Biodynamics – not so amusing racist nonsense

This piece by Julia Bradbury was on BBC’s ‘Countryfile’ recently.

Farmer Peter Brown talks with Julia Bradbury

Farmer Peter Brown talks with Julia Bradbury

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01qsl55

It’s on iplayer for a while.

Below is a copy of my letter to ‘Countryfile’ e-mailed on 11th February.

To:

countryfile@bbc.co.uk.

Dear Countryfile,

Biodynamics

I recently watched Julia Bradbury’s piece on Biodynamics and was astonished that she did not mention the racist nature of the Anthroposophical doctrine that underpins all ‘Steiner’ organisations including Biodynamics, Steiner-Waldorf Schools, Camphill Communities, Triodos Bank, The Steiner Christians Community and many other Anthroposophical businesses and enterprises.  As I mentioned in my piece ‘Mystic Shadows of Colour’:

Having split from the Goethean Theosophical Society, Steiner created Anthroposophy with massive support from pre-war corporate Germany. His schema proposed that every human was a manifestation of his or her Karmic history. The cosmic forces controlling Karma emanated from points in Europe, Africa and the lost city of ‘Atlantis’ and ensured that people who were sinful were reincarnated as black people while the spiritually aware were reincarnated as white people; the other races being on a sliding scale of skin tone and goodness. Disability and other misfortunes were also karmicly decided. The same cosmic forces also controlled the growth of plants and animals. In detail, Steiner lifts ideas from everywhere and muddles the whole into a mystic-racist-spiritual-doctrine. An intrinsic part of the doctrine in Steiner’s own words is:

“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://www.nagara.co.uk/Mystic%20Shadows%20of%20Colour.htm

If one visited a farm run by the National Front or the British National Party in which it was considered that only white people know how to farm properly I’m sure, as a good journalist, Ms Bradbury would have at least mentioned it. To see her joking with the farmer while taking part in an Anthroposophical ‘blood and soil’ ritual was disturbing.

Institutional racism within other organisations such as The Metropolitan Police or the Football Association is bad enough but at least they admit to it and have policies to stamp it out; there is also much public interest and exposure by journalists. But, unlike Steiner organisations, most corporate bodies do not have racism written into their guiding philosophies – that is what makes the Anthroposophical world view so disgusting. I think Countryfile should go back to the Biodynamic Farm and ask a few searching questions; it isn’t enough to treat Anthroposophy as just another load of amusing New Age woo – it’s much more serious. Treating the subject in such a light hearted manner is really an insult to all those who have died trying to fight racism over the years; not least to the friends and families of those who died in the Auschwitz  and Dachau Concentration camps, tending the Anthroposophical Biodynamic farms.

For more, please see:

http://www.waldorfcritics.org/articles/Staudenmaier.html

 

Sincerely,

Nick Nakorn

 

If I get a reply I’ll post it.

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About Nick Nakorn

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25 Responses to Biodynamics – not so amusing racist nonsense

  1. excalibor says:

    Interesting how things get distorted when taken out of context. The quote is taken from a lecture by Steiner that described how the five main races as described by Blumenbach in Steiner’s view arose. In Steiner’s view, the “black”, the “yellow” and the “white” arose first during Quaternary time with an inner physiology and external skin color that were determined out of the light- and warmth conditions where they arose, near the equator, more in the temperate zone, and more to the north. In Steiner’s view, the American Indians then arose out of a part of the Africans that moved west, across the Atlantic during Quaternary time, and then northwards, which changed the skin color more than the inner physiology. This led to a disharmony between the two, which made the American Indians less adapted to the new latitude, where it arose, than the latitude where the African people arose, and created a tendency to a weakness of the physiology of those American Indians that arose in this way, that made Steiner predict that they would die out in time, which has not yet taken place, but made them vulnerable to the diseases later brought to the Americas by the relatively few invading Europeans during the Middle Ages. This, more than European weapons led to the larger part of the extinction of the American Indians. That is what Steiner referred to with the summarizing comment: When the Africans move West (and north), they die out. (The transcript is incomplete on this point for different reasons.)

