"The entire created universe has been brought into being
so that the human being might come into existence."

— Dr. Ronald E. Koetzsch


Remaking the Cosmos

in Our Own Image

This essay, somewhat elementary, was originally written for a different website.

I have modified it slightly for use here.

[Rudolf Steiner Press, 1985.]


Rudolf Steiner claimed that we can find universal truth — knowledge of the cosmos and the spiritual realm — by gazing inwardly. But how can this be? How can we learn about the universe outside ourselves by looking within ourselves? 

Simple. We are microcosms; we contain within ourselves a miniaturized version of the macrocosm or cosmos. We summarize the greater realm that lies outside ourselves, and the greater realm is a reflection of ourselves writ large [1]:

“[W]e find a remarkable correlation between human life, the Microcosm, and the forces working in the great cosmic clock, driving the several planets round the Sun in the Macrocosm.

“In very truth the world is infinitely more complicated than is supposed. Our human nature is comprehensible only if we take account of its kinship with the Macrocosm. Knowing this, spiritual researchers in all epochs have chosen corresponding designations for the Great World and the Little World — the latter being the seemingly insignificant bodily man enclosed within the skin.

[There are correspondences] between the Microcosm (man) and the Macrocosm (the solar system) ... [M]an is born as a Little World, a Microcosm, out of the Great World, the Macrocosm.” [2]

Anthroposophists often assume that Steiner’s doctrines consist primarily of his own original discoveries. The “temperaments” are one example — Anthroposophists sometimes credit Steiner with discovering the four dispositions that supposedly describe all human beings: phlegmatic, choleric, sanguine, and melancholic. [3] The concept of the interlinked microcosm and macrocosm provide another such case; Anthroposophists sometimes assume that Steiner came up with this insight on his own. But in the words we have just read, Steiner himself indicates that the idea comes from ancient times (“spiritual researchers in all epochs have...”), and in this he was correct:

“Microcosm (from Greek mikros kosmos, 'little world'), a Western philosophical term designating man as being a 'little world' in which the macrocosm, or universe, is reflected. The ancient Greek idea of a world soul (e.g., in Plato) animating the universe had as a corollary the idea of the human body as a miniature universe animated by its own soul. The notion of the microcosm dates, in Western philosophy, from Socratic times (Democritus specifically referred to it) — i.e., from the 5th century bc.” [4]

The notion that we are microcosmic copies of the vast cosmos was widespread throughout the Middle Ages; people in those days also believed in the four temperaments. The Middle Ages are sometimes, quite appropriately, referred to as the Dark Ages. Steiner’s doctrines often threaten to renew ancient darkness in our own time.


According to Steiner, we contain it all — everything outside ourselves is reflected inside ourselves. Moreover, we are, in a sense, central to it all. The solar system — physical reality, the universe — pulses in and out of existence for our benefit. Steiner said there will be seven of these great pulses, seven evolutionary stages during which we and the solar system emerge into physical existence and then return to the spirit realm. We have been through three pulses already — called Old Saturn, Old Sun and, and Old Moon. We are currently in the fourth pulse, Present Earth. In the future, there will three more pulses: Future Jupiter, Future Venus, and Future Vulcan. [5] 

We evolve during this process, in accordance with a plan prepared for us by benevolent spiritual beings. Here we see the enormous human self-aggrandizement that lies at the heart of Steiner’s doctrines, Anthroposophy. We are terribly important. The solar system is here for us; in a sense, everything is here for us. Indeed, to find truth, we should study ourselves ("Anthroposophy" — the word means the knowledge of man) instead of God ("Theosophy" —  the knowledge of God, or the gods, or the divine). Steiner did not take human chauvinism entirely over the top — he acknowledged the importance of the many spiritual beings who are more advanced than we are — he said that many of these, indeed, had passed through their own “human” stages and then gone up higher. They are above us. Still, we are in their train; they focus many of their efforts on us; and one day we will equal — and surpass — the best of them. We’re pretty darned hot stuff.

The “correspondences” between ourselves, as microcosm, and the great beyond, as macrocosm, show themselves in many ways, Steiner said. During our earthly lives, our very thoughts link us to the spirits above us, and our thoughts convey down to us the impulses of those spirits. In a sense, we create the gods; in a sense, the gods create us. You can’t really separate us from the central cosmic powers; we are divorced from them while we live in material reality, but not really. "Archetypes” that exist as real beings in the spirit realm inform our minds, just as our minds inform them. 

Here is Steiner discussing what happens to us when we rise into “spiritland” (the level of spiritual existence consisting of pure thought). We do this, sometimes, while we still live on Earth — we do it during sleep, sort of — and we will do it more profoundly following our deaths on Earth:

“In the first region of spiritland man is surrounded by the spiritual archetypes of earthly beings [i.e., spiritual forms that are manifested in Earthly forms]. During life on earth [man] learns to know only the shadows of these archetypes that he grasps in his thoughts. What is merely thought on earth is in this region experienced, lived. Man moves among thoughts, but these thoughts are real beings. What he has perceived with his senses during life on earth acts on him now in its thought form. The thought, however, does not appear as the shadow hiding itself behind the things. It is, on the contrary, the life-filled reality producing the things. Man is, as it were, in the thought workshop in which earthly things are formed and fashioned, because in the land of spirit all is vital activity and mobility. Here the thought world is at work as a world of living beings, creative and constructive. We see how what we have experienced during the earthly existence is constructed. Just as in the physical body we experience the things of the senses as reality, so now, as spirit, we experience the spiritual, constructive forces as real.” [6]


OK. We contain the cosmos. Perhaps even more exciting, we create the cosmos, in a sense. Our heartfelt thoughts rise into the spirit realm and become real beings there — or, at a minimum, true thoughts reverberate back and forth from the astral plane to the Earthly plane, each reflecting and creating the other, in a manner of speaking.

This is, for example, what Shakespeare achieved — his characters, emerging from his imagination (which was informed by the archetypes) live as real beings in the spirit realm. Other, lesser playwrights also create characters that have real existence in the spirit realm, but sometimes only as puppets, sacks of straw, or corpses. We ordinary mortals participate in the creation of these Thought Beings On High when we stage various dramas (if we do it right):

“When you make Shakespearean characters living in that sense [i.e., by enacting them correctly], you can raise them into the supersensible world where they remain living. Of course, they do not do in the higher worlds what they do on the physical plane, but they remain alive, nevertheless, and they act there ... If you take one of Hauptmann’s dramas into the spiritual world, all the characters die. They become simply wooden puppets. The same is also true of Ibsen’s characters. Even Goethe’s Iphigenia does not completely live at the astral plane.  Shakespeare’s characters move about there and do things in the same style, so that it is possible to rewrite a Shakespearean play. We [Waldorf teachers, Anthroposophists] could actually rewrite them all. [7] ... Sophocles and Aeschylus characters, like Prometheus, live in the astral plane. That is also true of Homer’s characters, the figure of Odysseus. The Roman poets are not alive in that way. The French poets, Corneille and Racine, they melt away like dew and simply exist no more. [8] ... Seen from the astral plane, Schiller’s characters, Thekla and Wallenstein are like sacks stuffed with straw ... [E]ven Shakespeare’s most incidental figures are all alive because they arose out of a true desire of the theater. Things that imitate reality no longer live upon the astral plane. Only what arises from emotions and not from the intellect. Vulgarly comical things come to life immediately on the astral plane as they are not created in order to imitate reality.“ [9]

The nature of our thoughts affects what happens and survives in the spirit realm, so we must take care. If we have vulgar thoughts, they spring to life up above, causing who knows how much disruption. We have to take even more care when coming up with truly wicked ideas, such as the concepts of modern technology. The evil we think up here on Earth causes the emergence of evil up above. If we create an overly mechanized, soulless civilization here, the effects with reverberate throughout the universe, which then reflect back woefully on Earth:  

"That is the terrible law of the sounding in unison of vibrations  ... [I]t would become possible to conjure up on the earth a mechanistic system fitting exactly into the mechanistic system [created by our thoughts in] the universe. Through this everything connected with the working of air...and everything connected with the working of the stars, would be exterminated from human civilization. What man experiences, for instance, through the cycle of the year, what he experiences through living together with the sprouting, budding life of spring, with the fading, dying life of autumn — all this would lose its import for him. Human civilization would resound with the clattering and rattling of the vibrating machines and with the echo of this clattering and rattling which would stream down upon the earth from the cosmos as a reaction to this mechanisation of the earth." [10]

We would create a mechanized hell on Earth, which would be reflected in the greater cosmos, which would be re-reflected on Earth.


Perhaps we should step back and try to take in the big picture. To assist us in doing this, I will offer a series of illuminating quotations from MACROCOSM AND MICROCOSM, a book that presents eleven of Steiner’s lectures dealing with the issues we have been considering.

