Reaching final conclusions about Anthroposophy and Waldorf education is difficult until you read some of Rudolf Steiner's works and evaluate them for yourself. We've walked through a few of Steiner's lectures and books elsewhere on this website. Here's another opportunity.
Trying to grapple with Steinerthought and Steinerspeech can be daunting, but with a little perseverance you can get the hang of it. As a sample and primer, let's focus on the sixth lecture of the series of lectures that has been published as THE MISSION OF THE FOLK-SOULS (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1929). I will quote each paragraph in sequence, and immediately after each I will add a paraphrase with explanations (indented). A certain degree of confusion will remain, but that’s inevitable when considering statements that Steiner himself said are difficult and only partially true — that is, they apply to only one of the many complex layers of spiritual reality.
Fair warning: The lecture contains racist statements. I have chosen it because I have quoted some of these statements elsewhere. Thus, part of my purpose is to demonstrate that I have not distorted such statements by taking them out of context. The sad truth is that the context Steiner created for his most appalling statements is often appalling in and of itself. Of course, not all of Steiner's lectures consist of racist bilge — some are paeans to love and wisdom. But aside from racism, Steiner's lectures generally share various other characteristics that you will find in the following — especially occultism, obscurity, wearisome repetitions, illogic, hollow words, dreadful syntax, a disregard for facts, and a heavy reliance on sheer fantasy.
THE MISSION OF THE FOLK-SOULS
[Steiner's words] "As you may imagine, it is a very complicated matter, when the Spirits of the different hierarchies* have so to work together with their forces that the mission of the earth can be fulfilled;** when they have so to work that finally a state of equilibrium comes about.*** Hence you will understand also, that statements such as those made in our last lecture can only be made when one takes a quite definite period in evolution, and that the whole presentation is immediately altered if one considers evolution at another period. Hence also, if you wish to arrive at a complete understanding of these very complicated matters you must always take one course of lectures in connection with the others.****"
[My paraphrase] The earth has a mission.** This mission can be fulfilled only when various types of gods cooperate with one another.* Such cooperation produces a state of equilibrium or balance.*** Of course, all of this is very complicated.*** What I [Rudolf Steiner] am talking about now applies only to one stage of our evolution; I would have to speak in different terms when discussing a different stage of evolution. To get a more complete picture, you must take what I am saying now and put it within the context of what I have said in my other lectures.****
* Steiner taught that there are many different types of gods, both good gods and evil gods. The gods are arranged in hierarchies or ranks.
[Steiner's words] "I shall here draw attention to one point, and it should be taken as a sort of annotation. In the equilibrium of our earth the whole co-operation of the hierarchies is such, that we must look at what we described in our last lecture as the third hierarchy, the Spirits of Will, the Cherubim and Seraphim,* as being something which, as regards this state of equilibrium, works from within the earth. You must naturally picture to yourselves this hierarchy as originally unfolding its powers from out of the universe towards the centre of the earth, and that the way in which man becomes aware of these forces does not correspond to their first direction, but the reverse direction they take when they are thrown back, reflected."
[My paraphrase] For the moment I [Steiner] want to make one point, a sort of footnote. The equilibrium of things on Earth depends significantly on the gods called Spirits of Will, otherwise known as Cherubim and Seraphim. They are members of the third or highest hierarchy of gods.* In helping to create the needed equilibrium, these gods work from inside the Earth itself. They send down their powers from high above us — their powers descend into the Earth and are then reflected back upwards — and we become aware of these powers only as they arise from the ground beneath us.
* Steiner sometimes called this hierarchy the first hierarchy. It depends on whether we count from the bottom or from the top. There are three hierarchies of gods, containing nine ranks. The bottom hierarchy consists of the gods sometimes called Angels, Archangels, and Archai. The middle hierarchy consists of Spirits of Form, Spirits of Movement, and Spirits of Wisdom. The top hierarchy consists of Spirits of Will, Cherubim, and Seraphim. (Many other names are also applied to various gods in the various hierarchies.) Above all three hierarchies is the Godhead.
[Steiner] "You will therefore only be able to form a complete idea of the very intimate processes which here take place, if you compare what was said in the last lecture with much that was said in my course of lectures given at Düsseldorf on the Hierarchies, in which a comprehensive idea was given of the heavenly part of the activity of the three hierarchies.* These things are by no means so simple, and, to make the mission of the earth comprehensible, it is necessary to select the point of view in such a way that we may see the reflections of the Spirits of these hierarchies in what we call the elements of earth-existence."
* Steiner was referring to lectures that have been published as SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1928) and, more recently, as THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES AND THE PHYSICAL WORLD (SteinerBooks, 1996). And, in truth, Steiner repeated the same general description of the gods and their worlds in many, many lectures and writings. Other relevant book titles include OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE and KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT.
