The History Man – a polemical story

The anthropopper was taken aback, not to say disappointed, that the good Herr Doktor Professor Peter Staudenmaier thinks that I cannot tell the difference between his polemical and his scholarly writings:

“And a whole lot of Steiner fans, alas, have no idea how to make basic sense of different kinds of texts. Like a lot of other anthroposophists, Smith is simply confused about how academics work, indeed about what sort of article he thought he was reading in the first place. This sort of confusion is widespread among Steiner’s followers. That is a big part of how they manage to mistake an essay like “Anthroposophy and Ecofascism” for an academic treatise.”

Although some might be tempted to say that in Staudi’s case there is no essential difference between the two – because if he’s writing, he’s lying – that would be unfair and I reject such an outrageous slur on a respected academic.

Wikipedia tells us that: “Polemics are usually addressed to important issues in religion, philosophy, politics, or science… typically motivated by strong emotions, such as hatred…”

Well, Staudi certainly brings hatred to his polemics – he clearly hates Steiner, anthroposophy, Waldorf schools and biodynamics. Would it be unreasonable to assume that he brings the same feelings to his academic writings, although taking a certain amount of care to appear more even-handed?

But the anthropopper is always keen to learn, and so has given himself a little exercise in polemics by writing the opening of a story that draws upon the techniques of the master. It is called:


The History Man

Staudenmaier was feeling trapped. Here he was, in his 50s and desperate to leave his mundane teaching job in an undistinguished university (ranked only 157th in the Forbes listings). What was worse, he was stuck in an ugly rustbelt town with a declining population right in the middle of what one of his students had called “bumfuck nowhere”. Everything about the place, the job and the students was beginning to get to him. Only the other day, a student had published the following about Marquette on a “Rate My Uni” website:

“You can get the same education at a state school for a much lower price… The campus area leaves a lot to be desired. The air literally stinks much of the time. Milwaukee’s weather is windy, damp, overcast, and cold. Drinking and basketball are the two primary sources of entertainment. There are a lot of nouveau rich (sic) kids who think they are the shit. There are many other students who went to Marquette b/c they thought they were too good for State U, but possess average intellects and often below average social skills. In retrospect, I wish I had gone elsewhere.”

Another student had written: “Marquette is a brand-name, that is all. Our facilities aren’t particularly nice with exception to some of the specific programs like law, dental or engineering or the like. Our gym is old, the cafeteria food is limited, and especially in comparison to the nearby state school, student resources are pitiful. Anyone not affiliated with Marquette will be treated as such. Basketball players are known to get preferential treatment (especially when it comes to work load, and financial disbursement). Marquette University shows little to no mercy when it comes to school payments resulting in many students (even good students) removing themselves based on the inability to pay semesters upfront.”

Even worse, another student had written: “This area is so filthy and disgusting, with Negroes always panhandling and demanding money from you, if they dont (sic) rob you at gunpoint which I was, other students were beaten and robbed or raped, and we have police reports and news articles to show. FU Jesuits!!! The area is full of crime and is unsafe, which the university wants to cover up. Go look it up yourself.”

And one particular student comment had come dangerously close to himself: “From top to bottom, I simply think Marquette University is a bit of a joke, from faculty, to public safety, to office of residence life, and to students. In terms of academics here at Marquette, I’m not very impressed. It’s sad when I’ve taken a total of 16 classes and have only had two teachers that I can say were solid teachers. I even took a history course this summer at a local community college and am willing to admit that he was better than any PHD professor that Marquette has to offer.”

And now the local newspaper had picked up on a recent scandal:

‘ “Be the difference” is the motto of Marquette University, the generally not-very-newsworthy Jesuit university in Milwaukee.  Marquette is in the news now for reasons that it cannot be very happy about.”

“First a teaching assistant at the Catholic institution, Cheryl Abbate, a doctoral student in philosophy, was caught on tape earlier this year giving a very un-Catholic answer to a student who wanted to write about his objections to same-sex marriage in a course titled, “Theory of Ethics.”  The student complained to an associate dean and to the chairman of the Philosophy Department, neither of whom saw a cause for concern. The student then played the recording to a Marquette professor of political science, John McAdams, who after listening to the recording, blogged on November 9 about the incident, making some pointed criticisms of Abbate’s refusal to countenance the expression of opinions counter to her own.  The story began to attract significant public attention, including an article on Inside Higher Ed, November 20, which reprised the story and gave links to accounts supporting McAdams’s views and others attacking him.”

