LOVE AND THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN
Paying Our Debts
Steiner often spoke of love. He advocated love, for which we must commend him. But our commendation needs to be tempered.
Often, Steiner’s discussions of love were abstract, hypothetical, or perfunctory. Religious leaders generally endorse love, sometimes equating Love with God. Steiner didn’t go that far — his polytheism didn’t allow him to do so. But he talked about love a lot, and he forecast love as the fulfillment of evolution. Gnostic wisdom will take us there, bringing us to a Cosmos of Wisdom from which we will move up to a Cosmos of Love.  “For it is of the very nature of true spiritual knowledge to be transmuted into Love.” 
Steiner taught that love is crucial to us now, although we do not yet generally love in the correct, high form. This will come in the future, through a series of perfections stretching far beyond the limits of our current, earthly perspective. Our guide is Christ, the Sun God who incarnated in the body of a man named Jesus. That man became the model we should all emulate, although “fundamentally Jesus is only the external sign, making the path of the sun forces visible to the physical eye.”  Since, according to Steiner, most people misunderstand Christ and his host Jesus, the near-term guide we need to follow is — Steiner himself. 
But what do we mean by "love"? What is this high virtue and force? Love is deep affection, surely. In a sense, it is selfless: You elevate the object of your love above yourself. You want to protect and serve the loved one; in extremity, you may even sacrifice your own life to save the loved one. On the other hand, love may be self-centered: You crave the loved one, you want to possess the object of your love, to receive love from the beloved.
According to Steiner, love is an evolutionary mechanism. It is the repayment of karmic debt. If you wrong someone during one incarnation, you make amends in a future incarnation. “[E]verything we do out of love we pay off debts. From an occult point of view, what is done out of love brings no reward but makes amends for profit already expended. The only actions from which we have nothing in the future are those we perform out of true, genuine love. This truth may well be disquieting and men are lucky in that they know nothing of it in their upper consciousness. But in their subconsciousness all of them know it, and that is why deeds of love are done so unwillingly, why there is so little love in the world. Men feel instinctively that they may expect nothing...from deeds of love. An advanced stage of development must have been reached before the soul can experience joy in performing deeds of love from which there is nothing to be gained for itself. The impulse for this is not strong in humanity. But occultism can be a source of powerful incentives to deeds of love.” 
Love is the payment of debt. We don't enjoy acting out of love; we see no profit in it. But occultism can lead us to love. Only when, guided by occultism, we evolve to a higher level will we enjoy love.
Some of these assertions may surprise you.
Of course, wisdom and love are not confined to the distant future. The perfected forms of these ideals are not available to us yet, but Steiner claimed to illuminate the path toward them. This raises some questions, however. Can we square Steiner’s ideas about these subjects with what we actually know about our lives and the universe? Do we really find no joy, today, in acts of love? Does love really revolve around karma and reincarnation (paying for former errors in this, our latest incarnation)? Is it even vaguely conceivable that occultism shows the way to love?
We can, perhaps, get a handle on Steiner's view of love by considering his teachings about racial hierarchies. If we are to be loving creatures, surely we should love our neighbors — including our distant neighbors, including those who are at least superficially unlike ourselves. Steiner's followers have explicitly linked Steiner's teachings about love to his teachings about race. “Suffice it to say that, throughout his entire life of service to humanity, Rudolf Steiner stood for the ‘universal human,’ for the substance of the earth becoming love, and for the overcoming of racism and the concept of race.”  Converting the substance of the earth to love is the process of transmuting wisdom into love, moving "up to a Cosmos of Love." Well and good. And surely a world of love will be one in which racism has been overcome.
But there is a hitch. Steiner argued that we will not truly love one another until we are no longer different from one another — until "the concept of race" has been overcome. Today, he said, humanity is divided into racial and national groupings that are not merely different from one another, but that stand at different levels of evolutionary progress. Some races and nations are "higher" than others. “A race or nation stands so much the higher, the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal human type.”  Steiner said that two devils created racial havoc for mankind: “Lucifer and Ahriman preserved older racial forms that had developed, so that there was a coexistence of races rather than a succession.”  In brief, some humans evolved to higher racial levels as the gods intended, but Lucifer and Ahriman preserved older, less-evolved races that should have died out. The humans who evolved properly became modern whites; the others became blacks, browns, reds, and yellows. (If you have such skin coloring, Steiner’s loving message to you is that you are a mistake.) The differences between races run much deeper than skin color, according to Steiner, but skin color is very important. “One can only understand history and all of social life, including today's social life, if one pays attention to people's racial characteristics. And one can only understand all that is spiritual in the correct sense if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin.” 