"But if you take this into consideration, you will then also acquire a feeling of the infinite wisdom contained in the whole harmony of the forces of the universe, in the forces of the cosmos. You will also to a certain extent have the feeling that knowledge must be continually extended, that there must be no limit to it, as things are so complicated that when we think we have grasped one point of view, we are immediately compelled to pass on to another, which then throws light on the matter from another aspect. We can only advance little by little in our knowledge; nevertheless, from the indications given in the last lecture, especially at the close, you will have become somewhat more closely acquainted with what may be called the cooperation of the abnormal and the normal Spirits of Form, which brings about in our life on earth that there should be not merely one kind of humanity spread over the whole earth, but that a humanity might arise which can be manifested in the different races.* For that uniform humanity, which man can only attain to again in the course of the evolution of the earth, the pure activity of the normal Spirits of Form would have been necessary. These are the same spiritual Beings who in Genesis are called the Elohim, and we can really recognize seven of these normal Spirits of Form in the entire universe which surrounds our earth and together with it makes one whole.**"
* Steiner taught that human souls evolve upward through incarnation in low races to incarnation in higher races. If the intentions of the good or normal gods had been realized, we would all be black at one stage, and then we would all move along to lighter and lighter racial forms in subsequent incarnations. This would have been the “normal” or “pure” path. Thus, there would be only one race on Earth at any one time — the older, lower races would die out as we all moved higher. But abnormal or evil gods interfered, causing old, lower races to continue existing alongside new, higher races. Here, Steiner points to the abnormal Spirits of Form as the cause of this racial diversity; on other occasions, he attributed it specifically to the demons Lucifer and Ahriman. Steiner referred to people who remain behind in lower races as "abnormal" humans, quite different from the rest of humanity. Actually, in Steiner's teachings, most people are abnormal, in this sense. Only a small vanguard tends to break through to the next, higher stage. Here's something that happened on Atlantis, for example: "[I]t was the normal human beings that were the best material for the initiates to use for the evolution of the future, and they were also the ones that the great sun initiate, Manu, gathered around him as being most capable of evolving. Those peoples whose ego impulse was developed too strongly gradually wandered to the West [from Atlantis] and became...the Red Indians of America. Those people whose ego-feeling was too little developed migrated to the East, and became the subsequent Negro population of Africa...." — Rudolf Steiner, THE BEING OF MAN AND HIS FUTURE EVOLUTION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981), p. 118.
"There are seven Spirits of Form or seven Elohim. If we wish to form a conception of these seven with their various missions, and their vocation of establishing equilibrium or Love in the whole mission of the earth, we must clearly understand that these seven Spirits of Form so co-operate that what we have described in one of these lectures as ‘man in the second third of his life’ would actually be brought about. Thus if all these seven Spirits of Form could work in the way they have proposed among themselves, the essential ‘I’-man would express himself.* But as other spiritual Beings co-operate with them, and vary this uniform humanity, a quite special arrangement was necessary in the cosmos. If to-day you wished to seek in the cosmos the locality from whence the normal Spirits of Form are active, those Beings who, as described in our last lecture, in our present cosmos shine towards us in the light, then you must seek for them in the Sun. You must always seek in the direction of the Sun for that Cosmic Lodge, that community in the universe, in which these Spirits of Form take counsel together for the establishing of the earthly equilibrium, for the fulfillment of the mission of the earth.**" [I am splitting this long paragraph in two at this point. — Steiner is giving us too much to digest in a single bite. — RR]
There are seven Spirits of Form or Elohim. They have separate missions, but by acting together they have aimed to create equilibrium or love for us. If this aim had been achieved, mankind would attain a condition I [Steiner] have described as the second third of life: humans would be harmoniously complete, with correctly incarnated spiritual egos or “I”s.* But because abnormal gods participated in our development, a special arrangement had to be worked out. In the present stage of cosmic evolution, the beneficent Elohim can be found in the Sun, where they have a Lodge: the place where they confer with each other, working to help fulfill the mission of the Earth.**
* Humans incarnate in stages: We have a physical body and also three invisible bodies, called the etheric body, the astral body, and the “I.” Plants and animals also have etheric bodies, and animals have astral bodies, but only humans have “I”s. A human fully manifests his/her “I” in the second third of life, that is, during the beginning of adulthood. The first third of life runs to about age 21; the second third begins with the incarnation of the "I" and continues to about age 42; and the final third (a period of decline, at least toward the end) runs from age 42 to about age 63+. If the abnormal spirits of form had not interfered, we would live the first third of life entirely in the spirit realm, descending to incarnation on earth only during the second third, and reascending during the final third. — THE MISSION OF THE FOLK-SOULS, lecture 4.
"One thing only was necessary so that the abnormal Spirits of Form should not by their activity produce too much disorder as far as man is concerned; it was necessary that one of the Spirits of Form should detach Himself from the community; so that, in reality, you have only to look for six Spirits of Form or Elohim in the direction of the Sun, one of these Spirits had to isolate Himself, in order that through the simultaneous activity of the abnormal Spirits of Form, who are really Spirits of Motion, the equilibrium should not be completely upset. He it was Who in the Bible, in Genesis, is called Jahve or Jehovah. If you wish to look for His activity in the universe, you must not seek for it in the direction of Sun, but in that in which Moon for the time being is to be found. This is also indicated in my OCCULT SCIENCE, although looked at there from another aspect, when it is shown that the Spirits of Form go away with the separation of Sun, but that only in the special arrangement that took place in the separation of Moon, were the preliminary conditions created for the further evolution of man. For if Moon had remained united with Earth, the evolution of man could not have taken place. This further evolution of man was only made possible through one of the Elohim, Jahve, going forth with Moon, while the other six Spirits remained in Sun; it was only made possible through Jahve's co-operative work with His six other companions.*"
The abnormal Spirits of Form are gods who should have evolved to a higher level, which would have meant they became Spirits of Motion. But they remained behind, continuing at the level of Spirits of Form. The normal Spirits of Form had to weaken the influence of these abnormal, retarded spirits. To do this, they had to separate one of their own (Jehovah) from their group. Otherwise, they would not have been able to create the equilibrium needed on Earth for further human evolution.* Therefore Jehovah left his colleagues on the Sun and relocated on the Moon, in a manner of speaking. I [Steiner] referred to some of this in my book OCCULT SCIENCE, but in a different context. I spoke of the need for the Moon to separate from the Earth in order for mankind to evolve higher. Thus, human evolution has depended on the cooperation between Jehovah, on the Moon, and the other six Spirits of Form, on the Sun.
