Steiner’s clairvoyant powers seemed to misfire pretty often. One way to gauge this is to look at the predictions he made concerning the end of the twentieth century. He emphatically asserted that mankind would face a stupendous crisis around the year 2000 AD.
Some of the trends that troubled him were real enough. Indeed, they remain troubling to any thinking person: degradation of the environment, excessive materialism, and the like. But very few of his predictions came true — or at least they haven’t come true yet. I’m writing this in the year 2010, about a tenth of the way through the twenty-first century, and we seem to be muddling along without everything crashing down in utter ruin (knock on wood).
Steiner, speaking and writing during the early years of the twentieth century, may have truly feared for our future. Or perhaps he was primarily interested in urging people to rush to his banner — that is, he was trying to stir up fear so as to gain converts. Many proselytizers have used this strategy. Steiner's basic argument was that everything will go blooey unless mankind takes the proper spiritual path, meaning the path he was pointing out. To summarize: Become an Anthroposophist or lose your soul by causing universal doom.
Here are some of Steiner's predictions. Keep a scorecard: How many of these things happened?
“[A]t the end of this century Sorat [the Antichrist] will be on the loose again.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007), p. 112.
“Sorath, the Sun-Demon of the Apocalypse...will raise his head again around 1998.” — Richard Seddon, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND: From the Work of Rudolf Steiner (Temple Lodge Publishing, 1993), p. 26.
"Although Steiner almost always stressed the positive, he could certainly also describe the negative, dark aspects of any subject under investigation ... He did say...that the working of Sorat, the two-horned beast described in chapter 13 of the Apocalypse, was connected to the number 666 and therefore, we could expect an intensification of his influence around the year 1998." — James H. Hindes, introduction to Steiner's READING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE (Anthroposophic Press, 1993).
“[I]f we allow things to take their course, we shall face the war of all against all at the end of the twentieth century.” — Richard Seddon, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND, p. 20.
“While the head is skillfully engaged in elaborating material things and material phenomena into a materialistic science, the metabolic part of man, which takes hold of the complete human structure, works out the very opposite world-picture; it elaborates a thoroughly spiritualistic world-picture ... But within the metabolic part of man, this influences the instincts and the passions. There it produces the very opposite of what it would produce if it were to claim the whole human being. When it permeates the instincts, ahrimanic powers get hold of it, and then it is not active in a divine-spiritual sense ... [T]he human being then merely makes claims and demands ... [T]his now appears in the world-historical events. If the development were to continue in this consistent way, we would reach, at the end of the twentieth century, the war of all against all ... We may already see what has thus developed, we may see it raying out from the East and asserting itself over a great part of the earth.” — Rudolf Steiner, "The Remedy for Our Diseased Civilization" (ANTHROPOSOPHIC NEWS SHEET, Supplements 2-3, 1939), GA 206.
[For more on the War of All Against All, see "All v. All".]
[Temple Lodge Publishing, 1993.]
Steiner was clear about the return of Sorat. He was less definite about the timing of the War of All Against All (usually he placed it much farther in the future). But if we managed to escape All v. All, Steiner was sure other forms of universal warfare would afflict us.
“[Steiner] spoke of ‘an acute illness of civilization’, of ‘a real blind alley which will end in catastrophe, the beginning of the Earth’s death’, and of ‘the moral deluge that will engulf Europe.’” — Richard Seddon, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND, p. 7.
"Today it is clear that we live in the midst of a tremendous spiritual battle for the future of civilization. Materialistic thinking and technology are leading towards the destruction of the environment and a degeneration in the quality of human life. However, many individuals are working for a new spiritual understanding [Anthroposophy]." — THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND, back cover.
“My dear friends, the anthroposophist should absorb this into his awareness, should be clear that he is already called upon to prepare the spirituality which will spread and grow increasingly until this culminates when the true anthroposophists return, and also unite with others, at the end of the twentieth century. The sincere anthroposophist should cultivate an awareness that today we need to have clear vision of the battle between Ahriman and [the archangel] Michael, and to participate in it.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE KARMA OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2009), p. 118. On other occasions, Steiner said that Michael had prevailed in 1879 — but the larger struggle is hardly over.
Our hope of avoiding All v. All in 1999-2001, or thereabouts, depended on the triumph of Anthroposophy. Steiner made many statements to this effect, not all of them consistent with one another. In general, we can say that he said that all depended on the success of his movement. Anthroposophists living at the end of the 20th century would be joined by other beings, especially reincarnating dead, "true" Anthroposophists, and Anthroposophy would prevail, although a great many people would not be "saved."
“The anthroposophical movement is called on to appear in all souls, for the spiritual powers [i.e., gods] reckon for the salvation of the Earth on what it [i.e., Anthroposophy] can do ... ” — Richard Seddon, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND, p. 18. Translation: All souls should come to Anthroposophy; the gods depend on Anthroposophy to achieve the salvation of the Earth and its inhabitants.
“[T]he Anthroposophical Movement is called to work on and on, and to appear again not only in its most important, but in nearly all souls, at the end of the 20th century.” — Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS, Vol. 4 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), p. 99.