“All Spiritual Science [i.e., Anthroposophy: Steiner's own teachings] is based upon the assumption that underlying the world normally known to us, there is another — the spiritual world. It is in this spiritual world underlying the world of the senses, and in a certain respect also the world of soul [Steiner differentiated spirit from soul], that we have to look for the actual causes and conditions of what takes place in those other worlds [i.e., the spirit world and, secondarily, soul world contain the causes of what happens in the soul world and physical world].” [11]

According to Steiner, the macrocosm consists of multiple worlds. See, e.g., his groundbreaking book HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS. [12] The worlds are arranged hierarchically. You and I currently exist, for the most part, on the physical plane. Below us are strata of subhuman beings, such as nature spirits and subordinate nature spirits (beings that have no real spiritual essence, including beings that were once higher but have degenerated). Above us are the soul world and the spirit world. Souls are temporary incorporeal essences, manifested during various incarnations. (The soul you have now is different from the souls you had, and will have, in other incarnations.) Spirits are immortal incorporeal essences that persist through all incarnations and through our intervening lives in the spirit realm. (Between Earthly lives we have lives among the spirits above the physical world.) Souls have their true existence in the soul world; spirits have their true existence in the spirit world.

There are also various cosmic planes and spheres. The structure of the macrocosm is intricate, and although the macrocosm is an enormously enlarged version of ourselves, human language and human thinking can scarcely do it justice. [See "Higher Worlds".] "Worlds" and "planes" and "spheres" are, in a sense, merely feeble human concepts, inadequate attempts to categorize and clarify matters that transcend ordinary, sublunar categories and clarity. We can know the macrocosm by penetrating to the core of the microcosm, but it isn't easy, and our terms of reference are likely to shift continuously. The terms Steiner used shifted continuously. There are multiple worlds, but also in a sense only one reality. This reality, the cosmos, consists of the world we see and the "world" (worlds) hidden behind a veil.

Knowing the worlds is essential. Steiner's teachings are gnostic — they hinge on the concepts that Truth is hidden from us, and we must acquire the hidden or occult Truth in order to redeem ourselves and evolve properly. [See "Gnosis".] One way to know the macrocosm is through the state of ecstasy. Sadly, however, ecstasy is not good for us.

“Something like a membrane is pierced and we are able to enter the world hidden behind the veil of the sense-perceptions ...  This experience is one that is decidedly not beneficial for human life as a whole; it is the state usually known as ecstasy ... Under certain circumstances this experience of ecstasy can lead a man to a point where he actually has new experiences, experiences by no means of everyday occurrence. Let it again be emphasised that ecstasy in this form should not be regarded as a desirable state ... [An] ecstatic condition can be induced by natural means only if what the man in question calls his Ego, his strong, inner self, through which he holds all his separate experiences together, is, as it were, extinguished ... [I]n ecstasy a man cannot distinguish whether he is having to do with mirage or reality — for on that the Ego alone can decide.” [13] 

We need our Egos, and to some extent we need our sense impressions, so ecstasy is harmful. We break through the veil, but without our higher, inner self in control, so we are confused and cannot distinguish true revelation from fantasy.

Another approach to the macrocosm is available in bed, at night, when we are asleep. 

“What is it that we do in sleep? In sleep we do exactly the same, in a certain respect, as we do in the abnormal state of ecstasy described above ... [T]hrough forgetting his own existence on going to sleep man passes out into the Macrocosm. Every night he passes over from his microcosmic existence into the Macrocosm and becomes one with the latter ... [H]is consciousness ceases the moment he passes into the Macrocosm. That is why it has always been said in occult science that between life in the Microcosm and in the Macrocosm lies the stream of forgetfulness. On this stream of forgetfulness man passes into the Great World, when on going to sleep he passes out of the Microcosm into the Macrocosm.” [14]

Going to the macrocosm at night is helpful in some ways — you return recharged, as it were: You bring back solid knowledge that the macrocosm exists, and you bring energies that help you get through the next day in the dreary physical world. Still, sleep is not the best way to ascend into the macrocosm. The best way is to follow the steps Steiner outlined for attaining spiritual initiation. [See Inside Scoop.] Steiner claimed to offer techniques that enable us to study the spirit realm objectively, in the same dispassionate manner that natural scientists study the physical realm. This is what he meant when, adapting Theosophical teachings and terminology, he called Anthroposophy "spiritual science" or a form of "occult science." By mastering ourselves, we can develop clairvoyant powers that allow us to perceive the macrocosm truly. [See "Knowing the Worlds".] It is surely a beguiling promise. If only... [See "Clairvoyance" and "Fooling (Ourselves)".]


Our relationship with the macrocosm is astrological. Yes, Steiner believed in astrology. [See "Astrology" and "Star Power".] The planets and other orbs in the macrocosm constitute a sort of giant cosmic clock, and we can learn to read the portents and other meanings displayed by this clock.

“[O]ur solar system, with the planets in their different positions and mutual relationships, gives expression to certain macrocosmic powers. From this timepiece of our planetary system we can pass on to contemplate the great spiritual relationships. The position of every planet will become the expression of something lying behind and we shall be able to say that there are reasons for the various relationships in which, for example, Venus stands to Jupiter, and so on. There are actual reasons for saying that these conditions are brought about by divine-spiritual Powers, just as there are reasons for saying that the cosmic timepiece is constructed according to a definite plan. The idea of the planetary movements in the solar system then becomes full of significance.” [15]

Steiner does not, in the text just quoted, discuss horoscopes — he leaves that subject to other times. [See "Horoscopes".] His point here is that the forces driving the planets and other orbs are the same as, or at least similar to, the ones that drive us.

“The force which in the Macrocosm drives Mars around the Sun is similar to the one that sends us to sleep. The force in the Macrocosm which drives Venus around the Sun is similar to the one which regulates the Sentient Soul [the lowest component of our soul nature] by day. Far-off Saturn, with its slight influence, seems to resemble those weak forces that work, in special cases only, upon the Consciousness-Soul [the highest part of our soul nature] in people who are sleep-walkers. And the rotation of the Moon around the Earth is due to a force similar to that which regulates our conscious deeds in waking life ... If we consider, quite superficially, that Saturn is the most remote planet and has accordingly the weakest effect upon our Earth, this can be compared with the fact that the forces of dark Saturn have only a slight effect upon the sleeping human being. And similarly, the force which drives Jupiter around the Sun can be likened to that which penetrates comparatively seldom into our lives, namely, the dream-world.” [16]

There are several points of interest in this passage. There are errors, such as saying that “Saturn is the most remote planet.” In reality, Uranus and Neptune are more distant (as are Pluto and the other minor planets, if we want to count them). Steiner should have known this — he was, after all, clairvoyant. Steiner also says that different forces drive the various planets, when in fact they all move in accordance to the laws of celestial mechanics and the force of gravity, which are the same throughout the solar system (although Steiner denied that gravity exists in some neighborhoods). [17] At least Steiner here speaks of the planets revolving around the Sun, something he denied at other times. [18]

The point of all this, Steiner says, is that “we shall learn to recognize not only the planets as the hands of the great cosmic clock but also the actual Beings [i.e., gods] who have brought the whole solar system into movement, who guide the planets round the Sun and prove to be akin to what goes on in the human being himself. And so we shall come to understand how man is born as a Little World, a Microcosm, out of the Great World, the Macrocosm.” [19]


I mentioned that our universe pulses in and our of physical existence. We need to take care using words like “physical” and “material.” According to Steiner, our existence didn’t include truly materialized substances until we lived on the lost continent of Lemuria [see "Lemuria"], and it it will cease being recognizably material in the none-too-distant future. Prior to Lemuria, we and our universe were less dense or hardened than we became later; and in the future, we and everything around us will grow less dense again. It all centers on us. The macrocosm exists for the benefit of the microcosm, and the evolution of the macrocosm reflects the evolution of the microcosm.

Various spiritual Beings shepherded macro and micro into being. They led us through the stages called Old Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon. These were evolutionary periods when particular planetary spirits or gods, assisted by the generality of heavenly hosts, fostered our development:

“Old Saturn issued directly from the spirit. [sic: emphasis by Steiner] Therefore we can understand the origin of our Earth by going back to the spirit [i.e., the spiritual powers] — not to a cosmic nebula, but to the spirit, and by picturing how the beginning of Earth-evolution originated from the combined work of spiritual Beings.

