Steiner's Big Picture

He suffered from hallucinations — he was mentally ill. That’s one possibility, anyway. Another possibility is that Rudolf Steiner never had a “vision” in his life, but in order to be considered a great and wise spiritual leader, he lied, pretending to possess clairvoyant powers. He was, in other words, a fraud. Or, of course, there is a third possibility. Perhaps Steiner actually was psychic and, fully sane, he really saw what he reported seeing.

Steiner claimed to be a “spiritual scientist” who objectively investigated the “supersensible” spirit realm — phenomena that we cannot study with our normal senses or with any of the usual equipment of science such as telescopes, microscopes, and the like. In other essays, I have argued that Steiner’s claims are hollow; his “visions” are useless to us, since they are utterly divorced from reality. Steiner critic Anthony Storr has made the same point, writing that Steiner’s “so-called ‘thinking,’ his supposed power of supersensible perception, led to a vision of the world, the universe, and cosmic history which is entirely unsupported by any evidence, which is at odds with practically everything which modern physics and astronomy have revealed, and which is more like science fiction than anything else.” [1]

But let’s not be too hasty. To give Steiner’s visions an airing, I’d like to discuss OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, the book in which Steiner lays out his visions more completely than anywhere else. [2] First published in 1909, OCCULT SCIENCE is one of Steiner’s early spiritual works, but the author revised it repeatedly during the subsequent years, preparing the final version just months before his death. By Steiner’s own account, the book’s revelations were always correct, and they only become more completely correct with each revision. For the 1925 edition, he wrote “OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, now to be published in a new edition, is after all an epitome of anthroposophical Spiritual Science as a whole ... The outline as presented fifteen years ago has in no way been shaken. Inserted in its proper place and context, everything that I have since been able to adduce becomes a further elaboration of the original picture.” [OCCULT SCIENCE, p. 12.] The revisions Steiner made over time are actually larger than he admitted, but nonetheless Steiner assures us that the book conveys the real cosmic lowdown. So let’s take a look.

I will proceed through the book more or less sequentially, 
from beginning to end, which means I will ramble a bit 
because Steiner rambled a lot. I will put up headings as signposts, 
seeking to provide as much clarity as the text will allow.
Basically, I will outline for you Steiner’s outline of everything.
To keep this essay shorter than Steiner’s 300+ pages, I will skim,
but I will try to hit most of the high (or low) points.
(Concerning subjects I skip on this page — I take up most of them
on other pages here at Waldorf Watch.)

◊ Direct Experience ◊

Steiner insisted that everything he said about the spirit realm came from his own direct clairvoyant experiences, not from the occult texts he had read. “As to whatever I might formerly have read...I was able to eliminate such things completely while engaged on supersensible research.” [OCCULT SCIENCE, p. 11] Early in the book, Steiner spends a great deal of time repeating words such as “research,” “science,” and — especially — “supersensible,” as if this will convince us that his work is a serious investigation of extremely important matters. But he leaves a great deal unexplained and unproven. Centrally, he never establishes that the invisible “Spirit-land” actually exists, and he never establishes that clairvoyance (or “supersensible perception” or “supersensible observation”) works.* To read the book favorably, you have to get past these problems. (If you are religious, you may believe that the spirit realm exists, as Steiner claimed. But realize that Steiner’s version of the spirit realm is extremely different from anything you will find in the Bible or Qur'an or most other texts accepted by major religions. We’ll return to this point.) Steiner said he had his first spiritualistic experience when he was a young boy. [3] The spirit of a dead relative appeared before him and asked for his help. Maybe this happened; maybe not. A sympathetic interpretation is that Steiner saw spiritualistic visions all his life, and as an adult he was drawn to mysticism because he found in it an explanation of the unworldly experiences he had undergone. Gary Lachman, among others, takes this line. [4]

* For definitions of terms, see "The Semi-Steiner Dictionary" and "The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia". "Spirit-land' is, essentially, the spirit realm broadly defined. Steiner adopted the term from Theosophy and then adjusted its meaning to suit himself. His use of terms is often complex, not to say inconsistent. Thus, Steiner taught that "Spiritland," in a different sense, is a subdivision of the spirit realm: It is the highest of three higher worlds comprising the spirit realm. Steiner wrote the first versions of OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE while he was a Theosophist. After he broke away, establishing his own movement, Anthroposophy, he retained many Theosophical terms and concepts, although he put his own stamp on them, as in fact he had done before making the break. 

◊ The Instrument 

Although he often criticized science and scientists, Steiner also claimed, often, that he himself was a scientist — a scientist whose subject was the spirit realm. He studied that realm through the disciplined use of clairvoyance, or so he said. Thus, turning inward, he could see outward, or so he said. He himself was his own instrument. "Every scientist makes use of instruments and methods. He prepares his instruments by working upon the things which ‘Nature’ gives him. The supersensible form of knowing [i.e., acquiring information without the use of the ordinary senses] also makes use of an instrument, only that here the instrument is Man himself. This instrument too must first be prepared — prepared for the purposes of a higher kind of research." [p. 38] In reality, Steiner was advocating fantasization — the inward turn is, in reality, nothing but subjectivity and wishfulness. But he attached the title "science" to this effort. Occult science. And that is our subject.
In Steiner's system, you prepare your instrument by developing focused, disciplined powers of clairvoyance. Everything in Steiner's system depends on this. And thereby, everything in his system collapses — because there is no such thing as clairvoyance, focused or not, disciplined or not. [See "Clairvoyance".] Once we have grasped this, we have precious little reason to continue through the remainder of Steiner's book. Nothing in it stands on truth; nothing in it is real.

Still, having started, let's stick with it. Let's plow ahead to see what else Steiner said, what else his followers believe, what else is imbedded in the thinking behind Waldorf schools.

◊ Components ◊

Steiner taught that human beings have four bodies, three of which can be perceived only through the use of clairvoyance. They are invisible to our ordinary senses. (The Waldorf curriculum is geared to the incarnation of the three invisible bodies. See "Incarnation".) 

The first of the invisible bodies is called the etheric body. Essentially, it consists of forces that hold the physical body together and give it form and energy. "Supersensible perception [i.e., clairvoyance] can observe, as an independent member of the human being, what it is that prevents the physical substances and forces during life from going their own way, which would...lead to the disintegration of the physical body. We will call this independent member of man's being the Etheric Body or Life-Body." [p. 41] Steiner realizes that, although he has claimed the title of "scientist," his statements about such things as etheric bodies put him outside the scientific pale. "[T]he mention of a ‘life-body’ as an essential principle of human nature can at the present time scarcely fail to be regarded as unscientific." [p. 41] But he is undaunted, claiming that science in general will catch up with him and his occult science sooner or later.

The second of our invisible bodies is the astral body. Just as the physical body depends on the etheric body, so the etheric body depends on the higher forces provided by the astral body. This higher body returns us from the death we experience nightly when we sleep. "All the creative work of man depends — so far as the manifest world is concerned — on his activity in waking life. But this activity is only possible if he again and again derives from sleep a strengthening of his exhausted forces ... To the science of the supersensible, what rouses life again and again from the unconscious state is the third member of the human being. It may be called the Astral Body ... Left to itself, an etheric body would of necessity be in a perpetual state of sleep — or, we may also say, could only maintain in the physical body a vegetable form of life. An etheric body that is awake is illumined by an astral body." [pp. 43-44]

The third invisible body, the highest, is the "I" or "ego" — the spiritual spark of divine human identity (not to be confused with the ego as a mere psychological component). Of all earthly creatures, only man has this highest body, which yields a sense of inviolable selfhood behind the ebb and flow of sensation. "With the awareness of something permanent and lasting in the changing flow of inner experiences, the feeling of ‘I,’ of inner selfhood, begins to dawn ... The physical body disintegrates when it is not held together by the etheric; the etheric body falls into unconsciousness when it is not irradiated by the astral body. In the like manner the astral body would ever and again have to let the past sink into oblivion if the I did not preserve the past and carry it over into the present. Forgetting is for the astral body what death is for the physical body and sleep for the etheric. Or, as we may also express it: life is proper to the etheric body, consciousness to the astral body, and memory to the Ego." [p. 46]

◊ Your Dog Doesn’t Remember You ◊

Memory is so important to our divine human selfhood, Steiner was obliged to deny that animals possess memories. 

“To attribute memory to animals is an error ... It is natural enough to think of memory when a dog recognizes its master ... Yet in reality the recognition depends not on memory ... Surely, one might [think], since the dog grieves when its master goes away, it must retain some memory of him ... [But] the animal’s behaviour implies the absence of all memory.” [pp. 46-47] Lacking “I”s, animals are extremely limited and low. Indeed, for Steiner “animal” was virtually a synonym for wicked.

Steiner insisted that human beings occupy an exalted place among all beings. He called his ideology “anthroposophy” to accentuate the significance of humanity (
anthropos: Greek for human being). We are the spiritual hub around which the whole of creation turns, he taught.* [See "The Center".] To underscore the utter difference between humans and animals, Steiner asserted that your dog can’t remember who you are, s/he merely takes some vague pleasure in your presence just as s/he would enjoy warm sunlight or a juicy steak.

The evidence to support Steiner’s view about the minds and biological processes of animals would undoubtedly be very interesting, except that Steiner produced none. And in reality, the preponderance of actual evidence, produced by real scientists, lies on the other side. Many animals in fact have excellent memories — remembering migration routes, the location of widely dispersed bits of food stashed away for the winter, and so on. [5] As was so often the case, Steiner was simply wrong. But that's where "clairvoyance" gets you. [See "Steiner's Blunders

* Humans often have an extraordinarily weak sense of worth, self-regard, identity. Belief systems such as Anthroposophy are often designed precisely to fill this deeply felt human need. The danger is that if such faiths provide false reassurances (you have a divine "I", you are the center of everything, the gods love you), they encourage their followers to build their lives on sand. And when the sand shifts, the longed-for but empty sense of security can vanish. Steiner led his followers to believe that the gods actually worship humanity. "[T]hese 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 in THE SPIRITUAL BACKGROUND TO CHRISTIAN FESTIVALS (Floris Books, 2007), pp. 72-73. Such assurances lead Steiner's followers to make such assertions as this: "The entire created universe has been brought into being so that the human being might come into existence." — Ronald E. Koetzsch, "Anthroposophy 101". This is, indeed, a central tenet of the Steiner/Waldorf religion, Anthroposophy.

◊ Only I Am “I” ◊

“It is only to himself that any being can apply this name [“I”]. ‘I am an I only to myself; to every other being I am a you, and every other being is a you to me.’” Steiner often didn’t realize how foolish he sounded. But, to continue: “The real being [i.e., essence] of the I is independent of all external things and for this very reason no external thing or person can call it by its name. Hence those religious faiths which have consciously maintained their connection with the supersensible world speak of the I as the Unutterable Name of God.” [pp. 49-50] 

Steiner’s teachings are explicitly gnostic. Gnosticism holds that salvation can be obtained only by acquiring secret or mystery knowledge of the divine (
: Greek for knowledge). This is what “occult science” is intended to achieve. The salvation Steiner offered is nothing immediate: It will be attained only after a long series of reincarnations during which we gradually evolve to progressively higher levels of spiritual development. Distinctly unbiblical, reincarnation is a basic Anthroposophical tenet. Steiner taught that human beings live alternately in physical reality and in Spirit-land. Each time a human dies, s/he goes to Spirit-land for a considerable period of time, and then s/he is reincarnated in a new physical body. If we live well, each reincarnation can represent another upward evolutionary step. But for this to happen, we need to know and act upon occult, gnostic secrets that are hidden from most other humans. (One of the appeals some people find in occultism is the self-aggrandizing notion that, as insiders, they possess stupendous secrets.)
Like many spiritualists, Steiner taught that a divine spark is present inside each real human being. As we have seen, Steiner called this spark the "I" — it is the god, or portion of a god, within us. It is an entity having independent existence (“the real being of the I...”), and it is gnostic, hidden, mysterious (“the Unutterable Name...”). Steiner taught that Christ had this spark, and we can follow Christ by emulating his enactment of the “I.” In one sense, Christ was a messenger, bringing us gnosis or knowledge. Christ may also be considered to be the Word, the message itself. Then again, according to Steiner, Christ is a Sun Being, a spirit who dwells on the Sun. We’ll dig into these matters as we proceed. [6]

◊ Who We Are ◊

As we have seen, Steiner taught that we have four bodies: the physical body, etheric body, astral body, and "I" or "ego" (or, as he sometimes called it, the "ego body"). But that's not the whole picture. Steiner taught that other parts of ourselves incarnate from time to time. Our overall constitution consists of nine components, most of which are invisible. Sometimes he cut this to seven (and sometime he cut it to four). In OCCULT SCIENCE, he gives us his seven-fold picture of ourselves:

"[We find] the following seven members of the human being:
  1. Physical body
  2. Etheric body or life-body
  3. Astral body
  4. I , Ego
  5. Spirit-Self
  6. Life-Spirit
  7. Spirit-Man"  [p. 58]

To look into these parts and how they fit together, see "What We're Made Of" and "Our Parts". (There's no point in asking a doctor about any of this, or looking up any of this in a medical encyclopedia. Steiner's teachings have nothing to do with ascertainable, real-world knowledge. This is just one more example.)

◊ Taking Pictures ◊

Occult science, the system for studying the spirit realm, hinges on our ability to form pictures of that realm. We can't do this with our eyes or brains, but fortunately for us we can do it with our psychic abilities. In particular, the astral body has a natural capacity for receiving pictures of the great beyond. Steiner taught, and his followers believe, that truth comes to us when we are asleep. At night, Steiner taught, the astral body leaves the physical and etheric bodies and travels to its true home, the spirit realm — snapping pictures as it goes, as it were. "As food and other necessities are received by the physical body from its environment, so do the pictures of the astral body's environment come to it during sleep. The fact is that the astral body is then living, outside the physical and the etheric, in the great Universe — the selfsame Universe out of which the entire man is born. For in that Universe is the source of the creative patterns, — the archetypal pictures to which man owes his form ... In sleep his astral body returns into the harmony of the Universe, whence on awakening he brings sufficient force into his bodies to enable him for a time once more to forgo the sojourn there." [p. 65]
The sorts of pictures we receive through clairvoyance and/or the excursions of the astral body constitute much of the remainder of OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE. As you consider these pictures, remind yourself that this is the thinking behind Waldorf schools.

◊ Kicking the Bucket ◊

Although, during life, the etheric body remains pinned to the physical body — remaining behind when the astral body and "I" ascend to the spirit realm at night — the etheric body is cut loose when the physical body dies. Indeed, death as such — termination, turning out the lights — affects only the physical body. All of the invisible parts of ourselves survive and pass on to higher levels where they prepare for our future earthly incarnations.

"In death the physical is severed from the etheric body. Left to its own unaided forces, the physical body will now inevitably disintegrate ... At death the force that holds the etheric and astral bodies together becomes at last effective, detaching the etheric from the physical". [pp. 69-70] This joining soon ends, however. The astral body needs to free itself of the etheric body so that it can make the proper preparation for further development in further lives. "Thereafter, the astral body — severed now from the etheric — goes on its further way alone and by itself." [p. 73] Overall, the period of existence between death and the next incarnation is spent gathering the forces needed in the next life. Most of this is, of course, hidden from ordinary human consciousness; to know of it we must rely on clairvoyance or, at a minimum, the unsupported word of Rudolf Steiner. "For outer observation, what goes on between death and a new birth is of course still more hidden than the underlying spiritual reality of manifest existence between birth and death [i.e., without clairvoyance we can't "see" the truth about or lives after death or even the truth about our lives before death]." [p. 91]

◊ Looking Around in Spirit-land ◊

Steiner tells us a little about what we see and do in the spirit realm after we die on Earth, but his report is a bit vague. “The science of the supersensible [i.e., Anthroposophy, i.e., the disciplined use of clairvoyance] can at most give pictures in attempting to describe what happens in this ‘Land of Spirits’ ... [I]n Spirit-land...the Ego will experience a kind of colour...a world radiant with colour ... Needless to say, since the manner of their origin is so very different, the colour-experiences of the spiritual world differ in character from those we enjoy in the world of Nature.” [pp. 82-83] Spirit-land is a place of colors, but not colors as we know them. We might wonder, then, what Steiner means by the word “color” (or “colour”) in this context. Nothing specific, actually. Steiner pulls this trick often: He uses a word — “color” or “Saturn” or “ether” or (fill in the blank) — and then he informs us that he doesn’t mean what the word means, he means something else. This is a clever way of claiming that he’s talking about very, very deep stuff while simultaneously protecting himself from criticism. We cannot subject his teachings to rational examination or analysis, he often said. [7]

The “pictures” we form of the spirit realm must necessarily be vague, he said, but forming them is central to “the science of the supersensible.” Although the spirit realm lacks clear definitions and forms, we can develop hazy imagined images for our edification. Steiner repeatedly expressed the need for “imagination” as a means of grasping spiritual truths. A skeptic might respond that no truths can result from making misty pictures of things that cannot be pictured. [8]

Returning to a point I made earlier: “Spirit-land” is Theosophy-talk for the spirit realm. To generalize, we spend our time there receiving the ministrations of the gods who prepare us for our coming lives. (We receive these ministrations nightly, during the little death that is sleep, and also — in somewhat different form — during the periods following our actual deaths.) The process entails rising through a series of various spiritual regions.* At one point, Steiner says clairvoyance discerns three realms in Spirit-land, but he quickly boosts the total to five, and then he indicates that indeed there are more than five.
"Three distinct regions of Spirit-land — the land of Spirits — are apparent to supersensible consciousness [i.e., clairvoyance]...