If we had not been forced to coexist with one another, a single, beautiful, white human race would have existed: “In that case, a human race of Grecian beauty would have spread over the earth, and in our age we would already see humanity approaching more and more this beautiful Grecian type....”  The closest any race comes, now, to such an ideal can be found among Europeans. Steiner taught that after Atlantis sank, one set of survivors evolved properly while others did not. “[I]t was the normal human beings that were...the most capable of evolving. [Abnormal] peoples...gradually wandered to the West and became...the Red Indians of America ... [Other abnormal] people...migrated to the East, and became the subsequent Negro population of Africa ... The human beings who had developed normally lent themselves best to progress.”  The “normal” humans went to Europe and became the vanguard of further human evolution.
The consequences of mankind’s racial misfortunes will persist for some time. In fact, “external diversity will increase more and more ... We will have to face calmly and courageously the increasing diversity of human nature....”  This will be unpleasant: lower humans will “strive to bring to the fore what is unique among various groups of human beings so as to exclude others.”  But through Christ, we will become inwardly more alike, until mankind’s lower soul elements have been overcome. “We have the right feelings for Christ only when we see in him the savior, rescuing humanity from dispersion and separateness ... In the future, it will not matter much whether what Christ is will still be called by that name. However, a lot will depend on our finding in Christ the spiritual uniter of humanity....” 
In becoming inwardly similar, we will evolve toward a single universal human type and our racial divisions will be behind us. “[T]he attainment of the unity of humanity from within” is the promise Steiner held out in the lectures comprising THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN.  The subtitle of that book is “The Evolution of Individuality.” Steiner says we will become individuals, free and unique, with racial diversity a thing of the past.
That’s Steiner’s vision. How loving is it? According to the Bible, Jesus told us to love one another as we love ourselves. He taught us to embrace one another in all our diversity. The parable of the good Samaritan deals with precisely this point. The Samaritans were the enemies of the Jews, yet a Samaritan helped his “enemy,” a Jew who had been wounded. [Luke 10: 25-37] Christ did not postpone the ultimate fulfillment of love to some theoretical future period. He urged it on us now, immediately, as we are. This is the Christian ideal.
What we find in Steiner’s teachings is something quite different. Coexistence among dissimilar peoples has been forced on us by a cosmic error. We must be courageous in facing the disagreeable consequences. Steiner’s premise is that humans are spiritually dissimilar now. We are unequal — some of us higher, some of us lower. This is the opposite of what love or morality — or, indeed, science — would teach us. In Steiner’s ideology, we will become equal only when we are essentially indistinguishable, when we are all “universal humans” rather than representatives of various branches of the human family. A more humane proposition is that all humans are equal already. This is what people mean when they say that we are all equal in the sight of God, and it is the only moral premise for our behavior toward one another. We are equally valuable, now, equally deserving of love and respect, now. Morally, politically, spiritually — we are all of equal worth, now.
Steiner fundamentally misunderstood the ministry of Christ. Steiner’s solution to racial prejudice is not to end the prejudice but to end the races. This is not only backwards, but it is actually a confirmation of racism. The existence of more than one race is wrong, he said. Races are inferior to the degree that they diverge from the racial “ideal,” he said. Inferior races constitute a drag on humanity’s progress, he said. The only hope he held out for us is that eventually we will remove the lower racial strains from ourselves and, cleansed, move toward a far-off promise of “Love.” 
Without question, love is wonderful. To the extent that Steiner advocated love, we must commend him. Sadly, however, Steiner’s gnostic conception of love is such a pallid abstraction that is belied by many of his doctrines. We’ve seen some of the unloving statements Steiner made about various groups, including his doctrine that whites must wage battle against colored humans. Human progress, he said, "cannot happen differently than as a violent fight between white mankind and colored mankind in the most varied areas." 