“With this in mind we can understand why it is said in my book, OCCULT SCIENCE, that certain Spirits, the Spirits of Will, let their own essence stream forth. [An alternative explanation is that Steiner’s book says this because Steiner wrote it that way.] The Spirits of Personality and then other spiritual Beings worked with them. Read what is said in that book of spiritual Beings who let their deeds flow together in the Macrocosm and through these convergent streams Old Saturn came into existence. We see here that questioning ceases to have meaning when the point is reached of explaining how the physical originates from the spiritual. For if we want eventually to behold the spiritual Beings who confront us, we no longer ask, ‘Why?’ in the ordinary way. A lover of abstractions can go on asking ‘why?’ ad infinitum ... [W]hen great cosmic truths are presented, questioning ceases to have meaning at a certain point. [Steiner often stressed this: Stop asking questions, especially about spiritual origins; conveniently for Steiner, this means we should stop questioning Steiner.]  ... Facts widely dispersed in the Macrocosm have been brought together and we have seen how in a far distant past man himself, the Microcosm, developed through the stages of Old Saturn, Old Sun and Old Moon. On the Earth he has reached a provisional termination in his present development.” [20]

After each stage in this evolution, the entire solar system pulses back out of “material” existence when we have evolved as far as we can during that stage. 

Once we got to Earth as we know it now (the evolutionary stage called "Present Earth"), we passed through a couple of rather nonmaterial stages before entering the Lemurian stage. There, minerals or physical substances developed, and we thus were able to have physical bodies for the first time. “[W]hen we descend as far as to the physical body we come upon the mineral kingdom and pass into it. Not indeed into the mineral kingdom as it is now, but as it was at the time when it came into existence in the ancient Lemurian epoch.” [21]

The process through which we and the solar system assumed hard material embodiments will reverse before long, and everything will slowly soften and evaporate, returning to a purely nonphysical existence. Much of this process will depend on ourselves, since we are the only guys who can annihilate matter in this condition of existence:

“In man alone is matter cast out by pure thought. That matter which is actually cast out of the human being by pure thought is also annihilated, it passes into nothingness. [sic: emphases by Steiner] In man therefore is a place in the universe where matter ceases to exist ... Here is the earth, and on the earth, man; into man passes matter. Everywhere else it is transmuted, transformed. In man it is annihilated. The material earth will pass away as matter is gradually destroyed by man. When, someday, all the substance of the earth will have passed through the human organism, being used there for thinking, the earth will cease to be planetary body.” [22]

There is, in a sense, a greater universe beyond our macrocosm. If by "macrocosm" we mean, as Steiner indicated, the solar system, then the great universe beyond stands outside the macrocosm. Indeed, Steiner taught that various ranks of gods came into existence long before we first appeared. Their origins came before the beginning of our macrocosm, the first incarnation of our solar system, the period called Old Saturn. The gods beyond our macrocosm focus much of their effort and attention on us, but our absolute centrality is strongest within our own solar system. This system came into existence when we first appeared, and it exists for us. In a sense, it exists because of us, and it will cease to exist when we have no more need of it. We will begin dispensing with it when we begin annihilating its physical existence. We will abolish matter, reformulating the macrocosm in higher form. Here’s how one expert Steiner interpreter has put it. Speaking of the coming or seventh epoch of our evolution, Richard Seddon explains:  “This epoch completes [i.e., will complete] the physical condition of form of the earth [i.e., the physical existence of the Earth], which must then be entirely transmuted into astral form [i.e., it will become incorporeal]. But only in human beings is matter annihilated. So it must all be absorbed by us — we must not despise matter, but unite with it. Lemuria, when matter first solidified, is thus redeemed.” [23]


Steiner’s conception of humanity was grandiose in the extreme. We constitute one of ten celestial powers; and we will give rise to two more:

“At the beginning of the Christian era there was an esoteric School which adopted the following names for the Spiritual Beings corresponding to the zodiacal constellations: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Kyriotetes, Dynamis, Exusiai, then Archai (Primal Beginnings or Spirits of Personality), then Archangels and Angels. The tenth category is Man himself at his present stage of evolution. These names denote ten ranks. Man, however, develops onwards and subsequently reaches stages already attained by other Beings. Therefore one day he will also be instrumental in forming an eleventh and a twelfth category. In this sense we must think of twelve spiritual Beings.” [24] Steiner did not always use the names listed here, but he affirmed the existence of this hierarchy. [25] Anthroposophy is a polytheistic faith, and these are its gods (often referred to by other names). [See "Polytheism".]

In our evolution, we will ascend higher and higher into the macrocosm — upward through higher and higher conditions of divinity. We are not yet gods, but we will evolve to become gods, and indeed the very existence of some types of gods (the eleventh and twelfth ranks) will depend on us. We are at the heart of the macrocosm, and there is almost no limit to our future capacity (although it may exceed Steiner’s powers of description):

“The Beings, the spiritual Hierarchies, their correspondences with the zodiacal constellations...all this is presented in detail in the chapter on the evolution of the world in the book OCCULT SCIENCE — AN OUTLINE, and we can now understand the deeper reasons for that chapter having been written in the way it has. It describes the Macrocosm as it should be described. Any real description must go back to the spiritual Beings. I tried in the book OCCULT SCIENCE to give guiding lines for the right kind of description of the World of Spirit — the world entered when there has been an actual ascent into the Macrocosm.

“This ascent into the Macrocosm can of course proceed to still higher stages, for the Macrocosm has by no means been exhaustively portrayed by what has here been said. Man can ascend into even higher worlds; but it becomes more and more difficult to convey any idea of these worlds. The higher the ascent, the more difficult this becomes.” [26]

Our ultimate destination is almost inconceivably stupendous:

“In individual human beings there lives a drop of divinity, and we are evolving towards the divine level, on the way to expressing our deepest, innermost nature. Once we have brought our deepest, innermost nature to expression we shall have gradually achieved the transformation of our own being into what is called in Christianity ‘the Father.’ What lies hidden in the human soul, the highest goal that lies ahead of us, is ‘the Father in Heaven’.” [27]

This is perhaps the best summary of Steiner’s view of human nature. Each of us is a microcosm because each of us has, deep within, a drop or seed of divine nature. This seed contains, in rudimentary form, all the essence of the macrocosm; when the seed is cultivated and germinates, the whole macrocosm grows within us. As we evolve, manifesting more and more of the macrocosm at greater and greater levels of spiritual profundity, our divinity expands exponentially — we become gods, like all the gods that are above us in the macrocosmic hierarchy — and then we will evolve upward through the divine ranks until we become God the Father.

People of faith may find Steiner’s vision difficult or impossible to reconcile with their own beliefs. Secularists may consider it phantasmagoric, self-aggrandizing nonsense. But there it is, take it or leave it.


Are we, in fact, microcosms? Is everything out there contained, in miniature form, inside ourselves? 

To attempt an answer, we may need to differentiate, again, between various points of view. For most people who subscribe to a monotheistic faith, God is the center; He does not depend on us, in any fashion; He certainly is not what we will become; He is the center, and all else depends on him. In some sense, some of His essence may be within us (“the god within”), but by no means is all of His essence or all of His creation within us. God and His creation exceed our understanding and our nature.

Most people who subscribe to polytheistic faiths would say the same, more or less, except that they would substitute a plural noun, gods, for the singular noun, God.

For secularists, the matter is more complicated. For us, it is too soon to reach a conclusion — we simply don’t have enough information to give a firm answer. Science has not yet learned enough about the universe as a whole, and it hasn’t even learned enough about human nature. Perhaps someday science will produce enough information so that a firm answer will be possible, but until then all we can say with confidence is that we don’t know. A significant corollary, however, is that probably R. Steiner did not know enough, either. 

In one — probably limited — sense, we do have deep ties to the cosmos around us. The materials out of which we are made, and the laws of physics that affect us, are — so far as we know — identical to material and laws that exist elsewhere in the cosmos. Indeed, the atoms in our bodies come from distant stars that exploded, creating new forms of matter that they hurled into the cosmic ocean. Astronomer Carl Sagan famously said: “The fate of individual human beings may not now be connected in a deep way with the rest of the universe, but the matter out of which each of us is made is intimately tied to the processes that occurred immense intervals of time and enormous distances in space away from us. Our Sun is a second- or third-generation star. All of the rocky and metallic materials we stand on, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interiors of a red giant star. We are made of star-stuff.” [28]

But this is a long way from claiming that we contain within ourselves everything that exists outside ourselves. If our bodies consist of atoms created by stars that went nova, we contain tiny bits of matter from far, far away. But we do not contain the imprint of the stars as they were before they burst, nor do we contain the stars themselves. As for spiritual essence — the subject Steiner cared most about — if speaking of the spirits of stars has any meaning, we cannot say with any confidence that the stars' "spirits" entered us along with their atoms. The universe described by science is far vaster than the fairly small neck of the woods Steiner usually had in mind when speaking of the macrocosm. We are citizens of the vast universe, but an honest appraisal of our condition tells us that we are bit players in the wings, not the central characters in the drama. Most of the universe exists at almost inconceivably great distances from us, and as far as we can tell our existence has no bearing on the events occurring on other planets, and around other stars, and within other galaxies.

