Mystic Shadows of Colour (2nd Part)

The second part of

Mystic Shadows of Colour

By Nick Chulapatnabongse Na Nakorn

 

5.Transition Towns and the Anthroposophical Influence.

In my searches to establish if clear non-racist diversity principles guide green groups and organisations as to how they might pro-actively denounce racist Anthroposophy in practice, I have noted, as have others, the fact that the Steiner Schools tag-line ‘Heart, Head and Hands’ is also used by the Transition Town Network (TTN).

In itself, such a co-incidence is not really anything to worry about. Indeed, as a poetic notion of what it means to be an environmentalist, it is apt and metaphorically represents my own approach to learning and action. But a nagging feeling persists that Anthroposophy, so adept at infiltrating so many areas of life, might too have a hand in the management and policies of the Transition Town movement. My aim is not to rubbish the TTN; in general I think it is an extraordinary project that will, hopefully, spread the concepts of energy decent and community resilience. Indeed, there is so much I approve of in TTN’s general approach, that any connection to the racist doctrines of Steiner and similar nonsensical New-age mysticism should be pro-actively opposed to ensure the TTN can not be used to mobilise fascist tendencies; something that must be guarded against during times of economic and social collapse; of which I am sure there is more to come.

With an open but critical mind, I hope to find out the extent to which my misgivings are true or false and to expose links where appropriate.

As with most detective work, the advice is always to follow the money and that is where I will start.

 

The Money

According to the Transition Network’s ‘Who We Are and What We Do’ document, at:

 http://transitionculture.org/wp-content/uploads/who_we_are_low.pdf

 TTN is run by:

Peter Lipman (Sustrans, Chair),

(the late) Brian Goodwin (Schumacher College),

Ben Brangwyn (Transition Network),

William Lana (Greenfibres),

Julie Richardson (Dartington / Landscope),

Pamela Gray (Transition US),

Rob Hopkins (Transition Network).

The TTN is part sponsored by the Tudor Trust. The Tudor Trust is a major investor in the Triodos Bank’s Opportunities Fund, a venture capital fund for social enterprise. I was shocked to discover recently that the Triodos Bank is an Anthroposophical organisation; shocked because many organisations that I otherwise admire, such as Friends of the Earth, Amnesty International and Café Direct, bank with them. Indeed, I recently applied to Triodos myself for funding and it was a chance perusal of their site that led me to their Steiner roots. If my business plan is accepted by Triodos (doubtful as I am often so critical of Steiner) I am now in the horrible position of having to turn down their investment. (I’ve since heard my application was turned down so the dilemma no longer exists).

According to their website, The Tudor Trust’s Trustees are:

Mary Graves
Helen Dunwell
Desmond Graves
Nell Buckler
Christopher Graves
Catherine Antcliff
Louise Collins
Elizabeth Crawshaw
Matt Dunwell
James Long
Ben Dunwell
Francis Runacres
Monica Barlow
Vanessa James

Triodos is Greek for ‘threeways’: in Steiner’s anthroposophy that means Spirit, Thinking and Yoga; concepts that became the Heart, Head and Hands of the Steiner Schools and of TTN. But being bank-rolled by a Trust that invests in Triodos does not make one a supporter of Anthroposophy if one is ignorant of the link. Is TTN ignorant of the link or does TTN support Anthroposophy? Another of TTN’s sponsors is Ashoka. Ashoka is an organisation dedicated to social entrepreneurship in underdeveloped countries; aside from having a distinctly colonialist flavour that puts me off more than somewhat, it seems to be a very well-meaning venture. The organisation is named after Emperor Ashoka the Great (304-232 BC), a military dictator who later turned to Buddhism, and is run by an American called Bill Drayton who has been both an investment consultant for McKinsey & Company and a MacArthur Fellow; his credentials are hugely impressive, as are his achievements.      

The money, or some of the money at any rate (the TTN document only mentions the organisations above) has come from two main sources; Tudor is an outwardly pro-Anthroposophical supporter that invests in Triodos and Ashoka is an organisation known for its more traditional roots in high-capital philanthropy. They share an inference to sympathies with karmic re-incarnation and charismatic fascism but otherwise seem quite different. 

 Interestingly, in Bill Drayton’s video about the founding of Ashoka and his travels and work in India

 (at: http://www.ashoka.org/entrepreneurforsociety)

what he does not say reveals almost as much as what he says. Nevertheless, Ashoka’s record is quite astounding, particularly in the field of human rights; it seems so strange that TTN can not present themselves as specifically inclusive on issues of enfranchisement as do most of the organisations under Ashoka’s philanthropic wings. But Bill Drayton clearly chose the name Ashoka for a reason; perhaps because Buddhism appeals, perhaps because empire building appeals. It is a sad fact that ‘good works’ are often offered with substantial philosophical, political and religious strings attached. It is also true that a huge number of excellent aid organisations and NGOs have strong religious values at their core; but that’s a whole new essay on colonialism.

The Rudolf Steiner Foundation, clearly Anthroposophical, and Ashoka do however share other similarities. They are both part of the growing network of corporately funded charities tied in to global businesses, the ravages of which NGO projects hope to challenge; using crumbs from the capitalists table to feed those disenfranchised from the global economy. One such new organisation is StartingBloc, a new social entrepreneurial organisation with similar aims to Ashoka.

 According to Joanna Opot at CSRwire :

 http://www.csrwire.com/press/press_release/14684-StartingBloc-Nominated-for-Joan-Bavaria-Award

 About StartingBloc
StartingBloc is a New York-based 501(c)3 non-profit organization. StartingBloc educates, empowers and connects emerging leaders to drive positive social change across sectors. Since inception in 2003, the organization has been supported by the Rudolf Steiner Foundation, Goldman Sachs, General Electric, Ashoka Foundation, Rabobank, United Way of New York City, MIT Sloan, Fletcher School, Yale SOM, NYU Wagner, London Business School, White & Case, and Goulston & Storrs. For more information, please visit www.startingbloc.org.

 

StartingBloc is funded by Ashoka and Steiner amongst others. Whether or not each organisation is motivated by self interest, the greater good or both, one is still left wondering about the power-relations between these organisations and their ‘Fellows’. Incidentally, the quasi-academic structure of such organisations is thoroughly self-serving and is designed to increase the stature and status of the participating organisations as well as the individual Fellows upon which such honours are bestowed. We are all prone to such self aggrandisement, including me; but we should all at least know we’re doing it. 

So not only is TTN well financed, it is also backed by a vast international network of charitable organisations in which Anthroposophists seem to play a significant role. One might say that to be so connected says much about the Anthroposophists new direction; away from mysticism and towards rationalism and good works. Equally one could say that Steiner’s political machine is attempting to infiltrate every area of life in order to more easily control an essentially colonialist venture that hopes to assist non-white people re-incarnate into whiteness in addition to promoting the ever-increasingly stranglehold of global capitalism. Either way, left-leaning NGOs and human rights organisations are being subsumed by the machine.  

Ian Ybarra writes:

“And what does StartingBloc want? According to its mission statement, “StartingBloc seeks to help outstanding university students understand that a socially responsible career is not an oxymoron and that business can and should improve society as well as create private wealth.” (These are actually the words of Dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management Richard Schmalensee) Ultimately, StartingBloc hopes that undergraduates who come to understand this today will remember it when they’re running this joint in the future.”

From: A New Market for Self-Interest By Ian Ybarra

 http://tech.mit.edu/V124/N21/Ian_Next.21f.html

 StartingBloc’s own website is rather peculiar and gives no hints as to the political positions it represents or encourages.

So where did following the money take us? We have established that the Transition Town Network is sponsored by the Tudor Trust and Ashoka, we have found that the Tudor Trust invest in Triodos and that Ashoka works very closely with the Rudolf Steiner Foundation and that all have sympathies with concepts of Karma and re-incarnation and all are part of a network of global capitalist philanthropy with colonialist themes. That such themes are largely hidden allows the subtle expropriation of otherwise left-leaning organisations via the processes of patronage and the provision of banking services.

Triodos claims to have severed its ties with Anthroposophy in 1999 yet in 2009 it was still keen to congratulate itself and its directors for its Anthroposophical values in its own internal reports:

Information from the Board

Philip Martyn’s tenure comes to an end this year
and he is not seeking reappointment. Over the past
few years, Philip has provided a uk perspective to
the board; personal input that is backed by
consider able banking knowledge and experience.
He has strong ties with anthroposophy, which also
inspired the founders of Triodos Bank, and which
linked him to Mercury Provident Plc, the predecessor
of the uk branch of Triodos Bank. The Board is
very grateful for Philip’s contribution as member of
the Board of saat.:

From: http://www.triodos.co.uk/uk/about_triodos/key_figures/Agmagenda2009

 And in case one forgets what is at the root of Anthroposophy, this essential piece of Steiner’s philosophy should not go unread or unchallenged:

On the one hand there is the black race, which is the most earthly. When this race goes toward the West, it dies out. Then there is the yellow race, in the middle between the earth and the cosmos. When this race goes toward the East, it turns brown, it attaches itself too much to the cosmos and dies out. The white race is the race of the future, the spiritually creative race.

 from: http://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/steiners-racism

Before leaving this section, it’s worth reminding ourselves that the corporate partners in the StartingBloc enterprise have much to gain by improving their image via philanthropic actions given their recent reckless past and the current Global Banking Crisis:

 Goldman Sachs

 Goldman Sachs Turns Positive On General Electric

Goldman Sachs Thursday upgraded its equity recommendation on General Electric Co. (GE) to ‘buy’ from ‘neutral.’ At the same time, the bank lifted its 12-month target price for the stock to $15 from $13, which currently suggests upside potential of 22%.

The catalyst for this decision was comment from U.S. House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank late Wednesday indicating manufacturers like General Electric could keep their financial arms under new banking rules.

From: http://wiadomosci.onet.pl/2017760,10,goldman_sachs_turns_positive_on_general_electric,item.html

With high-ranking executives from Goldman Sachs and GEC metaphorically meeting in the metaphorical cosy confines of their StartingBloc protégé, one could easily see how such relationships are mutually beneficial. I’m not suggesting impropriety but illustrating what a small world it is when one’s socio-political and cultural values happen to coincide. This is, remember, the same company that is suspected of encouraging the sub-prime exploitation fiasco and one can’t help but notice that high capitalism is rooted in the ‘might is right’ tradition; many unethical city workers see their victims as suckers deserving of their fate – not a dissimilar notion to karmic punishment.

