GODDESS



Distaff Divinity





Some of the following appears, in a different form, 

in "Anthropopery", here at Waldorf Watch. 

If you come upon material you have seen before, 

please just skip ahead.




I.

The Theory of Everything



The natural world is a bothersome place, a realm of maya (illusion) inhabited by devious, elusive beings like gnomes and phantoms. On the other hand, the natural world is our nurturing mother, a realm of beneficent life forces. Or so Steiner has told us.


The two-faced nature of nature is exemplified, in Steiner’s doctrines, by the female principle that manifests itself as the Earth Goddess. Presiding within the natural world, the Goddess has been known by many names, reflecting humanity’s changing consciousness as we have evolved: She is Demeter, Gaia, Mary, Sophia... She is the feminine side of divinity. Or so Steiner has told us.


Before exploring Steiner’s teachings about this Goddess, we should pause to consider a general feature of Steinerthought. Rudolf Steiner attempted to stitch together a theory of everything. [1] Drawing heavily from others who have had a similar goal — especially Theosophists — he tried to find a coherent narrative running through all mystical and religious traditions. He claimed that all truly inspired prophets and oracles and seers throughout history had attained spiritual insights that were, at their core, the same. [2] Thus, he argued that the many references in various cultures to a Earth goddesses all point to the same being. He explained the differences between these goddesses by arguing that human comprehension of the divine has evolved, becoming deeper and truer as we advance. But beyond such differences, he said, each god or goddess perceived by humans is a real being. [3]


Steiner’s great intellectual achievement was to create a framework that accommodates so many mythologies, religions, and occult traditions. (Again, we need to remember that he took much of this framework from others, but he undeniably made his own contributions to the end product that he referred to as Anthroposophy.) His large assertion was that Christianity — as redefined by himself — is the culmination of all previous spiritual systems; it is the Truth that previous systems were leading us toward. [4]


The great problem in all this is that Steiner had to reinterpret most of the material he incorporated into his system, in order to make it all fit. Thus, his Christ is the Sun God, who did not save us, precisely, but who provided us with the proper role model for our own spiritual development. [5] Christ is crucially important to us, Steiner said, but there are many other gods, and we will reincarnate many times on Earth, and our lives are conditioned by destiny or karma as well as by the astrological power of the stars and planets, and the Moon is a fortress harboring reclusive beings, and... Most of this is utterly alien to orthodox Christianity and the Bible, but Steiner freely wrenched all manner of traditions into unlikely shapes. Thus, Steiner argued that Buddha was the same being as the ancient Norse god Wotan, and that at the request of the head Rosicrucian, Buddha traveled to Mars where he was crucified, as it were. Buddhists cannot recognize their teachings in this bizarre story any more than Christians can see their Savior in a Sun being who helped us manage our karma and reincarnations more wisely. [6]


Steiner did this sort of thing constantly, with scores of tales and teachings: He made them all fit together, true — but he did this by distorting them so severely that their original meanings were often destroyed. If he had provided any evidence or at least rational arguments to support his statements, we might agree that he developed interesting new metaphysical truths, or that he at least had revived old, discarded concepts, breathing new life into them. But he gave no evidence and he rarely took the trouble to defend his remarks. He relied primarily on his own, unsupported word; the only substantiation he generally offered was to cite the myths, traditions, and doctrines that, he claimed, were consistent with his teachings (although they became consistent only after he had “corrected” them). [7] 


Steiner’s teachings about the great Earth Goddess are a case in point. In reality, the goddesses described in various cultures are deeply different from one another; they can be made to seem identical only by taking great liberties in redefining them — which is precisely what Steiner did. The result can seem impressive, if we don’t look too closely. Here is Steiner’s basic pitch: Many, many cultures have honored Earth goddesses; indeed, the worship of such goddesses seems to be almost universal. Surely this means that such goddesses exist. Indeed, even more exciting, all these real goddesses are, in truth, a single, real goddess, perceived by different peoples from different angles. The universe is thronged by real gods and goddesses, as the ancients knew, however dimly. Today, thanks to Anthroposophy, we can know these divine beings clearly and accurately. And who can we thank for this? Golly.


But just a moment. Is there a simpler, more rational explanation for the existence of Earth-goddess myths in many cultures all around the world? Of course there is. • The Earth produces life — living beings arise out of it. Women also produce life — it arises from their wombs. • The Earth produces food — it gives us the sustenance our bodies require. Woman also produce food — infants suckle at their breasts. • Life on Earth is cyclical, passing through the seasons and the phases of the Moon. Women also experience cyclical phases — the menstrual cycle is roughly coordinated with the lunar cycle.


There should be no surprise that ancient people found something deeply female in the nature of Earthly life. And because they so often tried to figure out their lives in our mysterious universe by imagining various gods working behind the scenes, it was perfectly natural for them to image a Goddess working behind or within the Earth. So we don’t need mystical theories to understand why many peoples have had Earth goddess myths, and we shouldn’t conclude from the existence of such myths that any such goddesses exist. The myths prove nothing. Steiner, however, almost always accepted myths as truth (after he revised them). Given the choice between the real knowledge produced by science and the fantasies spun by ancient, unschooled peoples, he almost always chose the latter — he opted for fantasy rather than fact, ignorance rather than knowledge. And that is what he offers his adherents.



II.