We can say with great confidence that, purely in terms of cosmic geography, we are not at the center of anything. We are not at the center of our solar system, or our galaxy, or the “local group” of galaxies, or the enormous multitude of galaxies that constitute the visible universe. The total number of galaxies is incalculable, but it is absolutely gigantic — perhaps much greater than the number of stars in the Milky Way. One authoritative estimate is that there may be 500 hundred billion galaxies [29], compared to 100 billion stars in the Milky Way. [30] The Milky Way, our own galaxy, is about 100,000 light years in diameter. [31] A light year is about 13,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles [32]; so the Milky Way way is about 1,300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles across. We occupy a small planet circling a small star in an out-of-the way arm of the Milky Way. We are about 21,000 light years from the center of the Milk Way. [33] We live far out in the sticks.

If we confine our discussion to the solar system, as Steiner often did, we are still not central, although we live in the inner precincts of the system. Two planets — Mercury and Venus — are nearer the Sun than our Earth is. The center of the system is occupied by the Sun itself, which is 93,000,000 miles from Earth. We are, in other words, 93,000,000 miles from the center.

But numbers are just numbers, quantities. What about qualities? Was Steiner right that we human beings have spiritual qualities that tie us to the spiritual essences of the macrocosm? Do the planets have spirits? Do we have the Saturn spirit within ourselves? The Jupiter spirit? The Mars spirit? Are these questions even meaningful? Probably not.

In positing a central role for humanity, Steiner merely reframed a claim that humans have long made: We are special, we are the plum, the crown of physical creation, and we are far superior to the lowly beings who share our planet, the mere animals. We are, in brief, It. But there’s a contradiction built into this claim: If we contain all essences, we should contain animal essences, so there might not really be much difference between ourselves and the “lower” animals. But for time out of mind, humans have insisted on the distinction between our wonderful selves and all other Earthly life forms. We have been so very insistent about this, one might almost conclude that we don't feel very confident about it. Perhaps we doth protest too much?

Our efforts to prove our elevated status have not been particularly successful or, indeed, logical. While often claiming to epitomize creation —claiming, in one way or another, to be microcosms — we have often made the incompatible claim that we are unique. Thus, at various times we have argued that of all beings on Earth, only we can fashion and use tools, or think, or have emotions. One by one, each of these claims has been disproved. [34] One of the last hopes for our perhaps desperate attempts at self-aggrandizement lies in the claim that our brains are incomparably better than the brains of any lower animals. But science has called this claim into question.

Let's back into this question through Steiner's teachings. Steiner taught that the difference between humans and animals is great. He said that most animals were created by human beings ridding themselves of animal essences: “At a particular stage in their earthly development, human beings, to develop further, needed to rid their nature, which then was much different than it is now, of the higher animals." [35] This was his conception of Earthly evolution: The animals were cast out of our essence; we certainly did not evolve from the animals. So, although we are microcosms, we are unique.

When we had "rid" ourselves of the the animals that had been within us, we stood alone, with our big, fine brains. Correspondences to the animals remained in our nature (we are microcosms), but we distinguished ourselves as superior, centrally significant beings (we are unique). Steiner ascribed only limited importance to the brain [see "Steiner's Specific"], but still he said that our human brains are quite wonderful. “[T]he human brain, indeed the whole system of nerves and senses, is a replica of an Imaginative element [i.e., a divine or divinely human Thought]. We completely grasp the wonderful structure of the human brain only when we learn to investigate Imaginatively [i.e., using clairvoyance]. Then, the human brain appears as a realized human Imagination.” [36] This is yet another example of how, according to Steiner, our thoughts create realities: Our own thoughts create our brains, as it were. If we think with our brains, this becomes a chicken-and-egg paradox. But remember that Steiner said that real cognition doesn’t occur in our brains but in our “organs of clairvoyance” — real thoughts come to us from the cosmic spirits — so the problem is resolved. [See "Thinking".]

Whether or not we think with our brains, there can be little doubt that — judged by our own standards — we humans are much smarter than any other earthly creatures. But if “intelligence” is defined in ways that do not automatically flatter humans, the issue becomes quite interesting. Let’s briefly consider the structure of our brains as compared to the brains of whales and dolphins. By some accounts, these creatures have brains that are not only larger than ours but more complex in various ways. “By far the most striking characteristic of the structure of the dolphin brain is the organization of the neocortex ... It is the part of the brain generally understood to be responsible for higher cognitive functions including...reasoning, thinking, planning, and so on. The human neocortex is highly convoluted, or folded on itself ... Dolphins actually have more wrinkles in their neocortex than humans do.” [37] If convolutions of the neocortex are an indicator of intelligence, and if we share our world with beings who have neocortexes more convoluted than our own, then...

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not seriously arguing that whales and dolphins are smarter than we are. But the absolute difference between us and them may be much smaller than we like to pretend. Whales and dolphins often do very stupid things, such as beaching themselves for no good reason (or no good reason that we can understand, anyway). But consider human history. How many times have we done extremely stupid, self-destructive things? A better question might be, how often have we refrained from doing extremely stupid, self-destructive things? 

I’ll conclude this way: We are great. We are wonderful. But our species chauvinism — our insistence on our own marvelousness — may not be quite as justified as we pretend. Here’s a little thought experiment. Imagine that someday a starship arrives, piloted by super-smart creatures from some distant world. [38] Now imagine trying to explain human history and knowledge to them. They would grasp our bloody history, presumably — all our wars and genocides and atrocities. But they would probably be aghast. As for our sciences, they would probably grasp them very easily — although they might be surprised at how trivial our attainments in these fields are. Now, imagine trying to explain Anthroposophy to them. Imagine trying to explain to them that we are microcosms, the centers of creation, the most marvelous of all created beings, on our way to becoming God the Father. After they stopped laughing, they would probably pat us on the head and then fly away, still looking for signs of intelligent life in this corner of the universe. As for us on our little, rocky world, they would probably chalk it up as the home of delusional primitives, perhaps worth investigating again in a few millennia.

Hubble photograph, NASA.

There are billions upon billions of galaxies.

Our galaxy, the Milky Way,

is a perfectly fine little galaxy,

but it is just one among a vast swarm of galaxies.

An important lesson each child learns is that s/he is not the center of the universe. We don’t like this lesson; solipsism is more attractive to the human ego. I, me, my. ME!!!

Parents must lovingly help each child learn that it isn’t all about him or her. Each of us is precious; life is wonderful. But none of us is the center of the universe.

Humanity as a whole has had to learn the same lesson. The Earth is not the center of the solar system. The solar system is not the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The Milky Way galaxy is not the center of the universe. That’s how it is. We want to be the center, but we are not.

Humanity is wonderful. Our lives are rich; our potential is great. But we are not the center of the universe. Humanity has learned this lesson, grudgingly, gradually. But we have learned it. We no longer burn at the stake iconoclasts who deny that the Earth is the center of everything. We’ve grown up.

Most of us have, anyway. But not Anthroposophists. Steiner’s fairy tale, Anthroposophy, insists on the ancient, ignorant belief that we are central. This is a medieval fallacy, a pathetic fantasy, a delusion. It is benighted. It is Anthroposophy.

"[T]he human being is not an accident, the chance product of an impersonal, mechanistic evolutionary process. We are not the descendant of lower primates, not just a hairy ape. The human being is the crowning jewel of creation. The entire created universe has been brought into being so that the human being might come into existence." [Ronald E. Koetzsch, Ph.D., "Anthroposophy 101". Koetzsch is an Anthroposophist connected with the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America.]

Dr. Koetzsch's statement is a nice summary of the Anthroposophical view, or at least one version of one part of it. His statement also allows us to recognize the deep human desire behind such a view. None of us wants to be an accident. None of us wants to be a mere "hairy ape" (or a hairless ape, come to that). We would all love to think we are the "crowning jewel of creation" and that the "entire created universe" was made for our benefit. We all know what it means to our egos to have these wishes. The question, however, is whether these are more than mere wishes.

"To grasp the world, look into your inner self.

To grasp the human being, look into the world."

— Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 54.

[My sketch of Steiner's sketch, 2009.]

T = thinking

F = feeling

W = will

blue spirals = universal knowledge of the past

orange spirals = universal knowledge of the future

The notion that we can see outward by looking inward is a key belief of romanticism, both the movement that flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries, and its predecessors reaching far back into the human past. We prize ourselves as we hope God prizes us. We congratulate ourselves by feeding our individual and shared egos. The impulse is understandable. The alternative vision — that we are small and insignificant — is almost unbearable. But there is no true dignity or solace to be found in telling ourselves self-deceiving stories.


