The anthropopper notes with interest that in his recent posts on this blog, he seems to have inadvertently adopted a Threefold Posting Order. The first three posts were on the topic of Angels and then the next two were about Demons. Well, here is one last post about Peter Staudenmaier to complete the threefolding aspect; after which I hope to be able to concentrate on more wholesome topics.
Gerald du Maurier’s celebrated cartoon, which appeared in Punch in November 1895, gave rise to the phrase ‘a curate’s egg’, meaning something that is mostly or partly bad, but partly good. A modern-day version of this cartoon might have the caption:
Staudenmaier: “I’m afraid I’m a bad egg, Mr Mellett.” Mellett wipes a brown substance off his nose and replies, desperate not to offend his lord and master: “Oh no, my Lord, I assure you! Parts of you are excellent!”
According to Wikipedia, “in its original context, the term ‘a curate’s egg’refers to something that is obviously and essentially bad, but is euphemistically described as nonetheless having good features credited with undue redeeming power. Its modern usage varies. Some authorities define it as something that is an indeterminate mix of good and bad and others say it implies a preponderance of bad qualities.”
Isn’t that last sentence a perfect description of Peter Staudenmaier, self-appointed scourge of Steiner and anthroposophy and intellectual guru to the Waldorf Critics’ Yahoo group?
Staudenmaier, for those who have not yet made his online acquaintance, is the professor of modern German history at Marquette University in Milwaukee. His research explores the work of Rudolf Steiner; his dissertation was “Between Occultism and Fascism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race and Nation in Germany and Italy, 1900-1945.”
Like a polecat, which despite its stink and habit of biting all and sundry indiscriminately, can nevertheless occasionally be useful for chasing rabbits out of their burrows, the egregious Staudi sometimes has a use; and even the anthropopper has expressed gratitude to him for revealing a slice of history about which the Society has, rather disgracefully in my view, kept quiet. Here, for example, is a link to a review by Staudi of a book by Ansgar Martins. This shadow side of anthroposophy really should be known by all anthroposophists. As “Wooffles” commented on my last but one post, “In the last decade or so, anthroposophists, or at least some anthroposophists, have gotten much better at engaging with historical context, and it is doubtful that this would have taken place without the persistence of not-particularly-sympathetic scholars like Staudenmaier and Zander.” That’s quite a fair point, although the phrase “not particularly sympathetic scholar” when applied to Staudi’s attitude to Steiner must qualify as understatement of the year.
But, to return to my original metaphor, a bad egg is hard to like and Staudi’s overweening arrogance and contempt for others does nothing to endear him to any readers other than the fawning sycophants and melletts on the WC Yahoo list. It’s an interesting question why, unlike say with Martins or Zander, Staudi arouses such animosity in so many people. Is it for the reason Staudi himself gives?
“Any outside scholar who studies anthroposophy encounters strong opposition from parts of the anthroposophist movement. A large part of the reason why I continued researching anthroposophy’s history had to do with this sort of opposition; I initially thought the article I was asked to write back in 1999 would be a one-time piece, and then I’d return to other topics. But the article provoked such an indignant response among anthroposophists that I went back to the sources to see if I had missed something, and the further I dug into this history the more I found. Anthroposophists routinely claim that scholars who examine their movement have distorted Steiner’s ideas and misrepresented his teachings and falsified his true message and so forth; this is a common reaction among esoteric groups, who often believe they have special access to higher forms of knowledge and react strongly against scholarly standards of critical inquiry. The same sort of opposition I face is even more intense in the case of my German colleague Helmut Zander, the foremost historian of anthroposophy. Many of Steiner’s followers simply don’t like seeing their movement and worldview subjected to external scrutiny.”
Well, that sounds reasonable enough, doesn’t it? The picture he conjures up is not implausible: anthroposophists, who may be well-meaning but unaware of some significant episodes in the history of their movement, react angrily to information which doesn’t correspond to how they feel about anthroposophy.
But unfortunately for the good professor’s chances of constructive dialogue with such anthroposophists, he doesn’t leave matters there and cannot resist being condescending, dismissive and supercilious with anyone who questions him.
