Rudolf Steiner said we all need a guru when we approach the spirit realm.
A spiritual seeker “would find himself plunged into the stormy sea of astral [i.e., soul] experiences if he were left to fend for himself. For this reason he needs a guide who can tell him from the start how these things are related and how to find his bearings in the astral world. Hence the need to find a Guru on whom he can strictly rely." — Rudolf Steiner, AT THE GATES OF SPIRITUAL SCIENCE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1986), lecture 12, “Occult Development”, GA 95.
For Anthroposophists, including many Waldorf school teachers, the guru of choice is Rudolf Steiner.
To gauge the reverence Steiner’s followers feel for him, we can’t do better than to simply read their words. Here are some statements made about Steiner by his adherents. The main messages: Steiner was almost godly, and what he said is True in an astonishing range of subjects (regardless of evidence, logic, or other distractions). For his followers, Steiner’s unsupported word is sufficient: He said thus-and-so, which means he showed us thus-and-so — for it is true.
A sampling of statements about Steiner the guru:
“Rudolf Steiner is both a mystic and an occultist. These two natures appear in him in perfect harmony. One could not say which of the two predominates over the other. In intermingling and blending, they have become one homogeneous force. Hence a special development in which outward events play but a secondary part ... From the age of eighteen, young Steiner possessed the spontaneous consciousness of this two-fold current — a consciousness which is the condition of all spiritual vision. This vital axiom was forced upon him by a direct and involuntary seeing of things. Thenceforth he had the unmistakable sensation of occult powers which were working behind and through him for his guidance. He gave heed to this force and obeyed its admonitions, for he felt in profound accordance with it.” — Edouard Schuré, “The Personality of Rudolf Steiner And His Development”.
“A philosopher, scientist, and esotericist, Steiner was a dedicated servant of humanity ... The range of [his] research, far-reaching in its practical applications, included every aspect of human striving, from cosmology, evolution, and history to physics, mathematics, biology, psychology and astronomy.” — Christopher Bamford, introduction to START NOW! (SteinerBooks, 2004), p. 7.
“The forms of self-discipline taught by Rudolf Steiner were so sane and ennobling that every human being would profit by their practice. They are methods of self-culture which purify...." — Olin D. Wannamaker, RUDOLF STEINER, An Introduction to His Life and Thought.
"Rudolf Steiner was the high priest of the new mysteries." — Bernhard Lievegoed, TOWARD THE 21st CENTURY (Steiner Book Centre, 1972), lecture 2.
"[W]e have learned to believe in Rudolf Steiner's teachings ... [W]e are members of the Anthroposophical Society ... [B]ecause we have received more, we are subject to a much sterner judgment than all others who undertake the [human spiritual] quest with less help than we have received." — Dr. Franz E. Winkler, OUR OBLIGATION TO RUDOLF STEINER IN THE SPIRIT OF EASTER (Whittier Books, 1955), p. 11.
“Rudolf Steiner has shown that our earthly existence has meaning only if we know that life ends not with physical death...." — Dr. Norbert Glas, “How to Look at Illness”.
"I am a missionary on behalf of Rudolf Steiner." — Instructor in a Waldorf teacher-training program; see "Teacher Training".
“[A]n extension of the field of experience for the human soul into the region of the supersensible lies on the general line of development for mankind. We need to understand how such phenomena are related to the condition of man at the present time, and how they can be rightly understood and controlled. Therefore Rudolf Steiner, who had full insight into this realm published, out of a sense of obligation, explanations and directions for a healthy inner development....” — Maria Röschl-Lehrs, "Rudolf Steiner as Personal Teacher".
"Rudolf Steiner’s concern is that growing children be brought into a healthy relationship with themselves and with the world around them ... In a masterful way, Rudolf Steiner opens new vistas for the teacher." — Astrid Schmitt-Stegmann, foreword to Rudolf Steiner's PRACTICAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 2000), p. ix.
“[I]t was Steiner who showed that it was possible not to reject science but to evolve along with it ... Rudolf Steiner himself showed in many of his books and cycles of lectures [that] a fulfillment was required at our later stage of...Rosicrucian ideals.” — Andrew J. Welburn, introduction to CHRISTIAN ROSENKREUTZ (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), p. 4.
[Waldorf student art courtesy of
People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]
“Rudolf Steiner undertook the enormous work of extending Science into this ultimate domain [the spirit realm] ... To him, the spiritual beings of which myth and religion spoke are not imperceptible but present realities. He had developed a remarkable, controlled clairvoyance, which he used as an instrument of scientific investigation.” — Clopper Almon, introduction to Rudolf Steiner's AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. iv.
“Dr. Steiner has traced, in numerous lectures, the gradual development of art in past ... Dr. Steiner has indicated, in his books on the attainment of higher...." — Arild Rosenkrantz, FRUITS OF ANTHROPOSOPHY - An Introduction to the Works of Dr. Rudolf Steiner (The Threefold Commonwealth, 1922).
“Rudolf Steiner has given us a concrete idea of what was felt and experienced by the humanity of that epoch. When, during sleep, man passed into the realm...” — Dr. Ita Wegman, “On the Work of the Archangel Michael".
“The great religious figures, whether Buddha and Shankara or Jesus and St. Francis, did not seek primarily to found religious institutions and generate practical works, but to effect the kind of spiritual transformation for which practical works are the arena and the by-product. Similarly, Steiner's entire life may be seen as an attempt to solve the pressing problems of individual and social life, but his primary purpose was to show that long-range solutions require a spiritual foundation." — Robert A. McDermott, THE ESSENTIAL STEINER (Lindisfarne Books, 1984), p. 2.
