Karin Jarman wrote to the local press this week saying “it is something of a riddle how abusive and ill-informed letters regarding the Steiner movement keep popping up” in the Stroud News and Journal. She says “it is beginning to feel like a witch hunt rather like in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible”.
She argues that “farms, hospitals and other institutions inspired by [Rudolf Steiner] are open to the public and subject to official scrutiny”, and calls for “basic respect”.
A riddle? Is she so surprised that people are beginning to uncover the facts about anthroposophy and that they do not like what they have found?
If she is really surprised, perhaps it is because anthroposophists are used to carrying on their rituals under the radar. Until the internet made research into this little known belief system available to the uninitiated, Steiner followers did not need to explain themselves when recruiting innocent people or asking for funding. There was no need to even mention anthroposophy by name.
This has changed. The two applications for the Steiner free school brought this subject to prominence in the town. It should therefore not be a surprise to Karin Jarman that there are critics of the Steiner movement in her own back yard.
The failure of the bid for state funded Steiner education and the end of NHS funding for anthroposophical medicine at St Lukes in Stroud has probably been a blow for “therapists” like Karin who made a living from referrals.
Steiner people in the know seem genuinely bewildered at how anyone could view their approach to education, farming, medicine and adult care as unscientific and unprofessional. Reading their biographies, it seems many were born and brought up in rarefied anthroposophical communities, where following the indications of the mystical guru Rudolf Steiner has seemed respectable.
It must be an uncomfortable experience to find their beliefs held up to the light of day and examined for what they are; a flawed worldview put together by the leader of a cult a century ago, and which many feel should have died with him.
Comparison to a witch hunt as depicted in the Crucible implies unjust persecution, but it is not unjust to ask for openness when dealing with the uninitiated public. No-one wants to outlaw anthroposophy, but such beliefs cannot command respect where none has been earned.
Other religious sects, such as Plymouth Brethren and the Jehovah Witnesses go about their business in the town reasonably quietly without giving offence, and without violating planning regulations, trying to open schools, or asking for public money for large projects without honestly declaring their intentions, as the Steiner movement continues to do.
Simply answering questions fully and honestly, rather than withholding information or avoiding the issue with meaningless terms like “holistic” and “creative” would be a start. There is something much more specific at work in all Steiner businesses and the public have a right to know what they are being asked to support, without having to plough through reams of rambling nonsense in the Rudolf Steiner Archive.
This is what Stop Steiner in Stroud has campaigned for over the last 3 years. I am glad that Karin acknowledges the local anti Steiner “movement” as she calls it, and if she doesn’t like it that means we may be getting somewhere.