* Like many of Steiner’s “explanations,” this one may leave an inquiring mind unsatisfied. Steiner often used a lot of words to very little effect, leaving vague the very things he claimed to be explaining. But he said this is all complicated.
"If we want to obtain a satisfactory conception of the activities of these normal Spirits of Form, it is best to think of them as streaming down to us in the sunlight. But if we want to obtain an idea of the abnormal Spirits of Form, and of how they act in combination with the normal Spirits of Form, who are centered in Sun as it were (for it was only in order that the equilibrium could be brought about that Jehovah split off towards Moon); then we must imagine that a certain sun-force, which streams towards us in the normal Spirits of Form, is altered by the force that streams to us from the abnormal Spirits of Form, who are really Spirits of Motion. These have their centre in the other five planets, speaking of the planets in the old way. You must therefore seek for the centre of these others, the abnormal Spirits of Form, in Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury."
The normal Spirits of Form can be thought of as sending their influences to us from the Sun, whereas the abnormal Spirits of Form work from Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury.*
* Steiner rambled and repeated himself. Sometimes it is a mercy to pare his words down to the bare minimum needed to convey the very slight of information he apparently meant to convey.
"You have now, when you look into the cosmos, a sort of distribution of the normal and the abnormal Spirits of Form. Six of the normal Spirits of Form are centered in Sun, one of them — Jahve or Jehovah — forms the equilibrium for them from Moon, by ruling and guiding the latter. The activities of this Spirit of Form are influenced by the activities proceeding from Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury. These forces stream down upon Earth, are stemmed there and ray up again from Earth, as was described at the close of our last lecture."
So, to repeat: Six normal Spirits of Form have their center in the Sun, while the seventh provides equilibrium by working from the Moon. The activities of the Spirit of Form on the Moon, Jehovah, are affected by the activities of the abnormal Spirits of Form, who properly should be Spirits of Motion and work from Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury. The forces sent to Earth from these spirits on their various spheres enter the Earth and then beam upwards from within the Earth.
"Thus if you have a part of Earth's surface upon which a certain activity is exercised from the Sun by the Elohim or normal Spirits of Form, then nothing would come into existence on that particular part of the Earth's surface but the entirely normal ‘I’, that which gives man his normal being, which produces the average general human nature. Now into these forces of the Spirits of Form, which through the state of equilibrium would otherwise dance here upon the surface, are intermingled the forces of Mercury. Hence in that which here unfolds as the force of the Spirits of Form, there dances and vibrates not only the normal, but also that which intermingles in the normal forces of the Elohim, in the normal forces of the Spirits of Form, that namely, which comes from the abnormal Spirits of Form who are centered in the several planets. From this we see, that through these abnormal Spirits of Form, there are five possible centers of influence, and these, in their reflection upon humanity from the centre of the Earth, really produce what we know as the five main races who inhabit the Earth."
If any region of the Earth received only the influences sent by the normal Spirits of Form, the forces in that region would be entirely beneficial, so the people living there would have normal “I”s — human nature in that region would be entirely normal. But the influences of the normal Spirits of Form are mingled with abnormal forces coming from five planets. In various regions of the Earth, the influence of one planet or another has greater impact. Thus, there are five centers of cosmic influence upon the surface of the Earth. The people living near these five centers are affected by them, and this is why we have five main races among the peoples of the Earth.
"If we now more closely characterize the spot which in our recent statements we placed in Africa, by saying, that through the co-operation of the normal Spirits of Form with the abnormal ones centered in Mercury, the negro race came into existence, we are then, from an occult standpoint, quite correct in describing what appears in the black race, as the ‘Mercury race’."
The black or Negro race came into existence because, in Africa, the influence of the normal Spirits of Form mingled with abnormal influences coming from Mercury. In this sense, we can call the African race the “Mercury race.”
"Let us now follow on further along the line which we then drew through the central points from which the several races sprang. We then come to Asia and find there the Venus-race or the Malay race. We then pass on across the wide domain of Asia and in the Mongolian race we find the Mars-race. We then pass over into the domain of Europe and we find in the Europeans, in their basic character, in their racial character, the Jupiter men. If we cross over the ocean to America, where the place is at which the races or civilizations die, we then find the race of the dark Saturn, the original American-Indian race, the American race. The American-Indian race is the Saturn race."
If we trace a line connecting the various centers of cosmic influence on the Earth, we see that in Asia the Malay raise emerged — it is the race that is under the influence of Venus. If we move up to the interior of Asia, we find the Mongolian or Mars race. Moving to Europe, we find the European or Jupiter race. Crossing the ocean to America (this is the place where races or civilizations die), we find the American Indian or Saturn race.*
* Steiner was a little hard on America, describing it as a land where Saturn and/or Ahriman holds sway. Its a nasty place, really.
"In this way, if occultly you picture this matter more and more clearly, you find in these five planets the forces which have experienced their external manifestations in these five parts of the world."
