With the news of banking scandals over the past few days, there are many people reconsidering where they bank. Is it possible to bank with an organisation that has solid ethical credentials and will not use its money to reward reckless investment bankers’ bonuses or finance questionable businesses?
A web site came on to my twitter timeline today called Move Your Money that aims to help people chose their banking facilities based on an assessment of bank’s ethical commitments and business activities. I looked at their web site and saw that an example they gave was the Co-operative Bank. That was expected. But the second example was the lesser known Triodos Bank.
Triodos is a Dutch based bank that presents itself as believing “banking is about more than big profits and bonuses”. Its mission is to be “one of the world’s leading sustainable banks. Our mission is to make money work for positive social, environmental and cultural change.”
As such, it admirably has an open lending policy so that you can see exactly where your money is being invested. The bank prides itself on funding many organic farmers, renewable energy projects and cultural and artistic endevours. What’s not to like?
What the bank is not so forthcoming about is how it was founded and the guiding philosophical principles behind its activities. You will not find details easily on the web site. You have to look at its articles of association to see that in fact it is an Anthroposophical organisation. Its preable states (updated May 2012),
The anthroposophic movement and the movement for religious renewal that is the Christian community were the sources of inspiration for the people who founded Triodos Bank.
Triodos Bank is – at its sole discretion – associated with anthroposophy, this being the humanities science initiated by Rudolf Steiner that accordingly forms an important basis for the work of Triodos Bank.
What is Anthroposophy?
Rudolf Steiner was an early 20th Century Austrian occultist who claimed to have had many clairvoyant insights into politics, culture and the economy – the “threefold order” that gives rise to the name of the bank. Steiner created something he called ‘Occult Science’ and claimed mainstream science could be extended through contact with the spiritual world. He claimed that humans were actually a combination of physical and spiritual entities and that our spirits are reincarnated though a hierarchy of existence. Good karma would lead to reincarnation in higher races with the ultimate prize of being incarnated in the body of a “germanic-nordic” body. This racist doctrine, inspired by alleged clairvoyant revelation, was obviously resonant with other movements in Germany at the time.
Steiner’s adherents can be found in many walks of life today. Just as Triodos is circumspect in exposing its origins, other areas may surprise you too. His agricultural mysticism is known as biodynamics. This is a form of agriculture belief, based on undertaking farming activities according to astrological and magical cycles and beliefs, has been adopted by both Charles at Highrove and Himmler at Dachau.
Steiner embraced homeopathic medical beliefs and wove it into his anthroposophical medicine. Steinerist retail organisation, Weleda is one of the largest suppliers of homeopathy and alternative medicine products in Europe. Steiner’s mistletoe therapy for cancer is still offered by a few NHS anthroposophical doctors.
Steiner, or Waldorf, education is a hot topic in the UK at the moment with Education Minsiter, Michael Gove this week giving the go ahead to the UK’ s first free school based on Steinerist principles, the Steiner Academy Frome. The purpose of Steiner education is to help the incarnation process of spirits into children’s bodies. Various things can interfere with this process, including being able to read. Children are not supposed to be taught to read until their second dentition when the approrpiate spiritual incarnation milestones have been met. Parents are not told of these goals. Steiner warned his teachers, to be coy about their aims for fear that “people would break the Waldorf [Steiner] School’s neck.”
An island like Great Britain swims in the sea and is held fast by the forces of the stars. In actuality, such islands do not sit directly upon a foundation; they swim and are held fast from outside. In general, the cosmos creates islands and continents, their forms and locations.
Steiner recognised the difficlulty in telling pupils this directly. But urged teachers to ‘do it somehow’.
Of course, in Steiner schools, if a child falls ill, then homeopathy will be used. And the natural companion beliefs to homeopathy are present, such as a distrust of vaccination. It is no coincidence that the UK is currently suffering measles outbreaks, many of which occur around Steiner schools and towns with large populations into alternative beliefs, such as Bruton, Glastonbury, Brighton and Forest Row. Indeed the Steiner School ‘Olympics’ was cancelled last year due to measles.
Steiner believed measles was a manifestation of karma.
So, Triodos bank? How does Steinerism manifest itself in their business?
The most obvious place is in who they lend to. Their admirable open lending policy allows us to who see they are financing. Organic farming features heavily, a spin off of Steiner’s biodynamics.
I will not be opening any Triodos accounts. I do not believe Steiner Schools are ethical. They are a betrayal of a child’s right to be educated, to not be told falsehoods and to be protected from dangerous diseases. Alternative medicine clinics, as readers of this blog will know, have very many ethical problems, most importantly, misleading their customers into believing these treatments, such as homeopathy, offer effective alternatives to mainstream medicine.
Whilst, no doubt, many of the projects funded by Triodos can be truly described as ethical and progressive, it is the furtherance of irrational belief systems, such as Anthroposophy, homeopathy and biodynamics, that represent a serious departure from being ethical. Such beliefs have a capability to do real harm, and as such, I will not be aiding their advancement.