"Whatever assumes physical form upon Earth and is thus made perceptible to physical organs [i.e., our physical eyes], is seen in its spiritual essence in the first region of Spirit-land ... The characteristic color which the stone has in the sense-world [i.e., the physical world] is experienced in the spiritual world as its complementary. Seen therefore from Spirit-land, a red stone is experienced with a greenish and a green stone with a reddish hue. Other properties too appear as their antithesis...

"All that is life in the sense-world is the oceanic region of the spiritual world [i.e., the second of five regions] ... To the eye of the spirit, life is a flowing essence, like seas and rivers pervading the Spirit-land...

"The third region of Spirit-land is the airy sphere or 'atmosphere.' All that is feeling and sensation in the outer [i.e., physical] world is present in the spirit-realm as an all-pervading element, comparable to the air on Earth...

[Concerning the fourth region:] "The thoughts man apprehends within the manifest [i.e., physical] world are but a shadow of the real thought-being** ... [This is] what pervades the fourth region of Spirit-land ... [The fourth region is] the real world of thoughts ... While feelings and passions occasioned by the external world belong to the third region of Spirit-land, all that can come to life in the soul of man so that he becomes creative, acting on his environment in such a way as to transform and fertilize it, is manifested in its archetypal being in the fourth region...

"The prevailing element of the fifth region may be likened to the light of the physical world. It is none other than Wisdom, manifested in its pristine, archetypal form. Beings [i.e., gods] belong to that region who pour Wisdom into their environment, even as the Sun sheds light upon physical creatures...
"There are yet higher regions of Spirit-land...." [pp. 83-86]
As you progress through these regions, the gods help correct you and, by the end of your celestial period, they prep you for returning to Earth. Or so Steiner says. "These Beings of the spiritual world henceforth collaborate with the fruit of his former life which man himself has brought with him — the fruit which is now about to become the seed. And by this collaboration man is built up anew — built, to begin with, as a spiritual being." [p. 87 For more about the "higher worlds" that we visit during sleep and after death, see "Higher Worlds".]

* Steiner taught that three of the regions correspond to earthly elements: the first region corresponds to land, the second to water, the third to air. The other regions are higher, representing nonphysical essences. The fourth region is that of thought, and it can be characterized by a sort of warmth (so that it corresponds, more or less, to the fourth earthly element: fire). The fifth realm is that of spirit, and it is comparable to the Sun (which, in Anthroposophy, is the home of Christ, the Sun God).

** Steiner taught that we do not think with our brains — at least, we do not produce real thoughts there. Real thoughts, he said, are actually spiritual beings that come to us from the spirit realm. They are "thought beings" or "living thoughts." [See, e.g., "Thinking".] Here he says that the "thoughts" we have while alive on Earth are but shadows of the true, living thoughts that exist in Spirit-land.

◊ Karma ◊

The "fruits" that you bring with you to the spirit realm are the results of your actions committed during life on Earth — these constitute the stuff that creates your karma. Karma or destiny is a central concept in the Waldorf belief system. Steiner compared it to the law of cause-and-effect that operates in the physical universe. You create (or cause) your own karma (the effect of your actions). Your fruit (the results of your previous actions) becomes the seed of your new existence. (Underlying all of this, of course, is the Anthroposophical belief in reincarnation.)

"In this relationship of law and causation between an earlier and a later life we have to recognize the real Law of Destiny...the law of ‘Karma.’” [p. 89] To dwell on the point a bit: When you "die," the results of your actions during life follow you into Spirit-land. There, you learn what you did right and what you did wrong. During your next return to earth, you must try to build on what you did right and atone for what you did wrong. You will get many, many chances to get things right, since you will have many, many lives both in the physical universe and in Spirit-land. But you must not waste your lives. Evolution will proceed, and if you fail to keep abreast, you will be left behind, which would be a huge mistake. The ultimate fate of non-evolvers threatens to be horrific. (Keep reading.)

Several threads of Steiner’s thought come together at this point. The basic structure of cosmic history is a process of evolution, but not the sort of evolution that you’ll find in biology books. The essence of our evolution is spiritual, according to Steiner; it is an ascent to higher forms of consciousness. We and many other spiritual beings gradually ascend from near-comatose insensibility to universe-encompassing Wisdom and Divinity. Along the way, we continually shed “lowly” aspects of ourselves. Animals are not only beneath us, but generally speaking they are the embodiment of characteristics that we had to cast aside in order to evolve properly. During our evolution, we will also need to rid ourselves of lowly racial characteristics. (We will examine these doctrines further in due course.)

◊ Reincarnation ◊

The doctrine of karma is intimately linked to the doctrine of reincarnation. Steiner insisted on the truth of these doctrines, although he distinguished his vision from a more traditional, Eastern view (as he depicted it). We live many many lives, over and over. We reincarnate repeatedly. But this is not a futile process of endless repetition, Steiner said. Rather, it is a process of evolution. If we create a correct, spiritually enlightened karma for ourselves, we improve with each new incarnation and move upward toward spiritual perfection. Individuals evolve just as humanity as a whole has evolved.

"The cycle of human life from birth till death and thence to a new birth repeats itself periodically. Again and again man returns to the Earth when the fruits gained in a preceding physical life has ripened in Spirit-land. But this is not a repetition without beginning or end. Time was when man advanced from other forms of existence to those here described, and in the future he will pass on to different ones again." [p. 91]

Done properly, Steiner taught, each successive incarnation is an advancement, a forward step. Moreover, we facilitate our advancement by selecting the circumstances of our incarnations — the places where we will be born, the companions we will have in our next life, even the identities of our parents and teachers. Little occurs by chance. The crucial factors in each incarnation are the influences and needs we bring from the spirit realm and from our previous lives. Extraneous influences, such as any bodily or mental characteristics we inherit from our parents, are far less significant than the inner spirit/soul essence of the incarnating individual.
These considerations have a direct bearing on a child's education. A wise (clairvoyant) educator will detect each student's inner being and differentiate it from what is merely inherited from parents. "As every educator is aware, powers and faculties from the pupil's own inner life must [be central] ... An educator of sufficient insight will even mark the clear dividing line between the inherited tendencies and those inner faculties of his pupils which ray right through the latter, originating as they do in former lives." [pp. 98-99]

◊ In the Beginning ◊

Just as individuals evolve and humanity as a whole evolves, the solar system and the Earth evolve. Steiner's creation story is in fact a story of evolution. “The material [Earth] evolve[d] out of the spiritual; until then, the spiritual alone existed ... [T]he Earth-planet has evolved out of a cosmic spiritual entity.” [p. 104]

The Bible says God created the heavens and the earth — God and the universe He created are separate things. Steiner’s version is a bit different. The Earth, he says, “evolved” out of a vague “spiritual entity” — and, underneath, the Earth is the same as the spiritual entity. Steiner offers this helpful analogy: “[I]t is very much as though we might be looking at a vessel [i.e., a glass or a bowl] filled with water, where by a finely regulated cooling process, lumps of ice were gradually taking shape. We see the ice condense out of what was water ... Similarly...material things, events and entities condense, as it were, out of a previous existence which was spiritual....” [p. 104] 

The water stays water, even though it changes from liquid to solid. Same for the Earth, it is a condensed form of the spiritual entity — the proto-Earthish spirit. At their core, the Earth and its originating spirit are the same. It is also worth noting how Steiner’s account omits all mention of God per se. Take that, Book of Genesis. Anthroposophy is a polytheistic creed, with the work of creation and the guidance of humanity undertaken by various gods of various ranks. We will return to these points.

 Where He Gets It ◊

“[I]f we are able to raise our faculty of perception [i.e., clairvoyance] and look through the visible world to the invisible, we arrive at length at a point where we have [i.e., see] before us what might be compared to a mighty spiritual panorama ... These abiding traces of all spiritual happenings may be call the ‘Akashic Records’....” [p. 105] The Akashic Records are a celestial encyclopedia written on a universal ether (akasha: Sanskrit for sky or ether). If you become psychic like Steiner, you too can read these records. They actually contain everything ever, since physical stuff is spiritual stuff, deep down, so “spiritual happenings” include all physical happenings as well as all emotions, thoughts, dreams, and so on. Everything.

In reading Steiner, you may occasionally find yourself bridling. You may doubt, for instance, that a cosmic encyclopedia written on ether really exists. Certainly you may doubt that clairvoyance is a real faculty. These are the sorts of hurdles one must jump across to follow Steiner. Anthroposophy is one mystic’s version of the ultimate goal of modern physics: producing a theory of everything, a set of laws that account for all phenomena. Steiner tried to hammer almost all occult phenomena into his worldview. Some people believe in goblins; okay, include them in the paradigm. Some people believe in guardian angels, so include them; the Akashic Records, include them; magic, alchemy, sorcerers, conversations with the dead, Odin, Thor, Loki — include them, include, include. [9] But the result is a grotesque jerrybuilt contraption, a set of doctrines lacking fundamental coherence. At the end of this essay, I’ll offer a few suggestions on how to evaluate Steiner’s amazing claims.

 Prehistory 201 ◊

On other pages on this website, we have looked into Steiner’s account of the distant past. Let’s examine some of these matters more deeply now. We’ll start with the first stage of human evolution, which is Saturn (bearing in mind that Steiner generally denied that in using words like “Saturn” he meant what the words mean): “If we would form an idea — pictorial, but approximating to reality — of the conditions during Saturn evolution [i.e., our evolution “on” Saturn], we must bear in mind that of the things and beings now belonging to the Earth...virtually nothing was in existence then ... Of the beings of the Earth which are physically perceptible to-day [sic] man alone was present at that time, and of him only the physical body.” [p. 115]* 

Steiner taught that human beings were the first life forms on Earth, and back during our Saturn phase, humans were the first to develop physical bodies. At that time, we were surrounded by spiritual beings whose “activity upon the scene of Saturn resulted in the subsequent evolution of man.” [p. 116] Other spirits surround us now, also affecting our continued development. [10]

Our original physical bodies were completely unlike what we have today: “[T]he physical body on Saturn is [i.e., was] a delicate, tenuous, ethereal body-of-warmth.” [p. 118] To understand this, you have to wrestle again with Steiner’s bizarre use of language. The “warmth” “on Saturn” was a physical substance like a gas or a liquid; specifically, it was a “finer substance than gas.” [p. 117] Calling warmth a substance has no recognizable meaning, but don’t let that trouble you. The deeper “truth” Steiner is conveying is that humans materialized during Saturn, but we did not yet have the qualities that make us human (“man alone was present at that time, and of him only the physical body”). To become fully human, we had to evolve. And the process continues. According to Steiner, we actually aren’t fully human even now.

What proofs does Steiner offer for any of this? “The proofs are derived in every case from spiritual research” which boils down to Steiner exercising his “powers” and telling us what he says he saw, nothing more. [p. 115] Be strong. [11]

* The "planets" Steiner discusses here are not the planets we see in the sky now. Rather, the "planets" he discusses were stages in the evolution of the entire solar system. Saturn, or "Old Saturn," was the first incarnation of the solar system. Everything in the solar system incarnated in a condition or phase called "Saturn." (If you like, you could say that the forces of Saturn were predominant throughout the solar system as it existed at that time.) When that stage ended, the entire solar system blinked out of existence, only to reincarnate later in a phase called Sun (or "Old Sun"). Everything in the solar system came back into existence then, existing in a form different from the previous form and different from any later forms, such as the present form that we see around us now. OK? Got it? The planets that we see in the sky today are fragments of the various "planetary stages" of evolution, but they are not those stages per se. They, along with the Earth, will blink out of existence when our present stage of evolution ends. Then, they along with the Earth and us, will reincarnate in a new form, which Steiner called Jupiter. OK? Got it? [See "Matters of Form" and "Stages".] 

◊ Indeterminacy ◊

Being human isn’t a matter of genetics. Indeed, being human is not unique to our species. It is a stage of evolution that we are now passing through and that other beings have passed through before us. On Saturn, “the Spirits of Personality are [i.e., were] at the stage at which the human being is today. They are [i.e., were] going through their ‘human’ epoch.” [p. 121] Spirits of Personality are beings that find their blessedness through the expression of personality, although “personality itself is not there on Saturn, but only its mirrored image — as it were, the shell or husk of personality.” [p. 121] There are also Spirits of Movement, Spirits of Will, and others. The vagueness of Spirit-land the overlapping of their actions. “Altogether, no hard and fast line can be drawn between the activities of the several groups of Beings ... The spiritual Beings themselves undergo evolution in the process.” [p. 127]*

The process of evolution clearly implies a starting point. We began as something and evolved into something else. But inquiring into origins is useless, Steiner said. “In a purely intellectual way it is possible, of course, in the case of every given origin, to ask again after its origin ...[But in doing this] we only prolong questioning, as it were, mechanically ... [T]he facts themselves will put a natural end to questioning.” [pp. 126-127] The problem, obviously, is that Steiner’s “facts” are supported by nothing except his unratified say-so.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (among other faiths) don’t have trouble with the question of origins. God is eternal; He has no origin; but He is the origin of everything else. For science, the origin is the Big Bang. How that event occurred is still open to debate, but scientists are working on it — which they do by mainly asking questions. Questioning is the very essence of science. I’m talking about real science, not “occult science.” Indeed, Steiner generally urged his followers not to use their brains much and not to inquire too deeply into his teachings. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Specific".] Anthroposophy is deeply anti-intellectual, and at root it depends on faith, not knowledge (although of course Steiner claimed the opposite). [See, e.g., "Faith".]

* The spirits above us are gods. Steiner taught that there are nine ranks of gods. [See "Polytheism".] Spirits of Personality are gods three levels higher than human beings (i.e., you and me). They were once human but they have evolved to a higher status. Spirits of Movement are two levels higher than Spirits of Personality, while Spirits of Will are two levels higher than Spirits of Movement. [12]

◊ Sunny Days ◊

After our Saturn stage, we went to the Sun stage of evolution. “The second of the great evolutionary periods — the Sun stage — uplifts [i.e., uplifted] the human being to a higher level of consciousness than he attained on [i.e., during] Saturn, although compared to man’s present consciousness, his condition on [i.e., during] the Sun might still be called unconsciousness.” [p. 129] 

When we reach the middle of the Sun evolution, the Spirits of Personality peel away: “It is the time when the Spirits of Personality, who reached their human level upon Saturn, rise to a higher level of perfection, thus transcending the stage of humanity.” [pp. 131-132] Someday in the distant future, when we become fully human, we too will be able to climb toward superhuman status.

Archangels moved into their human stage on/during the Sun, while toward the end of Sun evolution we humans arrived at a somewhat equivocal condition: “The human being now continues [i.e., continued]his evolution in an inner life which, in its manifestations to consciousness, may be likened to an inward sensation of smell.” [p. 136]It is worth pausing over Steiner’s continual use of the word “on.” We were “on” Saturn and “on” the Sun. Steiner said he didn’t mean it, yet his language seems to insist that were actually were on these celestial spheres. His defender Gary Lachman says that Steiner really did mean that we really were on these spheres, in some sense. [13] Anything is possible, I suppose.

Moony Days

When he describes our next stage of evolution, Moon, Steiner repeats his denial that his words mean what they mean: “The planetary being emerging now [i.e., then] in its new form shall be designated ‘Moon’ — but we must not confuse it with that fragment of it which constitutes the present Moon, the satellite of the Earth.” [p. 137] OK? Planets are not the same as “planets” or "planetary stages" (or “planetary beings"), and the Moon is not the “Moon,” although it is a remaining part of the “Moon.” 

On the Moon, we repeated some of what we’d already done: “The physical life of man passes [i.e., passed] in recapitulation through the stages of Saturn evolution, but under altogether changed conditions.” [p. 138] One of the basic rules of cosmic history, as Steiner describes it, is that we must constantly recapitulate prior stages of our development, although each time we return to a previous stage we do so in a new way. Our evolution is an excruciatingly long process in part because of this constant need to go back over previous ground.

Our bodies on the Moon were different from our previous bodies. On Saturn, our bodies were “warmth.” On the Sun, they were “air” (although of course Steiner doesn’t mean air). On the Moon, they were “water” (although of course...): “This new state may be designated ‘water,’ meaning however not our present water ... The human physical body comes now to gradually assume a form composed of three organic structures ... The densest is the ‘water body’.....” [p. 139] The “Moon man’s consciousness” is pretty much like dreaming for us today, although not exactly. On the Moon, our “dreams” became real, so to speak: “The mental pictures of Moon consciousness being not copies but symbols of the outer things, their influence on the inner life of the human being was on this very account all the greater ... He [i.e., the human] became, so to speak, the image of his own processes in consciousness.” [p. 148] We formulated ourselves through our dreams of ourselves, so to speak.