    The comment on the “yellow race” has a similar background and was made in broad strokes. In Steiner’s view, part of the “yellow” group, after its arose, migrated south, to a warmer and lighter latitude. This led to a similar physiological disharmony and weakness as with the American Indians out of a weaker adaption to the new latitude, than the latitude where it arose, and a tendency to perish in time because of this.weaker adaption.

    The comment on “the white race” refers to the situation during the transition from glacial to post-glacial time, not the present. At that – according to the perspective decribed by Steiner in the lecture (he described things from other perspectives at other times) – the “white race” were the “race of the future” as the origin of what developed as the Indoeuropean cultures, starting with an original Indian culture, under the inspiration and leadership of Noah/Manu, followed by an original Persian culture, and only then, around 3000 BC leading to the development of the more known cultures, starting as river cultures in connection with the outlets of rivers into the ocean.

    For the present, Steiner considered the “white race” to be a weak and perishing “race”, not the “race of the future”. http://waldorfanswers.org/OnSalonArticle.html

    For an introduction to the untruthful demagoguery with which Peter Staudenmaier started his career as solo author on anthroposophy, see http://thebee.se/Staudenmaier

  2. Excalibor/Sune/TheBee – please stick to one name when on line or it looks as if you are three people not one. Thanks for your comments; but there are no circumstances or contexts in which Steiner’s comments can be construed as not racist. Your continued support of Steiner’s work makes you a racist too; so sad you do not choose a non-racist philosophy to defend.

  3. excalibor says:

    When I gave my personal email address in the form, it asked me if I was someone else. I could not correct that in the form, and therefore, to simplify things, logged into my blog and posted my comment based on that. Sorry for the confusion.

  4. Thank you for this piece. My family and I watched open mouthed at the subject matter shown on Countryfile last night, including biodynamics and Tarot cards! So pleased we are not the only ones that found the whole thing distasteful.

    • Nick Nakorn says:

      You’re most welcome. I rarely watch Countryfile as It seems to have an odd attitude to rural life – often romanticizing it out of existence.. As for the Tarot, I missed that entirely – too busy thinking about the Biodynamics issue!

  5. excalibor says:

    Just short on my continued support of Steiner’s work: Am I a racist? No, Staudenmaier is just an excellent eloquent propagandist, continuing in the same twisted vein as he started in 2000 and then has continued since then. Try http://thebee.se/Staudenmaier and http://thebee.se/BBC

    • Nick Nakorn says:

      Sune, If anything, Staudenmaier’s work is very, very reserved in its conclusions – given the material upon which it’s based. He’s not a propagandist, he’s an academic.

      Over the past couple of years I have asked the same question over and over again of Steiner supporters. If you are not racist, why choose a racist ideology? It taints everything it touches because ‘good will and peace for all’ , whoever says it, does not make sense if, at the same time, one says ‘even though I think some people are less worthy than others due to skin colour (or any other physical trait)’.

      So either you genuinely don’t think Steiner was a racist – in which case you probably don’t even know what racism is or you are also a racist but don’t know it – or you do know and would rather support a racist doctrine than a non-racist doctrine. It’s not as if there are not many, many alternatives to Steiner’s ‘spiritual’ systems to choose from. If you are not a racist, then leave Steiner behind and use your talents to fight racism.

      I find it impossible to believe that, having spent years studying Steiner and years supporting Anthroposophy, you do not recognize Steiner’s intrinsic racism. Having read a great deal of your work and a great deal of Staudenmaier’s work I have concluded that Staudenmaier is a serious academic and you are a supporter of a racist ideology. You claim not to be racist but all you say on-line points in the other direction.

  6. Nick Nakorn says:

    Sune, I have also often wondered why you choose Excalibor as one of your internet names – the legend of king Arthur’s knights is steeped in racist and misogynistic power-politics – his ‘noble knights’ even willing to die to continue their search for the ‘holy grail’ and take part in The Crusades. But of course you know all that.

