Steiner taught that Ahriman and Lucifer are demons who have wreaked great harm.
But he also said that these demons have been helpful in our evolution.
Lucifer’s aspirations to egohood and spiritual knowledge helped us
to have similar aspirations — although we must abjure Lucifer’s wrong-headedness.
Lucifer can’t give us real knowledge — real knowledge comes from the Sun God, Christ.
Indeed, the Sun God stands at the pivot point between Lucifer and Ahriman.
Lucifer has already walked the Earth. Ahriman will come soon, and his
influences are already widespread. Ahriman is the demon of intellect,
worldly knowledge, science, and technology. For our evolutionary progress,
we need both spiritual aspiration and worldly mastery, Lucifer and Ahriman.
But we also need to get beyond them both.
"In order that the luciferic inspiration might be lifted away from its one-sidedness, there came the incarnation of Christ and with it the impulse for the education and development of European civilization and its American offshoot. But since the middle of the fifteenth century, since the impulse for the development of individuality, of personality, has been at work, this phase of evolution has also contained within it certain forces whereby preparation is being made for the incarnation of another supersensible Being. Just as there was an incarnation of Lucifer in the flesh and an incarnation of Christ in the flesh, so, before only a part of the third millennium of the post-Christian era has elapsed, there will be, in the West, an actual incarnation of Ahriman: Ahriman in the flesh. Humanity on earth cannot escape this incarnation of Ahriman. It will come inevitably. But what matters is that people shall find the right vantage point from which to confront it.
"Whenever preparation is being made for incarnations of this character, we must be alert to certain indicative trends in evolution. A being like Ahriman, who will incarnate in the West in time to come, prepares for this incarnation in advance. With a view to his incarnation on the earth, Ahriman guides certain forces in evolution in such a way that they may be of the greatest possible advantage to him. And evil would result were people to live on in a state of drowsy unawareness, unable to recognize certain phenomena in life as preparations for Ahriman's incarnation in the flesh. The right stand can be taken only by recognizing in one or another series of events the preparation that is being made by Ahriman for his earthly existence. And the time has now come for individual human beings to know what tendencies and events around them are machinations of Ahriman, helping him to prepare for his approaching incarnation." — Rudolf Steiner, THE INFLUENCES OF LUCIFER AND AHRIMAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1993), pp. 16-17.
Both Lucifer and Ahriman affect the way we think.
Lucifer opened the possibility of intellectual insight,
and Ahriman now runs with this, but in a perverse way.
Pure intellect is deceitful, serving Ahriman’s ends.
"At the beginning of the third millennium a momentous event took place ... A child of a distinguished Asiatic family of the time was allowed to grow up in the precincts of the Mystery ceremonies ... Of the incarnation of Lucifer at the beginning of the third millennium B.C., we must say: through Lucifer, human beings have acquired the faculty of using the organs of their intellect, of their power of intellectual discernment. It was Lucifer himself, in a human body, who was the first to grasp through the power of intellect what formerly could be imparted to humanity only through revelation ... What is now in preparation and will quite definitely come to pass on earth in a none-too-distant future is an actual incarnation of Ahriman ... From the spiritual world this Ahrimanic power is preparing for incarnation on the earth, endeavoring in every conceivable way to make such preparation that the incarnation of Ahriman in human form may be able to mislead and corrupt humankind on earth to the uttermost. A task of humankind during the next phase of civilization will be to live toward the incarnation of Ahriman with such alert consciousness that this incarnation can actually serve to promote a higher, spiritual development, inasmuch as through Ahriman himself humanity will become aware of what can, or shall we say, can not be achieved by physical life alone." — Ibid., pp. 42-45.
Ahriman’s main benefit to us is to show us what not to do.
Ahriman has given us the gifts of science and technology,
but these gifts are potentially grave traps, luring us away from spirituality.