“If such authentic souls, such honest anthroposophists can be found, who wish...to bear spirituality into earthly life, then an upward movement and dynamic will arise. If such souls do not appear, then decadence will take its inexorable downward course ... Today humanity stands before a great crisis; either it will see all civilization collapsing into the abyss, or else spirituality will raise up....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE KARMA OF ANTHROPOSOPHY, p. 172.
“[T]hose who receive Anthroposophy in a sincere way at the present time [Steiner was speaking in 1924] are preparing their souls to shorten as far as possible the life between death and a new birth, and to appear again at the end of the 20th century.” — Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS, Vol. 4, p. 99.
“[T]hose who are working to-day for the Anthroposophical Movement will appear again on Earth at the end of the twentieth century and will be united with the great teachers of Chartres. For according to the agreement reached in the heavenly conference at the beginning of the thirteenth century, the Aristotelians and the Platonists were to appear together, working for the ever-growing prosperity of the Anthroposophical Movement in the twentieth century, in order that at the end of this century, with Platonists and Aristotelians in unison, Anthroposophy may reach a certain culmination in earthly civilization.” — Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS, Vol. 6 (Anthroposophic Press, 1972), p. 160.
“[T]he souls of Platonic character have remained behind [in the spiritual realm]. They have not appeared again on earth, not at any rate the more important individualities among them. They are waiting till the end of this century.” — Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS, Vol. 4, p. 99.
“We shall not have to wait very long now, after which only a certain number of men able to carry over the culture of the present age into the next will be saved.” — Richard Seddon, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND, p. 21.
“The 20th century will produce the preliminary conditions for a real understanding of the Christ impulse, in that it will reveal how truly the Christ Impulse becomes the spiritual Sun.” — Rudolf Steiner, "Christ and the Twentieth Century" (ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 1, No. 4, December 1926), GA 60. Translation: Christ has not been properly understood in the past, but Steiner has told us the truth, and as Anthroposophy triumphs this truth will be accepted: Christ is the Sun God (or the Genius of the Sun) who shows us the way forward in our spiritual evolution: He gave us the "Christ impulse."
“From what the ancient Mystery wisdom saw, and through the prophetic sight of future Mystery wisdom, we gather that the human beings who take in what we shall call the inner Christianity, the spiritualized Christianity, those who look to the Genius of the Sun with regard to Christ: these individuals [i.e.,true Anthroposophists] will experience an acceleration of their evolution and reappear on the earth again at the end of twentieth century.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE BOOK OF REVELATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 116. Translation: Ancient clairvoyants did not fully comprehend Christ, but they had an inkling, they penetrated the "mysteries" to some degree: They knew that Christ was coming. Now, as they foresaw, we have the corrected view of Christ, we have "inner Christianity, spiritualized Christianity" — in a word, Anthroposophy.
“You [Anthroposophists] will find all those [souls] with whom you need to prepare the work that is to be accomplished at the end of this century, which is to lead humanity out of the great crisis in which it now finds itself.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE KARMA OF ANTHROPOSOPHY, p. 174.
“The wave of [spiritual] evolution [with Anthroposophy in the van] will overwhelm those who oppose it, although meanwhile they can cause much harm.” — Richard Seddon, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND, p. 18.
Here are some additional indications:
“[T]owards the end of the twentieth century, a significant event will again take place ... What is this event? It consists in the fact that a certain office in the Cosmos, connected with the evolution of humanity in the twentieth century, passes over in a heightened form to the Christ. Occult clairvoyant research tells us that in our epoch Christ becomes the Lord of Karma for human evolution.” — Rudolf Steiner, FROM JESUS TO CHRIST (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), pp. 46-47.
“[T]he natural sciences will more and more realize that our soul is not present in our physical body when we sleep. In fact, they will reach this conclusion on their own before the end of this century.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE PRESENCE OF THE DEAD ON THE SPIRITUAL PATH (SteinerBooks, 1990), p. 34.
"When Dr. Kaelin, a medical doctor and research scientist asked Rudolf Steiner why there was such a rapid increase of heart problems he explained it with the fact that the etheric heart is loosening from the physical ... It can be seen from Rudolf Steiner's answer that we at the beginning of the 21st century stand at the focal point regarding the developmental process of the etheric heart.” — Ruth Haertl, "A Study of The Formation of a New Etheric Heart Organ in the Light of the Present Michaelic Mystery Culture as Rudolf Steiner Required it for our Age in his Lectures 'Die Sendung Michaels und Die Offenbarung der eigentlichen Geheimnisse des Menschenwesens’” (Rudolf Steiner Archive).]
"Before the first half of the twentieth century has passed, some people will, with full ego consciousness, experience the penetration of the divine spiritual world into the physical sense world in the same way as did Saul during his transformation into Paul before Damascus. This will then become the normal condition for many people ... From the middle of the twentieth century on, and continuing for the next twenty-five hundred years, this will happen more and more often. Enough people will by then have experienced the event at Damascus that it will be taken to be a common occurrence all over the world." — Rudolf Steiner, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS AND THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT (Anthroposophic Press, 1978), lecture 2, GA 107.