If further evidence is needed, here are some more Steiner teachings: ◊ Jews are spiritually blind,  ◊ blacks are inherently childish,  and ◊ native Americans (“Red Indians”) are decadent.  ◊ Asians are generally incapable of original thought,  and ◊ they cannot evolve further.  Among Germany’s World War I enemies, ◊ the French “race” is declining,  ◊ Americans in general are the henchmen of Ahriman (aka Mephistopheles),  ◊ Russians/Communists are in league with Lucifer,  and ◊ the English have institutionalized their grasping selfishness.  ◊ Among the human population at large, some people are demons in disguise,  and ◊ some are, in effect, robots.  ◊ As a matter of fact, quite a number of “people” are not really human beings at all. 
Perhaps Steiner said such things dispassionately, “objectively,” without rancor. But does this matter? Try an experiment. Imagine Jesus making any of those statements. Imagine Mother Teresa doing it, or Martin Luther King, or Buddha, or... No one truly committed to love would make any one of those remarks, let alone all of them. But Steiner made them all, and more. Steiner’s brand of spiritualism lacks true charity — it is an ideology that gives only lip-service to love.
Here is a little scene showing Rudolf Steiner in action. Ask yourself if an apostle of love would act so. Steiner brings a small boy onto a lecture platform and uses him to illustrate some of Steiner's quack medical ideas:
"And now, if you will begin to observe the child for yourselves — [to the boy] Come here a minute! — you will find many things to notice. Let me draw your attention, first of all, to the strongly developed lower half of the face. Look at the shape of the nose and the mouth. The mouth is always a little open, which has an effect on dental development.* It is important to note these things, for they are unquestionably bound up with the whole soul-and-spirit constitution of the child... The formation you see here in the jaws — the jaws belong, of course, to the limb system — is wholly part of the head system ... (Look, he's amused! I think Fraulein B. was asking him why he keeps his mouth open, and his reply was: 'To let the flies come in.' This is a firmly fixed opinion of his.)
"... Here (in the front) as we remarked, the head is pressed together. In all probability this points back to a purely mechanical injury, either at birth or during pregnancy, a mechanical injury in which we can see nothing else than a working of karma ...
"[T]he whole breathing system...is very little under control ... Hence the symptom that is so conspicuous in a child of this kind ... What ought to happen is that gradually, in the course of life, the whole system of movement in man should become a servant of the intellectual system. [To the boy] Stand still a minute.** And now come here to me and do this! (Dr. Steiner makes a movement with his arm as if to take hold of something; the boy does not make the movement.) Never mind! We mustn't force him. Do you see? It is difficult for him to do anything; he has not the power to exercise the right control over his metabolism-and-limbs system...." 
Steiner's behavior — using a child as a living specimen during a lecture, criticizing his body and mind in his presence — was perhaps considered less offensive in Steiner's day than in ours. But it is hardly the behavior anyone should expect from a wise and loving spiritual leader.
Steiner advocated love, and for this he should be commended. But there are many reasons to doubt that his conception of love has validity. We can, I submit, find better and truer conceptions of love. And, quite likely, we can find better guides than the occultist, R. Steiner.
* Another translation [CURATIVE EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972)] renders "dental development" as "the peculiar formation of the teeth": "The mouth is always a little open. With this symptom is connected also the peculiar formation of the teeth. It is important to note these things...."
** CURATIVE EDUCATION puts an exclamation point after this statement, which would be more consistent with the way Steiner addressed the boy: "(To the boy) Stand still a minute! And now come here to me and do this! (Dr. Steiner makes a movement with his arm...."
“Just think how dead the cosmos is when we look out there and see only burning bodies of gas that shine! Just think how alive it all becomes when we know: Those stars are expressions of love, with which the astral cosmos works on the etheric cosmos!” 
Steiner’s words were sometimes pretty, but did they convey anything real or true? Did his use of the word “love” carry real significance?