This was all too embarrassing and Staudenmaier knew he had to get out before the last of his options closed down around him. He was pretty sure his supervisor had noted the following typical comment from a student on the “Rate My Professor” website:

“In Staudenmaier’s class all you do is READ. READ READ READ. The books he chooses are SOOO dry and completely uninteresting that it is almost impossible to pick them up. He was very animated but VERY REPETITIVE. Personally, if you want an easy history requirement class, don’t take him.”

How could he get out from this hellhole and find a job in one of the Big Ten universities before it was too late? Staudenmaier‘s private assessment of himself was that by rights he should be widely known for his groundbreaking research and radical views, and like the celebrated economist Paul Krugman, be invited to contribute polemical op-ed pieces to the New York Times. But he was also clear that this was never going to happen while he was stuck here in this run-down mid-west town known only for beer and motorcycles. He had to find a way to establish some sort of high profile academic reputation (and hence a potential escape route) by choosing a niche area for research where his supervisors were unlikely to know the territory and thus wouldn’t pull him up for any liberties he might take with sources and selective quotations. And then it came to him in a flash – anthroposophy and Rudolf Steiner! Yes, that was it… (to be continued)


The anthropopper should add that all the italicised quotations in this story are genuine, although his use of them and the context in which they are placed may bear only a tangential relationship to the truth – which by a strange coincidence is how he experiences Staudi’s own polemical writings.

Greetings to all, as Staudi might say.


Filed under Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf critics

21 responses to “The History Man – a polemical story

  1. Ann Worrall

    Oooh you are naughty!! X Ann

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Jeremy! I just notified the history professor in his WC lair, with this introductory message.

      Hello Peter,

      Just as the Jesuits created the Counter-Reformation as a movement against the Protestant Reformation, so does Jeremy Smith now create a counter-polemic blog post to undo the damage that all your polemic writings have done to the “Body Anthropolitic,” as it were.

      As a teaser, I copy 3 short excerpts below. (I get a sense that Jeremy’s primary consultant was his fellow Brit, Ted Wrinch.)



      • All righty then, Jeremy!

        Here is the good professor’s first comment on WC. First he quotes my “live tracer” mention of Ted:
        Tom wrote:
        “I get a sense that Jeremy’s primary consultant was his fellow Brit, Ted Wrinch.”

        Or any of the countless other anthroposophists who get critique mixed up with hatred and think that polemic is a Very Bad Thing. Beliefs like these are widespread among Steiner’s followers, not just the nuttier ones. It is the same sort of naivete that draws a lot of people to anthroposophy in the first place.

        For anybody looking for a better understanding of polemic in these contexts, there is a fine book available:

        Olav Hammer and Kocku von Stuckrad, eds., Polemical Encounters: Esoteric Discourse and Its Others (Leiden: Brill, 2007).

        It includes some very good material on the complexities involved in public discussion with anthroposophists and other esotericists.

        I recommend the editors’ introduction in particular: Olav Hammer and Kocku von Stuckrad, “Introduction: Western Esotericism and Polemics” vii-xxii.

        Peter S.


      • You’re quite wrong, Tom – I have never heard of Ted Wrinch.

        Best wishes,


      • Well, in that case, Jeremy, you should get acquainted with your countryman Ted! As the saying goes, “Polemical birds of a feather flock together.” I know you two chaps will hit it off together. By golly, Jeremy, you could spend days sifting through the heaps of calumny Ted has bestowed upon our dear history professor, at least since 2008, when Daniel Hindes gave up the ghost, as it were, of his Defending Steiner site.

        Moreover, my epithet for Ted has been Vicar Ted. And recently, after reading your credo, which establishes your Luciferic (read Platonic) credentials as an Anthroposophist, I started referring to you as Vicar Jeremy.

        In the interests of full disclosure, which always happen in threes, I present you Daniel Perez here with his fine Ahrimanic (read Aristotelian) credentials. His epithet is “Gearhead Daniel” for his engineering career.

