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7 The Spirit of the Race and the Soul of the Nation: Anthroposophy and the Rise of Fascism in Italy

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Chapter Summary

The emergence of Fascism after World War One gave rise to divergent anthroposophical responses; while several leading anthroposophists embraced Mussolini's movement, others kept their distance, and the Fascist regime treated Steiner's followers inconsistently. The origins of Italian anthroposophy can be traced to Steiner's dispute with the India-based leadership of the Theosophical Society. The Fascist race laws entailed a number of complications for anthroposophist activities. For German anthroposophists, the 'Aryan' component in Steiner's teachings often took second place to the 'German' component, due to Steiner's own focus on German national destiny. The history of anthroposophist involvement in Fascism sheds a revealing light on Steiner's principles of universalism, and indicates a number of antinomies built into esoteric conceptions of universalism itself. Anthroposophical complicity in Fascism exposed the underside of elevated spiritual ideals.

Keywords: Aryan; Fascism; Italian anthroposophy; Mussolini; Steiner; World War



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