Senate Probes Goldman Sachs and Other Major Banks for Meltdown Fraud

By Ron Haruni|Jul 30, 2009, 2:14 PM|Author’s Website  

Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and Deutsche Bank AG (NYSE:DB) were issued subpoenas by a U.S. Senate panel seeking evidence of fraud in the 2008 mortgage-market meltdown, the WSJ reports, citing people familiar with the matter.

The direction of the congressional investigation, notes the Journal, is focused on whether internal communications show executives at the banks had private doubts on the soundness of the mortgage-related securities they were putting together, and if these securities, which  played a big role in accelerating last year’s financial crisis, were as financially sound as their public pronouncements suggested.

From: http://wallstreetpit.com/8998-senate-probes-goldman-sachs-and-other-major-banks-for-meltdown-fraud

 General Electric

(Not to be confused with the UK firm GEC/Marconi)

As we have seen, the General Electric Company, is clearly well known to Goldman Sachs and they share many of the same problems:

General Electric In Im-Melt-Down?

Profit fall at GE sparks split talk from the New York Post reports that the once mighty General Electric is literally in a meltdown, making tought (sic) choices for CEO Jeffrey Imm (sic) Shares dived yesterday after GE reported a 49 percent drop in second-quarter profit. Its one-time cash cow GE Capital suffered an 80 percent tumble in profit, while its NBC Universal media unit’s profit fell 41 percent.

“Getting GE out of the dog house is going to take a lot of fear and pain,” said analyst Nick Heymann of Sterne, Agee & Leach.

He said GE’s best hope is to convert its loss-laden financial arm into a full-fledged bank — a conversion regulators could order anyway in the coming weeks. If that happens, GE could be forced to put up as much as $6 billion in new reserves as a bank. However, as Haymann noted, “GE doesn’t have the cash reserves.”  

The above from: http://paxalles.blogs.com/paxalles/2009/07/general-electric-in-immeltdown.html

GE has a history of large-scale air and water pollution. Based on year 2000 data, researchers at the Political Economy Research Institute listed the corporation as the fourth-largest corporate producer of air pollution in the United States, with more than 4.4 million pounds per year (2,000 Tonnes) of toxic chemicals released into the air. GE has also been implicated in the creation of toxic waste. According to EPA documents, only the United States Government, Honeywell, and Chevron are responsible for producing more Superfund toxic waste sites.

The above from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Electric

One has to keep reminding one’s self that these companies, so easily led into irrational behaviour by the demands of competitive capitalism, are supposed to represent so-called ‘materialism’.  To be led by greed, to lie and cheat and to pretend that the planet’s resources and ecosystems are inexhaustible, is to delude oneself as surely as if one was following the orders of a mystical cult. Yet the high-capital consumerist ideal is considered, by the majority of mainstream politicians, to be a default rationalist position. It is therefore utterly predictable that Anthroposophists and powerful capitalists would feel comfortable working together.  

Rabobank

Rabobank is a Dutch cooperative-movement financial institution. Reading through the Rabobank website, one is immediately struck by the specific ways in which Rabobank distances itself from traditional capitalists and consumerist values. In that respect, it reminds me of my initial impressions of Triodos and of the UK’s Co-operative Bank. So why are they associating with Anthroposophist and disgraced high-capitalists?  Regardless of their history (about which only good is written on the internet – though histories of the bank seem to miss out 1939-45), a modern clue can be found at the top of their operations.

Bart Jan Krouwel is Rabobank’s Managing Director of Sustainability and Social Innovation and Deputy General Manager of Rabobank Nederland. 

After starting his career within the AMRO Bank N.V. in 1964, he was co-founder and first general manager of the fully independent Triodos Bank N.V. in 1980, a new banking institution operating on the basis of the anthroposophical way of life. For this work he received a special award from Prince Claus in 1981, the FEM/PA medal for socially innovative entrepreneurship.

From 1986 to 1993 he worked in the healthcare sector as general manager of various institutions (mainstream, anthroposophical and alternative).

From 1993 to 1996 he was employed as managing director of a number of affiliated, privately runned foundations in the field of national and international environment management, humanitarian aid, healthcare and peace initiatives, among them an organisation of which the former president of the Soviet Union, Michail Gorbatchov, was honorary president.

He has been employed by Rabobank Nederland since 1 August 1996

Above from:

http://www.asria.org/events/singapore/july04/Speakers/BartJan_Krouwel

I have not been able to find out if Rabobank has always held Anthroposophical principles or if the Triodos model has been so influential that Anthroposophists are being hired by left of centre institutions in ignorance of the racist nature of Anthroposophical doctrines. But it seems inconceivable that the Rabobank board will be unaware of Bart Jan Krouwel’s background or of the value-systems at work within Triodos. Either way, Steiner’s mystic racism does not seem to be a problem for Rabobank. Indeed, a recent study has concluded:

Managing diversity is a relatively new domain within HRM. Theoretical debates around the issue have not matured yet. This case study examines in detail the diversity management practices of Rabobank, a major bank in the Netherlands, which has applied diversity concepts in its management practices. Through interviews with managers and employees of the bank we contrast theoretical premises on diversity management with praxis at Rabobank. Findings show that diversity management has been used primarily to attract ethnic customers to the bank, rather than to advance the quality of working life and career prospects of ethnic minority employees. The latter remain segregated in lower positions and not allowed openly to express their culture and religion.

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=931659

In other words, my micro-experience in attempting to become accepted by the local community group Buck The Trend is mirrored at the macro-scale of the corporate governance at Rabobank; BME people are welcomed as customers and clients but full participation is denied. At both scales of operation we are witnessing a new colonialism for the modern world and Anthroposophy in action.   

 United Way of New York City

As far as I can tell, there are no links between UWNYC and Anthroposophy other than the partnership behind StartingBloc

 MIT Sloan

It would be crazy to suggest that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has any direct connection with either Anthroposophy or Blood and Soil politics. But that was not always the case. MIT Sloan was funded by the philanthropist Alfred P Sloan. Sloan was a huge admirer of Hitler and was instrumental in supplying the Nazis with plant and equipment throughout the war years as Chairman of General Motors (GM).

In 1935, GM agreed to build a new plant near Berlin to produce the aptly named “Blitz” truck, which would later be used by the German army for its blitzkreig attacks on Poland, France and the Soviet Union. German Ford was the second-largest producer of trucks for the German army after GM/Opel, according to U.S. Army reports.

Less than three weeks after the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, GM Chairman Alfred P. Sloan defended this strategy as sound business practice, given the fact that the company’s German operations were “highly profitable.”

The internal politics of Nazi Germany “should not be considered the business of the management of General Motors,” Sloan explained in a letter to a concerned shareholder dated April 6, 1939. “We must conduct ourselves [in Germany] as a German organization. . . . We have no right to shut down the plant.”

From:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/daily/nov98/nazicars30.htm

MIT accepted Sloan’s money from 1931 and established MIT Sloan in 1952. Sloan’s philanthropic influence continued until his death in 1966. For younger readers, this background history might seem irrelevant. But for those of us who spent our childhoods in the 1950s and 60s or earlier, the affection of ‘the great and the good’ for racist ideology was a normalised context for how power continued to flow through fascist channels before and after Hitler had been defeated. In the 1970s a great many documents came to light during Congressional hearings and only 10 years ago, in the late 1990s, GM’s collaboration with the Nazis was again resurrected when Nazi-era slave labourers threatened to sue GM and Ford for reparations and, over the last few years, many researchers have approached General Motors to be allowed access to their records without success.  

These issues of colonialism and race affect people alive today. People who survived the Nazi’s slave camps that provided labour for the likes of GM and Ford; people who survived the forced partition of India and people all over the world still subject to the idea that their labour and their quality of life is worth less than the luxury of the colonist. It is vital that we remember that the transmission of these values, of Blood and Soil ideologies and of state-funded racism have taken place within living memory and continue behind the scenes today. The memetic growth of ideas and cultural norms, remember, does not require a conspiracy; all these ideas need to grow is a fertile social and political milieu in which irrational values go unchallenged.

And while there might be legal reasons why MIT has not changed the name of the Sloan School, one would have thought it only humane for the University to explain their position on these issues via a disclaimer on the Sloan home-page. If MIT are not able to face up to their racist past, it is no surprise that the Steiner machine is similarly wary.

Fletcher School

The Fletcher School at Tufts University has, as far as I am aware, no Blood and Soil skeletons lurking in its cupboards other than its seemingly unbending support for high-capital consumerism.

Yale SOM

Yale School of Management, as above.

NYU Wagner

New York University Wagner School, likewise

London Business School

As above.

White and Case

As above. In fact this law firm should, given its reputation for Civil Rights pro-bono work, have its head examined getting into bed with Anthroposophists 

Goulston and Storrs

As for White and Case, above.

 

 There are three themes I wish to underline at this point.

  • The first is that many otherwise thoroughly respectable organisations seem to be quite happy to work with Anthroposophically driven entities, perhaps in ignorance of the value-systems being promoted by Steiner’s racist philosophy or, perhaps, not realising that a great many of those in power, in the Anthroposophical machine, actually believe in a racist and irrational ideology.
  • Secondly, it might be that the influence of Anthroposophy is now so great that even executives of non-Anthroposophical organisations have been recruited, by accident, from the Steiner fold; in other words, the Steiner value-system has infiltrated most of our institutions. I find it hard to believe that that is the case, hope it is not the case and hope to expose the extent to which it is the case.
  • Thirdly, it might be that institutional racism, enshrined in the Steiner doctrine, is simply not considered to be ‘real’ racism compared to, for example, physical attacks or extreme verbal abuse. But it is my experience that institutional racism is as damaging as a physical assault; not least because it’s almost impossible to immediately identify and very, very hard to take to court.  

 

6. Transition Town Totnes (TTT).

As the first Transition Town on the Transition Towns Network’s (TTN’s) list of Transition Towns, TTT is in the forefront of the movement. TTN’s co-founder, Rob Hopkins is on the board of the TTN and is a Fellow of Ashoka. Rob’s achievements are truly spectacular and it’s worth having a look at his website at:  http://transitionculture.org/about/

As I have said, I hugely admire what the TTN is doing in terms of the rational green agenda and I’m only undertaking this piece of writing to expose the mystic racism, and consequent lack of democratic accountability, that accompanies it. And although Rob’s Transition Culture site is full of mystical nonsense, he does at least choose Permaculture instead of Biodynamics as his preferred method of organic agriculture. This is important. Biodynamics is an Anthroposophical racist-mystical system of organic growing that relies upon Steiner’s cosmic forces for its shaky nonsensical rationale whereas Permaculture, regardless of the religious convictions (or lack thereof) of its founder, Bill Molison, is trying to make sense of the high productivity of eco-systems and transfer those qualities to organised food production; no mysticism is required or implied. Indeed, I once asked Bill, when we were attending a meeting in Bristol many years ago, what the science was behind Permaculture. His honest and revealing answer was “We’re not sure, but we’re trying to raise funds to computer-model the biochemistry to produce reliable guidelines for communities in different climatic zones.” I have no idea if that has happened in the intervening years but I hope it has.  

