Rudolf Steiner found great significance in the stories
of the Holy Grail. He said that the Grail signifies
the ancient “Mysteries” (i.e., occult knowledge)
hidden within Christianity. The search for the Grail thus
becomes the search for the occult meaning of Christianity,
or so Steiner taught.
“[I]n this arising of the Holy Grail there stands before us everything that went into the post-Christian renewal of the principle of the ancient Mysteries. Fundamentally speaking, the phrase the 'Holy Grail', with all that belongs to it, involves a reappearing of the essence of the Eastern Mysteries.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE MYSTERIES OF THE EAST AND OF CHRISTIANITY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 4, GA 144. [Also see Rudolf Steiner, THE HOLY GRAIL (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), p. 11.]
The Grail is associated with Lucifer, Steiner said.
Lucifer is evil, yet he also helped show us the way forward.
“A wonderfully beautiful legend tells us that when Lucifer fell from heaven to earth a precious stone fell from his crown. This precious stone — so the legend proceeds — became the vessel from which Christ Jesus took the holy Supper with His disciples; the same vessel received the Christ's blood when it flowed on the Cross, and was brought by angels to the western world, where it is received by those who wish to come to a true understanding of the Christ principle. Out of the stone, which fell from Lucifer's crown, was made the Holy Grail. This precious stone is in a certain respect nothing else — I will just mention it here, as the fact will be laid more plainly before your souls in the course of the next chapters — than the full power of the Ego.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE EAST IN THE LIGHT OF THE WEST (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 1, GA 113.
Lucifer helped us by accentuating individual identity, ego, and striving for knowledge.
Lucifer’s knowledge is mistaken, and succumbing to his temptation can be destructive.
But taken in the right way (i.e., Steiner’s way, according to Steiner),
Lucifer continues to give us an impulse that complements the impulse Christ gives us.
“Belief is the real fruit of the cross ... From belief spring courage and perseverance. But courage, perseverance and belief alone are not sufficient; another necessary factor will have to be established more and more the further we progress towards the future ... The cross alone gives vital courage and belief to our right understanding; but the star of the light-bearer, the star of Lucifer, if we surrender ourselves to it, can enlighten us every moment as to the rightness and the indubitableness of the spiritual ideas within us. That is the other centre of force on which we must take a firm stand; we must be capable of acquiring knowledge which goes into the depths of life, which goes behind the outer, material appearances, which sends its rays from the place where there is light, even when to human eyes and understanding all is dark.” — Ibid.
Lucifer gives us the power of seeking knowledge, although the star
fell from his crown and he lost it: He no longer has true knowledge.
But if we use his gift to us properly, it is a blessing.
Steiner taught that evil can often be turned to good,
and in this sense Lucifer is actually a central benefactor within Anthroposophy.
“[W]e have to receive this precious stone in its transformed character as the Holy Grail, that we must understand the Cross in the star; we must know that we have to understand the luminous wisdom which shone in the world during primeval ages, and which we deeply revere as the wisdom of pre-Christian times ... Not the least fraction of pre-Christian wisdom, of the light of the East, must be lost to us. We look up to Phosphoros, the Light-bearer; and indeed we revere this Light-bearer as the being through which alone we learn to understand the whole of the deep, inner meaning of the Christ ... [In] the mission of Anthroposophy, Lucifer will guide us to the safety of a luminous spiritual life, and the Christ will guide us to the inner warmth of the soul which trusts and believes that that will come about which may be called the birth of the Eternal out of the Temporal ... Thus we work from one point of time to another in the firm belief that if we comprehend our mission rightly; we are working for that for which man ought to work, for eternity. For as far as human work is concerned, Eternity is the birth of that which has matured in Time.” — Ibid.
Lucifer lost the star; we lost the Grail. The search for the Grail
is the search for ancient wisdom that remains true today,
although in revised form. Each stage of evolution has had its truths,
Steiner taught, and we must keep these truths alive,
although we must constantly revise them to make them
applicable in our new, higher stage of evolution.
(The authors of the Grail myths would be surprised,
but this is what Steiner said their myths mean.)
The Grail embodies ancient Eastern wisdom,
but it is most truly grasped as Christian truth
(as redefined by Steiner, in a way that few Christians
would accept as being truly Christian).