        And finally, I must present my own Sorathic (read Arabic Stream) credentials as Akbar Tommy, who has been deconstructing anthroposophy since that fateful Seraphic onset year of 1998 = 666 x 3.


      • God bless us and save us! That Ahriman fellow can be so annoying.!

        Look at how he messed up my punch line with that infernal Auto-Correct Spelling demon.
        And finally, I must present my own Sorathic (read Arabic Stream) credentials as Akbar Tommy, who has been deconstructing anthroposophy since that fateful Seraphic onset year of 1998 = 666 x 3.
        Of course, I meant to type in Sorathic!


  2. Good for you Mr Smith! The homeopathic method of like cures like.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Liliana

    This man is living proof that arrogance is the fruit of ignorance – and humour is the best deflator thereof. Bravo Anthropopper!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Jeremy,

    I think that allowing an italicized polemic to be the thrust of your own bruised ego for being attacked by Staudenmaier could prove to be a major attack, proving not kindly toward you. Staudi typically attacks anthro’s for the same reasons he has taken toward you. I have recently offered reams of recent posts where this tactic is employed. Anthro’s are a stereotype; a characterization; a mere generalization in the mind of the so-called “apprentice demon”.

    Smearing Marquette University is a low blow, and not to be condoned. As Tom Mellett has recently suggested on that other site, it sounds very much like a major antagonist of ‘der staudi’ from former times. He may be right.

    But it will always be useful to listen to those that have suffered these abuses of pragmatical scholarship in today’s academia who consider anthroposophy, as well as esotericism as a cultural imperative, as nonsense, and even “buffoonery”, to give note to a rather extended thread on WC a few years ago.

    May the force be with us, and its sword of meteoric iron.




  5. David Clark

    Hi Jeremy,

    You’re nearly losing me here. My undergraduate education was spent in a technical college environment among apprentices and punctuated by the roar of the College wind tunnel. Indeed, I have continued this trend by living in the (formerly?) industrial East Midlands. From experience, I reckon these are not discursive matters – or if they are, perhaps they provide a helpful grounded knowledge and potentially valuable “mundane” context to esoteric striving.

    To explore some themes from this early exchange of messages.

    I’m fascinated by the ways in which the “critics” site almost acts for Dr. Staudenmaier (and others?) almost as an extension of the groves of academe. Of course, this device of exclusion curtails debate in a way that seems ill-suited to conventions of the scholarly habitus. Clearly, this tactic does not help to test claims about anthroposophical knowledge creation that appear initially to be modernist stereotypes emerging from academics in the historical field. Of course, this epistemological problematic may have been created with the help of information and communication technologies to support a wider polemical intention.

    I’m continually delighted by the quaint way in which Dr. Staudenmaier repeatedly frames esotericism as a tame matter of discourses unfurled in print media. Reflecting on the character of books as primarily vegetable and mineral products, I suggest that this view of esotericism as discursive is a fundamental error of ontology. As a regular user of a university library, I am repeatedly challenged to reflect upon the esoteric aspect of the mundane. I expect that this area of difference is related closely to Dr. Staudenmaier’s evident discomfort with the philosophical work of Rudolf Steiner which offers a methodology that addresses these questions.


  6. Hello Jeremy,

    Because your present understanding of polemics is quite puerile, I managed to find the Google Books link to the publication Peter recommended about the fundamental importance polemics plays in the esoteric currents of our time, including of course anthroposophy.

    Here is the link. You can search within the text, so do put keywords into the Search Inside Box function.

    Here is the message i just posted for Peter on the WC group.

    Best regards,
    Akbar Tommy


    I found the Polemical book online at Google Books and was able to read the introduction. It actually gives me good insight into the puerile nature of Jeremy Smith’s understanding of polemics which is expressed in this quote

    From the Introduction, pp. xi, xii
    “. . . It is clear . . . that the history of religions in Europe has been marked by an extreme pluralism and also by a high level of antagonism toward other religious alternatives than one’s own. Given this pervasive atmosphere of hostile interchanges, it is only to be expected that the rise and development of Western esoteric currents should also have been profoundly affected by polemics.