"[H]ow easy it is to be deluded by figures and numbers. Is there not a great deal of superstition where numbers are concerned? What can in some way be counted is accepted in science. Natural science loves to weigh, to compute, and social science loves statistics — again a matter of computation and reckoning. It will be difficult indeed for people to bring themselves to admit that all knowledge of the external world acquired through measure and number is so much delusion ... This does not mean that natural science is to be ignored or put aside; it is a matter of realizing that this natural science leads only to the ahrimanic illusion. Why, then, must people have natural science, in spite of the fact that it leads only to illusion? It is because in earth existence they are already on the descending curve of evolution. Of the fourth post-Atlantean epoch, the Greco-Latin epoch, it may be said that with respect to knowledge, humanity was, relatively speaking, at the zenith. But now, in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, human beings are on the path of decline, they are a being growing physically weaker, and to perceive the world in the way the Greeks perceived it would be too much for their strength." — Ibid., pp. 30-31.
We live in a degenerate time, threatened by Ahriman.
"[T]oday...the spirit-soul is asleep. The human being is thus in danger of drifting into the Ahrimanic world, in which case the spirit-soul will evaporate into the cosmos. We live in a time when people face the danger of losing their souls to materialistic impulses. This is a very serious matter. We now stand confronted with that fact." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 115.
Ahriman schemes and plots and deceives,
using multiple tools.
“If we inquire: Who stirs up nations against each other? Who raises the questions that are directing humanity today? — the answer is: the Ahrimanic deception which plays into human life. And in this field men very easily let themselves be deceived. They are not willing to descend to the lower strata where reality is to be found. For, you see, Ahriman skillfully prepares his goal beforehand; ever since the Reformation and the Renaissance, the economist has been emerging in modern civilization as the representative governing type ... [Thus] Ahriman has been given another essential medium for the deception of mankind. If men do not realize that the rights-state and the organism of the Spirit must be set against the economic order called up through the economists and the banks, then again, through this lack of awareness, Ahriman will find an important instrument for preparing his incarnation. His incarnation is undoubtedly coming, and this lack of insight will enable him to prepare it triumphantly ... Now, in order that his incarnation may take the most profitable form, it is of the utmost interest to Ahriman that people should perfect themselves in all our illusory modern science, but without knowing that it is illusion. Ahriman has the greatest possible interest in instructing men in mathematics, but not in instructing them that mathematical-mechanistic concepts of the universe are merely illusions. He is intensely interested in bringing men chemistry, physics, biology and so on, as they are presented today in all their remarkable effects, but he is interested in making men believe that these are absolute truths, not that they are only points of view, like photographs from one side. If you photograph a tree from one side, it can be a correct photograph, yet it does not give a picture of the whole tree. If you photograph it from four sides, you can in any case get an idea of it. To conceal from mankind that in modern intellectual, rationalistic science with its supplement of a superstitious empiricism, one is dealing with a great illusion, a deception — that men should not recognize this is of the greatest possible interest to Ahriman. It would be a triumphant experience for him if the scientific superstition which grips all circles today and by which men even want to organize their social science, should prevail into the third millennium. He would have the greatest success if he could then come as a human being into Western civilization and find the scientific superstition.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE AHRIMANIC DECEPTION (Anthroposophic Press, 1985), a lecture, GA 193.
Ahriman cannot redeem us — indeed, he doesn’t want to —
but we may redeem him.
“Everything that has arisen in recent times in the way of materialistic science and industrial technology is of an out-and-out ahrimanic nature, and if it were to spread without there being any Christ understanding, it would chain human beings to the earth. Human beings would not progress to the Jupiter evolution. If, however, we bring an understanding of Christ, a new spiritual life, a newly activated Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition into what is merely a knowledge of the external world, then we redeem Ahriman.” — Rudolf Steiner, GUARDIAN ANGELS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 55.
It is important to note that what Steiner meant by “an understanding of Christ”
was his own doctrines, such as those that promote
“a newly activated Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition” —
doctrines that are central to the mission of Waldorf schools.
