Rudolf Steiner on eye and hair color, and the need for a spiritual science that does not depend on the body or on "racial" qualities
For a number of years now, the main secular humanist anti-Waldorf site on the internet in English, has quoted on its home page two statements from the published works of Rudolf Steiner, a body of work that encompasses some 89,000 pages.

The two "featured" quotes are used to try to imply that Rudolf Steiner, as the founder of Waldorf education, was anti-Semitic and an Aryan supremacist, evidently to make people in general, especially those of Jewish origin, support the group's anti-Waldorf demagoguery and to dissuade potential Waldorf parents from considering Waldorf education for their children.

For a description of and comment on the first quote at the site, used to imply, falsely, that Steiner was anti-Semitic, see here.

The second isolated, somewhat confusing quote, used in the demagoguery to imply, again falsely, that Steiner was an Aryan supremacist, idealizing blue-eyed and blond-haired people, as quoted among other places in an article in the journal on May 26, 2004, is:

"If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense ... Blond hair actually bestows intelligence."
What is the context from which this second quote is taken, and does Steiner in that context argue in any way in the direction that is implied in the anti-Waldorf demagoguery?

During the building of the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, as a center for anthroposophy, from August 1922 up to September 1924, Steiner regularly held, during the morning coffee break, a number of ad hoc, mostly off-the-cuff talks to the construction workers. 

The talks had the form of sessions based on questions from the workers; Steiner's remarks were in direct answer to their questions.

On December 13, 1922, at a time when an idealization of the blond Nordic hero was cultivated by some in Germany as part of long-held argumentation for an "Aryan supremacy" (which was later continued by the Nazis), one of the participants in the audience asked:

"I would like to know the reason why blond people are becoming more and more rare. In the region where I come from, earlier there still were many blond people. Now they are fewer and fewer. What's the story behind it?"
To this Steiner answers, describing how a person absorbs light into the body and how it meets the nourishment provided by the metabolic activity of the body.

He then describes in a pictorial way how what he calls the 'Stosskraft' (pushing force) of metabolism is distributed by the blood in different ways in the head, either more outwards towards the eyes and hair, or more inwards towards the brain, as the physiological background of why some people are more dark-haired and dark-eyed, while others become more blue-eyed and blond-haired.

The use of the concept "pushing force" in connection with human metabolism and an explanation of a person's eye and hair color stands out as unusual. It may have been used by Steiner to relate what he was trying to explain to the concrete experience of the listeners, and the way they, as construction workers, worked in building the Goetheanum, using wheel barrows and other tools to transport the building materials used.

The way he expressed himself, according to the transcript of the talk can give you the feeling that he was referring to specific people in the audience when relating the strength of the "pushing force" of people to their eye and hair color.


"... That which makes people into blue-eyed, brown-eyed, or black-eyed persons is the iris of the eye, that in its posterior part always is blue, and on the anterior side in blue-eyed people has no small sacks at all.

"In black-eyed and brown-eyed people, the iris also has small sacks on the anterior side so that you don't see the posterior blue sacks.

"What is the reason for this? Well, you see, these sacks are constantly filled with, and then emptied of blood. [...]

Those who have black sacks, are those who can force the blood into the eyes in such a way that the nourishment still can get in a proper way into the eyes, while those who are brown-eyed do this to a lesser extent. Those, the brown ones, are less well nourished. But when someone is blue-eyed, then he does not at all force the fluid nourishment so strongly into the eye, that also the anterior side of the iris is filled with nourishment. [...]

"But this also is connected with the hair. Someone who has a strong "pushing force", he pushes the nourishing fluids all the way into the hair and has black or brown hair. Those who have less "pushing force" don't push the nourishment all the way into the hair, and they remain blond and don't become dark [haired]. This is the way [also] blue eyes and blond hair are connected.

"Someone who forces the nourishment strongly through his body gets dark hair and gets dark eyes. Someone who does not force it as strongly gets blue eyes and blond hair. That can be understood out of what I have told you.

