prayers are about (or “verses” as they call them);
    * what wet-on-wet is all about (and other aspects of painting);
    * why under-7s wear hats;
    * what the ‘teachers’ get taught during their training;
    * the role of the reactionary idea of karma in e.g. allowing bullying and diagnosing ‘incarnation’ problems when children go through a bad time at that difficult age of 13-14
    * and how specific wacko ideas determine other specific things that Steinerites subject children to in their schools

    I’m not by any means saying that drawing up these points and publicising them is the only work that should be done. Many other aspects require study, discussion, publicity and research. I’ve got quite a few questions that I don’t know the answers to and would like to pick the brains of other antis about. I’ve also got quite a few bits of information that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere, will be publishing on my site, and will welcome the thoughts of other antis on.

    But Steinerism is growing, and it has already had a much larger effect than many people are aware of, in various countries. The push to grab state funding for their schools in Britain offers several weak points for their opponents to concentrate force on (which isn’t to say that what they do with children including disabled children isn’t disgusting anyway and wouldn’t need to be opposed quite regardless of anything else), and that needs to be done consciously. We all know they’ve got their PR hounds out there, queering the issues and employing techniques such as ‘some of what you say is fair criticism, but some is misguided’, and ‘not everything Rudolf said was correct’, etc., blah blah. A lot of effort has been put into misleading people with regard to the Steiner role in Nazi Germany, for instance. I mean if you look at Sigmund Rascher’s experiments in Dachau, his background and his relations with Weleda, it really matters not a jot that he wasn’t a paid-up card-carrying member of Anthroposophy during those years. They know they’ve got opponents, and they’re scared of specific things being publicised. Even if it was just the cow horns…

    That Steinerism has made inroads among the part of society that one can characterise as ‘hippy’ (unstraightlaced, favouring the natural, vegetarian, lifestylist maybe – and I’m the first three of those myself and proud of it!) is, I reckon, to some extent an accident. Whatever works. In some countries, they’ve made their biggest inroads among quite different demographics.

    This is a wacko cult which is ultimately very dangerous…

    • Helen

      Thanks Alan, I will be very interested to see another Steiner critical site. All the critics have different starting points and particular objections to the movement, and many are extremely knowledgeable about anthroposophy. I agree with all your points and some have been covered here either in posts or comments, but are lost now in the archive.
      The posts I write are rather random in a way. Some of the material is just so horrid I can’t even contemplate writing about it.
      I have been given some info about Prince Charles apparent support for anthroposophy but haven’t managed to put it into a post yet.
      I agree it is a dangerous cult. The more critics who voice their concerns the better.

    • Dan

      Alan, I’d like to add my support for creating another web site with your “insights” (one of their favorite words) into Anthroposophy and Steiner/Waldorf education. The more the better!

  9. David Clark

    Hi Dan,

    After working on any empirically related matter for some time, I reckon “insight” can be an appropriate word (one of several) for me to use in certain contexts. What is the expression that you would prefer to use tin describing your activities?

  10. Jim

    HRL ( His Right Looneyness ) Charles does occasionally get a mention here for his untiring support of all things backward looking and wacky. His problem seems to be that of someone poorly educated and of mediocre intellect who nonetheless believes himself to be a visionary and is surrounded by toadies only too happy to pander to his delusions. Our problem with him is that he has the influence to do a great deal of damage with his “vision” because too many are cowed by his “interventions” as he calls them. Witness the farce of tonight’s documentary on his history of meddling – withdrawn because of his further meddling.
    In the past there has been a more general concern about the financial burden placed on Gloucestershire, chiefly in policing costs, by the residence of Charles and others in his family in the area. I haven’t heard much about that recently though whether because a fairer solution was found or because it’s old news I couldn’t say.
    I don’t know of any specific anthroposophical links Charles has but it would certainly be consistent with his general anti-enlightenment outlook. So Helen, earn your place in the Tower of London and tell all!

  11. alan

    The Wikipedia article on Waldorf education needs more sorting out. The purpose of Wikipedia, set up by the right-wing libertarian Ayn Randite Jimmy Wales, is to advertise the full range of what’s considered ‘respectable’ and ‘authoritative’, but still.

    The article opens by saying that “Waldorf (Steiner) education is a humanistic approach to pedagogy based on the educational philosophy of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy.” That’s an “ism”, a “gogy” and three “sophies” there, and a repeat reference to “education”. But look at what the main organisations that actually carry the word “humanist” in their titles actually say about it… They don’t like it one bit. Buried away where few readers will get to are some criticisms. On the whole, the article helps the Steinerite cult and its dangerous and damaging kookery.