Steiner rejected orthodox Christian beliefs —
for example, he dragged in a Zoroastrian demon,
Here are images of Ahriman attributed to Steiner
Here is a passage in which Steiner differentiates
between Ahriman and Lucifer:
“These two figures — Lucifer and Ahriman — must be clearly distinguished from each other. For Lucifer is a Being who detached himself from the spiritual hosts of heaven after the separation of the sun, whereas Ahriman had already broken away before the separation of the sun and is an embodiment of quite different powers. The result of Lucifer's influence in the Lemurian epoch was merely the corruption of the faculty, still possessed by man in the Atlantean epoch, to manipulate the forces of air and water. In the book entitled From the Akasha Chronicle you will have read that in Atlantean times the seminal forces in plant and animal were still at man's command and could be drawn forth just as the forces used in the form of steam for propelling machines can be extracted from mineral coal to-day. I have told you that when these forces are drawn forth they are connected in a mysterious way with the nature-forces in wind, weather and the like; and if applied by man for purposes running counter to the divine purposes, these nature-forces are called into action against him.
“Here lies the cause of the Atlantean flood and of the devastation wrought by the powers of nature which led to the disappearance of the whole continent of Atlantis. But even before that time, man had lost command over the forces of fire and the power to ally them with certain mysterious forces of the earth. Power over the forces of fire and earth in a certain combination had already been withdrawn from man. But now — through the influence of Ahriman and his accomplices — he again acquired a certain mastery over the forces of fire and earth, with dire consequences. And much that is to be heard about the use of fire in ancient Persia is connected with what I am now telling you. Many forces that are applied in black magic and are connected with it, lead to the result that man lays hold of forces of an entirely different nature and thus gains an influence over fire and earth, with terrible and devastating results. The practice of black magic by the descendants of the Atlanteans in ancient Persia would still have been effective had not the teachings of Zarathustra revealed how Ahriman, as an opposing power, ensnares man and clouds his vision of the spiritual reality behind the world of sense. Thus through Zarathustra and his followers, influence was brought to bear upon a large part of Post-Atlantean civilization; on the one hand men were taught of the workings of the sublime God of Light to whom they may turn, and, on the other, of the malefic power of Ahriman and his hosts.
“Ahriman works upon man in countless, infinitely diverse ways. — I have told you that the Event of the Mystery of Golgotha was a moment of supreme importance for the evolution of the world. The Christ appeared in the realm into which man enters after death, where Ahriman's influence was even mightier than in the world around man here on earth between birth and death. In the realm of existence between death and rebirth, Ahriman's influences worked upon man with terrible, overwhelming power. And if nothing else had taken place, utter darkness would gradually have closed in upon man in the ‘realm of Shades’ — as it was correctly designated by the ancient Greeks. A condition of complete isolation, leading to the intensification of egoism would have set in between death and rebirth; man would have been born into his new life as a gross and overweening egotist. Hence it is more than a figure of speech to say that after the Event of Golgotha, at the moment when the Blood flowed from the wounds, the Christ appeared in yonder world, in the realm of the Shades, and cast Ahriman into fetters. Although Ahriman's influence remained and is really the origin of all materialistic thinking on the part of man, although this influence can be paralyzed only if men receive into themselves the power emanating from the Mystery of Golgotha, nevertheless they can draw from that Event a power which enables them to find their way once again into the Divine-Spiritual world.
“Thus it was to Ahriman that the faculty of human cognition was primarily directed. Ahriman was a Being whose existence was divined by men, a Being of whom they had some knowledge through the culture inaugurated by Zarathustra; and from there the knowledge of Ahriman spread among the other peoples and into their world of ideas. Ahriman with his hosts appears as a figure with the most diverse names among the civilized peoples. And owing to the peculiar conditions obtaining in the souls of the European peoples who had remained farthest in the rear of the migrations from West to East, who had been less affected than the others by what had transpired in the ancient Indian, ancient Persian, Egyptian and even in the Greco-Latin civilizations — owing to these circumstances there prevailed among the European peoples from whom the Fifth Epoch of culture was to be born, an attitude of soul which regarded Ahriman alone as a figure of dread. And while many different names were adopted — as for example, 'Mephistopheles' among the Hebrew people — in Europe the figure of Ahriman became the 'Devil' in his various forms.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE DEED OF CHRIST AND THE OPPOSING SPIRITUAL POWERS (Steiner Book Centre, 1954), lecture 1, GA 107.