“Here, too, Rudolf Steiner is shown to have been a pioneer who paved the way for a new...." — Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, preface to Rudolf Steiner's AGRICULTURE COURSE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004).
“Steiner has succeeded in building up a truly objective idealism, from Kant back to Plato, or forward to Schelling...." — Hugo S. Bergman, introduction to THE PHILOSOPHY OF SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1963).
“Anthroposophy, which is the subject of this book, is squarely based — as must be stated at the outset — on the actual knowledge of the spiritual world that Rudolf Steiner, its founder, acquired and perfected through the conscious development of those higher faculties that, as he told us, 'slumber within every human being.'" — Stewart C. Eaton, MAN AND WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1989), p. 7.
“The greatest deed of the Gods he taught us to understand...." — Marie Steiner, conclusion to Rudolf Steiner' THE STORY OF MY LIFE (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1928).
“Here, Dr. Steiner has certainly identified a dormant problem of astronomy...." — R. S. W. Bobbette, “Celestial Movements: Some Hints From Rudolf Steiner" (Rudolf Steiner Archive), 1998.
“This path, with all its wonders, has been shown us by Rudolf Steiner in order that our study of the sciences and arts of the earth...." — Ita Wegman, "The Way of Initiation in the Ancient Mysteries, and the Way of Knowledge in Modern Times" (ANTHROPOSOPHY, A Quarterly Review of Spiritual Science, No. 4. Christmas 1930 Vol. 5).
“From time to time individuals appear on the stage of history whose genius can only be described as universal. Leonardo da Vinci ... Goethe ... From 1861 to 1925 there lived another personality whose accomplishments were even greater than those of Leonardo da Vinci or Goethe and in whose mind dwelt apparently unbounded earthly and cosmic wisdom. This was Rudolf Steiner." — Roy Wilkinson, RUDOLF STEINER (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2001), p. 1.
“I have given much thought to what Rudolf Steiner gave to the world when he gave us the knowledge of these preparations. He has shown us the way to make the soil healthy...." — Karl Koenig, ON THE SHEATH OF THE PREPARATION (transcript, Rudolf Steiner Archive, 1947), lecture 1, “Horns and Antlers”.
“It obtains even in the case of the fallen angels, Lucifer and Ahriman, whom Rudolf Steiner has taught us to regard as benefactors richly meriting our...." — Marjorie Spock, REFLECTIONS ON COMMUNITY BUILDING (SteinerBooks, 1984), chapter 8.
“Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was one of the most important spiritual figures of the twentieth century ... Steiner's direct spiritual vision enabled him to describe the invisible forces both of the outer and inner human being, the world of nature, and the cosmos ... What emerges is his great unity of purpose and breadth of thought...laying the seeds for spiritual impulses which will flourish far into the future." — A MAN BEFORE OTHERS, back cover.
“Geometry, Music, Astronomy — these appear in the Middle Ages as servants of the goddess Natura, who, as Rudolf Steiner has taught us...." — Ita Wegman, “On the Work of the Archangel Michael" (ANTHROPOSOPHY, A Quarterly Review of Spiritual Science, No. 3. Michaelmas 1930, Vol. 5).
“Rudolf Steiner has taught us to speak of the whole of earthly evolution as 'Mars-Mercury.' But this evolution can only reach the goal thus set before it...." — Dr. W. J. Stein, “Buddha and the Mission of India”, http://www.eleggua.com/Objects/WJ_Stein-Buddha_Mission_India.html.
“Rudolf Steiner has shown the exact connections of the sounds of the alphabet with the formation of the different organs of the body; and hence it is...." — “Education as an Art“, BULLETIN OF THE RUDOLF STEINER SCHOOL ASSOCIATION, Vol. 22 Winter, 1962 No. 2.
“Rudolf Steiner has shown in the Four Educational Lectures given ... Rudolf Steiner has shown how music and the musical forces can be used on a much...." — E. M. Hutchins, “Musical Elements in the Teaching of English During the Classteacher Period”, www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/musicelement.pdf.
“Can we discover a seeing thinking that truly distinguishes outer events from their deeper causes? ... One of the greatest pioneers to have blazed a path to the sources of such thinking was Rudolf Steiner." — Henry Barnes, A LIFE FOR THE SPIRIT (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), pp. 3-4.
“Rudolf Steiner has shown us the truth of this in all detail. Our modern scientific age is the product of a certain way of looking at, and thinking about...." — “The Teaching of Natural Science”, CHILD AND MAN, edited by A. C. Harwood, www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/natscienceplants.pdf.
“The presence of a constituent may perhaps be taken to indicate that higher forces are at work. Rudolf Steiner has shown this, for instance, in the case of....” — Peter A. Pedersen, Albert Proebstl, Ulrich Meyer, "References to Plant Constituents in the Works of Steiner", ANTHRO MED LIBRARY.
[Waldorf student art courtesy of
People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]
“Rudolf Steiner has shown that it is possible and indeed essential for human beings to become aware of karma today." — Heidi Herrmann-Davey, foreword to Rudolf Steiner's MANIFESTATIONS OF KARMA (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. vii.
“Rosicrucian esotericism...was yet able here and there, as Rudolf Steiner has shown us, to raise the veil of its mysteries. New forces of spiritual consciousness were born from it...." — Marie Steiner, introduction to Rudolf Steiner's UNIVERSE EARTH AND MAN IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO EGYPTIAN MYTHS AND MODERN CIVILIZATION (Kessinger Publishing, 2003), p. 10.
“The significance of this lies in the connection Rudolf Steiner has shown to exist between thinking and the...." — Heiner Ruland, EXPANDING TONAL AWARENESS: A Musical Exploration of the Evolution of Consciousness Guided by the Monochord (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1992), p. 111.