Like many German philosophers and thinkers, Steiner placed great emphasis on the will or willpower.  He said it is a faculty that must be strengthened. It is the reflection of Atma, the spark of divine creativity within us. By developing the will, we develop our ability to freely choose to lose ourselves in the Godhead. Our centrality then will reach its ultimate expression.

“That which becomes the force of Atma is, in so far as it is a force emanating from the Godhead, of a volitional nature. If you pause to reflect upon your own power of volition, upon your will power, then you have a pale copy, a pale reflection of that which proceeds from the force of Atma, from the Godhead. Will is the power or force which is least developed to-day. The will, however, has the potentiality to grow increasingly in strength until a time will come when it reaches its maximum potentiality, when it will be able to attain its goal, which the religions call the ‘Great Sacrifice’.” [39]

We give up ourselves in order to realize ourselves, our potential, our godliness.  We perform an act of creation like that which is usually credited to God. The “Great Sacrifice” is “the great offering, signifying the will-power to sacrifice oneself completely, not merely in the driblets we are capable of giving away with our present puny feelings and will forces, but to sacrifice our whole being, allowing it all, right down to our material substance, to flow away." [40] 

“You get an idea of what is meant by this great sacrifice, the highest expression of will in divine nature, if you picture it like this. Imagine yourself standing in front of a mirror in which your image looks back at you. The image is an illusory picture resembling you completely. Now imagine yourself dying by sacrificing your own existence, your feeling, your thought, your very being into that image, so as to make it into what you yourself are. This phenomenon of sacrificing oneself and giving one’s life to an image is what spiritual science of all ages has called the ‘outpouring’, the ‘emanation’ ... When the will has reached this level of being capable of making the great sacrifice it creates a universe, great or small, and this universe is an image whose mission is given it by the person who has created it.” [41]

Our willpower affects our physical behavior and motions; it is directly tied to our limbs. The following is a bit hard to comprehend, but according to Steiner a person’s willpower moves the limbs which, in that person’s next incarnation, will become the head, and the willpower will then become the thoughts in the head. Putting this in perhaps more sensible terms, we might say that we create our future mental reality through the acts of willpower we perform in the present.

“[T]he organization of the human head is constructed in such a way as to be specially capable of taking in thought from the world. It is formed indeed from thought. It points at the same time to our previous existence on earth. We know that the head is really the result, the metamorphosed result of the previous life, while the organization of the human limbs points to a future life on earth. Roughly speaking, we have our head because our limbs have been metamorphosed from the previous life into the head. The limbs we now have, with everything belonging to them, will be metamorphosed into the head we shall carry in our next earth-life. At present, in our life between birth and death, thoughts function in our head. These thoughts, as we have also seen, are the reshaping of what functioned as will in our limbs in our previous existence. And again, what functions as will in our present limbs will be reshaped and changed into thoughts in our next life on earth.

“The will thus appears as the seed, as it were, of thought. What is at first will becomes thought later on. If we look at ourselves as human beings with heads, we must look back to our past, for in this past we had the character of will. If we look into the future, we must take into account the character of will in our present limbs and must say: This is what in future will become our head: thinking man. But we continually carry both these in us. We are created out of the universe because thought from a previous age is organized in us in conjunction with will, which leads over into the future.” [42]

Will creates our future, the universe we inhabit in our next life. Specifically, it creates our next physical reality. “[M]atter is the outer side of will. Within, matter is will, as light is thought. From outside, will is matter, as thought is outwardly light. For this reason I pointed out tin former addresses: If man dives down mystically into his will-nature, then those who only toy with Mysticism and really only strive after a sensuous experience of their Ego and of the worst egoism, believe they will find the spirit. But if they went far enough with this introspection, they would discover the true material nature of man's interior. For it is nothing less than a diving down into matter. If you dive down into the will-nature, you will find the true nature of matter. The scientific philosophers of today are only telling fairy-stories when they talk about matter consisting of molecules and atoms. You find the true nature of matter by diving down mystically into yourself. There you find the other side of will, and that is matter. And in this matter, that is in Will, is revealed finally the continually beginning, continually germinating world.” [43]

During our earthly lives, we exist in the physical world, obviously, but we also exist in other worlds. Our “etheric bodies” exist in the elemental world, the realm of elemental beings or nature spirits. Other portions of our being exist in higher realms. In order to keep our wits in other worlds, we must strengthen our will.

“The soul that has become clairvoyant may say to itself within the spiritual world: ‘In the physical world I am confined to what my physical body allows me to observe; in the elemental world I am limited by my etheric body; in the spiritual world I am restricted by finding myself, as it were, upon an island in the universe and by feeling my spiritual existence bounded by the shores of that island. Beyond them is a world which I should be able to perceive if I were to work my way through the veil which is woven before the eyes of my spirit by the actions of living thought-beings.’ Now the soul is indeed able to work its way through this veil, if it continues to develop further and further the faculty of self surrender which is already necessary for its life in the elemental world. It is under the necessity of still further strengthening the forces which accrue to it from experience in the physical world, in order to be guarded in supersensible worlds from having its consciousness deadened, clouded, or even annihilated. In the physical world the soul, in order to experience thoughts within itself, has need only of the strength naturally allotted to it apart from its own inner work. In the elemental world thoughts, which immediately on arising fall into oblivion, are softened down to dreamlike experience, i.e. do not come into the consciousness at all, unless the soul, before entering this world, has worked on the strengthening of its inner life. For this purpose it must specially strengthen the will-power, for in the elemental world a thought is no longer merely a thought; it has an inner activity, or life of its own. It has to be held fast by the will if it is not to leave the circle of the consciousness. In the spiritual world thoughts are completely independent living beings. If they are to remain in the consciousness, the soul must be so strengthened that it develops within itself and of itself the force which the physical body develops for it in the physical world, and which in the elemental world is developed by the sympathies and antipathies of the etheric body. It must forgo all this assistance in the spiritual world.” [44]

In one — and perhaps only one — sense Steiner’s teachings on these matters are true. We will “see” what he wants us to see only if we will ourselves to do so; only by willfully beating down all obstacles of rationality and clarity can we have the fantastical visions he offers us.

— Roger Rawlings

For more about our central role
and august destiny,
please see "Tenth Hierarchy".

“You look upon the plant and say to yourself: I am a being of which on the earth I see only a reflection. The more I turn my gaze to the stars, the more do I see the true being up there. Nature only reveals itself to me in its wholeness when I look up from the earth to the stars, when I see the earth as one with the cosmos. Then I look back at myself as a human being and say to myself: That in the plant which reaches up to the sky is what here on earth I have in me compressed together. As a human being I bear within myself the physical, the soul, [and] the spiritual world."  — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 163. [R.R, sketch, 2009, based on Steiner's. Whether Steiner's illustrations clarify his words is, perhaps, doubtful.]


The center,

the mandala,

the heart,

the flower,

the microcosm.

[R.R., ~1964-5.

This is the only drawing I still possess that I created

while a Waldorf student or immediately thereafter.]

Here are a few items from the Waldorf Watch "news" page:

“The universe may glitter with far more stars than even Carl Sagan imagined when he rhapsodized about billions upon billions. A new study suggests there are a mind-blowing 300 sextillion of them, or three times as many as scientists previously calculated. That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros. Or 3 trillion times 100 billion. The estimate, contained in a study published online Wednesday in the journal NATURE, is based on findings that there are many more red dwarf stars — the most common star in the universe — than once thought. But the research goes deeper than that. The study by Yale University astronomer Pieter van Dokkum and Harvard astrophysicist Charlie Conroy questions a key assumption that astronomers often use: that most galaxies have the same properties as our Milky Way. And that conclusion is deeply unsettling to astronomers who want a more orderly cosmos.”  [12-1-2010  http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101202/ap_on_sc/us_sci_starry_night]

Steiner taught that we live in a highly orderly universe — a snug little place that revolves around us. The entire created universe, he taught, was created for our benefit. [See “The Center”.] Steiner also taught that conventional science would soon confirm the findings of his “spiritual science.” But this has not happened. If Steiner's teachings were ever credible (and, sadly, they never really were), they are far less so now. Every day, humanity’s store of knowledge increases, and every day our accumulating knowledge takes us farther from Steiner’s imaginary anthropocentric universe.

Is this depressing? Does it mean that we are unimportant? Does it mean that God does not love us? No, it does not necessarily mean anything of the sort. Our lives are just as important and precious now as they ever were. But we do not increase our stature by believing fantasies about ourselves. And Steiner offered us nothing but fantasies.

By the way, since “3 followed by 23 zeros” is hard to visualize, I thought I’d type it out for you: 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. In other words, our Sun represents 1/300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000th of the stars in the universe, give or take.

Is this depressing? No. If our lives have value, if we are important, indeed if God loves us, the miracle of our existence is only magnified by comprehending (to whatever degree we can) the true extent and majesty of our home, the real universe.

