Steiner taught that the world harbors many secret, conspiratorial societies.
Some work for the good, some for the evil.
Secret societies such as the Freemasons once worked very much for the good, but they have
— to varying degrees — lost their way.
Steiner, of course, could set them straight.
"As you know, different kinds of exercises are necessary for self-development, and such exercises are actually available. You have heard of Hatha-Yoga, Rajah-Yoga, and other exercises of different kinds, by means of which societies and brotherhoods connected with occult science have initiated their members. Somebody may say: All this, surely, could be attained without these secret societies. But I can tell you — and in the course of the lecture you will realise it — that the world cannot do without such societies. To put it bluntly, it is quite unjustifiable to speak in public in the style of the manifesto of the Freemasons which I read to you a fortnight ago." — Rudolf Steiner, "The Work of Secret Societies in the World" (transcript, Rudolf Steiner Archive), a lecture, GA 93.
"Selfless activity is, in very truth, something that has belonged to Freemasonry. Freemasonry did indeed urge its members to work in the service of humanity, to work in the world objectively and selflessly ... [T]he aim of the Freemasons is to work in the world in such a way that their deeds are hidden in social organizations or charitable institutions. For selfless deeds are the real foundations of immortality ... To do something for the higher self does not partake of egoism because it is not done only for the self; the higher self will be united with all the others, so that what is done for the higher self is at the same time done for all. — This is the truth that was known to the Freemasons. When the Freemason was working with his fellow-builders, he knew: In future times the mineral world will be spiritualized; to build means nothing else than to spiritualize the mineral world. He knew that the edifice would one day become the content of his soul." — Ibid.
"[T]here are definite stages for the investigation of the secrets of future phases of evolution. The high Degrees of Freemasonry originally had no other aim or purpose than to be an expression, each one of them, of a future stage of the evolution of humanity. Thus we have in Freemasonry something that has been both good and beautiful. A man who attained one Degree knew how he must work his way into the future; he could be a kind of pioneer. He knew too that one who reaches a higher Degree can accomplish greater things. This arrangement according to Degrees can well be made, for it corresponds with the facts. If, therefore, it were possible to inculcate a new content together with a new knowledge into these forms, much good would accrue, for Freemasonry would then be imbued with real spirit once again. Content and form, however belong to the whole. The state of affairs today is that the Degrees are there but nobody has worked through them in the real sense! In spite of this, however, they are not there without a purpose." — Ibid.
"[A] great deal is indeed brought about by western Freemasonry. Many strings are pulled by those involved there ... You could ask: What business is it of the English if political trends in other countries are pursued by certain orders of Freemasonry which possess an occult background? In reply you might remind yourself that the first Grand Lodge in Paris was founded under the jurisdiction of England, not France! Englishmen, not Frenchmen, founded it; and then they let the French in ... Parallel with the democratic stream there came into being the use of occult motives in the various secret societies — in isolated cases, also Masonic orders. In their purposes and aims these are not, of course, spiritual, but there developed, let us call it, a spiritual aristocracy parallel to that democratic stream which was at work in the French Revolution; the aristocracy of the lodges developed. To see clearly as a human being today, to be open to the world and to understand the world, it is necessary not to be dazzled by democratic logic — which has a place only in its own sphere — by empty phrases about democratic progress and so on; it is necessary also to point to that other stream which asserted itself with the intent of gaining power for the few by means that lie hidden within the womb of the lodge — the ritual and its suggestive influence. It is necessary to point to this also." — Rudolf Steiner, THE KARMA OF UNTRUTHFULNESS, Vol. 2 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1992) lecture 17, GA 174.
[Rudolf Steiner Press, 1992.]
find that as late as the first half of the nineteenth century there always existed, as well as these others, very earnest and sincere Orders, in which more was imparted than, for example, an average Freemason today receives from his Order. The Orders to which I am referring were able to impart more, because certain needs prevailed in the spiritual world among Beings belonging to the Hierarchy of the Angeloi who are of less interest to us on the earth but very important in our pre-earthly existence. Certain Beings of the Hierarchy of the Angeloi, too, have needs of knowledge, and can only satisfy them by letting human beings reach over, probingly as it were, to these genuine occult Orders before they have come down from pre-earthly into earthly existence. It has actually happened that in connection with certain Lodges working with ancient ceremonial forms, men of vision have been able to assert: Here there is present the soul of a human being who will descend to the earth only in the future. Before the man is born, the soul may be present in such a Lodge and, through their feelings, men can acquire a great deal from this source. Just as the human soul hovered around the mummy, was still bound in a sense to the mummy, so in certain occult Lodges the spirits of human beings not yet born hover in a kind of anticipatory existence. What happens in a case like this does not stimulate intellectual thoughts, for modern men have these thoughts naturally and need no such stimulus. But when they are working in their occult Lodges with the right mood of soul, they can receive communications from human beings not yet born, who are still in their pre-earthly existence and who can be present as a result of the ceremonies. Such men feel the reality of the spiritual world and can, moreover, be inspired by the spiritual world." — Rudolf Steiner, SUPERSENSIBLE INFLUENCES IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1956), lecture 3, GA 216.
