On some occasions, Rudolf Steiner
made statements such as the following:
“Real occult teaching knows nothing of witchcraft and magic, nor of a superstitious meaning of some number. Its knowledge rests on deeper things....” — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SIGNS AND SYMBOLS (Anthroposophic Press, 1972), p. 32.
Steiner professed to offer the world
real (that is, true) occult teachings.
Hence, his teachings must be devoid
of witchcraft and magic.
And yet, they are not.
On various occasions,
Steiner said the following:
"What is the aim of those secret societies? ... There are the most varied types of such societies. One type, much in evidence in the West and taking all kinds of forms, includes organizations which practise ceremonial magic. Ceremonial magic can, of course, be good magic, but we are speaking now of those societies which do not practise ceremonial magic for the good of mankind in general, but for the good of certain groups of people, or certain specific aims which are not general human aims.
"Let us look first at those societies which practise ceremonial magic from this point of view. As we have said, it can be good, but in these societies it is not good. Certain kinds of ceremonial magic have definite effects on the human physical body. Everything physical is, after all, a manifestation of the spirit. Certain spiritual aspects which come into being under the influence of ceremonial magic can have an effect on the human physical body, specifically on the system of ganglia, as I described it the other day, and also on the spinal system. The cerebral system is the most difficult of all to influence by means of ceremonial magic. All this has to be done via the detour of the spiritual element, but it can be done and it can become effective." — Rudolf Steiner, THE KARMA OF UNTRUTHFULNESS, Vol. 2 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1992), lecture 21, GA 174.
“When Ahriman incarnates in the West at the appointed time, he would establish a great occult school for the practice of magic arts of the greatest grandeur, and what otherwise can be acquired only by strenuous effort would be poured over mankind ... [B]y means of these stupendous magic arts he would be able to make great numbers of human beings into seers.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE INFLUENCES OF LUCIFER AND AHRIMAN (Steiner Book Centre, 1976), lecture 4, GA 191.
“Something else that we can meet with in astral space is the black magician with his pupils. In order to train himself to become a black magician, the pupil has to go through a special schooling. The training in black magic consists in a person becoming accustomed, under methodical instruction, to torture, to cut, to kill animals. This is the ABC. When the human being consciously tortures living creatures it has a definite result. The pain caused in this way, when it is brought about intentionally, produces a quite definite effect on the human astral body. When a person cuts consciously into a particular organ this induces in him an increase in power.
“Now the basic principle of all white magic is that no power can be gained without selfless devotion. When through such devotion power is gained, it flows from the common life force of the universe. If however we take its life-energy from some particular being, we steal this life-energy. Because it belonged to a separate being it densifies and strengthens the element of separateness in the person who has appropriated it, and this intensification of separateness makes him suited to becoming the pupil of those who are engaged in conflict with the good powers.” — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), lecture 20, GA 93a.
“A lie in the physical world becomes an agent of destruction in the astral world. A lie is a murder in the astral world. This phenomenon is the origin of black magic. The earthly commandment, Thou shalt not kill, may therefore be translated into Thou shalt not lie, in reference to the astral world. The lie is nothing but a word, an illusion. It may do untold harm, but nothing is actually destroyed. In the astral world, every feeling, every idea is a visible form, a living force. The astral lie brings about an impact between the false and true forms, resulting in death.
“The white magician would impart to other souls the spiritual life he bears within him. The black magician has the urge to kill, to create a void around him in the astral world because this void affords him a field in which his egoistic desires may disport themselves. He needs the power which he acquires by taking the vital force of everything that lives, that is to say, by killing it.
“That is why the first sentence on the tables of black magic is: Life must be conquered. For the same reason, in certain schools of black magic the followers are taught the horrible and diabolical practice of gashing living animals with a knife at the precise part of the body which will generate this or that force in the wielder of the knife. From the purely external aspect, there are certain points in common between black magic and vivisection. On account of its materialism, modern science has need of vivisection. The anti-vivisection movements are inspired by deeply moral motives. But it will not be possible to abolish vivisection in science until clairvoyance has been restored to medicine. It is only because clairvoyance has been lost that medicine has had to resort to vivisection. When man has regained conscious access to the astral world, clairvoyance will enable doctors to enter spiritually into the inner conditions of diseased organs and vivisection will be abandoned as worthless.” — Rudolf Steiner, AN ESOTERIC COSMOLOGY (Wilder Publications, 2008), p. 41.