  12. MarkHayes

    Hi Alan,

    What you need to know about the Wikipedia article on Waldorf education is that it has one primary author who likes to maintain very close control over it: Harlan Gilbert, a teacher and anthroposophist at Green Meadow Waldorf school in the US. For a long time it had no hint nor mention of controversy. Occasionally somebody with a less vested interest, shall we say, comes along to “sort it out.” Their edits are often quietly dropped once they get fed up and go away. The history and talk pages for this article can often be more informative than the article itself.

    Interestingly, the German language Wikipedia article for Rudolf Steiner is in the top 10 most controversial for that language, alongside Scientology, Adolf Hitler, homeopathy and Jesus! (Where controversy is measured as the number of edits that are wholly reverted back to the original text. Reference: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1305.5566.pdf )

  13. Rain17

    My question is what do they think they are transitioning from, and to what, exactly.

    I do hope Helen Royall has looked more closely at the transitionnetwork.org website. She’ll find plenty of Steiner/Waldorf puff pieces there, some of which have been re-purposed by or from Transition movement mouthpiece, Transition Voice.

    This is also a helpful quick Google-based search for anyone interested in just how much they talk about Steiner-Waldorf there: http://j.mp/1xLtHIV

  14. Helen

    In reply to Matt’s “boarding school ruined my life” comment above;
    I can’t let you get away with that comparison; you suggest that I should leave Steiner alone and criticise boarding schools.
    As for “State schools damage children” – what do you mean? Steiner Academies are state schools, so where is your argument?
    Steiner education proponents try to deflect criticism by pointing out that other schools have their faults. Well, I am not suggesting that they don’t, and fortunately we have systems in place for detecting failures and dealing with them.
    The problems with Steiner schools are unique, and the causes are also unique, so special attention must be paid to these.
    You ask “Have you noticed how most of your references are for other Steiner critical websites?”
    That’s the idea really, to draw attention to the criticism as some of it can be missed otherwise. But I have also referred to The Rudolf Steiner Archive and to “Open Waldorf” (which claims to be independent but is in fact pro Steiner) to anthroposophist sites such as “Anthromed” and to really wacko sites written by Steiner followers who have clearly lost their marbles. I think it’s a fair mix.
    You say you investigated Steiner before signing up, and that you find aspects of anthroposophy challenging. Do you mind my
    asking which bits exactly? Was it the racial hierarchy? Or is that ok with you? You are still finding out, and I wonder what if anything would make you change your mind about the kind of education you have chosen for your child.
    Did you know there was a mass exodus from a Steiner school in New Zealand when parents and teachers began finding out about anthroposophy?
    https://stopsteinerinstroud.com/2014/07/26/steiner-not-compatible-with-new-zealands-education-system/
    I find your comments about irrationality disappointing and I agree with Nick and Jim’s views on this. It is obviously up to you if you are “a big fan of irrationality” but you are also subjecting your child to this worldview.
    “Children equipped to deal with the future as it well might be will need a different kind of education from the unambitious, uncritical, take-your-place-in-the-capitalist-machine education doled out in state schools.”, you say.
    This is what I mean by “retreating to a kind of dark age”. Instead of embracing science and attempting to discover solutions to problems caused by peak oil or global warming, Steiner (and Transition) people appear to shun science and therefore reduce the chances of saving planet Earth and the human race from destruction. There is no logic at all.

  15. Helen

    In reply to “I feel judged” by Matt.
    I am not saying there is a conspiracy at all! To imply some people are not alive – therefore dead?- because they do a job they don’t enjoy, or that the don’t spend enough time doing what they want to do – that’s judgemental, isn’t it?
    We are off topic really but in addition to learning the violin I find discussing these issues enjoyable, so I don’t have to worry that I’m dead already.

    • Matt

      Hi Helen,
      Like I said, I think you are stretching Howard Thurman’s words enormously. My sense is that he wasn’t trying to judge people as alive or dead, merely encouraging people to reflect on their own sense of aliveness or not, as you have done above. I can accept that YOU feel judged by such statements, but then that would be your stuff, as me feeling judged is my stuff. I wonder though, since you dodged the question, do you feel like you are being judgemental in criticising Steiner people, as well as religious people elsewhere on this site, for being irrational?

      • Helen

        We can have differing views about spirituality and rationality. I have friends and relations who are religious and spiritual and know I do not share their beliefs. I am not going to disown them, nor they me. You and other Steiner proponents make out I am intolerant of beliefs, but I will repeat what you may not have read; I am a secularist; people can believe what they like, I have no problem with my Mormon relatives and their rituals, for example. But keep those beliefs separate from education and politics. They have no business there.
        Steiner not only mix their creed with education, they lie about it to parents and the authorities, and that needs to be dealt with.