Demeter & Persephone



Let’s zero in. In many cultures, the Earth Goddess is naturally associated with the bounty of the Earth. Demeter, for instance, was the ancient Greek goddess of cereals or grains. Here is Steiner’s description: “Demeter is the archetypal being of the earth, and her gift to the earth in the form of the forces in the seeds and the produce of the fields, only indicates a still deeper aspect of her being.” [8] Demeter’s deeper nature is her procreative power, borne of the spiritual world. Demeter would have us all attain immortality in that world, if she could. But as creatures of the Earth, our fate is more complicated. Steiner says we can see this in the myth of Demeter and her daughter:


“She bore a daughter, Persephone ... Once while Persephone was playing, she was kidnaped by Pluto, the god of the nether world ... Demeter's sorrow for Persephone was limitless. She caused famine to spread over the earth. To avoid disaster the gods were obliged to placate her. Pluto was persuaded by Zeus to allow Persephone to return to the upper world. Before this, however, the god of the nether world gave her a pomegranate to eat. Because of this she was compelled to return to the nether world again and again at regular intervals. From then on she spent one third of the year in the nether world and two thirds in the upper world.” [9] Steiner interprets this as a confirmation of the doctrine of reincarnation: “It is the soul which alternates between the lower and the upper world [i.e., earthly life and life in the spirit world]. The eternity of the soul and its eternal transformation through birth and death, is represented pictorially. The soul...cannot dwell continually in the divine heights. It must always return to the realm of the transitory.” [10] This interpretation is plausible; the concept of reincarnation was known among the Greeks. However, the myth speaks of alternating periods spent in Hades and on Earth, not alternating periods spent on Earth and in “divine heights.” Steiner is reaching.


But Steiner goes much further, twisting the Demeter-Persephone myth to reflect some of his other doctrines in addition to reincarnation. You may not have noticed (I surely didn’t) that the myth tells us that human beings have multiple souls, and that we used to possess natural clairvoyance, and that modern science has raped us, and that... But I’ll quote from the introduction to ISIS MARY SOPHIA [11] about clairvoyance and the multifaceted spiritual nature of mankind: “Of Demeter, the Earth Mother, and Persephone, Steiner says, ‘With these two names we touch on what are really two souls in modern human beings — two souls whose union is achieved only through the severest ordeals.’ Persephone, taken down to Hades, is our ancient heritage of clairvoyance, raped by modern knowledge. [sic] Demeter is...‘the archetypal mother of the human soul and the fruitful sources of nature,’ out of whom what is born elementally [i.e., physically] becomes Persephone [our clairvoyant soul] in the human being.” [12]



III.

Gaia & Isis



While we all try to let that sink in, I’ll make a relatively simple point. Properly speaking, the Earth Goddess is Gaia, the personification of the Earth. Gaia is the counterpart to Uranus, the personification of the heavens. As Steiner put the matter, “Uranus and Gaia were not incompatible, one referring to what is absolutely valuable and the other to what is absolutely worthless. They were conceived as a polarity that exists within a unity.” [13] Uranus is high and Gaia is low, but they are united in the totality of our being. “[A] human being is a product of Uranus and Gaia: the head originates in heavenly forces, the body originates in earthly forces — Uranus and Gaia.” [14]


Steiner said that his insights into such myths is reflected in the souls and bodies of real humans — a point having significance for Waldorf education. “With a little child there really is this strong contrast. One has only to learn to observe such things without preconceptions; then one will soon notice what an immense and pronounced contrast there is between the head, which is the Uranus sphere of the human being, and the remaining body, which is the sphere of Gaia." [15] Waldorf teachers, therefore, look on their students as having Uranus heads and Gaia bodies. Whether these fantasies affect the way students are treated and taught is an interesting subject, but I will defer it to other pages on this website. For the moment, we should simply note that despite denials, Steiner elevated Uranus and disparaged Gaia. The Earth is lowly. If we take Earthly life to be reality, then reality is lowly. This concept reverberates through Steiner’s doctrines.


Gaia is an ancient god, an early human vision of the female principle in the cosmos. According to Steiner, other visions of the female principle reflect other insights into this principle, appropriate to various stages of human development. Steiner placed special emphasis on Isis, the Egyptian goddess of fertility. Like Gaia, Isis dwells in the physical realm while her husband, like Gaia’s, dwells in the spirit realm. Isis is our soul while we live here on Earth. We descended from the spirit realm to the Earth, and as our Earth Mother Isis lovingly wants to return us to that that realm. “This is the human soul dwelling within us, Isis, in a certain sense the eternal feminine who draws us onward to the realm out of which we are born.” [16]


Isis/Gaia/Demeter are the female principle, infusing the lowly Earth while the male principle hovers above, in the spirit realm. Isis is married to Osiris. “Osiris could not enter this physical realm; he died to the external physical world and became King in the realm the soul enters on leaving the physical world of the senses, or on developing clairvoyant powers. Hence the initiate is in his soul united with Osiris.”  [17] The initiate is a student of occult mysteries who has penetrated far into the secrets of the universe. Ordinary people, however, are more attuned to Isis.