“It might have been very awkward for certain brotherhoods if, before being burned at the stake, a witch had revealed what lay behind them. For it is true that when consciousness is lowered there can be a kind of telephone connection with the spiritual world, and that by this route all sorts of secrets can come out. Those who burned the witches did so for a very good reason: It could have been very awkward for them if the witches had revealed anything to the world, whether in a good or bad sense, but especially in a bad sense.” — Rudolf Steiner, SPIRITUALISM, MADAME BLAVATSKY & THEOSOPHY (SteinerBooks, 2002), p. 217.
“Now these initiations had a definite purpose. As has been said, the initiate acquired actual powers of black magic, the application of which would have led to the mechanization of the culture of the earth and to the expulsion of all egos, so that the bodies born would no longer have been capable of bearing an ego ... Vitzliputzli, a supersensible being but in human form, battled with every means at his disposal against the initiate who had been responsible for the greatest number of murders, who had attained the greatest power, and of whom it can be said that if his aim had been realized, it would have betokened the victory of this ahrimanic post-Atlantean culture. Vitzliputzli fought against him and — as already said, this can only be discovered by occult means — in the year 33 A.D. succeeded in causing this mightiest black magician to be crucified. Thus, in the other hemisphere of the earth, an event parallel to the Mystery of Golgotha took place, inasmuch as the greatest black magician of all was crucified by the action of Vitzliputzli who had appeared on the earth for this purpose ... By these means the ahrimanic impulse was inculcated into the etheric nature of the Western world. As I have said, this impulse in the fourth epoch was broken as a result of the crucifixion of the great initiated black magician by the deed of Vitzliputzli. Nevertheless, so much force remained that a further attack could have been made upon the fifth epoch, having as its aim so to mechanize the earth that the resulting culture would not only have culminated in a mass of purely mechanical contrivances but would have made human beings themselves into such pure homunculi that their egos would have departed.” — Rudolf Steiner, INNER IMPULSES OF EVOLUTION (Anthroposophic Press, 1984), lecture 5, GA 171.
“[W]hat had been feared in bygone times...had indeed come to pass. In those days witches were burnt, simply because those people called witches were really no more than mediums, and because their connections with the spiritual world — though of a materialistic nature — might cause knowledge to be revealed which would have been very awkward for certain people.” — Rudolf Steiner, KARMA OF UNTRUTHFULNESS, Vol. 1 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), lecture 11, GA 173.
“[T]hey [spiritual beings] were striving toward a condition in which they were to direct outer events magically. Thus they were ahead of man in the period described. Man strove upward in order that he might first embody the understanding in more refined matter, so that later it could act toward the external; they had already incorporated the understanding into themselves at an earlier period, and now received magic power in order to articulate the understanding into the world around them.” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Harper & Row, 1981), chapter 10, "Extrusian of the Moon", GA 11.
“At the present day if we see things as they are, it may be said that although individual persons, if they possess certain powers of intuition and forces of divination, may be so permeated by the words of the Gospels as to form some idea of what took place at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha....” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC AND HUMAN METAMORPHOSES (Kessinger Publishing, 2006), p. 8.
“[T]he Guardian of the Threshold is an (astral) figure, revealing itself to the student's awakened higher sight; and it is to this supersensible encounter that spiritual science conducts him. It is a lower magical process to make the Guardian of the Threshold physically visible also. That was attained by producing a cloud of fine substance, a kind of frankincense resulting from a particular mixture of a number of substances. The developed power of the magician is then able to mould the frankincense into shape, animating it with the still unredeemed karma of the individual. Such physical phenomena are no longer necessary for those sufficiently prepared for the higher sight; and besides this, anyone who sees, without adequate preparation, his unredeemed karma appear before his eyes as a living creature would run the risk of straying into evil byways. Bulwer Lytton's Zanoni contains in novel form a description of the Guardian of the Threshold.” — Note in Rudolf Steiner's KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS (Health Research Books, 1963), p. 193.