    Indeed Wouter J. Hanegraaff goes so far as to argue that the very emergence of western esotericism as a category is ultimately an effect of a “grand polemical narrative” with which the various currents have been met.

    Further elaboration of this discussion notwithstanding, it does indeed seem that “esotericism” is an analytical category closely related to polemics. If we address esotericism as a structural element of European cultural discourses, rather than as a typological label for a collection of “currents,” the relation between esotericism and polemics becomes even more apparent.”

    So, Peter, by assassinating your character for daring to write polemics about anthroposophy, Jeremy displaces himself from the fact that the original polemicist in anthroposophy is Rudolf Steiner himself! But just as a fish is oblivious to the water it swims in, so is Jeremy totally oblivious to the fundamental polemical nature of anthroposophy as one of those currents of esotericism described above.

    Like all the other true-believer Steiner defenders, Jeremy has internalized the signature polemical nature of Rudolf Steiner’s persona — whose motto could have been: “the best defense is a good offense.” Steiner always made pre-emptive first strikes against his enemies and detractors in order to deal with the objections to his teachings before he even delivered his teachings. To Steiner, apologetics was way too passive-aggressive and reactive. Much better to be active-aggressive and therefore pro-active, or, in short, always be polemical, never apologetic.

    And, as if on cosmic cue, I recently became aware of an entire Steiner lecture cycle that I never knew about before. It is GA 255b entitled “Anthroposophie und ihre Gegner” = Anthroposophy and its Enemies.

    I am thoroughly gobsmacked to discover that this volume is a meticulous and thorough record of Steiner’s enemies list, his defenders list, a recording of every single slight against anthroposophy made between 1919 and 1921, and this is the volume par excellence of Steiner’s polemics against anybody and everybody who dared to disagree with him or say he ever made a mistake

    On that note, may I hijack the famous quote from Erich Segal’s Love Story

    “Anthroposophy means never having to say you’re sorry — and never admitting to any mistakes.”



    • Hello Jeremy,

      The good polemic professor just made this reply on WC

      TOM: In addition to the book on polemics and esotericism, I also discovered an entire untranslated Steiner lecture cycle, GA 255b “Anthroposophy and its Enemies” which is a veritable “enemies list” compiled by Steiner as well as a polemic encyclopedia of every public statement against anthroposophy made between the years 1919 and 1921. It really shows that polemics is foundational to Steiner and his world view.

      Perhaps I might cheekily re-write a favorite English title for the occasion. This volume could be called: “The Theory of Polemics Implicit in Steiner’s World Conception.“

      Here I quote Professor Polemic about GA 255b:

      PETER: The preoccupation with imagined “enemies” wasn’t just Steiner’s personal obsession; it was a central aspect of the early anthroposophist movement, and continues apace today. For a recent contribution to this remarkably large genre see for example Lorenzo Ravagli,

      . . . [LONG BOOK LIST] . …

      Works of this sort are not peculiar to anthroposophy; they reflect a dynamic that is fairly common within the esoteric milieu. Occultists often see “enemies” all around, conniving against the great spiritual truths they think their tradition harbors.

      It doesn’t make much difference whether they picture these enemies as a grand conspiracy of Jews, Jesuits, and Freemasons, or as meddling materialists or deceptive academics or fearsome demons or something else.

      The basic patterns are pretty much the same. Beliefs like these make it much harder for many anthroposophists to understand what non-anthroposophists have to say. Looking forward to the day that starts to change,

      Peter S.


  7. David Clark

    Hi Jeremy,

    Reading the above professorial comment about discursive perspectives from the academy, I’m minded to suggest a more appropriate wording:

    “Beliefs like these make it much harder for non-anthroposophists to understand what anthroposophists have to say.”

    As a “wannabe” researcher, I’m wondering what my response would be if the “subjects” of my research were continually upset by my results. I reckon it would be important for me to reflect carefully on the ethical dimension to my work. In fact, best practice suggests that this should have been done much earlier. This precaution would probably be required for four reasons. Firstly, is it possible that the basic assumptions of the results could be mistaken? Secondly, is it possible that there are outstanding rights matters that have arisen through inflicting my chosen methodology on others? Thirdly, I would be wondering when my ethics would become open to wider scrutiny at some stage. Fourthly, attention to ethical practice is a hallmark of professional researchers.