Actually, a statement such as the one above reveals the desires and fears motivating Steiner and his followers. Anthroposophists want a universe of love; they want it very much. But wanting something, even wanting it desperately, doesn't produce it. The stars are indeed balls of gas; they burn with atomic fire, not — so far as we can know — with love. This does not mean that the universe is cold and empty. But our deep longings can never be truly satisfied by fantasies. We all want love; we would all like to live in a universe of love. But we must learn to distinguish between our dreams and reality. Perhaps we can create a universe of love, but does the universe now function on the basis of love? Are the stars really "expressions of love"? We have little or no solid evidence to support such contentions.
And consider this. Science — real science, intellectually honest science — is fully as heartfelt as fantasy creeds such as Anthroposophy. Real scientists can have the same profound aspirations as mystics and false "spiritual scientists." The chief difference lies in the degree of honesty, not in the degree of love sought or offered. Here is a statement by a real scientist, describing a genuine inquiry into the deep core of nature: "The state of mind which enables a man to do work of this kind...is akin to that of the religious worshipper or the lover; the daily effort comes from no deliberate intention or programme, but straight from the heart." — Albert Einstein.
The chief difference lies in the degree of honesty. Fantasized love is only a heart-rending illusion. The "astral cosmos," the "etheric cosmos" — these are illusions. We live in the real universe, on a real planet — where we can find and create love if we have the wisdom, and decency, and blessedness to do so. Steiner's delusions — whether or not he believed them — are false. They can never lead us to our true hearts' desires.
— Roger Rawlings
For a close look at Steiner's essay,
"The Universal Human", see "Universal".
For Steiner's affirmation of occultism,
Rough sketch of a rough sketch
Steiner made, planning a window
for the Goetheanum.
[R.R., 2009; see e.g., rudolfsteinerweb.]
The window was completed and can
be seen today at the western end of the building.
[Rudolf Steiner, ART (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 127.]
It depicts the abyss and the evil creatures in it.
A conventional image of divine mercy and assistance.
[Image from http://karenswhimsy.com/]
Steiner's version is indicated below.
(The dark area at the bottom is the cavern of the unredeemed.)
Ahriman, as conceived by Steiner.
Here we see a Hindu image of androgyny: Ardanari-Iswara, standing on a lotus blossom. Steiner said we have evolved from uniformity toward individuality. The division into sexes was an advance, but our evolution requires moving beyond the backward female principle. "We have reached the period at which the earlier androgynous organism, representing a kind of group-soul, divided into male and female ... We see in our stage of evolution the female as the principle which still preserves the old conditions of folk and race, and the male that which continually breaks through these conditions, splits them up and so individualizes humanity ... [H]uman beings will become more and more different from one another ... That is the course of human evolution." — Rudolf Steiner, ROSICRUCIAN WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 128.
Painting by a Waldorf student.
[Courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]
How can anyone take Steiner’s teachings seriously? Remarkably, some people do — and some of them teach in Waldorf schools. “It was a collective world-womb in which the light-plant man lived at that time, feeling himself one with the light-mantle of the earth. In this refined vaporous plant-form, man hung as though on the umbilical cord of the earth-mother and he was cherished and nourished by the whole mother earth. As in a cruder sense the child of today is cherished and nourished in the maternal body, so the human germ was cherished and nourished at that time. Thus did man live in the primeval age of the earth ... We must not forget, however, that in what remained behind after the separation of the sun other forces, the Moon-forces, were present. The earth had to separate these forces from itself. Here we have a period during which only the sun was withdrawn, when the plant-man had to descend gradually into the water-earth. This stage, at which man had then arrived in his body, we see preserved today in a degenerated form in fishes. The fishes that we see in the water today are relics of those men, although naturally in a decadent form. We must think of a goldfish, for example, in a fantastic plant-form, agile, but with a feeling of sadness because the light had been withdrawn from the water. It was a very deep longing that arose. The light was no longer there, but the desire for the light called up this longing. There was a moment in the earth's evolution when the sun was not yet entirely outside the earth; there one can see that form still permeated with light — man with his upper part still at the sun-stage, while below he is already in the shape preserved in the fishes.” — Rudolf Steiner, EGYPTIAN MYTHS AND MYSTERIES (Anthroposophic Press, 1971), lecture 5, GA 106. Lest there be any confusion: What Steiner says, here, is not to be found in Egyptian myths. It is Steiner's own version of the truth about human evolution. Neither good sense nor real love can put down roots in such phantasmagoria.