Not all of Steiner's forecasts are bleak; many are highly optimistic. Still, Steiner foresaw serious troubles coming by the end of Century #20. What are the causes of this catastrophe? Science, technology, America, and suchlike evils.
“’The fact is that modern scientific thinking can only apprehend the corpse of reality.’” — Rudolf Steiner, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND, p. 7.
“’[W]ithout new spiritual impulses, technology would not only dominate outer life, but would overpower and numb us ... [M]en would turn into something like living automata.’” — Rudolf Steiner, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND, p. 9.
“Steiner speaks of three [other] currents which in particular have great destructive power. First, Americanism, which seeks to make the world a physical dwelling with every comfort for an agreeable life .... Second, Catholicism, especially Jesuitism, which spreads beliefs that atrophy the forces through which individuals can regain contact with the spirit ... And thirdly, Bolshevism, the impulse toward a state based purely on animal, physical socialism.” — Richard Seddon, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND. pp. 9-10.
“Civilization” is a key word. For Anthroposophists, it refers mainly to European thought — specifically, Germanic thought of a special sort: Anthroposophy. The collapse of everything good and spiritual would mean the triumph of the uncivilized. “Civilized mankind must either establish the independence of the spiritual life or face collapse — with the inevitable result of an Asiatic influence taking effect in the future.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND, p. 21.
Most of the vile forces that erupted in universal destruction at the end of the twentieth century (oops — my bad; it didn’t happen, did it?) boil down to materialism, by which Steiner meant excessive involvement in the physical realm and excessive use of the brain (a material organ that does not produce real knowledge). “Little do we realize the effects of modern living. When nature, especially the mineral, is broken down, the elemental beings [“nature spirits”] belonging to the progressive Hierarchies [i.e., serving the good gods] are driven out, and when we then reassemble the material into a machine according to laws thought out with out intellect, we substitute Ahrimanic beings [i.e., minions of the arch-demon Ahriman].” — Richard Seddon, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND, p. 23.
“[I]n every laboratory and workshop, especially where the inventive genius rules, people are led by elemental beings [invisible “nature spirits”] hostile to human welfare.” — Richard Seddon, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND, p. 24.
“The exploitation of electric forces — for example in information and computing technologies — spreads evil over the Earth in an immense spider’s web.” — Richard Seddon, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND, p. 24.
“There are Anglo-American circles who cultivate especially those forces which subject the soul to the body and bind it to the Earth.” — Richard Seddon, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND, p. 24.
“An occult group even exists which leads people without preparation to a knowledge of the destructive Ahrimanic beings, so that their instincts are aroused to take pleasure not only in destroying things but also in tormenting people.” — Richard Seddon, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND, p. 25.
So there you have it: what happened at the end of the twentieth century.
The picture is a bit muddled. Steiner said the end of the century would be a major turning point, one way or another. We would have the War of All Against All, or, if not that, then some other form of major, world-shaking war involving everyone and everything including Ahriman, or, if not that, the triumphant ascent of Anthroposophy, or, if not that, the salvation of at least a few very, very good people, or, if not that, the arrival of the Antichrist, or, if not that, Christ’s inauguration as the Lord of Karma, or, if not that...
Steiner usually refrained from making statements that could be checked. This was wise, since the few things he said that we can hold up for verification have generally failed the test. Of all his predictions for the end of the century, those dealing with environmental degradation came perhaps closest to the bull's-eye (although not very close). Yes, the Earth and all its living creatures certainly face perils. Mankind does seem hell-bent on destruction (IMO). But the end hasn't come. We’ve got problems — big problems — but they haven’t overwhelmed us yet. And, I would submit, the way to work on these problems is precisely the opposite of Steiner's prescription. We need to turn to science and ordinary human decency, not occultism and esoteric gobbledegook.
Steiner's claim that there is a crucial struggle afoot makes some sense. But I certainly would not characterize this struggle the way Steiner did. It is a battle between benighted ignorance, superstition, and occultism on the one side (represented, for instance, by Anthroposophy), and rationality, humanism, and truth (represented, for instance, by modern science) on the other. Much hangs in the balance. Do we revert to ancient ignorance or do we progress into a rational, bright future?
Steiner's followers rationalize mightily, trying to find support for statements that were, clearly, blunders: errors Steiner made. Thus, some now argue that the cataclysm Steiner predicted has in fact occurred: It is the "war on terror." But this is clearly not what Steiner meant. Likewise, some now argue that Anthroposophy has indeed triumphed, as shown by the growth of the Waldorf school movement. But again, this is clearly not what Steiner meant — or, at most, it is a small part of the victory Steiner forecast for his movement. Some Anthroposophists even argue that the Antichrist has indeed appeared, and they finger various suspects. But again...
The effect of such arguments is to weaken, not strengthen, the case for Anthroposophy: It shows the great distance between Steiner's teachings and reality.
— Roger Rawlings