“[P]rofound and comprehensive truths fortunately are available for our instruction and encouragement...the powerful, extensive wisdom communicated by a high master such as Rudolf Steiner...." — John Fentress Gardener, YOUTH LONGS TO KNOW (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), pp. 216-217.
Perhaps this is a sufficient sample.
There is an almost unending supply of
similar quotations to be found on the Internet.
You might enjoy hunting around.
[public domain image].
It is essential to choose your spiritual guide wisely.
“Here is the body (red) and here what lies behind it — which is not visible ... And now, within this, I draw the life of soul unfolded by man in the physical world (blue) ... [W]hile we are living between birth and death, the imperceptible (yellow) develops, and remains wholly imperceptible to us. When we die, our thinking, feeling and willing do not continue; they are exhausted, and in the process the yellow is elaborated (the imperceptible). This increases in power between death and a new birth and in so doing becomes the foundation of the new incarnation. We are reincarnated with new thinking, new feeling, new will, and a new bodily nature.
"...[R]epresentatives of certain religious bodies are intent upon not allowing man to become aware of the yellow ... The efforts of the representatives of various religious communities all tend quite decisively in the direction of concealing the fact that there is a spiritual world to which belongs the inmost core of our being, which is destined to appear in repeated Earth-lives, and in the intervals between them to pass through an entirely spiritual form of existence.
"...In their actions and trend of thinking these pastors of souls instinctively prevent men from coming into contact with certain beings. Man can never penetrate into the world of his true and innermost being without coming into contact with certain beings — just as in the way described he comes into contact with different beings if he desires or is actually able to break through the veil of nature.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT MOVEMENT IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (SteinerBooks, 1973), pp. 159-161. R.R. sketch, 2010, based on the one on p. 160.
Accepting "false" religious instruction can be calamitous. Some ill-informed religious leaders try to prevent us from contacting spiritual beings. Others may lead us to contact such beings without first preparing us properly.
"If, as the result of certain teachings having been imparted to him without the requisite caution, a man comes into contact with certain destructive beings behind the veil of nature, he will become one who values nothing in the world, and it will soon be apparent that he takes actual pleasure in destruction — which need not necessarily be destruction of external things. Many men to whom this has happened have shown that they take pleasure in tormenting and oppressing other souls. These are the characteristics which come into evidence. But it can never be said that men who have such traits owing to their alliance with Ahrimanic elementary beings, are invariably egotistic. They need not be and indeed usually are not, egotists. They act out of an urge quite different from that of egotism. They act out of a lust for destruction, and they destroy without the slightest benefit accruing to themselves. The beings into whose sphere a man enters are essentially beings of destruction, and they tempt him, lure him, to destroy.
"...Thus if we enter this world without knowing anything of what the Initiate knows, namely, that behind the world of nature and also behind the world of soul there is a spiritual world, when we fill our will with ideals, when we unfold noble, spiritualised will, this will becomes allied precisely with the lower attributes of these beings into whose sphere we have entered. There is a mysterious bond of attraction between the noble side of our will and the lower urges and desires of these beings." — Ibid., pp. 161-162.
Steiner taught that we have evolved through phases "on" Saturn, the Sun, and the Moon — and we will proceed to Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan. Such teachings are still accepted by Anthroposophists today.
The Kindle edition of COSMIC MEMORY (2010) is available now.
"On the Sun, the human beings again emerged from their sleep. The previously developed Saturn consciousness was present in them as a predisposition. First they again developed it from this germ. One can say that on the Sun man repeated the condition of Saturn before ascending to a higher one. However, it is not a simple repetition which is meant here, but one in another form." — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959), chapter 12, GA 11. [R.R., sketch, 2010; a vague impression only.]
"In the best tradition of ancient wisdom literature, Cosmic Memory reconstructs, from the akashic record, events that span the time between the origin of the Earth and the beginning of recorded history."
Steiner taught that humanity’s need
for gurus was greater in the past.
As we develop spiritual powers, we will have
less need to rely on others for guidance.
Nonetheless, we might note that he positioned
himself as offering spiritual guidance.
His role, clearly, was that of a guru.
"In past times it was a strict rule — and this is still the case today for many initiations which still exist in the world — it was a strict rule that anyone who went in search of the path leading to initiation had to have a kind of guide, who was called in certain circles the spiritual guide, the guru. What is the task of a guru? We have seen that in the course of development described above, we encounter certain dangers, dangers against which we must be warned. In the initiations of the past, which have been handed down traditionally, the guru's chief task was to warn against dangers. A guru may do this even today, if he or she is simply a person whom we consider as a kind of teacher as in ordinary science — a person whom we can trust. But it can easily happen that the new guru wants to be what the old guru had to be, even though the guru today cannot be allowed to have that relationship with the pupil, and this will be increasingly the case the more initiation adapts itself to the progressive course of human development. Initiation really began everywhere in the manner described above. Rules were given, and each person had a personal guide and was told: Now you must concentrate upon this thing, and now upon that; now you must do this exercise, and now that. Under strict guidance, a condition was produced in which the world of imagination appeared. The modern person on the other hand — for that is the very nature of the modern human being — must pass over from imagination to inspiration through a strong effort of his or her own will, where in olden times this task was taken over by the guru who led the pupil from the stage of imagination to that of inspiration by means of certain influences to which the pupil was more easily amenable after having been led up to this stage of initiation. What I have described to you, as something lying concealed in every human being, became an impulse which the guru transmitted to the pupil. This brought the pupil's imaginative, visionary life into order. But, in the process, the guru would gain complete control over the pupil who would become, as it were, an instrument in the teacher's hands. Therefore in all initiations of the past, and they are really the source of every religious faith, there was therefore a strict requirement that the guru, the initiator, should be above the possibility of exercising an immoral or unjust influence over the pupil. In his or her whole inner attitude the guru had to be above every kind of deceit, and success depended upon the guru's having attained to this stage of development. The guru had to use influence only to the extent of transmitting to the pupil the truth-images of the higher world that he or she had gained, thus rendering the pupil's path more easy.