"If you form a more and more distinct and concrete conception of this, you will acquire an inner knowledge* of these unique racial characters which are spread over the Earth, a knowledge of this peculiar co-operation of the normal and abnormal Spirits of Form. Thus we have, as it were, drawn the picture which holds good for a certain point. But what I have said about the different parts of the Earth, again only holds good for a quite definite epoch of evolution. It holds good for the epoch when, at a definite moment of the old Atlantean evolution, the migration of peoples started from a spot in Atlantis** and wandered across to the right place where they could receive the corresponding racial cultivation. Hence in my OCCULT SCIENCE you will find it pointed out that in old Atlantis, in certain Mystery Places, named the Atlantean Oracles,*** the guidance of this distribution of mankind over the Earth was taken in hand, so that in fact that equilibrium, that state of balance could be brought about which led to the corresponding distribution of the races. In one such Mystery-Oracle the truths of which we are now speaking were always investigated, and originally man was entirely guided by them. In this manner, what happened on the Earth was correspondingly directed from such centers."
If you grasp this matter deeply, you will gain an inner knowledge* of the racial characteristics of the people who have spread over the Earth. Each race was molded by the particular combination of forces reaching it from the normal and abnormal Spirits of Form. Bear in mind, however, that what I have said about the five centers of cosmic influence is true only up to a certain point, that is it is true for a certain stage of human evolution. Specifically, it describes what happened when human beings dispersed from Atlantis** and moved into the five general regions of the Earth. I have discussed this in my book OCCULT SCIENCE: On Atlantis, in certain places called Mystery Places or Oracles,*** certain Initiates**** understood the cosmic influences affecting the Earth and they helped guided the various peoples to the places on the Earth where they would receive their special racial characteristics. Equilibrium was produced on the Earth when each race established itself in its proper place.
* For Steiner, “inner” knowledge — heartfelt, subjective, clairvoyant — always trumps cold, dry, brain-centered knowledge
"In the stream of peoples that traveled across Africa and crystallized into the Ethiopian race, we have to look for an impulse which could be given by the Mercury-oracle, in which one could clearly observe how the normal Spirits of Form (the six Elohim and Jahve or Jehovah) co-operated, and how the abnormal Spirits of Form whose activities proceeded from the centre of Mercury also worked in.* According to the astrological** co-operation of these various centers of force, the point of equilibrium was sought for on our Earth, and in accordance with this the centre of balance was taken as the point of radiation for the race in question.***"
The people who traveled into Africa and became the Ethiopian of black race were guided by the Mercury Oracle of Atlantis. In the impulse coming from this Oracle we can clearly comprehend the influence of the normal Spirits of Form mingled with the influence of the abnormal Spirits of Form radiating from the center of Mercury powers on the Earth.* The various centers of astrological forces reradiating from the Earth became the proper homes of the various races.***
* A newer translation makes this passage somewhat clearer: “The wave of peoples who swept across Africa and crystallized into the Ethiopian race is an expression of an impulse from the Mercury Oracle in which one could clearly observe the cooperation of the normal Spirits of Form (the six Elohim and Jahve or Jehovah) and also the participation of the abnormal Spirits of Form working from the Mercury Centre.” — THE MISSION OF THE FOLK-SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 102. The center of power for each abnormal Spirit of Form is in a planet, and this is reflected in a center of influence on the Earth. Centers and Oracles can be in the same geographical location, but they need not be and usually are not.
** Yes, astrology.
"The formation of the other races was also directed in a similar way. In accordance with this, the great map is then drawn, into which are entered the influences with respect to peoples, families, etc.* That is the great map, which is an image of the heavenly activity which originates through the forces of the heavenly powers flowing into man, radiating back from him, and forming his destiny.** What may we now consider a man of the Mercury race, of the Ethiopian race as being? We may so look upon him that we say: This man is originally destined and organized by the Elohim to express in himself the whole human nature. But now from the Mercury centre the abnormal Spirits of Form worked with great power and caused man to be so varied that the form of the Ethiopian race arose; and it was the same with each of the other races. Thereby the streams of the peoples were guided in quite a definite way from the original centre, and thus the line which I drew for you a few days ago originated."
All of the races were formed in a similar way. We can speak of a “great map” showing the centers of influence for the various races on the surface of the Earth. (Similar centers exist for peoples, nations, families, and so on.)* The destiny of human beings** is formed through the cosmic influences streaming down from above and then reflecting back through the human being. So, what can we say about anyone who is a member of the Mercury or Ethiopian race? The good gods what him/her to be a full-fledged, complete human being in the best sense. But the abnormal Spirits of Form have caused the Ethiopian (i.e., black) person to be so different from the norm that s/he became a member of a distinct, separate race. The same is true of the other races. All peoples were guided from the original center in Atlantis — they spread out across the Earth along the line I mentioned earlier.***
* Steiner taught that a race, nation, family, etc., is a real spiritual being — it has a real existence over and above the existence of its members. Thus, a race has its own soul — its "folk soul." Each member of that race has an individual soul, but s/he also shares in the overall soul of the race.
"You must therefore imagine the Spirits of Form radiating from a centre. We have to suppose this centre as being at a definite period of time in old Atlantis. There we have that which sank down into the Atlantean continent and shaped it in such a way that the human spirits were brought under the rulership of the corresponding abnormal Spirits of Form."
We can describe this all as follows: The influence of the Spirits of Form radiated from a center located (at least for a while) in Atlantis. Cosmic influence sank down into Atlantis at that place and influenced humanity in such a way that various people came under the rule of various abnormal Spirits of Form.