"Steiner describes unseen beings who tempt and waylay us in two very different directions. On one side, there are the servants of Lucifer, the fallen angel of light. They are beings who have brought humanity great gifts, but who would abandon the goals of the highest hierarchies and create a blissful kingdom of spiritual light and delight for themselves. On the other side, there are immensely powerful beings who strive to blind us to the spirit, powers for whom it is self-evident that the universe is a machine and that what can be measured, weighed, and quantified [i.e., the view taken by scientists, "materialists"] is the only reality. These spirits of materialism belong to the dark power that the ancient wisdom called Ahriman, or Angra Mainyu." — Henry Barnes, A LIFE FOR THE SPIRIT: Rudolf Steiner in the Crosscurrent of Our Time (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 131.
Here is a somewhat ambiguous quotation.
Is Ahriman here portrayed as a genuine evil being, or is he doing good work by putting obstacles in our path?
"Love of ease is a general and widespread attribute of mankind. And if one follows up after death the souls who were subject to it, one sees how this love of ease persists, and how for a certain time after death these souls have to live in a region where — as a result of indolence — they become servants of the god or gods of Opposition, those gods who place particular obstacles in the path of evolution. And these again are spirits under the rule of Ahriman. Ahriman has various things to do; one of his tasks, is to conduct out of the spiritual worlds into the physical world the forces which call forth opposition in physical life. Thus men are on the one hand ease-loving, but on the other hand the fate of lovers of ease is such that when they want to do anything they run up against a general cosmic law. Obstacles are everywhere, and even if they are not in the grotesque form once pictured by a German poet, they are there in the most tragic guise. He called them the 'malice of things'. This 'malice of things' is especially apparent when, for instance, a preacher in the pulpit is in the midst of a tremendously long tirade and a fly alights on his nose, causing him to sneeze violently. That is the 'malice of things'. But it appears first in full force when persons who in this sense are the children of misfortune are exposed to it at every step. Friedrich Theodor Vischer once wrote a novel in which someone was continually exposed to this 'malice of things'.
"In truth, these things rise from the grotesque to the tragic. All such obstacles are directed from the spiritual worlds and the Lord of Opposition is Ahriman. And souls that are lovers of ease make themselves into servants of Ahriman for a certain time between death and a new birth. On the whole it is not so terrible to see the punishment of the devotees of ease as it is to see the souls who are living in servitude to the spirits of illness and. death. But it shows again how moral and natural law intermingle as soon as we come into the higher worlds." — Rudolf Steiner, MYSTERIES OF THE EAST AND OF CHRISTIANITY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 2, GA 144.
Steiner could be confusing,
even self-contradictory on such points.
But let's end with two quotes that make
clear Steiner's belief that some gods are evil,
and one of these evil gods is Ahriman:
"[W]e are watching the battle waged by the good gods against the evil gods — in two directions evil." — Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS, Vol. 2 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1956), p. 251. The two directions are faulty spiritualism and excessive materialism — the snares laid by the demons Lucifer and Ahriman. How do we know this? Steiner told us so (although sometimes he indicated there are more than two evil directions):
“The evil astral world is the province of Lucifer, the evil Lower Devachan the province of Ahriman, and the evil Higher Devachan the province of the Asuras.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE ETHERISATION OF THE BLOOD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1971), a lecture, GA 130. "Devachan" is a Theosophical term Steiner adopted; roughly, it means the spirit world.
- Compilation and commentary by Roger Rawlings