P.S. Anthroposophists have sometimes taken me to task for using expressions like "if God loves us." They say that I am hypocritical for referring to God when I, a professed agnostic, don't believe in God. But agnosticism is not atheism. I don't claim that God does not exist; I simply admit that I don't know whether God exists. I'm prepared to acknowledge that God exists, if anyone can prove it. But meanwhile, gentle reader, I say things like "if God loves us" because, a) I know that some of you think God does love us, and I don't want to overlook your point of view, and b) I am open to the possibility that God both exists and loves us; I just don't want to claim knowledge that I do not possess. I certainly hope that whatever powers exist within and possibly beyond the universe love us; and I certainly accept the beautiful profundity of Jesus's teaching that we should love one another, even our "enemies." Steiner taught that he and his noble band of followers are surrounded by dreadful enemies. [See "Enemies".] I think we should set such thinking aside and recognize one another as fellow seekers of the truth. If God or the gods or the powers-that-be loved us, and if we loved one another, imagine what we might achieve.

◊◊◊ • ◊◊◊

“The essential difference between animal and man is, according to Steiner, the fact that the human being possesses a fourth member [in addition to physical, etheric, and astral bodies] — the ‘ego’ or ‘I.’ The ego represents the factor of individualization, that which guarantees the uniqueness of every man, woman and child. The word ‘I’ is itself unique in that no person can use it to designate another.” — Waldorf teacher Gilbert Childs, STEINER EDUCATION IN THEORY AND PRACTICE (Floris Books, 1991), p. 27. 

This is what passes, in Anthroposophy, as a profound insight. Here is Steiner’s original formulation of the point about the wonderful term "I": "I am an I only to myself; to every other being I am a you.” — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1979), p. 49.

Steiner's statement is true, as far as it goes. Yet what is it except a self-evident point about pronouns? As for the “profundity” of this “insight “— it is minimal. Most children grasp the essential distinction between "me" and "you" quite early.

I don't mean to trivialize. We are touching, here, on the central appeal of Anthroposophy (and many other anthropocentric ideologies). Humans are often wracked with doubt verging on despair. We are often unsure that our lives have meaning or value; we often feel small and insignificant, tiny residents in a vast, impersonal universe. How delightful it is to be told that each of us is a precious, unique individual of tremendous importance. Delightful. Alluring. Seductive. But before we build our lives around any particular ideology, no matter how alluring, we should make sure that the ideology in question makes sense. Is it grounded in reality? Are its component parts true? Anthroposophical notions about the marvelous, unique individuality of the human "I" — central though they are to the Anthroposophical worldview — collapse on close inspection.

Let's return to "the essential difference between animal and man." Steiner and Childs are simply, factually wrong about this subject. Animals are individuals. No two dogs, or cats, or parakeets, or cows, or horses, are entirely alike. Some are smarter, stronger, bigger, braver than others. Moreover, we have clear evidence that many types of animals comprehend themselves as individuals. Dolphins and chimpanzees, for instance, recognize themselves when looking into mirrors. Moreover, chimps and gorillas who have learned sign language (consider how much intelligence this requires) tell us about their desires, their wishes, their thoughts. We are smarter than they are — their thought usually seem juvenile to us — but they are sentient beings, individuals.

The chief problem with Waldorf schooling is that — like the ideology behind it — it is detached from reality. It is a jumble of fantasies, delusions, and “truths” that crumble when we examine them. Anthroposophists desperately want to believe that human beings stand at the center of the universe — they want to believe that we humans are incomparably more wondrous than any other form of life in the material universe. We can all sympathize with this desire. [See "Center" and "Tenth Hierarchy".] But humanity cannot elevate itself by telling itself lies. We must build our philosophies on the firm foundation of solid truth. Sadly, Waldorf education is built on the shifting sands of half-truths and untruths.

◊◊◊ • ◊◊◊

“Not only does [a] purifying and ennobling process continue throughout a single lifetime, but through many, as the ego evolves to higher and higher stages of development through successive lives or re-embodiments ... [T]he twin concepts of reincarnation and karma or destiny are central to [Steiner’s] spiritual-scientific system.” — Gilbert Childs, STEINER EDUCATION IN THEORY AND PRACTICE (Floris Books, 1991), p. 28.  

There is no science in Anthroposophy (i.e., “spiritual science”). And, sadly, there is very little real spirit in it, either.

Anthroposophists disparage reality, calling the physical universe a “materialistic” sphere of entropy and death. They want to inhabit a higher, immaterial universe of living spirits. Probably most human beings can sympathize with this aspiration. We all want meaning and magic in our lives. But unless we open our eyes to factual truth — what we might call reality — the aspiration in and of itself will get us nowhere. Consider. We know for certain that some forms of life exist: ourselves, dogs, cats, whales, cattle, horses... And where do they exist? Right here, in the real, physical universe.

And what about spirit? Do we know for certain that some forms of spirit exist? Of course. The spirit of friendship, the spirit of love, the spirit of mercy, the spirit of honesty, the spirit of truthfulness, the spirit of reverence... And where do these forms of spirit exist? Right here, in the real, physical universe; they exist in the hearts and minds that we, as real forms of life, possess.

To anyone who wishes for a universe of living spirit, I would say: Open your eyes. It is right here. It is all around you. In the real, physical universe. You don't need to flee to your fantasies; stand instead, proudly, on fact.

◊◊◊ • ◊◊◊

Anthroposophists often quote Steiner as saying that the gods worship us. For instance, "[H]igher beings, the gods, also have a religion: they too look up to something in awe and reverence. What is this religion of the gods? What is it that the gods revere? It is man. Man is the religion of the gods." — Rudolf Steiner, quoted by Charles Kovacs, THE SPIRITUAL BACKGROUND TO CHRISTIAN FESTIVALS (Floris Books, 2007), pp. 72-73.

Steiner's doctrines certainly attribute to humanity a central, august place in the great scheme of things: “The aim of the creative activity of the Gods is the Ideal Man. That Ideal Man does not really come to life in physical man as he is at present, but in the noblest spiritual and soul life that is possible through the perfect development and training of aptitudes which this physical man has within him. Thus a picture of Ideal Man is ever present to the mind of the Gods. This is the religion of the Gods.” —  Rudolf Steiner, THE INNER NATURE OF MAN AND LIFE BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH (Kessinger Publishing, 1998), p. 18.

We can all sympathize with the desire to believe that God loves us — or that the gods do. We all want to believe that we are important, that our lives have meaning and value, that what we think and do is significant. We want to assure ourselves that we are not mere assemblages of dust, not robots made out of meat, not naked monkeys. We quite rightly want to deny that our lives are random, empty affairs that end quickly and pointlessly. Such ideas appall us. No! We are important! Our lives are important!

This deeply felt human desire explains the appeal of Anthroposophy. Not only are we important, Steiner taught — we stand at the absolute center of the created universe. Everything revolves around us; everything was made for us. Verily, the gods lavish their care and concern on us.

These are alluring ideas, certainly. But are they based on anything except our fear that, actually, we are small and ephemeral? Are they anything more than rather pathetic attempts to prop up our frail egos, telling ourselves lies about ourselves?

History shows that for millennia, we have told ourselves such lies. The Earth is the center of the universe. The Sun orbits the Earth. We are wholly superior in all ways to all the other creatures who share our planet. Most assuredly we did not evolve from apes.

History also shows that, gradually, we have had to wean ourselves from such beliefs. It is still hard for us to let these ideas go, but let them go we must. And as we toss them away, we need to toss out Anthroposophy as well. It is merely one of the more recent versions of our ancient self-deceiving misconceptions about ourselves.

But where does this leave us? Does this mean that our lives are meaningless and we ourselves are unimportant? Of course not. We are capable of love, intelligence, creativity, joy, pity, kindness, altruism, reverence. Our lives are blessings, gifts. We stand upright in a universe of beauty and majesty. But we do not magnify any of this by lying to ourselves; indeed, we only diminish ourselves through such lies. Our glory must be that we embrace life as it truly is, and that — with our eyes open and reverence in our hearts — we rise to the potential that we have to live compassionately, humbly, and wisely. We need to grow up, affirm what is true, and set aside the myths we believed as children.

Waldorf student art

reflecting the relationship of the small

to the large, the micro to the macro.

[Courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]

"Most educated people are aware that we are the outcome of nearly 4 billion years of Darwinian selection, but many tend to think that humans are somehow the culmination. Our sun, however, is less than halfway through its lifespan. It will not be humans who watch the sun's demise, 6 billion years from now. Any creatures that then exist will be as different from us as we are from bacteria and amoebae." — Martin Reese, the Astronomer Royal, 2006.

Steiner taught that, as the central beings of the universe, we have occult links to everything else in the universe.
Here is a non-Anthropsophical variation of this notion.


"From Kircher's Œdipus Ægyptiacus.