Thus were the great foundations of the races created, and when man looks up into the infinite expanses of the heavens, he must there seek the forces which constitute him. They constitute him however in their rays which return from the Earth. When he looks up to the normal Spirits of Form, to the Elohim, he is looking up to that which really makes him into man; and when he looks up to what is centered in the several Planetary Spirits (with the exception of the Sun and Moon),* he sees that which makes him belong to a particular race.**
This is how the races were formed. We are what we are because of cosmic forces.* The normal Spirits of Form have made us human beings, and the abnormal Spirits of Form have separated us into different races.*
"Now how do these Race-spirits work in and upon man?* They work in a very unique way, so that, as one might say, they excite his forces first of all when they reach the physical body. You know that what we call the four fundamental parts of man,** are projected and imaged in certain parts of the physical body, so that we may say, the ‘I’ images itself in the blood; the astral body in the nervous system; the etheric or life-body in the glandular system, and only the physical body stands for itself, it is an image of its own being, and for the man of the present day it has all its laws within itself. The ‘I’ reflects itself in the blood, the astral body in the nervous system, the etheric body in the glandular system."
How do the folk souls of races work upon individuals?* Folk souls have particular influences, starting with their effect on the physical body. Our invisible bodies project themselves onto various parts of the physical body: The “I” projects itself into our blood,*** the astral body into our nervous system, and the etheric body into our glands. (The physical body is different from the others; it does not project itself onto anything except itself. In the present stage of evolution, the physical body has its own laws.)****
* The "race spirit" of a race is a spiritual being having its own independent existence: It is the folk soul of that race.
"Those spiritual Beings, who there seethe and boil in man* so that his racial character may come about, cannot at first work directly into his higher parts. They seethe first of all in these images** of the higher parts in the physical body. They cannot as yet enter right into the physical body, but they seethe in the other three members, in that which is the image of the ‘I’, the blood; in the image of the astral body, the nervous system; and in that which is the image of the etheric body, the glandular system. In these three systems, which belong to the physical body but are reflections of the higher members, the Race-spirits, the abnormal Spirits of Form."
* Note the negative terminology and what it implies about racial identity.
"Here you see that the physical body of man is determined from within; so that these various spiritual Beings set to work in those parts of the physical body which are the projections, the shadows of the higher members. Now where for instance does Mercury set to work? I say Mercury, so as to include all the abnormal Spirits of Form to be found in Mercury. He intervenes by co-operating with others, especially in the glandular system. He seethes in the glandular system, and there are expressed the forces which originate through that preponderance of the Mercury forces, which work in the Ethiopian race. Everything which gives the Ethiopian race its special characteristics comes from the fact that the Mercury forces seethe and surge in the glandular system of this people. What modifies the universal human form into the special form of the Ethiopian race with black skin and woolly hair and so on, is the result of their activity. This modification of the common human form comes therefore from these forces."
"If you now pass further over to Asia, you find there in a similar manner something we might describe as Venus forces, as an abnormal development of the Spirits of Form. These Venus forces operate by attacking principally that which we call the reflection of the astral body, the nervous system. They operate however in a peculiar way, and indeed not directly as Venus-spirits upon the nervous system. For the nervous system can be affected in two indirect ways;* one way is through the respiration. When the breathing is specially worked upon, these activities establish themselves in man's respiratory and nervous system, and give it a definite form. This indirect way is selected by the abnormal Spirits of Form whom we may call Venus Beings, in the Malay race, in the yellow tinted races of Southern Asia, and towards the Malay Archipelago. Just as the glandular type of man is spread over the land of Ethiopia, so over these parts of Malaya there is spread the type of man in whom the abnormal Spirits of Form work upon the nervous system indirectly through the respiratory system. There the nervous system is worked upon indirectly through the respiratory system. In the nervous system is brewed that which, with special modifications, produces the more or less yellow-colored part of humanity. The transformation there brought about, certainly expresses itself more in that part of the nervous system which we sum up in the expression ‘Solar Plexus’, therefore not really in the higher nervous system but in that mysterious part of the nervous system which runs in two strands parallel with the spinal marrow and spreads out in various directions. This part of the nervous system, therefore, is worked upon indirectly through the respiratory system, this part which in our sense does not yet belong to the higher mental activity. These Venus-forces which work in this race, seethe deep down in the unconscious organism."
We find similar effects in South Asians (i.e., the Malay or yellow race), who are largely influenced by Venus. The Venus forces attack the nervous system indirectly, such as through respiration.* The yellow race is especially affected deep down in the “solar plexus” — that is, in the unconscious part of the nervous system, in the nerves that run down through the spine and then out into the body.
* Steiner mentions two indirect ways, but he discusses only one here. He gets to the second a few paragraphs down — we’ll get to it.
"Now let us go up over the wide Mongolian plains. In those plains those Spirits of Form are principally active who work indirectly through the blood. There in the blood is brewed that which brings about a modification of humanity and produces the basic character of the race. There is, however, something very peculiar in this Mongolian race. There the Mars-spirits enter the blood: But they work in it in quite a definite way, viz., they are there able to work towards* the six Elohim who are centered in the Sun. In the Mongolian race, therefore, they work towards these six Elohim, and in doing so they make a special attack in the other direction towards Jahve or Jehovah Who has separated His field of action from that of the six Elohim."
Central Asians or members of the Mongol race are especially affected by abnormal Spirits of Form working in the blood. This race has Mars-spirits in its blood. These spirits work against* the six normal Spirits of Form on the Sun and also against the seventh Spirit of Form, Jehovah, on the Moon.
* “Working toward(s)” something usually means working in conformity to it, and/or aspiring to it. In this case, however, Steiner seems to mean the opposite. Here is how this is expressed in the more recent edition: “The Mars Spirits enter into the blood. But they work in the blood in a specific manner. They are able to counteract the influence of the six Elohim who are centred in the Sun. In the Mongolian race, therefore, they work in opposition to these six elohim. At they same time they active opposite the influence of Jahve or Jehovah....” [THE MISSION OF THE FOLK-SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 105.]