[R. R. sketch, 2010, with thanks to Spirogiro.]
Steiner designed mystic columns for use in "spiritual science" buildings.
There are seven column designs, representing seven stages of evolution.
Here you see the design for the Jupiter column:
The explanation of the column's significance is extraordinarily dense:
“The earth itself advances thru [sic] seven conditions of evolution, which are called by the names of the seven planets, Saturn, Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and Venus-states ... The same motive passes through the seven capitals; a force from above and one from below ... First the force develops from below in the simplest manner, and just as simply the force tends towards it from above ... Then the forms above are filled out, they push themselves into points from below and cause the lower forms to deviate sideways. At the same time these lower forms unfold into living organisms ... [Then] the upper part becomes more differentiated, a point which had pushed out grows as tho [sic] into a fertilizing principle, and the lower part if transformed into a fruit-bearer. The other motive of force, between the two, has become a carrying support, because the revelation of the intervening members would otherwise not be felt to be strong enough as supporting-power ... Further on, a separation of upper and lower takes place, the strong supports of the Moon capital have themselves become pillars, the upper and lower parts between them have grown together into one structure, and a new motive is indicated from above ... In the next, the structures resulting from the union of the upper and lower have received life ... The middle structures of the Mars capital have disappeared; their force is absorbed by the supporting inner parts of the capital; the indications previously coming from above have become fuller. In the next, there is a tendency towards simplification again, which nevertheless bears within it the fruit of the previous elaboration. The upper part opens like a chalice, the lower simplifies life in a chaste form (Jupiter column).”
— Rudolf Steiner, MYSTIC SEALS AND COLUMNS (Health Research, 1969), pp. 5-6. [R.R. sketch, 2010, based on the one in the book.]
Steiner more typically said that the evolutionary sequence to date has been Saturn, Sun, Moon, and Earth, and the coming stages will be Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan. He designed the columns and seven accompanying seals while he was still a Theosophist, which partly accounts for the discrepancy. But Anthroposophists have adopted the columns and seals, using them — under Steiner's direction — at their headquarters, the Goetheanum. "In the year 1907 Rudolf Steiner published the collection OCCULT SEALS AND COLUMNS ... The pictures, based on his sketches and instructions, have been drawn and re-drawn by a number of artists ... [T]he seven Seals and Columns decorated the Lecture Hall at the Congress of European Sections of the Theosophical Society, held in 1907 in Munich, where Rudolf Steiner and his pupils were responsible for the arrangements ... The designs of the seven Columns were afterwards reproduced in fully plastic form in the great wooden pillars supporting the large dome of the first Goetheanum." — George Adams, in Rudolf Steiner's VERSES AND MEDITATIONS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), pp. 227-228.
Venus: planet of love?
Steiner's conception of love was unusual.
His doctrines mix religious piety with astrology and fantasy.
Here is an Easter prayer he wrote:
"Being sprung from worlds, thou in thy form of light,
Given strength from the Sun in the Moon's might,
Thou art endowed by Mars' creative resounding
And Mercury's wings bring movement to thy limbs,
Thou art illumined by Jupiter's shining wisdom
And by the beauty of Venus, bearing love.
May Saturn's world-old spirit-inwardness
Consecrate thee for space being and time's change."
— Rudolf Steiner
[GOLDEN BLADE (Hawthorn Press, 1988).]
Mystic emblem of Venus.
[See John Fletcher, ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER,
(Mercury Arts Publications, 1987), p. 199. R.R. sketch, 2010.]
“[W]e 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...have their actual home on the planet Venus, as the other beings [have homes] on the 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.
For information on good, moral, loving behavior
— as prescribed by Steiner —
please see "Morality".
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 11. THE WALDORF WORLDVIEW ◊◊◊
If you'd like more information about any of the topics discussed here,
you might begin by consulting the following resources:
THE SEMI-STEINER DICTIONARY
THE BRIEF WALDORF / STEINER ENCYCLOPEDIA
WALDORF WATCH INDEX
WALDORF WATCH TABLE OF CONTENTS
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.