Here is Steiner’s version of the Isis-Osiris myth: “Osiris...in primordial times ruled as if in a golden age among men, and married his sister, Isis, who brought happiness and blessing to mankind. He stood before the eyes of ancient Egypt as a human King of divine power and divine virtue; and he ruled until he was killed by Set, his evil brother. He was killed in a strange way. At a banquet the evil brother Set, in later times called Typhon, caused a chest to be made, and craftily induced Osiris to lie down in it, when the lid was quickly closed. The chest was then thrown into the water and swept away to the unknown. His sorrowing spouse Isis seeks everywhere for her husband, after long searching finally discovering him in Asia. She brings him back to Egypt where he is dismembered by his evil brother Set, his fragments being interred in many graves. Hence the great number of tombs of Osiris in Egypt. Osiris now becomes King of the Dead, as previously he was King of living men on earth. From that other world a ray pierces the head of Isis and she gives birth to Horus who becomes the ruler of this world [i.e., our world, the Earthly realm].” [18]


The incest in this tale is unpleasant for modern readers, but don’t let that deter you. Our attention should be elsewhere, anyway. Most gods cannot bear to descend to physical reality. Steiner interprets Osiris’s murder in this way: The chest he lies in is the physical body, which is so alien to him that he dies when he enters it. The only gods who can tolerate living in the lowly, physical realm are the Earth Goddesses — and one other, the god who voluntarily comes to Earth to help redeem us, Christ. Steiner sees a prefiguring of Christ in the birth of Isis’s son, Horus. To bear this wonderful son, Isis had to purify herself — she had to become virginal, like Mary. “Isis, when she is purified and has laid aside all that she has received from the physical, is impregnated from the spiritual world and gives birth to Horus, the higher man, who is to be victorious over the lower human being.” [19] Horus will rule the Earth, and he will be victorious over humanity’s lower nature. And he is borne by a goddess who, being pure, is impregnated from on high.



IV.

Isis & Mary



This brings us, clearly, to Mary and her son. According to Steiner, the Bible is not literally true. Mary, the mother of God, is not in fact a woman — she is the Earth Goddess, seen in a new visage by more evolved humans. Mary is the further development of Isis, and her son is the realized god prefigured by Horus.


“This is what is represented in Isis. She is fructified [i.e., made fruitful, impregnated] by the divine male element, so that the head [representing the seat of the soul] is fructified ... What lasted throughout the Egyptian evolution [i.e., what existed in ancient Egypt] as the Isis symbol was received in more recent times and transformed in accordance with the progress made by humanity as a result of the appearance of Christ Jesus on earth [i.e., humans evolved to higher levels, thanks to Christ]; for in Christ Jesus we have the great prototype of everything that the human soul is destined to bring forth out of itself [i.e., Christ showed us how to develop the potential divinity in our own souls]. The human soul...is given tangible form in the Madonna. In the Madonna we meet, as it were, with Isis reborn and in an appropriate way enhanced, transfigured.” [20] Mary, the Madonna, is Isis as perceived by humans who were more advanced than the ancient Egyptians.


Looking for other mothering gods who produced Christ-like sons, Steiner lighted on Persephone, whom we met earlier as Demeter’s daughter. Steiner now promotes her to the line of Earth Goddesses, supplanting her mother, because Persephone gave birth to a god, Iacchos, who died and was resurrected. [21] So, if we are willing to interpret these myths as Steiner wants us to do, we can conclude that the Mary-Jesus story was told incorrectly in the Egyptian myths (as the Isis-Horus story) and in the Greek myths (as the Persephone-Iacchos story), but it is told truly in the Gnostic Christian version (as told by Steiner, according to Steiner).


Let’s recapitulate. Many peoples have had Earth Goddess myths, and if we try hard enough, we can make these myths seem to be deeply consistent with one another. But even if accompany Steiner this far, we do not need to find supernatural reasons to account for the Earth Goddess myths. It is perfectly easy to see why ancient or primitive peoples would come up with the idea of a goddess dwelling within nature.


We can take this a step further. Some peoples have had myths about gods who died and then were resurrected. In various cases, these myths are associated with Earth Goddess myths. How impressed should we be? Is the existence of resurrection myths strong evidence that a god once died on Earth and was then resurrected? No. The Bible may be true, and Jesus may have risen from the dead. But the myths of Iacchos and other resurrected gods do not provide any evidence for this. Any people who have an Earth Goddess myth are quite likely to have a resurrection myth because, clearly, life on Earth goes through cycles of death and rebirth. Nature comes to life and flourishes in spring and summer, and then it declines and “dies” in autumn and winter, only to be reborn in the following spring. The cycle of natural resurrection is deep in human experience — it is what we see all around us every year. Naturally, then, we incorporate the idea (the promise, the hope) of resurrection in the explanatory stories we tell ourselves. Indeed, in our mythologies some gods who might be called Christ figures are explicitly gods of the spring, who die in autumn, to be reborn in the spring. In Norse mythology, for instance, Baldur is a god of spring who dies but whose promise is undying.


Perhaps the Biblical account of Christ’s resurrection is literally true; I am not arguing against that. But any literally true passages in the Bible are quite distinct from myths dreamt up by peoples in lands and times far removed from the Holy Land. Various myths may reflect the same natural rhythms of life and death, and they may arise from the same human psychological needs, but they do not constitute miraculous proof of occult doctrines such as Steiner's.



V.

Mary & Wisdom



Among the many oddities and surprises in Steiner’s version of things we find this: Christ came to Earth, but He did not bring us divine wisdom, according to Steiner. The true bearer of divine wisdom was his mother, the Goddess. “The central Mystery-divinity [i.e., the god most connected to occult wisdom] is not so much the Christ as a goddess of wisdom who gives birth to a Christ ... In Egypt it was Isis who revived Osiris and gave birth to his mystical successor, Horus the sun-child; in Greece it was Persephone who dies and returns to life at Eleusis, and bears the divine child Iacchos. The Mysteries [i.e., teachings that conceal or reveal occult wisdom] are dominated by the great goddesses, who are all versions of divine wisdom.” [22]


The expression “a” Christ may seem surprising. It suggests that there have been other Christs, and in a sense this is what Steiner means — at least, he means that figures such as Horus and Iacchos are Christ figures, presaging the arrive of the true Christ. But ultimately there is only one true Christ figure: Christ Himself. Just as the many Earth Goddesses are all really one goddess, so all the Christ figures are really one Christ.