“[A]ccording to an ancient tradition, the picture of the Holy Grail must appear in the heavens at the Easter festival. It must be so. At the Easter festival, therefore, everyone can see this picture of the Holy Grail. According to a very ancient tradition, the date of the Easter festival is regulated with this in view ... Let us set before us the Virgin Mother with the Christ upon her knees and let us then express it thus: He who can feel the holiness of this picture will feel the same for the Holy Grail. Above all other lights, all other gods, shines the Holy Vessel — the Moon-Mother now touched by Christ, the new Eve, the bearer of the Sun-spirit, Christ.” — Rudolf Steiner, CHRIST AND THE SPIRITUAL WORLD AND THE SEARCH FOR THE HOLY GRAIL (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2008), pp. 116-132.
Never forget that Christ, according to Steiner’s new,
improved Christianity, is the ancient Sun God.
Ultimately, the story of the Grail — as revised by Steiner —
is the same as the story Steiner told on all occasions,
about everything. This is the story cooked up by Theosophy
and altered by Steiner to put more emphasis on Christ.
It is the story of human evolution beginning during Old Saturn
and proceeding, in our future, to Future Vulcan. Yes, Vulcan.
It is a story Steiner claimed to learn by reading the
invisible “stellar script,” the Akashic Record.
The Grail symbolizes this, too: The Grail symbolizes
the hidden, occult meaning of our evolution.
“Let us try to make ourselves worthy to do this; let us try to read the stellar script in the form now given to us. For in fact it is nothing else than a reading of the script when we try to trace out human evolution through the Saturn, Sun and Moon periods, right up to the Vulcan period. But we must recognise in what connection we wish to decipher the stellar script today. Let us make ourselves worthy of it! For not in vain are we told that the Grail was at first carried away from its own place and for a season was not externally perceptible. Let us regard what we are permitted to study in our Anthroposophy as a renewed seeking for the Grail, and let us try to learn to understand the significance of that which formerly spoke as though out of the subconscious depths of the soul and rose gradually into the consciousness of men. Let us try to transform that by degrees into a new and more conscious language! Let us try to explore a wisdom which will disclose to us the connection between the earthly and the heavenly, not relying on old traditions, but in accordance with the way in which it can be revealed today.” — Ibid., pp. 134-135.
[Floris Books, 2002.]
Books such as this, intended primarily for Waldorf teachers, are well worth studying. The occultism of Waldorf thinking often shines out. Anthroposophy is devoted to finding the path to higher worlds, and events on Earth are conceived as being the handiwork of many hidden gods operating in mysterious ways. Thus, for instance, we get the following statements in a teachers' guide:
"In the Mystery temples, the seekers for truth were shown the way to higher worlds — to the worlds of the spirit. The secrets of the Mystery temples were secrets of the spirit ... Now imagine some kind of superhuman intelligence looking down on earth ... [A] superhuman intelligence might have thought up the story of 'Parsifal.' I don't know if such a superhuman intelligence existed, but the fact is that in a period around the year 1200 not one by several poets produced Parsifal stories." — pp. 11-13.
Waldorf teachers who bring such concepts into the classroom are creating an environment in which students may be led to Anthroposophy.
The story of the knight Parsifal (or Parzival, or Perceval) and his quest for the Grail is one of the legends deemed virtually sacred in the Waldorf belief system. [See "He Went to Waldorf".] Sometimes an entire course at a Waldorf school is spent studying the Parsifal legend. Students are likely to be exposed to the legend in lower school and then directed back to it in high school. As interpreted by Steiner's followers, the Parsifal legend embodies basic Anthroposophical beliefs. A true-believing Waldorf teacher will find ways to at least hint at these beliefs when the legend is told and retold within the school. "The teacher of the Parsifal course [in 11th grade] asks himself many questions ... The course in some ways seems to answer the developments which arise in the students midway through the third of the seven-year periods* ... The curriculum in this year seems to be building a bridge between earth and heaven, and bring with it a new kind of reality, less tangible but no less real: electricity, radioactivity, the plant cell, the stars, the Grail. Where is reality? ... The students who have come up with us from the lower schools are glad to have [the] story again." — Waldorf teacher Elizabeth Nobbs, Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter, Spring 1974, pp. 8-10.
The "new kind of reality" conveyed in such a course — not so new to longtime Waldorf students — is Anthroposophical reality: mystical, mythic, metaphysical. "Where is reality?" In a Waldorf school, reality does not reside in the phenomena of the physical universe ("electricity ... stars"), but in the fabulous realm of Anthroposophical occultism. In other words, it resides in the Grail and in the "Mysteries" that Steiner said the Grail signifies.
*Steiner taught that children mature through three seven-year-long periods, during which three invisible bodies incarnate. [See "Incarnation" and "Most Significant".]