"But besides this co-operation* of the Mars-spirits with the six Elohim and Jahve, which results in the Mongolian race, there is still something quite special. Just as the six Elohim from the Sun and Jahve from the Moon act upon the Mongolians, whilst the Mars-spirits work towards them, so in another case we must imagine that from the direction of the Moon the Jahve forces again meet and co-operate with the Mars-spirits, and that thus a special modification arises. Here you have a special modification of humanity, viz., that which belongs to the Semitic race, explained from its most occult background. In the Semites you have a modification of collective humanity, in which Jahve or Jehovah shuts Himself off from the other Elohim and invests this people with a special character, by co-operating with the Spirits of Mars, in order to bring about the special modification of this people."
The interaction* of the Mars spirits with the seven normal Spirits of Form creates the Mongol race. Similarly, Moon or Jehovah influences combine with Mars influences to create the Semitic race.** Semites are different from other people because Jehovah cooperates with the Mars Spirits to make Semites different.***
"You will now perceive the special element contained in the Semitic people and its mission.* In a certain deep occult sense the writer of the Bible** was able to say, that Jahve or Jehovah had made this people His own, and when to this you add the fact that there was here a co-operation with the Mars-spirits who direct their attacks chiefly upon the blood, then you will also comprehend why the continuous action of the blood from generation to generation was of quite special importance to the Semitic Hebrew people, and why the God Jahve describes Himself in the Semitic people as the God Who comes down in the blood from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and so on. That is the important thing: how the blood runs through all these generations. By describing Himself as ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’, Jehovah says: ‘I act in your blood’.*** That which always works in the blood, that which must be fought out in the blood, — the co-operation with the Mars-spirits, — that is one of the mysteries which lead us deeply into the wise guidance of the entire humanity of the Earth.****"
Semites — in particular Jews — have a special mission, just as all races and peoples do.* Jehovah made the Jews his own chosen people. His influence, combined with that of the Mars Spirits, works in the blood of the Jews. Jehovah said that he passes through the blood of the Jewish people.*** The interaction of Moon forces and Mars forces in the blood of the Jews is one of the mysteries that shows the gods’ wise guidance of humanity.****
"So you see, that the blood of mankind is acted upon in a twofold manner; that two races originate, by the blood of mankind being acted upon; on the one side we have that which we call the Mongolian race, on the other that which we may describe as belonging to the Semitic race. That is a great polarity in humanity, and we shall have to trace much that is of immense importance back to this polarity, if we wish to understand the depths of the Folk-souls."
"We shall now go back still further and trace how the Spirits and Beings who have their centre in Jupiter seethe and boil in man. These select for themselves the second point of attack, so as to act indirectly upon the nervous system. The one point of attack is through the senses of man; the other point of attack which works into the nervous system, goes indirectly through the respiratory system into the solar plexus. The attack proceeding from Jupiter goes indirectly through the sense-impressions and streams out from thence upon those portions of the nervous system which are centered in the brain and spinal cord. Here flow in, in those races belonging to the Jupiter humanity, those forces which give the special stamp to the racial character. This is more or less the case in the Aryans, in the peoples of Asia Minor and Europe, those whom we reckon as belonging to the Caucasian race. In these arises that modification of universal humanity which comes from the abnormal Spirits of Form whom we may describe as Jupiter Spirits, working upon the senses. The Caucasians therefore are determined through the senses."
Let’s circle back now to examine the second indirect way the human nervous system can be influenced. Jupiter Spirits attack the nervous system through the senses (just as Venus Spirits attack it through respiration). In general, the Aryan or Caucasian race is formed by the effects of Jupiter Spirits attacking the nervous system through the senses.*
* Steiner taught that whites (Caucasians, Aryans) are the highest race, but this is not the same as saying that they are perfect. Even whites diverge from the human norm that the good gods intended for us; they just diverge less than other races do. As you’ll see in a moment, Caucasians can reach high pinnacles of near-perfection.
"Now you will also understand that a people like the Greeks, who were quite specially and consciously under the influence of Jupiter or Zeus,* who felt themselves to be a centre for the Zeus influence, were pre-eminently determined by what flows into the nervous system through the senses. Of course the Greeks were also influenced by the Elohim who stream in from Sun. But the case was such, that among the Greeks everything that acts upon the senses was devoted to the influence of Jupiter or Zeus, and by that means this people attained its greatness. Everything the Greeks saw in the way of external form, external life, contained important meanings for them. They saw the spiritual in their perceptions of the physical, and hence became the basic people for all sculpture, for all external form-giving. This indicates a very special mission of the Greek people, who are so eminently the people of Jupiter or Zeus, who even at the time when, — especially through the entrance of the star-constellation, — the co-operation of the Zeus or Jupiter-forces with the universal Elohim-forces took place, felt themselves to be the people of Zeus."
* Steiner has said that Jupiter forces have special effects on Aryans. Here he identifies these forces with the god Jupiter, otherwise known as Zeus.
"All the peoples of Asia Minor and especially the European peoples, are on the whole modifications of this Jupiter influence, and you may now divine that, as man has many senses, many modifications can come about, and that in the formation of the several peoples within this basic race which were formed by the senses working upon the nervous system, one or other of the senses may have the mastery. Through this the various peoples may assume different forms. According as the eye or the ear or one of the other senses has the upper hand, so will the different peoples be determined in this or that direction for the special national tendency within the racial character. Through this they get quite definite tasks. One task, which specially devolves upon the Caucasian race is, that it is to tread the path to the spiritual through the senses, for it is built especially upon the senses."