(My copy is a bit tattered. Sorry.)
“Beings who had not completed their development on the Old Moon, but had evolved only the first six of their seven members, incorporated in men who otherwise would have been utterly primitive. The spiritual Beings who on the Old Moon were at a higher level than men but had not attained the apex of their development, took on these primitive human bodies and went to work with arts which far transcended all earthly knowledge. You can imagine what such Beings in human bodies were capable of accomplishing, — Beings who at a level higher than the human had developed the sixth member — the Life-Spirit — entered into these primitive, flexible, pliant bodies. And they became terrible magicians, dread magicians!” — Rudolf Steiner, SIGNIFICANT FACTS PERTAINING TO THE SPIRITUAL LIFE OF THE MIDDLE OF THE XIXTH CENTURY (transcript, Rudolf Steiner Archive), lecture 2, “Ancient Occult Magic; The Ahasver Mystery”, GA 254.
“Today, those who know the secret of the use of these forces know full well that the use of such forces in our time means that powers of black magic are at work. Magic must never be made to serve when selfish purposes are involved. Hence, the employment of seed forces is not permitted today even to serve white magic.” — Rudolf Steiner, READING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE (SteinerBooks, 1993), p. 81.
“The magic arts practised by the Shamanic peoples of Northern Asia and their aftermath in Central Asia (Southern Asia too was affected to a certain extent but remained somewhat freer), are an example of the corrupt application of what had once been a direct vision of the Pleroma. What ought to have been achieved, and in earlier times was achieved by the inner activity of the soul was now assisted by earthly magic. The forces living in the Pleroma were dragged down to the material world in an Ahrimanic form and were applied not only on Earth but in the spiritual world bordering on the Earth, the influences of which pour down upon human beings. And so, Eastward of the Ural and Volga regions, in the astral world which borders on our physical world, there arose during the later Middle Ages, continuing through the centuries to our own day, an Ahrimanic form of magic practised by certain spiritual beings who in their etheric and astral development stand higher than man but in their development of soul and Spirit stand lower than man. Throughout the regions of Siberia and Central Asia, in the spiritual world immediately adjacent to the earthly world, terrible etheric-astral Beings are to be seen, Ahrimanic beings who practise an earthly, materialised form of magic. And these forces work upon human beings who are unskilled in such arts but who are infected by them and so come under the influence of this astral world ... The thoughts of men were impregnated through and through with the thoughts of these astral beings by whom the Western world was obsessed just as the East was now obsessed by astral beings whose existence had been made possible by the decadent magic arts practised among the Shamanic peoples. Under the influence of these astral beings, the element of earthly craving and desire crept into the realm of an astute but at the same time material mode of thought. And from this astral world influences played into and took possession of men of the type of Lenin and his contemporaries.” — Rudolf Steiner, “Gnostic Doctrines and Supersensible Influences in Europe” (ANTHROPOSOPHY, No. 3, Vol. 6, 1931), GA 225.
“Ceremonial magic is the lowest kind of sorcery and consists in making use of certain specially devised tricks on the physical plane in order to create definite forms and beings on the astral plane. Schools exist today in which ceremonial magic is still exercised. Such usages cause great attraction towards the astral world and very frequently result in suicide, because then a person is almost exclusively active in the astral world and has become unaccustomed to using the physical world for its rightful purpose.” — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 27, GA 93a.
“The sorcery of the ancient Egyptians and the blood sacrifices — these are the forerunners of what comes from the secret brotherhoods of which we have been speaking, though what comes from them will be something different. Because it makes use of the mercantile element it will have a more common-or-garden character in the ordinary human sense.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE KARMA OF UNTRUTHFULNESS, Vol. 2 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 180.