  7. excalibor says:

    Staudenmaier has two faces. One untruthful and demonizing of anthroposophy and Steiner. That’s the face out of which he wrote what he still publishes on the net, that deeply upsets people, and that in turn is used by others to demonize anthroposophy. That’s what even reached the producers of the BBC-film on 19 November last year, that I comment on at http://thebee.se/BBC

    Then he has another more serious face out of which he cannot allow himself to actually be untruthful about published historical sorces, just give incomplete and slanted descriptions of them, obsessed with any small detail of how people from the whole spectrum of anthroposophical activities related to Jews and nazis during the Nazi time in Europe.

    I make some comments on a paper by him, close in nature to the first demonizing end, “Race and redemption”, at http://thebee.se/comments/PS/OnPS2004Paper.html

    But as now PhD he continues to publish his untruthful demonizing stories, that upset people.

    That makes him a – today – Janus faced intellectual con artist.

    Steiner admittedly often is difficult to understand, as he wrote out of the opposite philosophical tradition as that out of which present natureal science has developed. I have tried to sort out some basic aspects of this at http://thebee.se/SCIENCE/Science.htm

    As for the term “race”, that is the main focus of Staudenmaier’s writings on anthroposophy, Staudenmaier does not lift his nose from the word on paper to the different concepts that lie behind it, and that only on the surface seems to be the same: “race”.

    If you do lift your nose from the paper to the different concepts behind the word, you find what I have at least tried to start to sort out, first at http://thebee.se/comments/comments1.htm and then, somewhat more developed, at http://waldorfanswers.org/ThreeConcepts.htm http://waldorfanswers.org/PastRaces.htm#Atlantis and http://waldorfanswers.org/PastRaces.htm#Humanity

    http://www.thebee.se/Steiner/reincarnation-globally.htm describes some comments by Steiner describing his understanding of the fate and continuation of the American Indians that were conquered and exterminated by Europeans and after the “discovery” of America by the latter.

    It’s all much more complicated that you might think at first.

    Was Stener a racist in the sense of viewing any generic quality of people as more important that what they/we are as individuals?

    No. http://waldorfanswers.org/ARacistMyth.htm and http://waldorfanswers.org/WRacismMyth.htm try to throw some light on this.

    But Staudenmaier is eloquent and eloquence at mainly all times beats stfife for serious truthfulness and clarity of thought.

  8. Nick Nakorn says:

    Sune, the vast majority of the links above – many, if not all, written by you – do not explain away or excuse Steiner’s racism in any coherent way. Peter Staudenmaier is the foremost independent academic writing about Anthroposophy and there is no point in going over his properly referenced and researched arguments again and again. Calling him a con-man, as you have done for as long as I’ve been reading your comments on the net, is not helpful to your own argument, let alone helpful to fighting racism. I’ve read Staudenmaier’s work and checked the sources, so have you. But you claim not to believe in ordinary rationality and thus your arguments are as confused as Steiner’s own. As you know, the institutional racism that I object to in Anthroposophy has the same devastating consequences as it would in, and around, any other organisation. Hiding behind mystic nonsense does not make the problem go away.

  9. john lord says:

    Nice piece. Great to see the hollier than thou biodynamic branch of the enviro. movement being put under the microscope. These people have had it their own way for so long. Imagine if even a fraction of the racism elluded to was present in the Monsanto corporation, it would be shouted from the rooftops.
    The movie “Spring time with Hitler in Germany’, about sums up the looney nature of Biodynamics – but much funnier.

  10. excalibor says:

    Nick, you write: “you claim not to believe in ordinary rationality”

    I very much believe in rationality and have especially worked to penetrate the basic concept of science from a philosophy of science perspective – http://thebee.se/SCIENCE/Science.htm

    That’s why I’m so upset at Staudenmaier’s way of making a mockery of the concept by repeatedly publishing untruths about published historical sources, first as an amateur historian, claiming to be a real historian, and then – again – as an actual historian in the sense of having gotten a PhD in the subject, and showing he has no interest in the actual meaning of the basic concepts he’s arguing about, being satisfied with playing wordgames about it.

    http://thebee.se/Staudenmaier and http://thebee.se/comments/PS/OnPS2004Paper.html

    It has my contempt.