    I have drawn these conventional views on research ethics from widely available sources in the public square. Reflecting on Dr. Staudenmaier’s comments, he seems at the least very naive and ungrateful. In fact, I reckon he could almost be considered a timewaster.


    • wooffles

      The Mormon church was extremely hostile when outside historians first started to examine it. Wiccans displayed lots of hostility initially to the historian Ronald Hutton when he started questioning many of their assumptions about how their movement developed. It probably would not be hard to find many examples of groups coming to the attention of outside historians for the first time and not being too happy about it. Scientologists continue fight outside researchers tooth and nail. Staudenmaier’s less than emollient approach certainly does nothing to sooth an encounter that was bound to have generated a lot of friction however it happened. Christian Clement, at least in his internet persona, comes across like an exceptionally friendly golden retriever, which did not stop him from getting the full scary Mormon/Mason/whatever treatment, including from people I know who I really thought would have had internal red lights that would have kept them from going down that road.



  8. Hi Jeremy,

    Please allow me to say that I appreciate everything you write here, and I know what it means to stick one’s neck out for the proverbial axe-blade. Polemics is something that Steiner rather avoided, although he is now being unduly credited with provoking his attackers even before they spoke. This is nonsense. Steiner always saw the need to remain “below the radar”, so to speak.

    As expected, current dialogue on the WC list, which is always in favor of our “history man”, seems to believe that Steiner instigated his own attacks before they occurred. In reality, Steiner chose to defend himself against quite specific attacks, as the following lecture makes clear. He often mentioned as to why he didn’t simply ignore his opponents, and said that it was a moral imperative to respond directly to one’s detractors.

    Here is a brief quote from a lecture well worth reading for its kind consideration of just such a moral imperative. Steiner spoke of his opponents, and also why all manner of sectarian concern must not be a part of anthroposophically-orientated spiritual science.

    “Today the Anthroposophically orientated spiritual science stands in such a situation in the world that it can be attacked from all sides, and be besmirched from all sides. Usually this doesn’t happen to some kind of obscure movement. I can let you anticipate a symptom right now which you can find if you take the February edition of the monthly “Die Tat.” Later on I want to speak in greater depth about what makes this “Tat” issue so symptomatic.”




  9. David Clark


    Many thanks for putting me right. You fail to understand me.

    Reading this response, I am prompted to reflect on the way in which those within the history profession may have learnt from their early research advances to outside organisations. Do those in the historical academy engage in critical debates among themselves as practitioners of research? For example, have they been able to improve their methodologies?

    Unless I’m mistaken, Dr. Staudenmaier’s “less than emollient approach” has been running for some years now. As a result, his oeuvre may long have since crossed many external “red lights”. Presuming that historians claim to be scientific, it would be interesting to know how discourses in the discipline have unfolded over time to reflect this. By way of an analogy, recently published work in the field of International Relations includes papers reflecting on developments including criticism over several decades.

    While Dr. Staudenmaier’s oeuvre is very diverse, I understand that our current exchange refers to his concerns in the academic field of the history of esotericism and my knowledge claim. Not wishing to presume, I would expect that Dr. Staudenmaier would know of research results from other disciplines and fields that would add context and depth to his own work. In part, my responses have referred to this point.

    Woofles. I gather from your remarks that you are well informed in academic matters. Would you consider untutored remarks on ethical matters by a “research subject” to be opposition? If so, why is this?


    • wooffles

      Sorry, I wasn’t trying to put you right, and if it came across like that, I apologize. All I was trying to say was that I don’t think that the extent of the hostility Staudenmaier attracts is explicable entirely or even largely on the basis of him, which is what I understood you to be suggesting, and gave the example of the treatment that Christian Clement has received, whose approach to Steiner has been entirely respectful and appreciative. I agree that Staudenmaier can be abrasive in his on-line persona and appears to have no sympathy for anthropsophy. But that abrasiveness and lack of sympathy is his issue, not mine. It doesn’t follow that I can’t learn from him. Jeremy himself has said that he has learned from him, so given that, perhaps I’m failing to understand what his satire is specifically intended to accomplish. This may ultimately circle back to the question of the extent to which Hindes’ criticism of Staudenmaier is justified, and sorting that out would require an extended visit to the archives of Waldorf Critics where he and others had it out with Staudenmaier at great length. Since the academic study of Steiner has moved on a good deal since then, although mostly in German, I’m also not sure what that revisit would accomplish in any practical sense.