Staudi was brought irresistibly to mind when I read the following passage in John Stewart Collis’ wonderful account of farming life during the 1940s, The Worm Forgives the Plough:
“There is an interesting remark which I have often heard here and elsewhere, not uncommon anywhere when some boss or foreman is mentioned. ‘The trouble is,’ they say, ‘ ‘e’s so ignorant.’ By this they do not mean that he lacks knowledge. They mean that he lacks manners. It is a significant remark. For what is manners? Manners is psychology. It is the understanding of the simple psychological needs of other people. It is homage to the strikingly simple fact that people like you to address them amiably; to show appreciation, and to say thank you at intervals. If a man does not know this and act upon it he is called ignorant by labourers under him. That is their philosophy of education.”
By this definition, Staudi is remarkably ignorant. One wouldn’t really have expected this in someone who has been an active participant in the anarchist, green and cooperative movements in the United States and Germany for many years. One would have thought that a person of those sympathies might have acquired some emotional intelligence during that time. Not so, it seems.
But Staudi is not only ignorant in the sense of being unable to resist insulting and abusing people who in other circumstances would be perfectly willing to have a civilised exchange of views with him; he is actually ignorant in an even more fundamental sense, and this is in his complete lack of understanding of Rudolf Steiner. To understand Rudolf Steiner it is not enough to have a good brain; you need to have a good heart, too, and to be able to apply the intelligence of the heart to initiatic language that is often difficult to comprehend with our everyday understanding. Where Steiner is concerned, poor Staudi has a tin ear; he is to the elucidation of Rudolf Steiner what Florence Foster Jenkins was to operatic recitals.
Someone whose scholarly work in the same subject area demonstrates understanding on every page (in shining contrast to Staudi’s effusions) is Dr Adrian Anderson of Melbourne, Australia. I thoroughly recommend Anderson’s e-booklet, Opponents and Critics: Criticisms of Steiner and anthroposophy, to anthroposophists and critics alike. It will take you about half an hour to read but it is well worth the time and effort. Dr Anderson addresses Staudi’s criticisms of Steiner and does not shrink away from the darker episodes of anthroposophical history. Some of what he writes will no doubt be difficult reading for anthroposophists, as well as for members of the Christian Community; but unlike Staudi’s tone-deaf tin ear, Dr Anderson has perfect pitch when evaluating Steiner’s use of language, and the problems that Steiner’s language can pose for anthroposophy and modern readers today.
Staudi is having none of this, of course, and gets his rebuttal in first, alerted by one of his toadies on the WC Yahoo group:
“Thanks to Eric for pointing this out… The new booklet is a standard anthroposophist apologia for Steiner’s racial teachings. It features the usual elements, including some entertaining misunderstandings of Steiner’s texts. One of the more striking examples is the booklet’s defense of Steiner’s 1923 complaint against the presence of black people in Europe, in particular his denunciation of the stationing of French colonial troops on German soil in the aftermath of World War One. Anderson thinks Steiner was actually referring to the African slave trade! It is hard to imagine a more thoroughgoing incomprehension of the passage in question.
The sections on Nazism are a good deal worse. Anderson believes that historians have recently “discovered” that “some German anthroposophists from the early 20th century were involved in Nazism” (golly, imagine that). The notion that this is some sort of discovery — or even especially remarkable — speaks volumes about the level of naivete and historical ignorance among all too many anthroposophists today.”
This is such an inadequate, not to say shameless, response to what is a substantial and considered piece of work that it almost beggars belief that Staudi can write in such misleading terms. Here we have all the standard Staudi tactics of scattering mud and abuse, misrepresentation of arguments, condescension and contemptful dismissal, which he employs to avoid engaging with the actual substance of the text written by Dr Anderson. Anderson demonstrates real understanding and insight in his essay and yet Staudi can’t bring himself to address any of it.
Why is this? Why is it that Staudi is so full of unremitting malevolence towards Steiner? And here I’ve recently come across an intriguing possibility: could it be that Staudi has never forgiven Steiner for criticising another Staudenmaier?
On 22nd September 1923, Steiner gave a lecture in Dornach on “The Logic and Illogic of Dreams” (GA225) and in it he referred at some length to a book called Magic as an Experimental Science by one Ludwig Staudenmaier, in which the author recounts his experiences of mediumship through channeled writing, his denial of the spirit as the source of his writing and his belief that the unconscious was responsible for it but was always lying to him. Steiner is quite amusing about what he considers to be the errors in Staudenmaier’s understanding of his experiences and the cumulative effect of these comments must have been somewhat devastating for Ludwig.
Can this have affected our present day Staudi’s attitude to Steiner? Was Ludwig related to Peter? Perhaps Turncoat Tom Mellett, Staudi’s devoted gofer, could ask on our behalf when he’s next kneeling before the Apprentice Demon.