Perhaps I’m quibbling too much about evasive language, but surely we can ask why Steiner insisted on using the wrong words for things. If the “water” on the moon was not water, why call it that? It is perfectly possible to coin a new term or a descriptive phrase, such as “spiritual fluidity.” Steiner’s decision to misuse language seems to have been a conscious choice intended to befuddle or, possibly, impress.

◊ Confession ◊

I’d like to pause here to make an admission I’ve made before, elsewhere. Steiner’s description of the universe might be correct. This is, just barely, possible. Contrary to my quibble, above, perhaps the spirit realm is really so strange that the only right way to talk about it is to use the wrong words. And perhaps cosmic history is so strange that there was once a stage which we might as well call Moon that later left behind a bit of itself which became the Moon. That is possible. Indeed, if we want to completely relinquish our grip on reality, anything at all is possible. Possibly we were not created by God Almighty, and we have not evolved as Steiner said, but we are now and always have been and eternally will be precisely what the Norse god Odin intended us to be. (If not Odin, pick any other name out of a hat.) Possibly the name for Odin’s divine cosmic plan is Newt Gingrich (although of course we do not mean Newt Gingrich). Possibly the gnostic meaning of Odin’s own name is the anagram “No i.d.,” which psychic research interprets as...whatever. Looked at this cockamamie way, there is no way to rule out any fantasy as a possible “truth.” But, fortunately, our troublesome rational minds sometimes interfere and ask what possible reason we have for believing any particular “truth.” It is well to keep asking ourselves this question as we proceed.

◊ Down to Earth ◊

After living on or during Saturn, Sun, and Moon, we started our life on (or during) Earth. Something big happened before we reached the Earth stage, however. “[B]efore this, an important event takes [i.e., took] place. Out of the fire-air Earth [i.e., the early, vaporous Earth] an independent heavenly body splits off, which will in its further course become the present Sun.” [pp. 165-166] [14] This bears no relation to what science tells us about the formation of the Sun and Earth, but that’s occult science in a nutshell — it repeatedly twists meaning and reality beyond recognition.

After the Sun left the Earth, the Moon did the same: 
“At this juncture, an event took place which gave to the whole of evolution a new turn. Everything that could conduce to a permanent hardening of the solid substance of the Earth was eliminated. This was the time when our present Moon left the Earth.” [p. 171] This comes a bit closer to reality in that, according to science, the Moon was indeed formed partially by material drawn from the Earth. The rest came from a huge planetesimal that collided with the Earth. This object was probably the size of Mars. Steiner overlooks this minor episode. [15]

◊ More About Animals ◊

Because Steiner did so at about this point, let’s take a brief detour back to the realm of animals. Steiner taught that the higher animals descended from human beings, [16] but more generally, animal life came about this way: “Forms [call them bodies] began to appear [on Earth] in which human souls were not incarnated ... This, then, is how the animals originated; and they had souls which could not dwell in the single creature ... Animals that are in the main descended from a single form [i.e., animals of one type], have one soul together ... [I]t is in this sense that in spiritual science we speak of specific (or generic) [sic] souls, or ‘group souls’ of the animals.” [pp. 179-180] All animals of a single type — tigers, whales — share a single soul. Thus, if there are a million whales, then each whale has one one-millionth of the whale “group soul”.

The chief difference between humans and animals is that humans have "I's", or we might say that each human has an individual soul, whereas animals share group souls. But Steiner taught that humans also have group souls, although these are less important to us now than they were in the past, before we became truly individualized. [See "Four Group Souls".] Thus, while you today have your own individual soul, you also participate in the group souls of the groups to which you belong: a family, a nation, a race... Part of the process of evolution is moving away from group souls and more fully inhabiting your own individual spiritual identity. Ultimately, however, this will reverse, in a sense, in that everything is evolving toward a single, convergent goal: ultimate divinity

◊ Paving the Way for Races 

When we started our lives on the Earth, our bodies still bore little resemblance to the bodies we have now. Nevertheless, we began down the path toward racial differences, Steiner said. “The human bodies were like wraiths, like shadows. Distributed as they were over the whole Earth, they came under different kinds of Earthly influence at different parts of the Earth’s surface ... [D]iversity began now to appear among the human forms. Thus the way was paved for what afterwards showed itself in variety [i.e., differences] in race.” [p. 170.] [17] Anthroposophists usually reject out of hand the charge that their guru was a racist. But Steiner talked about race interminably. Indeed, he saw indications leading to “variety in race” even at this very early stage of our history.

According to Steiner, the condition of each human body reflects the state of a person’s soul, and this was true way back then, too. A person’s “inner soul-condition could be seen in his external, bodily form ... [N]ot all earthly men were alike in form and figure.” Some had better limbs, “the variation depending on their dwelling-place on Earth.” Some proto-people had good limbs, and others who were more mature and harmonious “were now able to develop more perfectly the beginnings of the head.” Among a third type of human, the “feeling they had of belonging to the spiritual world was slight....” So some humans were more advanced while others (two out of three) lagged behind. [pp. 176-177] [18]

Let Steiner’s words sink in. Beginning long ago, humans diverged in important ways — a few were more advanced while most others lagged behind. Of course, there is variation among human beings today, and there may well have been such variation long ago. But notice that Steiner immediately links variation to the beginnings of race, and he stresses the importance of bodily differences — they reflect the states of peoples’ souls. Here we see early signs of the deepest evil in Steiner’s thinking. [19] Bodily differences — such as differences in color — reflect spiritual differences. Or, as Steiner once said, “One can only understand history...if one pays attention to people's racial characteristics. And one can only understand all that is spiritual...if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin.” — Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS (Verlag Der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, 1961), GA 349, p. 52.

◊ Planetary Migrations ◊

After introducing the concept of race, Steiner describes an extraordinary type of human segregation. As time passed, the process of physical reincarnation on the Earth became impossible for some humans. “Their form was much too hardened, and under the influence of the Moon forces had grown all too unlike the human figure to be able to receive the soul. This meant that certain human souls no longer found it possible to return to Earth.” [OCCULT SCIENCE, p. 177] These souls whose bodies hard become too hard went left Earth for the planet Jupiter. “These were transplanted for their further evolution to another planet ... Jupiter.” [p. 178] 

Try not to get confused. Before beginning life on the Earth, we lived on Saturn, Sun, and Moon, although not really (i.e., we lived on or during the planetary/evolutionary phases called Saturn, Sun, and Moon, but these were not the orbs that we see in the sky today). In the future we will also live on Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan, although not really (i.e., we will live on or during the planetary/evolutionary phases called Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan, but this will not be the orbs that we see in the sky today). Meanwhile, during life on Earth (i.e., here on the planet Earth as it exists during the planetary/evolutionary phase called "Earth"), some of us had to quit the planet Earth for other planets — people left the planet Earth and moved to other orbs (planets such as Saturn and other destinations in the physical solar system).* 

The orbs people migrated to reflect spiritual/evolutionary conditions, but they have actual existence in the solar system as it exists at this stage of cosmic evolution (i.e., they are planets and other physical orbs existing during the "Earth" stage of evolution). They are "physical" orbs, but (like everything else, really) they are primarily spiritual at their deeper levels. “Here we are speaking of heavenly bodies and planets, and of their names, in precisely the same way as was customary in a science of former times. The meaning will be clear from the context ... The physical Earth is but the physical expression for an organism of soul and spirit, and the same is true of every other heavenly body.” [p. 178] [20] By a "science of former times," Steiner means the old, mystical (astrological) science that was so much truer than modern, materialistic science. He often affirmed the former and castigated the latter. [See "Science".] So here he is saying that, as scientists used to understand, the planets we see in the sky really exist, although they are actually extensions of spiritual realities that we cannot perceive with our senses. (Steiner often argued that scientists in the past were wiser than scientists today; modern science and modern scholarship, he said, are fatally materialistic. See, e.g., "Materialism U." He also taught that the planets and other orbs possess spiritual powers, such as the astrological powers that were recognized by a "science of former times." See "Astrology

Bearing this “clarification” in mind, you should know that “It was thus on Jupiter that such souls continued their evolution” (i.e., the souls who left the planet Earth for the planet Jupiter continued their spiritual evolution up there on Jupiter). And that’s not all. “Later on, when the Earth was inclining still more to the solid state, another dwelling place had to be created for souls who, though able for a time to inhabit the hardened bodies, could no longer do so when the hardening had gone too far. For these, there arose in Mars a dwelling suited to their further evolution. (i.e., the Earth got more and more densely physical, too physical for some souls to bear, so they packed up and moved to Mars)." [p. 178] 

Humans who spent time on the other planets eventually were able to return to Earth. They did this by entering new, more receptive Earth bodies. “Humans now began to multiply again on Earth ... For the way in which the Earth-Moon forces were now working enabled the human bodies to take such shape as adapted them perfectly for the embodiment of human souls. Now therefore the souls, formerly translated to Mars, Jupiter, etc., were guided once more to the Earth ... Thus it came about that among the progeny of men [and women, obviously], there were some with souls coming from outside [i.e., the other planets] — appearing again on Earth for the first time since the primeval ages of its evolution — and others with souls that were now reincarnating.” [p. 187] So humanity consisted of those who had left the Earth for other planets and those who stayed on Earth, leaving only when they died and went to Spirit-land and then reincarnated on Earth. After this, “for long periods of time the human race still consisted of two kinds of human beings.” [p. 188] Which is to say, the human race now consisted of 1) humans-who-had-gone-to-other-planets, and 2) humans-who-stayed-on-Earth-and-continued-reincarnating-in-the-normal-way.

* The planets, like the entire "physical" solar system, existed in a very different form, at that time, than they exhibit today. Nonetheless, the migrations Steiner discusses here occurred within the solar system of that period — they were not migrations to other stages of evolution — they were movements through space, not time. At the end of OCCULT SCIENCE, Steiner attempts to clear up the confusion caused by his varying use of such terms as "Saturn." He explains that the physical planets, in the forms they exhibit now, are fragments — existing now in our solar system — of evolutionary stages that we have passed through or that we will enter in the future. Thus, they are not those stages but mere reflections of those stages. (Thus, for instance, "Old Saturn" — the evolutionary stage — is reflected in the planet Saturn, but the stage and the planet are not the same thing. Both exist(ed) in their own ways, Old Saturn in time and Saturn in space.) "Seen in the light of spiritual science, the present Saturn is a kind of reincarnation of Old Saturn. It came into existence because, before the Sun had separated from the Earth, Beings were there who would not have been able to leave with the Sun. They were so much imbued with Saturnian characteristics that they could not live where Solar properties above all were to be developed. So too the present Jupiter arose because Beings were there with characteristics which cosmic evolution as a whole will be unfolding in the future Jupiter and not till then. Mars on the other hand is a heavenly body inhabited by Beings whose evolution on Old Moon was such that they could not have benefited from any further progress upon Earth. Mars is a reincarnation of Old Moon on a higher level. The present Mercury is a dwelling-place for Beings who are ahead of earthly evolution in that they have developed certain earthly qualities in a higher form than is possible upon the Earth herself. Likewise the present Venus is a prophetic anticipation of the future Venus state." — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, pp. 328-329.

◊ Higher and Lower Humans ◊

Among the humans who now existed on the planet Earth, the development of their souls occurred under the influence of different “planetary” spirits — that is, gods who lived on the various planets. The following is hard to follow, so here’s a synopsis: All humans now once again lived on the Earth, but the gods living on other planets influenced the lives of humans on the Earth. The highest humans were those who matured under the influence of the benevolent higher spiritual beings headquartered on the Sun. But other humans fell under the influence of lower gods who existed on celestial orbs other than the Sun, and thus they did not evolve as much. The “leader” of any orb is the highest god on that orb (planet, star, moon, or what-have-you); he usually has a host of other, somewhat lower gods in his service. The “higher Egos” that humans acquire under the influence of planetary leaders are our higher, more-than-merely-earthly spiritual identities.* Which gods influenced which humans depended, in part, on which planets people had migrated to. If your grandfather had migrated to Jupiter, you were likely to be susceptible to the influence of the the gods of Jupiter. If you were primarily influenced by the gods of the Sun, you evolved well and became a member of a high human band (i.e., nation or race). If you were primarily influenced by inferior gods elsewhere, you evolved less well; you became more or less abnormal; you lagged behind the higher humans; and, in the worst cases, you might actually have subhuman or animal strains in your lineage.

“Jupiter became the habitation of Beings [i.e., spiritual powers, gods] who had not matured to the level of the Sun ... As [i.e., just as] the leader of the Sun evolution became the higher Ego...of the human beings who had remained on the Earth, so did the Jupiter leader become the higher Ego which passed like a common consciousness through other human beings...who traced their descent to a mingling of the offspring of the men who had remained on Earth with those who had...gone off to Jupiter ... They were those human descendants who in that ancient time had still been receiving [i.e., had received] human souls — souls, however, that...were between the human and animal kingdoms.” [pp. 190-191] [21]

The intermingling of Earth humans with humans returning from other planets led to the existence of “Jupiter men,” “Mars men,” and “Saturn men" (i.e., humans descended, in part, from those who had gone to these various planets). [p. 191] Below the sci-fi trappings of these doctrines is some real nastiness. Steiner was basically saying that some groups of humans were higher than others, even in their spiritual capacities. The differences between various types of humans was a matter of both spiritual and genetic lineage. Descendants of humans who all stayed on the Earth were fine; but humans produced by interminglings between Earth humans and unearthly humans were inferior. Indeed, some unearthly humans came from semi-animal stock, implying that they were to some degree subhuman.

This is rank nonsense, but Steiner meant it. The lower humans were prone to fall under Lucifer’s power, Steiner taught, while the higher humans resisted. “[I]n the lower kinds of human beings the life-body was after all too little protected, and could not sufficiently resist the encroachments of the Luciferian nature.” [p. 191] The "Luciferian nature" is the corrupting spirit of Lucifer. The “life-body” is the etheric body, the lowest of the three nonphysical bodies that Steiner said real human beings have. (The others are the “astral body” and the “I.” See "Incarnation".) Inferior humans were influenced by inferior and even demonic spiritual beings.

The passages we have just seen are not explicitly racist. Arguably, fear of miscegenation (race mixing) peers out from the comment about mixed matings, and the entire idea of groups being separated by their lineage certainly suggests racial separation. The word “race” does not occur in these sentences, however, so we must tread lightly. But Steiner will soon return to the subject of these planetary migrations, and then he will make the racial import of his doctrines plain.
* "Higher ego" is a Theosophical term. It refers to the human soul component also called buddhi-manas. Essentially, Steiner taught that we have a "higher man" within us, the spiritual/clairvoyant/transcendent man whose true home is the spirit realm. This higher man consists of three spiritual members, the highest of which is Atma-Buddhi-Manas. [See "What We Are".] We develop these higher members under the guidance of gods who live on various celestial orbs.

◊ Hallucinations ◊

As I suggested at the start, it’s possible that Steiner suffered from hallucinations; maybe he was crazy as a coot. I don’t take this view — I think he was quite sane and intentionally spun mystic webs that brought him a fairly wide following in traumatized Germany following the calamitous end of World War I. But I wouldn’t rule out the other possibility, if you want to push it: His sanity is certainly open to question.

In my opinion, OCCULT SCIENCE is, at best, a scam. The book is needlessly disorganized and incoherent. The language in cloudy, referents are often uncertain, subjects are raised (and dropped) out of sequence — the text is full of explanations that explain nothing and statements that state nothing. Madness? Perhaps. Or cleverness. Steiner strove to make “mystery knowledge” as mysterious as possible without being utterly, irretrievably incomprehensible. He walked a fine line. The only real mystery is that some readers are willing to believe him. But hucksters and con men have long known the power of double-talk that promises the moon while delivering zilch.

◊ Our Epochs and Divisions ◊

Steiner taught that human beings on Earth have passed through four great ages prior to the present. The oldest Earth age is called the Polarian Age, followed by the Hyperborean Age, the Lemurian Age, and the Atlantean Age. Our own age is the Post-Atlantean. [22]

In accordance with the Theosophical practice of gathering myths from around the world and trying to hammer them into a consistent whole, Steiner equated the Polarian Age with the Garden of Eden. 
“In Biblical tradition the time before the entry of the Luciferian beings is referred to as the time of Paradise, and the [human] descent on to [sic] the Earth — man’s entanglement in the world of the senses — as the expulsion from Paradise.” [p. 192] Only by a considerable suspension of disbelief can we agree that Steiner was describing “Biblical tradition.” He tried to make his scheme appear to be at least superficially consistent with some elements of Biblical lore, but he generally failed. The “Luciferian beings” are injurious spirits in Lucifer’s power — call them little devils. We humans may become their victims and, in a sense, we may even merge with them. “The ancient Persians ... were in danger of merging altogether into the Luciferian beings.” [p. 192] [23] As we have seen, the dangers of Luciferic control are greatest among “lower” humans. 