All people in Asia Minor and Europe are under the influence of Jupiter. There are divisions within the race based on which senses are predominant among a particular people or nation. This causes differences in physical form and it affects the task or mission of each people. Caucasians in general have the task of finding the spiritual through the senses.
"Herein lies something that leads one into the deeper starting-points of occultism and it will show you that in those peoples whose sign, so to speak, lies in the Venus-character, the principal starting-point, even in occult training, must be made where the breathing is the most important thing. On the other hand in the peoples living more to the West, the starting-point of their deepening and spiritualizing must be taken from what is in the sense world. This is possessed by peoples who occupy countries more towards the West, in their stages of higher cognition, in imagination, inspiration and intuition, in accordance with the way in which the Jupiter-spirit originally modified their character."
This subject takes us to the heart of occultism. Peoples primarily under the influence of Venus live in the part of the Earth where breathing has the highest importance — this is what will lead them to occult training and wisdom. But people in the West must approach the spirit realm through use of their senses. They do this through higher forms of thought than mere intellect: They learn to employ imagination, inspiration, and intuition.*
* These are the forms of thought emphasized in Waldorf schools. According to Steiner, they are steps toward the attainment of sharp, exact clairvoyant powers.
"Hence there were always these two centers in the evolution of humanity, the one ruled more by the Spirits of Venus, and the other ruled more by the Spirits of Jupiter. The Spirits of Jupiter were specially observed in those Mysteries* in which — as those of you will know who took part in my course of lectures at Munich last year** — the three Individualities met together, the three spiritual Beings, Buddha, Zarathustra or Zarathas in his later incarnation, and that great leader of humanity whom we describe by the name of Skythianos.*** That is the Council which, under the guidance of One still greater,**** set itself the task of investigating into the mysterious forces which must be developed for the evolution of humanity, whose starting-point was taken from that part which is originally connected with the Jupiter forces and which was preordained in the map of the Earth already mentioned."
There are two primary centers on the Earth deeply involved in the evolution of humanity. One is in the East, where the influence of Venus is greatest, and one is in the West, where the influence of Jupiter is greatest. The one in the West is more closely connected to our future evolution: It was there that a secret council of initiates was held to investigate the powers humanity must develop to evolve properly. In attendance were Buddha, Zarathustra, and Skythianos.*** They worked under the guidance of a still higher Being.****
* "Mysteries" are esoteric rites or knowledge known only to initiates.
"Finally, what we may describe as the abnormal Spirits of Form who have their centre in Saturn, act upon the glandular system, but in a roundabout way through all the other systems. Therefore in all that we must describe as the Saturn-race, in everything to which we must attribute the Saturn-character, we must look for something which draws together and embraces that which leads again to the evening twilight of humanity, whose development brings humanity in a certain way to a real conclusion, to a dying away. The expression of this action on the glandular system is seen in the American-Indian race. From that action comes its mortality, its disappearance. The Saturn influence acts through all the other systems finally upon the glandular system. It separates out the hardest parts of man, and we may therefore say that this dying-out consists in a sort of ossification, and this may also clearly be seen in the outer form."
Finally (finally!), the abnormal Spirits of Form who are centered in Saturn influence human glands, and through the glands their influence spreads throughout the body. For this reason, in the Red Indian or the Saturn race we find the forces that leads to death. This is why the American Indian has disappeared.* The influence of Saturn works on all the systems in the body, and preeminently on the glandular system, which secretes the hardest parts of the body. The result is death through ossification — that is, flesh turns to bone. We see this in the outer form of the American Indian.
* Steiner spoke of Native Americans as if they have been exterminated. They suffered a terrible toll in their conflict with European settlers — it may be correct to say that they were the victims of genocide — but they were not completely eradicated.
"If you look at the pictures of the old American Indians,* the process above described is palpable in the decline of this race. In a race such as this, everything which existed in the Saturn-evolution is now present in them, and that in a special manner; it has withdrawn into itself and left man alone with his hard bone system, and brought him into decline. One feels something of this truly occult activity, if one observes how, even in the nineteenth century, a representative of these old Indians speaks of how in him there dwells what formerly was great and mighty for man, but which could not possibly go along with further evolution. There is in existence a description of a beautiful scene, in which a leader of these Indians who are dying out, confronts a European invader."
Pictures of the old American Indians show this process.* American Indians are peculiarly bony, because the Saturn influence is so strong among them. We find the occult truth behind this in the remarks of an old Indian who said that he carries inside something that was once great and mighty, but he cannot evolve further. We have a description of a beautiful scene in which an Indian leader speaks of this to a European invader.
* Steiner evidently had seen photos of Native Americans who had prominent bones, perhaps pronounced cheekbones. From this, he made an enormous, racist leap to generalizations about the inner nature of Native Americans.