      Best wishes


  10. David Clark

    Hi Jeremy, Steve and Woofles,

    Having found these recent posts utterly incomprehensible, both individually and together, I have decided to withdraw from this blog and apply myself to other matters.


    • But David, wait! Please don’t go! Because I was actually beginning to find your comments more and more comprehensible here — so much so, that I was going to pass you on the Turing Test.

      See, David, you’ve come a long way since I first encountered you on Alicia Hamberg’s Ethereal Kiosk blog in late 2012 when you demonstrated an exquisite incoherence in these comments that I link to now.

      But now, I honestly believe that thee is a real human being there at the keyboard with the name David Clark, so I would ask you to stay and not go off in a “robotic huff,” as it were.

      You see, David, if you never come back, then I’m afraid that Alicia’s candid and accurate assessment of you, dated December 2, 2012, remains valid today:

      I despair. If you communicate in this manner, piling word upon word while neglecting meaning and content, also with those people on the acute wards, I feel for them. You appear severely disconnected from any intelligible content.

      I marvel at those study groups precisely because of this.

      I suppose this is mean of me but if this is the way you’re communicating, then you aren’t ‘connecting’ — with anyone or anything. You need to add content. And you need to figure out the content of what the other person is saying.

      Communication or ‘connecting’ is more than putting forth a pile of words, not even if the individual words sound good or even profound. That’s what makes postmodern text generators so much fun. Just words, no content, no meaning. But you don’t have to communicate with them.



    • Dear David,

      I know that you would gain a great deal if you would follow-through, as suggested, with the WC archive study that I pointed out recently, i.e., msg # 27979 to begin. I, for one, see your communication style, and what you are getting at, and trying to express. Especially when you use the term “ontology” is where anthroposophy yields its greatest benefit.

      If you would prefer off-list discussion, I encourage it. As well, anyone who feels compelled by these discussions to enter the symposium arena, we can do that quite easily. Jeremy affords an incentive for such endeavors here, and all that is needed is to extend the tentacles in the network-sense of open communication.




      • Steiner had PoF republished in 1918, after 25 years. By then, he had a few more words to say about his fundamental precept, “Ethical Individualism”. He clearly shows how much it relates to personal spiritual experience as a guiding light in navigating in the dark, and amidst the paucity of seemingly empty words with no content. Herein, he opens up the concept and function of ‘ethical individualism’ as having a truly spiritual basis; an ontology to go with the epistemology that the scholars of the world so revere.

        From GA185, lecture VI, on the new edition of PoF, published in 1918:

        “What I had advocated first of all was an ethical individualism. I had to show that man can never become a free being unless his actions have their source in those ideas which are rooted in the intuitions of the single individual. This ethical individualism only recognized as the final goal of man’s moral development what is called the free spirit which struggles free of the constraint of natural laws and the constraint of all conventional moral norms, which is confident that in an age when evil tendencies are increasing, man can, if he rises to intuitions, transmute these evil tendencies into that which, for the Consciousness Soul, is destined to become the principle of the good, that which is befitting the dignity of man.”

        “It is necessary to be able to grasp the fundamental idea of ethical individualism, to know that it is founded on the realization that man today is confronted with spiritual intuitions of cosmic events, that when he makes his own not the abstract ideas of Hegel, but the freedom of thought which I tried to express in popular form in my book The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World Conception, he is actually in touch with cosmic impulses pulsating through the inner being of man.”

        We all live the spiritual life, whether the outer-external, or the inner-internal makes up our primary motivation. Communication is the key, and not being too judgmental, but rather, personal in a way that tries to be sympathetic, and even empathic. It is tricky, though, within a domain in which critical views of anthroposophy exist. Making the effort to express oneself openly is what matters.




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