            • Matt

              OK, I just wanted to be clear about your objections to Steiner Schools. I feel like I am finally getting it. I am happy, as an intelligent adult capable (sort of) of making my own decisions, about sending my children to a Steiner School. I guess you will never allow me the freedom to make that decision with feeling on some level that I am a fool, or that I have been duped. I have a lot of work to do so I am going to sign off now. I hope it all goes well for you and that you get the satisfaction from your campaign in some form. It has been stimulating.

              Matt

          • Helen

            Aw no. Don’t go. I don’t at all think Steiner parents are fools – anything but. They are responsible parents who undoubtedly want the best for their children. I do think it is easy when you have small children to get seduced by all sorts of claims about what is best for children – I was myself.
            I have seen first hand what passes for normal in a Steiner school, so that has contributed to my objections.
            Going by what people say who have had to learn the hard way about what Steiner schools do, parents do blame themselves, but I think with state-funding that will change that and they will blame the Department for education for not acting on information they had, and making sure families were protected.

            Making out my objections are entirely due to the religious aspect is crafty of you.Whether a belief system that treats children differently because of the size of their head or the colour of their skin is worse than one that blatantly refuses to treat everyone equally regardless of gender is for parents to decide themselves – as you say we are all different. But at least they should be given the information to make that choice.
            You didn’t answer my questions about your research in to Steiner and anthroposophy and what you find challenging. Perhaps you will come back and answer that Matt?

            • Matt

              OK, briefly, I was concerned about the accusations of racism, the wacky esoteric belief system, the calendar of Christian (sort of) festivals and of course, the gnomes, and I was concerned how much of this would be forced upon my children. My actual experience of the Steiner world though, including of several young people in their twenties fresh out of Steiner education, has eased my concerns. I find it a very loving, nurturing environment, and the ex-Steiner school kids report that it was for them, too. I particularly appreciate the reverence for nature and the simple gratitude, for food for example, that my daughter experiences at school.

              I don’t think your objections are purely religious, what became clear is that you think the Steiner movement is hiding something. That hasn’t been my experience so far. What I wanted to say was that perhaps they are being honest, on the whole (as honest as any of us can be) about where they are at in relation to Steiner’s worldview, but that, given the nature of the material, some people inevitably feel misled and get upset.

              People with unusual beliefs make easy targets in this way. There is a swimming pool near me that is strongly associated with an organisation that has been called a cult. They running innovative swimming classes primarily for children. How explicit should they be about the backers of the swimming pool, is it relevant, is it not? I suppose it depends how much it informs their work. Some people will no doubt feel mislead at some stage, but currently the place is booked up months in advance. I, personally, don’t think they are sinister, just different.

              But then I guess you have heard all this before though, and still feel that there is an important fight to fight. Like I said, good luck with it.

              Matt

          • Rain17

            And by the by, I wouldn’t call myself a Steiner proponent, more a defender of the right for people to be different.

            Straw man.

            No one is arguing against mere “difference”. The issue is an institution’s “right” to misrepresent itself to the public, and to paying parents & their children. All while crying, “it’s our entitled ‘right’ to run our schools with your money! We’re *special* and *different*!”

            After all, without us superior Ubermenschen anthroposophists at the vanguard, how will mankind EVER reach the sixth post-Atlantean epoch of human development?!

            • Steve

              Hi Matt.

              You will never know how a system truly works, any system, until you encounter problems. It’s the way the system deals with a problem that often reveals its true intentions.

              So if you don’t encounter problems, your children’s experience could well be a “safe, peaceful and natural learning haven”. But if something happens… Well, that’s the reason why some people have websites that discuss these matters: to warn others of how your family could be treated once the honeymoon period is over.

              Caveat emptor.

  16. we escaped!

    Yes, we’ve heard it all before. We, as a family have had awful experiences with Steiner education and we were blatantly lied to and mislead. We feel that our child was tormented and subjected to abuse. We would not wish our experience on anyone and are thankful to the likes of Helen for raising awareness. Wish we had known about the critics before we enrolled, but we trusted and believed the school and ultimately suffered the consequences.

