Philipp Blom
The Vertigo Years

Most of the mystic authors, Madame Blavatsky and Rudolf Steiner among them, were racists who camouflaged their disdain for darker hues of skin under incense and initiation. Steiner particularly made it his sacred task to spread the gospel of race during his hundreds of lectures throughout Germany. According to his teaching of what is essentially a spiritual variant of evolutionism, Africans were at the very bottom of the scale while Europeans (Germans to be precise) stood at the pinnacle. The very comparison was absurd, he thought, between 'an uncompleted snail or amoeba to a perfect lion.' The 'negro race,' in any case, 'does not belong to Europe,' and Steiner declared himself shocked by the 'terrible cultural banality of implanting black people into Europe, a dreadful thing the French are doing to others [other Europeans]. It will have a worse effect on France herself. It has an incredibly strong influence on the blood, on the race. That will further French decadence. The French people as a race is thrown back [in evolution].'

Regarding the 'strong sexual drive' of 'negroes,' the mystic explained that it was due to the sun, to light and warmth, which changed the metabolism of Africans, boiling them from the inside and heating up their affective lives, an effect that also explained their appearance. 'This is because mercurial forces are boiling and simmering within the lymphatic system...This [appearance] is caused by their boiling over [auskochen], which converts the general, similar human form [to that of a European] into the special one of the Ethiopian race, with black skin, woolly hair, and so on.' Seen in this context, the Jews could count themselves fortunate that the doctor claimed only that: 'Judaism as such has long outlived itself, has no justification in the community of peoples, and if it has survived nevertheless, it is a mistake of world history whose consequences followed by necessity. We are not speaking about the Jewish religion alone, but particularly about the mind of Jewry, about the Jewish way of thinking.'

Utopian visions often had a political and racial tinge in central Europe. Constantly buffeted by nationalist controversies between the German, Czech and Hungarian populations (to say nothing of the Jews and of smaller minorities), the self-anointed seers of the Habsburg empire were not content with free love and nut cutlets. A grander, more radical solution to the world's problems was needed, and amid the cacophony of voices and cultural traditions, racial purity seemed to provide an answer, and heredity the necessary instrument. Race had been a wide term, commonly used by people of all political persuasions and capable of denoting anything from breeding or class, to family background or biological predetermination and descent.

  The World was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They, hand in hand, with wand'ring steps and slow,

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Through Eden took their solitary way.