He then continues talking about the aging process of the Earth and humanity and how it makes people with blond hair die out before those with black hair.
"[...] Also the Earth once was quite young, as it produced the giant Megatherium [giant ground sloth, 7 m. long, living during the Quaternary age] and the Ichthyosaur [3 m. long, dolphin-like marine reptile, living during late Jurassic times]. It was young. Now the Earth basically has passed its adult stage. It becomes ever older, and some time will perish, out of old age weakness, not for the reasons which present-day materialists speak of.

"But, gentlemen, we already today have come somewhat to a time of old age weakness of the Earth. Therefore all of humanity has become weaker with regard to the force that pushes nourishment through the body. Who must therefore [logically] first disappear from the Earth? The black [eyed and haired] ones have more stamina; they have a larger pushing force. The blond ones have a lesser pushing force, and [therefore] will perish earlier.

"[...] The blond ones were always the weaker ones with regard to the body, they were only stronger with regard to the soul.

"[...] Because the stronger the bodily forces are, the weaker the soul forces are. And humanity on Earth would stand before the danger, if the blond ones perished, that humanity on Earth actually became dumb, if it would not [otherwise] come to have a spiritual science, an anthroposophy, that no longer is dependent on the body, but gets its cleverness out of the spiritual investigation itself, if I may express myself in that way.

"So, you see, if you learn [to understand] real Natural History, you must say: Good heavens, people on Earth would become dumb, if they were to become ever stronger. If the blue-eyed and blond-haired perish, people would become ever dumber, if they did not come to a form of cleverness that is independent of blondness.

"Blond hair actually gives [brings about] cleverness; if you send [only a] little [blood] into the eyes, it remains in the brain with its fluid nourishment and gives the brain cleverness. The brown-haired and brown-eyed, and the black-haired and black-eyed, they force that which the blonds push into the brain, into the eyes and hair. Therefore they [the brown-haired, etc.] become materialists, acting only on the basis of what they see, and this must be balanced through a spiritual science. This means that you must have a spiritual science to the same extent that humanity loses its cleverness with the blondness.

"[...] Because it actually is the case that the more the blond races [people] perish, the more also the instinctive wisdom of humanity dies. People become dumber. And they can only become clever again, if they are not left to the body, but if they have a real spiritual science." 

Does this text in any way argue for the superiority of people with blond hair and blue eyes, in the sense the isolated quote, taken from the lecture and used in anti-Waldorf demagoguery, is used to try to make Steiner out to be an "Aryan supremacist"?

It is difficult to see this when reading the lecture. Instead, Steiner in the lecture describes blond and blue-eyed people as dying out for natural reasons as a group, and with them also an instinctual form of cleverness, which Steiner does not idealize.

Instead, he speaks of the naturally perishing, bodily-based instinctual "cleverness", resulting from an increasing old age weakness of humanity, as something that needs to be replaced with a form of "cleverness" that is not dependent on the bodily processes of human physiology, but that is purely spiritual.

The full context shows that his argumentation is completely opposite the way the quote is made out to seem by the small anti-Waldorf group in San Francisco at its site. They have taken an isolated quote and twisted its meaning into pure untruthful demagoguery.

In contrast to the Nazis, who later idealized blond and blue-eyed people as representatives of a "pure Aryan race", and worked at breeding as many such people as possible through different measures, Steiner in this lecture argued for the complete opposite: the development on an individual basis of spiritual qualities independent of any bodily or "racial" characteristics.

An understanding of Steiner's actual meaning, when the full passage is understood, reveals the untruthfulness of the way the quote is used as a tool in anti-Waldorf demagoguery by the aforementioned group at its site. 

For more on the site and the group behind it, see here. For more on the untruthful writings of one of the main demagogues supporting this group, see here.

return to top

Copyright: Robert Mays and Sune Nordwall