"I think that if you wish to understand in an unprejudiced way the development of human consciousness, you will not need to accumulate many proofs showing that in regard to supersensible knowledge as in other things humanity has become more and more independent of personal influences. This is simply a fact of the progress of the human evolution. The gurus who collect their pupils around them, as the founders of religions and sects were wont to do, will gradually disappear from the process of human development, and they will be replaced by men and women of trust, persons in whom the seeker for initiation can have trust and confidence — the same confidence which one has for other teachers. But such a teacher must, so to speak, be one of our own choosing and not a guru assigned to us. We no longer can overcome the perils which beset humanity by founding sects after the manner of ancient adepts. Indeed, in regard to supersensible development, it is good for people not to be too easily inclined to believe but, on the contrary, be hard to convince. It is good if they ask themselves, not only once or twice, but many times, in whom they put their trust, and it is good if they are very skeptical and full of distrust, when any prophet, founder of a sect, or adept, is forced upon them as a great teacher. In the field of which I am speaking, it will always constitute a danger for spiritual streams seeking to bring occultism into the world to base themselves chiefly upon great teachers whose authority is enforced from outside, instead of being founded upon the natural confidence, the inner trust, that rises up in the pupils when they meet the teacher. In a certain connection, we have seen a classic example of this, and it is necessary to mention it. During the last decades, a personality has arisen who revealed to humankind great and significant truths, truths that are not yet recognized by ordinary science but are intrinsic truths, penetrating deeply into supersensible mysteries. Things of this kind are contained in the books of H. P. Blavatsky, who has attained fame in certain circles. Even to those familiar with such things, her books contain truths of extraordinary significance, which, more than anything else, can lead us into the secrets of life. Unfortunately, this occult movement was connected with something which did it great harm. I do not mean to say that in itself it was an error, nevertheless it caused great harm that H. P. Blavatsky referred to her teachers, who were unknown to the world, to her gurus. Those who understand H. P. Blavatsky's capacities know that these capacities would never have enabled her to reach such truths independently. With her own capacities, she could never have reached them. These truths need no recommendation insofar as they are true, for they can be tested, so that it did not harm H. P. Blavatsky if she felt obliged to refer to traditions and exercises derived from gurus — she could never have attained them on her own. But it harmed the movement she called into life that such things were accepted upon the foundation of external authority, and not upon the inner truth of occultism. No matter how much good will might be involved, the fact is that the time is over — the necessities of the times show us, no matter whether this is justified or unjustified — that the possibility of taking in things simply upon the authority of gurus is past, more than past! These things must now be recognized through sound common sense. Truths which can be gained along the paths described, for instance, in my THEOSOPHY, are therefore the result of the kind of spiritual investigation of which I have spoken today, but at the same time, these results can be tested and compared with the facts of life itself, and need not be accepted upon any authority." — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULTISM AND INITIATION (Steiner Book Centre, 1943), a lecture, GA 136.
Sketch of a window at the Anthroposophical headquarters,
Steiner described three paths toward occult initiation:
“1. The Eastern way, also called Yoga. Here, an initiated man living on the physical plane acts as the Guru of another, who entrusts himself to his Guru completely and in all details. This method will go best if during his occult development the pupil eliminates his own self entirely and hands it over to his Guru, who must even advise him on every action he may take. This absolute surrender of one's own self suits the Indian character; but there is no place for it in European culture.
“2. The Christian way. Here, in place of individual Gurus, there is one great Guru, Christ Jesus Himself, for everyone. The feeling of belonging to Christ Jesus, of being one with Him, can take the place of surrender to an individual Guru. But the pupil has first to be led to Christ by an earthly Guru, so that in a certain sense he still depends on a Guru on the physical plane.
“3. The Rosicrucian way, which leaves the pupil with the greatest possible independence. The Guru here is not a leader but an adviser; he gives directions for the necessary inner training. At the same time he takes good care that, parallel with the occult training, there is a definite development of thinking, without which no occult training can be carried through ... [O]ne activity — logical thinking — goes through all worlds. Logic is the same on all three planes [i.e., the physical plane, the soul plane, and the spirit plane]. Thus on the physical plane you can learn something which is valid also for the higher planes; and this is the method followed by Rosicrucian training ... Here, then, the Guru is only the friend and adviser of the pupil ... But he [the pupil] will of course still need a Guru to advise him on how to make progress in freedom." — Rudolf Steiner, AT THE GATES OF SPIRITUAL SCIENCE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1986), lecture 12, GA 95.
Working out the complexities Steiner's teachings takes some work. We need gurus, we must strictly rely on them, but we do not require gurus so much as teachers now, and our gurus or teachers should lead us toward freedom or self-reliance, a guru-free condition, although we will still need gurus (preeminently, Steiner himself).
"[H]e [the pupil] will of course still need a Guru to advise him on how to make progress in freedom."
The following is extracted from a message I wrote
for an online discussion.
Its tone is, perhaps, a bit harsh.
We should ask ourselves how successful Steiner was as a guru, or simply as a man of learning, or more simply yet as a thinker. Some people find profundity in Steiner's work. Some elect to follow him. But they are a distinct minority, and perhaps there is a good reason for this. I'll present this reason in stark terms.