"The ornamental border contains groups of names of animal, mineral, and vegetable substances, Their relationship to corresponding parts of the human body is shown by the dotted lines. The words in capital letters on the dotted lines indicate to what corporeal member, organ, or disease, the herb or other substance is related. The favorable positions in relation to the time of year are shown by the signs of the zodiac, each house of which is divided by crosses into its [6] decans. This influence is further emphasized by the series of planetary signs placed on either side of the figure."

— Manly P. Hall, THE SECRET TEACHINGS OF ALL AGES (Forgotten Books, 2008), p. 134.


Here is the Anthroposophical take:

"Not only do these human and cosmic rhythms coincide, but the physical structure of the human beings is, according to spiritual science, actually a mirror of the universe. Each region of the zodiac can be looked upon as the home of particular spiritual beings and a centre of forces. There are 12 signs of the zodiac and 12 corresponding parts of the human organism ... While the forces of the zodiac correspond to the human physical structure, the planets and their forces are mirrored in the internal organs ... Thus for example: Sun: Heart : Aurum (gold); Moon: Genitals: argenum (silver); Mercury: Lungs: Cinnabar (mercury)."
— Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), pp. 46-47.
[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on sketch on p. 48.]

Here is an early, non-Anthroposophical extension of the concept
that the human being stands at the center of everything and is, in fact,
a microcosmic summary of the macrocosm, the universe.
If man is the measure of all things, then the perfect human form
should provide the proportions for all perfect architecture,
especially for the design of the temples of the gods.

"Vitruvius writes: 'Since nature has designed the human body so that its members are duly proportioned to the frame as a whole, it appears that the ancients had good reason for their rule, that in perfect building the different members must be in exact symmetrical relations to the whole general scheme. Hence, while transmitting to us the proper arrangements for buildings of all kinds, they were particularly careful to do so in the case of temples of the gods, buildings in which merits and faults usually last forever. Therefore, if it is agreed that number was found out from the human fingers, and that there is a symmetrical correspondent between the members separately and the entire form of the body, in accordance with a certain part selected as standard, we can have nothing but respect for those who, in constructing temples of the immortal gods, have so arranged the members of the works that both the separate parts and the whole design may harmonize in their proportions and symmetry.'"

— Manly P. Hall, THE SECRET TEACHINGS OF ALL AGES (Forgotten Books, 2008), p. 569.

If we ever meet aliens from another planet, intelligent beings who look very different from us, 
it will be interesting to see if we can convince them that our forms are perfect whereas theirs...

The philosophy underlying Waldorf education, Anthroposophy (the word means human wisdom), glorifies humanity. We are wondrous, upward-evolving spiritual beings, central to all of creation, beloved of the gods. This is a grand and attractive vision. We can all feel its tug on our hearts and souls. But can humanity actually fulfill its potential by following Steiner's lead? Steiner concocted a blend of occultism, myth, gnostic religion, and fantasy. The path to wisdom cannot run through such a welter of fallacies. If we are to realize our better nature, fulfilling our best potential, surely we must face reality squarely and build on truth, not illusion. [R.R. sketch, 2009, based on image on p. 26 of Albert Steffen's GOETHEANUM: School of Spiritual Science (Philosophical-Anthroposophical Press, 1961).]

“Even though the germinal beginnings of the physical body were present on [sic] ancient Saturn, even though on [sic] the Sun and on [sic] the Moon these germs had still further developed, and had already attained, on [sic] the old Moon, to a high stage of advancement, you must realize that in the intermediate periods between the Sun and the Saturn evolution [sic] , and between the Sun and the Moon evolution, all that had developed as foundation for the physical and other bodies, once more returned to a spiritual condition ... [W]hen the Lemurian Age approached, man had certainly not a physical body in its present form ... We must picture clearly to ourselves that man has a different appearance to-day [sic] from what he was pre-disposed [sic] to assume in that age which we place before the Lemurian period ... Within [the] etheric body there are the most varied currents, the most varied lines of force, which are the result of the Saturn, Sun and Moon developments ... [T]here were forces which, under the conditions on ancient Saturn, Sun and Moon, were anchored in the etheric body ... [T]he blood system and the heart...crystallises [sic] out of those forces of the human etheric body...." — Rudolf Steiner, WONDERS OF THE WORLD (Kessinger; facsimile of 1929 edition), pp. 102-104. [I have added a tint to the book's black-and-white illustration.]

It all makes sense — it all hangs together.

Or so Steiner said, drawing on astrology

and others untruths.


 [R.R., ~ 1975, using MORE ALTAIR DESIGN (Pantheon, 1974).] 

“Our present Earth-evolution emerged from the Old Moon evolution, this from the Old Sun, the Old Sun from Old Saturn. Then consider everything which had to be brought together to carry this planetary evolution forward to the Earth stage, and you will say: throughout the whole cosmic process man is never absent. He is involved in all of it. All the forces and happenings of the cosmos are focused on man — that is how we must conceive it. In a conversation between Capesius and the Initiate, in one of my Mystery Plays, I have specially tried to show what an impression it must make on anyone if he realises that all the generations of the gods, all the power of the universe, are summoned to the task of placing man in the centre of their creative activity.” — Rudolf Steiner, INNER ASPECT OF THE SOCIAL QUESTION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1974), lecture 1, GA 193.

"People on earth have all kinds of religions, but all these religions have one thing in common: that man looks up to higher beings, the gods, and worships them. But these higher beings, the gods, also have a religion: they too look up to something in awe and reverence. What is this religion of the gods? What is it that the gods revere? It is man. Man is the religion of the gods." — Rudolf Steiner, quoted by Charles Kovacs, THE SPIRITUAL BACKGROUND TO CHRISTIAN FESTIVALS (Floris Books, 2007), pp. 72-73.

"It is for the the sake of this ultimate end, for the sake of this perfect man, that the whole universe and all there is in it has come into existence, it is for the sake of that perfect man at the end of time that the whole world has been created." — Ibid., p. 73. 


An Anthroposophical motif.

[R.R. sketch, 2014, based on a painting by Gerard Wagner, 

based on indications given by Rudolf Steiner 


(SteinerBooks, 2011), p. 153.] 

In Anthroposophical belief, human beings were the first creatures to appear — below the level of the gods — in our universe. In Anthroposophical belief, we are the only beings who truly belong in this universe. It is all for us. Other creatures are inferior beings who fell away from our central, upward-evolving line. They became animals or subordinate nature spirits. They failed to evolve properly; they showed themselves to be inadequate, so they sank to subhuman status. They fell out of evolution. Only we continued at the center, evolving, climbing higher and higher. We! Us! The marvelous, wonderful us!

Anthroposophy is a throwback, one last feeble effort of the fragile human ego to claim that we are supremely important. We recognize, dimly, that the real universe does not correspond to our fantasy and our desperate desire. The Sun does not revolve around the Earth. The Earth does not revolve around us. We are not the center. But we desperately wish we were.

Steiner taught that we humans are exceptional beings. Someday — far, far in the future — we will attain almost inconceivable heights, and our apotheosis will fulfill our own free choices. "[A]the end of his evolution he [man] will bear within him only what he has gained through his own efforts, not what he was given, but what he has created out of nothingness.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE BEING OF MAN AND HIS FUTURE EVOLUTION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981), lecture 9, GA 107. This is salvation, Anthroposophy-style.

It's going to take us  a while to get there, of course. And note that the "nothingness" out of which we will create ourselves is actually a tremendously long, careful observance of the divine cosmic plan created by the gods. Over a span of millennia, we will have been conditioned to be what the gods want us to be — which, paradoxically (or, worse, impossibly) means being free of the gods and their plan. Still, this is what Steiner has promised us. We will be perfected; we will become God the Father; we will take charge; we will beget ourselves.

We might ask ourselves why Steiner offered such an astonishing vision. What need in his followers was he trying to address?

Steiner spoke of “[T]he longing human soul in its yearning, tormented emptiness” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES AND THE PHYSICAL WORLD (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 224. Like Buddha, he offered his system as an antidote to suffering: “[W]e may point to spiritual science as a bearer of the redemption of human longing ... [S]piritual science now provides what tempestuous but also woeful human beings have sought for a long time.” — Ibid., p. 231.

Steiner sought to assuage the emptiness that so many people feel — the sense of inferiority, worthlessness, self-loathing that gnaws at innumerable human hearts. Do our lives have meaning? Does the universe give a damn about me? Why am I here?

In his doctrines, Steiner emphasized the "I" — the sense of self. He celebrated it, and he promised a wonderful ultimate fulfillment for it. Your lives are not meaningless, he told his adherents. You are central to the entire universe. And one day you will stand at the absolute pinnacle of all creation. You will be God!

What a vision! What a promise! If you can take it seriously, that is.