The Polarian Age was Eden, the Hyperborean Age was the Fall. Mankind next moved on to the Lemurian Age — Lemuria being a human habitation somewhat comparable to Atlantis. Then came Atlantis itself, where extremely important events transpired. 
“It was during the evolution in the region of Atlantis that the actual separation of humanity into the men of Saturn, Sun, Jupiter and Mars took place.” [p. 207]

Since Steiner momentarily drops the subject of human divisions at this point, I will too. But we will not be able to escape it for long.

◊ Christ and Gnosis ◊

Steiner taught that the various celestial orbs and the descendants of humans who went to those orbs have “oracles,” which he defined as “place[s] where the intentions of spiritual Beings are perceived.” [24] Humans who gain the knowledge provided by the oracles are “Initiates.” The highest oracle, heeded by the most spiritually mature humans, is presided over by the gods of the Sun; the other oracles provide less accurate spiritual knowledge. “Other Oracles were called into life by the members of Saturn, Mars and Jupiter humanity, whose Initiates carried their vision no farther than to those Beings who could be revealed to them....” [p. 194] That is, Saturn humans and the others only knew what their lowly oracles could teach them.

The oracle of the Sun is centered on Christ. Steiner’s conception of Christ is intricate. Certain humans were able to gain knowledge of Christ long before His birth in Bethlehem, Steiner taught. They learned that He is not really Christ, as such, but “Christ.” “[T]hese human beings ... could learn [about] the sublime Being who had been the Leader in the severance of Sun and Earth, and through whom the understanding for [i.e., of] the ‘Christ’ was subsequently revealed to man.” [pp. 193-194] Note the quotation marks Steiner put around “Christ.” Steiner did not believe in Jesus Christ as such but in a gnostic conception of a Mystery. According to Steiner, Christ is the highest god of the Sun; He is the Sun God; but He is also the Word, the living embodiment of divine will. [See, e.g. "Sun God", "Gnosis", and "Was He Christian?".]

High mystery knowledge could be obtained from “a special sanctuary [i.e., an oracle] which shall here be named the Christ — or the Sun — Oracle.” [p. 194] This knowledge was beyond the reach of all except those people who had matured under the influence of the Sun Leader. The others “were not able, even in their more advanced states of consciousness, to reach through to the Christ Revelation.” [p. 195] [25] Initiates who had received the Christ Revelation (i.e., knowledge of Christ and His role in human evolution) knew Christ long before He was born in Bethlehem.
Steiner was working out of the gnostic tradition of Christian mysticism, according to which Christ is the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” [John 1:1] An orthodox interpretation of this passage is that Christ is the fulfillment of the eternal Word of God [26]; but as a gnostic, Steiner viewed “Christ” as the Word itself, that is, the essence of mystery wisdom. When Christ was eventually born in the flesh, he embodied the Sun’s mystery plan for future human evolution. “With Christ there appeared in human form and figure what the high Being of the Sun had prepared as the great pattern for humanity ... Hitherto this wisdom had existed only to enable man to bring himself into a state of soul where he could behold the realm of the Sun Spirit ... From now on, the wisdom contents of the Mysteries [i.e., mystery knowledge, occult wisdom] had a different mission; they had to make man capable of recognizing Christ-become-Man....” [p. 216] Before Bethlehem, the purpose of mystery wisdom was to help men to learn from the Sun; after Bethlehem, it has been to recognize the real meaning of “Christ” in the flesh. Christ became our model for future evolution; he became our Prototype. [See "Prototype".] 

The question becomes whether Steiner understood Christ’s real meaning. Judged by the doctrines of virtually all recognized Christian denominations, he did not.

◊ More Planets ◊

According to Steiner, Earth gave birth to the Sun, the Moon, Saturn, and so forth. This includes planets we haven’t yet mentioned, such as Venus [27] and Mercury. [28] Steiner skipped Uranus and Neptune, but — in a move bound to shake our confidence — he included Vulcan, a planet that scientists once thought might exist but that we now know is entirely fictitious. Somehow, Steiner’s high consciousness didn’t tip him off. “There was moreover a further class of human beings who had absorbed most of all of the Luciferian influence. They ... may be called adherents of the Vulcan Oracle.” [p. 195]

Steiner’s blunder about Vulcan is related to numerous other bloopers and foul-ups we can lay at his door. Anyone unconcerned about Steiner’s heresies may be troubled by Steiner’s simple ignorance about history, science, medicine, and other real-world subjects. [29]

◊ Calamity ◊

Life on Earth has been punctuated by disasters. One came with the destruction of Lemuria, Steiner said. Another came when Atlantis suffered a similar fate. It was our own fault. “Towards the middle of the Atlantean period of evolution, a great calamity began gradually to overwhelm mankind. The secrets of the Initiates should [sic] have been carefully protected ... [But] men were coming into the realm [or influence] of lower spirit-beings who were themselves unable to partake in the regular evolution of the Earth and therefore worked against it ... Nor was it only the ordinary run of human beings, but some of the Initiates too succumbed to the temptations of lower spirit-beings ... Mighty and ominous powers of Nature were thus let loose by the deeds of men, leading eventually to the gradual destruction of the whole territory of Atlantis by catastrophes of air and water. Atlantean humanity — the portion of it, that is, which did not perish in the storms — was compelled to migrate ... Europe, Asia and Africa on the one hand, and America on the other, began gradually to assume their present shape. Vast numbers of human beings migrated to these countries [sic].” [pp. 197-198] [30] According to Steiner, the migrants from Atlantis became the races that we know today: the white, yellow, black, and red races. Because there are two “yellow” races, according to Steiner, the great racial groupings became the Aryans, Mongolians, Malayans, Negroes, and Red Indians. [31]

Steiner simply could not drop the subject of race. 
“We have described the conditions under which the evolution of mankind has been going forward since the re-population of the Earth in the Lemurian epoch [i.e., since humans returned from the other planets]. We saw how the human beings have to be traced back in their soul nature to diverse beings who, coming down from other worlds, incarnated in the bodily descendants of the old Lemurians. The varieties of race are a consequence of this.” [p. 218] [32] Returning to his surreal notion of planetary migrations, Steiner explicitly associates them with his racial theories. Humans who went to other worlds developed different “soul natures.” Returning to Earth, they all entered similar bodies (“bodily descendants of the old Lemurians”), but deep down they were “diverse,” and the diversity involved “race.”

Here is the appalling consequence of such thinking. We currently live in the fifth or Post-Atlantean age, when — according to Steiner — human races must go to battle against one another. 
“White mankind is still on the path of absorbing spirit more deeply into its essence. Yellow [or colored] mankind is on the path of preserving the 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 ... 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.” [33] The necessary occurrence, according to Steiner, is race war.

◊ Initiation ◊

Chapter Five of OCCULT SCIENCE deals with the directions Steiner spelled out for how to become an occult initiate. I deal with this topic in the essays "Inside Scoop" and "Knowing the Worlds", so I will skip it here. ("Knowing the Worlds" is an examination of Steiner's second-most important book, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT. "Attaining" the knowledge of higher worlds is the process of occult initiation.)

◊ Next Stop, Jupiter ◊

The stages of evolution we have been through — Saturn, Sun, and Moon — are now properly called Old Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon, to distinguish them from the planets of similar names, and also from the future stages that will recapitulate old stages in new forms. Our immediate future will be a “new cosmic entity into which Earth will be metamorphosed, even as [i.e., just as] Old Moon was metamorphosed into Earth. [paragraph break] The future evolutionary form may be named the ‘Jupiter’ condition.” [p. 299]

Steiner’s descriptions of the future are not, according to Steiner, mere predictions. They are objective clairvoyant accounts of how things will be: 
“We are therefore beholding what our earth is destined to become.” [p. 299] The chief benefit of the successive evolutionary stages is that we attain progressively higher forms of consciousness as we move along. On Jupiter, we will have sort of an inverse version of Old Moon consciousness. It will be a perfected form of imagination. (We will later perfect inspiration on Venus and intuition on Vulcan. See the entries on Jupiter Consciousness, Venus Consciousness, and Vulcan Consciousness in "The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia".)

Steiner gets awfully vague, even by his own standards, when looking forward. The future is knowable (to him) but it is generally indescribable. Note that, according to Steiner, he was not limited to the same level of consciousness as the rest of us. 
“Supersensible consciousness [sic; i.e., clairvoyance] can...attain some knowledge of the events and processes of Jupiter evolution [i.e., the Jupiter stage of our evolution]. Yet the beings and events seen in this field are not of a kind to be perceived by outer senses ... All we receive of them are the impressions of purely spiritual sound, spiritual light and spiritual warmth” (bearing in mind that by “sound,” “light,” and “warmth” he doesn’t exactly mean...). [p. 299] Skeptics may suspect that Steiner was hiding his own ignorance in these clouds of obfuscation. In any event, Steiner stressed that thinking is useless for the kinds of things he discusses (but we already knew this): “These things cannot be — nor are they meant to be — discovered by dint of reasoning and reflection.” [p. 300] “Occult science” is indeed poorly suited to reasoning and reflection.

Jupiter consciousness will be a form of imagination allowing us to perceive both exterior and interior realities simultaneously: 
“With this consciousness one sees a man in outline and in forms, as in day-waking consciousness [i.e., ordinary wide-wake consciousness], but one sees at the same time what lives in his soul....” [34] This heightened consciousness will become available to one an all on Jupiter, as long as we are real, upward-evolving humans, not subhumans or demons of any sort. “On the planet which will replace the Earth, the whole of humanity will have this psychic-consciousness or Imagination, the ‘Jupiter’ consciousness.” [35
] Waldorf schools often stress the value of imagination, without explaining that for Steiner this term had occult meaning. Imagination is akin to clairvoyance, and on Jupiter we will attain a high, pure form of it (capital I: Imagination).

◊ Wrapping Up ◊

After Jupiter, we will move along to Venus, which will be an inverse recapitulation of Old Sun. “[B]eings and entities become perceptible which are the further-developed forms of what was present during Old Sun evolution. They are now at such a lofty level of existence as to elude a power of perception whose range is limited to the Old Moon and to the forms deriving from it [i.e., Jupiter].” [p. 300] Venus consciousness will build on Jupiter consciousness by adding the wisdom of dreams. Designated “Inspiration,” this consciousness “will unite the present day-consciousness, the psychic-consciousness known only to the initiate, and in addition all that man sleeps away today.” [36] Notice how Steiner’s vision of the future takes man farther and farther away from rationality. By the time we get to Venus, we will be using psychic powers and sleep-state powers, giving them at least equal weight with waking consciousness.

From Venus, we will ascend to Vulcan.
 “Vulcan is in like [i.e., the same] relation to the Saturn evolution as Venus [is] to Sun and [as] Jupiter [is] to Moon.” [p. 300] Your eyes may be glazing by now, but we’re nearly through. “The seventh state of consciousness [i.e., Vulcan consciousness] is the ‘spiritual consciousness’ or Intuition, the very highest, when man has a universal consciousness; when he will not only see what proceeds on his own planet, but in the whole cosmos around him.” [37] Intuition will be the ultimate state of imaginative/clairvoyant/psychic consciousness. On Vulcan, insight and wisdom will be present in your consciousness as if by magic — thinking things through rationally will be like a long-forgotten bad dream. You will just know; you won't have to think.

◊ Good Humans, Bad Humans ◊

Just as evolution in the past has included troubles, so will our future evolution be troubled. Prior to the Jupiter phase of evolution, there will be “a cosmic time when, side by side with human souls who have attained this high level of development [i.e., the good, high humans], others will be living who have turned into a path leading towards evil. These backward souls will have burdened their Karma with so much of error, ugliness, and ill-doing as to constitute a special group of their own, subject to aberration and evil and bitterly opposed to the progressive community among mankind.” [pp. 308-309] [38] The evil humans will be segregated in a “distinct [i.e., separate] kingdom” [p. 309], a sort of spiritual ghetto. 

When the good humans move on to Jupiter and beyond, they will do what they can to lift the bad from their ghetto: “[T]he descendants of the good humanity will constitute a human kingdom on a higher level. This is the human kingdom proper, and a great part of its work will be to influence and ennoble the souls who have fallen into the other group....” [p. 309] Steiner here offers, in effect, his understanding of the White Man’s Burden, [39] which is for high humans to oversee and, if possible, improve low ones. [40]

Sadly, the efforts of good humans to improve their inferior brothers has not fully succeeded in the past, and it will not fully succeed in the foreseeable future. Evildoers will still be with us. Thus, during the Venus phase of evolution, an extraordinary measure will be necessary: “From Venus [i.e., during the Venus phase], at a certain stage, a separate celestial body becomes [i.e., will become] detached. This — as it were, an ‘irreclaimable Moon’ — includes all the beings who have persisted in withstanding the true course of evolution. It enters now [i.e., will enter] upon a line of development such as no words can portray, so utterly unlike is it to anything within the range of man’s experience on Earth.” [pp. 309-310] [41]. 

The irreclaimable ones in their forlorn "moon" will undergo a fate that "no words can portray." We are given the distinct impression that irreclaimability is a severe condition, but otherwise we are left uninformed. As for the good people, they will naturally enjoy a more pleasant fate than their unfortunate brethren, but on this topic, too, Steiner is unprepared to offer a description: “The evolved humanity on the other hand, in a form of existence utterly spiritualized, goes forward to the Vulcan evolution, any description of which would be beyond the compass of this book.” [p. 310] [42] Steiner's silence is more than anticlimactic. The entire pattern of human evolution, the whole subject “revealed” by occult science, culminates here, and yet Steiner says it lies outside the scope of his book. He undercuts the rationale for the entire enterprise — having spoken vaguely all along, he leads us to a conclusion that has no shape or content.

◊ This and That ◊

The final chapter of OCCULT SCIENCE is a bit of a grab bag. Titled "Details from the Domain of Spiritual Science", the chapter consists of bits and pieces of Steiner's larger vision. I will make no effort to present it more coherently than Steiner himself does.

The Ether-Body of Man

As we have seen, Steiner taught that human beings have multiple invisible components or parts [see the section "Who We Are", above]. These "higher members" of the human constitution experience sensations comparable to the physical body's sensations of warmth, color, and so forth. But, Steiner said, we must understand that "warmth", "color", and so forth, are quite different at the nonphysical levels of existence. What we experience there is the inner or spiritual essence of a phenomenon, not the mere outer impression given by the phenomenon.

We can use our clairvoyant spiritual perception to look upon ourselves and see ourselves as we truly are, not merely as our outer senses indicate. "
The general impression which the [clairvoyant] seer has of the ether-body of man may now be described as follows ... [The seer may] have, to begin with, a general impression of the ether-body. There arises in his soul the same inner experience which he has at the sight, let us say, of the color of a peach-blossom;* this experience then becomes vividly alive, and he can say: the ether-body has a 'peach-blossom' color. Then he perceives the several organs and currents of the ether-body. But the ether-body can also be described in terms of other experiences of the soul — experiences which correspond to sensations of warmth, impressions of sound, and so on, for it is not only a color-phenomenon. Moreover the astral body and other members of man's being can be described in like manner." [pp. 315-316]

*Note that "peach-blossom" is the color of spiritual health, according to Steiner. It is also the color of white people's skin, he said. "If we take the flesh color of a Caucasian person, which resembles spring's fresh peach-blossom colour, we have the living image of the soul ... And if...we take hold of black, we have the spiritual image of death." — Rudolf Steiner, ART (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), pp. 188-189.

The Astral World

The physical universe is by no means the sum of reality, Steiner taught. Through the proper use of clairvoyance,* we can perceive a much richer tapestry, one in which spiritual past, present, and future are intertwined, and in which the many worlds of the cosmos are intimately linked. (This is the underlying tenet on which Anthroposophical astrology is founded.) "As long as the physical world alone is being observed, the Earth — man's dwelling place — appears as a separate heavenly body. When supersensible cognition rises to other spheres, there is no longer this separation. Hence it was possible [for me] to say that together with the Earth, Imaginative consciousness perceives the Old Moon condition, such as it has become up to the present time.** The world thus entered is one to which not only the supersensible nature of the Earth belongs; other heavenly bodies, physically separated from the Earth, are part of it as well. In that realm the knower of supersensible worlds observes the supersensible nature not only of the Earth but of other heavenly bodies too." [p. 316]

*In this passage, Steiner uses the terms "supersensible cognition" (perception of things hidden from our ordinary senses) and "Imaginative consciousness" (the formation of true mental images) as essentially interchangeable, and in both cases he means clairvoyance of the sort he claims to possess.

**As usual, Steiner's references to "Old Moon", "Old Saturn", etc., can be confusing. [See the note in the section "Planetary Migrations", above.] Old Moon was a period of evolution. In the normal sense, it lies in our past. But in a spiritual sense, all phases of past and future are present to the clairvoyant seer now, and in a sense they continue their our development even as we move along to other stages.