Having read reams and reams of Steiner's written and spoken (transcribed) words, I can honestly say that I have found merit in very few of his remarks. Most of his teachings are, one way or another, nonsense. Thus, my criticism of Steiner is not confined to a small corner of his teachings; my criticism covers almost everything Steiner wrote or said.
Is the fault in me? Do I fail to see the great value of Steiner's words because of my own blindness? Perhaps. But I don't think so. On my web pages "Steiner's Blunders", "Steiner's `Science'", "Steiner's Racism", "Steiner's Quackery", "Steiner's Bile", "Say What", "Wise Words", and others, I present amazingly stupid and nasty statements Steiner made. He made them. There they are.
Put is this way: No properly educated man could have made so many ignorant remarks; no truly intelligent man could have made so many stupid remarks; no wise man man could have made so many loony remarks; and no genuinely decent man could have made so many racist remarks. Steiner's work adds up to an enormous pile of fallacy, error, stupidity, and nastiness. I'm sorry, but there it is. Most of what he wrote and said is junk.
Here are a few examples:
"When death approaches — this is the peculiar thing with pachyderms — these animals feel this particularly strongly ... Their instinct then makes them go into caves. People tend not to look for them in those earth caves. If they were to look for them there they would find more dead elephants in the regions where elephants are. They are not found in the open." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM ELEPHANTS TO EINSTEIN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), pp. 4-5.]
There are no elephant graveyards, inside or outside of caves. Steiner believed in elephant graveyards because he generally accepted superstitions, old wives' tales, fairy tales, myths, and ancient fallacies as truth, whereas he generally rejected real knowledge such as the findings of science.* Steiner was highly educated, in a manner of speaking, but he became functionally ignorant because he chose to ignore truth and opt for fantasy instead. His education seems to have rolled off his back. (What he wound up knowing a lot about was occultism, gnosticism, Theosophy, myths, legends, superstitions, and other forms of mental rubbish.)
"The concepts of `true' and `false' are dreadfully barren, prosaic, and formal. The moment we rise to the truths of the spiritual world, we can no longer speak of `true' and `false'...." — Rudolf Steiner, DEEPER INSIGHTS INTO EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1983), p. 29.
In addition to being highly educated (to little good effect), Steiner was clearly smart — but, again, to little good effect. His teachings are an amalgam of nonsense; and from time to time we see him speaking quite stupidly. In the quotation I have just given, he contradicts himself in the space of a few words (a spiritual truth is that there is no spiritual truth). If what he says here is true (oops), then his entire career as a spiritual truth-teller was a waste of time — he could not tell us any spiritual truths because there are no spiritual truths. (Other stupid remarks Steiner made include the assertions that all myths convey clairvoyant realities, ditto fairy tales, I am I only to me (duh), etc.) Steiner was smart, but within severe limits. We often see him bump up against the limits of his intelligence.
"[T]he moon today is like a fortress in the universe, in which there lives a population that fulfilled its human destiny over 15,000 years ago, after which it withdrew to the moon together with the spiritual guides of humanity ... This is only one of the `cities' in the universe, one colony, one settlement among many ... As far as what concerns ourselves, as humanity on earth, the other pole, the opposite extreme to the moon is the population of Saturn." — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER SPEAKS TO THE BRITISH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 93.
Statements like this are pure poppycock. We could call them stupid, and in a sense they are. But whereas I would argue that only a small percentage of Steiner's statements are utterly stupid (that is, indicating a faulty intellect), a great majority are loony (that is, reflecting a preference for fantasy over reality). Plenty of smart people embrace loony ideas. All humans, dim or brilliant, feel the allure of strange, wondrous, magical conceptions. But when we grow up, we really ought to put such childishness behind us. Steiner did not.
"In the Negro the rear-brain is especially developed. It goes through his spinal cord. And this is able to assimilate all the light and warmth that are inside a person. Therefore everything connected to the body and the metabolism is strongly developed in the Negro. He has, as they say, powerful physical drives. The Negro has a powerful instinctual life. And because he actually has the sun, light, and warmth on his body surface, in his skin, his whole metabolism operates as if he were being cooked inside by the sun. That is where his instinctual life comes from. The Negro is constantly cooking inside, and what feeds this fire is his rear-brain." — Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1993), p. 55.
Here we see Steiner accepting basic racist stereotypes, as he also did in his anti-Semitic statements. Racists often claim that blacks are instinctual, stupid (Steiner says they are especially affected by the rear-brain rather than the frontal lobes), very physical and sexual ("powerful physical drives", "cooking inside"), etc. This is racism, pure and simple — and it is deplorable and ignorant and stupid. (Note, by the way, that Steiner says "the" Negro has certain characteristics, like "the" Jew and "the" heathen. All blacks are alike, he says; and they are alike in the qualities that make them different from other humans. This is basic racism. Note also that Steiner seems slightly embarrassed, but not about his racism; he is gingerly about sex. Negroes have strong sex drives, or "as they say, powerful physical drives". Yes, "they" say it; and so does Steiner.)
In sum, whereas only a small percentage of Steiner's teachings are vile and/or stupid, many reflect a functional ignorance, and the vast majority consist of loony-tunes. I wouldn't care much about any of this if such thinking did not lie behind Waldorf education. But it does, so I oppose it. Children can be badly damaged if they are raised in an atmosphere of occultism, myth, and fantasy, allied with anti-intellectualism and a disparagement of science. And of course all of this become even worse when it is tinged with racial bias.
Waldorf schools often have precisely this sort of atmosphere, to one degree or another. It stems for the most part from Steiner's warped thinking. Hence, I am a Steiner critic because I am a Waldorf critic.