So, within the TT movement, there is certainly respect for rationality when it suits the TTN’s agenda. But the pick-n-mix attitude to rationality exemplified by the overlap of rational green politics and the irrational New-age agenda is unhelpful if those who end up controlling the agenda are more concerned with mysticism than rational enfranchisement.

In Totnes, a town renowned for its links to a profoundly New-age social class and otherwise politically Conservative, many of the movers and shakers, within green activism generally and within the South Devon Green Party, are linked to Anthroposophy and/or Goethean mysticism.

Local Writer James Long, author of the (excellent) re-incarnation novel ‘Ferney’, for example, is a Trustee of the pro-Anthroposophy Tudor Trust (one of the funders of the TTN) and is a tutor at the Arvon Foundation and is closely involved with the Dartington ‘Ways with Words’ festival. Dartington also hosts the Schumacher College. Coincidentally, a James Long was also one of the winners in the Song4Devon competition in which the ‘Blood and Soil’ values I have outlined in this piece played a prominent role in connection with the promotion of the New Devon Flag.

The late Brian Goodwin of Schumacher College, who sadly died last month (as I write) in July 2009, was one of the college’s teachers of Goethean Science and was on the board of TTN. The anti-rationalist roots of Goethe’s proposals being fundamental to Theosophical, Anthroposophical and Nazi ideals. This is not to say that Brian Goodwin had anything but good intensions (as far as I am aware) but it is to say that Anthroposophical influences might easily go unnoticed or be supported at Schumacher College.       

Schumacher College’s Satish Kumar, currently Visiting Fellow and Creative Director of the Dartington Tagore Project and someone I’ve known slightly, on and off, for nearly 30 years, hardened his ‘spiritual’ lines of argument when he was Director of Programmes at Schumacher. I’ve always admired Satish’s commitment to peace and education yet my last conversation with him in November 2007 was revealing. In an introductory morning session for a short course at Schumacher, he announced that all endeavours towards peace and environmental stability must be spiritual journeys and that it is only by acknowledging one’s spirituality that meaningful change can come about. In the past his position was that it is where science and intuition meet that the most powerful insights occur. As a non-spiritual person, that previous position, though not entirely to my liking, seemed to me to be reasonably inclusive. Over lunch, we greeted each other with usual affection having not conversed for a number of years. After catching up for a few minutes, I pointed out the change in his position and suggested that his new position disenfranchised rationalists from the debate generally and from the course I was attending in particular. His reaction was surprisingly aggressive and, like so many peace-loving mystics, he ended up pointing his finger at me  saying, “Nick, Nick, you can’t expect people to deny their true spirituality to accommodate your irrational scientific outlook; it’s your attitude that has created all the problems!” with that, he turned away and started a conversation with someone else. In subsequent discussions with others attending and teaching the course, it was clear that my feelings of exclusion were thought to be without cause and unreasonable. In an afternoon session I mentioned my reservations again and was met with a stony reception; not one person offered the slightest support; yet combating exclusion and supporting local needs used to be at the heart of Schumacher’s Buddhist Economics in which:

..production from local resources for local needs is the most rational way of economic life..

 And,

When a thing is intelligible you have a sense of participation; when a thing is unintelligible you have a sense of estrangement.

 And,

 The errors are not in science but in the philosophy put forward in the name of science.

Within the limits of the physical laws of nature, we are still masters of our individual and collective destiny, for good or ill.

From: Small is Beautiful, Schumacher E.F.,  Abacus Edition 1974.  pages 49, 68 and 75 respectively         

It was a sad end to a long association with someone who, in the past, had offered much wise and good advice. But while such anecdotal experiences do not a theory make, it serves to illustrate a growing and observable trend away from the meeting of science and spirituality upon common grounds to a polarisation in which science must be subservient to spirituality; thus those of us who are not spiritual are, in effect, disenfranchised as mere technical functionaries within an anti-democratic hierarchy ruled by gurus and mystics. Such a change in emphasis within the environmental movement leads inevitably towards an ‘us and them’ mindset in which other horrors can flourish. E.F. Schumacher, for whom spirituality was vitally important, would be turning in his grave to witness such scant regard to rational discourse.   

That Transition Town Totnes has been so successful is, in my view, in no small part due to the existence of Schumacher College and the South Devon Steiner School, both located at Dartington on the outskirts of the town. Indeed, the Steiner School is a common venue for many TTT events:     

Saturday 11th October. . The Steiner School, 7.30pm for 8-10pm. £3 (£2 conc.)

Parallel Community: A platform for change

A talk by author & renowned dowser Hamish Miller in association with The Steiner School.

From: http://totnes.transitionnetwork.org/system/files/TTTAutumninner.indd08_0.pdf

Live Rhythm Sessions

Held on the second Thursday of the month at the South Devon Steiner School. Sessions cost 9TP or £10. Contact Fanny on 866317 for details. 

From: http://totnes.transitionnetwork.org/node/1019

The TTT enterprise is also enlisting celebrity endorsement from famous faces connected to Anthroposophy.

Transition Town Totnes
Garden Share Scheme: A partnership between CSF and Transition Town Totnes (TTT) has resulted in the urban local food initiative called Garden Share. The basic idea is that householders can give spaces within their gardens to people who are willing and have time to cultivate food (such as people waiting on allotment lists). In return, householders receive a share of the produce. In this way TTT maintains a kind of dating agency to bring food growers without land to gardens without food growers. It is a win win relationship and so far there are a growing number of garden shares spreading throughout Totnes. Hugh Fearnly Whittingstall was so impressed he featured it in one of the River Cottage programmes on television and even set up a website to set up a similar scheme at national level!

From:  http://greenlistings.co.uk/devoncsf/index.php?pid=2

Of course, Hugh Fearnly Whittingstall might not know anything about Anthroposophy but the fact he banks with Triodos and is mentioned as an inspiration by many Biodynamic farmers only reinforces the mistaken idea that Anthroposophy is a force for good. In so many ways the all-encompassing network of approval, in which Steiner is involved, is typified by the links evident at Schumacher in respect of Transition Town Totnes:

 Resources (with potential for project based work)

Alongside the speakers and tutors, the participants and the Schumacher community experience, there is our unique library, access to computers and wireless network, our evolving Edible Landscape Permaculture project and the adjoining Agro Forestry Research Trust; the surrounding gardens and woodland; The Dartington Hall Trust (including Landscope, Steiner School, MA Art and Ecology) and other local Projects such as Transition Town Totnes, LandMatters, Steward Community Woodlands, Embercombe, Forest School.

From: http://www.schumachercollege.org.uk/courses/certificate-in-education

The legitimacy of Anthroposophy is also enhanced locally by the University of Plymouth.

BA (Hons) Steiner Waldorf Education

Course summary

This unique and innovative course enables you to study an alternative approach to education. The Steiner Waldorf Schools movement follows a distinctive international curriculum. Our degree course studies this while making a comparison with current educational thinking and practice in Britain.

From: http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/courses/undergraduate/0544/BA+(Hons)+Steiner+Waldorf+Education

 

As the only UK university to offer such a course, one wonders about the ways in which the university policy makers square their support for the doctrine with their equality policies. This might not be a problem if their promotional material did not emphasize support as opposed to critical analysis:

What the students say

“I went to a Steiner school myself so I was aware of Steiner teaching, but it wasn’t until I was working as a volunteer in East Africa that I decided I wanted to teach. I enjoyed all of the course but what particularly appealed to me was the international aspect of the teaching: looking at different approaches to education and studying issues in a global context. I was able to carry out my Teaching Practice in Kenya and Tanzania. I am keeping my options open at the moment, but may take a teaching job in Kenya or America.” Hazel Jarman, BA (Hons) Steiner Waldorf Education graduate

From: http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/courses/undergraduate/0544/BA+(Hons)+Steiner+Waldorf+Education

Hazel Jarman’s support for the international aspects of the course and her experiences in Africa, when combined with the Anthroposophical view that The white race is the race of the future, the spiritually creative race.” make one shudder. If Hazel Jarman and the university are unaware of the racism being supported, it does not say much for the academic professionalism of the university or the depth of Hazel Jarman’s studies, particularly as Anthroposophical pedagogy is in the syllabus:

Year 1

  • A foundation for developing an understanding of Waldorf pedagogy, the main teaching focus being the 7-14 age range
  • The philosophical/Anthroposophical approach that underpins the education is a core element
  • Opportunities to develop an initial perspective by artistic work and visits to Steiner Waldorf and mainstream schools

From: http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/courses/undergraduate/0544/BA+(Hons)+Steiner+Waldorf+Education

The power, poignancy and horror of the university’s commitment to Anthroposophy does much to explain my own experiences as a student (on an entirely different course I hasten to add) at Plymouth in which my commitment to rational discourse was not met with enthusiasm by many of my teachers or my peers.    

Coincidentally, the name Jarman crops up again in Anthroposophical circles:

Gloucestershire Stroud Hills: Ron and Stella Jarman, 67 Bowbridge Lane, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 2JN, Tel.: 01453 750477

From: http://www.anthroposophy.org.uk/index.php?id=45

 

I have no idea if Hazel, Ron and Stella are related or not. Yet another  Jarman, Mel Jarman, the leading light of the Buck The Trend group (to which I referred earlier in this piece) might too be related. Indeed, on the same page as the Gloucester entry there appears: 

South Devon: Buckfastleigh: Derek Lapworth, 10 Chapel St, Buckfastleigh, Devon TQ11 0AB 01364 644010, Totnes Area: Diana White, 0l803 866670

From: http://www.anthroposophy.org.uk/index.php?id=45

The above address is a few doors away from the address of the Anthroposophical Christian Community at 23 Chapel Street in Buckfastleigh, a few minutes walk from my home, and the venue for the Biodynamics talk I had objected to in my e-mails to Mel Jarman. It is interesting too that one of the reasons Mel gave for choosing to set up Buck The Trend, as opposed to setting up Transition Town Buckfastleigh, was to ensure that the people of Buckfastleigh could make practical, down to earth choices concerning reducing the town’s carbon footprint; unencumbered with some of the more mystical elements of the Transition movement such as “The Great Unleashing”. Indeed, it was her assurance that Buck The Trend was not a mystical organisation that gave me the confidence to join in the first place.