Human Life After Death

Here Steiner offers several tidbits about what happens to us after we die. • The astral body remains united with the etheric body for a brief period after the physical body expires. This period is about as long as the individual in question would have been able to stay awake if, while still alive, s/he had made a concerted effort to fend off sleep as long as possible. [p. 317] • After the etheric body is discarded, a fragment remains. This fragment contains the "fruits of the past life. It is the bearer of the 'seed' of [one's] coming life." This provides the mechanism for karma. [p. 317] • The usual period of time between incarnations is about 1,075 years — half the time required for a new sign of the zodiac to become predominant.* In other words, we usually incarnate twice under each sign of the zodiac, once as a man and once as a woman. Things vary from individual case to individual case, however. "The re-entry of the human being into earthly life is an outcome of these two factors: the inner thirst of the soul for incarnation, and the cosmically given possibility of finding a suitable bodily nature." [pp. 318-319]

*The Earth's axis is tilted, and the direction of the tilt shifts slowly, swinging through a cycle that lasts almost 260 centuries. This shift — called the "precession of the equinoxes" — causes the axis to point at different regions of the sky in succession. Put another way, over the course of approximately 25,800 years, the Earth's axis seems to lean toward each of the constellations of the zodiac in succession. Thus, each of the twelve traditional constellations may be said to be predominant during one twelfth of the 25,800-year long "great year" or "Platonic year". One twelfth of 25,800 is 2,150. Half of this is 1,075.

The Stages of Human Life

Steiner taught that we are born several times as various components of our natures incarnate. “At physical birth man is released from the physical integument of the maternal womb ... For his etheric body man is enveloped by an ethereal sheath — an etheric integument — until about the change of teeth, the sixth or seventh year, when the etheric integument falls away. This event represents the 'birth' of the etheric body. After it man is still enveloped by an astral sheath, which falls away at the age of puberty — between the 12th and 16th year. The astral body in its turn is 'born.' Then at an even later point of time the I is born ... With the birth of the I, man's adult life begins. With the three members of the soul (Sentient Soul, Intellectual or Mind-Soul and Spiritual Soul)* progressively awakened and activated by the I, he finds his proper place in life.” [pp. 319-320]

This process is later reversed and one approaches death. “The life of man is thereby naturally divided into three epochs. First is the time during which the physical and etheric bodies grow and develop. In the middle period the astral body and the I come into their own. The third and last is the period of bodily decline when the youthful development of the etheric and physical bodies is in a sense reversed. ... [W]hen the physical and etheric bodies have been cast off, the evolution of the astral body through the ‘time of purification’** takes about a third as long as the past life between birth and death.” [p. 320]

*These are extensions or modifications of various incorporeal parts of our nature. Steiner was somewhat inconsistent in his descriptions of our invisible components. [See "What We're Made Of" and "Our Parts".] Steiner again refers to the Sentient Soul, Mind Soul, and Spiritual Soul in the section "The Members of Man's Being", below.

**According to Steiner, following earthly death we spend a period in kamaloka, a sort of purgatory. [See “Kamaloka”.]

Higher Regions of the Spiritual World

Once we have attained intuition, Steiner taught, we can see into several levels of the spirit realm — but our vision is limited, meaning we cannot see all the way to the highest levels. “[T]here are even higher regions of existence, though we can do no more than briefly allude to them here.” [p. 321] We can see only as high as intuition can penetrate; to see higher, we would need still more powerful forms of clairvoyance. We presently know of the highest regions only because the gods transmit the influences of those regions to us. The high gods in the highest regions undertake work we can scarcely comprehend. “Beyond the realm of Intuition is the region where the great cosmic plan is being woven out of purely spiritual causes.” [p. 321]

The Members of Man's Being

Here Steiner elaborates, a bit, on his description of the human spiritual constitution. How clear or helpful his explanations of these matters are depends, perhaps, on the receptivity of the reader. "[T]he Sentient Soul is due to a transmuted astral body, the Intellectual Soul to a transmuted ether-body, and the Spiritual Soul to a transmuted physical body. But it may equally well be said that all three members of the soul are part and parcel of the astral body. The Spiritual Soul, for example, can only come into being as an astral entity in an appropriate physical body. It lives an astral life in a physical body molded and worked upon to be its proper habitation." [p. 322]

The State of Consciousness in Dreaming

Steiner gave varying indications concerning the value of dreams. Here he declares that dreams have no validity in modern occultism. (On other occasions, he said something quite different. [See “Dreams”.]) “Dream-consciousness is on the one hand a relic of the picture-consciousness which man enjoyed on the Old Moon, and — for a long time too — in former periods of Earth evolution ... Dreaming is thus a relic of the normal state of consciousness of former times. And yet the dream-condition of today differs essentially from the old picture-consciousness ... [N]othing deriving from the dream-life can be a direct source of spiritual-scientific knowledge of higher worlds. The same applied to what is often spoken of as visions, premonitions and second sight.” [p. 322]

The Way to Supersensible Cognition

Steiner taught that the method he laid out for developing clairvoyance is the “direct path” to knowledge of the higher worlds. But he said a second path also exists. “There is also another way, known as ‘the path of feeling.’ ... [A] feeling to which a man unreservedly devotes his inner life for a sufficient length of time becomes transformed of its own accord into cognition — into Imaginative vision. If, for example, the soul is deliberately steeped for weeks and months or even longer in feelings of humility, the feeling-content is transformed into spiritual perception. A gradual ascent through this and other feelings of this kind can thus become a pathway into the supersensible.” [p. 323] Steiner said that this second path is generally impractical in the hurly-burly of modern life; hence, he recommends the direct path as lays out in OCCULT SCIENCE and KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT.

The Observation of Particular Events and Beings

Steiner claimed that occult initiates can learn not only the general laws and conditions of the spirit realm, but also the particular conditions and actions of specific spirit beings. Careful study is required, however. Aspirants should heed him well, he admonished. Gaining true, focused clairvoyance “can only be done after a regular and proper training has been undergone, for this alone makes it possible to distinguish truth from illusion as to the several beings and events. Those who would claim to recognize the spiritual details, without have undergone a proper training are liable to countless illusions ... [T]he same training which enables one to see the facts of higher worlds described in this work on Occult Science, also enables one to perceive an individual human soul during his life after death ... Yet the reliable observation of the particular is only possible against the background of a more universal knowledge ... When he has walked along these paths in the sincere and unselfish quest of knowledge, then and then only is a man fit to observe the details ... Unalloyed insight into the single facts and beings is only possible for those whose sincere interest in the universal truths of spiritual science enables them to receive the detailed revelations too in a scientific spirit and without selfish longing.” [pp. 324-325]

The Relevance of All This 
to Waldorf Education

Some parents think Waldorf schools sound like pleasant places where the “insights” of a kindly fellow named Rudolf Steiner have some sort of vague influence. They may have heard that Steiner was a philosopher, an educational reformer, a polymath — indeed, a genius. Any schools that grew out of his teachings must be swell.

Learning what Steiner’s teachings actually are can be a useful corrective to such misapprehensions. As Anthony Storr said, Steiner’s vision is like science fiction, floating without factual support of any kind. But Rudolf Steiner's followers take Steiner's bizarre teachings extremely seriously. They believe that the universe is as Steiner described it, and this is the vision of the universe they would like Waldorf students to accept, sooner or later. Waldorf faculties may not overtly teach Anthroposophical doctrines to their students — but they lace much of their work with allusions and nods to Anthroposophy. They think that Steiner told them the truth about the universe, and of course they want their students to find their way to the truth. [See "Spiritual Agenda" and "Sneaking It In".]

Not long ago, the Anthroposophic Press put out a new edition of OCCULT SCIENCE, titled AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE. [43] On the back cover, these words appear: “In this basic work of spiritual science, readers learn how the creation and evolution of humanity is embedded in the heart of the vast, invisible web of interacting cosmic beings through whom the alchemical processes of cosmic evolution unfold.” The book is the “basic work of spiritual science.” Anyone who wishes to become an Anthroposophist must accept most, if not all, of the doctrines presented in the book. Anyone who is an Anthroposophist does accept most, if not all, of them. The book so important that the Anthroposophical Press has also published A STUDY COMPANION TO AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE. [44] From the Introduction: “AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE, also translated as OCCULT SCIENCE, An Outline, is Steiner’s most complete and methodical presentation of the results of his own spiritual research.” [45]

What you have been reading is what Anthroposophists believe. Consider the implications.

And think about this. Steiner once said to Waldorf school teachers: “As Waldorf teachers, we must be true Anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” [46] Consider the implications.

— Roger Rawlings

Herewith, a few of the passages quoted above, 
this time at greater length.
Steiner is hard to read, but the effort is necessary 
if you want to grasp the thinking behind Waldorf education.

Of my clairvoyant researches into the world of spirit it has often been alleged that they are a re-hash, howsoever modified, of ideas about the spiritual world which have prevailed from time to time, above all in earlier epochs of human history. In the course of my reading I was said to have absorbed these things into the sub-conscious mind and then reproduced them in the fond belief that they were the outcome of my own independent seership. Gnostic doctrines, oriental fables, and wisdom-teachings were alleged to be the real source of my descriptions. But these surmises too were the outcome of no very deeply penetrating thought. My knowledge of the spiritual — of this I am fully conscious — springs from my own spiritual vision. At every stage — both in the details and in synthesis and broad review — I have subjected myself to stringent tests, making sure that wide-awake control accompanies each further step in spiritual vision and research. Just as a mathematician proceeds from thought to thought — where the unconscious mind, auto-suggestion and the like can play no part at all — so must the consciousness of the seer move on from one objective Imagination to another. Nothing affects the soul in this process save the objective spiritual content, experienced in full awareness.

It is by healthy inner experience that one knows a spiritual “Imagination” to be no mere subjective picture but the expression of a spiritual reality in picture-form. Just as in sensory perception anyone sound in mind and body can discriminate between mere fancies and the perception of real facts, so a like power of discernment can be attained by spiritual means.

So then I had before me the results of conscious spiritual vision. They were things “seen,” living in my consciousness, to begin with, without any names. To communicate them, some terminology was needed, and it was only then — so as to put into words what had been wordless to begin with — that I looked for suitable expressions in the traditional literature. These too I used quite freely. In the way I apply them, scarcely one of them coincides exactly with its connotation in the source from which I took it. Only after the spiritual content was known to me from my own researches did I thus look for the way to express it. As to whatever I might formerly have read — with the clear consciousness and control above referred-to, I was able to eliminate such things completely while engaged on supersensible research. 
— Rudolf Steiner, 
(Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969), 
pp. 10-11.

[F]or spiritual research the facts of the most distant early times are not obliterated. When a creature has come into bodily existence, its bodily nature are not obliterated in the same way. They leave behind their traces, nay their exact images, in the spiritual foundation of the world. And if we are able to raise our faculty of perception and look through the visible world to the invisible, we arrive at length at a point where we have before us what may be compared to a mighty spiritual panorama wherein all the past events of the world are displayed. These abiding traces of all spiritual happenings may be called the “Akashic Records,” denoting as “Akasha-essence” that which is spiritually permanent in the world process, in contrast with the transient forms. Here once again it must be emphasized that researches in the supersensible realms of existence can only be made with the help of spiritual perception — that is to say, as regards the region we are now considering, by actual reading of the Akashic Records. Nevertheless here too, what has been said already in similar connections holds good: to investigate and discover the supersensible facts is possible only by supersensible perception; once found however, and communicated in the science of the supersensible, these facts can be understood with man's ordinary faculty of thought. There must only be the readiness to approach the subject with an open mind In the following pages the evolutionary conditions of the Earth according to the science of the supersensible will be communicated. The transformations of our planet will be followed down to the state of life in which it is today. Let anyone consider what he has before him today in pure sense-perception, and then give his attention to what supersensible knowledge tells of how this present has evolved from the primeval past. If he be truly open-minded, he will then be able to say to himself: In the first place, what this science tells is inherently logical; secondly if I assume the truth of what is communicated from supersensible research, I find I can understand how it is that things have eventually come to be such as they appear before me now. 
— Ibid., pp. 105-106.

In the time when, before the separation of the Moon, the Moon forces were bringing about in the Earth a constantly increasing measure of solidification, it befell that among the descendants of the “seeds” left behind by men on Earth, there were some in whom the human souls returning from the body-free condition could no longer incarnate. Their form was much too hardened, and under the influence of the Moon forces had grown all too unlike the human figure to be able to receive the soul. This meant that certain human souls no longer found it possible to return to Earth. Only the most mature, only the strongest felt themselves equal to the task of so transforming the Earthly body during its growth that it could blossom forth into the true human form. Hence but a portion only of the human bodily descendants became vehicles for Earth men. Another portion, owing to their hardened form, could only receive souls that were at a lower level than the souls of men. Some of the human souls, on the other hand, being thus compelled to cease partaking in Earth evolution during that epoch, were brought into a different kind of life-history. Even at the time of the separation of the Sun, there had already been souls who could no longer find a place on Earth. These were transplanted for their further evolution to another planet. Under the guidance of cosmic Beings, this planet wrested itself free of the general World-substance which had been united with the physical evolution of Earth at its beginning, and out of which the Sun itself had also separated. This was the planet whose physical expression is known to external science as Jupiter. (Here we are speaking of heavenly bodies and planets and of their names, in precisely the same way as was customary in a science of former times. The meaning will be clear from the context. The physical Earth is but the physical expression for an organism of soul and spirit, and the same is true of every other heavenly body. He who perceives the Supersensible does not mean by the name “Earth” the mere physical planet, nor by “Sun” the mere physical fixed star. And in like manner, when he speaks of Jupiter, Mars, etc., he is referring to far-reaching spiritual complexes. Naturally, the heavenly bodies have since the times of which we are here telling undergone fundamental changes in their form and purpose — in a certain respect, even in their position in the heavenly spaces. Only one who is able to follow back their evolution into far distant ages, can recognize the connection of the present planets with their forebears.)

It was thus on Jupiter that such souls continued their evolution. Later on, when the Earth was inclining still more to the solid state, another dwelling-place had to be created for souls who, though able for a time to inhabit the hardened bodies, could no longer do so when the hardening had gone too far. For these, there arose in Mars a dwelling suited to their further evolution. Then again there were souls who at a still earlier time, when the Earth was united with the Sun and was incorporating in itself the air element, proved unadapted to partake in its evolution. These souls were affected too strongly by the Earthly corporeal form. They had therefore to be withdrawn, already at that time, from the immediate influence of the Sun forces. The Sun forces must work upon them from without. They found on Saturn a place for their further evolution. Thus in the course of its evolution the number of human forms on Earth steadily decreased. Forms began to appear in which human souls were not incarnated — forms which were able to receive only astral bodies, even as man's physical body and life-body had done on Old Moon. While Earth was growing waste and void as to human inhabitants, these beings now established themselves upon it. In the last resort, all human souls would have had to leave the Earth — had it not been for the severance of the Moon. This made it possible for human forms which at that time could still be humanly ensouled, to withdraw the human seed or embryo during their Earthly life from the Moon forces emanating directly from the Earth, and let it mature within themselves up to the point where it could safely be exposed to these forces. This meant that, while the seed or embryo was taking shape within the human being, it came under the influence of those Beings who guided by the Mightiest among them, had severed the Moon from the Earth, so as to carry Earth's evolution forward over a critical point. 
— Ibid., pp. 177-179.

All that was conferred upon human evolution through the coming of Christ, has been working in it like a seed. Only by degrees can the seed ripen. Up to the present, no more than the minutest part of the depths of the new wisdom has found its way into physical existence. We are but at the beginning of Christian evolution. In the successive epochs that have elapsed since His appearance, Christian evolution has been able to unveil only so much of its inner essence as men and nations were capable of receiving, capable also of assimilating to their power of understanding. The first form into which this recognition could be cast, may be described as an all-embracing ideal of life. As such it showed itself in striking contrast to the forms of life which had evolved in contrast to the forms of life which had evolved in post-Atlanteans humanity. We have described the conditions under which the evolution of mankind had been going forward since the re-population of the Earth in the Lemurian epoch. We saw how the human beings have to be traced back in their soul nature to diverse beings who, coming down from other worlds, incarnated in the bodily descendants of the old Lemurians. The varieties of race are a consequence of this. And when the souls reincarnated, all kinds of different interests arose in them, as an outcome of their Karma. While all this was working itself out, there could not exist for man the ideal of a “universal humanity.” Mankind went forth from unity in the beginning, but Earth evolution hitherto had led to diversity. In the figure of Christ live also the forces of the sublime Being of the Sun, and in these forces every human I will find its source and its foundation. Even the Israelites still felt themselves as a nation, with each man merely as a member of the nation. As man came to understand — to begin with, purely in thought — that in Christ Jesus lives the ideal Man, unaffected by any and every tendency to separation, Christianity became the ideal of universal brotherhood. Beyond all separate interests and kinships there arose the feeling that the inmost Self of man has in every one the same origin. (Beside all earthly ancestors appear the common Father of all men. “I and the Father are One.”)*

In the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries A.D. a new civilization-epoch was preparing in Europe. The actual beginning of it was in the fifteenth century, and we are still living in it now. Intended as it was by slow degrees to replace the fourth, the Graeco-Latin, this is the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. The peoples who after manifold wanderings and destinies came forward as the bearers of this epoch, were descended from those Atlanteans who had been least affected by what had taken place meanwhile in the four preceding epochs. They had not penetrated to the countries where the civilizations of these earlier epochs took root. They had instead transmitted the heritage of Atlantean civilizations in their own way. Among them were many who had preserved in large measure the heritage of the old dim clairvoyance — the intermediate state between waking and sleeping. Such men knew the spiritual world from their own experience and could tell their fellow-men of what goes on there. In this way there arose a world of stories about spiritual beings and events. The fairy-tales and sagas of the peoples came originally from these real experiences in the spirit; for in many human beings the dim clairvoyance lasted on into times by no means remote from the present. Others there were who, though they had lost the old clairvoyance, developed the new faculties in relation to the physical experiences of clairvoyance. And beside all this, the Atlantean Oracles also had their successors here; centers of the Mysteries were to be found on every hand. The Initiation-secret chiefly developed in these centers was of the kind that leads to the revelation of that spiritual world which Ahriman keeps hidden.** The spiritual Powers underlying the elemental forces of Nature were revealed. In the mythologies of the European peoples can be found traces of what the Initiates in the Mysteries were able to make known to men. Yet these mythologies also contain the other secret, though in a less perfect form than either the Southern or Eastern Mysteries. The superhuman Beings were known in Europe too; but they were seen in perpetual warfare with the associates of Lucifer. The God of Light was indeed proclaimed, but not in such form and figure as would enable one to say with assurance that He would conquer Lucifer. Nevertheless these Mysteries too were irradiated by the figure of the Christ that was to come. Of Him it was prophesied that His Kingdom would replace the kingdom of that other God of Light. (The sagas that tell of the Twilight of the Gods, and kindred legends, originated in this knowledge of the European Mysteries.) 
— Ibid., pp. 217-220.