The “Mystery-divinity” or Mother of God (Christ) found in the Bible is, of course, Mary. Steiner gives this description of a painting of the Madonna: “If we look at the figure or Mary we are bound to see that the head reflects something heavenly in its whole appearance, its whole expression. We must then indicate that Mary is preparing to take into herself the sun, the child, the sun as it rays through the encircling air. And then we can see in the form of Mary the moon-earthly element.” [23] Steiner emphasizes Mary’s head, just as he did with Isis. And we can find connections to other Earth Goddess myths. Like Demeter, like Gaia, Mary is “married” to a celestial power, or at least she is impregnated by such a power. She takes the Sun into herself — she receives Christ, who comes from the Sun. “Had Christ not appeared on the earth, had He remained the Sun-God only, humanity on the earth would have fallen into decay. Increasingly men would have come to believe that material things alone exist, that the sun and the stars are material bodies. For men had forgotten altogether that they themselves had descended from a pre-earthly existence, from the spirit-world of the stars.” [24


Christ came to Earth, through Mary, from the celestial realm beyond the Moon. Notice that “we can see in the form of Mary the moon-earthly element.” The Earth Goddess is not the spiritual essence of the Earth only — her sphere is the entire space extending from the Earth to the Moon. This is the realm humans now occupy. We are rightfully, originally sky beings, but for now we are Earth beings, under the ever-changing Moon. Christ comes to us from the Sun, bringing true light (unlike the Moon with its false, reflected light). The light enters Mary, and she bestows it on us. She is our wonderful mother, the mother of mankind as well as the Mother of God. She is wisdom. But she is also separated from the true universe, the sky universe, just as we are. She dwells with us under the changeable Moon.



VI.

Sophia



None of this is exactly clear-cut, I know, and I apologize. This is how Steiner worked things out; don’t blame me. The going will soon get even rougher for a while, for we are approaching one center of Steiner’s doctrines, which inevitably means we are entering occult, mysterious territory. Hang in there.


To fulfill our evolutionary destiny, we must follow Christ — that is, emulate Him. But equally, we need to emulate the Mother of God. Ultimately, She is not really our mother, standing apart from us. She is our own purified soul, prepared to receive — and produce — the divine. You see, we have divinity within us, just as we potentially have divine wisdom within us. The female principle in the universe is the nurturing power within our own souls that enables us to give birth to our true selves, the god and wisdom within. We “divine” or develop the divine wisdom within us by following the mothering instinct within ourselves. We are, in a sense, the female. We yearn for union with the celestial, male powers. Mary, the Mother of God, is ourselves, as it were. “The ‘Woman’ stands for the power which is active unconsciously in the soul, which brings about the raising into consciousness of the divine element in man. The soul, which has not yet found wisdom, is the ‘mother’ of that experience of divination. Here we have one of the central conceptions of Mystery-teaching, which acknowledges the human soul as the mother of god leading man unconsciously and with the inevitability of a natural force to his union with the divine.” [25]


To make sense of this, we need to understand what Steiner meant by “wisdom.” It is what we find through cosmic, clairvoyant vision; it is what we find when we stop thinking with our conscious brains and surrender to the unconscious knowledge we have within ourselves. Finding this wisdom can be complex, requiring the mystical disciplining our of minds and souls, but it is imminent, ready for our discovery. And the Mother can lead us there.


The true name of the Mother of God, within our souls, is not Mary or Isis or Demeter. The true name of the Goddess is “the Virgin Sophia”: “The Virgin Sophia is the Goddess in her profoundest, most esoteric Christian form.” [26] This Goddess is, in essence, the Holy Spirit — the feminine element of the Trinity that has been overlooked and misunderstood by orthodox Christians, said Steiner. “The history of Catholic dogma here seems to have fallen into great confusion. Yes, the ‘Holy Spirit’ and the ‘Christ in us’ are one and the same — but at different levels of development. [sic] One could also say that the ‘Holy Spirit’ is the (feminine) ‘Mother’ principle of the (male) ‘Son’ principle, Christ. We owe the development of the ‘Christ in us’ to the ‘Holy Spirit’ (the female creator of Christ). Originally, the ‘Holy Spirit’ was nothing other than the Divine Mother (Isis, etc.). [sic] Christianity rejected this feminine (Isis) principle and retained only the Son (Christ). In the ‘Holy Spirit,’ however, Christianity still retains the rudiments of the earlier feminine principle. Therefore, in Christian dogma, the ‘Holy Spirit’ melds quite naturally with the ‘Son.’ They become one and the same, while on the one hand the rejected Isis principle becomes incomprehensible as the ‘Holy Spirit,’ and on the other hand the Virgin Mary is taken up exoterically [i.e., in teachings suited to the average person]. First, Isis is volatilized [i.e., blown away] as the Holy Spirit and then she is reestablished as ‘Mary’ without any consciousness of the connection [i.e., Christians aren’t aware of this].” [27]


Sometimes it is useful to get a full dose of Steiner straight in the face. This is how he spoke and wrote. If the last few paragraphs seem like mud, all you really need to know is that, according to Steiner, there is a divine male principle and a divine female principle. The male is epitomized by Christ. The female is epitomized by the Earth Goddess, aka Isis, aka Mary, aka Sophia, aka the Holy Ghost. “Sophia” is thus just another name for the divine wisdom brought to us by the Holy Ghost, and Steiner’s doctrines are the true embodiment of this wisdom: Anthropo-Sophia, the wisdom of the human being. According to Steiner, that is (who, as we have just seen, had to change everything in order to affirm everything, changing Christian teachings, for example, in order to make them fit his system, Anthroposophy).



