Our individualization as
human beings, independent of our gender, race, culture, national origin
or religious beliefs, is the main focus of anthroposophy.
While the development of
anthroposophy with this focus took form at the end of the 19th and during
the first decades of the 20th century, there also developed other discussions
in Western culture, including the question of the origin of man, focusing
on the problem more from the perspective of our relation to the natural
Along with the development
of the theory of evolution of the different organisms of nature during
the 19th century, humanity as well came to be understood as differentiated
into different sub groups, similar to the sub groups of animal species,
which were called "races".
In this discussion, Rudolf
Steiner addressed a number of aspects of these questions.
In his view, human "races"
in two biological senses (see the two sections below) arose at different
times in the past but in general started
to fade in relevance and as a reality at the end of the last glacial age
and will cease to exist completely in the future as the fading realities
we experience them, with our increasing individualization as human beings.
As mentioned at another
page, the theosophical concept "root race" (which is incorrectly cited
in allegations of racism in anthroposophy by some individuals for demagogical
purposes) is not a "race" concept in our present meaning.
Instead it just uses the
term "race" as often was done in Victorian times to refer to a "group of
humans", whether it was humanity as a whole referred to as "the human
race", or defined by some form of geographical criteria ("the Irish
race") or sociological criteria ("the race of scholars").
As also mentioned, the two
first "root races" described in theosophy do not even refer to humanity
as it comes to expression on the present planet Earth. Instead they refer
to stages in the development of humanity as it existed, according to theosophy
and anthroposophy, in a spiritual form from the initial formation of our
present solar system up to the formation of the present Earth as a planetary
body separate from the sun.
races of Atlantis"
While the concept "root race"
is the first theosophical concept incorrectly cited in allegations of racism
in anthroposophy, the concept "sub races of Atlantis", which is used in
the theosophical tradition but not in anthroposophy, is the second
concept cited in such allegations.
During the time of the mythical
"Atlantis", that is, during the time which Steiner later in his life cited
as corresponding to the Tertiary and Quaternary periods, a number of groups
of peoples developed. These groups, originating far in the past, in the
view of theosophy, constituted the origins of a number of later developing
The theosophical tradition
pointed to them as Rmoahals, Tlavatli,
Turanians, original Semites, original Akkadians and original
Mongols. For these groups, the theosophical tradition, but not anthroposophy,
used and continues to use the concept "sub-races" of the Atlantean epoch.
The distinction from a present
perspective can be understood as a tentative effort among theosophists
at the end of the 19th century to understand the origin of the peoples
mentioned, from a long term perspective, as well as from a spiritual perspective.
In the view of Steiner, the
whole world of plants and animals constitutes living forms that have branched
off from the developing form of the human being, at different stages in
our long evolutionary development. It was also his view that human beings
initially had a form not even recognizable as human in the present sense,
and only slowly developed the present human form from the time corresponding
to the Paleozoic
through the Mesozoic up to the Cenozoic period.
In addition, the developing
human form was not dense enough to leave any physical traces as fossils
until after the branching off of the anthropoid apes from the developing
human form, during the Tertiary period.
it is a common view that man developed out of anthropoid apes, the markedly
human characteristics of young anthropoid apes, before they develop the
characteristics of the adult ape, a phenomenon called neoteny (the picture
exemplifies this with the young and the mature chimpanzee), points in the
The human-like characteristics
indicate that the anthropoid apes have developed as branched off forms
from a markedly more human form in the present sense, yet not dense enough
to leave physical traces at the time of the branching off of the apes.
Only during the middle phase
of "Atlantean" time, that can be understood to correspond to the time of
the Pliocene period, marking the transition from Tertiary to Quaternary,
did human physical development progress such that fossil traces of human
beings would start to remain. This corresponded with an impulse to a new
form of self consciousness in man at the time. It is also from this period
that the fossil remains of "Lucy" in eastern Africa originate.
In Steiner's view, one can,
however, only talk of human "races" in a proper sense of the word from
the late "Lemurian" time - that is, the end of the Mesozoic period, when
the human form was not yet dense enough to leave fossil traces - up to
the end of "Atlantis" (Cenozoic up to the end of the Pleistocene), with
the mythical deluge.
After the end of the time
of "Atlantis", with what is described in mythology as a deluge, the concept
of "race" in a biological sense -- in the view of Steiner -- is continually
and increasingly losing its relevance and meaning as a biological concept
in human contexts, and will have lost its meaning as we now know it in
a foreseeable future, as its last vestiges from the last glacial age are
increasingly superseded by our cultural and individual development as humans.
"five main races" of humanity
The old concept of the "five
main races of humanity", now increasingly obsolete, is the
concept incorrectly cited
in allegations of racism in anthroposophy.
During the time of the mythical
"Atlantis", cited by Steiner as reflecting the development of the human
being during the Cenozoic period, there also developed another differentiation
into "races" which we still experience today, albeit as increasingly less
But while Steiner viewed
the formation of seven sequential human forms during the "Atlantean epoch"
(in theosophy called the "sub races of Atlantis"), paralleling the development
reflected in the paleontological remains from the beginning of Cenozoic
up to the end of Pleistocene, as part of the "normal" development of humanity,
the formation of what we experience as the fading existence of the "five
races" of humanity, in his view, took place as an abnormal differentiation
of humanity during the period in question.
These group differentiations,
that refer to bodily characteristics, in later times have been referred
to as "Ethiopians", (Africans), Malayans, Mongols,
Caucasians, and American Indians.
The tentative distinction
between these five groups of people as the five main "races" of humanity
can be found already in 1795 in a work on The Natural Variety of Mankind
by the father of anthropology, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, who focused,
like Steiner later, on the unity of the human species as the grand idea.
In commenting on these "five
main races of humanity" in a lecture series in 1910 (Mission of Folk
Souls), with regard to their origin and nature, when they were formed
far in the past before the end of the last glacial time, Steiner expressly
begged his audience not to misunderstand that his characterizations of
the "races" in this lecture series referred to bodily characteristics,
that they not were descriptions of the inner being of man, which
constitutes us as human beings, and that in our age, the racial characteristics
in question are generally being overcome.
Steiner's description also
made clear how all the five main races of mankind, including the
"Caucasians", in their origin and nature before the end of the last glacial
age, need to be understood as one-sided in nature, in his view originating
in the activity of abnormally developing spiritual beings, and that they
together reflected the whole of the human being.
Against the increasing propaganda
for a development into the future based on ideals of races and nations
in many countries at the beginning of the 20th century, including by the
National Socialists in Germany, Steiner argued that this approach was one
which addressed decaying impulses
of humanity and that nothing would bring humanity more into decay than
if the ideals of races, nations and blood (biological heritage) were to
In a number of lectures,
Steiner also described his understanding, based on spiritual research,
outlining how we
as individuals and groups of people have moved through history between
lives in one race and culture and lives in other races and cultures
in other parts of the world.
These points show that in
Steiner's view - expressed nearly 100 years ago, at a time and in a culture
permeated with thinking in terms of "races" - our development as individuals
is not determined by, and is less and less connected with "temporary" external
characteristics like "race" or nationality or gender.
Instead, our development
as individuals is being superseded and ever more purely determined by our
individual paths through history, independent of such
For more, see Rudolf Steiner on
to main discussion of allegations of racism in anthroposophy
2004: Robert Mays and Sune Nordwall