Anthroposophy's Apocalypse




Steiner's vision contained pleasing elements. A warm, fuzzy glow emanates from these elements. But nearer the center of Steiner's teachings lies a narrative of conflict and struggle.

Mankind's evolution to higher and higher levels entails a series of enormous cataclyms during which hordes die. The epoch during which we lived on Lemuria, for instance, ended in a cataclysm of volcanic explosions and fire. Likewise, the epoch when we lived on Atlantis ended in a cataclysm of crashing waters and torrential floods. Mankind caused these catastrophes, Steiner taught.

Something similar awaits us in the future, according to Steiner. A titanic war will very nearly wipe out humanity. "All" people will wage war against "all" others. We will rend one another. Few will survive.

This is the price of progress, as Steiner described it. Struggle and conflict are key components of Steiner's creed.

Here are some of Steiner's statements about the coming apocalypse.

“At the end of our fifth great epoch, the post-Atlantean, there will be catastrophes that will work in a way similar to those at the close of the Atlantean epoch [i.e., the destruction of Atlantis]. Through the War of All Against All, the seventh culture of the fifth epoch will find its conclusion [i.e., our epoch will end like previous epochs, in violent destruction]. These are interesting connections that are indicated in certain repetitions, and when we follow them more closely they will throw light into the depths of our soul life.” — Rudolf Steiner, EGYPTIAN MYTHS AND MYSTERIES (Anthroposophic Press, 1971), lecture 2, GA 106.


“[O]ur epoch will come to an end through other forces, through a mighty increase of egoism in human nature, and, on account of this, through the war of all against all.

“Only those who turn to a spiritual life will survive the catastrophe, which, in this case, means the war of all against all, just as only a small group of people escaped from the catastrophes of Lemuria and Atlantis. The war of all against all will be still more terrible for those involved in it than were those of fire and water, however terrible we may picture them to have been. Those who are now turning towards a spiritual life should feel it their duty to do all that is possible to rescue the good seed of our age and carry it over into the sixth age, which will follow the present one. This age is made up of great subdivisions; the ancient Indian, the Persian, the Egyptian, the Greco-Latin, and the present one, which will be followed by the sixth and the seventh right on to the time of the war of all against all.” — Rudolf Steiner, UNIVERSE, EARTH AND MAN (Collison, 1931) lecture 10, GA 105.


“The downfall of our present epoch will be caused by lack of morality. The Lemurian epoch was destroyed by fire, the Atlantean by water; our epoch and its civilisation will be destroyed by the War of All against All, by evil. Human beings will destroy each other in mutual strife. And the terrible thing — more desperately tragic than other catastrophes — will be that the blame will lie with human beings themselves.

“A tiny handful of men will make good and thus insure their survival in the sixth epoch of civilisation. This tiny handful will have attained selflessness. The others will develop every imaginable skill and subtlety in the manipulation and use of the physical forces of nature, but without the essential degree of selflessness.

“In the seventh epoch of civilisation, this War of All against All will break out in the most terrible form. Great and mighty forces will be let loose by the discoveries, turning the whole earth-globe into a kind of [self-functioning] live electric mass. In a way that cannot be discussed, the tiny handful will be protected and preserved.” — Rudolf Steiner, “The Work of Secret Societies in the World” (transcript, Rudolf Steiner Archive), a lecture, GA 93.


“Mighty flames of fire destroyed ancient Lemuria, and mighty floods ancient Atlantis. Our civilisation will also perish, through the war of all against all. This is what we must face. Our fifth root-race will perish, because egoism will reach its highest pitch. But at the same time, a small group of men will develop the power of Budhi, of the Life-Spirit, through the force of thought, in order to carry over Budhi into the new civilisation. Everything that is productive in the striving human being will grow stronger and stronger, until his personality reaches the summit of freedom. At present, every individual must discover in himself a kind of guiding spirit in the soul's inner depths: — This is Budhi, the power of the Life spirit. Were we to approach the future by taking up the cultural impulses as in earlier epochs, we should face the disintegration of humanity.” — Rudolf Steiner, “Adept School of the Past” (ANTHROPOSOPHIC NEWS SHEET, No. 31/32, 1941), GA 97.


“If we allow things to take their course, in the manner in which they have taken their course under the influence of the world-conception which has arisen in the nineteenth century and in the form in which we can understand it, if we allow things to take this course, we shall face the war of all against all, at the end of the twentieth century. No matter what beautiful speeches may be held, no matter how much science may progress, we would inevitably have to face this war of all against all. We would see the gradual development of a type of humanity devoid of every kind of social instinct, but which would talk all the more of social questions.” — Rudolf Steiner, “The Remedy for Our Diseased Civilsation” (ANTHROPOSOPHIC NEWS SHEET, Supplements 2-3, 1939), GA 206.