Thus far, I have not shown that the Transition Town Network and Transition Town Totnes are controlled directly by Anthroposophy. But I have demonstrated that in its international organisation, and in its local practice, the Transition Town Network is heavily influenced by Anthroposophy and quite willing to be partnered with Anthroposophical organisations and individuals. For rationalists and for non-white people this is extremely problematic. Racism, when unchallenged is, by default, supported and normalised. The political and social consequences of normalised racism are clear and history shows us just how horrific those consequences can be. In some respects, the TTN is aware of such dangers in as much as there is much emphasis on inclusive, resilient communities. But within the TTN and TTT literature there is the attempt to de-politicise the very issues in need of political analysis. The historical and current colonial capitalist enterprise (that has in no small part fuelled the irrational worship of unrestrained consumerism) may not promote, as an explicit philosophical doctrine, that ‘might is right’ but, as a political machine, capitalist forces behave as if such a doctrine was its driving force; in short, capitalism has built upon the medieval power-structures from which it sprung.  

One of the naiveties of libertarian politics, typified by right-wing anarchists such as the economist Friedrich Hayek, is that social justice can not exist in a free society because resources can only be distributed by the price mechanism unless distributed by totalitarian regime. In Hayek’s schema, an unregulated free-market goes hand in hand with the spontaneous and uncontrolled creation of efficient distribution mechanisms in which the price mechanism ensures that all those capable of participation have access to goods and services. In conversation with the Reason organisation Hayek confirms his views:

Hayek: I think there is a little shift recently as a result of my outright attack on the concept of social justice. It is now turning on the problem of whether social justice has any meaning at all and, of course, social justice is essentially based on some concept of merit. I’m afraid I have shocked my closest friends by denying that the concept of social justice has any meaning whatever. But I haven’t been persuaded that I was wrong.

Reason: Well, then, why isn’t there any such thing as social justice?

Hayek: Because justice refers to rules of individual conduct. And no rules of the conduct of individuals can have the effect that the good things of life are distributed in a particular manner. No state of affairs as such is just or unjust: it is only when we assume that somebody is responsible for having brought it about.

Now, we do complain that God has been unjust when one family has suffered many deaths and another family has all of its children grow up safely. But we know we can’t take that seriously. We don’t mean that anybody has been unjust.

In the same sense, a spontaneously working market, where prices act as guides to action, cannot take account of what people in any sense need or deserve, because it creates a distribution which nobody has designed, and something which has not been designed, a mere state of affairs as such, cannot be just or unjust. And the idea that things ought to be designed in a ‘just’ manner means, in effect, that we must abandon the market and turn to a planned economy in which somebody decides how much each ought to have, and that means, of course, that we can only have it at the price of the complete abolition of personal liberty.

From: http://www.reason.com/news/show/33304.html

 

Hayek’s unreserved support for the fascist Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet somewhat undermines any claims that Hayek’s supporters might have concerning a positive appreciation of Hayek’s ethical values. Far-right and neo-conservative organisations, for whom Hayek is a guru of sorts, are greatly in favour of individual freedom and antipathetic towards social justice; they are (in their own eyes) bravely standing up to Political Correctness and rarely support civil rights. Within that social and political milieu typified by the promotion of free-market, spontaneous self-organisation, the freedom of the ruling elite to be racist (or sexist or homophobic or islamphobic) outweighs the freedoms denied to groups subject to unreasonable prejudice and social pressure; for such privileged anarchists, society (and thus social presure) does not exist and every individual has as much chance of winning the capitalist race as any other; it is no coincidence that one of Hayek’s greatest admirers was Margaret Thatcher (also a personal friend of Pinochet) and that some of her greatest admirers are the power-elite at New Labour.

The Transition Town movement, I hope and imagine, would not see itself as supporting dictators like Pinochet. Indeed, Transition Culture suggests that one of the criteria for setting up a transition initiative is human rights:

 13. a commitment to strive for inclusivity across your entire initiative. We’re aware that we need to strengthen this point in response to concerns about extreme political groups becoming involved in transition initiatives. One way of doing this is for your core group to explicitly state their support the UN Declaration of Human Rights (General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948). You could add this to your constitution (when finalised) so that extreme political groups that have discrimination as a key value cannot participate in the decision-making bodies within your transition initiative. There may be more elegant ways of handling this requirement, and there’s a group within the network looking at how that might be done.

From: http://transitionnetwork.org/Primer/TransitionInitiativesPrimer.pdf

 Yet, if one searches the Totnes Transition Town website (at the time of writing) using the search-term ‘racism’, not one single example is returned by the search engine. The search term ‘feminism’ likewise yields no results. ‘Human Rights’ returned only 6 results: Two in relation to Albert Bates, a speaker at an event who had experience in human rights campaigning; one in relation to mobile phone masts; two in relation to HIV and one in relation to diverting tax. And though one is thankful that human rights are mentioned in passing concerning the above issues (HIV/aids in particular), none of the search results were in relation to inclusivity and enfranchisement in respect of race and gender; it is as if such social problems did not exist.     

The Hayekian resemblance is further enhanced by the TTN’s opinions concerning spontaneous organisation as the Transition Initiatives Primer explains:

Although you may start out developing your Transition Initiative with a clear idea of where it will go, it will inevitably go elsewhere. If you try and hold onto a rigid vision, it will begin to sap your energy and appear to stall. Your role is not to come up with all the answers, but to act as a catalyst for the community to design their own transition.

If you keep your focus on the key design criteria – building community resilience and reducing the carbon footprint – you’ll watch as the collective genius of the community enables a feasible, practicable and highly inventive solution to emerge.

From: http://transitionnetwork.org/Primer/TransitionInitiativesPrimer.pdf

 

TTN’s Naresh Giangrande outlines how these community initiatives link to anarchism:

This is an anarchic, grass roots, democratic, citizen based initiative. We are aiming to reclaim power over our lives and the resources in our area. We will certainly engage with local government, but will act independently from local government.

We are staying out of party politics, but parties might want to align themselves with the process, or not!

Neither of us has any idea how the process will unfold and where it will go. That’s part of the beauty of it for me. It’s unpredictable. We have set the process in motion and then are allowing it to happen. Chaotic in the sense of chaos and complexity theory. There is no way of predicting what might happen or when, like predicting the stock market or the weather. We will be responding to events and happening as and when they happen, and let those events and happenings guide us. When dealing with complex systems with many different feedback mechanisms and inter-relations there is no way of knowing how they will inter act and what will be created.

Open space events: Whoever comes is the right person. Self organising. Whoever wants to be part of it can, and can take whatever responsibility or role they wish.

From: http://transitionculture.org/2006/10/04/transition-town-totnes-the-story-so-far-by-naresh-giangrande/

And, as with Hayek’s schema, the independence of money and the support for free-market price mechanisms seem to be fundamental to the Totnes Transition Town model.  The creation of the Totnes Pound, a local currency designed to promote local spending, is, in many ways an admirable enterprise in terms of attempting to mitigate capital flight. But  without a clear strategy backed by the enfranchisement of minorities and disadvantaged groups it is also an effective mechanism of sterling capitalisation; essentially selling vouchers and putting the proceeds into a bank account controlled by the chosen few.

And in the case of the Totnes Pound, the chosen few are those on the Totnes Pound steering committee:

  • Noel Longhurst
  • Nigel Topping
  • Robert Jackson
  • Ben Brangwyn.
  •  

Apart from the fact that the committee is made up entirely of white men, itself a shameful state of affairs given that these people are in charge of an alternative currency, I note the following:

Noel Longhurst is a supporter of Steiner education and is a leading contributor to the Norwich Steiner School; often advising on financial issues. 

Nigel Topping is a financial and business consultant and a consultant for Embercombe. Embercombe’s CEO, Tim Macartney, wrote a book called “Finding Earth, Finding Soul, the invisible path to authentic leadership”. From what I can gather, Embercombe is rooted firmly in the mystical ‘Blood and Soil’ tradition and has close links with Steiner Schools and has hosted Anthroposophical events.

Robert Jackson keeps a low profile and I was unable to find out much about him via internet searches.

Ben Brangwyn, is one of the founders of TTN and is on the TTN steering committee/governing body. He lectures frequently on matters concerning the Totnes Pound and Lewes Pound. Though one might consider that to be on a committee in charge of the Totnes Pound and be a founder of the TTN and be a leading light in TTT was a series conflicts of interest waiting to happen, there is no evidence to suggest that Ben is anything other than a respected individual.  

What is of interest here is that 2 of the 4 in charge of the new currency are heavily linked to Anthroposophy. In that respect, the Totnes pound is to all intents and purposes a micro-representation of Triodos at the local level. As every Totnes pound is matched by sterling in the aforementioned account, one also wonders where the account is held. The power-relations at work here are either conceived naively or with political aforethought.

In conclusion to this section 

In my brief survey of the links between the Transition Town movement and Anthroposophy I have demonstrated that the Steiner machine is hugely over represented and has tied the TT movement to the corporate world with which it shares a love of power and domination; the mystic racism of Steiner echoing the imperial capitalist project that has shaped the modern world and turned us all into mass-consumers. The fact that the Transition Town movement is all about mitigating over-consumption and offering alternative economic models should not convince one that the corporate links are trivial. In effect the TT movement is setting up a parallel system of economics and political action that can be easily controlled by the corporate sector if, and when, a sufficiently momentous calamity befalls global capitalism. With the banking crisis and the global economic crisis still in flux, the scene is set for the rapidly expanding network of Transition Towns to become ever-more appealing to the land-owning middle classes as peak-oil and climate change further undermine the viability of the global market system.  

In many ways, such parallel systems are essential to ensure that there is a viable alternative if global economic collapse becomes a reality; in that respect I support what the TT movement is doing. But because it is so heavily controlled by Anthroposophists and their corporate masters, the opportunities for the disenfranchisement of all but the white elite are frightening. And with no visible democratic process or equalities policy in action, I am concerned that the TT movement could easily become the eco-fascist state-within-a-state in times of trouble.