“When speaking of occult signs and symbols, it is necessary to mention the symbols that are expressed in numbers ... Three is the number of the Divinity revealing itself ... Seven is the number of perfection ... As a creature of the universe he [man] lives in the number four ... There is no superstition or magic in this.” — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SIGNS AND SYMBOLS, p. 34ff.
(No superstition or magic in that,
wouldn't you agree?)
For more about magic,
If you want more about numbers,
see "Magic Numbers".
Here is an item from the Waldorf Watch "daily quotes" page:
Rudolf Steiner contradicted himself again and again. (And again and again and again and again and again and...) For instance, he said that his teachings, which present true occultism, do not include such things as magic. “Real occult teaching knows nothing of witchcraft and magic.” — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SIGNS AND SYMBOLS (Anthroposophical Press, 1972), p. 32.
And yet “real occult teaching” — that is, Steiner’s own teaching — does contain such things as magic. In fact, Steiner said that magic really exists, it is real and potentially powerful. He said that the enemies of his movement include evil magicians, that is, “black” magicians. White magicians, on the other hand, support good guys such as himself.
Here is Steiner speaking of magic:
Short form: “In order to train himself to become a black magician, the pupil has to go through a special schooling. The training in black magic consists in a person becoming accustomed, under methodical instruction, to torture, to cut, to kill animals. This is the ABC. When the human being consciously tortures living creatures it has a definite result.” — Rudolf Steiner.
Long form: “Something else that we can meet with in astral space  is the black magician with his pupils. In order to train himself to become a black magician, the pupil has to go through a special schooling. The training in black magic consists in a person becoming accustomed, under methodical instruction, to torture, to cut, to kill animals. This is the ABC.  When the human being consciously tortures living creatures it has a definite result. The pain caused in this way, when it is brought about intentionally, produces a quite definite effect on the human astral body. When a person cuts consciously into a particular organ this induces in him an increase in power. 
“Now the basic principle of all white magic is that no power can be gained without selfless devotion. When through such devotion power is gained, it flows from the common life force of the universe. If however we take its life-energy from some particular being, we steal this life-energy. Because it belonged to a separate being it densities and strengthens the element of separateness in the person  who has appropriated it, and this intensification of separateness makes him suited to becoming the pupil of those who are engaged in conflict with the good powers. 
“For our earth is a battlefield; it is the scene of two opposing powers: right and left.  The one, the white power on the right, after the earth has reached a certain degree of material, physical density, strives to spiritualise it once again.  The other power, the left or black power, strives to make the earth ever denser and denser, like the moon. Thus, after a period of time, the earth could become the physical expression for the good powers, or the physical expression for the evil. It becomes the physical expression for the good powers through man uniting himself with the spirits working for unification , in that he seeks the ego in the community.  It belongs to the function of the earth to differentiate itself physically to an ever greater degree. Now it is possible for the separate parts to go their own way, for each part to form an ego. This is the black path.  The white path is the one which strives for what is common, which forms an ego in community. Were we to burrow more and more deeply into ourselves, to sink ourselves into our own ego organisation , to desire always more and more for ourselves, the final result would be that we should strive to separate ourselves from one another. If on the other hand we draw closer, so that a common spirit inspires us, so that a centre is formed between us, in our midst, then we are drawn together, then we are united. To be a black magician means to develop more and more the spirit of separateness. There are black adepts who are on the way to acquire certain forces of the earth for themselves. Were the circle of their pupils to become so strong that this should prove possible, then the earth would be on the path leading to destruction.
“Man is called upon to enter into the atmosphere of the good Masters to an ever greater degree. [But] near the adept with his pupils, there is also on the astral plane the black magician with his pupils. “ — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 20, GA 93a.