"Certain traditional conceptions which today have almost entirely died out and of which history knows nothing, were alive all through the early Middle Ages, from the fourth and fifth to the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and even later, although hidden in obscurity. Men now proceeded to make “mummies” of a certain kind, out of these conceptions — mummies that are analogous to those of Egypt although they take a different form and the analogy is not perceived. Modern humanity could have gained nothing by preserving the human form in the mummy, as was the custom in Egypt. What modern humanity preserved, was something different, namely ancient cults, mainly pre-Christian cults. And particularly since the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, with the birth of a completely intellectualistic culture, ancient ceremonies and rites were preserved in all kinds of occult Orders. Wonderful cults of antiquity, occult rites and ceremonies have been continued in Orders and Lodges of different kinds. They are mummies, like the mummies of human beings in ancient Egypt, as long as they are not irradiated and quickened by the Mystery of Golgotha. There is a very great deal in these cults and ceremonies, but of the wisdom they contained in ancient times only dead elements have been preserved, just as the mummy preserved the dead form of man. And in many respects it is so to this very day. There are innumerable Orders where ceremonials and rituals of all kinds are enacted; but the life has gone out of them, they are mummified. Just as the Egyptian felt a kind of awe when he gazed at a mummy, so in modern man there is not exactly awe, but a feeling of uneasiness perhaps, when he comes across these mummified procedures in his civilisation. He feels them to be something mysterious, as the mummy was felt to be mysterious." — Ibid.
"[An evil] brotherhood spreads the teachings of materialism; it is concerned that people think purely materialistic thoughts. In this way the brotherhood brings about the procreation of souls who remain in the earthly sphere after death. These would become a spiritual clientele for the lodge. This means that dead people have been created who would not leave the earthly sphere but would remain on earth. If the right preparations have been made, they can be retained in the lodges. In this way, therefore, lodges have been created that contain the living as well as the dead, but dead who are related to earthly forces.
"The matter is directed so that these people hold sessions in the same way as was the case with the seances held during the course of the second half of the nineteenth century, about which I have often spoken. It may then happen — and I beg you to bear this in mind — that what occurs in these seances is directed by the lodge with the help of the dead. The true intention of the masters of those lodges, however, is that the human beings should not know that they are dealing with the dead but rather should believe that they are dealing with higher forces of nature. People are made to believe that these are higher forces of nature, that psychism and the like are only higher forces of nature. The true concept of soul will be taken from them, and it will be said that, just as there is electricity, just as there is magnetism, so there are also such higher forces. The fact that these forces are derived from souls is concealed by those who are leaders in the lodge. Through this, however, these others, these harmless souls, gradually become completely dependent, dependent in their souls, upon the lodge, without realizing what is subjugating them, without realizing the source of what is actually directing them." — Rudolf Steiner, THE REAPPEARANCE OF CHRIST IN THE ETHERIC (Anthroposophic Press, 1983), lecture 10, GA 178.
- Compiled by Roger Rawlings
The following is reprinted from
Rudolf Steiner was involved in Freemasonry. Here is a quick summary, drawn largely from Helmut Zander's history of German Anthroposophy.  Zander’s account is cautious and judicious; he notes that the connections between Steiner and Freemasonry, real and imagined, have played a distorting role in perceptions of Anthroposophy over the years (among other things, through supposed involvement in Masonic ‘sex magic’ activities; the ostensible Freemasonic background of Anthroposophy also played an important part in the charges leveled against Steiner’s followers by the anti-esoteric faction of the Nazis).
But the basic affiliation between early Anthroposophy and Freemasonry was quite real, although it shifted a lot over time. Many Anthroposophists, to the extent that they know about this background at all, are somewhat embarrassed about it, and it doesn’t show up much in Anthroposophical accounts of the movement’s history. I think this is partly because Steiner’s Masonic period included his temporary credulousness toward a Theosophical-Masonic huckster named Theodor Reuss, and partly because during his initial socialization into the theosophical milieu Steiner tried out a variety of angles that he later dropped or assimilated in different form.
Steiner first addressed Freemasonry in 1904 (the same year he met Reuss, and just two years after Steiner’s colleague Annie Besant, a leading Theosophist, was accepted into a Freemasonic order). In 1905, Steiner and Marie, his future wife, became members of one of Reuss’s Masonic orders, and in 1906 Steiner was named head of his own Masonic ‘temple’ named Mystica Aeterna. His openly Masonic period seems to have lasted less than a decade; by the time of the establishment of the Anthroposophical Society in 1912/13, Steiner appears to have largely left Masonic trappings behind (Zander dates the end of Steiner’s active involvement in Freemasonry to 1914). But at the end of his life, Steiner attempted to incorporate some elements of Freemasonry into the planned reestablishment of a successor institution to the earlier Esoteric School, a Theosophical institution he had founded. The successor became the High School of Spiritual Science, located in the Goetheanum, the Anthroposophical headquarters in Switzerland.
Steiner’s Esoteric School had all along been modeled on Masonic lines, from 1904 onward; Besant named him “Arch-Warden” of his section of the Esoteric School in that year. Steiner’s basic claim was that some Freemasonic rites preserved secret wisdom from ancient mystery cults. Sometimes he connected this to ‘secret societies,’ sometimes to ancient Egypt, sometimes to the Druids, and so forth. Masonic motifs play a substantial role in his claims about the "temple legend," for instance. 
The idea here was that primordial esoteric knowledge had been carried over into the modern era via Freemasonry (a historically false notion, but an appealing one for a figure like Steiner). From an external perspective, this is another example of a constructed tradition that for a time seems to have had real meaning for Steiner, even if it was assembled out of a collection of disparate parts.
Aside from the Esoteric School activities between 1904 and 1914, there are various traces of the Masonic influence within Anthroposophy. One example is the long-standing practice of calling local chapters of the Anthroposophical society ‘lodges.’ There is some information about the Masonic period in Steiner’s autobiography, though it isn’t always accurate. In several respects, Steiner mixed together Masonic, Rosicrucian, and occult traditions into his Theosophical- Anthroposophical syncretism, emphasizing one or another as the occasion demanded. For his conception of ‘initiation,’ they all seemed applicable at some point.
— Peter Staudenmaier