Steiner Studies journal project

Steiner Studies journal project

18 February 2020 | Christiane Haid & Georg Soldner & Johannes Wirz & Justus Wittich

The German Frommann-Holzboog Press publishes works by Rudolf Steiner as critical editions as well as the journal Steiner Studies.

The fact that there are anthroposophists on this publisher’s advisory board has been criticized by other anthroposophists. On 27 January the question was discussed at the invitation of the Goetheanum Leadership.

The meeting was convened because of an ‹open letter’ addressed to the School of Spiritual Science expressing concern about the fact that Wolf-Ulrich Klünker and Jost Schieren are on the advisory board of the Steiner Studies journal. The writers of the letter are concerned that the journal could turn into an anthroposophy-hostile academic mouthpiece, because of others on the advisory board who deny the scientific foundations of anthroposophy or, like Helmut Zander, spread untruths about it.

The Goetheanum Leadership therefore extended an invitation to discuss the topic Anthroposophy and Science at a meeting which was attended by the cultural scientist Angelika Sandtmann, representing the Council of the Anthroposophical Society in Germany, the physicist and teacher Martin Basfeld, the physician Armin Husemann and professors Peter Heusser, Wolf-Ulrich Klünker, Jost Schieren and Peter Selg. Eight members of the Goetheanum Leadership were also present.

Representing anthroposophy

Competent research and the corresponding representation of anthroposophy at a scientific level will be an urgent requirement in the coming years, given that the scientific nature of anthroposophy is being called into question, particularly in the field of medicine, but also in other specialist areas. It is essential that anthroposophy is not seen in public as a doctrine of revelation but as the field of serious scientific research it is meant to be.

It is not a question of narrowing anthroposophy down to a reductionist scientific concept but of representing anthroposophic research adequately in today’s scientific discourse and being open to debates with critics and opponents.

This was the outcome of the five-hour discussion which covered a broad range of topics: from the wish for a stronger representation of anthroposophy as a science, to its manifestation as a primarily practice-based science in agriculture, as a phenomenological natural science and evidence-based medical research, to its publicly represented, independent epistemological and spiritual-scientific methods.

Despite valuable individual achievements and the immense work that is being done in the specialist sections there is a need within the School of Spiritual Science for research, for which the anthroposophical multidimensional, specifically scientific contents and methods must be developed further and published. More weight must be given, moreover, to the scientific competence of teachers and students.

Dialogue with scientists

The dialogue with critical scientists was also discussed, which is seen as fruitful as long as it is based on factual debate. This has become regular, successful practice at both Witten Herdecke University (DE) and Alanus University (DE) and it helps students to develop their own judgement.

The contact with Christian Clement, professor of German Studies at Brigham Young University in Utah (US) and editor of the critical edition published by Frommann-Holzboog, has been seen as very positive since collaboration began in 2013; the same applies to the exchange with the Fichte researcher Hartmut Traub, who is professor at Alanus University. Both are editors of the scientific online journal Steiner Studies. Professor Helmut Zander, on the other hand – and everyone present agreed on this – is not considered a scientifically reliable researcher of anthroposophy and Rudolf Steiner. His two-volume publication Anthroposophie in Deutschland (Anthroposophy in Germany) and his Rudolf Steiner biography may have gained him the reputation of being a Steiner expert in public but his choice of sources, statements and conclusions clearly lack scientific rigour. And even in cases where the speciousness of his arguments has been pointed out to and admitted by him, he has not made corrections in later publications.

The ‹opponent› concept (a concept not shared by everyone present) seems appropriate here because it is not a question of someone having a different point of view but of deliberately deconstructing anthroposophy and Rudolf Steiner and presenting and interpreting facts in dubious and one-sidedly distorting ways.

Continuing the discourse

At the end of the discussion it was agreed that the underlying reasons for Wolf-Ulrich Klünker’s and Jost Schieren’s decision were understandable, independently of whether or not others would choose the same course of action: both see their involvement with the Steiner Studies journal as a way of enabling the competent and factual presentation of anthroposophy and consequently as an essential contribution to the public discussion of Rudolf Steiner’s work, which might otherwise be misrepresented and appear in a more negative light. Whether it will work out like this in the end remains to be seen. Armin Husemann was adamant, even after the discussion, that being on the advisory board of Steiner Studies was not compatible with working as an editor of Anthroposophie, the quarterly of the Anthroposophical Society in Germany.

The discourse on Anthroposophy and Science and on ways of dealing with critics and opposition will be continued in a suitable format within the School of Spiritual Science. | Christiane Haid, Georg Soldner, Johannes Wirz and Justus Wittich on behalf of the Goetheanum Leadership


Armin Husemann asked for the following passage to be added: «Armin Husemann pointed out that Helmut Zander accuses Rudolf Steiner of lying five times within a few pages of his book Anthroposophie in Deutschland (Anthroposophy in Germany), concluding with the question, «What does it look like within a person who is becoming increasingly entangled in lies?» He sees Rudolf Steiner as someone who «condemns himself to untruthfulness» (p. 463).

In the context of this controversy Georg Soldner asked who among those present shared the request expressed by Friedwart Husemann in his petition, i.e. to exclude Jost Schieren and Wolf-Ulrich Klüncker as editors of the journal Anthroposophie because of their decision to cooperate with Helmut Zander on the advisory board. All with the exception of Armin Husemann rejected the petition.» | Armin Husemann, Ostfildern (DE)

Book Peter Heusser: Anthroposophy and Science. An Introduction, Peter Lang AG 2016.