The above is an excerpt from

Copyright Nick Chulapatnabongse Na Nakorn 2009 all rights reserved

About Nick Nakorn

This is the blog of a concerned citizen.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Mystic Shadows of Colour (2nd Part)

  1. Hi Nick
    This is a fascinating and worrying analysis. I have been following the influence on permaculture and TTN of New Age beliefs for the past few years, and have become increasingly concerned about the influence of Anthroposophy, which many of these mystical influences seem to lead back to. I am a Permaculture teacher, but the subject seems to be so riddled with Biodynamics etc that I seriously wonder if the concept has outlived its usefulness- most many expect BD to be included, and you can imagine the reactions I may get if I say what I think about it.
    The Anthros. seem to be rolling on the post-modern wave of relativism which inevitably means anti-science, which is a huge threat to democracy in itself. You have done a great job here of crystallizing how it is also inherently racist. There is so much tendency to be anti-science within the green movement- or at least sympathetic towards anti-science mystics- that I have been arguing that this also plays into the hands of, for example, climate change deniers.
    The sustainability movement relies entirely on the credibility of hard reductive science, and yet few within it are willing to address these issues. The green movement needs urgently wake up to what is happening and tackle it head-on.

  2. nicknakorn says:

    Dear Graham,

    many thanks for your recent comment. I completely agree with all you have said; especially about the green movement having to tackle this problem head on. I have found thus far that the green movement is not only reluctant to tackle it but tend to be obscurist and detracting in their responses to enquiries and complaints. As you rightly point out, the anti-science sentiments of much of the green movemement are a huge threat to democratic enfranchisement and so we must continue to state our case.

    I can see how frustrating it must be working with, teaching and promoting Permaculture if many of those wishing to take it up are adding aspects of Biodynamics. I have no idea if the Permaculture networks world wide have a view on all of this but further public denouncements by rational permaculturalists should help quite a bit.

    Thanks again for your comment,

    best wishes,

    Nick

  3. Christina says:

    Hi Nick,
    Wow, great work! What a wonderful reference to provide for people. When I first heard about biodynamics and Steiner I was not concerned. I thought it was just a small group of people planting by the moon. But now that I can better understand the influence it has I think it is worrying. I worked with an “organic” farmer a few years ago and I was lucky that he was not into biodynamics. I didn’t know to look out for it so it was good I didn’t find myself being taught by a farmer that spends a good proportion of time preparing useless “preparations”. At the time there only seemed to be a few farms in the area adhering to biodynamic practices but now it seems to be everywhere! I was looking to do another farming appreticeship in the near future and am having a lot of trouble finding a sustainable farm that is not into biodynamics. Its a strong movement that seems to be gaining strength. Again, great information on the subject. And thanks for your comments on Skepteco.
    Christina

    • nicknakorn says:

      Dear Christina,

      many thanks for your message, it’s greatly appreciated. Like you, I had heard of moon planting some time ago, when I was working on my first environmental campaign in 1977. Since then I had met many proponents of Biodynamics, but knew little about it other than it was somehow mystical rather than scientific and, though I’m pro-science, I thought it pretty harmless if it was just agriculture using organic methods with a few ceremonies thrown in for poetic reasons. My naivity then was really born out of ignorance of the facts. It’s most worrying to hear that you are having difficulty finding a sustainable farm that does not ustilise Biodynamics; it just goes to show how cleverly the Steiner marketing machine has hidden it’s true intensions.

      Best wishes,

      Nick

  4. Maple says:

    Thank you for this information on Transition Towns and for your excellent comments on rickross.com website. I attended a Transition Town Network training and subsequent meetings, excited at the prospect of addressing together a local response to the degradation/descent of the environment, the economy and fossil fuel. I particularly appreciated that the TTN approach was toward relocalization since I’m old enough to remember a time when local communities were much stronger, indeed, there were stable communities. The reach of global corporations appears to have destroyed not only the environment, but also local communities and have reciprocal relationships with governments as well. I was ready for a grass-roots, self- and community-empowerment movement.

    Based on what I could discover about the TTN at that time it seemed to address these interlinked issues. I did some searching but at that time found nothing suspicious about TTN, although a New Age bent seemed part of it, I’ll admit, an annoying part for me, but one to which I’ve resigned myself over time since it seems ubiquitous.

    At the training, however, some warning bells began to sound. The “heart” portion of the training particularly bothered me, since it was not about the traumas of dislocation rumbling in the background as energy, economy, and environment decline, but instead was an imposed “guided meditation” based on past lives and other things that are not a part of my belief system. When I very respectfully questioned part of their psychological model, based on the idea of addiction to oil, I was “cold-shouldered.” There was some sense that I was asking forbidden questions, ones that would only be brushed off and stonewalled, whether asked in public or privately. Same when I questioned the spiritual beliefs portion. I’ve been puzzling over whether this is essentially a sound movement with some flakey people being too assertive with their own beliefs or a group that is cultlike or naively open to cult takeover.

    When I read your comments and some of the other websites that have emerged about Steiner, I now strongly suspect that my perceptions were accurate. There are people who are flakey in the foreground, and since a number of them are associated with a group that is a cult, TTN will be a time waster at best.

    One of the attractions of this group for me had been their claimed goal being to get a group of people together and strategize about how to strengthen the local community and economy. The idea was that anyone could take a leadership/active role based on what he or she had to contribute. The reality was that every meeting I attended had a rigid and pre-planned process that precluded any meaningful dialogue about the local community and what actions might be effective in preparing for a low energy future. These processes were either guided meditations based on some past lives beliefs that took up nearly all of the meeting or a tightly controlled format that began with pre-programmed questions each of us was to answer in a couple of brief go-arounds, but no comment on points brought up by others and no dialogue. I’d hoped for serious discussions of the challenges facing us as a geographical community and practical steps we might take.

    That most, if not all, of the leaders who have “emerged” within the local TTN group are associated with Steiner no longer seems like a coincidence, but more like a strategy. I’m grateful for the education provided by websites like yours so I can steer clear of the TTN now and of Steiner devotees in the future.

  5. nicknakorn says:

    Dear Maple,

    many thanks for your words of appreciation – all are greatfully received. I think your experiences of being cold shouldered by Steiner advocates, and made to feel as if your opinions and contributions are not authentic, are becoming increasingly common. Many contributors to Waldorf Critics and some of the many excellent sites now popping up in defense of rationality are reporting very similar experiences. But there is a much larger number of sites and organisations busily promoting the Steiner way of thinking and, what’s more, they are often very well funded by wealthy and well connected advocates of Anthroposophy.

    I am also very concerned that the UK Green Party, once a place where rational anti-racist environmentalists were welcome, has now too been so heavily infiltrated by Anthroposophists that I’m seriously thinking about not renewing my membership. I tentitively re-joined last year after a gap of over 20 years only to find that my local party committee refuses to reject, or even acknowledge, Anthroposophical principles or the extent of institutional racism within the movement.

    Thanks again for your contribution,

    Nick

  6. jdc325 says:

    An interesting post – and some good digging.

    I have to say, I was a bit taken aback by the quote attributed to an Anthroposophical view that “The white race is the race of the future, the spiritually creative race.” That’s something I find really quite disconcerting. I might have to read up on Anthroposophy sometime.

  7. Nick Nakorn says:

    Dear jdc,
    many thanks for your comment. The quote you mention is the tip of the iceburg and the number of Steiner organisations, driven by that philosophy, is growing at an alarming rate and have the ear of the present Government. Michael Gove, the Education Minister, for example, is a fan and has been courting Steiner Schools to help them with their ‘PR’ problem concerning racism in the hopw that they will lead the Free Academy Schools initiative. The Director of the Soil Association for the last 15 years (due to step down soon) is a Biodynamic (Steiner) farmer (the equivalent of homeopathy for organic farms). The list goes on and on..
    best wishes
    Nick

  8. helen says:

    A very thought provoking piece and one that fills me with some dismay. I was aware of these trends in the green movement in the UK but not to the extent that you outline here. It does have the whiff of an organised campaign of collective deceit where the Steiner/Anthros influence is not just glossed over but is obviously acceptable to those spearheading the movement.

  9. Nick Nakorn says:

    Dear Helen,

    Thank you for your comment. I think collective deceit is an apt phrase to describe how the Steiner machine operates. I think many people who are locked in to Anthroposophical organisations just hope that their rhetoric will win us all over. But it is their silence on so many subjects that is perhaps more telling.

    Best wishes

    Nick

  10. Out of Transition says:

    Hi, I am the one who originally started the discussion on Rick Ross about the Transition movement. I only attended a few meetings but I saw enough New Age mysticism, the anti-science, anti-rationality, and a general air of panic, to make me extremely uncomfortable, and that is why I started asking questions: who are these people and where did they come from? I had no idea that the answers would take the shape that they have–at the time I knew very little about Steiner and Anthroposophy–however, the more I learn the more I am convinced that my decision to leave was not simply a knee-jerk reaction to a meeting gone haywire; that what I witnessed was not an aberration or a fluke, but something coming from deep in the heart of the movement.

    I got involved initially because I am concerned about the future of our communities in the face of all the issues Transition addresses–but I strongly feel these issues need to be addressed in rational ways that include ALL members of the community and not just the better-off ones. I know plenty of people who are having a hard enough time dealing with life because they are poor, uneducated, and in ill health; these people are well aware that they are dropping through the cracks because there is no one in any of the countless bureaucracies that they are forced to deal with who really cares about what happens to them. What is Transition’s answer to these people? Not all of us can or ought to move out to the country and go off the grid.

    I realize this is a controversial subject, but it seems that there is a lot of racism and elitism among the population control folks, who are in deep with the Greens and other environmental groups. When one believes that there are too many people on this planet, then it is no wonder that poor people get the shaft. There is no incentive to help people that one essentially believes are surplus. And when you have to depend upon someone who holds these views for your basic necessities, say your social security check (if you are in the US), then life becomes very precarious indeed. Because what is a matter of life or death to you becomes a matter of supreme indifference indeed to them. So a check is lost in the mail or a claim is denied, so what? Maybe I sound like I am rambling here, but I really do feel we are all interconnected; and a lifeboat that is only for first-class passengers is only good if there is a destination to steer for. Though the Transitioners I know deny that they are survivalists, that is what they are in fact. They are anticipating the complete collapse of society, to the point where some are saying this is a good thing. I have studied history and I most emphatically disagree.

    Anyway, keep up the good work.

  11. Rob Hopkins says:

    Dear Nick,

    I just read your article about both Transition Network and Transition Town Totnes. While I am pleased that you feel that in general our efforts are going in the right direction, there are so many inaccuracies and misinterpretations in the piece that I feel bound to respond.