— Roger Rawlings
* Steiner opposed "scientific simpletons" with their "scientific trash" and their "logical, pedantic, narrow-minded proof of things." He deplored "primitive concepts like those...of contemporary science." [Scientific simpletons: Rudolf Steiner, THE KARMA OF UNTRUTHFULNESS, Vol. 1 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 276. Scientific trash: Rudolf Steiner, THE RENEWAL OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 94. Pedantic proof of things: Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 240. Primitive concepts: Rudolf Steiner, HOW CAN MANKIND FIND THE CHRIST AGAIN (Anthroposophic Press, 1984), p. 54.]
Note how odd it is that Steiner rejected information that he himself acknowledged has been proven ("logical, pedantic, narrow-minded proof of things"). Steiner explicitly opposed not just science but logic and proven fact.
A mystic seal, as per R. Steiner.
This seal “is a reproduction of the ‘Mystery of the Holy Grail.’ It is that astral experience which renders the universal meaning of human evolution ... Out of the three space-dimensions, expressed in the cube, grow first of all the lower human powers, illustrated by the two serpents; these again bring forth out of themselves the purified higher spiritual nature ... The upward growth of these higher powers makes it possible for man to become the recipient, or chalice of purely spiritual cosmic being, expressed in the dove.”
Rudolf Steiner's MYSTIC SEALS AND COLUMNS
(Health Research, 1969), p. 4.
[R.R. sketch, 2010, based on the one in the book.
A more attractive version of this seal
— surpassing my skills as a copyist —
can be found on p. 207
of John Fletcher's ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER
(Mercury Arts Publications, 1987).]
I have a melancholy fondness for this book — I remember seeing a copy in the home of one of my Waldorf teachers. If I had read a page or two, my life might have been changed. Perhaps, shocked out of my senses, I would have been fully converted, fully captured by Steiner's cult. Or perhaps (and this is what I hope), I would have been shocked into my senses. Perhaps I would have seen mad occultism for what it is, and rejected it utterly. Perhaps.
“As soon as we speak from the aspect of the higher worlds, there exists an unbroken connection between the different planets and so the moon is connected with the earth just as for instance Berlin and Hamburg are connected by the telephone. Beings that live on the moon can therefore carry out their operations on the earth with the aid of astral forces. One might call them the reverse side of other beings whom we also find in the astral world, beneficent beings who, compared even with the mildest human nature, are yet much, much milder — in their speech too, very mild and gentle. The speech of these beings has not that aridity of human language which a man must ponder over a long time if he is to express himself, and clothe his thoughts and ideas in words. One could say that the thoughts of these beings flow from their lips — not merely the expression of the thoughts in words, but thoughts themselves flow in a gentle language from their lips. These beings are likewise to be found within our astral world; they have their actual scene of action on another planet. As the first-named beings are at home on the moon, these second are at home on Mars, they inhabit Mars and are in fact the main population — as certain human races are the principal population on our earth. If we then mount up higher to the devachanic plane we find certain beings who in their own way are also of a mild, peaceable nature and who in a certain respect are extraordinarily clever. These beings to be found on the devachanic plane have their actual home on the planet Venus, as the other beings on moon and Mars. On Venus too we find yet a second species of beings who — in contrast to the gentle, amiable kind — present a wild and furious vitality, and whose principal occupation consists in mutual fighting and plunder.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE INFLUENCE OF SPIRITUAL BEINGS ON MAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1961), lecture 1, GA 102. [R.R. sketch, 2010 — whereas Steiner’s text is strictly factual, my sketch is somewhat impressionistic.]
[R.S. by R.R., 2015.]
Detail from a window at the Goetheanum.
"This window shows us the path of life to be relived again, from below upwards...the path of life, flowing backwards into the ethereal world ... This backward-moving experience is subjected to the world laws of morality. Under the eye of God are the tables of the law. 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth' is the law of this backward-moving experience. But since 'God's lamb carries the sin of the world', the forces of Christ are woven into the compensations of destiny [karma]." — Georg Hartmann, THE GOETHEANUM GLASS-WINDOWS (Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag, 1972), p. 49. [R.R. sketch, 2010.]
In occultism, the task of the guru
is to lead pupils to initiation —
that is, possession of mystery, or hidden,
or occult knowledge of spiritual matters.
This lucky lad is being initiated
into Eleusinian Mysteries
by the goddesses Demeter and Persephone.
[Lewis Spence, AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF OCCULTISM
(Dover, 2003), facing p. 281.]
The occultism found behind and in Waldorf schools
differs from other forms of occultism is many ways —
it derives directly from Rudolf Steiner’s doctrines.
But there are also many links between Anthroposophy
and occultism at large.
"As the Christ appeared on earth from higher realms at the time of Golgotha, so Buddha appeared on Mars during the Mars crisis of the seventeenth century. After Buddha had completed his incarnations it was no longer necessary for him to return to the earth, but he continued his activities in other realms. The Buddha wandered away from earthly affairs to the realm of Mars. Until then Mars had been the chosen center of forces designated by the Greeks as fearfully warlike. This mission of Mars came to an end in the seventeenth century. Another impulse became necessary and the Buddha accomplished a Buddha crucifixion there. The Buddha Mystery on Mars did not take the same course as the Christ Mystery on earth, but Buddha, the Prince of Peace, who, during his last earthly life had spread peace and love wherever he went, was transferred to the belligerent realm of Mars. The fact that a being who is fully permeated by forces of peace and love was transferred to a realm of strife and disharmony may in a sense be regarded as a crucifixion. For the seer two happenings come together in a most wonderful way. One beholds, on the one hand, the eighty-year-old dying Buddha, and this death has a deeply moving, deeply stirring quality. Buddha died in 483 surrounded by silver rays on a wonderful moonlit night, radiating peace and compassion. That was his last earthly hour. And then he was active again in the way described. The seer discovers him kindling the compassionate, silvery moral light of Buddha on Mars at the beginning of the seventeenth century. These two wonderful events are deeply related in the course of world history." — Rudolf Steiner, LIFE BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH (Anthroposophic Press, 1968), lecture 11, GA 140. [R.R. sketch, 2010.]