"Imagine what is felt in the heart when two such men confront each other, men who came across from Europe, and men who in the earliest ages, when the races were divided, went over to the West. The Indians then took over with them to the West all that was great in the Atlantean culture. What was the greatest thing of all to the Indian? It was that he was still able dimly to sense something of the ancient greatness and majesty of a period which existed in the old Atlantean epoch, in which the division of the races had hardly begun, in which men could look up to the Sun and perceive the Spirits of Form penetrating through a sea of mist. Through an ocean of mist the Atlantean gazed up at that which to him was not divided into six or seven, but which acted together. This co-operative activity of the seven Spirits of Form was called by the Atlanteans the Great Spirit who revealed himself to man in ancient Atlantis. The Atlantean had not taken into himself all that the Venus, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter Spirits brought about in the East, through which were developed all the civilizations which reached their zenith in Europe in the middle of the nineteenth century. In all this the son of the brown race did not participate. He clung firmly to the Great Spirit of the primeval past. That which the others had done, those who in a primeval past had also received the Great Spirit, passed before his eyes when a paper was laid before him on which were many little signs, letters, of which he understood nothing." [As I did with another long paragraph above, I will cut this paragraph in two. — RR]
Imagine what the the European and the Indian felt in their hearts when they met. One was descended from the people who migrated from Atlantis to Europe; the other was descended from the people who went to the far West, carrying with them all that was greatest from the culture of Atlantis. Most important, for the Indian, was the memory of the time when in glorious, ancient Atlantis men could look up to the Sun and perceive the normal Spirits of Form there. In those days, humanity had not yet been divided into races, and all seven of the normal Spirits of Form were still united. The people of Atlantis called these seven united Spirits of Form the “Great Spirit.” The abnormal Spirits of Form had not yet divided humanity, scattering them into different civilizations, the greatest of which arose in Europe in the nineteenth century.* The American Indian did not participate in this human advancement. He remained stuck in the past, clinging to the ancient “Great Spirit.” The European showed him a written account of human history, but the Indian could not read it.
* Steiner, a European born the nineteenth century, was giving this lecture to Europeans born in the nineteenth century. The date of the lecture was June 12, 1910 — early in the twentieth century. No doubt the white European audience liked what it heard.
"All that was foreign to him [i.e., the Indian], but in his soul he still had the Great Spirit.* His speech has been preserved to us; it is worthy of note because it points to what we have explained, and it runs somewhat as follows: ‘There, in the ground upon which walk the conquerors of our country, the bones of my brothers are buried. Why are the feet of our conquerors allowed to walk over the graves of my brothers? Because they are in possession of that which makes the white man great. The brown man is made great by something else; he is made great by the Great Spirit, Who speaks to him in the sighing of the wind, in the rustling of the forest, in the surging of the waves, in the gurgling of the spring, in thunder and lightning! That is the Spirit Who to us speaks truth. Oh, the Great Spirit speaks truth! Your Spirits, whom you have here on paper, and who express what to you is great, they do not speak truth.’ Thus spoke the Indian Chief, from his point of view.** The brown man belongs to the Great Spirit; the pale man belongs to the spirits who, in black shapes, as little dwarf-like beings — he meant the letters — hop about on the paper and who do not speak the truth. That is a world-historic dialogue, which was carried on between the conquerors and the last of the great Chiefs of the brown men. Here we see what belongs to Saturn and his activity, and what originates on the earth from his co-operation with other Spirits, at such a moment as this, when two different directions meet."
Knowledge of the kind possessed by the European was foreign to the Indian; he remained devoted to the “Great Spirit.”* Here is the speech given by an Indian leader to a European: “White men have conquered our land and now they walk above the bones of our people, buried in this land. They have conquered us because they possess the power that makes the white man great. We brown men are made great by something else, by the Great Spirit who speaks to us through the forces of nature. He speaks the truth to us. The spirits guiding the white man are black marks on paper, and they do not speak truth.” This is the point of view expressed by that Indian chief.** We see in this meeting of white and brown men the contrast between the influence of Saturn, on one side, and the cooperation of Saturn with other Spirits, on the other side.
* Remember that the “Great Spirit,” honored by the people of Atlantis, was a sort of illusion: the seven Elohim seen as one god instead of seven. Seeing them as a single being was correct for that period of human evolution, but later humanity moved on, and human initiates understood that the seven Elohim were separate, and that one of them had transferred to the Moon. The Indian, stuck in the past, knew nothing of this. So said Steiner.
"Thus we have seen how humanity in general was brought to the surface of our Earth by the Elohim or the normal Spirits of Form, how then the five principal races of human evolution lift themselves out of the collective mass of mankind, out of the ocean of humanity, and how these five races are connected with the guiding Spirits belonging to the ranks of the abnormal Spirits of Form whom we must call by the names which we take from the five planets, whereas the normal Spirits of Form are to be sought for in the Sun and in the Moon. From this point we shall proceed further, and pass on to something that will be easier to us, because we shall be connecting onto something familiar to us, namely, to tribes and peoples."
So we see how the human being was brought to Earthly life by the normal Spirits of Form. But then mankind was divided into five races, as the result of actions taken by the abnormal Spirits of Form. (They are are centered in five planets, whereas the normal Spirits of Form are centered in the Sun and the Moon.) In my next lecture, we will proceed to a topic that is more familiar to us. I will speak about smaller divisions of humanity: tribes and peoples.
(P.S. How do you know I haven't cheated? Maybe lecture 6 in THE MISSION OF THE FOLK-SOULS is not at all typical of Steiner's lectures in general. Maybe every single one of Steiner's other lectures is much, much better than this one. You won't know unless you read more Steiner lectures, will you? So, please, read. Especially if you are thinking of sending a child to a Waldorf school, please read many more Steiner lectures. Make sure you understand what sort of philosophy lies behind the school you may entrust your child to. Please.)
(P.P.S. I didn't cheat. Steiner's racism crops up in many lectures, and virtually all his lectures exhibit occultism, obscurity, wearisome repetitions, illogic, hollow words, dreadful syntax, a disregard for facts, and a heavy reliance on sheer fantasy. Please check me on this.)
— Roger Rawlings
To see Steiner at his "best,"
To examine another Steiner lecture in its entirety
— both German and English texts —
and "Also Forbidden".
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 14. PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER ◊◊◊