    Your article has all the hallmarks of ‘research by Google’, of trying to build a coherent picture from an assortment of odd outliers of information and things taken out of context. If you start with a position that Transition projects are definitely interwoven with Steiner, the ‘nagging feeling’ you talk about, will inevitably lead you where you want to go, but doesn’t really model a sufficient level of critical thinking for me. As someone far wiser than me (I forget who) once said, “if you know before you look, you cannot see for knowing”…

    As Massimo Pigliucci writes in his excellent recent exploration of how to distinguish between science and pseudoscience ‘Nonsense on Stilts’, “the downside of scepticism is that it can easily turn into an arrogant position of a priori rejection of any new phenomenon or idea, a position that is as lacking in critical thinking as the one of the true believer, and that simply does not help either science or the public at large”. I fear that is what we have here. I will give a few examples of where I think the facts you have pieced together, the links you have construed and the conclusions you’ve come to diverge widely from reality.

    You write that Transition Town Totnes “has been so successful due in no small part to the South Devon Steiner School”, and that TTT is “heavily influenced” by Steiner, citing as evidence the fact that the town has a Steiner school, and that we have run two events there. I’m sorry, but you could just as easily build an argument that we are unduly influenced by the FreeMasons (we held an event in their hall once, the only one available that night), the Church of England (we have held dozens of events in their hall), or possibly the Methodists (their hall is currently our venue of choice). All organisations no doubt with a few skeletons in their cupboards you could build a case that we have now woven into our organisational thinking. You could suggest that we are unduly influenced by the corporate sector given that I once gave a talk to the ProBus Club, retired professional business people … and so on and so on….

    We are a community organisation, and we have many partners on various projects. A report we are about to publish looking at what TTT has done over the past 4 years list over 25 partner organisations, a broad range of groups we have worked with on various things, but the Steiner School is not on that list. To suggest that the town has a Steiner School so we are influenced (unduly or otherwise) by anthroposophical thinking seems to be a non-sequitur. We have a Rotary Club (we did a talk to them last month, does that also bring our motivations into doubt?), a Conservative Association, and all manner of different things, why do you imagine such an influence exists? Among TTT’s trustees and among members of the core group there are no representatives of the local Steiner School, indeed other than those 2 events, there has been remarkably little overlap in fact. We are a community organisation. That means we work with the community, in all its colourful, diverse forms. We do not practice exclusion based on which school your children go to.

    I appreciate that on this blog you take a philosophical position that Steiner is a wholly malicious influence, and one that should somehow be cleansed, purged from our communities. I don’t share that view. I think Steiner was pretty crackers, and I don’t send my kids to a Steiner School. I went to one for 2 years, (as well as 6 years at a C of E school, and 5 years of comprehensive education), it hasn’t especially influenced my thinking, and the ‘Head, Heart and Hands’ bit of Transition was not inspired by Steiner. At all. We live in a community with all kinds of groups, and we try and involve them in what we are doing, rather than setting up ideological barriers to that engagement.

    You write that my blog, Transition Culture, is “full of mystical nonsense”. That is a pretty broad statement. I would love to hear what I have published on there that you consider to be ‘mystical nonsense’, as I cannot think of anything even vaguely mystical that I have published there, nonsense or otherwise. As someone just completing a PhD myself, I think that I try to uphold certain standards of rigour there… can you provide me with just, say, 5 examples of ‘mystical nonsense’ from the site?

    The list of Transition Network trustees you quote is out of date (only 4 of that 7 remain). Again there are no Steiner representatives on the board of Transition Network. Your assertion that the Tudor Trust is “an outwardly pro-Anthrosophical supporter” doesn’t seem to be borne out by the facts. They fund a huge range of initiatives across the UK and around the world. They do an amazing amount of good, yet you find that they fund perhaps one or two organisations with links to Steiner and use that to rubbish the entire organisation. I think that is a poorly judged assessment.

    Transition Network does not have any direct involvement with the Triodos Bank, but would not have any ideological objection to it, given that they are one of the principal organisations that support ‘green’, ethical and renewable energy projects in the UK. They may have roots in the Steiner movement, but does that mean that by taking a loan from them we would be endorsing Steiner and are pro-anthrosophical? I don’t think so. If we took money from a Muslim bank who supported green projects would that mean we are supporting Islam? Surely by taking a bank loan from virtually anyone else you are supporting the kind of reckless banking that nearly pushed the world’s economy to the brink in 2008, arguably a far more dangerous and insidious menace than Steiner schools.

    It’s obviously very important to you to root out Steiner influences wherever you think they might be lurking. However, I found your imputation that Transition Network, through some highly tenuous and supposed connection with the Steiner movement, endorses racism and exclusion to be deeply hurtful, as would my fellow trustees.
    In fact, the reality regarding Transition Network’s view of racism and exclusion is diametrically opposite your conclusions. We have recruited a Diversity and Inclusion co-ordinator, and many Transition groups, especially in urban areas, work very hard on diversity issues, doing exemplary work such as Tooting’s Trashcatchers’ Carnival. An MSc student at Glasgow University just published some fascinating research on diversity and inclusion in Transition initiatives: http://transitionculture.org/wp-content/uploads/DanielleCohen-MSc-HE-Thesis.pdf which you may find illuminating.

    I would hope that you haven’t taken an intractable position, that Transition is riven with Steiner thinking, that we are all closet racists who believe in eugenics and racial purity. Your conclusions are so far from how we perceive things here and I hope that’s come across clearly and has begun to shift your opinions. That said, we recognise that you’re entirely entitled to hold your opinions, intractable or otherwise.

    With thanks,
    Rob Hopkins

  12. Graham says:

    Rob:
    “It’s obviously very important to you to root out Steiner influences wherever you think they might be lurking. However, I found your imputation that Transition Network, through some highly tenuous and supposed connection with the Steiner movement, endorses racism and exclusion to be deeply hurtful, as would my fellow trustees.”

    I dont think Nick is claiming TTN is based on or controlled by Anthroposophy; the point is, TTN- like the Organics movement, and much of the broader environmental movement, is highly susceptible to infiltration by cults like Anthroposophy- this seems to be partly because there is a built-in anti-rationalist stance in environmentalism, an uncritical rejection of science and modernity and a naive acceptance of the post-modern absurdity of the intuitive and the sensory being on a par with the rational- an example of this from your blog is the “Ways of Knowing” discussion:

    http://transitionculture.org/2010/09/28/a-discussion-about-ways-of-knowing/

    This kind of thinking can of course be used to justify any old nonsense, including Steinerism. The point is, TTN is sees nothing wrong with Steinerism- what you need to do is take a stand against it, exposing its true intentions and hidden racism;
    otherwise you will of course be seen as an apologist.

    Do you deny the influence of Schumacher College and its “Holistic Science”, Peter Russel and general “New Consciousness” ideas? They may not be overtly stated in the Transition handbook, but they are very much influential in the kind of supporters TT has, are they not?

    Should TTN take loans from Triodas? A difficult question, one that perhaps should be given a full public hearing and open debate- a debate that must be framed by a critical analysis of what Steinerism actually is.

  13. Rob Hopkins says:

    Graham… there are great areas of this discussion where I suspect we will never agree, but there were very particular points in Nick’s piece that I am challenging here rather than the general rational/woo woo debates that we have rather done to death. Those points I am contesting are based in the kind of poorly researched approach which was also all-too-evident in the Rick Ross forum (along the lines of “Rob supports Man Utd, they have a red devil in their logo, therefore Rob must condone satanism”)… . Nick did not claim that Transition is ‘controlled by Anthroposophy’, rather he claimed we are “heavily influenced” by it, which I tried to show above to be a ridiculous assertion. It is simply not the case.

    You write of “an uncritical rejection of science and modernity and a naive acceptance of the post-modern absurdity of the intuitive and the sensory being on a par with the rational- an example of this from your blog is the “Ways of Knowing” discussion”. This is rather disingenuous and unfair. That discussion brought together a number of people to discuss the topic, and was an honest look at different thinking on the subject. I can only speak for my contribution to it, I don’t think it reflects your criticism, rather like Nick’s suggestion that my website is ‘full of mystical nonsense’. I tried to set out why, for me, critical thinking is vital, but I also felt that Sophy Banks’ contribution to that discussion was very insightful. Yet you dismiss the whole thing as utterly worthless, having, in the comments thread of that piece, called it “a fascinating discussion”.

    As someone who holds the idea of critical thinking and scientific standards so highly, I am alarmed at the standards of research that you seem to accept happily. While on the one hand your excellent ‘SkeptEco’ blog evaluates good peer-reviewed science, on the other hand you refer to Nick’s piece above as “a fascinating and worrying analysis”, when actually most of it bears very little relation to reality and demonstrates very poor research skills. You speak enthusiastically of much that was in the Rick Ross thread, when again, much of that was similarly Google-based research of the 2+2=7 variety. It is interesting that at the moment, Transition is being attacked here for being too open to woo woo, while simultaneously being attacked by conspiracy-theory libertarian loons who write rubbish such as this (http://transitiontownwatch.blogspot.com/2010/10/green-agenda-is-really-all-about.html), yet both use exactly the same sort of “decide your position first and then rummage for any odd outliers that back you up” approach. Both add nothing to actual understanding, unlike SkeptEco which I find fascinating. Surely you can’t have both?

    Much of what you point to from your blogs that rubbishes Steiner schools is opinion and often quite reactionary stuff, not the kind of balanced good research that you, and I, value. I am no apologist for Steiner education, but at the same time I am not about to instigate some kind of community witchhunt. You, and Nick, see this in black and white, those of us who actually work with local communities and local politics learn to work with multiple shades of grey. Ultimately it is about what is most skilful in terms of engaging diverse communities in preparing for energy descent. Its like trying to do Transition in Skibbereen but refusing to work with Catholics, or Transition in Bradford and refusing to work with Muslims. You may feel that is a good approach, but I’m afraid I don’t.

  14. Graham says:

    Rob: your case would be more convincing if you made some attempt to address the issues I raised.

    “Transition Network does not have any direct involvement with the Triodos Bank, but would not have any ideological objection to it, given that they are one of the principal organisations that support ‘green’, ethical and renewable energy projects in the UK. They may have roots in the Steiner movement, but does that mean that by taking a loan from them we would be endorsing Steiner and are pro-anthrosophical? I don’t think so. If we took money from a Muslim bank who supported green projects would that mean we are supporting Islam? Surely by taking a bank loan from virtually anyone else you are supporting the kind of reckless banking that nearly pushed the world’s economy to the brink in 2008, arguably a far more dangerous and insidious menace than Steiner schools. ”

    So you see no problem with taking a loan from Triodos irrespective of their support for mystic racism etc, purely on the grounds that they support “Green” Projects?
    So therefore would it be reasonable to assume that you see no conflict between “Green” agendas and (covert) racism?