* As we have seen, Anthroposophy is polytheistic. The Father, as conceived in monotheism, is alien to Anthroposophy, although Steiner often used the term. In Steiner's teachings, the Father is the nebulous ground of being and/or the ultimate divine goal toward which we are evolving and which we ourselves will become. See "The Father"

** Ahriman is one of the great demons in Anthroposophy, the rival/colleague of Lucifer. See "Ahriman" and "Lucifer".

After a cosmic interval — a sojourn in a higher world — the Earth will then be transmuted into the Jupiter condition. In Jupiter what we now call the mineral kingdom will exist no longer; the forces of this kingdom will have been changed into plant-like forces. Thus upon Jupiter the vegetable kingdom, though in a very different form, will be the lowest. Above it will be the animal kingdom, likewise considerably altered, and then a human kingdom, recognizable as the spiritual descendants of the bad humanity originating upon Earth. Lastly, the descendants of the good humanity will constitute a human kingdom on a higher level. This is the human kingdom proper, and a great part of its work will be to influence and ennoble the souls who have fallen into the other group, so that they may yet gain entrance to it.

In the Venus stage of evolution the plant kingdom too will have disappeared. The lowest will then be the animal kingdom, metamorphosed a second time. Above it will be three human kingdoms, differing in degrees of perfection. During the Venus stage the Earth will remain united with the Sun. In Jupiter evolution, on the other hand, there will come a time when the Sun will separate again and Jupiter will be receiving the Solar influences from without. Then, after Sun and Jupiter have again become united, the transition to the Venus state will gradually be accomplished. From Venus, at a certain stage, a separate celestial body becomes detached. This — as it were, an “irreclaimable Moon” — includes all the beings who have persisted in withstanding the true course of evolution. It enters now upon a line of development such as no words can portray, so utterly unlike is it to anything within the range of man's experience on Earth. The evolved humanity on the other hand, in a form of existence utterly spiritualized, goes forward into Vulcan evolution, any description of which would be beyond the compass of this book. 
— Ibid., pp. 309-310.

A clairvoyant sees the full picture; 

everyone else sees only skeletal abstractions

— or so Steiner said.

"It may easily happen that clairvoyant people...

produce thoughts cleverer than the thoughts 

of recognized scientists ... 

[C]lairvoyant persons do not need to exercise 

any organs of thought in order to arrive 

at the clever thoughts ... 

They create the corresponding images 

out of the spiritual world ... 

There they are, ready-made ... 

Suppose a clairvoyant person brings something 

out of the spiritual world 

in all manner of pictures [left] ..

The person in question does not need to 

think this out, he sees it ... 

Consider another person who is not gifted 

in clairvoyance, but who can think ... 

He exerts his organs of thinking and through them 

produces this thought skeleton [right]."

— Rudolf Steiner, 


(Anthroposophic Press, 1987), pp. 5-6.

[Colored sketch, R.R., 2009, 

based on b&w sketch in book.]

Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy grew out of Theosophy.
For an overview of that form of everything, see "Basics".

Steiner's other main source was Gnostic Christianity.
See "Gnosis".

Yet another significant source of Steiner's thinking
can be found in Norse myths. See "The Gods".


For one Anthroposophist's simplified summary
of cosmic and human evolution 
— intended to indoctrinate Waldorf students —


For a statement about the identity of individuals 
quoted and paraphrased at Waldorf Watch, 
see "Trolls?"

Raking through OCCULT SCIENCE and other Steiner texts, 
Steiner's followers have tried to piece together detailed
accounts of mankind's past and future as described by Steiner. 
Here's a sample, which I have assembled by raking through 
(Temple Lodge Publishing, 2002), by Richard Seddon
(Anthroposophic Press, 1989), by Stewart C. Easton.

Our historical period is overseen by the archangel Michael. We are currently in the Anglo-Germanic age, which began in 1413 AD and extends till 3573 AD. A crucial task during this period is to advance human consciousness to an “objective” appreciation of all phenomena, so that spiritual truths can be apprehended “objectively” through the “consciousness soul.” (Steiner taught that not only do we have both spirits and souls, but we have various sorts of souls. The consciousness soul — which incarnates at about age 42 — is influenced by gods called Spirits of Wisdom, so it has ties to the sphere of Jupiter.)

The current historical age began under Samuel, the archangel of Mars. His reign as Time Archangel — most of it occurring in the previous age — was turbulent, with Christendom splintering under the assaults of Mongols, the Renaissance, and growing nationalism. The compensation for all this was that the consciousness soul awakened, to be strengthened under succeeding archangels.

Gabriel, archangel of the Moon, took over in 1471. Under him, natural science became dominant, humans became increasingly materialistic and skeptical, and ancient Egyptian impulses pervaded society. Socialism and democracy reared their heads. On the up side, German philosophy reached heights of wisdom during this time, although it was generally ignored. One pivotal development under Gabriel was that people learned they could disbelieve spiritual truths — a necessary step so that we could later freely choose spirituality. 

Michael became Spirit of the Age in 1841, and he assumed his 350-year incumbency as Time Archangel in 1879. His main task is to bring “spiritual science” (Anthroposophy) to the fore, spreading Steinerism everywhere, thus opening humanity for the “Christ impulse.” Michael’s task isn’t easy — he is opposed by the arch-demons Lucifer and Ahriman. Fortunately, Michael (Archangel of the Sun, hence Christ’s countenance) is a warrior, so the prospects for victory seem good. Ahriman will manifest in the West, just as Lucifer manifested previously in the East. Western civilization will lead to the destruction of the Earth, but that will enable properly evolved humans to pass on to their next, higher evolutionary stage.

Quite irrelevant, from an Anthroposophical perspective —

but here is the real Moon (i.e., a bit of reality).


Approximation of a mystical Anthroposophical seal, 
reflecting Steiner's teachings about the Apocalypse.

“Everything in the way of magical forces that the moon still exerts on the earth at present will...be overcome. When man becomes united with the sun, he will have overcome the moon. 

“The next picture shows us that the human being, when he had achieved the highest spirituality, takes on the form of Michael fettering the evil in the world, symbolized by the dragon. 

“In a certain way we have seen that both at the beginning and at the end of human evolution there are the same conditions and transformations.” 
— Rudolf Steiner, 
(Anthroposophic Press, 1972), p. 55. 
[R.R. sketch, 2010,
 based on the image in Steiner's
(Health Research, 1969).] 

Steiner generally indicated that we will evolve through seven major stages. However, he also sometimes referred to an eighth stage, a place of perdition near or below the Present Earth stage: Evil or abnormal or wayward individuals may fall into it, leaving the human evolutionary line. Steiner also occasionally said that there will be five indescribable, august stages beyond the seven that he usually outlined. Here, then, is the overall pattern. The first sphere on the left represents Old Saturn. Proceeding from it, down and to the right, we come to Old Sun, Old Moon, and Present Earth. Below Present Earth dangles the terrible Eighth Sphere. All who avoid descending into the Eighth Sphere make an upward turn after Present Earth, ascending to Future Jupiter, Future Venus, and Future Vulcan. And beyond those stages, in an inconceivable distant future, await five mysterious, supernal stages. [R.R. sketch, 2015.]

"Saturn entirely substance of warmth [A], also beginning of the human being ... Sun [B] condensed to air ... [I]t glowed or shone [C] ... This combustion is symbolized for us by sulfur ... Moon condensed further ... to liquid ('water') [D] ... [S]mall particles were formed that were active ... [Q]uicksilver is an example [E] ... Through a sound that came from the outside ... particles were joined together into forms ... This is the principle of the feminine [F] ... Finally, the Earth was condensed to the solid element 'earth' [G] ... [T]he presence of the solid along with the fluid made possible the process of dissolution — as salt in water. [H] ... The stimulation for formation in the feminine now appeared in the Earth itself: the masculine principle. [I] And from all this the present-day human being evolved.  [J] 

— Rudolf Steiner, 
(Steiner Books, 2007), p. 280. 
[R.R. sketch, 2015, 
based on b&w image on p. 281; 
arbitrary colors added.]

Quite irrelevant, from an Anthroposophical perspective —

but here is the real Jupiter (i.e., a bit of reality).


[Anthroposophic Press, 1997.]

[Anthroposophic Press, 1994.]

The books you see above are fundamental to Anthroposophy. In the first, Steiner lays out his overall conception of spiritual truth, and in the second he prescribes mental/spiritual exercises that presumably will lead you to become clairvoyant or, in other words, to become an occult initiate (note the subtitle: "A Modern Path of Initiation").

If you are seriously considering a Waldorf or Steiner school for your child, you really should buy and carefully study these books. They will expose you to the thinking that underlies Waldorf education. Only people who accept the spiritualistic teachings of Rudolf Steiner should send their children to these schools.

Older editions of AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE bear the titles OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE and AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE. Belatedly realizing the "occult" is a frightening word, Anthroposophists nowadays prefer the milder term "esoteric." Older editions of HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS bear the clunkier title KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT.

(By the way, note the paintings on the covers of both books: They are fairly representative samples of Anthroposophical art. When you see such pictures in a Waldorf school, you should recognize them as signs of the school's allegiance to Anthroposophy.)

Newer editions are easier to read, but they also tend to tone Steiner down. The only way to read Steiner straight is to plow through German-language editions. The next best option is to find old English translations.

Rudolf Steiner Press, in England, continues to make OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE available:

[Rudolf Steiner Press, 2009.]

is Steiner's most important book.

By the same calculation, 
AND ITS ATTAINMENT) is Steiner's #2.
For a review of that tome, 

For yet more information on the higher worlds 
as described by Steiner,

For another look at occult initiation, 

To examine a series of lectures 
in which Steiner tried to state his
views as clearly as possible, 
see "Oh Man".

To review Steiner's key doctrines
 as presented
by one of his followers, 
see "Nutshell".

To examine books of great importance 
to Waldorf education,
see "Oh Humanity

Mystic seal for Steiner's fourth mystery play,

"The Soul's Awakening".


(Mercury Arts Publications, 1987), p. 73.

R. R. sketch, 2010.

See "Plays".]

Most Anthroposophical art, including architecture,

is meant to have spiritual significance and power.

It is essentially religious.

Whether it "works" for you is a matter of taste and temperament.
In any case, you may want to train your eye 

to spot typical Anthroposophical styles and motifs
that crop up in Waldorf schools.
They are there for a reason.

[R.R. sketch, 2010.]

Occultists are drawn to the occult because it is so mysterious,

so dense with (or without) meaning,

so symbolical, so — well — occult.


(Thames and Hudson, 1978), frontispiece.]

According to the Waldorf belief system,
humans are evolving higher and higher —
eventually we will become

"what is called in Christianity ‘the Father.’"

— Rudolf Steiner, THE LORD’S PRAYER 
(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007), p. 17.
We are already central to the universe
and its many gods, according to Anthroposophical belief:
"[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,
(Floris Books, 2007), pp. 72-73.
[R.R. sketch, 2010.]

"The World Begets Will"

(detail, from a window at the Goetheanum).

The being is a "world form" having the head of Ahriman

and containing in its snakelike body six planets.


(Mercury Arts Publications, 1987), p. 145, and


(Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag, 1972), p. 27.

R.R. sketch, 2009.

I've added some colors;

the original is entirely green.]

As you no doubt remember, we recently lived on the Moon (as it were). Now we’re on Earth, as I think we can all agree. Next we will proceed to the Jupiter stage of evolution, and then we’ll move along to Venus. So Steiner assured us, anyway. “As the residue of the ancient Moon evolution we have our present moon that circles the earth. Similarly, there will be a residue of the earth that will circle Jupiter. Then these residues will gradually dissolve into the universal ether. On Venus there will no longer be any residue. Venus will manifest, to begin with, as pure warmth, then it will become light, and then it will pass over into the spiritual world. The residue left behind by the earth will be like a corpse. This is a path along which man must not accompany the earth, however, because he would thereby be exposed to dreadful torments. There are, however, many beings who will accompany this corpse, since they themselves will by that means develop to a higher stage.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE REAPPEARANCE OF CHRIST IN THE ETHERIC (Anthroposophic Press, 1983), lecture 9, Q&A period, GA 130. [R.R. sketch of Venus evolution, 2010. Perhaps a little residue remains in my image.]

Many of Steiner's doctrines contain elements
that are little more than superstition. 
For an overview, see "Superstition"

For a quick review of mythical beings 
that Steiner said really exist,
please use this link: "Beings"

For more about Lucifer,

please see "Grail"

and "Lucifer"

Geoffrey Ahern's SUN AT MIDNIGHT

is a rare, evenhanded (if flawed) examination of


For a review, see "Sun at Midnight"

The following is excerpted from the archive

of the defunct Website CHASE

(Challenging Anthroposophy and Steiner Education).

The archive remains open.


We know from his autobiography that Steiner mixed with Theosophists in the Vienna of the late 1880’s and was certainly aware of their beliefs then. He later lectured to Theosophists, joined them and married one, becoming leader of the German Theosophists in 1902. He broke with Theosophy and took with him most of the German Theosophists to form his own version of it, Anthroposophy, a decade later ... His beliefs as an Anthroposophist, claimed by him to be independently arrived at and verifiable by the application of his ‘spiritual science’ are hard to distinguish from those of Theosophy. Both belief systems attract criticism for their doctrine of a spiritual evolution of racial ‘root-stocks’ which culminates in the white Aryan race.

What distinguished Theosophy from the broad spiritualism movement as a whole is its inclusion and promulgation of oriental beliefs such as karma and reincarnation. Theosophy also laid emphasis on an occult knowledge attained via adepts ... [P]reserved by spiritual Masters, this knowledge passed on to a few select people in each generation ... [Theosophical leader Helena] Blavatsky and other spiritualists came to advocate ‘occult science’ – a form of psychical research implicitly accepting of both the spiritual domain as real and mediumship as a valid scientific means of investigating it. 

...Blavatsky was in her own time and is still to this day surrounded by controversy about plagiarism, fraud, and cynical manipulation of her followers. The [Theosophical] Society itself was beset with personality clashes and sectarian rivalries, something even Steiner comments on in his autobiography. This is ironic given that one of its primary objectives was the realisation of a universal brotherhood.

...Before he sought to distance himself from Theosophy, as leader of the German Section of the Theosophical Society, Steiner downplayed the importance of any misconduct by Blavatsky and even absolved her of misconduct.

...Commentators on Steiner’s split from Theosophy generally point to different understandings of Jesus and Christianity as being the reason. A simplification of the difference between Steiner and Theosophy on that point is that for Theosophists Jesus was one of many spiritual messengers to have imparted spiritual truths, for Steiner the spiritual evolution of humanity couldn’t have occurred without him. The actual differences between Theosophy and Anthroposophy are far less than the commonalities between them. Karma, reincarnation, the nature of the soul, a spiritual evolution of humanity (on Atlantis) through root races and a belief that the spiritual domain can be scientifically explored and researched by psychical means are central beliefs to both Theosophy and Anthroposophy.

As we have seen, Steiner spoke of various paths leading upward and downward. He said that humans may choose among these paths, but he also indicated that essentially there is only one correct choice for us now: We should choose the true upward path that he himself has identified. Here are a few of his statements about "the path" (the "white path" or "true path") and its opposite (the "black path" or the multiple "false paths"). Overall, Steiner taught that there have been various true paths, each suited to its period and the people of that period; for the present, the true path is Anthroposophy or Rosicrucianism as redefined in Anthroposophy. [See "Rosy Cross".] I have highlighted certain key terms, setting them in bold type.

