“One can only understand history and all of social life, including today’s social life, if one pays attention to people’s racial characteristics. And one can only understand all that is spiritual in the correct sense if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin.”
Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925)
(VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE – ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS” (Verlag Der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, 1961), GA 349, p. 52.)
The Theosophical theory of root races, which Rudolf Steiner adopted into Anthroposophy, is structured around an evolutionary narrative of lost continents, wandering peoples, national Karma, and racial destiny.
The particulars of Steiner’s racial mythology are so intricate that attempts to summarize them inevitably run the risk of distortion and oversimplification.
Following Blavatsky, Steiner held that a succession of five root races had arisen in the distant past: Polarians, Hyperboreans, Lemurians, Atlanteans, and Aryans. Each root race was further divided into sub-races, which also appear in succession. According to Steiner, the Aryan root race emerged on the lost continent of Atlantis, and the Atlantean root race was preceded by a still older root race that inhabited another lost continent, Lemuria; non-white and indigenous communities today are the degenerate remnants of these earlier root races.
Steiner’s doctrine of racial evolution is more than a biological appendage to his spiritual cosmology. For Anthroposophy as for Theosophy, evolution is the link between the human and the divine, it is a process supervised by higher powers and a vehicle for the soul’s elevation and purification. In moving from Theosophy to Anthroposophy, Steiner abandoned the cyclical structure of Blavatsky’s root-race concept while retaining its linear evolutionary thrust. The guiding thread throughout Steiner’s race mythology is the motif of a small, racially advanced group progressing into the next era while the great mass of backward populations declines. In the current era, the dominant race is the Aryan race, which evolved out of a small number of specially advanced colonists from Atlantis.
In Steiner’s words: “Ever since the Atlantean Race began slowly to disappear, the great Aryan Race has been the dominant one on earth.”
“If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense … In the case of fair people, less nourishment is driven into the eyes and hair; it remains instead in the brain and endows it with intelligence. Brown- and dark-haired people drive the substances into their eyes and hair that the fair people retain in their brains.”
Rudolf Steiner, HEALTH AND ILLNESS, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1981), pp. 85-86.
“When we ask which race belongs to which part of the earth, we must say: the yellow race, the Mongols, the Mongolian race belongs to Asia, the white race or the Caucasian race belongs to Europe, and the black race or the Negro race belongs to Africa. The Negro race does not belong to Europe, and the fact that this race is now playing such a large role in Europe is of course nothing but a nuisance.”
Steiner, “Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde“, p 53:
“Also wenn wir fragen: Was gehört zu diesen Erdteilen für eine Rasse hinzu?—so müssen wir eben doch sagen: Zu Asien gehört die gelbe Rasse, die Mongolen, die mongolische Rasse, und zu Europa gehört die weiße Rasse oder die kaukasische Rasse, und zu Afrika gehört die schwarze Rasse oder die Negerrasse. Die Negerrasse gehört nicht zu Europa, und es ist natürlich nur ein Unfug, daß sie jetzt in Europa eine so große Rolle spielt.”