VII.

Wisdom



Steiner deserves credit for emphasizing the distaff side of divinity, especially because he wrote and spoke in a period that was overwhelmingly patriarchal. According to his teachings, the male “principle” is undeniably paramount — most gods he discusses are male, including God the Father and God the Son — but he elevated the female “principle” far more than many other gurus of his time did, and he credited the female principle with wonderful attributes: love, nurturing, selflessness, wisdom. This principle is, he said, our connection with divine truth in the form of the Holy Spirit, and thus in some sense it is our very soul.


Yet, despite asserting the essential equality of the female and the male, Steiner placed the Earth Goddess in a subservient position, occupying a lower realm. The Goddess aspires to union with the divine, which is above her, but she is held distant from it, removed from the upper pantheon. The thrust of Steiner’s work is summarized in the title of one of his central books: HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS. [28] We humans long for the higher worlds, and our Mother shares this longing.


The Earth is a lowly realm. It is a place of material existence, illusion (maya), and inferior beings, the nature spirits, which have no true spiritual essence. [29] Some nature spirits, such as phantoms and demons, are distinctly evil. Others, such as goblins, are equivocal at best. And even those that seem at least tentatively friendly to humankind are potentially harmful if they draw us too deeply into their sublunar, physical realm. The only real benefit nature spirits can offer us is to assist us in leaving their realm. This is the same goal that the Goddess has for us: She wants us, her children, to rise to higher worlds and immortality.


The association of the Goddess with the Moon is telling. Steiner placed Christ on the Sun and Jehovah on the Moon. [30] Jehovah is not God, Steiner said — he is a subordinate god, a demiurge: He is the god of the Jews, who practice what Steiner called the Moon religion. [31] Thus, the Goddess is associated with a parasitical sphere (the Moon, which produces no light of its own), and an inferior god (Jehovah) presiding over an outmoded, false religion (Judaism). [32]


Associating a female god with the Moon makes sense (if we can call it that) because women in general have long been associated with the Moon — because of the menstrual cycle. And what is the Moon? At least in Western tradition, it is an inconstant sphere, unreliable, fickle. Western misogynists have long tagged women with the accusation of inconstancy and faithlessness. This is their “Moon” nature. And to the degree that women or the Moon preside over Earthly life, then all of us on the Earth are affected by these characteristics. [33]


Steiner meant his teachings to be free of misogyny. “The polarity between male and female in our earthly evolution does not, of course, apply to the ‘human being.’ The human being as such is the same in both man and woman.” [34] In our essential nature, all real humans beings, male and female, are equal. (Some people are not real human beings, Steiner said, but we don’t need to go into that now.) The male and female principles are both divine and true. And yet, according to Steiner, a fundamental difference between male and female can be found in the very structure of the universe. Surprisingly, this is not the polarity between Sun (male) and Moon (female), or at least it is not always this. It is, or can be, the polarity between Comet and Moon: “There is in the Cosmos the same polarity as we have described between male and female: and that is the polarity between a Comet and the Moon. If we wish to understand the nature of a Comet, wandering as it does in cosmic space regardless of the other laws of the Solar System, we must be clear as to the fact that the Comet carries the laws belonging to the old Moon-existence into our own [time] ... [I]t has remained behind at the stage of natural law which prevailed in the Solar System when our earth was still Old Moon [i.e., an earlier period of evolution]. It carries a former condition into a later, into the present; just as the woman’s body carries an earlier condition into present-day existence [i.e., the female body preserves characteristics from earlier phases of human development].” [35]


Whether we associate the female principle with the Moon or with comets, we are associating it with inconstancy and backwardness. Comets wander, not obeying the laws that affect the rest of the solar system. They embody the effects of an ancient period, which Steiner called Old Moon (and in this sense comets and Moon become one and the same). [36] The realm of the female principle is thus fickle, unreliable, and backward — or, as a misogynist would say, just like a woman.


And yet Steiner credits the Earth Goddess with bringing us wisdom. How can this be? How can inconstancy go hand-in-hand with wisdom? Bear in mind that Steiner’s idea of wisdom entails clairvoyance, which can be considered a form of intuition. And we all know about women’s intuition. I’m being flippant, but in fact this concept is deeply imbedded in Anthroposophy. According to Steiner, the female principle — associated with violating the laws of men and gods — is essential for the pursuit of wisdom. Eve broke the rules and we thus gained the knowledge of good and evil. Steiner’s version of this is: “It was from the manner of life of the women that the first ideas of ‘good and evil’ arose ... The development of mankind can only be correctly understood by the one who takes into consideration that the first progress in the life of the imagination was made by women ... One must imagine this manner of the women to have been also a kind of clairvoyance ... In her soul woman was accessible to another kind of spiritual powers. The latter spoke more to the feeling element of the soul....” [37]


So the female principle is intuitive, inconstant, emotional, and wise. We can summarize this in a sort of equation, which isn’t fully accurate but nonetheless suggestive: Woman = inconstant = backward = emotion = inwardness = soul = clairvoyance = wisdom = Sophia = Anthropo-sophia.