  11. Tom says:

    It’s saddening, since Countryfile could have chosen instead to do a feature about permaculture, which is genuinely mindful of the impact humanity has on the environment, and endeavours to work with nature, but has none of the problematic baggage (and woo-woo) associated with Biodynamics.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture

  12. Pingback: Racist Biodynamics is “recognised agricultural practice” | Nagara

  13. Alex Naylor says:

    Having followed Nick Nakorn’s reasoning in his polemic against bio-dynamic agriculture and even more so, against Anthroposophy and anthroposophical endeavours wherever they are present, it is abundantly clear that both his language and, more importantly, the content of his thought issues from the error lying at the foundation of pseudo-science and self appointed moral ascendency.

    Based upon his own fears, lack of academic rigour in failing to thoroughly substantiate the sources of his fellow “crusader’s” (Staudenmaier) assertions, and the most basic error of all, lack of will to thoroughly study and understand the central reality behind Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy, which is that each human being is a unique individual who has the potential, should he wish to exercise his free will, to deepen and expand his consciousness. Even the most superficial thinking applied to the concept “Individual” would reveal that it requires no further qualification. One is not an individual when one identifies with a race, nation, gender, age, religion, philosophical outlook, political persuasion, or any other outer definition which links us with potentially millions of others, sharing any of the above. These are simply outer circumstances of life. Failure to recognise this shows an incomplete understanding of, and therefore potential to develop, one’s individuality. In the Waldorf School movement, on Bio dynamic Farms, Anthroposophical Medical Clinics and Practices, the Camphill Movement, in Anthroposophical initiatives in the Arts and the Sciences, you will find individuals from most nations on Earth, every conceivable colour of skin, religious creed, economic background, professional qualification and physical and mental ability.

    Given the apparent super abundance of information that Nick Nakorn posts (and under his other name, Nagora), it should be recognised that facts and truth are not necessarily synonymous – (a simple example: to the eye, the Sun clearly crosses the sky every day, whereas in truth, it is the Earth that turns on its axis and orbits the Sun: the first is a Fact, the second is a Truth.) The accumulation of facts alone are insufficient for the attainment of knowledge – and especially so when taken out of context and not penetrated with clear thought – and neither is the attainment of knowledge sufficient guarantor for the exercise of wisdom. Given everything that Rudolf Steiner has brought into the World and the Impulse from out of which he brought it, it is clearly evident that Rudolf Steiner was not in any way racist – failure (or unwillingness) to recognise that, is merely an indication of a complete lack of understanding of everything anthroposophy stands for.

    I read great fear in this individual’s obsessive polemic, rather than any genuine experience in, or understanding of, any aspect of Rudolf Steiner’s work, or of that which unfolds all over the world in Anthroposophical endeavours, all of which have benefited and will no doubt continue to benefit an ever increasing number of people, regardless of their race!

    • “Even the most superficial thinking applied to the concept “Individual” would reveal that it requires no further qualification. ”

      So, according to Steiner’s spiritual hierarchies – how does a black “individual” reach the highest (white) hierarchy? Steiner didn’t have an explanation for this. Do you?

    • Nick Nakorn says:

      Alex, I haven’t bothered to reply to your accusations in your above comments because your opinions of my abilities, my views on Steiner’s nonsense (it is not understandable other than on a religious or mystical basis) and scientific qualifications are simply ad-hominem. However, to put the record straight on a couple of points. As far as I can remember, I have not posted anything under the name Nagara. Nagara is both the name of this blog and the name of my brand. It also happens to be the alternative anglicized spelling of my name. Some members of my family using Na-Nagara and some using Na-Nakorn. On Facebook, on Twitter, on Youtube, on The Guardian and on all my comments on blogs concerning my political views I use my name; Nick Nakorn. Perhaps you might persuade prominent Anthroposophists to be as consistent.