The following is excerpted from
THE SKEPTIC'S DICTIONARY
by Robert Todd Carroll
The Austrian-born Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was the head of the German Theosophical Society from 1902 until 1912, at which time he broke away and formed his Anthroposophical Society. He may have abandoned the divine wisdom for human wisdom, but one of his main motives for leaving the theosophists was that they did not treat Jesus or Christianity as special. Steiner had no problem, however, in accepting such Hindu notions as karma and reincarnation.
...His interests were wide and many but by the turn of the [nineteenth] century his main interests were esoteric, mystical, and occult. Steiner was especially attracted to two theosophical notions: (1) There is a special spiritual consciousness that provides direct access to higher spiritual truths; (2) Spiritual evolution is hindered by being mired in the material world.
Steiner may have broken away from the Theosophical Society, but he did not abandon the eclectic mysticism of the theosophists.
...According to Steiner, people existed on Earth since the creation of the planet. Humans, he taught, began as spirit forms and progressed through various stages to reach today's form. Humanity, Steiner said, is currently living in the Post-Atlantis Period, which began with the gradual sinking of Atlantis in 7227 BC.
...Steiner's most lasting and significant influence, however, has been in the field of education ... Steiner designed the curriculum of his schools around notions that he apparently got by special spiritual insight into the nature of Nature and the nature of children. He believed we are each composed of body, spirit, and soul. He believed that children pass through three seven-year stages and that education should be appropriate to the spirit for each stage. Birth to age 7, he claimed, is a period for the spirit to adjust to being in the material world. At this stage, children best learn through imitation. Academic content is held to a minimum during these years. Children are told fairy tales, but do no reading until about the second grade. They learn about the alphabet and writing in first grade.
According to Steiner, the second stage of growth is characterized by imagination and fantasy. Children learn best from ages 7 to 14 by acceptance and emulation of authority. The children have a single teacher during this period and the school becomes a "family" with the teacher as the authoritative "parent".
The third stage, from 14 to 21, is when the astral body is drawn into the physical body, causing puberty.
... Waldorf schools are often attacked for encouraging paganism or even Satanism. This may be because they emphasize the relation of human beings to Nature and natural rhythms, including an emphasis on festivals, myths, ancient cultures, and various non-Christian celebrations.
...Some of the ideas of the Waldorf School are not Steiner's but are in tune with his spiritual beliefs. For example, television viewing is discouraged because of its typical content and because it discourages the growth of the imagination ... Waldorf schools also discourage computer use by young children ... What the public school consider frills, Waldorf schools consider essential, e.g., weaving, knitting, playing a musical instrument, woodcarving, and painting.
One of the more unusual parts of the curriculum involves something Steiner called "eurythmy," an art of movement that tries to make visible what he believed were the inner forms and gestures of language and music, brought about by the spiritual world penetrating the soul.
...Most critics of Steiner find him to have been a decent and admirable man, even if prone to beliefs in his own clairvoyance and in things like astrology. Unlike many other "spiritual" gurus, Steiner seems to have been a truly moral man who didn't try to seduce his followers and who remained faithful to his wife. But his moral stature has been challenged by charges of racism.
...There is no question that Steiner made contributions in many fields, but as a philosopher, scientist, and artist he rarely rises above mediocrity and is singularly unoriginal. In some cases, e.g., agriculture, he is pseudoscientific. His spiritual ideas seem less than credible and are certainly not scientific. His belief in his own clairvoyance should be disturbing to those who think he is one of the great minds of all time.
[R.S. by R.R., 2015.]
The following paragraphs are translated from
a German-language biography of Rudolf Steiner:
RUDOLF STEINER - A Modern Prophet
by Miriam Gebhardt
Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy, could speak with the dead. They gave him insight into their knowledge, and he in turn provided for their reincarnation. We normal mortals, being not so clairvoyant, have it hard. To write a biography of Rudolf Steiner without having access to “karmic knowledge” is an ambitious enterprise, for Steiner was an elusive prophet, incomprehensible in every way. His family came from the “Bandlkramerland” in Lower Austria, a region where people carried the cloths they wove at home to market in bundles on their backs. In his way, Steiner became a sort of Bandlkramer: he was a traveling salesman of self-crafted truths. Raised near the tracks of the Southern Austrian Railway, his father a railway worker, Steiner spent his whole life in transit. Six lectures in three days in three cities would be a typical stint in his life as a prophet. He never truly settled anywhere, and never set up any kind of comfortable household.
His mind was just as unsettled as his physical life was rootless. As a child, he was fascinated by mathematics. In college he was supposed to study to become a secondary school teacher, but instead he indulged in philosophy. In his young adult years he was a home tutor; in his middle-age years he did research on Goethe. He strived for an academic career, but ended up as a teacher at the Liebknecht Workers’ School. It was only during his late 30s that he discovered his life’s avocation, anthroposophy. In the comparatively short time remaining to him, he formulated a cosmology, a Christology, a meditation school, anthroposophical medicine, eurythmy, biodynamic agriculture, and, ultimately, Waldorf education. All this – his variable and dynamic life course, and the many questions that he undertook to answer and then modeled into an all-illuminating world view – makes Steiner a difficult figure to comprehend. He had too many talents and facets. Even his contemporaries recognized this, some of whom ranted about so much universal dilettantism and the “rather pathological founder’s audaciousness” of a “modern department store owner.”