So we wind up reconsidering wisdom, specifically the clairvoyant, womanish “wisdom” that Steiner offers us. Just how wise is this “wisdom”? How much knowledge does Steiner actually extend to us? Consider the quotations we’ve been reading. How persuasive are they? How much evidence can you find in them? How many logical arguments do they lay out? [38] Look again at the quotation about the Moon, comets, and women. Steiner’s words make sense only if we accept the proposition that we and the Earth once evolved through an “Old Moon” phase. The concept is fascinating, perhaps, but what evidence does Steiner offer to support it? None — neither here nor anywhere else. He makes an assertion and then gallops ahead, leaving us breathless with admiration or confusion or skeptical revolt. We can take his word for things or not, but Steiner offers us nothing much except his own word. The closest he comes to buttressing his claims is by alluding to various occult teachings and myths and works of art, which he interprets as he pleases. According to him, everything that has ever been true can be found, properly explained, in his own ideas. The ancients were wise, and he is wiser; the ancients were right, and he is righter.


But there is another way to see this. Steiner gives us no real evidence, no real reasoning — and on this extremely flimsy basis he makes a vast number of extremely weird statements. This is not wisdom; it is ignorance. By piling his own teachings on top of the myths and delusions of ancient peoples, he merely piles ignorance on top of ignorance.


Is “ignorance” too strong a word to throw at Steiner? [39] Think about those comets, which “wander” through space “regardless of the other laws of the Solar System.” Steiner’s statement bears no relation to reality. Comets do not wander; they orbit the Sun in regular, knowable, elongated elliptical orbits. Nor do comets defy the laws that control the other bodies in the solar system. They orbit the Sun in accordance with precisely the same laws of orbital mechanics that apply to everything else that orbits the Sun (and, probably, everything that orbits anything anywhere in the universe).


Steiner was quite knowledgeable about myths, legends, esoteric teachings, occultism, and so on. He knew a lot about those bodies of misinformation — and he accepted them as the truth, whereas he generally rejected real knowledge out of hand. Science is wrong, he said over and over. It is “scientific trash” forked up by “scientific simpletons” with their and their “logical, pedantic, narrow-minded proof of things.” He deplored “primitive concepts like those...of contemporary science.” [40] But quite clearly, the primitive view is not science; the primitive view is the one he espoused: mystical, woolly, subjective, fantastical.


The “wisdom” and “truth” of Anthropo-Sophia is an elaborately reworked farrago of fantasy and falsehood. It is what every sane person should walk away from — or run from, laughing or weeping, gladly or sorrowfully. Myths and mysticism have their charms, but they offer us no real knowledge. If we human beings are to evolve — as Steiner constantly said we must — then, surely, we must reject Steiner’s doctrines and those of every other false prophet. This is what our Earth Mother — if she existed — would want for us: True wisdom.


— Roger Rawlings























Representative Waldorf wet-on-wet student paintings,

which — although the students are rarely told this — are meant to evoke the spirit realm.

Waldorf art is usually "feminine," as Anthroposophists conceive things —

intuitive, emotive "cognition" is basic to Anthroposophy.


“The ‘Woman’ stands for the power which is active unconsciously in the soul, 

which brings about the raising into consciousness of the divine element in man."


 "In her soul woman was accessible to another kind of spiritual powers. 

The latter spoke more to the feeling element of the soul....” — R. Steiner.


[Waldorf student artwork

courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]

















The Egyptian goddess of the sky, overarching creation.

Steiner taught that girls are oriented to the cosmos

and boys are oriented to the Earth. Contrariwise, however,

he associated the male principle with the sky

and the female principle with the Earth.

[Drawing by a Waldorf student.]








A traditional image of the sky goddess.

[J. C. Cooper, AN ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TRADITIONAL SYMBOLS,

(Thames and Hudson, 1978), p. 155.



Like several other images on this page, this is not an example of Anthroposophical art. 
Here at Waldorf Watch, I include some images and passages from non-Anthroposophical sources 
 in order to place Steiner's teachings in the context of broader esoteric traditions.












For more on Anthroposophical beliefs about gender differences,

see "Gender".













Led by their teachers, students in the lower grades at Waldorf schools

often recite graces before snacks and meals.

Here's a grace that is widely used in Waldorf schools today:


Earth who gave to us this food:

Sun who made it ripe and good:

Dear Sun

Dear Earth

By you we live,

To you our loving thanks we give.*


— Christian Morgenstern, on p. 38 of PRAYERS AND GRACES 
(Floris Books, 1996), compiled by Michael Jones.

It's a sweet little prayer — a bit pagan, but sweet.


*Here's a variation that is sometimes substituted:

Mother Earth who gives to us this food,

Father Sun who makes it ripe and good,

Blessed Earth, Blessed Sun,

We’ll not forget what you have done.


In Anthroposophical lore, Father Sun is, in effect, the Sun God

while Mother Earth is the Earth Goddess.



