"If [the spiritual aspirant] undertakes [spiritual exercises] in the right spirit he need not wait for their eventual outcome; the satisfaction that he has in doing them will of itself make it clear to him that he is on the true path. Proper practice of exercises belonging to a path of spiritual training brings with it a satisfaction that is no mere satisfaction but certain knowledge. The pupil knows: I am engaging in an activity which I can see is taking me forward in the right direction." — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 259.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

"Fatal to the pupil of the Spirit is superstition of any sort. He can only hope ever to find the right and true path to the realm of Spirit-life by carefully guarding himself from superstition...." — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 274.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

"Self-knowledge may be practiced only when students of the white path have bound themselves to self-renunciation. Once you have learned to say to everything, 'That is I'...you are ripe for self- knowledge ... This is an important and essential truth that cannot be ignored by those who wish to take the white path." — Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC DEVELOPMENT (SteinerBooks, 2003), p. 133.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

"[T]he true path of knowledge leads us first of all from within the physical body and physical existence and only then to approach the conditions that are to be arrived at with the essences which are outside." — Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC DEVELOPMENT (SteinerBooks, 2003), p. 154.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

"[I]t is possible for the separate parts [of a community] to go their own way, for each part to form an ego. This is the black path. The white path is the one which strives for what is common, which forms an ego in community. Were we to burrow more and more deeply into ourselves, to sink ourselves into our own ego organisation, to desire always more and more for ourselves, the final result would be that we should strive to separate ourselves from one another. If on the other hand we draw closer, so that a common spirit inspires us, so that a centre is formed between us, in our midst, then we are drawn together, then we are united. To be a black magician means to develop more and more the spirit of separateness. There are black adepts who are on the way to acquire certain forces of the earth for themselves. Were the circle of their pupils to become so strong that this should prove possible, then the earth would be on the path leading to destruction." — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 20, GA 93a.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

"It does not follow that, when called upon to decide, anyone will naturally follow the white path. That depends entirely upon whether he is so far purified at the time of his decision that no trace of self-seeking makes this prospect of felicity appear desirable ... Nothing that egotism desires is denied upon the black path, for the latter provides, on the contrary, for the complete gratification of egotism, and will not fail to attract those desiring merely their own felicity, for it is indeed the appropriate path for them. No one therefore should expect the occultists of the white path to give him instruction for the development of his own egotistical self." — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1947), chapter 11, GA 10.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

“Those who come to me wanting to hear the truths available through esotericism and nevertheless refuse to walk the path are like schoolchildren who want to electrify a glass rod and refuse to rub it. But, without friction, the rod will not be charged with electricity. This is similar to the objection raised against the practice of esotericism.” — Rudolf Steiner, FIRST STEPS IN INNER DEVELOPMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), p. 25.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

"It is most interesting and instructive that the best individuals today, those human beings who long to have their soul life connected with a spiritual world, are not capable of grasping the core of the actual science of the spirit. Instead, where it involves distinguishing the true path from the two possibilities for error, they stumble, because they do not dare leap over the abyss; they wish either to make use of their dependence on the ordinary world, in phenomenalism, or, if they do not do this, they seek an intensification of the sense of self in ecstasy." — Rudolf Steiner, ERRORS IN SPIRITUAL INVESTIGATION (Mercury Press, 1983), GA 62.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

"This is the Western path into the spiritual world. It is this path through Imagination that must establish the stream of Spiritual Science, the process of spiritual evolution that must make its way from West to East if humanity is to achieve real progress. But it is supremely important at the present time for humanity to recognise what the true path of Imagination should be, what path must be taken by Western Spiritual Science if it is to be a match for the Inspiration and its fruits that were once attained by ancient Eastern wisdom in a form suited to the racial characteristics of the people concerned." — Rudolf Steiner, "Natural Science and Its Boundaries" (THE GOLDEN BLADE, 1962), GA 322.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

"The fundamental characteristic of spiritual life today is that man subordinates himself to a certain degree only and wishes to tread his path of knowledge in the fullest possible freedom. We shall see that there is a path into the spiritual world which takes this desire into full account: it is the Rosicrucian path of knowledge. This is the true path of modern times. It did not exist in those Mysteries of antiquity where man was initiated into the deeper secrets of existence." — Rudolf Steiner, MACROCOSM AND MICROCOSM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1968), lecture 5, GA 119.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

"If a form of medicine injurious to humanity were ever to take root, if a terrible aberration of the sexual instincts were to arise, if there were baleful doings in the sphere of the purely mechanistic forces of the world, in the application of the forces of nature by means of spiritual powers, an unspiritual conception of life would see through none of these things, would not perceive how they deviate from the true path ... The sleeper, as long as sleep lasts, does not see the approach of a thief who is about to rob him; he is unaware of it and at most he finds out later on, when he wakes, what has been done to him. But it would be a bad awakening for humanity!" — Rudolf Steiner, THE WORK OF THE ANGELS IN MAN'S ASTRAL BODY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1960), GA 182.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

"[S]cientific intellectuality must...be allowed to pass over into the domain of art. Science itself must become art if we would approach the secrets of man's being. Now if we follow this path with all our inner forces of soul, not only observing in an outwardly artistic sense, but taking the true path, we can allow scientific intellectuality to flow over into what I have described as ‘Imaginative Knowledge’ in my book, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT." — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1943), lecture 1, GA 307.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

"Spiritualism today is a false path to the spirit followed by souls who seek the spirit in an outer way — even by means of experiments — because they have lost all feeling for a real, true, genuine path." — Rudolf Steiner, STAYING CONNECTED (SteinerBooks, 1999), p. 226.

•• ◊◊◊ ••

"Just as it is being striven for there along a false path, so must it be striven for in spiritual science along the true path. What we should like to say to the East is this: It is our task to overcome entirely just what you are trying to preserve in an external form, namely, an old Luciferic-Ahrimanic form of community." — Rudolf Steiner, PREPARING FOR THE SIXTH EPOCH (Anthroposophic Press, 1957), GA 159.

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



Steiner’s extraordinary, sci-fi-like narrative of human evolution.
The tale of our ancient past and our distant future, as told by Steiner. It continues in:

Steiner promoted love, sort of

Surprising violence in Steiner's kindly vision

And badder, and baddest

America, Germany, and Waldorf

How to, he said


Steiner’s occult conspiracy theories


Back-room maneuvers


Points He Really Nailed

...a description, however, is quite impossible...

...Moon — but we must not confuse it with...

...'water,’ meaning however not...

They must not, to begin with, 
be associated in any way... 

Naturally, we cannot enter here into....

...any description of which would be beyond...

...no hard and fast line can be drawn...

...can at most give pictures in attempting to...

...the colour-experiences of the spiritual world 
differ in character from...

...ethereal body-of-warmth... 

...an idea — pictorial, but approximating...

...I speak here only pictorially...

...events and entities condense, as it were...

He became, so to speak...

...fundamentally Jesus is only...

I am an I only to myself; 
to every other being I am a you.


Canine Rebuttal


Your Dog Remembers More Than You Think

James Gorman


NOV. 23, 2016

Once again, science has confirmed the suspicions of dog-owners that their beloved pets know more than they are letting on. In this case, it has to do with memory, a favorite subject of researchers who study the mental abilities of other animals.

No one doubts that dogs can be trained to remember commands and names of objects. They also remember people and places. But Claudia Fugazza and her colleagues at the Family Dog Project at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest set out to see whether dogs share a more complex kind of memory.

In people it is called episodic memory, and it involves a sense of self. In animals, it’s called episodic-like memory, because it’s difficult to try to plumb something as elusive as self without the aid of language.

All attempts to understand thinking and memory in nonverbal animals are difficult, and Dr. Fugazza, Adam Miklosi and Akos Pogany developed a technique that depends on something called “Do-as-I-do training,” which itself is pretty amazing.

In this training, dogs learn to imitate any action the trainer takes. First the trainer does something like touch an open umbrella with his hand. Then he says, “Do it.” Then the dog taps the umbrella with its paw — assuming the training is going well.

Dr. Fugazza and her colleagues studied dogs that had learned the do-as-I-do command. They then switched to a different kind of training, teaching the dogs to lie down on a mat as a response to a new action by the trainer rather than wait for a “do it” command.

Finally, they added one more step. After a trainer did something a dog had not seen before, like tapping an umbrella that lay nearby the mat with his hand, he took the dog behind a screen for a minute.

Then he came back to the mat and, presumably to the dog’s surprise, said, “Do it.” The dogs in the experiment reliably imitated the umbrella tap or whatever the trainer had done before.

Dr. Fugazza and colleagues reported online in CURRENT BIOLOGY that this showed that the dogs remembered an event they hadn’t been concentrating on, the trainer’s action. She said one aspect strengthened that conclusion: The dogs tended to lie down immediately when they got back to the mat, suggesting that their heads were in “lie down” mode, not “do it” mode.

Also, the dogs were not as good at the imitation command when it was unexpected, which is what would happen with incidental episodic-like memory rather than remembering an action for an expected command.

Other experiments have suggested that chimpanzees, rats and pigeons have episodic-like memory. But Dr. Fugazza said the latest work with dogs is “the strongest evidence” yet, because the events they remember are richer “in content and context” than in previous experiments.

Jonathon D. Crystal of Indiana University, who studies episodic-like memory in rats and wrote a commentary on the work that will appear in the print edition of CURRENT BIOLOGY, said he thought the conclusions were strong, although it was very difficult to ensure that a memory was truly incidental in a training situation. He said human episodic memory is lost in Alzheimer’s disease and he and others study animal memory in hopes of learning how to combat that loss. The work on dogs offers a new technique that could be very useful, he said.

What does this mean for the dog owner? Dogs probably remember what their owners do even when training isn’t going on. And, she said, “It tells us that the dog’s memory is more similar to ours than we expected.”

Do you doubt that Steiner knew everything about everything?
Then see "Bees".

Photo by Alicia H., reproduced by permission.

A note on sources: I have accessed Anthroposophical texts in various ways. 1) Chiefly, I have acquired books in the old-fashioned way, as physical objects. When I refer to a book I possess, I give the title, publisher, date of publication, and page number for each reference. 2) I have dipped into some books through Google Books [http://books.google.com/advanced_book_search]. I provide the same information for these volumes. 3) I have read various texts at the Rudolf Steiner Archive [http://www.rsarchive.org/Search.php]. Because the Archive does not provide page numbers, for these references I provide titles, names of publishers, dates of publication, and (where applicable) GA numbers. Be advised that Google Books sometimes gives inaccurate page numbers, and the Steiner Archive is full of typos. I have corrected these problems as well as I could, but I may have missed some instances. 

You may have difficulty finding a few of the sources I cite. Anthroposophists tend to conceal various sources, and sometimes — following criticism — they remove or alter sources that they had previously displayed online.

— R. R.

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] Anthony Storr, FEET OF CLAY (Free Press, 1996), p. 81.

Despite numbering Steiner among false gurus, Storr falls into the error of finding value in Steiner’s educational policies and his work with the handicapped. “Steiner’s belief system is both idiosyncratic and incredible, but what he achieved in humanitarian terms is remarkable and enduring.”  Ibid., p. 81.]  This is a common mistake, often arising from the success of Anthroposophical P.R. For correctives, see "Weird Waldorf" and "Steiner's Bile".

Interestingly, Steiner defender Gary Lachman agrees with Storr that much of Steiner’s theology resembles science fiction. After discussing the evolutionary paradigm found in OCCULT SCIENCE, Lachman wrote, “I wouldn’t be surprised if the last few pages have taxed some readers’ capacity for giving Steiner the benefit of the doubt and left them wondering who could possibly believe this science fiction story.” — Gary Lachman, RUDOLF STEINER (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2007), p. 147. 

That Steiner's defenders as well as his critics sometimes compare his teachings to science fiction leads us, tangentially, to an important insight. Accepting Steiner's visions is tantamount to accepting escapist fantasy. Steiner appeals to the human penchant for wishfulness and dream in preference to reality and rationality. The former can seem warm and alluring while the latter can seem cold and harsh. But there's a trap in this perspective. Dreams inevitably become nightmares when they are substituted for reality. We can better ourselves only when we come to grips with reality; drifting into escapist imaginings will get us nowhere. 

[2] Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969). 

This edition is largely faithful to the 1925 text, the final revision Steiner approved before his death. Elsewhere, I have occasionally quoted from other editions, because they are all interesting, and I will do so again, below. But when there is variation between the editions, the 1925 text should be considered definitive.

Note that some other editions of OCCULT SCIENCE have carried slightly different titles, such as AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE. Anthroposophists often try to take the edge off Steiner’s words — for example by substituting the milder term “esoteric” for the more alarming “occult.” Among Steiner’s followers, the terms “occult science,” “esoteric science,” and “spiritual science” are essentially interchangeable. They all refer to Steiner's doctrines and/or the process — the use disciplined of clairvoyance — that supposedly produced the “findings” Steiner laid out.

If you’d like to read more of OCCULT SCIENCE but don’t want to waste money on a copy, you’ll find a complete text at the
 Rudolf Steiner Archive. The text is flawed by some typos, but who am I to complain about that? 

[3] In a 1913 lecture, Steiner spoke of himself in the third person, a child sitting in a railroad waiting room: 
“As he sat there, the door opened ... a person, a woman, came through the door, someone who, although he had never seen her before, looked extraordinarily like a member of his family. The woman ... gesturing, spoke words that might be rendered as, ‘Try to do as much as you can for me — both now and later!’ She stayed for a while, making gestures that once seen can never vanish from the soul, then went to the stove, and disappeared into it.” — Rudolf Steiner, STAYING CONNECTED (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), p. 220. Steiner concluded later that he had been visited by the soul of an aunt who committed suicide that day. 

[4] Gary Lachman, RUDOLF STEINER, p. 12ff.

[5] Dr. Temple Grandin, a Ph.D. in animal science, points out that various animals have extremely good memories. She gives the example of migratory birds: “[T]hey can learn and remember migratory routes thousands of miles long ... [B]irds have to learn  these routes. They aren't born knowing their species' migratory routes ... [yet] they learn the routes with almost no effort...." — Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson, ANIMALS IN TRANSLATION (Scribner, 2005), p. 285. Researchers have found that geese can memorize a route by flying it just once. — Ibid., p. 286. Another example: squirrels who remember the locations of many hundreds of individually buried nuts, squirreled away for winter. “A normal human can't remember where he put the car keys half the time, let alone where he buried five hundred individual nuts." — Ibid., p. 287. Concerning dogs, the species Steiner singled out, Grandin argues that their memory skills are potentially of great value to their forgetful human companions. — Ibid., p. 8.

Steiner considered animals to be, in all ways, far below the level of human beings. Thus, he said that humans and animals have similar organs, but an organ in a human “may have an entirely different task from that of the corresponding organ in the animal world ... That which is said ... with reference to the essential nature of the organs in the case of the human being, cannot be said in the same way with regard to the animals.” — Rudolf Steiner, AN OCCULT PHYSIOLOGY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), p. 14. There is no scientific basis for this claim. An animal’s heart, liver, pancreas, etc., work much as ours work, for the simple reason that we are descended from the animals and, indeed, we are — physically, at least — animals ourselves. (Many people dislike this biological fact, but our likes and dislikes don't alter reality. Of course, the functioning of our bodies does not rule out the possibility that we humans are especially beloved of God.) 

“If a human being compares himself to a dog, he can exclaim,

'Isn't that something; it can wags its tail, and I cannot.'

The whole force that is contained in this wagging tail, however,

has become dammed back in man, 

and it has pushed the brain forwards." 


(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), pp. 91-92. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on the drawing on p. 91.

Unimportant disclosure: I have taken 

the liberty of suggesting that a dog has ears

and legs — components missing 

from the book's image.]


[6] To reiterate: Most of what Steiner said about these matters is considered heretical by established religions. This doesn’t mean that Steiner was wrong, but it also provides little reason to think he was right. For more about Steiner’s gnostic heresies, see "Was He Christian?" and "Gnosis".

I keep tossing in phrases like “according to Steiner,” “Steiner said,” etc., so that no one will mistakenly think any of his weird views reflect my own thinking.

Concerning Christ and the Sun: “[A]t a certain point in the earth's evolution, a sublime Sun being, the Christ, did not remain on the sun but came down from the sun to the earth....” — Rudolf Steiner, REVERSE RITUAL (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 170.]

[7] Various Steiner books include this declaration: “No person is held qualified to form a judgment on the contents of this work, who has not acquired — through the School of Spiritual Science itself or in an equivalent manner recognized by the School of Spiritual Science — the requisite preliminary knowledge. Other opinions will be disregarded....” Translation: Only people who believe Steiner’s doctrines are allowed to comment on Steiner’s doctrines. This limits reasonable discussion rather sharply — in fact, it largely rules it out. (The School of Spiritual Science was established by Steiner at his headquarters, the Goetheanum, in Dornach, Switzerland.)

[8] For more about imagination, see "Thinking Cap" and "Steiner's 'Science'".