“The war of all against all will be an expression of the egotism that is always growing stronger, the egotism conjured forth by humanity today as the I is and will always become, stronger and stronger. That will be the end of the last post-Atlantean culture. This catastrophe will also have its mission, its usefulness in the ascent of the entire human race. However, the great war of all against all will be something much worse than war of the present-day with weapons. It will be a war of souls, of souls who no longer understand one another, a war of the classes. This future catastrophe is difficult for present-day consciousness to understand.

“The Atlanteans were magicians. As we today use the powers asleep in coal, so the Atlantean used the forces in plant seeds. The forces in the seeds served them in their technology, in their industry.

“...Magic must never be made to serve when selfish purposes are involved. Hence, the employment of seed forces is not permitted today even to serve white magic. On the other hand, in Lemurian times the seed forces of the animals were used. But everywhere that the growth forces of animals are misused, horrendous forces of fire, the volcanic element, are awakened.

“Today these things are not so obvious. Today the feeling for one's self, the overwhelming egohood of people has brought about the drying up, the desolation of those regions of the earth that have developed this egotism to the greatest extent. It is absolutely true that this war of all against all is being prepared on the surface of the earth because a connection exists between the egotistical withering of the soul's forces and the paralyzation of the earth's productive powers. The Nordic myth of the Twilight of the Gods also tells us this.” — Rudolf Steiner, READING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE (Anthroposophic Press, 1993), lecture 3, GA 104a.


“When the seventh epoch has run its course, another great convulsion will overwhelm the Earth, comparable to the catastrophe between the end of Atlantean and the beginning of post-Atlantean time. Under the altered conditions following upon this event the life of man will once again evolve through a succession of seven epochs. The souls who will then be incarnated will experience in an enhanced degree the community with spiritual worlds enjoyed by the Atlanteans on a lower level. But among human beings not everyone will without more ado prove equal to the new conditions then prevailing. It will only be those in whom souls are incarnated who have duly benefited by the influences of the Graeco-Latin and the succeeding fifth, sixth and seventh post-Atlantean epochs. Their inner life will be in harmony with what the Earth will have become. The others will perforce remain behind, while formerly they had been free to choose whether they were making themselves fit to go forward with the world's progressive evolution or were neglecting to do so. For the conditions that will prevail after the coming cataclysm, those above all will be well fitted who, in their incarnations between the fifth post-Atlantean epoch and the sixth, succeed in integrating the supersensible wisdom and their own human powers of intelligence and feeling. The fifth and sixth are the decisive epochs. In the seventh, the souls who have reached the evolutionary goal of the sixth [epoch] will go on evolving. For those who have not, even the surrounding world will be too greatly altered; they will find little opportunity to recover their lost ground, and must await a more distant future when the conditions will again be favorable.” — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1979), p. 308; emphases by Steiner.


“A small part of humankind will live toward the sixth main race; a larger part will not yet have found the light within. Because egotism is the fundamental power in the soul, the war of all against all will rage within this larger part of humanity. As the Lemurian race found its end through the power of fire, the Atlantean through water, so will the fifth race find its destruction in conflict between selfish, egoistic powers in the war of all against all. This line of evolution will descend deeper and deeper; when it arrives at the bottom everyone will rage against everyone else. A small part of humankind will escape this, just as a small part escaped during the destruction of the Atlantean race. It is up to every individual to find a connection to the spiritual life in order to be one of those to go over into the sixth root race. Mighty revolutions stand before humankind; they are described in the Apocalypse.” — Rudolf Steiner, READING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE, lecture 3.


“While the head is skillfully engaged in elaborating material things and material phenomena into a materialistic science, the metabolic part of man, which takes hold of the complete human structure, works out the very opposite world-picture; it elaborates a thoroughly spiritualistic world-picture ... But within the metabolic part of man, this influences the instincts and the passions. There it produces the very opposite of what it would produce if it were to claim the whole human being. When it permeates the instincts, ahrimanic powers get hold of it, and then it is not active in a divine-spiritual sense ... [T]he human being then merely makes claims and demands  ... [T]his now appears in the world-historical events. If the development were to continue in this consistent way, we would reach, at the end of the twentieth century, the war of all against all ... We may already see what has thus developed, we may see it raying out from the East and asserting itself over a great part of the earth.” — Rudolf Steiner, "The Remedy for Our Diseased Civilization".


"Our epoch will come to an end through what we call the War of All against All, by frightful devastating moral entanglements.

"We divide this fifth epoch, from the Atlantean flood to the mighty war of All against All, into seven consecutive ages of civilization, as shown in the diagram below.