      I would also like to mention your assertion that I oppose racism out of fear. It would be absolutely unrealistic not to be frightened of the normalisation of racist doctrines given that a huge number of non-white and racialized people who are attacked and killed around the world simply because of their otherness. Having been attacked myself on many occasions and put in life-threatening situations more than once, it would be foolish not to oppose the value-systems that cause a small number of individuals to feel justified in their actions. But that is not to say my judgement is in anyway clouded by fear but to say that all victims of racism (sexism, homophobia and so-on), have an absolute right to express their fears concerning racism in all it’s vile forms. If you care about those issues, please support those who oppose racism, not those who sign up to so-called ‘philosophies’ such as Anthroposophy in which racism is a fundamental element.

      True opponents of racism have no truck with explicitly racist doctrines, especially when there are numerous alternatives. Don’t blame the victims, blame the perpetrators.

      • Nick wrote: “It would be absolutely unrealistic not to be frightened of the normalisation of racist doctrines given that a huge number of non-white and racialized people who are attacked and killed around the world simply because of their otherness.”

        Let’s not forget that racism goes both ways too. Actually, I shouldn’t say “both” as it implies two sides (as with Steiner’s war of “white humankind” vs “colored humankind”. Any race or ethnic group can be subjected to racism – so it behooves us ALL to stop racism and bigotry dead in its tracks.

  14. farnishk says:

    I guess this means that anything organic is shit, then; given that Steiner was a pioneer. I’m off to cover my crops in pesticides so as not to be racist…

  15. Nick Nakorn says:

    Keith, not at all. Organic agriculture, as a method and a technology can be judged on its own merits according to the evidence. I have been supportive of organic agriculture and a green campaigner for 40 years. But to label any activity with an Anthroposophical brand is to decide to support Steiner’s version of organic agriculture rather than a non-branded version. The madness of Biodynamics includes the spiritual positionoing of the practioners within Steiner’s racist hierarchy. I oppose Anthroposophy partly because of the woo, (that’s damaging enough) but mostly because of the racism because it is the racism that pre vents PoC from participation within a wider green social strructure in which Anthroposophy plays an increasingly prominent role.

  16. farnishk says:

    Well, if you can provide any evidence that people are being discouraged from participating in activism or greener living because of their race then I’ll be interested.

  17. Nick Nakorn says:

    It’s really not possible to condense the vast amount of work in this area into a single comment but I hope the following is useful. If you’re interested, there’s a mountain of research available.

    For research into blocks to BEM participation in society generally a good first stop is The Joseph Rowntree Foundation at http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications where you can find a large number of published papers on exclusion generally and exclusion in rural situations and rural racism.

    For data on local (to Devon where I live) exclusion, the DREC and others sponsored an excellent interactive book, now out of print, that can be viewed at http://www.devon.gov.uk/ethnichandbook.pdf

    For information on how BEM people are massively under-represented in environmental action you can access the growing database of articles and papers at the Black Environment Network at http://www.ben-network.org.uk/resources/publs.asp

    Details of the specifics of Anthroposophical doctrines of race can be found at a great many places (including this blog and my website http://www.nagara.co.uk) – you can read the original documents at the Steiner Archive (though many have been removed by the publishers to prevent the public accessing them) at http://www.rsarchive.org/ while scholarly criticism can be found at the Institute for Social Ecology where Peter Staudenmaier has published some excellent material; http://www.social-ecology.org/author/peter-staudenmaier/

    There are also numerous blogs based both in the UK and around the world such as DC’s Improbable Science and The Quackometer at respectively http://www.dcscience.net/ and http://www.quackometer.net/

    The debate around Anthroposophy and racism has been going on for decades so I expect you’ll find numerous sources. I also recommend highly Jane Elliot’s ‘Brown Eyes Blue Eyes’ at http://www.janeelliott.com/index.htm

  18. Nick Nakorn says:

    Pete, re your comment above (not enough layers). I agree. However, in the context of current power-relations within European and white societies the racism is generally, but not always, one-way. The racialisation I mentioned would certainly include situations where white people were the ‘other’ by dint of skin colour or any other identifier.

    • I specifically avoided using the word “power” because that does indeed tend to imply a Euro/white superiority, generally, but not always. And, in Steiner discussions, it is that superiority specifically that we’re talking about. We’re in agreement.

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