[9] Goblins: 
“There are beings that can be seen with clairvoyant vision at many spots in the depths of the earth ... Many names have been given to them, such as goblins, gnomes and so forth....” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 62-3.

Guardian angels are discussed in the appropriately titled Steiner book, GUARDIAN ANGELS: Connecting with Our Spiritual Guides and Helpers (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001).

The celestial encyclopedia: “This is merely the beginning, a very elementary beginning, of gradually learning to read the Akashic Record.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE EFFECTS OF ESOTERIC DEVELOPMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 76. Sometimes Steiner said there is one Record, sometimes more than one.

Re. Steinerian magic, see "Biodynamics", "Magic", and "Magicians".
 Many, perhaps most, people have a hankering for magical rather than rational explanations of phenomena. See, e.g., “A Hole in the Ground Erupts” (NEW YORK TIMES, Dec. 9, 2008, p. A8), about a “Witch’s Well” in Estonia. From time to time, water gushes from the earth from a sinkhole. There is a clear scientific explanation, but it is largely ignored. When the “well” erupts, people swarm from miles away. The circuitry of human brains may lead us to prefer magic, as I will indicate toward the end of these endnotes.

As for sorcerers or magicians: 
“[T]hose whose intentions toward humanity are not good, in other words those who are black of grey magiciansare busily at work “to present certain groups of people with the secret of how to dominate great masses....” — Rudolf Steiner, SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), pp. 90.

An interesting book about Steiner’s views on alchemy is Rudolf Steiner, ALCHEMY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001). 
“And what about true alchemy? That does not come from doing research in the manner of chemists today but....” — p. 18. Modern scientists almost always get stuff wrong, Steiner assured us. But alchemists, on the other hand...

To learn about conversations with the dead, see a book I’ve already mentioned: STAYING CONNECTED. The subtitle says it all: “How to Continue Your Relationships with Those Who Have Died.” Also of note (again, mull over the subtitle): T. H. Meyer, editor, LIGHT FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM: Rudolf Steiner’s association [sic] with Helmuth and Eliza von Moltke: Letters, Documents and After-Death Communications (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997). The latter book records Steiner’s conversations with the deceased director of Germany’s World War I invasions of Belgium and France. [See "Steiner and the Warlord".]

Odin was the supreme god in Norse mythology, Thor was his son, another god. Loki was the Norse god of mischief, the prankster god. 
“Whilst the power of Odin is present in respiration and language, Thor works in the blood....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 188. “Lucifer conceals himself behind the figure of Loki, who has a remarkably iridescent form.” — Ibid., p. 144.

The overall structure of Anthroposophy contains inherent contradictions that Steiner attempted to paper over. Thus, Steiner emphasized Christ, but he said that salvation is a matter of evolution, he said there are many gods, and he subscribed to reincarnation.

[10] Ibid., p. 116.

The spirits surrounding us include many who may be considered “gods.” Steiner’s religious teachings are essentially polytheistic. For example, he told Waldorf teachers, 
“Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods, that we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55. The goal of OCCULT SCIENCE is to lay out the divine plan of the gods, a plan that Steiner claimed to know.

[11] Despite his claim that he did not conduct his “research” by reading books, Steiner sometimes slipped up, referring to books he had consulted. For instance, on p. 192, he says that human evolution on Atlantis is discussed “in the relevant literature.” He does not mean his own books, one of which he plugged on p. 189: “Further details on this subject will be found in my book on Atlantis and Lemuria.” See Rudolf Steiner, ATLANTIS AND LEMURIA (Health Research Books, 2000). Elsewhere, he revealed his familiarity with the EGYPTIAN BOOK OF THE DEAD and other mystical works.

For a peek at a few of Steiner's sources, see "Steiner's 'Science'", the endnotes.

[12] Humans evolve, and so do other beings, and so does the “inanimate” universe such as the Earth. Actually, according to Steiner, almost everything is animate. E.g., 
“For the earth is really a living being....” — Rudolf Steiner, AGRICULTURE, An Introductory Reader (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 67.

[13] The planetary names are misleading; they reflect maya or illusion (“ma” : Sanskrit for create). “Steiner admits that he had to descend into the trappings of maya in order not to ‘startle’ the public.” — Gary Lachman, THE SECRET HISTORY OF CONSCIOUSNESS (Lindisfarne Press, 2003), pp. 288-289. The idea that we used to live on Saturn, etc., is startling enough, but the inner spiritual truths of those situations would be even more startling: “Steiner told his audience in Berlin that the true nature of the Saturn condition was one of ‘dreadful emptiness into which flows fear.’” — p. 289. Of course, if Steiner wanted to avoid startling us, he might have refrained from saying that we lived on various planets when he didn’t mean it, quite, and he might have refrained from revealing any of the startling truths (e.g., Saturnian fear and emptiness) that he claimed to be protecting us from.

[14] Having arrived at the Earth stage, we gradually evolved to a condition we today would recognize as human. The Earth itself also evolved. (If so inclined, you can check the details, starting on page 161.)

[15] The leading scientific theory is that “the proto-Earth, shortly after its formation from the solar nebula about 4.6 billion years ago, was struck a glancing blow by a body the size of Mars.” — "Moon." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 05 Dec. 2008.

[16] “If the evolution of the Earth did not include human beings, then most animals would not exist. A major portion of the animals, particularly the higher animals, rose within earthly evolution only because human beings needed to use their elbows (of course, I speak here only pictorially). 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.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 69-71.

[17] In a synopsis at the end of the book, the process of establishing varieties of race is called the “[b]eginnings of racial differentiation” — p. 343.

Whereas Steiner hedges on the meaning of some terms he uses, by “race” he meant “race.” For Steiner, a race, nation, or people is not an abstraction — it is a spiritual entity having real existence. Thus, a race has its own soul, and members of the race partake in it. [See, e.g., THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS. For “folk” read race, ethnic group, or nationality.] But because individual humans also have their own individual souls, they are not doomed to share a race’s fate. A race may be in decline, for instance, but an individual within that race may swim against this tide and make individual spiritual progress. 

The separation of humans into various subcategories is a major theme in the book. The separation starts before the beginnings of explicitly racial differences. For example, “Stage by stage the condensation of the Earth continues, and the ... differentiation in man grows gradually more distinct” — p. 164. The seeds of differentiation are planted even earlier. Not all humans evolved equally. “Nor did all the human bodies that developed upon Saturn reach the degree of maturity which could enable them to become bearers on Sun of an independent life body” — p. 133. Human differentiation is part of the larger subject of evolutionary separations generally, with everything gradually become more distinct and individual. The separations of Sun and Moon from Earth are examples. 

The separation into sexes is described on pp. 170-171.

[18] The passage I’ve quoted is a bit clearer (but arguably less accurate) in an alternate translation: 
“The outer form of the human body was a copy of the inner soul state of the human being ... Earth humans varied greatly with regard to their forms. Their appendages were developed to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the earthly circumstances of their lives. These circumstances varied from place to place on the Earth. The appendages were more prominent in areas where human beings were more entangled in the earthly world. The human beings whose previous development made them most mature ... were then able to develop their potential heads to the greatest degree of perfection. These were the human beings who were most harmonious in themselves ... There was also a third type of human beings who were even more entangled in Earth existence ... Their feeling of belonging to the spiritual world, particularly at the beginning of the Earth phase, was especially weak.” — Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), pp. 218-219.

Note that humans differed, and the groundwork was laid for races, at least partly because of the same factor: varying effects of the regions on the Earth’s surface. For Steiner, the subject of human differences almost inevitably entailed race.

[19] I will present additional indications of Steiner's racism as we proceed. You may also want to look at "
Steiner's Racism". 

Steiner taught that various human races should stay where they “belong,” i.e., in the regions that formed them. “When we ask which race belongs to which part of the earth, we must say: the yellow race, the Mongols, the Mongolian race belongs to Asia, the white race or the Caucasian race belongs to Europe, and the black race or the Negro race belongs to Africa. The Negro race does not belong to Europe, and the fact that this race is now playing such a large role in Europe is of course nothing but a nuisance.” — Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS, (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1993), GA 349, pp. 52-53. Translation provided by Peter Staudenmaier.

Sometimes Steiner said the presence of blacks in Europe was considerably more than a nuisance. His anger at France involved outrage at black transplantation:
 “The French are committing the terrible brutality of moving black people to Europe....” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, pp. 558-559. 

[20] Steiner claimed that his descriptions of spiritual matters came from his own psychic experiences, but in fact he often referred to ancient “science” or belief systems in an effort to bolster his statements. His premise was that the ancients knew more than modern scientists and other experts know now. And as I have already explained, he did quite a bit of reading.

[21] Let’s turn again to a different translation: 
“Jupiter became the dwelling place of some of the beings who had not matured to the level of the Sun. The most advanced among them became the leader of Jupiter. Just as the leader of the Sun’s evolution became the higher I that worked in the life body of the descendants of human beings who had remained on Earth, this Jupiter leader became the higher I that spread like a common consciousness through the human beings who had their origins in the interbreeding of Earth offspring with humans who ... moved to Jupiter ... They were descended from beings who had still embodied human souls at a certain time in the distant past, but had not been mature enough to participate in contact with fire at the beginning of the Earth phase of evolution [a great fireball affected humans early in their time on Earth]. These were souls that fell between the human and animal kingdoms.” — AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE, pp. 237-238.

[22] Steiner’s use of the term “epoch” can be confusing. Here’s the general idea:

◊ The seven largest stages of evolution (Old Saturn, Old Moon, etc.) are properly termed Conditions of Consciousness. (There will be five additional Conditions of Consciousness in the far, far, hidden future, but we can ignore them for now. Steiner generally said they are beyond human ken, and he said little about them.)

◊ Each Condition of Consciousness contains seven shorter cycles. Those in the Earth Condition of Consciousness are called Conditions of Life (First Elementary Kingdom, Second Elementary Kingdom, etc.) — in essence, these are smaller evolutionary cycles occurring within the Conditions of Consciousness.

◊ In turn, each Condition of Life contains seven 
shorter cycles. For our present reality, these are called Stages of Form (Higher Spiritland, Lower Spiritland, etc.).

◊ Each Condition of Life contains seven shorter cycles. For our present reality, these are called Epochs or Great Epochs (Polarian, Hyperborean, etc.). We are currently in the fifth Great Epoch, the Post Atlantean — that is, the epoch after Atlantis.

◊ The Post Atlantean Epoch contains seven Cultural Epochs, aka Cultural Ages. We have been through the Indian, Persian, Egypto-Caldean, and Greco-Roman Cultural Epochs/Ages. The current Cultural Epoch has the disappointing name, the Present. Next up will be the Russian Epoch/Age followed by the American Epoch/Age.

◊ The overall pattern is that each stage of evolution contains cycles of smaller stages, which themselves contain cycles of still smaller stages, which themselves contain... Each time we move to a new stage of evolution, we recapitulate — in altered form — the previous stages. We recapitulate and recapitulate and recapitulate almost, but not quite, ad infinitum. We might be justified in complaining to the management. This is a hell of a way to run a universe.

For an interesting rundown, see Richard Seddon, THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY AND THE EARTH AS FORESEEN BY RUDOLF STEINER (Temple Lodge, 2002).

[23] Both Lucifer and another demon, Ahriman, have minions: 
“[T]here are other beings working in world evolution who are interested in deflecting man from his proper course: the Ahrimanic and Luciferic beings.” — Rudolf Steiner, UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993), p. 121. 
In Steinerspeak, “Luciferian” and “Luciferic” are synonyms.
[24] Steiner often associated Christ with the physical location of the Sun: “...the physical sun, which is the external expression of the spiritual world that is received at the point where Christ’s physical body is walking around.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), pp. 65-6. Steiner taught that Christ is the Sun God, who came to Earth, quitting the Sun. He remained here only briefly, but when his blood flowed into the Earth his influence fused with the Earth and in that sense he remained here.

[25] “In the ancient Persian epoch, the leadership of humanity was apportioned to the Archangels. They put themselves under the direction of the Christ earlier than did the beings in the rank next below them. Of Zarathustra it can be said that pointing to the sun, he spoke to his followers and his people in some such words as these: ‘In the sun there lives the great Spirit Ahura Mazdao, who will one day come down to the earth.’ For the beings out of the region of the Archangels who guided Zarathustra, pointed to the great sun-leader who had not at that time come down upon the earth but had only begun his journey thither in order, later on, to enter directly into the earth evolution. And the guiding beings who directed the great teachers of the Indians, also pointed out to these the Christ of the future; for it is a mistake to think that these teachers had no foreknowledge of the Christ. They said that He was ‘beyond their sphere’ and that they ‘could not attain’ unto Him.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE OF MAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1970), lecture 3, GA 15.

[26] See, e.g., 
“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2). The Bible speaks of the “knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God,” but it also announces that the knowledge is spread by the Bible itself — the secrets are revealed by the Word of God. “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). 

“[T]here were beings who, though they had left the Earth at the separation of the Sun, were not at so high a level as to be able to partake continuously in the Sun’s evolution. After the severance of Sun and Earth they went forth again from the Sun, taking with them another separate dwelling place — and this was Venus.” — Ibid., p. 195.

“A similar thing happened with the leading Spirit of Mercury in connection with another kind of human being. And so there arose the Venus and Mercury Oracles.” — Ibid., p. 195.

[29] See “Steiner’s Blunders” .

[30] Evil, lowly humans were also responsible for the destruction of Lemuria. The following quote extends a statement we’ve already seen: 
“[I]n the lower kinds of human beings the life-body was after all too little protected, and could not sufficiently resist the encroachments of the Luciferian nature. Such human beings could so far extend the arbitrary power of the fiery spark of the I [the “I”] which was within them as to be able to call forth in their environment mighty workings of fire, of a harmful nature. This led to a stupendous Earth catastrophe. A great portion of the then inhabited Earth was destroyed ... Only a very small number of them ... could save themselves by taking refuge [in Atlantis].” — Ibid., pp. 191-192. 

[31] THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS, pp. 15-16, 65, 83-85.

[32] This statement is not wholly consistent with Steiner’s other pronouncements about the causes of racial difference, as when he said that races originated in the varying spiritual effects of different locations on the Earth. He also taught that multiple races exist on the Earth because of the interference of demonic powers. 
“Lucifer and Ahriman preserved older racial forms that had developed, so that there was a coexistence of races rather than a succession.” — 

Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), p. 76.



[35] Ibid., p. 30.

Steiner said that some people are not really human beings; some are demons in disguise and/or robots. They are unable to evolve and hence won’t accompany us to Jupiter. I return to this subject toward the end of “
Love and the Universal Human”.


[37] Ibid., pp. 30-31.

[38] Despite all the efforts involved in previous evolution, mankind will have failed to purge itself of all evil even at this late date. This deprives most of the foregoing struggles of their meaning.

[39] Rudyard Kipling wrote about the moral burden borne by European imperialists when they set up colonies and “caught” native peoples around the world. Whites need to send their best offspring to the colonies to “serve” the natives, Kipling wrote.

Take up the White Man's burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.
— Rudyard Kipling, 1899.

I do not mean that Steiner explicitly referred to this poem. In fact, I’m trying to let Steiner off the hook, slightly, by signaling that his sort of racism was common in his time. Like Steiner, Kipling thought that European or white civilization was greatly superior to any culture found elsewhere, so whites needed to “help” the lower races to climb the ladder. Steiner’s rankings of civilizations is, from bottom to top, Indian, Persian, Egypto-Caldean, Graeco-Roman, and contemporary European. Modern white civilization owes a debt to all previous civilizations, Steiner taught; but moving from one civilization to another is literally an evolutionary process. The ancient Indians, for instance, were not simply less culturally advanced, they were actually less evolved than modern whites. Anyone who, today, clings to an old civilization is similarly stuck at a lower evolutionary level.

[40] Here is a different description Steiner gave of the doom suffered by evildoers today, during our Earth stage of evolution: “[O]ut of the ugliness of their souls they will again develop the animal form man possessed in former ages. The evil race, with its savage impulses, will dwell in animal form in the abyss.” — Rudolf Steiner, UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING, p. 103. For more on the subject of the abyss, see "Hell".

In other translations, "irreclaimable" is given as "irredeemable" [AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE (Anthroposophical Literature Concern, 1922), p. 398] and "unredeemable" [AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 394].

[42] Sometimes Steiner gave a peek beyond Vulcan, declaring that there are actually twelve mega-stages of evolution, which he sometimes referred to as Stages or “Conditions” of Consciousness: 
“After the Vulcan stage, man will develop yet further, and will ascend to still higher levels of consciousness. As the external eye looks into misty gray distances, so the inner eye of the seer looks upon five more forms of consciousness, as far off as distant spirits, of which a description, however, is quite impossible. In all, one can speak of twelve stages of consciousness.” — COSMIC MEMORY, p. 166. Steiner's powers of description failed pretty often, actually. He couldn't describe Vulcan, and he couldn't describe what lies beyond it.

[43] Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996).

[44] Clopper Almon, A STUDY GUIDE TO 
AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997). 

[45] Ibid., p. 9.


[R.R., 2015.]