"At one end we imagine the great Atlantean Flood, at the other the great world war, and we divide this into seven sub-ages, seven periods of civilization. The whole epoch containing these seven sub-ages is again the seventh part of a longer period; so that you have to imagine seven such parts as our epoch between Flood and War, two after the great war and four before the flood. Our epoch, the post-Atlantean, is then the fifth great epoch ...  The seventh age of civilization will run its course before the War of All against All. Here we see this terrible devastation of civilization approaching, we see also the small group of people who have succeeded in taking the spiritual principle into themselves, and are rescued from the general destruction...." — Rudolf Steiner, THE APOCALYPSE OF ST. JOHN (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1958), lecture 3, GA 104.


The War of All Against All will be an all-encompassing cataclysm that will bring the current epoch of Earth evolution to a tortured and convulsive end.

The War of All Against All is not, however, the only apocalyptic war foreseen by Steiner. The War of All Against All will come in what is, to us, the distant future: around the year 7900 AD. But long before then, mankind will have passed through a cataclysmic race war. That earlier showdown will come just before the year 3600 AD, when our current cultural epoch gives way to the next cultural epoch.

To follow all this, you need to understand that Steiner taught that we are evolving through a sequence of seven very long epochs — see the diagram, above. He sometimes called these great epochs. We are currently in the fifth great epoch; the War of All Against All will come at the end of this fifth great epoch. However, Steiner divided our current great epoch into seven brief "cultural epochs" — also called cultural ages or ages of civilization. As the diagram shows, we are currently in the fifth age or civilization within the fifth epoch; or, to use the terms Steiner more often used, we are currently in the fifth cultural epoch within the fifth epoch. The end of the fifth cultural epoch will be marked by a worldwide race war.

“[T]hese things cannot happen in the world without the most violent struggle. White mankind is still on the path of absorbing spirit more deeply into its essence. Yellow mankind is on the path of preserving the [prior] period when the spirit was kept away from the body, when the spirit could only be sought outside of the physical human being. But the result will have to be that the transition from the fifth cultural epoch [i.e., the present] to the sixth cultural epoch cannot happen differently than as a violent fight between white mankind and colored mankind in the most varied areas. And world history will consist of those events that will lead to these battles between white and colored mankind, until the great fight between white and colored mankind has been brought about. Future events are frequently reflected in previous events. You see, we stand before something so colossal that, if we regard it through the diverse perceptions of spiritual science, we will in the future recognize it as a necessary occurrence.” — Rudolf Steiner, DIE GEISTIGEN HINTERGRÜNDE DES ERSTEN WELTKRIEGES {The Spiritual Background of the First World War} (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1974), p. 38, translated by Roger Rawlings, 2010.

Note that the word Steiner uses in this passage is Kulturepoche, literally cultural epoch. Thus, if we take Steiner at his word (always a risky business), we see that he foretold 1) a race war in the relatively near future, when we transition from the fifth to the sixth cultural epoch, and 2) the War of All Against All much further off in the future, when we transition from the fifth to the sixth great epoch. [For more on the nearer-term future, see "Oriphiel".]


[R.R., 2010.]


"Between the Atlantean flood and the great War of All against All man has had to renounce for a time the power to see into the spiritual world. He has had to content himself with seeing only what is around him in the physical world in the so-called waking consciousness. This is now the normal condition. But in its place it has become possible for him fully to develop his self-consciousness, his individual “I,” during this time, to feel himself within his skin as a separate “I”-personality, so to speak. This he has won. Now he also retains this individuality when he again rises into the higher spiritual worlds, and this ascent will be possible to him after the great War of All against All....

"Let us represent the physical plane by this line; above it what is called the spiritual, the heavenly world, and below it what is called the abyss. Man really reaches the line separating the spiritual world from the abyss in the fourth age ... We have now, in fact, reached a point in human evolution — and all that I am saying is in accordance with the apocalyptic presentation — when in a certain way humanity is confronted by the need for a decision. We have already shown that in our age an enormous amount of mental and spiritual energy is used to provide for the lowest needs; we have shown how the telephone, telegraph, railway, steamboat and other things still to come have absorbed a tremendous amount of spiritual force; they are only used for the mere satisfaction of lower human needs. Man, however, has only a certain amount of spiritual force. Now consider the following: Man has used an enormous amount of spiritual force in order to invent and construct telephones, railways, steamboats and airships, in order to further external culture. This has to be so. It would have gone badly with humanity if this had not come about. This spiritual power has also been used for many other things. Only consider how all social connections have gradually been spun into an extremely fine intellectual web. What tremendous spiritual force has been expended so that one may now draw a cheque in America and cash it in Japan. An enormous amount of spiritual force has been absorbed in this activity. These forces had once to descend below the line of the physical plane, so to speak, which separates the spiritual kingdom from the abyss. For in a certain way man has actually already descended into the abyss, and one who studies the age from the standpoint of Spiritual Science can see by the most mundane phenomena how this goes on from decade to decade, how a certain point is always reached where the personality can still keep a hold on itself. If at this point it allows itself to sink down, the personality is lost, it is not rescued and lifted into the spiritual worlds." — Rudolf Steiner, THE APOCALYPSE OF ST. JOHN (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1958), lecture 7, GA 104. 