Yet in spite of this full life, facts about his variable life are rather thin. A dense fog surrounds Rudolf Steiner’s life, in part created by the heavily stylized information he gave out about himself, his secretive and shrouded ways, and the protectiveness shown by his followers concerning his teachings. This is a problem already with the most banal questions about his life. What caused the change in his career from a poorly paid academic to a freelance esoteric? Was it lack of scholarly success that drove him to occultism? Why did his two marriages remain childless? Did he not want children, or was sex for him too “animalistic”?
Anthroposophists find these questions unimportant, even invalid. “Who would write a biography of Steiner? That is like writing a biography of the Buddha,” as one anthroposophist put it, explaining her qualms about a biographical project to me. Steiner was the great “master” and not some historically researchable figure. He was a leader of humanity, a founder of a religion, a clairvoyant – and to research and describe such a being was tantamount to sacrilege.
Moreover, the information we do have about his life is quite unreliable. Holy men live on in their legends. One that is often repeated is that Steiner lifted himself out of very humble circumstances. That is not accurate, but a successful life glows even brighter in front of a dark background. Another hurdle when dealing with an enlightened being is determining his importance in a historical context. What place does Rudolf Steiner’s thought have in the larger picture of the reform movements of the early twentieth century? Even this question is disallowed in the Steiner community. Anyone who sets out to investigate the life of this guru by using conventional research methods has already lost – on two accounts: first, because Steiner hated thinking in a historical way; and second, because he thought very little of academic scholarship. He had his own type of humanities scholarship, which was really more of a “spiritual science.” He discovered his subject matter, including art, health, agriculture, religion, and education, not in everyday life, out in the street – where they were commonly found by other reformers of his day. Instead, Steiner searched elsewhere, specifically by using his clairvoyance and the dubious Akasha Chronicle, which allegedly revealed itself to only the very few initiated.
...Only through his contemporaries can Steiner be approached. Only in the context of the Wilhelmine era and the period following the First World War can his concerns and ideas be identified – in the context of the panorama of a time when the efforts at reform were rife in the well-educated middle class. The causal of reform were the actual and the imagined threats posed by modernity. The disintegration of humanity, of knowledge, of work, and of time itself was a challenge to the bourgeois self-conception, and the reaction to this was life-reform movements and the formation of associations concerning morals and ethics. The patent recipes for healing oneself and society included vegetarianism, anti-alcohol use, naturism, anti-smut laws, physical training, clothing reform, racial hygiene, healthy dwelling and building, health food, holistic medicine, and a de-emotionalized rationalization of sexuality and reproduction. Some seeking a modern form of belief engaged themselves in all this under various aspects of Christianity. Others worshipped the idea of Volk or race. Nearly all became members of some association, making the Wilhelmine era into a Weltanschauung-like biotope. It was during this period that Steiner lived at the breeding sites of the reform movements, seeking a living as well as answers now that his academic career had come to a close. These multifaceted reform endeavors formed the background upon which the contours of our prophet were being sketched out.
...Rudolf Steiner’s image shows some familiar features. He was a modern prophet – modern in the sense that he could not decide between traditionalism and the present. He was a chameleon: he made use of modern science, yet he spoke often in a pompously philosophical language, one that a contemporary of his labeled “moralistically harlequin-novelistic.” He moved in modern organizational structures, mastered modern means of communication, was glad to be chauffeured about in a classy Maybach automobile, but warned against gramophones. He was, like many reformers of similar stripes, a public intellectual who hated intellectualism. He was a prophet, a nationalist, and an inveterate individualist, and he believed in the hierarchy of the sexes and the “races”; but he worked for Jews, and was strongly influenced by women. He distanced himself from a party-oriented democratic system, preferring an authoritarian political body of elites guided by fact-based issues; at the same time, he hoped that educational reform and social cooperation would lead to more social equality. He was not interested in spiritism, yet he communicated with the dead. Steiner placed himself within Christianity and saw himself as its “testament-executor” ... He often formed his ideas half spontaneously while speaking, and this is why they are often contradictory and inconsistent. His followers liked to call his meandering way of thinking “organic”; in fact it was more associative, rich in analogies, undisciplined, and spiced with a dose of megalomania. He was a bulimic thinker and speaker, with thousands of lectures and hundreds of publications to his credit.
...Steiner’s Anthroposophy might seem total, because it involves so many aspects of life, but it is not totalitarian. In spite of all the consumer and well-being products, it remains an occult operation oriented towards an academically educated middle class, an operation that does not put itself out in the public and that would even rather operate in hiding.
Nevertheless, it is important to confront this founder of Anthroposophy realistically and without bias. Those who today make use of the variety of anthroposophical concepts should at least know that Steiner’s successors have made little effort to further the development of his teachings, and that they have simply transferred his way of thinking “freeze dried” into the present. Whoever buys anti-wrinkle cream from Weleda or potatoes from Demeter, or sends their children to a Steiner school, must take into account how much medieval and late 19th to early 20th century there is in this. Who knows what view of humanness is involved when children in the classroom are separated by temperament, as is still done in Waldorf schools. It is therefore worth taking another look at the person of Rudolf Steiner.
You can find more at
Inverse image — detail from a large Goetheanum triptych
designed by Rudolf Steiner.
[R. R. sketch, 2014.]
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch,
use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 13. RUDOLF STEINER ◊◊◊
WHAT A GUY
Seeing Steiner through his followers’ eyes; includes brief chronology of Steiner's life
What he prescribed, and — perhaps — why
The coming, epoch-ending war
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.