    Arguably in fact, if you were to take a loan from a Muslim bank, you are tacitly supporting Islam; that’s not really the point. And if you take a loan from a highstreet bank, you are arguably supporting (or would have been) a corrupt form of capitalism.
    Maybe there is a case for full disclosure to the public about the banking practices, just as there might be a case for full disclosure to TTN membership- and a full open debate- about what is behind Triodos and Anthroposophy? Or do you think it would be better if such things were not openly discussed?

    Clearly, most people borrow from mainstream banks, and they may have to borrow from somewhere, but should be fully informed about the risks; groups like TTN or other green groups seek out Triodos because they are drawn to the specific values it espouses. Just as parents who send their kids to Steiner schools do not always feel there was full disclosure about what they were getting into, maybe people going to Triodos need to be fully informed about the ideologies behind it.

    If you have issues with the rational nature of criticisms of Steiner schools, and are truly not an apologist for them why dont you debate it on DC’s Improbable Science:

    http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3595

    Frankly, the argument that you are a community leader and you have to work with “many shades of grey” I find very weak. Nick maybe overstating his case, but TTN is clearly more than happy to have Anthroposophists on its committees. What about links with the Organic movement, biodynamics etc?

    In short, you see nothing essentially wrong with the march of Steiner and the growing influence of the movement. I hope Nick’s post here, and the articles on DC’s blog, at least give you pause for thought.

  15. Rob Hopkins says:

    My purpose in engaging with this thread Graham was not to enter another endless debate with you but to challenge Nick on a very sloppy, poorly researched piece. I think that something such as Nick’s post that makes such repeatedly unsubstantiated claims and assertions needs to be challenged, and I look forward to hearing Nick’s thoughts.

    You say that I haven’t answered your points. I think I have, in that much of what you are saying is based on an assumption that Steiner is evil and should be shunned, hunted down and eradicated. I am saying that in the real and complex world of working alongside diverse communities that is not a realistic or a desirable approach. You dismiss that as a ‘weak’ argument, well sorry, that’s how I see it.

    You write “so you see no problem with taking a loan from Triodos irrespective of their support for mystic racism etc, purely on the grounds that they support “Green” Projects? So therefore would it be reasonable to assume that you see no conflict between “Green” agendas and (covert) racism?” It may be the case that Triodos has historic roots into something which one could argue has racist elements to its original philosophy, but it is not a logical step to say that therefore the Triodos Bank is a ‘covertly racist’ organisation now, in 2010.

    The important question for me is whether you can detect in its lending patterns and in how it functions as an organisation, any signs of racism. Whether in choosing who it lends money to race is even an issue… In terms of how it functions as a bank, who it employs, whether it has equal opportunities policies in place and so on. My experience with them is that they work with a broad range of projects, and to suggest that race is even an issue in what they do is ridiculous.

    But Nick and Graham, if you are so focused on dismissing and disparaging everything Triodos does because of a link, historic or otherwise, to the Steiner movement, how about doing some actual research Graham, of the quality that you seek out (when it suits you) in the research of others, rather than this rather pointless Steiner-bashing among people who are just going to reinforce what you already believe? Why don’t you address your concerns to the Triodos Bank themselves? Perhaps do some actual research into the percentage of their staff that come from BME backgrounds, their portfolio of organisations they lend to, and what the representation from BME groups is there? You could perhaps then write to the bank and ask for their views on it? You could do the same for a control sample of ‘conventional’ banks, do the same process with them, and then produce some actual data we could then sit and look at. Perhaps some focus groups with current members of staff about their perceptions of any kind of covert racism within the organisation? But no, that probably sounds like a whole lot of effort, best stick to Google, chatrooms and insinuation, much more fun.

    If Nick’s research in the piece about about Triodos is as poor as his research about Transition, one can clearly not take much of what is written above with any degree of confidence anyway. I’m going to remain in this thread to hear Nick’s response, but I don’t intend to add any more to this particular discussion, I think we’re done.

  16. ThetisMercurio says:

    Rob – in the above piece by Nick – written 5 months ago – he makes it clear that he supports Transition Towns and that his intention here is to explore the possibility of any links between TT and the anthroposophical movement, about which he has understandable concerns. He is highly complimentary of you and your work. He does however raise the issue of an anti-rationalist stance that pervades many environmental initiatives, which demands to be discussed. Nick is not making definitive statements: he’s asking questions, following paths – some lead nowhere, others bear closer examination. It doesn’t have the tenor of a conspiracist rant, since Nick is rather more modest and engaging (and polite) than many other bloggers.

    It’s certainly important that others do note a significant anthroposophical presence within the TT movement and that Nick is not alone in expressing concern. If TT intends to be a non-elitist organisation, which I’m sure it does, there will have to be an acknowledgement of Anthroposophy’s core doctrine, which will when understood cause great offence to many people. It would be a mistake to attribute these core beliefs to Anthroposophy’s distant past, they are intrinsic.

    In common with others discussing this subject I’m not discounting individual best intentions; in my experience many on the edges of Steiner initiatives have little idea what Anthroposophy is, such is the nature of an esoteric religion. Others choose to ignore certain aspects of Steiner’s teachings, reading him with one eye shut. They should open both eyes.

    As for Triodos, I agree that it would be worthwhile to research the individuals working for the bank, although I imagine they would feel Graham hadn’t the right to know their individual affiliations. I refer you to Mike Collins of UK Anthroposophy, who has mapped the UK anthroposophical movement. He is a scrupulous researcher, and I’m sure would be happy to discuss with you why he lists Triodos and its affiliates as anthroposophical initiatives:

    http://ukanthroposophy.wordpress.com/2009/12/29/summary2009/

    http://ukanthroposophy.wordpress.com/recorded-uk-organisations/

    This isn’t the place to discuss Steiner schools and I see that you are don’t intend to return here, so I do urge you once again, if you disagree with our posts, to debate with us and Prof. Colquhoun on his blog. We would be happy to clarify why our concerns are not simply opinion, and would welcome an explanation of what exactly you consider ‘reactionary’ within Steiner Waldorf criticism and analysis internationally.

  17. Nick Nakorn says:

    Dear Rob, Graham, Thetis, OutofTransition and others, many thanks for your comments. I’ve not been well over the last few days and have not yet read all of your comments throroughly but I will reply as soon as I’m able. Meanwhile, many thanks for your interest.

  18. Graham says:

    It is very disappointing that Mr. Hopkins is unable to make a simple statement along the lines of:

    “the political beliefs of Anthroposophy, and its influence on the environmental movement is an issue of great concern, and Nick Nakorn and others should be commended for uncovering some of these issues. While at Transition Network we do not see taking loans from Triodos, or working with Anthroposophists problematic, we certainly do not wish to further any kind of racist agenda, and will welcome an open debate about these issues. We certainly feel that there should be full disclosure in education, banking and elsewhere, and in the transition movement itself and will work to achieve that”.

    There are many people very concerned about Anthroposophy, especially its covert nature in education, yet there is no indication Rob or anyone else from TTN is prepared to take any of these issues seriously. Even a simple “we’ll look into it” would be better than the extreme defensiveness expressed here.

    Instead he dismisses the abundant stories of damage done through Steiner education that can be found by following links here and elsewhere, dismissing such claims as “reactionary”, with know mention of any specific point he disagrees with.

    Meanwhile he appears happy to spend time debating with cranks like Ian Crane whose site he links to, but refuses to debate Thetis on DC’s site.

  19. Pingback: A Critical Response to Michael Brownlee’s call for ‘Deep Transition’

  20. Rob Hopkins says:

    Hi Nick…. I hope you are feeling better… I just wondered if you were planning to respond to the points I raised about your piece on the Transition Network? I would be interested to hear your response….
    Thanks
    Rob

  21. ThetisMercurio says:

    Hello Rob –

    I’ve written a 3rd post about Anthroposophy and Steiner Waldorf schools for DC’s blog:
    http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3853 Steiner Waldorf Schools part 3 – the problem of racism.

    It has generated a great deal of interest.

    You might like to read this comment by historian & social ecologist Peter Staudenmaier:
    http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3853&cpage=2#comment-8660

    He invites anyone who’d like to do so to contact him directly.

    For Nick’s readers, Peter Staudenmaier wrote the polemical article: http://www.social-ecology.org/2009/01/anthroposophy-and-ecofascism-2/
    (I’m linking here to the revised 2009 edition)

    Rob – I’m sure you will be as concerned as we are at any link between the TT movement and Anthroposophy – and perhaps members of TT might decide not to hold meetings in Steiner schools – which they so often do – without asking some important questions first. Any ethical organisation would feel the need to do this.

  22. Pingback: 2010 in review | Nagara

  23. Ian R Crane says:

    Rob Hopkins wrote: ‘My purpose in engaging with this thread Graham was not to enter another endless debate with you but to challenge Nick on a very sloppy, poorly researched piece.’
    This is a classic Hopkins response to any crtique of TT philosophy and/or his existential attachment to the TT ‘Twin Drivers’ of Anthropogenic Global Warming & ‘Peak Oil’ (although it would seem that the term ‘Global Warming’ is being replaced by ‘Climate Change’). Hopkins claims that ‘Critical thinking is vital …’ but the Transition Town leadership team demonstrate consistently that their idea of ‘Critical Thought’ is restricted to adherence to a narrow ideology… and casual dimissal and/or ad hominem attack on any who dare challenge the philosophical stranglehold on TT by Hopkins & Branwyn. Still, on the upside, at least Hopkins has not yet resorted to labeling you a ‘Holocaust Denier’! Having reviewed your observations regarding the TT relationship with Anthroposophy, I would encourage you to investigate the philosophical similarities between TT & Julia Middleton’s ‘Common Purpose’ Charity. I received an unconfirmed report that Julia Middleton had given a presentation on ‘Eugenics’ at a TT Conference (denied by Rob Hopkins) but their is a disturbing commitment to ‘Population Reduction’ by many who align themselves with the Transition Town movement! Meanwhile, the following link is to the correspondance exchange I had with Rob Hopkins after he had deemed it appropriate to label me as a ‘Holocaust Denier’!