The following, which also appears elsewhere here at Waldorf Watch, is relevant to the topic of the Grail:
The secrecy in and around Waldorf schools is not absolute. Anthroposophists generally withhold their most prized spiritual "knowledge" from the uninitiated. Likewise, Waldorf schools generally disguise their occult purposes and beliefs from outsiders. Nevertheless, starting with Steiner, there has been an effort to disseminate some elements of Anthroposophy through public lectures, the circulation of books and pamphlets, etc. This outreach work is often less than candid, however. Texts are often framed and edited in ways that suppress and mislead. Only rarely can outsiders find clear, explicit statements unless they undertake considerable detective work — and some secrets may well lie beyond such detection.
Most of my own knowledge of Anthroposophy has come from reading publicly available texts. This means that, in all probability, I am not privy to the most esoteric, hidden Anthroposophical lore. Steiner drew a sharp distinction between knowledge available to the “initiated” — that is, insiders who have mastered occult mysteries — and knowledge that can be shared with the general public. “[I]t is a strict law with all Initiates to withhold from no man the knowledge that is due him. But there is an equally strict law which insists that no one shall receive any occult knowledge until he is worthy and well prepared.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE WAY OF INITIATION (Macoy Publishing and Mason Supply Co., 1910), p. 52.
Everyone is capable of initiation, Steiner said. For this and other reasons, knowledge should be spread as widely as possible — but only within the limits of the second law, above. By his own account, Steiner wrote OCCULT SCIENCE — his most important book — to make much occult wisdom known far and wide. “The hidden knowledge which is gradually taking hold of mankind, and will increasingly be doing so, may in the language of a well-known symbol be called the Knowledge of the Grail. We read of the Holy Grail in old-time narratives and legends, and as we learn to understand its deeper meaning we discover that it most significantly pictures the heart and essence of the new Initiation-knowledge, centering in the Mystery of Christ. The Initiates of the new age may therefore be described as the 'Initiates of the Grail.' ... We are now living at a time when the higher knowledge needs to be far more widely received into the general consciousness of mankind than hitherto; it is with this view in mind that the present work has been written." — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969), p. 305.
But in that same book, Steiner withholds various information. One example: Concerning a future stage of human evolution, the “Vulcan” stage, Steiner is extremely close-mouthed: “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.” — Ibid., p. 310. OCCULT SCIENCE is an “outline” only. Its compass is limited by the ability of ordinary language to frame spiritual mysteries, and by the requirement that people who are unworthy and/or unprepared — that is, the uninitiated — must not be told certain things.
Three key concepts run like a thread through Steiner's theology: the "occult", "mysteries", and "initiation." They all reflect the need for secrecy. The most innocent definition of the term occult is "hidden." Mystery knowledge is necessarily hidden or hard to attain. Initiation is the process of attaining such knowledge.
Steiner's devoted followers undergo initiation, after which they face the difficult task of deciding how much of their "knowledge" to divulge to the uninitiated — that is, to you and me. Various Anthroposophists and Waldorf schools make various decisions about where to draw the line; some are more candid than others; but all presumably recognize the need to withhold at least some of their doctrines from outsiders, including many if not all parents of Waldorf students. This does not, however, prevent Waldorf schools from acting on Anthroposophical doctrines and thus leading children toward occultism. They merely have to be circumspect about it, which means not explaining their actions. As Steiner said, "The ancient teachers of the mysteries used to preserve such secrets as esoteric knowledge because they could not be imparted directly. In a certain sense, all teachers must be in possession of truths that they cannot directly pass on to the world." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD'S CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 84.
For more on the subject of initiation, see "Inside Scoop" and "Knowing the Worlds". Also see chapter five of OCCULT SCIENCE, which is titled "Knowledge of the Higher Worlds (Concerning Initiation)" [stet]. In a more recent edition, the chapter's title is even clearer: "Knowledge of Higher Worlds: Initiation" — AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 281. (Changing "occult" to "esoteric" is just small one instance of the effort to downplay alarming Anthroposophical beliefs. If you read much of Steiner's works, you will find that older editions are generally blunter and more informative than newer, more guarded editions. Moreover, if you compare Steiner's words in the original German with their translations in English-language texts, you will find that some troubling passages and lectures have been omitted from the English texts.)
For more on Steiner's instructions to Waldorf teachers telling them to keep mum, see "Secrets".
THE WAY OF INITIATION, which I quoted above, is old and difficult to find. Newer editions include KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944) and HOW TO KNOW THE HIGHER WORLDS - A Modern Path of Initiation (Anthroposophical Press, 1994).
- Compilation and commentary by Roger Rawlings
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.
also see "Anthroposophical Christianity"
and "Judaism, The Hebrew Bible"