Of course, there is an alternative, one that we can take perfectly seriously. Instead of plunging into occultism hoping for a grandiose, fantastical payoff bordering on megalomania (an enormous over-compensation for our self-doubts), we could set our feet on the ground, open our eyes, and gain authentic self-respect in the real world by treating one another well. Morality and rationality could take us a long way, here and now, if we'd care to give them a try.

It's just a thought.

To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.



Steiner unconsciously making a fool of himself, over and over

No laughing matter: Steiner’s quack medicine

Human nature as conceived by Steiner and acted upon in Waldorf schools


The Waldorf view of the natural world

Quack agriculture: astrology and magic

What's what, clearly

The quality of Steiner’s thoughts

Bizarre ideas about the universe: Vulcan, the Zodiac, Mars, etc.


Waldorf escapism

If you'd like more information about any of the topics discussed here, 

you might begin by consulting the following resources:


[A - D]   [E - I]   [J - O]   [P - R]   [S]   [T - Z]


[A - B]   [C - D]   [E - F]   [G - I]   [J - M]   [N - Q]   [R - S]   [T - Z]


[A - E]     [G - M]     [N - S]     [T - Z]


Some illustrations on each page here at Waldorf Watch 
are closely connected to the essay on that page; 
others are not — they provide general context. 


[1] The “universe,” for Steiner, is often confined to the solar system, although he acknowledged that many celestial orbs exist outside the solar system.

[2]  Rudolf Steiner, MACROCOSM AND MICROCOSM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1985), pp. 44-45.

[3] See “Humouresque”.

[4] "microcosm." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 28 Aug. 2009.

[5] See “Everything” and “Steiner Static”.

[6] Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1971), chapter 3, GA 9.

Spiritual beings or gods are largely indistinguishable from their own thoughts or states of being; in a sense, they are these thoughts or states of being. Incorporeal spiritual essences are the patterns and forces that are manifest in the lower, physical realm.

THEOSOPHY is an early work, from the period before Steiner split and set up his own system, Anthroposophy. But Steiner said that his later truths built upon his early truths — there is no contradiction between early and late. He had been right all along, in other words, although he became righter as he progressed. “The outline...has in no way been shaken ... [E]verything that I have since been able to adduce becomes a further elaboration of the original picture.” — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1979), p. 12. Steiner wrote the words on Jan. 10, 1925, not long before he died.

[7] Rewriting Shakespeare seems dicey, but what Steiner meant is that people with profound spiritual insight could restore Shakespeare’s plays to their original form, by looking within their own souls, where the plays as Shakespeare wrote them are imprinted, since within us we have the imprint of the spiritual realm, where Shakespeare’s character reside.

To give an even more august example, “[T]he initiate is no longer dependent on the Gospels ... [H]e would be capable of writing the Gospels himself if they had not already been written.” — Rudolf Steiner, SPIRITUAL SCIENCE AS A FOUNDATION FOR SOCIAL FORMS (Anthroposophic Press, 1986), p. 20.

It’s all inside us and/or imprinted on the Akashic Record, which Initiates can read.

[8] French poets such as these use a dead language to portray unreal characters, characters that cannot exist in the spirit realm. Remember, “Use of the French language quite certainly corrupts the soul." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 558.

[9] Ibid., pp. 336-337.

[10] Rudolf Steiner, MAN AS SYMPHONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press), lecture 2, GA 230.


[12] Rudolf Steiner, HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS (Anthroposophic Press, 1994.)

This book is also known, in a different translation, as KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944 and 1947.)


[14] Ibid., pp. 19-23.

[15] Ibid.,pp. 40-41.

[16] Ibid., p. 44.

[17] “The best would be if you considered gravity only as a word.” — FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 29. 

[18] “[W]e can certainly speak of a daily motion of the Earth around her axis, but by no means of a yearly motion of the Earth around the Sun. For the Earth follows the Sun ... Were the Earth revolving round the Sun, we should expect her axis...to point in the direction of different fixed stars during this revolution. But it does not!” — Rudolf Steiner, MAN - HIEROGLYPH OF THE UNIVERSE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972),  p. 85.


[20] Ibid., pp. 196-197.

[21] Ibid., p. 93.

[22] Rudolf Steiner, THE MYSTERY OF THE UNIVERSE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), p. 212.

[23] Richard Seddon, THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY AND THE EARTH AS FORESEEN BY RUDOLF STEINER (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2002), p. 83.


Note the connection to astrology.

[25] Steiner’s version of the Great Chain of Being is, in general, this: below the Godhead, in descending order, are Seraphim, Cherubim, Spirits of Will, Spirits of Wisdom, Spirits of Movement, Spirits of Form, Zeitgeists or Archai, Archangels, Angels, Men, Animals, Plants, and Minerals, nature spirits, subordinate nature spirits.

[26] MACROCOSM AND MICROCOSM, pp. 110-111.

[27] Rudolf Steiner, THE LORD’S PRAYER (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007), p. 17.

[28] Carl Sagan, CARL SAGAN'S COSMIC CONNECTION (Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 190.

[29] http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/021127a.html.

For fun, I’ve used a NASA site intended for children: This is all elementary-school stuff.

[30] http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2000/MarissaWager.shtml.

[31] http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/980317b.html.

[32] http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/980317b.html.

[33] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galactic_Center.

Wikipedia is unreliable, but because Anthroposophists seem fond of it, I thought I’d use it here.

[34] See, e.g., the books by Temple Grandin.

[35] Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 69-70.


[37] Kathleen M. Dudzinski and Toni Frohoff, DOLPHIN MYSTERIES (Yale University Press, 1008), p. 94.

What uses do whales and dolphins make of their big brains? One is navigation through echolocation in the murky depths. [Ibid., p. 94.] This is something no human can do — by whales’ standards, we are awfully dumb. But what else might they use their brains for? Lacking hands, they cannot be builders like us. So, are they dreamers? Are they musicians, myth makers, story tellers (what is the content of their long, elaborate “songs”)? Are they possibly philosophers? Theologians? Probably not; probably none of these. But we don’t know. Which goes to show the limits of our own intelligence.

One additional speculation: Man fell. We were expelled from Paradise. Have the whales and dolphins been expelled, or do they still live in their own version of Paradise? Do they spend their time doing what we dream of doing in Heaven: Singing, playing, praying, praising the Creator, and enjoying pleasant meals and love? Probably not. But we don’t know.

The major problem in their “paradise” is, of course, us. What do they think of us, the “smart” species that hunts them and pollutes their environment? Do they understand that we are potentially driving them, and many other life forms on Earth —  including ourselves — to extinction? Do they judge us? Do they forgive us?


"All mammals from mice to men have three lobes to the brain whereas cetaceans [whales, dolphins, and porpoises] have a fourth lobe. The convolutions on the neo-cortex area of the brain are more pronounced on cetacean brains than on humans.

"So overall, the brain of a sperm whale and orca are larger, and more complex than human brains....

"Whales are highly social beings and they have a complex form of communication with each other which can only be defined as language. We simply do not understand what those large brains have evolved for, but indeed large brains they have, and large brains suggest that there is a reason and a use for this development." ["The Intelligent Whale", Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, http://www.seashepherd.org/whales/the-intelligent-whale.html]

[38] Are we alone in the universe? We don't know, but the case for life on other planets, far away, grows stronger yearly. (I'm speaking here of physical beings in the physical universe, not the sorts of planetary spirits Steiner claimed to see clairvoyantly.) 

“We are fairly certain of more than 300 ‘exoplanets’ [planets orbiting distant stars] ... The exponential vastness of the universe tells us — if we apply reasonable, conservative inference — that there have to be billions more exoplanets ... Simple back-of-the-envelope arithmetic will demonstrate the new inconceivability of our being the only intelligent beings in the universe ... [H]umankind’s sense of itself here on Earth has yet to undergo the sea change suggested by the facts.” [Thomas Mallon, “Across the Universe”, THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY, May, 2009, p. 60.]

[39] Rudolf Steiner, “The Structure of the Lord's Prayer” (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1971).

[40] Various translations of Steiner's work offer varying indications of his meaning. You have to navigate these shoals carefully. One alternate translation of the sentence we have just seen gives it an almost opposite construction: In future time he will have developed the strength to sacrifice his whole being by letting it flow directly into material substance.” [Rudolf Steiner, THE LORD’S PRAYER, Anthroposophic Press, 1970.] If we accept this construction, then our Great Sacrifice is directly comparable to Christ's.

[41] Rudolf Steiner, THE LORD’S PRAYER (Rudolf Steiner’s Press, 2007), pp. 8-9.

[42] Rudolf Steiner, COLOUR (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Company, 1935), lecture 1, GA 291.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Rudolf Steiner, THE THRESHOLD OF THE SPIRITUAL WORLD  (Book Tree, 2003), pp. 89-90.