Here we see a Hindu image of androgyny: Ardanari-Iswara, standing on a lotus blossom. Steiner said the female principle has benefited mankind — the division into sexes was an advance. But our evolution requires moving beyond the backward female principle. Reconciling Steiner's various statements can be taxing. In general, we evolve from uniformity to diversity and, ultimately, to a deeper uniformity. "Female" and "male" are stages, with a complex relationship. "We have reached the period at which the earlier androgynous organism, representing a kind of group-soul, divided into male and female ... We see in our stage of evolution the female as the principle which still preserves the old conditions of folk and race, and the male that which continually breaks through these conditions, splits them up and so individualizes humanity ... [H]uman beings will become more and more different from one another ... That is the course of human evolution." — Rudolf Steiner, ROSICRUCIAN WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 128.


























Traditional images of Demeter, Persephone,

and the Virgin Mary from http://karenswhimsy.com/













Demeter farms — named for the ancient Greek goddess of grains and fertility — operate in accordance with Rudolf Steiner's biodynamic teachings. Demeter International is a certifying authority that verifies the bona fides of agricultural operations that claim to be biodynamic. See http://www.demeter.net/.  






 













The Virgin Mary, vaguely represented in Walther Roggenkamp's

Anthroposophical painting, "And He Was Made Man".

[John Fletcher, ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER (Mercury Arts Publications, 1987), p. 112.

R.R. copy, 2010.]


















[R.R., 2010.]







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


◊◊◊ 9. WALDORF AND RELIGION ◊◊◊



IS ANTHROPOSOPHY A RELIGION?

Examining the central denial made by Steiner’s followers


WAS HE CHRISTIAN?
A comparison of Steiner's teachings with Christ's


Anthroposophy and hidden knowledge

Anthroposophy and Rosicrucianism


GOD
Steiner's strange ideas about the Lord

GODDESS

SERVING THE GODS
What Waldorf faculties aim for

PRAYERS
About those "morning verses"

FAITH
The religion of Anthroposophy in the classroom

Turning students into disciples

Why choose Anthroposophy when there are so many alternatives?



————————


You may also want to consult a few essays 
posted in the first section of Waldorf Watch:


Waldorf's goals

Waldorf's reality

WALDORF WORSHIP
Teachers as priests

Steiner, trying to make Waldorf education seem sensible







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. 







ENDNOTES




[1] For Steiner’s overview, see “Everything”.


[2] One particularly relevant example of universal esoteric agreement: “The soul was always known as the 'mother' in all esoteric (mystical) teachings; the instructor was the 'father'.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 266.


Concerning Steiner’s debit to Theosophy, see "Basics" and “Clairvoyant Vision”. For more on the underlying unity of spiritual systems and visions, see "Altogether".


[3] E.g., “Zeus, Apollo, Mars, Wotan, Odin, Thor, who are all real beings....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE EAST IN THE LIGHT OF THE WEST (Kessinger, facsimile of 1942 edition), pp . 108-109. (Also published by Temple Lodge 1993.)


[4] E.g., • “As a religion, Christianity is the last. Within itself it carries all possibilities for development.” — THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY. p. 260. • “True Christianity is the summation of all stages of initiation. The initiation of antiquity was the prophetic announcement, the preparation.” — Rudolf Steiner, GUIDANCE IN ESOTERIC TRAINING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 9.


“True” Christianity, according to Steiner, can be found in his own gnostic teachings, Anthroposophy.


[5] See “Gnosis”.


[6] I discuss these and many more of Steiner’s bizarre teachings, in the various essays here at Waldorf Watch. Please see the Index or Table of Contents, or use the “Search Site” function near the top of each page.


[7] He “corrected” almost everything he drew from, including the work of his Theosophical mentors such as Helena Blavatsky. It is true that Blavatsky has in her books put forward important truths concerning spiritual worlds, but mixed with so much error that only one who has accurately investigated these matters can succeed in separating what is significant from what is erroneous.” — Rudolf Steiner, APPROACHES TO ANTHROPOSOPHY, (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1992), p. 7). The primary accurate investigator he had in mind was, of course, himself.


[8] Rudolf Steiner, CHRISTIANITY AS MYSTICAL FACT (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1961), chapter 5, GA 8.


[9] Ibid.


[10] Ibid.


By examining specific myths, we can see how Steiner interpreted ancient teachings. Much of his occult system hinges on such interpretations, so the effort is worthwhile. But it is an effort — the going can be rough. At any point, if you find Steiner’s language or thought processes turgid, feel free to skip ahead. I’ll try to summarize frequently, so you won’t miss much if you pass over specific passages.


[11] Rudolf Steiner, ISIS MARY SOPHIA (SteinerBooks, 2003).


[12] ISIS MARY SOPHIA, p. 29 — Introduction by Christopher Bamford. 


[13] Rudolf Steiner, THE RIDDLE OF HUMANITY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1990), p. 29.


[14] Ibid., lecture 3.


[15] Ibid.


[16] Rudolf Steiner, ISIS AND MADONNA (Mercury Press, 1987), a lecture, GA 57.


[17] Ibid.


[18] Ibid.


[19] Ibid.


[20] Ibid.


[21] Iacchos is the son of Jupiter and Persephone. He may be equivalent to Bacchus or Dionysus. See THE ENCYCLOPEDIC THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/etgloss/ia-iz.htm


“In Orphic legend (i.e., based on the stories of Orpheus) Dionysus — under the name Zagreus — was the son of Zeus by his daughter Persephone. At the direction of Hera, the infant Zagreus/Dionysus was torn to pieces, cooked, and eaten by the evil Titans. But his heart was saved by Athena, and he (now Dionysus) was resurrected by Zeus through Semele. Zeus struck the Titans with lightning, and they were consumed by fire. From their ashes came the first men, who thus possessed both the evil nature of the Titans and the divine nature of the gods.” — "Dionysus." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 19 Aug. 2009.