[For more on Steiner's teachings 

concerning the Abyss, see "Hell".]


An example of an Anthroposophist mulling over 

some Anthroposophical teachings:

"Humanity must acquire the quality of ‘selflessness’ or we will be on the brink of destruction. The ruin of our present Age (the whole of the Post Atlantean Epochs – we are in the 5th of 7 P.A. Epochs) will be caused through a lack of morality = ‘The War Of All, Against All’

"...1911 was the time when the 1st steps were taken towards the ‘smashing of the atom’. At that same time, R.S. [i.e., Rudolf Steiner] spoke of the inevitability of humanity destroying the earth, IF we use a ‘certain force’ more and more

"· In Lemurian times, the forces of passion or rage (astral body) led to the catastrophe of fire 

"· In Atlantean times, there was a misuse of growth and reproductive forces (etheric body), which led to the water catastrophe

"· Now, our misuse of certain new forms of energy (physical body) will lead to ’The War Of All, Against All’

"...In the sphere of Thought, the 3rd World War is in progress now! Millions of dollars are invested in the scientific research and development of protection and counter protection. A battle of thought and presumed-thought

"Technological progress MUST come – it is our challenge to master it

"...The catastrophe of our time cannot be undone or prevented. But, we must work seriously for the future spiritual seed (my comment: pre-imaged in our thoughts now – will actually be reality in the future)

"We must have confidence, hope and trust in the spiritual effectiveness of what we do NOW <-> future

"The Past outer world is our Present inner world 

"The Present outer world will be our Future inner world – is pre-imaged in our thinking now"

— "Weaver", "Re: Apostle Paul versus the Gospels",


Steiner adapted the term "war of all against all" from the philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1670). Hobbes used the term to describe the condition of humanity before civil governments were established. In LEVIATHAN, he wrote,

“The natural social condition is the war of all against all.” 

Steiner, as we have seen, used the term is a very different way.

Here is Steiner's rather backhand acknowledgement of Hobbes:

"[P]eople like Hobbes and [Roger] Bacon, who were establishing the ideas of science, found it impossible to connect man to the spirit and soul of the universe. In Hobbes' case, the result was that, on the one hand, he cultivated the germinal scientific concepts in the most radical way, while, on the other hand, he cast all spiritual elements out of social life and decreed 'the war of all against all.' He recognized no binding principle that might flow into social life from a super-sensible [i.e., spiritual] source...." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ORIGINS OF NATURAL SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1985), lecture 8, GA 326.

Steiner's point, here, is that Hobbes adopted a scientific viewpoint, seeking to explain the phenomena of the natural world without reference to any influences coming from the spirit realm. In this sense, Hobbes — like virtually all natural scientists — was a "materialistic" thinker, tracing cause-and-effect relationships between physical phenomena, attributing events in the physical universe to their physical causes. Such thinking is profoundly blinkered, Steiner argued — it leaves out the real, spiritual causes of all events, and it leads inevitably to such dire ideas as the war of all against all.

Steiner's argument raises several issues that we might discuss at length. Perhaps a few brief comments will suffice, however. It is true that scientists rarely make reference to spiritual causes, but this is not because science automatically dismisses spiritual explanations. The reason, instead, is that science deals with matters that can be clearly known and understood, and spiritual matters rarely meet these requirements. Steiner himself tried to establish a "spiritual science" that would encompass both physical and spiritual phenomena, but his effort — despite the beliefs of his followers — failed. [See "Steiner's 'Science'".]

"Materialistic" thinking produces terrible, unspiritual ideas such as the war of all against all, Steiner said. Yet we should note that it was not Hobbes who "decreed" the war of all against all. Rather, Hobbes described a primitive condition of humanity, a condition that he deplored. In fact, it was Steiner himself who "decreed" a terrible, all-encompassing, global era of strife: It was Steiner who taught that the War of All Against All is coming.

[For more on Steiner's view of science and "materialistic" thinking, see "Science" and "Materialism U."]

— Compilation by Roger Rawlings