  17. Jim

    If you are still around Matt I would like to respond to your earlier long response on the subject of rationality ( it’s indented way above ). I think you are caricaturing what we mean by rational – so for example it by no means follows that rationally I should understand what you are thinking just from the words you use. Language is complex, we don’t always express ourselves clearly and we often don’t fully understand the context of the speaker. So I am not arrogantly assuming I understand everything. That is the purpose of debate and seeking clarification.
    I don’t think you have to look far for the evidence of the harm done by systematised irrationality – look at most organised religions and cults but also some secular movements such as Soviet science. The common feature is the insistence on enforcing a particular set of beliefs not merely in the absence of evidence but in the face of evidence to the contrary. I’m not simply bashing religion as the root of all evil – on the contrary religion has also contained the seeds of rationality not least because it was generally the seat of power and education. But for much of its history it has sought to limit the growth of those seeds.
    I said before that the rational and the irrational co-exist in us. Yes, i would say that belief in a god or gods is irrational but I certainly would not therefore conclude that everything a believer does is tainted with irrationality. I might also say that to trust a friend who has let you down many times before is irrational but wouldn’t necessarily say you should not trust him again. But at least I have good reason to belief the friend exists and no reason at all to believe in gods.
    I’m no more a fan of Dawkins than you say you are of Sheldrake – I may agree with many of his conclusions but his arguments are often facile and expressed in a rather juvenile fashion. Let them both have an audience. But I think we might excuse a little supposed “militancy” when it is still considered by many that without believing in a god you can’t be a moral person, or where it is considered brave for a politician to say he’s an atheist ( impossible in the US ).

  18. Nick Nakorn

    Matt, so would a BNP school be okay for your mixed race child? Are you happy supporting a world-wide organisation that believes in and promotes a racist hierarchy? Where is the line drawn for you on those issues? I’d just like to add that far from being arrogant, rationalists like to seek evidence or a reliable source of information that tests their previous assumptions. The whole point of science is that it safeguards against one person’s point of view prevailing. An arrogant view is one that flies in the face of evidence and answers to no collegiate, tested opinion.

  19. we escaped!

    The Christian Community and Transition groups are mentioned and promoted in schools newsletters. Take a look at a few steiner schools websites and search for their weekly news letters.

    • Jim

      I wonder how much of the green/transition acceptance of Steiner is due to woolly minded new agery and how much to a “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” mindset.

  20. Nick Nakorn

    Jim, a great deal I think. New-agery is, like Anthroposophy, not interested in either evidence or fair enfranchisement through rational discourse, both of which require systems of participation and testing in which both inclusion and scrutiny are welcomed. Transition, with its strong Hayekian emphasis on charismatic leadership and free association (as opposed to democratic systems) and its love of spiritual awareness also overlaps hugely.

    I agree too that the ‘enemy’s enemy is my friend’ mindset is strong in both camps due to the lack of the abovementioned participatory and testing systems in which rational analysis, and importantly quantification, can tell the difference between a good idea done badly and a bad idea done well. I could go on about that for hours after years of working in recycling, renewable energy and energy conservation fields and meeting hostility if a recycling scheme was deemed not sound or if an incineration scheme checked out favourably. No thanks was forthcoming, though, if my findings were the other way around for particular scheme, all I got was, “we could have told you that for nothing”. In short, as always, style and tribalism comes into play because most movements (including scientists, sceptics and rationalists such as myself) represent a powerful social milieu that becomes as important as the topic being discussed – the difference being that, if my view is corrected, I’m happier in the long run, because I’ve learned something. But the Anthro’s New-agers and Transitioners don’t explain why their positions are better, they just state that all other positions are worse.

    • Jim

      I’m sure you’re right Nick that both are involved but I think it’s useful to distinguish them. The woolly minded new agers are just not thinking and accept any nonsense uncritically regardless of logic or consistency. So until they grow up you can’t really expect much from them, unless you’re prepared to spin them some sort of myth they can go along with and which serves some useful end. And yes, I know how patrician that must sound and I’m not recommending it because after all isn’t that the Steiner way?
      But those adopting the “my enemy’s enemy…” approach are at least following a tactical ploy which might conceivably yield positive results. That suggests they might be amenable to rational argument that, whilst in theory the tactic could work, in practice it most likely won’t. Specifically in the green/transition case instead of gaining additional support for your cause you will be drawn into giving extra support for the Steiner cause. Which given the backward and unscientific stance of the Steiners ( and others of course ) is not going to yield any significant gain in the social and environmental causes you champion.

  21. Nick Nakorn

    Yes, I do distinguish them certainly. I was just expressing some similarities. As for the tactical point, I would imagine those at the top of Transition and Steiner will be in those positions because they have the abilities to rise to the top but I’m not sure much tactical skill would be required to create the overlap of interests between them, given that the common cultural mores between all three groups is so broad. I agree totally that significant gain with environmental issues can not be made through those groups, nor with the B.A.U. corporate sector. That’s one reason why I gave up applying for ‘green’ jobs and have returned to a previous interest (classic car restoration). If I was younger, I’d retrain in a pure science field or perhaps cinema.

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