In passing, it’s worth noticing that the parallels between various mother-of-god myths break down. Horus, for instance, did not die and then rise from the dead.


[22] Rudolf Steiner, MYSTERY KNOWLEDGE AND MYSTERY CENTRES (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), pp. 11-12.


[23] Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUR SEASONS AND THE ARCHANGELS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 26.


[24] Rudolf Steiner,  THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING, Vol. 3 (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1958), lecture 3, GA 226.


[25] Rudolf Steiner, THE MYSTERIES: Rudolf Steiner's Writings of Spiritual Initiation (Floris Books, 1997), ed. Andrew Welburn, p. 86.


[26] Rudolf Steiner, THE GODDESS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 40.


We develop or come to know Sophia through the process of occult initiation. It is a matter of making one’s astral body (the second of our three nonphysical bodies) virginally pure. “The cleansed, purified astral body, which bears within it at the moment of illumination none of the impure impressions of the physical world, but only the organs of perception of the spiritual world [i.e., nonphysical organs of clairvoyance — don’t worry about them], is called the ‘pure, chaste, wise Virgin Sophia’ in esoteric Christianity [i.e., heretical, Gnostic teachings]. By means of all that he receives during katharsis [i.e., initiation], the pupil cleanses and purifies his astral body so that it is transformed into the Virgin Sophia.” — THE GODDESS, p. 48.


[27] ISIS MARY SOPHIA, p. 49.


[28] Rudolf Steiner, HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS  (Anthroposophic Press, 1994). This book is also available in an earlier translation as KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944). 


[29] See “Neutered Nature”.


[30] See Light and Dark” and “Was He Christian?”


[31] “As you know, we distinguish the Jews from the rest of the earth's population. The difference has arisen because the Jews have been brought up in the moon religion for centuries ... The Jews have a great gift for materialism, but little for recognition of the spiritual world.” — Rudolf Steiner, FROM BEETROOT TO BUDDHISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 59. 


[32] See “Steiner’s Racism”.


[33] The concept of an inconstant realm controlled by the inconstant Moon runs deep in our history. Here are two references focusing on the concept in our relatively recent past. • “Within this universe there was a sharp division between everything beneath the sphere of the moon and all the rest of the universe. (The adjective sublunary contains a lot of meaning.) It was the difference between mutability and constancy.” — E.M.W. Tillyard, THE ELIZABETHAN WORLD VIEW (Vintage, 1960), p. 38. •  “[T]he sublunar world, devoid of the divine beings and pure forms that existed above, was governed by chance and could be studied only imperfectly.” — Raymond L. Lee, Alistair B. Fraser THE RAINBOW BRIDGE (Penn State Press, 2001) p. 104.


[34] Rudolf Steiner, CHRIST IMPULSE AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF EGO CONSCIOUSNESS (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1925; facsimile edition by Kessigner Publishing), p. 55.


[35] Ibid., p. 58.


[36] For information on the Old Moon, see “Steiner Static” here at Waldorf Watch.


[37] Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Rudolf  Steiner Publications, 1959), III, "Our Atlantean Ancestors".


[38] In chopping words out of various passages I have quoted, my only goal has been to make Steiner as comprehensible as possible. I have not suppressed any evidence or logic Steiner might have offered. You can check me easily by using the references I have given and reading the passages in full.


[39] We can attempt to develop clairvoyance to check out Steiner, but this would be a fool’s errand, in that clairvoyance does not exist. Can I prove that it doesn’t exist? No, one cannot prove a negative. But the onus is on Steiner and the other advocates of clairvoyance: Prove that it does exist. They haven’t, and almost certainly they never will. See "Clairvoyance" and “Inside Scoop”.


[40] See “Steiner’s 'Science'”. Steiner called his own teachings "spiritual science" — he claimed that he objectively, "scientifically" described the spirit realm. He also claimed, sometimes, that ordinary science (i.e., real science) would eventually confirm his teachings. This has not happened, however. Indeed, as we gain more and more scientific knowledge, Steiner's teachings become less and less credible. See, e.g., "Millennium".

























Most Anthroposophical art is representational — it depicts various spiritual beings, conditions, or "truths." But even images that seem abstract may be considered representational, depicting the spirit realm as described by Steiner: "[T]hough the world from which the soul descends [at birth] has no spatial forms or lines, it does have color intensities, color qualities. Which is to say that the world man inhabits between death and a new birth (and which I have frequently and recently described) is a soul-permeated, spirit-permeated world of light, of color, of tone; a world of qualities, not quantities; a world of intensities rather than extensions. Thus in certain primitive, almost-forgotten civilizations, they who descended and dipped into a physical body had the sensation that through it he entered into relation with a physical environment, grew into space. To him the physical body was completely attuned to space, and he said to himself: 'This is foreign to me, it was not so in the spirit-soul world. Here I am under the joke [sic — yoke?] of three dimensions — dimensions which had no meaning before my descent into the physical world. But color, tone harmonies, tone melodies, have very much meaning in the spiritual world.'” — Rudolf Steiner, THE ARTS AND THEIR MISSION (Anthroposophic Press, 1964), p. 23. [R. R. simulation of Anthroposophical art, 2014.]