    See http://www.transitiontownwatch.com

    Ian R Crane

  24. Melanie Jarman says:

    Please do quash your paranoia Nick – you need only have asked, rather than engaged in suggestive speculation – I am no relation to the other Jarmans you mention.

    • Nick Nakorn says:

      Dear Melanie,
      given that the organisation you represent (Buck the Trend) openly refuses to denounce two organisations with racists Anthropsophic doctrines (Biodynamics and The Christian Community) I don’t think I am being unreasonable in questioning your connections (or lack thereof) to Anthroposophic staff. Furthermore, given BTT’s complete dismissal of my concerns about my welfare and safety amidst groups of people allied to racist organisations, it is no surprise that I did not ask more questions of you directly. Your comment ‘…you need only have asked…’ is thus thoroughly disingenuous.
      Nick

    • Nick Nakorn says:

      In addition, Melanie, I hope you have written to all the Anthroposophists connected to BTT and have asked them to quash their racism; if you have not done so then I would suggest the paranoia belongs to your Steiner supporters rather than myself.

  25. Daisy says:

    I have found these comments interesting and came across them when trying to find out more about TTT, with a view to having another go at becoming involved. I have been to one or two things organised by TTT and my own reservations are the same as those I have about Dartington Trust events and Schumacher College. Unlike some of the people commenting here, I am interested in both science and spirituality and dont think they have to conflict. My reservation is that all of these organisations apppear exclusive and elitist.
    I thought the Transition movement sounded a great place for people to come together who may not have hitherto found a place to share their concerns for the planet and for bringing about changes in a way that was relevant and socially just for all. But there appears little room for any real dialogue in TTT ,which seems unecessarily hierarchical in practice and not at all based on the ‘self organising’ prinicples which it has claimed to be. I dont think you can generalise about ‘new age’ types or ‘hippies’ – many people are attracted to the area because they want to mix with like minded people who are seeking an ‘alternative lifestyle’ and many want to actively help to bring about positive social and environmantal change. That some have a predominatly rational and/or spiritual approach seems less important to me. I don’t think it matters what motivates people if they share the same goals of making the world a healthier place (from the local to the global). My beef with TTT is that the leadership needs to be more open and moreover sincere (in theory and practice) about what they want to change how they hope to achieve change. TTT seems too much like a private club where members are welcomed to come along but not to have any say unless they know the right people. My question to Rob and other leaders, is how can people become involved and have a say, and to ask why sub group has it’s own executive core group that is self appointed from/by those who are in the inner circle. I know a number of Totnesians who started off with enormous enthusiasm for TTT but who are not involved because of the way it operates – too much ego and too little self directed grass roots action. I know others who are involved simply for what they can personally benefit by being involved. Sorry to be critical but I really have no axe to grind other than being amongst those who have felt exluded. When I raised my criticsms and particularly when I suggested that TTT work more with groups who are traditionally socially excluded, it was suggested very politely and very courteously that maybe TTT was not the organisation for me. I embrace the notion of local transition ideas but I am also interested in where we fit in with a more global approach, one that benefits everyone and I dont see that subisdising solar panels for the most affluent in the town is the way forward.
    I don’t know personally the leading individuals so I think it would be unfair for me to comment in a negative way about the personalities involved – but it does feel as though Rob is a self appointed guru with his inner circle around him and a lot of compliant members following along. If this is unintentional then maybe TTT could look again at what genuine consensus decision making is about – to work in practice requires a lot of self crticism and real power sharing. Hope this is received as constructive.

  26. ThetisMercurio says:

    Daisy: “When I raised my criticsms and particularly when I suggested that TTT work more with groups who are traditionally socially excluded, it was suggested very politely and very courteously that maybe TTT was not the organisation for me.”

    Good instincts, if I may say so.

    “I don’t think it matters what motivates people if they share the same goals of making the world a healthier place (from the local to the global)”

    If I disagree and say it does matter, it’s only an (embarrassingly) fairly recent conclusion. But I certainly disagree.

  27. Rob Hopkins says:

    Hi Daisy,
    I’m sorry to hear that has been your experience of TTT. I would love to meet and discuss that…. do drop me an email (rob (at) transitionculture.org). You raise a lot of points that are probably best discussed face to face, but just to respond to two…

    “…I dont see that subisdising solar panels for the most affluent in the town is the way forward”. Actually Transition Streets (the project you are referring to), was designed so as to be accessible and useful to low income households, and in the 2nd round, 70% of participating households were on low incomes (I think it was about 40% in the first round). Nearly 500 households participated in the scheme, on average reducing their carbon by 1.4 tonnes and saving over £700 each. 135 then went on to put up solar panels, and the grants and low interest loans we had in place were designed to make that as widely accessible as possible.

    Secondly, you refer to me as ” a self appointed guru”. For clarity, for the past year and a half I am no longer a member of TTT’s Core Group, nor am I a Trustee. I have little involvement on a day to day basis, other than input into a couple of projects, and facilitating the odd event. Anyway, as I say, it would be great to meet and to hear your thoughts as to how we might do things better.

    Best wishes
    Rob

  28. Graham says:

    @Rob:
    “for the past year and a half I am no longer a member of TTT’s Core Group, nor am I a Trustee. I have little involvement on a day to day basis, other than input into a couple of projects, and facilitating the odd event.”

    …but you are the self-appointed roving ambassador for TTT, popping up to defend it against any criticism…
    what is your involvement with TTN Rob? If you are still involved with the Network, and are keen to come on here and defend the TT in general here and elsewhere, it seems a bit far fetched to portray yourself as just an ordinary rank-and-file member with little influence.
    Maybe it would be good to here a response to this debate from someone who is on the core group?

  29. The writings by Peter Staudenmaier constitute a central basis for what Nick writes about anthroposophy and Thetis Marcurio specifically recommend and links to the first piece by Staudenmaier on the subject.

    For some comments on the piece by Peter Staudenmaier and the nature of his argumentation on the subject, see http://thebee.se/comments/PS/Staudenmaier.html

    When faced with criticism for the way the article introduced the description of a lecture series by Steiner in Oslo in 1910 by a seeming reference to the first lecture in the series, he has answered that he did not refer to the first lecture but to the lecture series in its totality.

    If that was the case, one would have expected him to say so in his answer to the criticism. But he didn’t. Instead he wiggled over a number of arguments trying to substantiate his story in the introduction to his article by referring to a number of other possible sources, without being able to substantiate it using them either.

    Only when he in the end realized that he could not substantiate his introduction with any specific quote or part of the lecture series did he retreat the unspecific reference to the lecture series in its totality, without being able to substantiate it in some way using the lecture series he had used as primary basis for his polemic to his psople with a Jewish origin and/or faith in the stomach.

    See http://americans4waldorf.org/MrStaudenmaier3.html and the following pages commenting on this.

    That’s Staudenmaier.

    For some more comments on his way of using historically published sources, see

    http://thebee.se/comments/PS/Steiner-on-Heinrich-von-Treitschke.htm
    http://thebee.se/comments/PS/Steiner-on-JuliusLangbehn.htm

    For more on the slick janus faced pure propaganda nature of his argumentation in his writings, now combining his lately achieved PhD in history with continued and repeated publication of his earlier con stories, and amateur argumentation on the concept “race” in Steiner’s works, see

    http://waldorfanswers.org/AAntisemitismMyth.htm
    http://thebee.se/comments/PS/OnPS2004Paper.html
    http://waldorfanswers.org/ARacistMyth.htm and
    http://waldorfanswers.org/ThreeConcepts.htm

  30. Thetis says:

    Sune –
    Linking to your own sites for verification is not evidence. It doesn’t matter how many names you give yourself (Mycroft, Thebee, Tizian, Eva, WaldorfAnswers etc etc) you are always obviously you – citing yourself.

    I’m not going to defend Peter Staudenmaier, he doesn’t need defending. I will just note that he has great patience and (luckily for Sune) a sense of humour. Staudenmaier is one of the few historians to take esotericists seriously though not (of course) in the way they’d prefer. They do not like him for it – Sune has been personally outraged for years. This has no bearing on anything but must be endlessly entertaining for all the other academics who think esotericists are buffoons.

  31. Gordon says:

    Just a comment on some of the logic being used:

    If Rudolf Steiner was a racist or believed racist things it would not automatically mean that all anthroposophists were racists. Its just not a logical proof. It would be like saying that catholics don’t use contraception because the pope says they shouldn’t, when clearly some of them do.

    In any case, the issue of race in Steiner’s writings is complex as he sometime uses the term “root race” to refer to people of a particular period in history NOT of a particular ethnic type.

    The question you have to ask is: does this have any impact on the way that anthroposophical initiatives work in the world, and the answer has to be no.

  32. Sune says:

    I’m not outraged at Peter Staudenmaier for writing about esoteric issues. I despise him for his repeated – now janus-faced – intellectual dishonesty described and documented above.

  33. Thetis says:

    you may despise Peter, Sune, I don’t know what bearing that has on anything. The only ‘documentation’ you cite is your own, so we just go round and round in circles..

    Saying that Peter Staudenmaier is ‘Janus-faced’ and ‘intellectual dishonest’ is potentially libellous, but no one will call you out on this because nobody within academia can possibly take your comments seriously. There is no reason why you shouldn’t dispute his conclusions, you’re perfectly within your rights to do so. But you should do so decently.

    I assume your peculiar accusation is a reference to this article:
    http://www.social-ecology.org/2009/01/the-janus-face-of-anthroposophy-2/
    And I can see that the title could be painful to someone who disputes the writers’ interpretation of Rudolf Steiner.

    But I suspect you may just have to live with the fact that there is now an established historian, writing in English, who disagrees with your interpretation of anthroposophy.

    Gordon – unfortunately the answer does not have to be ‘no’.

  34. Thetis says:

    Gordon – I see Peter Staudenmaier has replied to someone called Gordon suggesting his work (or an individual interpretation of this particular article) is ‘very silly indeed’. Perhaps it isn’t you? But it’s useful in this context:
    http://www.social-ecology.org/2009/01/anthroposophy-and-ecofascism-2/comment-page-1/#comment-5923

  35. Thetis makes valid points. Sune, however, continously fails to convince — mostly because he refers to himself over and over again and to the same arguments he’s been delivering quite unsuccessfully for more than a decade. No, Sune, Peter is not the things you say he is — and it would actually help you to recognize this. You could still disagree with his interpretations and so forth and make a case for it (preferably using better arguments than the ones you’re currently using). But to continue as you’ve done so far, it simply won’t help. Despising Peter won’t, either.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s