So, Steiner’s teachings say nothing about magic, except that Steiner’s teachings say a lot about magic. Can we dismiss contradictions like this as evidence of Steiner’s growth? Did he, over time, learn more and more about the spirit realm (including the subject of magic) and thus revise his views? To some extent, yes, he claimed such growth. But on the other hand, he also claimed that his fundamental views were always right — he learned more, but he did not need to change his previous statements much if at all, since he had been right all along. Note, too, that the two quotations we have seen here (no magic, a lot of magic) both come from his early Theosophical period. The first quote (no magic) comes from a lecture Steiner delivered in 1907. The second (lots of magic) comes from a lecture he delivered only a few months earlier, in 1905.
Steiner began giving occult lectures in 1899 and continued almost until his death in 1925. He published one of his key occultist texts, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT, in 1904. His other major occultist text, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, appeared in 1910. In the 1925 preface to that book, Steiner claimed that his views as expressed in the first edition were only confirmed and deepened by his further clairvoyant researches in the following years.
But returning to the question of magic: In OCCULT SCIENCE, Steiner speaks explicitly about magic, treating it as a reality. Various occult leaders, making use of "high spiritual forces" and "great power over Nature-forces," performed magic. • "Gifted moreover as the Teachers were, by virtue of the life-bodies [i.e., etheric bodies] and astral bodies that had been bequeathed to them, with high spiritual forces, they were able also to work magically on their pupils." And • ”The Oracle-sanctuaries too, which had been transplanted hither from the ancient land of Atlantis, shared in the general character of the people ... They still possessed great power over Nature-forces that subsequently withdrew from the control of human will. The Guardians of the Oracles were in command of inner forces connected with fire and other elements. They may indeed rightly be called magicians.” — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969), pp. 203 and 206. 
 Astral space or the astral world is a level of existence above the physical. The astral world is also called the soul world.
 Killing and torturing amount to elementary education (“the ABC”) for a student of black magic.
 Killing a creature releases that creature’s energy, which the student of black magic can absorb, thus becoming more powerful. The power flows into the "astral body" — the second of the three invisible bodies that Steiner said human beings possess. The first is the etheric body, the second is the astral body, and the third is the I. [See "Incarnation".]
 The student of black magic gains power from the murdered creatures, and this intensifies his/her separation from the community of good beings.
 Black magicians and other evil beings are not just separated from the good beings, they fight against the good beings.
 The path of evil is black or on the left. This is one reason Steiner said that left-handedness should generally be “cured.”
 The Earth is at a stage of evolution in which it has become densely physical. This is the world we live in. However, the next stage of evolution will see the Earth becoming less densely physical and more spiritual once again.
 The good powers will try to bring separate beings closer and closer, into harmony and unification. The evil powers will try to make separate beings more and more separate, more and more physical, and hence less and less spiritual.
 Just as the Earth has become more densely physical, so have we. This is a necessary stage of evolution, and in it we develop our individual divine identities (our “egos” or “I’s”). But next we, like the Earth, must move away from physicality and separateness. We must seek a higher identity than the individual ego, by uniting ourselves more fully with the good powers.
 Evolving to become more distinct and separate is good and necessary, but this can go too far. The “white path” means reversing course and ascending into spirituality, while the “black path” means continuing into ever greater densification and physicality.
 “Organization,” in Anthroposophical jargon, often means structure or anatomy. Here Steiner is speaking of the structure of our individual egos.
 Aha! Steiner said that the "Nature-forces...subsequently withdrew from the control of human will." So this must mean that magic was possible long ago but it is no longer possible. But remember, at other times Steiner said something very different. For instance, he said that in the modern world, evil magicians are at work trying to destroy human spirituality. "When things that ought to come later make their appearance as spiritual premature births by the means I have described — through criminal occult activity — when this happens those whose intentions towards humanity are not good, in other words those who are black or grey magicians, can gain possession of such secrets. [paragraph break] Such things have indeed been going on behind the scenes of external events during the current decades ... Certain circles in this materialistic age are striving to paralyze and make impossible all of humanity’s spiritual development." — Rudolf Steiner, SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 90. This comes from a lecture Steiner delivered in 1917. [See "Soul School".]
- Compilation and commentary by Roger Rawlings
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